Saturday, March 27, 2010

Behold the Lamb

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. An appropriate time, perhaps, to point out that words spoken to the prophet Daniel by the angel Gabriel and recorded in Dan 9:24 - 27 form perhaps the most amazing prophecy in the Bible. The first three of those verses say:

Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.

Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.

And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

Some English translations of the Bible say "weeks" and some say "sevens." (In Hebrew, the word for "week" and the word for "seven" are similar.) These sevens are in fact sevens of years. So there were to be 69 sevens, or 483 years, between the command to rebuild Jerusalem and the death of the Messiah.

Neh 2:1 - 8 says that King Artaxerxes gave the command to rebuild Jerusalem in the month of Nisan in his 20th year. Counting 483 years from that date brings you to the time of Christ.

Nineteenth century Bible scholar Sir Robert Anderson worked it out to the day. He says a year in Jewish calculation at the time of Daniel was 360 days, so 483 years becomes 173,880 days.

He assumes the decree was made on the first day of Nisan in Artaxerxes' 20th year, which he says was March 14, 445 BC. Assuming Jesus began His ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1) and continued for three years, Jesus' Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem would be in AD 32, and seeing that Passover is always on 14 Nisan, Palm Sunday would be the 10th day of Nisan, or April 6.

The period from March 14, 445 BC to April 6, AD 32, allowing for leap years, is - 173,880 days.

You might think there are a few too many assumptions there to be able to accept such an exact calculation as fact - but there is no doubt that the period is right. You will notice too that according to the prophecy, Messiah had to come before the temple was destroyed. The temple was destroyed in AD 70.

So the Bible prophesied not only that Messiah would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the tribe of Judah and from the house of David and that He would be born in Bethlehem, but the time that He would come.

There's something else here too that is interesting. Jesus died, of course, at Passover. That is no coincidence: 1 Cor 5:7 says that He is our Passover, sacrificed for us. Passover commemorated the Jews' deliverance from the last of the plagues on Egypt, when the firstborn in every Egyptian household died. God had said the Jews were to put the blood of a lamb on the lintel and the doorposts of their houses; when the Lord saw the blood, He would pass over them.

Exodus 12, which records the instructions for that original Passover, says the Jews were to choose a lamb for each household on the 10th day of the month and keep it for four days before killing it, making sure that it was without blemish.

Jesus presented Himself to the Jews on the 10th day of the month, it appears, as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. A few days later, He hung lifeless on the cross. Jesus was not only the Son of God, He was the Lamb of God: a last and perfect sacrifice.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blue-eyed, blonde-haired twins, anyone?

Children, the Bible says, are a blessing from the Lord. At least, that's the way it was intended to be.

Whenever man starts to engineer human birth, there seem to be problems. The New York Times listed some of the problems, for instance, involving the use of surrogate mothers.

There was the case of Scott and Amy Kehoe, of Michigan, who were unable to have a baby of their own. They obtained donor eggs and donor sperm and hired an IVF clinic. Laschell Baker, also of Michigan, agreed to be the surrogate mother. In due time twins Ethan and Bridget were born and handed over to the Kehoes.

Six days after the birth, Mrs Baker discovered that Mrs Kehoe had had mental problems and was still having treatment. She decided she was not prepared to run the risk of Mrs Kehoe having a relapse and being unable to look after the twins. She had the Kehoes' guardianship rescinded and got a court order to retrieve the children. She and her husband plan to raise the twins with the four children of their own.

The Kehoes, who had to say goodbye to the children a month after they took them home, still have 20 frozen embryos at an IVF clinic from the eggs and sperm they bought.

Then there's the case of Donald Robinson, a Manhattan accountant. He and his male partner Sean Hollingsworth decided they wanted to be parents. They obtained eggs from an egg donor, Hollingsworth donated sperm and Robinson's sister, although she had had no children of her own, agreed to be surrogate mother.

During the pregnancy Ms Robinson began to have differences with her brother and began to bond with the twins she was carrying.

The male couple had custody of the twins for the first five months, then Ms Robinson asked a court for custody of the children. She was granted custody on a temporary basis for three days a week. The twins were being shuttled back and forth between her house and her brother's house until a further court hearing.

Finally, there was the case of 62-year-old Stephen Melinger, an unmarried male elementary school teacher from New Jersey who decided he wanted a child. He obtained donated eggs and donated sperm and hired a surrogate mother.

After twin girls were born he took custody, but then is said to have exhibited eccentric behaviour and the question arose of whether he was capable of looking after them. The girls, now four, are currently in his custody but have already spent two spells in foster care.

The main problem, said a bioethicist, is seeing children as a consumer product. Like commodities. Or like pets.

Could this sort of thing happen in the UK? I suppose it could. (Surrogacy is not allowed on a commercial basis in the UK, but surrogacy agreements are not enforceable in UK courts, so it is not possible to have a legally binding surrogacy agreement.)

The Bridge Clinic, a London IVF centre, was recently raffling a woman's eggs as part of a Mother's Day promotion. The winner of the raffle was to receive a free £13,000-worth of fertility treatment in the United States - where you can choose your egg donor from profiles listing education, race, age, hair colour, eye colour and upbringing.

How do you suppose a child would feel growing up to learn he had been won in a raffle?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Time to stand up and speak up

Over the weeks I have written more about the conflict to do with Israel than I had intended. But it is important. Very important.

1. God has not washed His hands of the Jewish people. God's promises to Israel still stand. I will not quote Bible references here in case I turn out to be wasting my time: but if anyone wants Bible references, I will be pleased to provide them.

2. Christians above all need to recognise the colossal debt they owe to the Jewish people. Were it not for the Jewish people, there would be no Bible, no Saviour, no gospel and no salvation. And that's just for starters.

3. Israel is in need of friends. People who claim to appreciate the truth should stand up and speak up for it. Now would be a good time.

There has been an extraordinary attack on Israel by the American administration in recent days for building in an orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in east Jerusalem - it is said that the Obama administration has not used the harsh language it employed against Israel in its dealing with any other nation, including Iran and North Korea, since coming to power - and in recent days there has been some rioting in the streets in Israel.

Writes Melanie Phillips in a piece entitled A revolutionary proposal on her blog at the Spectator yesterday:

Compromise is in general a good thing, but in a war of extermination, if the victim compromises with its attackers it strengthens them and makes its defeat more likely.

In no other conflict in the history of the planet has a country which is the victim of an eight-decade belligerency aimed at wiping it off the map been expected to make concessions to its attackers. In no other conflict has such a victimised people been bullied by onlookers into doing so.

Yet the first pressure is what Britain, America and Europe have been applying for decades, and the second is what Obama is now applying, with the EU falling in behind him: bullying the prospective victim of extermination into submitting to measures which increase the risk of such an eventuality, and in the process almost forcing the Palestinians from their habitual pose of sullen obstructionism and sporadic terrorism into another spate of outright war. . ."

Why would Israel go along with that? You can read the whole piece by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I want our streets back

Mrs Marilyn Hebbron thought her Hampshire village of Four Marks a pleasant place - until youths gathered on the village green each night, bringing noise and "inappropriate sexual behaviour" and leaving behind drug paraphernalia and empty bottles.

Having grown tired of verbal abuse and youths vomiting and urinating in her garden, she called neighbours together. Clothed in yellow jackets and supported by local police, they now form regular street patrols.

"Now I have got to know those people I once feared," she says. "Things are not as bad as they seem. It turns out it is just a minority of people going over the top."

Six police forces have visited the area to see her Street Watch scheme in action.

In 2003, a group of local Christians began to patrol the streets of Brixton at weekends. Now there are 125 groups of trained Street Pastors, as they call themselves, serving in their distinctive blue jackets in the streets of towns and cities across Britain - helping youngsters who have drunk too much to get home safely, discouraging antisocial behaviour, defusing potentially violent situations and offering a word of help and comfort where they're able.

"Getting out of the cosy environment of our churches and homes to where we can make a difference," as one put it. According to police, they make a real difference in reducing public disorder in areas where they operate.

Recently the local church I belong to organised some days of prayer and fasting. I was praying for the streets of our towns and cities. They seem to me to be reasonable places during daylight hours - but when darkness falls, it seems like evil takes over. People start using obscene language at the top of their voices; there's violence and drunken belligerence. I want our streets back.

I am asking Christians I know to pray for our streets, so that elderly people can walk them once more without fear, and they can become once again places for decent, righteous, godly behaviour. Would you like to join in?

Friday, March 12, 2010

What's the real agenda here?

The authorities introduced sex education in schools and the number of teenage pregnancies went up. The authorities provided more sex education, and teenage pregnancies continued to rise. The authorities decided what was needed was MORE sex education, and still teenage pregnancies increased.

Question: Is one entitled eventually to assume that the powers that be really aren't concerned about reducing teenage pregnancies?

Here is part of a piece by Peter Hitchens at MailOnline:

Some years ago, I wrote a short history of sex education in this country. I didn't then know about its first invention, during the Hungarian Soviet revolution of 1919, when Education Commissar George Lukacs ordered teachers to instruct children about sex in a deliberate effort to debauch Christian morality.

But what I found was this. That the people who want it are always militant Leftists who loathe conventional family life; that the pretext for it has always been the same - a supposed effort to reduce teen pregnancy and sexual disease; and that it has always been followed by the exact opposite.

It was introduced into schools against much parental resistance during the early Fifties. And, yes, the more of it there was, the more under-age and extramarital sex there seemed to be.

By 1963, in Norwich, parents were told that their young were to be instructed in sexual matters because the illegitimacy rate in that fine city had reached an alarming 7.7 per cent (compared with a national rate of 5.9 per cent). The national rate is now 46 per cent and climbing, so that was obviously a success, wasn't it?

Well, yes it was, because the people who force these popular classes on our young are lying about their aims. You can see why.

Most of us, in any other circumstance, would be highly suspicious of adults who wanted to talk about sex to other people's children. But by this sleight of hand - that they are somehow being protected from disease and unwanted pregnancy - we are tricked into permitting it.

And our civilised society goes swirling down the plughole of moral chaos.

The UK Government is now introducing legislation to make sex education an integral part of the national curriculum and remove the right of parents to withdraw children from sex education lessons. The Teenage Pregnancy Advisory Group, which advises the Government, says contraception, abortion and homosexuality are all legal; therefore children should be able to learn "the correct facts."

Is Peter Hitchens right? Is the real target not the reduction of teenage pregnancies, but simply the "sexual liberation" of our children and young people?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Responsible journalism? Not this

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a British journalist. She is a Muslim. Her views are influenced by her Muslim faith. I had some respect for her opinions. Until yesterday.

Yesterday she wrote an article in the Independent in which she spoke - on what evidence, I have no idea - of Iraqis being killed "when we bombed indiscriminately in civilian areas."

She claimed that for the British establishment "Muslims are contemptible creatures, devalued humans." She said the establishment "steal our human and civil rights," treating Muslims as "lesser citizens." She goes on to complain how appallingly Muslims are treated here.

She managed to drag in Israel's incursion into Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, which she called "one of the worst acts of state terrorism in recent history." (She had previously written of the Palestinian population in Gaza: "First systematically starved, the population was denied escape and more than 1,200 were slaughtered like animals in an abbatoir" in "a spectacle of ruthless power.")

No mention of the fact that Israel's incursion was in response to Palestinians in Gaza firing rockets at civilian centres in Israel each day for several years. No mention of how Palestinians in Gaza used Palestinian women and children as human shields. No mention of how Palestinians in Gaza killed other Palestinians.

For a reasoned, measured response to Ms Alibhai-Brown's article I would recommend Robin Shepherd's blog. He is director, international affairs at the Henry Jackson Society in London and a former Moscow bureau chief for the Times.

You can read Ms Alibhai-Brown's article - if you can stomach it - by clicking here. You can read Robin Shepherd's piece by clicking here. I would invite you to read them both.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The spirit of Haman lives on

Antisemitism in Western Europe has reached its highest level since the Second World War, according to a report by the Jewish Agency for Israel. In Britain, the number of antisemitic incidents in 2009 was the highest since records began.

Last month Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, invited to speak at Oxford University, was heckled throughout his talk. A British protester carrying a Palestinian flag yelled "Death to the Jews." Students shouted inside and outside the hall "Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea," which, as someone pointed out, effectively called for the destruction of the state of Israel. Several students reportedly attempted to assault the speaker physically and were only prevented from doing so by security men.

Israeli historian Benny Morris was due to speak to students at Cambridge University at the invitation of the university's Israel Society. The society cancelled the talk after protesters accused him of "Islamophobia" and "racism."

When the Deputy Ambassador of Israel was due to speak at Manchester University more than 300 protesters were expected and the embassy had to cancel her visit. All this at Britain's leading universities, once bastions of free speech.

This week is Israel Apartheid Week, described as "a festival of bigotry," "an odious and bigoted annual ritual" and "a global campus hate-fest whose message. . . is in effect a call for Israel's destruction and. . . an incitement to genocide." Well organised meetings will be held on university campuses in dozens of cities.

Jewish students, said to be outnumbered by Islamic students in British universities by eight to one, will be feeling distinctly apprehensive. Strangely, Israel Apartheid Week lasts from March 1 to 14.

Said Dr Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations: "Given the difficulty in applying the apartheid model to Israel, one wonders what the true hidden agenda is behind this campaign. . . Israel Apartheid Week is not about respect for human rights; it is an incredibly hypocritical initiative that ignores the apartheid practised by the Palestinians themselves, who make the sale of land to Jews punishable by death.

"It is also not a movement dedicated to making peace, but rather to denying the historical rights of the Jewish people. The answer to the challenge is to expose the true intentions of its backers, who clearly seek to dismantle the state of Israel and deny its people their inherent right of self-determination."

Meanwhile, student groups such as the Muslim Students Association are being funded by radical Islamist groups, and various university departments in the West are becoming beholden to Islam because of funding from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

In the Middle East last week the Syrian leadership hosted a summit with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, the chief of Hezbollah and the head of Hamas. All reportedly vowed the destruction of Israel, whom President Ahmadinejad described as "an insult to humanity."

There was another meeting in Iran last weekend attended by the leaders of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. President Ahmadinejad said Israel is the origin of all wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and a racist group that does not respect human principles, and suggested a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

Rumours of war continue to roll around the Middle East. The tragedy is that a people which had to suffer a deliberate attempt at its total annihilation in the Second World War (I refer to Israel and the Holocaust) 65 years later still has to fight for its existence.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Making marriage work

John Annas and his wife Lenore recently celebrated their second wedding anniversary. What's special about that, you might ask? Lots of people have celebrated their second wedding anniversary.

What's special about that is that John is 105 and his wife is 86.

The couple live in an old people's home in Leesburg, Florida. John is a retired Methodist minister (A faithful soul. He spends his mornings in prayer. One of the advantages of growing old and less physically active is that you have more time to spend in prayer).

John was married to his first wife for 47 years before his first wife died. Lenore was a widow. She was married for 57 years to her first husband.

When the couple first talked about marriage, family and friends were opposed. They thought John was too old. They went ahead anyway. Now family and friends are delighted.

"He's closer to God than anybody else that I have ever known," Lenore says of John.

"I love her wonderful and gracious spirit, her interest in people, and her love of God," says John of Lenore. "I've discovered somebody who makes my half a whole. I'm 105 and I've never been happier than I am now.

"I have a wonderful companionship with Lenore, a woman who makes me smile. She makes my heart sing. She's my Valentine. She's beyond and above anything I can put into words. Next to God, she's it."

The secret of their happy marriage? They didn't say; at least not in the account I read. But I think John hinted at it when he said "Next to God, she's it."

If you are talking about getting married, tell your young lady - or your 86-year-old lady, if you like - that if you marry, she will never have first place in your life. That belongs to Jesus. But tell her she will have second place, and no one will ever have that place but her.

And if you're a young lady - or an 86-year-old lady, for that matter - thinking of getting married, tell your husband-to-be the same thing.

A young lady I remember whose marriage failed complained that there were three people in her marriage, for all the wrong reasons. Make sure there are three people in your marriage for all the right reasons - you two and Jesus.

Putting Jesus first won't make you a worse husband or a worse wife. It will make you a better husband or a better wife than you could ever be without Him.

I can give personal testimony to the truth of that.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Getting ready to go

The Bible clearly teaches that we are living in the last days of this present age. This age will end with the return of Jesus Christ (gloriously described in Rev 19:11 - 16) to set up His physical kingdom on the earth.

No date is given for this; in fact, we are told that we must not set dates. But the Bible gives signs of the time in which this will happen. I list some of them here:

1. There will be wars and rumours of wars (Matt 24:6, 7).

2. There will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes (Matt 24:7).

3. Travel and knowledge will increase (Dan 12:4; 2 Tim 3:7, 8).

4. We may expect to see materialism and blatant homosexuality (Luke 17:26 - 30; Gen 19: 4, 5).

5. People will be selfish, disobedient, unthankful, unholy, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God (2 Tim 3:1 - 4).

6. Israel will be back in her land (Mark 13:28, 29).

7. Many will be deceived by false prophets and false teachers. Many will fall away from the true faith, and Christians will be persecuted (Matt 24:4, 5, 11; 2 Pet 2:1, 2; 1 Tim 4:1 - 3; 2 Pet 3:3 - 7; Jude 17, 18; Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12 - 18).

There will be a time of great suffering on the earth known as the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation or "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Matt 24:21, 22). But before that happens, all those who belong to Jesus will be taken up and will escape the terrible things that are to come (You can read about that at 1 Thess 4:13 - 18; 1 Cor 15:51 - 54 and Phil 3:20, 21).

We need to be ready against that day.