Saturday, April 25, 2009

Peace? What peace?

Barack Obama and Tony Blair both want Israel to accept the Saudi peace plan put forward by Saudi Arabia in 2002. This offered to recognise Israel in return for handing over Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and much of Jerusalem and accepting as immigrants millions of foreign Arabs who claim to be descendants of those who fled the Israeli state during the 1948 War of Independence. For Israel to accept this plan would be to commit national suicide.

Israel now has a new coalition government with Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. The new Foreign Minister is Avigdor Lieberman, of the right wing Yisrael Beiteinu party. Lieberman has been called all sorts because of his right wing views, but seems able at least to speak good sense.

In his maiden speech, he pointed out that there was already an agreement on the table, a binding resolution known as the Road Map, which sets out the steps to peace.

Israel will adhere to every step, he said, so must the Palestinians. We will adhere to it to the letter, exactly as written. Clauses one, two, three, four - dismantling terrorist organisations, establishing an effective government, making a profound constitutional change in the Palestinian Authority. We will proceed exactly according to the clauses. We are also obligated to implement what is required of us in each clause, but so is the other side.

The Palestinians, of course, have not kept to the agreement. The Palestinians don't want to keep to agreements. They want more and more peace plans, in the hope of squeezing more concessions from the Israelis each time.

Many Israelis are weary of fighting for their existence. Many Israelis have come to think that if they give enough away, their enemies might - just might - leave them alone. They are mistaken.

Yet Palestinians are not the greatest of Prime Minister Netanyahu's worries at this time. Top of his list of concerns is Iran.

Israel has warned that it will attack Iranian nuclear sites if Iran, which has threatened to wipe Israel off the map, does not end its nuclear weapons programme. Israel has also let it be known that it is putting the finishing touches to its plans for a rapid strike. This week Iranian President Ahmadinejad let loose with a hate-filled tirade against Israel at a UN conference on racism.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psa 122:6)!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Do you believe in angels?

Do you believe in angels?

The Bible says they are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation" (Heb 1:14). Jesus said, speaking of little children, "in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt 18:10).

Because of these verses, some people believe in guardian angels; that is to say, angels who are specifically assigned to care for individuals.

Leonard LeSourd tells of Jack and Jenny Pate, who were decorating an upstairs room in their home.[1] It was a warm day, and the window was open. As they were busy paperhanging, their three-year-old daughter Peggy amused herself by taking leftover scraps of wallpaper, dropping them through the window and watching them float on the breeze to the ground below.

Eventually, she leaned out a little too far. Her father looked up just in time to see her disappearing through the window. Underneath the window was a concrete patio with three steps with sharp edges. If she hit one of those, it could be fatal.

Jack let out a single word of prayer. "Jesus!" He and his wife practically flew down the stairs and through the front door. Peggy was sitting on one of the steps, completely unhurt. "Don't worry," she said. "That big man caught me."

The house was in open country. They would be able to see anyone walking away.

They looked all round the house. There was no one there.

[1] Leonard LeSourd, ed. Love on its Knees. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1998, p218.

The Pope, Tony Blair and a TV soap

Tony Blair, former Prime Minister and founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, who converted to Roman Catholicism two years ago, said the Pope needed to rethink his views on homosexuality.

The Vatican needs to modernise, he says. Religions should follow shifts in culture rather than hold firm to their historic beliefs.

A born-again Christian character in the TV soap Coronation Street is to have a lesbian affair, probably with a friend at her Bible study group, the show's producers have decided. The move is designed, they say, to cause the programme to reflect modern British society more accurately.

A Belfast church is in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority because of a newspaper advert it took out. The ASA said the advert, quoting biblical texts against homosexuality, was indecent. An independent review of the ASA's decision said it was reasonable for the ASA to conclude that codes of conduct and sanctions laid down in biblical works from several millennia ago may not be communicated verbatim and indiscriminately in 21st century advertising.

We are getting ourselves in a right old mix-up, aren't we?

Let me say this just once, and let me make it as clear as I know how: the Bible does not teach that homosexual practice is an alternative lifestyle, but a perversion of God's creation. The Bible teaches that God made one man and one woman to be joined together in marriage. The Bible says - in Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13 in the Old Testament - that homosexual practice is an abomination, and - in 1 Cor 6:9, 10 in the New Testament - that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If anyone disagrees with that, they don't have an argument with me. They have an argument with the word of God.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Will you believe it?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the best attested facts in history.

It is recorded in detail by the apostles. Ah, you say, but they were Christian believers. They were - but they were also eyewitnesses. And not only believers wrote about Him. He was also written about by people like Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger.

For 2,000 years people have been attempting to prove that the resurrection didn't happen: all of them without much success.

Some said the disciples stole the body. Despite a stone weighing several tons, a Roman seal and a guard of Roman soldiers? Why would they do that? Something happened to change them from a group of frightened, dispirited people into a fearless crowd that went everywhere preaching that Jesus was alive from the dead. If they had stolen the body, they must have known this was untrue. According to tradition, almost all those first apostles gave their lives for their faith. People may give their lives for something they believe to be true, but no one gives his life for something he knows is a lie.

Some have said that Jesus didn't die on the cross, but only fainted, and then came round in the cool of the tomb. Then moved the stone from the inside, dealt with the guards and walked miles with His flesh torn to shreds by scourging, holes in His hands and His feet and a wound in His side? Roman executioners were experts. They knew the penalty for letting a condemned man live. It was their lives for his.

Some said that those who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus were hallucinating. Paul says that on one occasion 500 people saw Him at one time (1 Cor 15:6). People who hallucinate don't all see the same thing at the same time.

Some have said that the women went to the wrong tomb. If they went to the wrong tomb, why didn't the authorities go to the right tomb? The authorities were desperate to prevent Christianity going any further. All they had to do to kill it stone dead was to produce His body. Why didn't they?

Then there's the testimony of the millions down the centuries who have seen their lives changed by a risen Saviour.

Finally, there's my little bit of testimony. One night, kneeling at the side of my bed, I had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself that changed my life for ever.

Incidentally, His was a physical resurrection. The tomb was empty. When His disciples saw Him after His resurrection, they held Him by the feet and worshipped Him (Matt 28:9). He ate food with them (Luke 24:41 - 43). When He went to heaven, He took His body with Him.

And when He comes back, it's going to be a personal, physical return. A terrible day for those who are unprepared. But a wonderful day, says Paul, for those who believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead and have confessed Him as Lord (Rom 10:9)!

Shedding innocent blood

A terrible thing about abortion, apart from the fact that it takes human life, is that according to the Bible the shedding of innocent blood pollutes the land and brings judgment on a nation.

The Hatikvah Film Trust has produced an excellent documentary on DVD about abortion from a biblical perspective, called The Land Cries Out. I can thoroughly recommend it.

Copies of the DVD can be obtained free of charge (at the discretion of Hatikvah Film Trust) from Hatikvah Film Trust, PO Box 157, Llandudno, Wales LL30 9DE. The e-mail address is

Donations to help cover costs are welcome. Suggested amounts are £5 for a single copy and £3 each for multiple copies.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

O what love is this?

Jesus died by crucifixion. But what was the actual cause of death? Have you ever wondered about that?

John, who was an eyewitness of the crucifixion, recorded something in his Gospel which is quite significant. After Jesus died, he says, a soldier "pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out" (John 19:34). The original Greek suggests that blood and water gushed forth.

It is a fact that blood does not flow from a body already dead. But even if there were an explanation for that, why blood and water?

There have been a number of theories about the cause of death. It appears that Jesus remained conscious almost to the moment of his death, which provides a clue. Around the heart is a sac called the pericardium, containing an aqueous liquid.

Some doctors suggest that Jesus died of heart failure. The soldier's spear pierced the pericardium and the heart, accounting for the blood and water which came forth. Others suggest that fluid would also have formed around the lungs, and the spear would have released this fluid also.

There is yet another theory which is worthy of consideration. According to this theory, after all the emotional, spiritual and physical suffering Jesus endured, His heart burst. The pericardium is capable of great distension. If the heart ruptured, blood would flow into the pericardium, blood pressure would drop and death would quickly follow.

Because of fibrinolysins in the blood as a result of the pain He had suffered, within half an hour the blood would separate into red cells and clear plasma. When the point of the spear perforated the pericardium, gravity would cause blood and water to rush from the wound.

If this last theory is correct, then the Lord Jesus during His passion suffered every known kind of flesh wound. Bruising, as His tormentors buffeted Him (Isa 53:5, 10; Matt 26:67); laceration, as they scourged Him (Psalm 129:1 - 3; Matt 27:26); penetration, as they gave Him a crown of thorns and hit Him over the head (Matt 27:29, 30); perforation, as they nailed Him to the cross (Psa 22:16; Matt 27:35); bursting, as His heart finally gave way (Psa 69:20); and incision, as the soldier pierced His side (John 19:33, 34).

That at least sounds right. He was spared no suffering as He paid the price for your sin and mine.

If this theory is correct, Jesus died literally of a broken heart.

There is a chorus we used to sing years ago:

He died of a broken heart for me;
He died of a broken heart.
Oh wondrous love, it was for me,
He died of a broken heart.

God so loved us that He was willing to give His only Son to bring us back to Himself. The Son so loved that He was willing to give Himself for us. May we be reminded afresh of the cost as we ponder that love this week.