Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some positive news from a terrible tragedy

Even with all the pictures and the yards of reporting, it's difficult to imagine how the Japanese are coping with the loss of loved ones, loss of homes, loss of possessions and the threat of radiation, not to mention the terrible cold.

More than 9,300 deaths have been reported, with 13,786 people still missing. The World Bank this week estimated the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami at $235 billion.

The mainstream media will report all the crises and catastrophes, but it will have little to say about the spiritual climate. The Japanese are traditionally resistant to the gospel; of Japan's 127 million population, only a tiny percentage are Christians. But there are reports from Japan that there is a change now in centuries-old attitudes.

Said Warren Janzen, international director of the Christian organisation SEND International: "The governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, stated publicly that the disaster was a punishment from heaven because the Japanese have become greedy. To have a public figure of his stature make a statement like that opens up a public discussion on spiritual things.

"Some of our missionaries are going out on the street, talking to random people, talking about the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear situation there. People are engaging in spiritual conversation with strangers. That's just not typical."

The leader of a Japanese Christian aid organisation sent this plea to Barnabas Aid: "Pray for the churches in northeastern area. Many churches lost their pastors, members and buildings. Pray that they can stand strong in faith in Christ who stood on the raging water and who calmed the sea. This could be a wide open gate for the Gospel. We will conduct our rescue/relief mission through local churches. Need a lot of prayers from Barnabas Aid. Thank you so much."

People who have followed the news will know of "the Fukushima 50," the 50 workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant who chose to stay behind when everyone else left and have worked around the clock to cool overheating reactors. Five are believed to have died already; 15 are injured. Others of them have said they know the radiation there will kill them.

One of them, a project manager named Naoyoshi Sato, who has been overseeing the laying of 5,000 feet of power cable in Number 1 nuclear reactor in an attempt to get a cooling system working again, is a Christian, reportedly from Fukushima's First Baptist Church. He has already been exposed to lethal radiation levels.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

If these murderers aren't savages, then what?

Bear with me for a moment while I recall the details.

At Itamar, near Nablus in Israel, intruders got into the home of Rabbi Udi Fogel (36), his wife Ruth (35), and their six children. In the main bedroom, the intruders found Udi and his three-month-old baby daughter Hadas asleep. They slit their throats.

Ruth came out of the bathroom, saw what was happening, and was stabbed to death. In another bedroom they found 11-year-old Yoav, who had been reading in bed, and stabbed him to death. They killed his four-year-old brother Elad with two stabs to the heart.

Somehow they failed to notice a six-year-old and a two-year-old, who were asleep elsewhere in the house.

A 12-year-old daughter Tamar, who was out at the time, returned home and found the front door locked on the inside. She persuaded one of the children missed by the terrorists to open the door, went inside and discovered the bloodbath. The two-year-old was covered in blood, saying "Wake up, Daddy, wake up."

The girl reportedly ran from the house screaming. She later promised to be a mother to the other two surviving children.

When news of the murders reached Gaza, there was celebration. Members of Hamas gave out sweets in the street.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the so-called moderate Palestinian party Fatah, released a pamphlet taking responsibility for the attack, but then retracted it.

Members of the Brigades' leadership said the perpetrators of the attack belonged to Hamas. The attack was not sanctioned by the Fatah leadership, they said, but Brigades leaders had planned the attack and aided the Hamas operatives' escape.

Reporting the murders on her blog at the Spectator, a horrified Melanie Phillips wrote of "the moral depravity of the Arabs" and the difficulty of a peace agreement with "such savages."

Now guess what. A certain Inayat Bunglawala of Muslims4UK, said to have been set up "to celebrate the UK's democratic traditions and promote active Muslim engagement in our society," has complained about her remarks to the police. ENGAGE, an organisation described as dedicated to promoting greater media awareness, political participation and civil engagement amongst British Muslims, has complained about her remarks to the police, the Press Complaints Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Miss Phillips is to be investigated.

The way we're going, it won't be long before not only Muslims won't be able to complain about Muslims, but non-Muslims won't be able to complain about Muslims either.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Love is the difference

According to tradition, John, the disciple who wrote John's Gospel, spent his last days at Ephesus. When he was very old, the disciples there used to carry him into their meetings. When asked if he had anything to say, he would say "Little children, love one another."

In John 13, that same disciple wrote "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come that he should depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."

The thing about Jesus is that He will love you to the end. His love is without conditions. Nothing you can ever do will make Him love you more, and nothing you ever do will make Him love you the less.

The same chapter tells how He washed the disciples' feet, including the feet of Judas Iscariot, who He knew would betray Him.

Later in the same chapter, Jesus told His disciples "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

That's what makes Christianity different from everything else. And Christians - true Christians - different from all others.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's time to do something about jihad

Over the past decade, some 30 Muslim graduates or students at British universities have been involved in Islamic-inspired terrorism.

Writes Melanie Phillips:

So why is it that, with the Security Service periodically issuing chilling warnings that it's monitoring more than 2,000 dangerous Muslim fanatics and dozens of terrorist plots, Britain is still failing so dismally to curb its home-grown industry of Islamic terrorism and extremism? . .

Most of the British establishment is in denial about what it is up against. Our leaders know there is a major threat of terrorism.

But they remain wilfully blind to the fact that the terrorists' ultimate aim, the Islamisation of Britain and the West, is being pursued by Islamic groups that are not violent, as well as those that are. . .

The establishment is so heavily imbued by a deadly cocktail of political correctness, multiculturalism and 'human rights' law that, far from curbing Islamic extremism, it has actually fanned the flames.

Over the past decade and more, the judges have made it all but impossible to police Britain's borders against undesirables or throw extremists out of the country.

Universities have shamelessly refused to crack down on extremists on campus, even though countless Muslim students are being radicalised there by Islamist speakers with no fewer than four university Islamic Society presidents having been involved in major acts of terrorism.

Idiotically, politicians cravenly attempting to defuse Islamic rage by appeasing the Muslim community have funded organisations that have turned out to be extreme.

Even more extraordinarily, to this day the Government is employing radical Islamists in Whitehall as political advisers on curbing Islamic extremism.

The core reason for this supine approach is that the establishment refuses to acknowledge that Islamic terrorism is rooted in religious fanaticism - an extreme interpretation of the religion that dictates Muslims must impose Islamic law throughout the world.

While most British Muslims most certainly do not accept this interpretation, it is rooted in theology and history, and is supported by the major religious authorities in the Islamic world.

So truly moderate Muslims cannot make their voices heard. The extremists therefore have the whip hand. And the way they intend to achieve their ends is through a pincer movement comprising both terrorism and cultural infiltration to gain social, economic and political power.

The threat of violence makes it more likely they will succeed in infiltrating British institutions. And that in turn makes it even harder to curb radicalisation. It also galvanises the extremists, who perceive correctly that the society they have in their sights has no stomach for the fight. . .

Because our political and security establishment has defined extremism as involving violence, it is blind to the steady process of Islamisation that is taking place.

Astonishingly, it is tolerating - and even encouraging - the relentless incursion of Islamic religious law. Yet this is inimical to British values, and not just because it denies the human rights of women, homosexuals or anyone who wants to renounce Islam.

Fundamentally, it does not recognise the superior authority of the law of the land, against which it therefore asserts itself.

But it is a fundamental principle of a democratic society that there must be only one law for all. And yet in Britain today, blind eyes are being turned to sharia courts meting out not just family law judgements that oppress women, but even criminal sanctions, too.

In addition, there has been in this country an enormous growth of Islamic banking - despite the fact this serves as an umbrella for the financing of Islamic terrorism and is a vehicle for putting yet more pressure on British Muslims to subject themselves to sharia law.

Almost every week, more examples surface of the way in which British culture is giving way to Islamic practices. As a recent BBC Panorama programme demonstrated, some Muslim schools are teaching their pupils to hate 'unbelievers' - all under the nose of Ofsted, the schools watchdog organisation. . .
In short, Britain is being steadily Islamicised, and the establishment appears paralysed like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

It's time to do something about jihad. While there's still time to do something about it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good news and bad news

What a week it's been! Thousands killed by earthquake and tsunami in Japan. A state of emergency in Bahrain. Fierce fighting in Libya. All sorts happening in the UK.

There isn't time to talk about it all, but I can mention one thing that, for me, is a concern.

Two months ago I wrote here about graphic, sexually explicit literature approved by some local authorities for use in sex education for children as young as five years old. That same literature has now been exposed by the Daily Mail and the Telegraph.

Brenda Almond, a professor of moral and social philosophy, wrote in the Daily Mail as a consequence: "It is parents who best understand what their children need to know - and when - not people with improbable ideas about education, and certainly not government ministers. . .

"Sex education needs to be taken out of primary schools altogether and responsibility for it should be handed back to parents. Children, after all, belong to their parents; they are not the property of the state.

"We need to stop assuming that early sexual activity is inevitable and accept that too much sex education - delivered too early - might actually be encouraging it.

"Only then will we be able to get back to the really important thing: letting children be children. They'll grow up fast enough as it is."

Education Secretary Michael Gove has now said he will not accept attempts to change the Education Bill to introduce compulsory sex education to primary schools. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the Government is devising a new sexual health strategy which it is said will go even further than the approach by the last Labour Government. One of the team devising the strategy will be Brook's national director, Simon Blake, who is in favour of a young people's sexual free-for-all. The Government is also reviewing its sex education guidance for schools, and is working closely with the homosexual campaign group Stonewall.

Write to your MP and point out that more and more sex education at younger and younger ages is not lowering rates of teenage pregnancy and sexual infection, but having the reverse effect.

If you have children at school, let me repeat my previous advice: ask their school what they are being taught in sex education and ask to see materials used. If you have concerns, talk to the head teacher or school governors. Don't rant and rave; express your concerns politely and ask for change. You may be surprised at the effect it will have.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Remembering Fat Tuesday

Russell Moore is an American Bible teacher who grew up in Mississippi, where some of the folks were Catholic, and some Baptist.

"Around me," he writes, "I saw Catholic casino night fundraisers and Baptist business meetings, and neither looked much like the Book of Acts. When it came to the divide between Catholics and evangelicals, we knew there were some big differences which resulted in the Protestant Reformation and all, but day to day those differences seemed to my friends and me to amount to little more than who had a black spot on their foreheads once a year and whose parents drank beer right out in the open."

Much of the differences between Catholics and Baptists, he says, were summed up on what the British call Pancake Tuesday and Americans know as Mardi Gras. Or Fat Tuesday, if you prefer.

"Some of the older Baptists in my community," he says, "downright hated the whole idea of Fat Tuesday. They knew that Mardi Gras was the day before Ash Wednesday. After Mardi Gras was the beginning of Lent, the forty days of fasting rooted in Jesus' time without food in the wilderness temptations. And they saw this party as blasphemy.

"'Those Catholics, they just go out and get as drunk as they want to, eat till they vomit,' I remember one neo-Puritan naysayer lamenting. 'They're just getting it all out of their system before they have to get all somber and holy for Lent.'

"As the years have gone by, I've concluded that we Baptists had Mardi Gras too. This phenomenon was seen in Baptist churches dotted all over the South. Mardi Gras Protestantism didn't celebrate a day on the yearly calendar, but on the calendar of the lifespan.

"The cycle went like this. You were born, then reared up in Sunday school until you were old enough to raise your hand when the teacher asked who believes in Jesus and wants to go to heaven. At this point you were baptized, usually long before the first pimple of puberty, and shortly thereafter you had your first spaghetti dinner fund-raise to go to summer youth camp. And then sometime between fifteen and twenty you'd go completely wild. . .

"After a few years of carnality, you'd settle down, get married, start having kids, and you'd be back in church, just in time to get those kids into Sunday school and start the cycle all over again. If you didn't get divorced or indicted, you'd be chairman of deacons or head of the Woman's Missionary Union by the time your own kids were going completely wild.

"It was just kind of expected. You were going to get things out of your system before you settled down. You know, I never could find that in the Book of Acts either."

British evangelicals are a bit like that. (I hope I don't get too pointed here.) They buy a Bible for each of their children and take them to church for an hour each Sunday. Then when the children get to 13 or 14, they decide they are not going to church any more, and parents are left with some years of heartache trying to win them back again.

Some youngsters will do their best to kick over the traces no matter what. If you are parents with rebellious teens, don't feel condemned. I understand. I feel for you.

But it does take more than the gift of a Bible and an hour's exposure to Christian doctrine each week to keep them on the straight and narrow. It takes love, it takes discipline, it takes personal example, it takes personal instruction, and it takes patience. Christian friends can help too.

Whatever young teens may think, God made us. He made us to worship Him. Because He made us the way He did, the only thing that will satisfy is a life of personal relationship with the living Lord. Without that, there will still be an emptiness inside.

Do continue bringing up those youngsters to a life of relationship with Him. They are infinitely precious. They deserve to have lives that are effective; lives that satisfy.

Why Christians should pray for Israel

One thing that has caused incalculable damage both in the Christian church and in the world outside it is replacement theology. Replacement theology, also known as supersessionism, is the idea that the Jews are no longer God's chosen nation, Israel has been replaced in God's purposes by the church, and God's promises to Israel are now transferred to the church.

To some people it might seem reasonable, but it has one great drawback: it isn't true.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear - for instance, in Romans 11 - that God has not cast away His ancient people. Many, it is true, are away from Him because of unbelief, but God has kept a remnant for Himself. When the Jewish leaders rejected their Jewish Messiah, God did not cast them away. He used the occasion to allow Gentiles into His salvation.

Romans 11 uses the olive tree as a picture of the blessings, first promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, now available for both Jew and Gentile (vv15 - 25). The Gentiles' ministry is now to provoke the Jews to jealousy (v11). Alas, we Gentiles have never been good at that.

One day, nevertheless, God will turn to the Jews with a national salvation (vv25, 26). That will be something. Meanwhile, God's promises to Israel still stand (v29).

Rather than denigrate the Jews, Christians should pray for them, for a variety of reasons. Here are some:

1. The Bible commands it (Psa 122:6).

2. We owe an incalculable debt to the Jewish people. The patriarchs were Jews. The Old Testament prophets were Jews. Jesus is a Jew. The New Testament as well as the Old was written by Jews (with one possible exception). The early apostles, who not only risked their lives but gave them to bring us the gospel, were Jews. All the knowledge of God that I have has come to me, directly or indirectly, through the Jews. But for the Jewish people, I would have no Bible and no salvation.

3. When the Jewish leaders finally rejected their Jewish Messiah, He told them "You shall see me no more till you say 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (Matt 23:39). We may be taken to be with the Lord, but Jesus will not return to earth at His Second Coming until the Jewish leaders are ready to receive Him - and receive Him they will (Rom 11:26). Because He will not return until the Jewish leaders are ready to receive Him, praying for the Jewish people, apart from all the other reasons, is in Christians' self-interest!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Goodbye to Christian Britain?

The newspapers have gone to town with the case of Owen and Eunice Johns, a Christian couple who were not allowed by their local authority to continue as foster parents - to children under 10 years old - because they were not willing to promote a homosexual lifestyle to a young child temporarily in their care.

The High Court was asked for a ruling.

Two judges decided that if children were placed with foster parents with traditional Christian views there might be a conflict with the local authority's duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children;

that equality laws concerning sexual orientation should take preference over laws regarding freedom from religious discrimination;

that a local authority can require positive attitudes to be demonstrated towards homosexuality;

that the Johns were not being religiously discriminated against because they were excluded from fostering due to their moral views on sexual ethics, not their Christian beliefs; and

that Article 9 of the Human Rights Act provides only a qualified right to manifest religious belief, particularly so where a person in whose care a child is placed wishes to manifest a belief that is inimical to the interests of children.

The Telegraph called it "the new Inquisition" and "a disgrace." Michael Kelly at the Scotsman called it "downright insulting to traditional Christians and their beliefs." Melanie Phillips called it "a grotesque judgment" and "utterly appalling."

Said Andrea Williams, of Christian Concern: "If Christian morals are harmful to children and unacceptable by the state, how many years do we have before natural children start being taken away from Christians?

"Britain is now leading Europe in intolerance against religious belief."

Under a heading "Christianity isn't dying, it's being eradicated," Cristina Odone wrote on her Telegraph blog: "It's official. Britain is no longer a Christian nation. In banning Eunice and Owen Johns, a devout Christian couple, from fostering children, Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson declared that we live in a secular state, and the Johns' religious convictions disqualified them from raising citizens of that state. . .

"As the judges wagged their fingers about the secularist principles that, they claim, define the nation (and which 'ought to be, but seemingly are not, well understood'), they were not describing the status quo: a strong majority of Britons still consider themselves to be Christian. Instead, they were making clear their desire to steer this country in a direction of their own choosing - one that matches the views of an increasingly strident group that is determined to scrub Christianity from public life. . .

"According to our learned judges, 'the aphorism that "Christianity is part of the common law of England" is now mere rhetoric.'"

This is, says Ms Odone, "excruciatingly unjust." Unfortunately, she doesn't offer a remedy.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Waiting for Mummy to come home

The ability of human beings to live a purposeful, worthwhile life under the most difficult of circumstances is amazing.

Unborn babies are aborted because of trivial physical handicaps - yet a young girl with three limbs amputated - after meningitis, as I recall - was playing happily a few months later as though nothing had happened.

One of the most difficult conditions to cope with must be locked-in syndrome, where people are mentally aware but unable to speak or move, in chronic cases, except to blink their eyes. French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was able to move just one eye, dictated a book a letter at a time by blinking to indicate the letter he wanted as friends recited the alphabet. The book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, received rave reviews.

A recent survey of chronic locked-in patients in France - 65 of them - showed that seven per cent were interested in euthanasia. Ninety-three per cent were not. Only 28 per cent were unhappy.

The Daily Mail found a 27-year-old locked-in patient near Stockport. Michelle Wheatley, who has two young children with her partner Rick Blease, was feeding one of the children breakfast two-and-a-half years ago when she started to scream with pain and have fits. She was taken to intensive care and put into an induced coma.

A neurologist diagnosed a brain stem stroke, decided the damage was irreversible and said Michelle would die. She is in a nursing home, fed by a tube into her stomach and fitted with a tracheotomy tube to drain fluid from her chest.

She opens her eyes for "yes" and closes them for "no," and "speaks," like the Frenchman, by blinking to choose a letter at a time. Asked if she is happy, she opens her eyes wide. Yes, she's happy. Asked if she has ever wanted to die, she closes her eyes tight. Never? She closes her eyes again.

"Nobody should say that another person's life isn't worth living," she spells out. "You don't know, until it happens to you, how you'll feel.

"I do feel happy most of the time. I enjoy music, films, seeing the children. Most of the time, life is good. We all have our off days, don't we?"

"She's determined to get well again," says Rick. "And already we are seeing massive improvements. Right from the start I refused to accept she would die. I knew she'd improve and she has. The children know their mummy is very poorly - but they also know she'll come home."

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A life well lived

Maxine Hargreaves, wife of the Rev George Hargreaves, leader of the Christian Party, has died, aged 50, after several years of serious illness.

She had stood as a Christian Party candidate for a local council, the Greater London Assembly, Westminster and the European Parliament, sometimes while seriously ill, believing that she had to stand for Christ "no matter what."

Andrea Williams wrote on her blog at Christian Concern shortly after attending the funeral service:

At the service we heard a recording from her saying 'The type of Christianity that Jesus died for wants our blood, our everything.' I knew Maxine a little. I wish I had known her more. There were 1,000 people at the service. Her life and her ministry changed a community. She modelled how to live and how to die. She modelled that we, Christ's followers, must pour ourselves into His service and that from such obedience will follow transformed lives and communities because of Him, the source of life and joy.

What was the message from the service? 'Precious to the Lord is the death of His saints.' In this context, precious means excellent, worthy and honourable. It is hard to fathom why Maxine died so young. But her good friend who spoke at the service, Celia Collins, said 'Follow this God with faith or reason Him out with doubt. We walk by faith and not by sight. Maxine is in a better place.'

Maxine started Hephzibah Ministries. . . this ministry reached out to the community in Hackney, providing food, shelter, counsel, internet cafe. She pastored a church with George. She started the East London Christian School. . . The children from the school sang and recited poetry. They were a great testimony to the work of Maxine.

Over and over again people spoke of her love and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, her stand for truth, her courage and determination, her thirst for righteousness. Her challenge was 'You're not here on earth just to be blessed by God, you've got business to do. Don't compromise truth. Get ready because you do not know the moment you will die. God wants us to think like Him, not how we think.'

I am moved. I am humbled. I am in awe and stand amazed at a life well lived. She was a hero.

I didn't know Maxine Hargreaves. But as I read Andrea's tribute, I had tears in my eyes.

The world could do with a few more people willing to live for Jesus like that.