Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is hell real?

The Bible speaks about heaven. The Bible also speaks about hell. Doesn't it seem strange to you that there are so many people who believe in one but not the other?

Christian author Randy Alcorn came across a message from someone who said that Jesus opposed the idea of hell, and that gospel texts which placed "hell" on Jesus' lips had been adulterated.

Said Randy (these are just extracts; you can read his full article here):

This comment is misinformed. The truth is that the oldest and most reliable biblical manuscripts include Christ's explicit statements about Hell. The gospel writers didn't make up their Lord's words in the gospels. They simply recorded them. And the hyper-careful scribes didn't add them to the manuscripts, they simply copied them, word for word, from one to another.

The truth is that Jesus spoke more about Hell than anyone else in all of Scripture. . . Jesus referred to Hell as a real place and described it in graphic terms. . . He spoke of a fire that burns but doesn't consume, an undying worm that eats away at the damned, and a lonely and foreboding darkness.

Christ says that the unsaved "will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth". . . Jesus taught that an unbridgeable chasm separates the wicked in Hell from the righteous in paradise. The wicked suffer terribly, remain conscious, retain their desires and memories, long for relief, cannot find comfort, cannot leave their torment, and have no hope. . .

It isn't just what Jesus said about Hell that matters. It is the fact that it was he who said it.

"There seems to be a kind of conspiracy," wrote Dorothy Sayers, "to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of hell comes from. The doctrine of hell is not 'mediaeval priestcraft' for frightening people in giving money to the church: it is Christ's deliberate judgment on sin. . . We cannot repudiate hell without altogether repudiating Christ."

Why do I believe in an eternal Hell? Because Jesus clearly and repeatedly affirmed its existence. As Sayers suggested, you cannot dismiss Hell without dismissing Jesus. . .

We may pride ourselves in thinking we are too loving to believe in Hell. But in saying this, we blaspheme, for we claim to be more loving than Jesus - more loving than the One who with outrageous love took upon himself the full penalty for our sin.

Who are we to think we are better than Jesus?

Or that when it comes to Hell, or anything else, we know better than he does?

God determined he would rather endure the torment of the cross on our behalf than live in Heaven without us. Apart from Christ, we would all spend eternity in Hell. But God so much wants us not to go to Hell that he paid a horrible price on the cross so we wouldn't have to. . .

The price has been paid, but we can't benefit from forgiveness unless we choose to receive it. A convicted criminal may be offered a pardon, but if he rejects it, he remains condemned.

By denying Hell's reality, we lower the stakes of redemption and minimize Christ's work on the cross. If Christ's crucifixion and resurrection didn't deliver us from a real and eternal Hell, then his work on the cross is less heroic, less potent, less consequential, and less deserving of our worship and praise.

Think about it.

Heat, flies and tears

Gali Weiss was a career officer in the Israeli Defence Forces; then she became head nurse at Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem. She's been missing from her post there for the past couple of weeks though. She's been head nurse at the Israeli field hospital caring for earthquake victims in Haiti.

Seeing sights, she says, like she's never seen before, like the streams of people in need leading up to the entrance of the hospital. Doctors have been working all hours. There is no end, she says, to the number of orphans after the earthquake, and no guarantee of where they will go.

More than 150,000 dead have now been buried. Almost 200,000 are believed to have died. More than a million and a half people are said to be homeless. Aid is expected to continue to be needed for months to come.

Her most difficult experience to date was delivering what the medical team thought was a stillborn baby. To their surprise, there was a second, living child in the womb. A story with a painful beginning had a good ending.

Conditions are difficult, with heat, flies and mosquitoes. "Every now and then," said Gali, "we have to pause and wipe away our tears. Then we just need to compose ourselves and move on to the next patient."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wise words

Fellow Christian blogger Denny Hartford wrote something about marriage I just felt I had to reproduce here. Wrote young Mr Hartford (younger than I am, that is):

Marriage is supposed to be (and can be) about sharing, loving, forgiving and showing forbearance towards one another. And done right, two people move closer together, not farther apart. Love over time thus becomes more beautiful, more productive, stronger - an invaluable resource for not only partners and children but the general culture as well.

But when ego, career advancement, a love for money and position (not to mention roving affections) are allowed priority status in one's life, when these things assume the place that should be reserved alone for one's spouse, the pure and ennobling love of marriage cannot survive.

And neither can the culture. For though a secular judge can come along and divide the spoils, he cannot repair the broken hearts nor the damage done to children and extended family and friends. And with each sacred vow that is broken, the moral structure that underlies a secure and healthy nation is broken a bit more too.

New research figures published this week show that marriage is the number one factor in relationship stability. Said Harry Benson, author of a report by the Bristol Community Family Trust: "Based on data of 15,000 new mothers, marriage is the single biggest predictor, above and beyond the effects of income, education, age, ethnic group, benefit receipt and birth order."

The research shows that one in three unmarried couples with children separate before their child's fifth birthday, which is four times the rate of separation for married parents. Unmarried parents living together are at least twice as likely as married parents to split up in every category of income and education. And of couples who remain intact until their children are 15, at least 97 per cent are married.

Marriage is a wonderful thing. It was instituted by God Himself. It is not just a social convenience, nor an alternative to serial partners, nor something to be made a mockery of by same-sex relationships. It is intended to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church. It is the divinely appointed basis for the family and the basis for society.

Marriage vows are intended to be for a lifetime. Marriage is precious. Give yours the place it deserves.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Some good stories from Haiti

There have been some terrible stories coming out of the appalling tragedy in Haiti. But there have been some good stories too.

Like the story of the two-year-old boy who was buried under rubble for two days. After rescuers dug him out, his little face broke into a smile when he saw his mother waiting.

Like the story of the man who waited for days outside the ruins of the bank where his wife worked, refusing to believe that she was dead. After several days, rescuers got her out almost unscathed.

Like the story of the 3,000-member Church of God in Port-au-Prince. There were 250 people in the church building when the earthquake struck. All but six escaped. Despite having lost the church building and her home, the church's pastor, Pastor Janet, said the Lord told her the church's work must continue. Services were being held in the open air at the tent camp for the homeless. People were accepting Christ even before the preaching began.

"Everyone in our church has been fasting since the day of the earthquake," she said, "asking the Lord to restore our nation so that we can be a light for Jesus."

There is one more thing that needs to be said. Wealthy Saudi Arabia sent a letter of condolence to Haiti. By contrast, Israel was one of the first nations to offer help. Within three days, little Israel had 220 people arrived in Haiti - rescue experts, rescue teams, dog handlers, a crowd of doctors - with a complete field hospital, with operating theatres, x-ray equipment, ventilators, monitors and who knows what else. Within two or three days, the field hospital had treated hundreds of injuries and delivered three babies.

Israel, you will remember, is the nation that was accused of deliberately targetting civilians and deliberately killing children in Gaza. Think about it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

'I was completely in awe'

Marian Chadwick owns a boutique in a shopping precinct in the town of Frisco in North Texas.

It was almost time to lock up for the night, according to CBS news. She had already put the "Closed" sign on the shop door and was inside the shop serving her last customer.

A man walked into the shop wearing sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt, pulled out a gun and demanded money. At first Marian thought it was a joke and began to joke with him.

When he quickly made it clear that this was no joke and began to bang on the glass counter with his gun, she looked him straight in the eye and said "In the name of Jesus, I command you to get out of my store. You are bound by the Holy Spirit and you are leaving."

The man began to back off, then pointed his gun at the customer and ordered her to get down on the floor. The customer said "I remember thinking 'I don't think so.'"

The gunman turned and left, without any money. No shots were fired and no one was hurt.

In the moment she had to think, Marian thought "If I give him the money, there's no guarantee he won't shoot me anyway. So let's go the hard way then."

Said the customer, Kathy Vereen:"I was just so completely in awe about how God did protect us."

Just for fun (2)

A man went to the doctor.

"What can I do for you?" said the doctor.

"Well," said the man, "the trouble is I can't pronounce my Fs, my Ts or my Hs."

"Well," said the doctor, "you can't say fairer than that."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Well, is it any wonder?

On March 7, 2009, the Daily Mail announced that under new proposals by the UK Government, serial teenage burglars and muggers could escape with a police caution if they had a drug habit.

On July 7, 2009, the Daily Mail reported that almost 1,000 criminals, including murderers, rapists and paedophiles, who should have been returned to jail for breaking terms of early release or after committing new offences were at large because police forces had failed to track them down.

On August 1, 2009, the Daily Mail said criminals on probation were committing one murder and one rape every week.

On August 22, 2009, the Daily Mail said teenage muggers and burglars could escape jail by carrying out as little as 10 minutes of community service a week.

On October 27, 2009, the Daily Mail reported that criminals released from custody supposedly under strict supervision committed 48 serious offences in a year, including murder and rape.

On November 9, 2009, the Daily Mail said that in one year almost 39,000 people were given a police caution for assault causing actual bodily harm and 739 a caution for causing grievous bodily harm.

On November 16, 2009, the Daily Mail said murderers and sex attackers were being allowed to sleep at home during their jail sentences, apparently because of a lack of prison places.

On November 23, 2009, the Daily Mail reported that of 5.2 million crimes reported to police in a year, around 1.7 million had not been investigated.

On November 30, 2009, the Daily Mail said that almost 200 prisoners, including murderers and sex offenders, had been released by mistake at the rate of one every week.

On December 23, 2009, according to the Daily Mail, serial offenders were being given as many as nine or ten police cautions in a year rather than being taken to court.

Assuming these facts are correct, is it any wonder that Britain is in the state that it is?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A young man to be proud of

I wrote here about Daniel James, paralysed from the waist down after an accident in a rugby scrum, who committed suicide, and Matt Hampson, confined to a wheelchair and needing a ventilator to breathe after an accident in a rugby game, who does charity work, coaches youngsters, writes a newspaper column and has his own website.

Now here's a story of another young man injured in a rugby game that will warm the cockles of your heart.

Matt King, a 17-year-old from a village near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, was 20 seconds into his first professional rugby match when another player accidentally kneed him in the neck.

"I knew I had broken my neck straight away," said Matt. "The paramedics were asking me to move my toes and I couldn't. It was completely terrifying.

"My first thought was 'Let me die,' because my vision of what my life would be like was awful. That was the worst time of my life. I felt and experienced things that I wouldn't wish on any human being."

Matt is permanently paralysed from the neck down and depends on a ventilator to breathe.

During nine months in Stoke Mandeville Spinal Unit he realised he was still young and decided if he was to lead a meaningful life he needed an education.

He returned to school and gained A grades in A-level history and AS geography. He went to Hertfordshire University and graduated with a first class law degree.

He became the first quadraplegic to complete the New York Marathon, using an electric wheelchair with a steering device he controlled with his chin and raising £10,000 for charity.

Now 22 years old, Matt has been offered a training contract with a top London firm of solicitors specialising in personal injury claims. Said Julian Chamberlayne, the firm's training principal: "The way he has overcome his disability is incredible and his razor-sharp intellect will make him an asset to the firm."

He starts there next year after he finishes a legal practice course at the university.

Says his mother Glenda: "We never believed he would get this far. We are very proud of him. He never fails to amaze us with what he's going to do next."

Playing the blame game

When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit and God asked him "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" it was not because God wanted to know what had happened. He already knew. It was because He wanted Adam to confess.

You will remember how Adam replied: "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate" (Gen 3:12). It wasn't my fault; it was the woman's fault. It was the woman You gave me. Perhaps it was Your fault. The blame game. People are still playing it, even to this day.

It wasn't my fault; it was somebody else's fault. It was the Government's fault. The council's fault. The school's fault. My parents' fault. The system's fault. I once heard an armed robber who had shot a woman he was trying to rob say "It was her fault. She should have given me the money." It wasn't my fault that I shot her. It was her fault that she got shot because she didn't give me her money when I told her to.

People will never get anywhere in life until they recognise they are responsible for their actions, and for the consequences of their actions.

The Bible says we are all sinners. None of us is perfect; not one.

If you will believe that Jesus died in your place to pay the price for your sin, tell Him that you're a sinner and sorry for your sins and invite Him into your life to be your Saviour and Lord of your life, He will forgive you every sin that you have ever committed. He will cleanse you inside so that you can know the peace of sins forgiven, look anyone in the eye and walk down the street with your head held high.

He will not only forgive you your sin but set you free from the power of sin, so that you don't have to do those things any more. If you sin after accepting Christ, it's not because you have to, but either because you choose to sin or because you allow yourself to do so.

So if you fail after accepting Christ? There's still forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Confess it. Repent of it. Tell Him you're sorry. He will be faithful to forgive you.

When you accept Christ, He gives you a new heart. Keep it fit for Him to live there. Be careful what you watch. Be careful what you listen to. Don't go to places or put yourself in situations where you're likely to be tempted.

"Keep your heart with all diligence," the Bible says, "For out of it spring the issues of life" (Pro 4:23).

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Well, what does stupendous smell like?

I am a Bible-believing Christian. I believe the Bible is true because I have proved it to be so. I believe God exists because He transformed my life and brought me, through faith in Christ, into a personal relationship with Himself. I believe atheism is foolishness.

From time to time I write about atheism in this blog. Yet I doubt I could do so quite as well as does author Dave Hunt in a recent article of his.

It is astonishing, he says, that almost no one on either side of this debate ever mentions the one key factor that separates man from all lower creatures: man's ability to form conceptual ideas and to express them in words and music and art! We are made in the image of God our Creator and the lover of our souls. The same cannot be said of any other living creature.

This simple fact reveals the futility of searching the world of fossils to find a 'missing link' between man and lower creatures of any kind. It is equally futile to search the DNA of men and animals for a missing link. Neither the skeletal structure nor the DNA has anything to do with who the person really is. The DNA of a chimpanzee is 96 per cent like that of humans. This does not indicate any evolutionary connection between man and chimps as Francis Collins, a professing Christian recently appointed to head the National Institutes of Health, suggests. Even if the complete skeletons and DNA of Albert Einstein, Charles Dickens, and Ludwig van Beethoven could be discovered, would they hold the key to the genius of these men? Of course not! The real person is a nonphysical being living inside the physical body. This fact is indisputable.

As for your brain, it does not originate your thoughts. You are the thinker who will live on endlessly after the body lies rotting in the grave. Souls and spirits are not subject to the laws of physics and chemistry that govern our bodies. These facts bear serious consequences for each of us. What happens to the soul and spirit after death? Hebrews 9:27 states 'It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.' You can laugh your way into hell, but you can't laugh your way out. . .

Atheists want to avoid the question of origins. They talk about a sudden burst of energy that one critic named the 'Big Bang,' but they cannot tell us what energy is, where or why it was hiding, or why it suddenly showed itself in a cosmic explosion. Nor can they explain how life could spring forth from a universe that had experienced temperatures hotter than the interior of the hottest star. They can't tell us what life is or how it could be imparted to lifeless chemicals that the body comprises. Isn't it dishonest to talk about evolution without first of all facing certain foundational questions? . . .

Atheists are materialists. For them nothing exists except matter. Allegedly, man is no more than his physical body. The materialist thesis is easily disproved. Thoughts are not physical, nor are ideas. Dictionaries and encyclopedias are filled with words for which there are no physical descriptions. What is the color of ethical? What does stupendous smell like? How much does remarkable weigh? . . .

The truth cannot be avoided, and honestly facing it must not be delayed! Twice the Bible declares 'The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God' (Ps 14:1, 53:1).

That's just part of the article. I really do recommend that you read it all. You can do so by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Homosexuals, Christians and the law

Homosexuals' rights are more important than Christians' rights - and that appears to be official.

When the Civil Partnership Act came into force in the UK in 2005, Lillian Ladele, a registrar employed by Islington Council, was unwilling to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies as a matter of Christian conscience.

She tried to change her rotas. There were, she said, other registrars able to conduct same-sex ceremonies. But homosexual colleagues said her stance was "an act of homophobia" and complained they felt victimised. Miss Ladele was disciplined.

She claimed she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her stance and was effectively being forced to choose between her religion and her job.

She went to an employment tribunal claiming she had been discriminated against. The tribunal decided the council had discriminated against her by failing to consider her for promotion; deciding to discipline her and threatening her with dismissal; concluding she had committed gross misconduct; labelling and treating her as homophobic; disregarding her concerns about her treatment; and failing to apply its anti-discrimination policies to homosexual colleagues who were mistreating her. An employment appeal tribunal, however, overturned that decision.

Now the Appeal Court has decided that Miss Ladele suffered unfair treatment by her employer. (The council allowed confidential information about her to be discussed at a meeting of the council's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Forum.) But it decided she had not suffered discrimination or harassment, because the council was treating her no differently to its other registrars by ordering her to carry out the ceremonies.

Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, said the prohibition of discrimination by the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations takes precedence over any right a person would otherwise have by virtue of his or her religious belief to practise discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

Human rights law also put the rights of homosexuals before the rights of Christians to hold to their beliefs. It was simply unlawful for Miss Ladele to refuse to perform civil partnerships.

The Court of Appeal refused Miss Ladele permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Christian organisations said the ruling could see Christians banned from some jobs. "Our public services are increasingly using equality and diversity policies to leave Christians sidelined," said Andrea Minichiello Williams, of Christian Concern for Our Nation. "It's time for common sense to be restored."

Friday, January 01, 2010

'Don't let go. I'm coming home'

There was a remarkable story in the news the other day.

In 1974 James Bain, a 19-year-old black youth, was sent to prison in Florida for kidnap, rape and burglary.

While in prison, said his mother, he turned away from God because he thought God abandoned him. But she kept on at him, by phone and on visits, and "he came back around to find God again."

Jamie was in prison for 35 years from 1974 to 2009. In 2001, Florida passed a statute allowing cases to be reopened for DNA testing. Five times Jamie applied for the test. He was refused each time until an appeal court granted his application. His test proved he was innocent of the charges for which he was imprisoned. "Mr Bain, you are a free man," a judge told him.

Someone asked him if he was angry after serving so long for something he didn't do. "No, I'm not angry," he said, "because I've got God."

His mother is putting her house and her 1992 Toyota car in his name so that he can have something of his own. "He's suffered enough," she said.

Jamie, now 54 and grey haired, had been so worried about his mother, who had been in hospital several times. She was afraid she would die while he was still in prison. Then came news that he was to be released.

"Don't let go," he told her. "I'm coming home."