Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Number of abortions up - but with a ray of hope?

The number of abortions in the UK is up again.

Government figures published last week show there were 196,109 abortions in England and Wales in 2010, compared with 195,743 the previous year - 189,574 of them on England and Wales residents, compared with 189,100 on England and Wales residents in 2009.

Figures for Scotland, published today, show 12,826 abortions in 2010, compared with 13,108 in 2009. That's a total of 208,935 abortions in England, Wales and Scotland, compared with 208,851 the year before.

Of the abortions on England and Wales residents, 96 per cent were funded by the NHS, and 59 per cent took place in private clinics, paid for by the NHS. A third of women having an abortion had had an abortion previously; 85 women had had seven previous abortions or more.

Ann Furedi, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, described as the country's largest abortion provider, was quoted as saying what a splendid thing an abortion service was.

A spokesperson for the ProLife Alliance said sexual health education was clearly not impacting significantly on unplanned pregnancies.
"Any abortion at whatever stage in pregnancy and for whatever reason represents the ending of the life of a developing pre-born child."


One blogger said what he always found astounding when the annual figures came out was the fact that they have ceased to shock us.

The Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health, which advised the Government on things like abortion, teenage sexuality and sex education and comprised organisations in favour of abortion and sex education for children as young as five, was disbanded last year.

Life, a pro-life organisation, has been invited to join the Sex Education Forum, which will replace it. Although it will be the single opposing voice on a panel dominated by pro-abortion groups, its inclusion has caused outrage.

Dr Evan Harris, former MP and a humanist, even suggested its presence may prevent the forum from functioning properly by preventing the forum from being given confidential information and preventing it from having frank and open discussions. What nonsense.

Could the inclusion of a pro-life group on the forum be an indication that the Government, having thrown millions of pounds at sex education, free contraception and abortion, is at last realising that the "do whatever you like, but do take precautions" approach has done nothing to reduce abortions and the sexual infection epidemic and a new approach is needed?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Losing the one you love

Jessica Council was a beautiful redheaded American girl. She was 30 years old, with a husband and a two-year-old son. She and her husband Clint worked for a Christian charity, mentoring children.

She was always extremely healthy, took care about what she ate and exercised regularly.

Last August, she developed a sore throat. When it was still sore two weeks later, she saw a doctor. He had a test done, and said it was nothing to worry about. He had misread the results of the test.

In November, Jessica was having trouble breathing, and wound up in accident and emergency. The following day her throat closed up so tightly she couldn't breathe. Doctors managed to get a tube down her throat and put her on a ventilator.

The following day, they told her she had cancer. By then, she knew for certain that she was pregnant. Two days later, the hospital's obstetrician offered her an abortion. Jessica refused. For her, that was not an option.

Surgery for the cancer was not possible. The oncologist said chemotherapy would likely kill the baby. The obstetrician said the baby would probably survive, but would probably have brain damage. Radiotherapy carried similar risks. Jessica thought for a few seconds, then declined treatment.

One night in February, Jessica went to sleep and didn't wake up. Clint gave permission for a caesarean section.

The doctors thought Jessica was 25 weeks into pregnancy. When little Jessi was born, they realised she had been only about 23 weeks, the very limit of viability for the baby. Jessi weighed 1lb 3oz.

"Jessica knew she was going to die anyway," said Clint. "She didn't share that with me until almost when she died. . . But I think she knew, and she was going to give this baby every chance she could.

"I did struggle," said Clint, "because in the Bible the one person that we're commanded to love more than myself, this was her. Sometimes it's easier to be selfless as far as whatever happens to you, but when it comes down to losing the one you love more than anything else, it's very difficult."

For about a month after Jessica died, says Clint, "I could not - and I mean that as a literal inability - I could not read my Bible, I could not pray.

"I knew cognitively that the relationship was there, I knew [God] loved me. I accepted all these things from a mental standpoint. . . but the delight in God was gone for about a month. I was functioning solely on what I knew to be true from a mental standpoint."

Now he's busy working, caring for his two children - the doctors say the baby, though still in hospital, is doing well - and praying once more.

Less than two weeks after Jessica died, Clint wrote: "God is to be praised, my friends. Do not doubt God; do not be angry with Him for me.

"I am privileged to have had a wife who was so full of the love of the Father. Rejoice with me. . . God has blessed Jessica in taking her to a place of perfect peace and no pain. I must be thankful for the time that I had with her rather than ungrateful for all the things we never got to do together. We must give thanks in all things for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ.

"Grace and peace to all."

You can read the full story at LifeSiteNews.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A plan for genocide?

So President Obama has suggested a Palestinian state based on 1967 lines, thus going back on what America had previously promised Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rather bravely and quite rightly told him it won't happen. And President Obama is now in London reportedly seeking a joint Middle East agreement with Prime Minister David Cameron based on those same 1967 lines.

Says Archbishop Cranmer:

While Israel remains surrounded by enemies - having ceded Gaza to Arab control from whence rain thousands of Katyusha rockets - David Cameron is now being asked to support the Obama plan to revert to the very partition which posed an existential threat to the only democracy in the region. The 'Arab spring' has not yet quite sprung enough to persuade Israel that a glorious summer lies ahead: Syria openly supports Hezbollah; Egypt now has the Muslim Brotherhood; Gaza has spawned Hamas; Lebanon hosts a plethora of anti-Israel terrorist groups and Iran is pledged to wipe Israel 'off the map': the whole of Arabia is intent on her destruction. And President Obama is here to persuade David Cameron to support a policy which will inevitably result in yet another attempt to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. This is not a peace process: it is a plan for genocide on a scale not seen since Auschwitz.

There will be those who consider that I spend too much time on this blog talking about Israel.

But God calls Himself the God of Israel, God calls that small sliver of territory in the Middle East "my land", and the Bible says (specifically in Zech 14:2 - 4) that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to this earth precisely when Israel is finally overcome.

Think about it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

British Christian antisemitism?

The Methodist Church in Britain overwhelmingly agreed at its last annual conference to call for a boycott of goods from "illegal" Israeli West Bank settlements, blaming Israeli occupation as the key hindrance to Middle East peace.

On her blog, Daphne Anson has published a letter sent to the Methodist Church leadership as a consequence by a Dr Gerald Oberman, who I believe lives in Brighton:

Dear Sir,

In your annual conference you have passed a policy calling for a boycott of goods from "illegal" Israeli West Bank settlements. You claim this is not anti-Semitic. But how else do you explain this strange obsession with Israel? What about the Chinese occupation of Tibet, or the Sudanese slaughter in Darfur, persecution in Zimbabwe and elsewhere? Politically, one could probably compile a case for a boycott against just about every country on the planet, but the only country in the world being subjected to a call for a boycott is Israel.

The so-called West Bank has been Jewish for more than 3000 years. A large part was known as Judea. Jesus, a Jew, was born there. Who do you imagine lived in Judea, if not the Jews? Who lived in Hebron but the Hebrews? The name Bethlehem is Hebrew. Only the Jews, of all the people in the world, living in their own land, are besmirched by being called illegal settlers.

Israel is monstrously depicted as Apartheid, notwithstanding the fact that one fifth of her population is Israeli Arab with full rights. The Palestinians claim the West Bank as theirs and require the land to be Juden Frei.

And just who are the "Palestinians"? Palestine has never existed as an autonomous entity. There is no language known as Palestinian. There is no distinct Palestinian culture. There has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Palestinians. There has never been a King of Palestine. Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc. The "Palestinian" leader Yasser Arafat was an Egyptian. They have no claim on the West Bank. Israel is not wrongfully "occupying" or "settling" anything.

Israel is currently the subject of a demonisation and misinformation campaign put out by Arab sources and propelled with a strong anti-Semitic undercurrent. The Arab world is spewing out anti-Semitism unequalled since the Hitler era. It is so pervasive, many Jews are being infected. Israel is portrayed as the most evil state on the planet. . .

Your boycott of Israeli "settlements" is, of course, the prelude to a boycott of all Israel. I trust you are preparing a complete boycott of everything coming out of Israel. . .

An Israeli company has developed a simple blood test that distinguishes between mild and severe cases of Multiple Sclerosis. . .

An Israeli-made device helps restore the use of paralysed hands. . . Your children with breathing problems will soon be sleeping more soundly, thanks to a new Israeli device called the Child Hood. This innovation replaces the inhalation mask with an improved drug delivery system that provides relief for child and parent. . .

A new research centre in Israel hopes to throw light on brain disorders such as depression and Alzheimer's disease. The Joseph Sangol Neuroscience Center in the Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer Hospital aims to bring thousands of scientists and doctors to focus on brain research. A researcher at Israel's Ben Gurion University has succeeded in creating human monoclonal antibodies which can neutralize the highly contagious smallpox virus without inducing the dangerous side effects of the existing vaccine. . .

Doctors Ciechanover and Hershko's research and discovery of one of the human cell's most important cyclical processes will lead the way to DNA repair, control of newly produced proteins and immune defence systems.

The Movement Disorder Surgery program at Israel's Hadassah Medical Centre has successfully eliminated the physical manifestations of Parkinson's disease in a select group of patients with a deep brain stimulation technique.

For women who undergo hysterectomies each year for the treatment of uterine fibroids, the development in Israel of the Ex Ablate 2000 System is a welcome breakthrough, offering a non-invasive alternative to surgery.

Israel is developing a nose drop that will provide a five year flu vaccine. . .

Most of Windows operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel. . . The Pentium NMX Chip technology was designed at Intel in Israel. Both the Pentium 4 microprocessor and the Centrum processor were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel. Voice mail technology was developed in Israel. . . Most of the latest technology in your mobile phone was developed by Israeli scientists.
. .

Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech companies outside of Silicon Valley. Israel has more museums per capita. Israel has the second highest publication of new books per capita. . . Israel is making a massive contribution to the world, including the Palestinians - and to you - in science, medicine, communications and security. Pro rata for population, Israel is making a greater contribution than any other nation on earth.

And what is the Arab world doing? Buying rockets and missiles and threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. The call by your church to boycott Israel, which is the intention, reeks of the stench of anti-Semitism. You should all hang your heads in shame.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

A story of hope

Kate Allatt's husband had never known her to be ill. She used to go to the gym. At weekends she went fell-running.

She developed a constant headache. A doctor said it was a migraine. Then she collapsed. Doctors said she had a blood clot in her brain stem and put her into an induced coma.

When she came out of the coma she had tubes everywhere, including a big one in her mouth helping her breathe. She could see, she could hear, but she couldn't speak. She was suffering from locked-in syndrome.

Kate wasn't able to move, not even her eyeballs. All she could move was her eyelids. Her husband and children talked to her, but she couldn't respond.

Doctors said she was brain dead.

Then her husband noticed she opened her eyes when there was an interesting programme on TV, and closed them when there wasn't.

"Kate," he said, "can you understand? Blink if you can." She blinked. "Do it again." She did it again. They had established a means of communication.

Even so, doctors believed she would never walk or talk again.

Within weeks, she moved her thumb. Within months, she managed to sit up. She spent a weekend practising mouth exercises given her by a therapist. When her favourite nurse arrived, she said "Morning!" The nurse burst into tears.

She began to use crutches. Three months ago, a year to the day after her collapse, she got on to a running track and ran 20 metres. It was only 20 metres, but she ran.

The Daily Mail recently told her story. As I read it, I had tears in my eyes.

Why? Some people said to be brain dead are having food and water withdrawn from them until they die. As funds become tighter and the number of patients increases, that sort of thing is likely to become more common.

Human life is inestimably precious. Human beings are not here to be disposed of. Taking innocent human life is wrong.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More difficult days ahead

For Israel, the clouds continue to gather.

According to a poll, 54 per cent of Egyptians want to scrap Egypt's peace agreement with Israel.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised "a new Middle East" in the near future without the presence of Israel and its allies.

The Palestinian Authority, dominated by Fatah - which is refusing to negotiate with Israel - has signed a peace pact with Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organisation which refuses to recognise the right of Israel to exist, refuses to renounce terrorism and is sworn to Israel's destruction. The aim is evidently to declare an independent Palestinian state without agreement with Israel and ask the United Nations in September to recognise it.

Says American commentator Joel Rosenberg: "In reality it is a shotgun wedding, at best. Fatah and Hamas leaders have historically not only hated each other but gunned each other down in broad daylight. When Hamas took over Gaza in 2005 and 2006, it set into motion a bloodbath, killing scores of Fatah officials and party members, even throwing some off of high rise buildings."

The United Nations has declared that the Palestine Authority is capable and ready to function as an independent state and is only being held back by the "Israeli occupation," and a sizeable number of nations have suggested that they will support a unilateral declaration of independence.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said last week that if Israel fails to recognise an independent Palestinian state, which must include 100 per cent of Judea, Samaria and the entire eastern half of Jerusalem, Hamas will "add new cards to the resistance."

As Mashaal, who insists on the right of return for large numbers of "Palestinian refugees" while at the same time insisting that any Palestinian state should be Jew-free, continues to insist that he will not negotiate with the Jewish state, this would have to come about by Israel's unilateral surrender to Arab demands.

US President Barack Obama in a speech yesterday proposed a Palestinian state based on 1967 lines. Israel, as America well knows, is unable to accept a Palestinian state on 1967 lines because it would leave an Israel that was indefensible - which means that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be having a difficult visit to Washington today.

Whatever happens, Israel is likely to be blamed - by the increasing number of people like Tom Friedman, of the New York Times. He suggests Israel is an enemy of democracy because it does not "feel the joy of freedom being rung in across the Arab Middle East" - despite the fact that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East and the prospect of democracy resulting from the present turmoil in Arab countries is slim indeed. Strange that nobody calls for democracy among the Palestinians.

The stage is surely being set for the next military incursion into Israel. When that happens, those who invade will find, as others have found before them, that they have attempted something more difficult than they expected.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When you know that you know that you know

Talking with a man one day about spiritual things, I mentioned the Bible. "Well, the Bible," he said, "is a book, just like any other book." He was mistaken.

On the night before He died, Jesus prayed for His disciples: not only for His disciples at that time, but also for all those that were to come. In His prayer, he told His Father "Your word is truth" (John 17:17).

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, reformer John Calvin tells how the Scriptures, although written by men, come to us with authority from God; he says, what's more, that every true believer will come to the certainty that they are in fact the word of God. This conscious realisation, he says, comes by what he calls "the inward testimony of the Spirit."

Says John Piper: "[The Holy Spirit] awakens us, as from the dead, to see and taste the divine reality of God in Scripture, which authenticates it as God's own Word. . . the witness of God to Scripture is the immediate, unassailable, life-giving revelation to the mind of the majesty of God manifest in the Scriptures. . .

"God witnesses to us of his reality and the reality of his Son and his Word by giving us life from the dead so that we come alive to his majesty and see him for who he is in his Word."

Theologian J. I. Packer explains it this way: "Calvin affirms Scripture to be self-authenticating through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. What is this 'inner witness'? Not a special quality of experience, nor a new, private revelation, nor an existential 'decision,' but a work of enlightenment. . .

"The internal witness of the Spirit in John Calvin is a work of enlightenment whereby, through the medium of verbal testimony, the blind eyes of the spirit are opened, and divine realities come to be recognised and embraced for what they are. This recognition Calvin says, is as immediate and unanalyzable as the perceiving of a color, or a taste, by physical sense - an event about which no more can be said than that when appropriate stimuli were present it happened, and when it happened we know it had happened."(1)

A few weeks before I was converted to Christ I moved to an area where I had not previously lived, but not far from the home of a committed Christian family I knew. I remember one evening I went out looking for a pub. I had difficulty finding one, and when I did, the beer tasted awful.

Almost without intending it, I ended up at the home of these Christians. The conversation quickly turned to spiritual matters. I started asking questions about eight o'clock, and I continued asking questions until midnight. That night I was given answers to my questions straight from the Bible. I clearly remember walking home in the early hours of the morning, saying to myself "Well, either the Bible is true or it isn't: one or the other."

I can't remember exactly at what moment I came to an incontrovertible conviction that the Bible is true, but one thing is sure: the revelation changed my life.

How about you?

(1) J. I. Packer. John Calvin: A collection of essays. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966, p166

Monday, May 09, 2011

Truth, lies and safe sex

Dr Miriam Grossman, a paediatrician with years of experience, has been invited to speak at a number of meetings in London on the subject of sex education in schools.

Says Andrea Williams, reporting on her blog at Christian Concern on Dr Grossman's meeting in the Houses of Parliament:

Dr Grossman emphasised how sex educators usually claim to provide "non-judgmental" and "comprehensive, medically accurate information" in order to help children make their own informed choices and delay sexual activity - but this is all, in fact, a lie.

In reality, Dr Grossman emphasised, the priority of much sex education in the UK is to promote morality-free sexual "licence." Sex education programmes normalise premature sex and promote the idea that children have a "right" to make their own decisions. Abstinence from sex is not usually presented as an option and the health risks of early sexual activity are downplayed.

Both the general public and school children in particular are often misinformed about the effectiveness of contraception in preventing disease and pregnancy. . .

Young people are often told that using a condom reduces the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and reduces the risks of conception by 98%. However, the truth is that:

* The 98% figure only refers to the risk of pregnancy - not infection. Furthermore, it only applies to circumstances where condom use is "perfect." "Typical use" is more common, where condoms are worn correctly most of the time but are occasionally used incorrectly. In such cases, the risk of pregnancy is reduced by only 85%!

* Even perfect condom use only reduces the risk of herpes by 25 - 50%, chlamydia by 26% and gonorrhoea by 62%. That's little protection at all!

* Condoms have close to 0% effectiveness in preventing the transmission of HPV.

* A girl's immature cervix increases her vulnerability to genital infections. HIV aside, girls and women carry 80% of the burden of negative consequences from early sexual behaviour and multiple partners. . .

Dr Grossman warned that if sex educators continue to deny biological truths and encourage "exploration" (read promiscuity), then the health and well-being of our children will continue to suffer. The "safe sex" message endorsed by schools is offering children a false sense of security. This must stop. There is no such thing as safe sex, other than between two people who have saved themselves for marriage.

Christians everywhere should be teaching children that each one of them is a beautiful, unique creation made in the image of God. The way that our children can be safe and free is to truly know this and to keep themselves for marriage.

Let's do all we can to promote God's truth for the sake of our children. Let's claim back our education system; let's expose bad sex education, especially in the forthcoming national curriculum review. Let's bring to society the message of purity, faithfulness, love, truth and hope that is found in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

And a comment on Andrea's piece from a police officer:

We teach our kids not to play with matches, and don't claim "they will do it anyway," and we don't say "we teach them the dangers and let them decide." Sex is like fire, the context can determine if it is safe or destructive. Marriage is the only safe context for sex. Outside of marriage the dangers are there. . . but. . . educators and others refuse to tell the truth about it.

Can anyone say these things aren't true?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

And the band played on

Colne, a former mill town in Lancashire, is a rum place. As a rum place, it has form. On his several visits there, John Wesley always met opposition, sometimes violent. On one of his visits, one of his helpers was thrown to his death from a bridge.

But Methodism prevailed. At one time the town boasted the best part of a dozen Methodist chapels.

Wallace Hartley, born in 1878, went to the Methodist day school and sang in the choir at Bethel Independent Methodist Chapel, where his father, Albion Hartley, was choirmaster and Sunday school superintendent. Albion is said to have introduced the hymn Nearer My God to Thee to the congregation. Young Wallace learned the violin from a member of the congregation.

When the Titanic sailed from Liverpool on its ill-fated voyage 99 years ago this year, Wallace was leader of the ship's eight-piece orchestra.

When the Titanic was holed shortly before midnight, the orchestra, who would already have finished for the night, made their way to the first-class lounge. A survivor said one of them told her they were "going to give them a tune to cheer things up a bit."

It was commonly believed that the orchestra played until the ship went down, and that their last piece was Nearer My God to Thee.

Wallace Hartley's was one of only three musicians' bodies to be identified, and the only one to be returned home. A crowd of 40,000 - almost twice Colne's population - turned out for his funeral procession.

A recent book, The Band that Played On, by Steve Turner, speculates that it was Hartley's faith - and that of cellist John Wesley Woodward, a fellow Methodist from Hill Top Methodist Chapel in West Bromwich - that encouraged them to play to the last.

"My feeling is that he was a person of great moral authority as well as a born leader," says the author. "One of the most convincing accounts I read, by one of the sailors, was that at the end there was a lone violinist playing Nearer My God to Thee. I suspect that was Wallace Hartley."

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Death of an icon

David Wilkerson, a young pastor in rural Pennsylvania, used to watch television in the evenings to see what young people were watching. One day God led him to stop watching TV and dedicate his two hours' TV time to prayer.

That was how it all began.

One night he was sitting in his study reading Life magazine. "I merely turned a page, and at first glance, it seemed there was nothing to interest me. The page showed a pen drawing of a trial taking place in New York. . .

"I started to flip the page over. But as I did, something caught my eye. It was the eyes of a figure in the drawing - a boy. He was one of seven boys on trial for murder. I held the magazine closer to get a better look. The artist had captured a look of bewilderment, hatred and despair in the young boy's features. Suddenly, I began to cry."

Wilkerson drove 350 miles to New York, met violent youngsters on the streets and started Teen Challenge, a ministry for teenagers, including teenage drug addicts. His book describing his experiences, The Cross and the Switchblade, sold 50 million copies in over 30 languages.

In 1971, he founded World Challenge, which eventually covered ministry outreach, literature and video publishing, evangelism, feeding programmes, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres and an 8,000-member church in Times Square, New York.

On Wednesday last week he was driving in Texas when his car veered into the opposite lane and collided head on with a lorry travelling in the opposite direction. Wilkerson, who was 79, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The last blog post he wrote said this: "To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights, and in that darkness you will hear the Father whisper, 'I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident.'"

Wilkerson's wife Gwen, who several times in her lifetime has beaten cancer, was with him in the car. She was taken to hospital critically injured. A report that she had died the following morning was incorrect. She is in hospital, and expected to recover.