Friday, October 29, 2010

Recipe for a perfect marriage (2)

The best way to a successful marriage is to follow the Maker's instructions. You can't beat that.

We said there were two things a husband needs to do: to love his wife as he loves himself, and to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.

So what does a wife need to do? Ephesians 5 has the answer there too. She needs to submit to her own husband, as to the Lord.

Does that mean that he's superior to her, and she's inferior to him and he can take all the decisions without reference to her? No. Husband and wife are equal. But in any situation, someone has to take responsibility for the final decision. He holds that responsibility.

Does it mean that the wife is not allowed to have an opinion, and that she's never allowed to explain how she feels? No. Indeed, she should express her feelings and her concerns, quietly and kindly. But then she should commit the matter to God and trust Him to work it out in His way and in His time.

That's the trouble, says some husband. My wife is not submissive, so what can I do? Love her as you love yourself, and as Christ loved the church. Don't lay the law down. Don't preach. Don't kick up a storm.

That's the trouble, says some wife. My husband doesn't love me like that. So what should I do? Submit to your husband, as unto the Lord. Don't nag. Don't moan.

Don't focus on your spouse's failings. Concentrate on getting your attitude right.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it better: "Live together in the forgiveness of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a marriage, can survive. Don't insist on your rights, don't blame each other, don't judge or condemn each other, don't find fault with each other, but accept each other as you are, and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts."

Try it. See if it doesn't work.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recipe for a perfect marriage (1)

Marriage is a wonderful thing. "The estate of marriage," said Martin Luther, "is God's good will and work. He who recognises the estate of marriage will find therein delight, love, and joy without end, for it is pleasing to God and precious in His sight."

When you read Ephesians 5, you realise that marriage is intended to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His church.

Marriage breakdown is a disaster. Not only for the couple involved: children, family, friends and society as a whole are diminished by it. How especially sad it is when Christians fail to extend Christian living to their marriages, so that even Christians' marriages become subject to breakdown and divorce.

Does it not seem sensible in marriage to follow the Maker's instructions? There is a recipe for successful marriage in that same portion of Scripture in Ephesians 5.

According to the recipe, there are two things a husband needs to do.

First, he needs to love his wife as he loves himself. When he takes a wife, he and she become one. She is an extension of himself. An extra part for him to care for. No healthy person hates himself. He needs to be as concerned for her welfare as he is for his own.

Second, he needs to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Christ put the church's needs, the church's wellbeing before His. The husband needs to have the same sort of thought for his wife.

Love is not just a feeling. Love is a choice. You can't say you love God and not love your wife. Loving your wife is an expression of your love for God.

And what, you might say, is the wife doing all this time? Is she to do what she likes and live how she pleases? Of course not.

More soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The cost of abortion

Since the Abortion Act was passed, seven million unborn babies have been killed by abortion in the UK. That's one tenth of the present total population.

The number of unborn babies killed by abortion in England, Wales and Scotland since 1967 equals the total populations of Birmingham, Glasgow, Bradford, Edinburgh, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Wakefield, Cardiff, Coventry, Nottingham, Cambridge, Blackpool, Oxford, Barnsley, Bury and Doncaster put together.

The number of babies killed each day equals two Lockerbie disasters. The number aborted each year equals twice the losses on the Somme. The number aborted each week is more than the number of people killed in the twin towers disaster at New York's World Trade Centre on 9/11.

More than 200,000 babies are aborted in the UK each year. That's 17,000 each month; 4,000 each week; 600 each day. Each one is a human life.

Many women are suffering from what has come to be known as post-abortion syndrome. Symptoms are sleeplessness, anxiety, grief, anger, depression, drugs and alcohol abuse, self-destructive behaviour, difficulties with relationships and terrible feelings of guilt.

Said one, "I cried and cried. I crept into my babies' room and stared at their tiny bodies. How badly I wanted my first child to be there too. I lost my child forever." Said another, "I cry for my aborted baby all the time. I've lost interest in everything. I hurt and I feel sick with guilt and self-hatred. Baby, I love you."

Because of God's mercy and grace, there is forgiveness. But for some women, it's a long road.

Next Wednesday, October 27 - the anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act - is the National Day of Prayer about abortion. Some people may be praying outside abortion clinics. Some churches may be meeting together to pray. Some people will be praying with their church, their ladies' group, their prayer group or their youth group. Some will pray at home. Will you arrange to pray?

You will find details, suggested prayer topics and a PowerPoint presentation you can download at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The halal meat scandal

According to the Office for National Statistics Household Survey published last month, 71.4% of people in the UK say they are Christian, with smaller percentages acknowledging other faiths; 4.2%, for instance, say they are Muslim. Many of those claiming to be Christian will be nominal Christians who may not darken a church doorway from one year's end to the next; but nevertheless, 71.4%.

(The same survey showed that one per cent said they were homosexual and 0.5% bisexual, compared with the 10 per cent the homosexual lobby has tried to have us believe are homosexual, but that's another subject.)

The Mail on Sunday has revealed that Tesco, and apparently Asda, have been selling halal chicken and lamb - that is to say chicken and lamb slaughtered according to Islamic ritual - without its being labelled as halal meat and without customers being told. Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's, Somerfield and the Co-op have been selling halal lamb without its being labelled as halal meat and without telling customers.

Fast food chains like Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway and McDonald's have been using halal chicken without customers being aware.

Halal food has been served in hospitals, schools, pubs and sporting venues across the UK without customers' knowledge.

Islamic law requires animals to be slaughtered by a Muslim slitting the animal's throat while reciting in Arabic "Bismillah Allah-hu-Akbar," which can be translated "In the name of Allah, who is the greatest."

The Bible says (in 1 Corinthians 10) that I am to eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience's sake (for "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness"); and if any of those who do not believe invite me to dinner and I desire to go, I am to eat whatever is set before me, asking no question for conscience's sake; but if anyone says to me "This was offered unto idols," I am not to eat it for the sake of the one who told me, and for conscience's sake.

Some people argue about whether animals killed according to Islamic ritual are killed humanely. I do not propose to go into that here.

But is it not reasonable to expect that if I want to buy meat I should be made aware when meat has been ritually blessed and dedicated to Allah, so that I am able to choose whether I buy halal meat or not?

What I do object to is that the needs of four per cent of the people appear to have been pandered to while the possible concerns of 71 per cent of the people have been completely ignored.

Does nobody care?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Giving God the glory for the Chilean miners' rescue

Thirty-three trapped Chilean miners were rescued from the bowels of the earth this week as the world looked on: a triumph over what seemed like very perilous circumstances.

In an interview on BBC Radio Five Live, Rev Alfredo Cooper, a chaplain to the Chilean president, told what happened from the time news of the trapped miners broke:

I am a chaplain in the presidential palace, and so we had to quickly put together an emergency prayer meeting. And it was with all our hearts, because to imagine these 33 men a kilometre under the earth, not knowing whether they were alive or what was going through their minds.

Seventeen days we prayed, and then the miracle came, when the boring machine glanced off a rock and hit them - hit the cavern they were in - and of course we just erupted in praise. The second service the president asked for: a praise meeting. So we had a thanksgiving service, and of course we've had constant prayer.

And this has been one of the interesting factors for folk like us to notice. Many of the miners went down as atheists, or unbelievers, or semi-believers, and they have come up to a man testifying that there were not 33 but that there were 34 down there - that Jesus was there with them, that they had a constant sense of His presence and guidance.

The interviewer suggested that if God was responsible for getting them out, then God must have been responsible for their being down there in the first place. But the chaplain was having none of it:

Well, the thing is that in this fallen world this is exactly what does occur. Man is subject to accident and all sorts of problems, thanks often to wilful negligence, as was the case in this mine. There are consequences when you don't care enough for people.

And of course in those situations we might compare Jonah in the whale - you know people tend to cry out to God, and this is what's happened. And God has answered.

So the men, said the interviewer, were rescued by divine intervention really?

Well, we of course see the hands of all these magnificent experts all around; the goodwill of so many people internationally; the brilliant coverage of the press; and we would suggest that all this works together for good; that certainly as we prayed God has guided in remarkable ways.

Even the scientists. I was with the NASA people who came the other day. And to my surprise - to a man they were believing scientists in their case - and they all said "This is a miracle. There is no other word for what happened here."

So, I mean, scientists, politicians, presidents, we seem to have all come together in one happy moment saying "Goodness! God is there, and He answers prayer." That's how we feel. And certainly the miners are testifying to the world of this. Not just about that, but certainly it seems to be a central factor.

You can hear the interview by clicking here. I am grateful to Peter Saunders' blog for pointing out the interview.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Atheists top in religious knowledge

The United States has an organisation known as the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which comes up with some interesting statistics from time to time.

It recently surveyed a sample of 3,412 Americans on their religious knowledge. It found that atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons were better at religious knowledge than evangelicals, mainline Protestants and Catholics.

When it came to questions on the Bible, Mormons did better than white evangelicals, with both of them ahead of black Protestants and atheists/agnostics.

Commentators bemoaned the fact that 37 per cent of Americans didn't know that Genesis was the first book in the Bible - but 63 per cent did.

More than half of the people who identified themselves as Protestants didn't know that Martin Luther was the man who inspired the Protestant Reformation; 45 per cent of Catholics didn't know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used during mass do not merely symbolise but actually become the body and blood of Christ; and only 19 per cent of Protestants and 28 per cent of white evangelicals knew that Protestants teach that salvation is through faith alone.

But 37 per cent of Americans read the Scriptures at least once a week, not counting worship services.

One wonders if people in the UK, with their greatly inferior numbers of church membership and church attendance, would do nearly so well.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

An act by any other name. . .

Agony aunt Virginia Ironside said on a BBC TV discussion programme: "Abortion can often be seen as something wicked and irresponsible, but in fact it can be a moral and unselfish act. . . If a baby's going to be born severely disabled or totally unwanted, surely an abortion is the act of a loving mother."

On the subject of infanticide, she said: "If I were the mother of a suffering child - I mean a deeply suffering child - I would be the first to want to put a pillow over its face. . . if it was a child I really loved, who was in agony, I think any good mother would."

In an article in the Guardian headed "Was Virginia Ironside Right?" Zoe Williams wrote: "There is a furious lobby that attaches a eugenicist tag to anybody who is pro-choice or euthanasia, but it silences its opponents in an underhand way by accusing them of hostility towards the disabled.

"Of course, Ironside is not waging a war against the disabled: she simply said 'life isn't a gift per se.' There are plenty of circumstances that make it more burdensome than joyful. The fact that Ironside ruffled any feathers at all illustrates how important it is not to take this as tacit, but to say it out loud."

(You see the argument: "We're not saying that the lives of the disabled are less valuable than the lives of the able. We're just trying to help them.")

Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith writes on his blog: "Many eugenicists of old advocated killing disabled babies and other unfit as if they were 'weeds.' This is no different. The neo-eugenicists have simply learned not to express direct hostility for those they would prefer eliminated. Rather, the killing agenda is couched in gooey euphemisms and words of oozing compassion. But the key point to remember is that the act advocated is the same. The underlying evil is no less loathsome merely because it is wearing prettier clothes."

Friday, October 08, 2010

Not so fast, you secularists

Sally Bercow, wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been criticised for making infelicitous remarks on Twitter. On one occasion she was complaining about the presence of bishops in the House of Lords. "Kick out religion from politics," she said.

Archbishop Cranmer has a different idea. (Yes, I know. He did die, quite some time ago, but somehow or other he still manages to write a blog.) Interviewed by Annabelle Williams at, Cranmer says:

The United Kingdom owes its laws, law-making, customs, traditions and values to the Christian faith. To pretend that this rich heritage can be systematically eradicated in favour of "multiculturalism" and "secularism" is a fallacy. There is a myth that politics should be secular and that secularism is somehow neutral. It is not. It has its own dogma, a distinct orthodoxy and an intolerance of dissent every bit as intransigent as those religions it frequently misrepresents and seeks to neuter. Instead of constantly demanding that religion should be removed from politics, perhaps the time has come for there to be a strict separation of secularism and state.

Now there's something to think about!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lexi, the sandwich-bag baby

Here's another heartwarming story. Lexi, born 14 weeks early and the most premature baby to survive at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, weighed just 14 ounces. She was so tiny they put her in a plastic sandwich bag from the hospital canteen to keep her warm.

Doctors said she had a 10 per cent chance of survival.

There were times when she wasn't expected to last the night, but last she did. In September she was allowed home. She is now 12 weeks old and at the last news weighed 5lb 6oz.

Her mother Chelsea Rowberry, who was allowed home shortly after the birth, said people were afraid to ask her how the baby was, for fear that the baby had not survived. Now people who see the baby can't believe how premature she was.

And they are still legally aborting babies in the UK up to 40 weeks of pregnancy?