Friday, December 21, 2012

Poor old Santa

Dear Virginia,

Because you have been such a loyal friend of Christmas, I wanted to write a personal letter to try and explain the sad news I'll be announcing at a press conference tomorrow. Virginia, I'm retiring. I've already deleted my database, put the sleigh up on Craig's List, and changed forever into civilian clothes. Mrs Claus and I have sublet our cottage here to a Russian drilling crew (they insist they own the North Pole anyway) and we've sold the workshops to a Chinese toy manufacturer. For ourselves, we'll be moving to Malta, at least for a while. There are at least some remains of civilization on that island; the health care system is top notch; and the climate may well help my arthritis.

Virginia, I know this may seem like an abrupt and drastic move, but, trust me, I really had no other choice. I'm deeply saddened to think of the heartbreak the cancellation of Christmas will bring to good-hearted supporters like you. Yet I also believe that the true friends of Christmas will sympathize with my plight. I have, of course, been grieved and frustrated over the increasing commercialization of the holiday. That's been going on for decades. But the demands from the children of the last couple of generations have driven me over the edge. Virginia, you and I both can remember when you were thrilled and very grateful to receive a doll, a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and some  candy. Your brother felt the same way that Christmas when I left him a football, some Lincoln Logs and a couple of oranges. But now children are absolutely insatiable.You simply cannot give them enough. And even a magic bag isn't without a bottom.

And then there are the kinds of presents they crave! There's no way I can leave them the horrid things they ask of me. Little girl dolls dressed in sexually suggestive outfits. Grotesque and gory video games. Rap music which glorifies savagery against women. Movies full of blasphemy and brutish violence. There's no way I could give an impressionable child such nasty, noxious things. And as a result, I've lost a big chunk of my market share. Back in the 1950s baby boom, I really had to hustle to keep up with demand. But in recent years, my trip takes a quarter of the time because I have so few children who want the presents I have to give. To keep from laying off the elves, I've kept production high but we have completely run out of storage space. Our overstock of board games, baby dolls, puzzles, fire engines, books - I could go on and on - is crushing us.

But the present  crisis, Virginia, has arisen from still other matters - key among them being a vociferous committee of elves which started with grumbling, then moved on to organised protests, and ended up by forming unions connected, respectively, with the AFL, the SEIU, and the Teamsters. The subsequent demands from union leaders are not only irrational, they are downright immoral. For instance, I refuse to allow, under my name, the manufacture of gifts which I believe to be decadent and culturally destructive. Nor will I provide health coverage plans that would cause me to violate my religious convictions. Virginia, I shudder to think of the hard-working elves who have been loyal to the spirit of Christmas having to sign up for unemployment but the troublemakers have left me no other option. So, alas, I am shutting down Christmas altogether. . .  

I didn't write the above, as you will gather from the American references in it. It was written by an American friend of mine, Denny Hartford. I lifted it from his website. You will enjoy reading the rest of it here.

Christmas may not be the same as it used to be. Although I do think people have a little more openness, a little more friendliness, a little more, if you like, of a spirit of goodwill during a couple of days over the holiday. That we ought to try to preserve.

If Christmas isn't the same as it was, I hope that doesn't prevent me wishing all of you a happy Christmas?

Just a brief postscript: I am minded that the Babe of Bethlehem is the one sure hope this world has. May many come to know the reality of that this Christmastide. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The curse that threatens all our children

The internet is awash with pornography.

The US citizen is well informed of the extent of internet porn. Charisma News, a leading American Christian magazine, says that

* The internet pornography business makes more money than top companies Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, eBay, Google and Yahoo combined.

*  About 12 per cent of the world's websites offer pornographic material.

* The average age at which children first see pornographic material is 11. Ninety per cent of those from eight to 16 say they have viewed it online.

*  Twenty-one per cent of Christian girls admitted to sending a naked photograph of themselves to someone else by their mobile phone.

An article in the Christian Post, another US Christian magazine, says - can you believe this? - that according to a survey 50 per cent of Christian men and 20 per cent of Christian women are addicted to pornography.

Trying to find similarly detailed figures regarding the situation in Britain seems more difficult. It is suggested that British teenagers spend an average of 87 hours a year looking at internet pornography, and that four out of five regularly access pornographic material online. A recent report showed that 40 per cent of children under 12 have seen pornographic images online.

When I contacted people in Britain whose ministry is to pornography addicts, all they seemed able to say was that they wouldn't be surprised if the figures here were similar to those in the United States.

UK charities have been pleading for action for long enough. They favour automatic anti-pornography filters used by internet service providers. Internet service providers generally have resisted, no doubt because of the amount of money to be made.

Earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron instructed Government officials to look into the possibility of such filters being used by internet service providers, which would mean that adults wanting to see pornography would have to "opt in" with their provider for the service.

Last Friday the Government announced rather quietly that proposals for such a block on pornography had been rejected. The Government's excuses: first, parents would then assume that the internet was safe for their children; second, an automatic block might also prevent children having access to "helpful information on sexual health or sexual identity." Instead, the Government had decided, parents should use internet filters if their children were using computers at home.

Countless thousands, if not millions, of children are having their lives ruined.

Will someone please stand up and sort out this situation?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Feeding the spiritually hungry

An American news agency reports that two 14-year-olds and a 13-year-old tried to cadge a cigarette from a young man. The young man's 22-year-old girlfriend told them to get a job. So the teens shot her. She died in hospital two hours later.

What a world we live in.

But some people are looking for something better.

Mission Network News reports that Barry Werner, from an organisation called Bibles for China, recently went to China to distribute 30,000 Bibles in rural areas.

You would think that would satisfy the need, the report says, but in China 35,000 people are converted to Christ each day. A believer in China getting his or her first Bible will often read it from cover to cover in six weeks. On average, five other people will read that Bible in its first year. Of those five, three will commit their lives to Christ.

There's hunger for you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christians down, Muslims up

In the 2001 Census, 71.7% of people in England and Wales called themselves Christians. By 2011, according  to newly published figures from the 2011 Census, the figure was down by 13 per cent to 59.3% (a total of 33.2 million). There may be a drop in the number of people who were not practising Christians but identified themselves as Christians for traditional reasons.

Islam, with 2.7 million adherents, was up from three per cent to 4.8%.

Seven per cent of people did not answer the question on religion. Some 14 million ticked the box which said "no religion," double the figure in 2001.

The number of people who identified themselves as Jedi Knights had dropped by more than 50 per cent, but they still ranked as the seventh most popular faith. Among the "other faiths" were 1,893 adherents of Satanism, 1,276 of witchcraft, 541 of animism, 184 Thelemites and 124 Confucianists.

The Church of England said the death of Christian England had been greatly exaggerated. Some 253 Anglican churches had closed over the past decade, while 1,000 new congregations had been started.

"Doubtless campaigning atheist organisations will attempt to minimise the significance of the majority figures for faith and Christianity. In fact, these figures draw attention to the free ride that has been given to these bodies whose total membership would barely fill half of Old Trafford. For instance there are an estimated 28,000 members of British Humanist Association - the same membership as Union of Catholic Mothers, whilst the National Secular Society has an estimated 5,000 - the same as the British Sausage Appreciation Society."

Monday, December 10, 2012

The dangers of legalised killing

Euthanasia became legal in Belgium in 2002. A report on the first 10 years of euthanasia in Belgium by the European Institute of Bioethics makes disturbing reading.

According to the report, nearly half of the 16 members of the commission set up to ensure that the law was kept were found to be members or associates of the Association for the Right to Die in Dignity, which campaigns for euthanasia and the widening of legal conditions;

in dealing with more than 5,000 cases, the commission never felt the need to report a single case to the Crown Prosecution Service;

although a written declaration from the patient was required before euthanasia, the commission accepted the situation when none was provided;

the commission allowed euthanasia in cases where diseases were not life-threatening;

the commission decided that a coma, loss of independence or progressive dementia were sufficient to qualify as unbearable and unrelievable psychological suffering;

the commission decided not to verify the unbearable and unrelievable nature of the suffering because consideration should be given to the fact that a patient could refuse pain treatment and the unbearable nature of the pain depended on the patient's own ideas and values; and

although the law specified that the lethal substances had to be handed to the doctor in person by a registered pharmacist and left-over quantities returned, lethal substances were handed out to families or by chemists' assistants and no check was made on the return of surplus amounts.

BioEdge says in the Netherlands a regional euthanasia review committees' annual report for 2011 shows that the committees in several cases seriously exceeded the statutory deadline for issuing their findings, which was both "undesirable" and "unlawful."

Although there are expected to be further attempts to legalise euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide in both England and Scotland before long, it is unlikely that either euthanasia or assisted suicide will be legalised soon. It is hoped, however, that these reports will serve as a serious warning about what can happen when the legal gates are opened.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A question or two for Sir Paul Nurse

New free schools found to be teaching creationism as fact could lose their Government funding, according to a report on BBC News online.

A new rule says that from 2013, all free schools in England must teach evolution as "a comprehensive and coherent scientific theory."

The new rule will apply to Grindon Hall Christian school in Sunderland and two other schools due to open next year, after concerns about the teaching of creationism.

Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said he was "delighted." He said previous rules on free schools and the teaching of evolution versus creationism had been "not tight enough."

Although the previous rules had confined creationism to religious education lessons, "the Royal Society identified a potential issue that schools could have avoided teaching evolution by natural selection in science lessons or dealt with it in such a perfunctory way that the main experience for students was the creationist myth."

"The creationist myth," Sir Paul?

I want to tell you that evolution by natural selection is a theory that has never been proved and is being brought into question by more and more scientists.

The first verse in the Bible says "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." If you don't believe the first verse, what price the rest of the Bible? 2 Tim 3:16, according to the Authorised Version, says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If creationism isn't true, that verse is a lie.

I am reminded of the young man who discovered by reading the New Testament that Jesus believed the book of Genesis. The young man said "My high school science teacher once told me that much of Genesis is false. But since my high school science teacher did not prove he was God by rising from the dead, I'm going to believe Jesus instead."

And rules on the teaching of evolution versus creationism "not tight enough," Sir Paul?

Every child should be taught what the Bible says about creation. But he or she shouldn't be forced to believe it. And every child should be taught about what people choose to believe about evolution. But he or she shouldn't be forced to believe that. That's what education is about: giving young people the (unbiased) information they need to teach them to think for themselves.

One last question. Schools that teach creationism as fact are likely to lose their funding.

Will schools that teach evolution as fact be likely to lose their funding?

I thought not.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

What are we doing to our children?

UNICEF has ranked Britain bottom out of 21 developed countries for child welfare and third from bottom for educational standards. Other reports have labelled British children the "unhappiest in the world."

*  Forty-eight per cent of children born today will experience the breakdown of their parents' relationship.

*  Twenty-four per cent of children live with only one parent. Nine out of 10 of those children are in households headed by lone mothers.

*  A boy of 12 who raped a nine-year-old girl told police he wanted to feel grown-up. He had had unrestricted access to hardcore online pornography. Children as young as six are surfing the internet without parental supervision. Fourteen per cent of children between six and 10 have encountered adult material on the internet.

*  Some 31 per cent of sexual crimes in England and Wales in 2009 - 2010 were against children under 16. More than a third of all rapes were against children.

*  Up to 40 per cent of children have been involved in "sexting" (creating, sharing and forwarding sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images by mobile phone or internet).

*  Despite billions of pounds spent on sex education, teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are increasing. One in 10 young people catch a second sexually transmitted disease within a year of a first diagnosis.

*  Binge drinking has become habitual for many young people in Britain. A 14-year-old girl diagnosed with liver disease after drinking 16 bottles of wine, cider and spirits in three days was told by doctors if she drinks again she will die. Alcohol contributes to the death of five per cent of young people.

*  Almost a quarter of children from 11 to 15 in the UK have tried drugs.

*  An estimated 100,000 children in the UK run away from home each year.

*  In the UK there are an estimated 5,000 child prostitutes.

What on earth are we doing to our children?

That question is also the title of a book, published by the Manchester-based Maranatha Community, being promoted at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament today. (You can see details of the book at www.maranathacommunity.org.uk.)

What can be done about the situation? The book suggests three things.

First, listen to what children are saying. We need to face facts about what's happening to children.

Second, repent for what we have done and what we have failed to do.

Third, commit ourselves to action. Become more involved in work for children. Assist organisations working for the good of children and young people.

The book quotes Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Which infers that if we do nothing, we bear responsibility too.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Remembering those who suffer

Christians in Iran put us to shame by the way they live in the face of persecution, imprisonment and physical and psychological torture.

Since 1979, eight church leaders have been killed by the Iranian regime solely on account of their Christian faith. One narrowly escaped judicial execution in 2012.

Arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of Christians is widespead. There are confirmed reports that more than 200 Christians in 48 cities have been arrested and interrogated since 2010. The full figure is almost certainly higher.

Since April the UK Christians in Parliament all-party parliamentary group has been listening to detailed evidence from eye witnesses of extensive suffering inflicted on Iranian Christians by their own government. The group has compiled a 35-page report, which asks the British Government to apply pressure on Iran to uphold the right to religious freedom of all Iranian people and to release Christians in prison for their faith.

At a crowded meeting to launch the report, the group handed a copy of  the document to Alistair Burt, minister of state for the Middle East - himself a Christian.

Rev Sam Yeghnazar, founder and director of Elam Ministries, read a letter from an Iranian prisoner. It said:

Often I have been insulted, humiliated and accused, but I have never doubted my identity in Christ. We rejoice in the Lord and take joy in the God of our salvation. Because neither the walls nor the barbed wires, nor the prison, nor suffering, nor loneliness, nor enemies, nor pain, nor even death separates us from the Lord and each other.

You can read the report here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Political correctness gone mad?

I had it in mind to write about the Rotherham couple with an exemplary record as foster parents who had their foster children taken away from them because social workers found out the couple were members of the UK Independence Party, which is not in favour of multiculturalism, or of continued membership of the European Union.

Since I was thinking about it, the story has taken on a life of its own, with coverage locally, nationally and internationally. So perhaps it doesn't need me to comment on it at this time. . . 

Except to say that if the story is found to be correct, I do hope serious action will be taken.

Children's lives are too precious to be spoiled by social workers' politically correct ideology.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life isn't all jam butties

I don't watch much television these days, but the television happened to be switched on and it happened to be tuned to a Christian television station. It was broadcasting an hour-long interview with a well known Christian, whose name I won't mention in case my recollection of what he said is less than perfect.

He was talking about God, about worship, and about the lessons God had taught him. He recalled that the Bible verse that speaks of knowing the power of Christ's resurrection also speaks of knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.

He had five children, highly intelligent youngsters - apart from one, who was born with a disability. He remembered the lessons that God had taught him through that disabled daughter. Sometimes, he said, as Christians we look for perfection; and sometimes God allows imperfection, not only to teach us, but to demonstrate His perfection.

I have to confess that that spoke to my heart.

Life is not all jam butties, and Christians are not exempt from the trials and difficulties that come along in life. But Christians do have two tremendous advantages.

First, God is a master at bringing good out of bad situations. As the Bible puts it, all things work together for good to those who love God. In fact, God will not allow anything to happen to a Christian unless He can bring good out of it. He is working in Christians' lives. He can use what is after all a short time of suffering to work something good in us that will last for all eternity.

Second, God is with us in it. There is nothing you can suffer that He hasn't suffered already. Selwyn Hughes tells of a Christian woman whose husband was killed in the Twin Towers tragedy in New York. "When the news broke that my husband had been killed," she said, "a terrible darkness descended on me. But a hand reached out to me in the darkness. It was rough with work at a carpenter's bench, and pierced with an ancient wound."

When tragedy strikes and suffering comes, you may be tempted to wonder if God cares. If you are, look at the cross of Christ. He had no need of Himself to suffer all of that. He did it willingly for you and for me, out of the greatest love that this world has ever known. Keep the cross in view, and you won't need to doubt God's love.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Homosexual marriage: 'legislation soon'

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed to speed up legislation to permit homosexual marriage, with a vote in Parliament in the New Year. So newspapers were reporting in the past couple of days.

Downing Street had said that same-sex marriage legislation would be introduced at some point before the next election in 2015. It was not included in the last Queen's Speech, which sets out the legislative programme for the year ahead.

But with Conservative back-bench opinion hardening against same-sex marriage, the Prime Minister and his deputy are reportedly going to have legislation fast-tracked. That would be a disaster.

Even if Tory MPs rebelled, such proposed legislation would be expected to succeed, with Labour and Liberal Democrats voting in favour.

It would cause confusion with stacks of existing laws. Promises that churches would not need to perform same-sex marriages would quickly be broken. ("Homosexual marriage is legal. Why can't I be married in church?") It would quickly be followed by requests for legalisation of other forms of so-called marriage.

A new ComRes poll published this week shows that 68 per cent of Tory voters, 58 per cent of Labour voters and 52 per cent of Lib Dem voters want marriage to stay as it is (defined as "a lifelong exclusive commitment between a man and a woman.") Sixty-nine per cent believed children should be raised by a father and a mother in a permanent relationship.

So clearly politicians are not going ahead with legislation that the majority of people want.

Coalition for Marriage, who sponsored the poll, is the organisation that organised a petition to the Government against redefining marriage which has attracted a record-breaking 610,000 signatures.

"We knew that our campaign was hitting home very effectively," it said. "Downing Street's panicked reaction shows that we and you have been doing the right things in opposition to this unpopular and unnecessary plan."

It appeals to people to contact their MP - again, if they have done so already.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An encounter at the counter

There's a beautiful verse in the Bible, addressed to Christian believers. "Be steadfast, immovable," it says, "always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor 15:58).

One day I walked into a supermarket, whistling as I went (Sometimes people tell me they can hear me coming before they see me).

"You sound happy," said an assistant on the meat counter. "I am," I said. "I'm one of the happiest people around." "Why? Have you come up on the pools?" "No," I said. "Better than that." "Are you getting married?" "No," I said. "Better than that." "Are you getting divorced?" "No," I said. "Better than that."

"Well," he said, "are you going to tell us the secret, or what?" "Well," I said, "if you like." I told him I had accepted Christ, I knew my sins were forgiven, I had a home in heaven, and I had a peace that only a Christian can know.

We talked for a while; then he told me that some months before two girls from Operation Mobilisation had gone into the shop where he was working, had told him about Christ and had left him some literature.

Next time I went into the supermarket, he was missing. I never saw him again. Sometimes you meet people who are ready to accept Christ themselves. Other times, you're just a link in a chain.

But if you are prepared to speak for Jesus and do things for Jesus, He will arrange the circumstances. And the things you speak and the things you do won't be in vain. They'll be part of His purposes.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Christian vindicated - at a cost

A Manchester Christian who was demoted and had his salary cut by his employer because he expressed an opinion on homosexual marriage on his Facebook page yesterday won his case against his employer at the High Court.

Adrian Smith, a housing manager with Trafford Housing Trust, concerned at news that homosexual marriages might be permitted in church, wrote on his personal Facebook page "An equality too far." The page could be seen only by a few dozen friends and work colleagues, and the entry was made in his own time.

A colleague at work reported the matter to the management, who said Mr Smith was guilty of gross misconduct, demoted him and cut his salary by £14,000 a year. They claimed he had broken the trust's code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers.

It emerged at the High Court that the trust was worried it could lose a homosexual rights charter award unless it took action against Mr Smith.

The judge, Mr Justice Briggs, said Mr Smith had been taken to task for doing nothing wrong. Mr Smith's postings in his view were not, "viewed objectively, judgmental, disrespectful or liable to cause upset or offence. As to their content, they are widely held views frequently to be heard on radio or television, or read in the newspapers."

He rejected the suggestion that Mr Smith's comments could be viewed as homophobic. The breach of contract the trust has committed, he said, was "serious and repudiatory."

Because of rules covering contract law, the judge was able to award Mr Smith only £98 in damages, leaving "the uncomfortable feeling that justice has not been done to him. I must admit to real disquiet about the financial outcome of this case."

I understand that despite the court's judgment, the trust is refusing to reinstate Mr Smith to his former managerial post or restore the £14,000 pay cut.

Mr Smith said after the case he was delighted to have won the judgment. "I have won today. But what will tomorrow bring? I am fearful that, if marriage is redefined, there will be more cases like mine - and if the law of marriage changes people like me may not win in court.

"Does the Prime Minister want to create a society where people like me, people who believe in traditional marriage, are treated like outcasts? That may not be the intention, but that's what will happen.

"The Prime Minister should think very carefully about the impact of redefining marriage on ordinary people."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No go for assisted suicide

Nationally, the United States, like Britain, has consistently refused to legalise euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide. Two individual US states have agreed to allow assisted suicide, and the numbers of assisted suicides in those states have increased considerably since they were first permitted.

Massachusetts is the latest state to hold a referendum on the issue. Legalisation of assisted suicide was defeated there by 1,516,584 votes to 1,453,742 - 51 per cent to 49 per cent. I thought this a small margin, but I am told it represents a significant victory for the pro-life cause since Massachusetts is strongly Democrat and one of the most liberal of US states.

American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith says the fight for assisted suicide was lost in Massachusetts because opponents were not just religious groups, but disability rights activists, medical organisations, pro-lifers, and advocates for the poor concerned that assisted suicide might be promoted for economic reasons;

legalising assisted suicide was not high on people's "to-do list" (although most people were not emotionally opposed either. Primarily, they didn't want to think about it);

Massachusetts retains a strong Catholic identity; and

there remains sufficient traditional morality in the country to allow liberals to oppose a specific proposal, while still supporting the concept.

Which gives me some hope for the situation in Britain.

Advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Britain are well supported and very vocal - but the public as a whole, and politicians in particular, are yet to be convinced.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fathers are not for nothing

Supporters of "genderless parenting" are saying that whilst it might be important for a child to have two "parental figures," the genders of the "parental figures" and their relationship to the child don't much matter.

Fathers, they say, are not essential. Fathers as well as mothers are apparently disposable when it comes to their children's development.

Jenet Erickson, writing at the Witherspoon Institute, has some impressive figures to demonstrate that that just isn't true.

Decades of research on fathers, she says, demonstrate that boys from fatherless families are twice as likely to end up in prison before they reach 30. Girls raised in homes without their fathers are much more likely to engage in early sexual behaviour. Girls whose fathers left home before their daughters turned six are six times more likely to end up pregnant in their teens.

There is more abuse in homes without fathers. In one study, abuse was 10 times more likely for children in homes with their mother and an unrelated boyfriend. Children who grow up without married mothers and fathers are more likely to suffer depression, behavioural problems and school expulsion.

Andrea Doucet, who wrote a book titled Do Men Mother? after extensive research with 118 male carers, tells how after a long evening of discussion with a group of single fathers, she asked "In an ideal world, what resources or supports would you like to see for single fathers?"

She expected requests for more policies, programmes and social support. But no. After a period of awkward silence, one said "An ideal world would be one with a father and a mother. We'd be lying if we pretended that wasn't true."

But then, most of us have thought that good old-fashioned fathers - and good old-fashioned mothers - were needful all along.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

'I lost everything, but God sent His angels'

Leslie Haskin was one of 15 children. Her father was a Baptist minister, her mother a choir director. Despite being brought up in a godly home, she decided when she moved to New York to work that she wanted nothing to do with God.

She was an insurance company executive, nicknamed "the Ice Princess" because of her attitude to her underlings.

At 8.46 am on September 11, 2001, she was in her company's offices on the 37th floor of the World Trade Centre when an airplane hit the building.

Through the window she saw bodies falling as people threw themselves from windows to escape the flames. Ceilings were collapsing and you could see flames through the seams. Someone shouted "The building is coming down! The building is coming down!"

Elevators were not able to be used. Leslie joined others on the stairs. The stairway was narrow and progress was slow. The force of a second airplane hitting an adjoining building jammed the door below her so it couldn't be opened.  She was trapped near the ninth floor, and sure she was going to die.

She closed her eyes and said "God help us." She suddenly remembered a hymn her mother used to sing to her to waken her in a morning. "Pass me not, O gentle Saviour, Hear my humble cry; While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by."

After 10 minutes, the door opened and Leslie reached the street. She saw the body of a man who had been decapitated. Bodies of those who had leaped from windows lay around. The body of a man exploded near her and splattered her with blood.

She couldn't speak properly. Doctors found she had had a nervous breakdown. She was in a psychiatric hospital for several weeks, then under continuing care by doctors and therapists, still heavily medicated. She boarded up the windows of her home because she believed the Taliban were in her shed and wanted to kill her. Doctors said she would never work again.

One day her 12-year-old son came into her room and jumped up on the bed. "Mom, are you ready?" he said. "Ready for what?" "To receive Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. The Bible says if you are lukewarm in your faith God will spit you right out of His mouth."

She prayed with her son to accept Christ.

Slowly she improved as she stopped taking the medication. Doctors were amazed when she started to fly on planes again.

Leslie has written several books, appeared on television and become the subject of a film. Now she travels the world telling people Jesus Christ is the answer.

"I lost everything," she says, "but God sent His angels to help me."

You can read the full story here.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

'Death' pathway: Government acts

Health minister Norman Lamb has announced an investigation into the way the Liverpool Care Pathway is used. Doctors and patients' groups are to meet together to look into mistakes and discuss improvements.

The pathway is intended for dying patients. It allows for food, water and medication to be withdrawn and for patients to be sedated in the last hours or days of life.

There have been claims that families have not been consulted or told that patients were being placed on the pathway, and that patients have been placed on the pathway who were not dying, with fatal results.

The NHS constitution is to specify the need for patients and families to be consulted before a patient is placed on the pathway. It will say that patients should be involved fully in all discussions and decisions about their care, including end-of-life care, and that, where appropriate, this right includes family and carers.

I have written about the Liverpool Care Pathway here, here and here.

Newspaper reports may have exaggerated the numbers of people placed on the pathway improperly. But where issues of life and death are involved, as here, it is proper that there should be a comprehensive investigation.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Another Government U-turn

The UK Government has done a U-turn on plans to hold a consultation on whether women contemplating abortion should be offered independent counselling.

The then health minister Anne Milton was working with Department of Health officials on an overhaul of abortion counselling provision - pro-lifers pointed out that counselling by abortion providers like Marie Stopes and BPAS involved a conflict of interest - and a consultation was promised.

There were differences on the subject in the Coalition Government, and a cross-party group of 10 MPs considering the proposals was reported to be deeply divided.

In a parliamentary debate on abortion in Westminster Hall last week, recently-appointed health minister Anna Soubry said she had decided to scrap the consultation because the Government had no intention of altering either the law or guidelines on abortion counselling.

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries accused Ms Soubry, whom she described as "as pro-choice as many Labour women MPs," of imposing her personal belief on her role as minister.

Pro-life campaigners, who believed independent counselling would lead to a reduction in the number of abortions, were disappointed.

Dr Dan Boucher, of CARE, said "To shut down the consultation commitment which was promised in response to concerns about financial conflict of interest is a monumental political misjudgment."

A BPAS spokesman said "Current abortion counselling arrangements serve women well. BPAS is pleased to see the Government has dropped its plans to unnecessarily overhaul services.

"BPAS hopes the Government policy can now focus on efforts to support women trying to prevent pregnancy and ensure the highest quality care for those who do need abortion services."

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Would you like to be rich?

You may have heard the story.

As a youngster, George had attended Sunday school, where he found Christ. He lived in a small cottage and hadn't much of this world's goods, but always he had a smile and a kind word for everyone. "What a beautiful day," he'd say. "How good God is." Or "Look at this rain, making everything grow. Isn't God good?"

George worked as a gardener on a large estate.

One day the owner of the estate was walking around his gardens when he thought he heard a voice. He stopped and listened. There it was again. "The richest man in the land," it said, "will die at five o'clock tomorrow." He listened carefully. It came again. "The richest man in the land will die at five o'clock tomorrow." He looked all around him. He searched the places nearby. There was no one there.

Where did the voice come from? Who was the richest man in the land? He thought about his properties, his companies, his bank accounts. Surely he was the man. But he didn't want to die. He wasn't ready to die.

He didn't sleep that night. The following day the minutes seemed to go by too slowly and too quickly, both at once. As five o'clock approached, he was sitting in his library with his head in his hands. He heard the clock whirring as it prepared to strike. It struck. One. . . two. . . three. . . four. . . five. The sound died away. A minute passed. Three minutes. Five minutes. He was still alive!

A feeling of relief flooded over him. He ordered a big meal. That night, he had an early night and slept like a log. When he woke up, the sun was shining and the air was fresh and clean. He went for a walk in his gardens. It was good to be alive.

As he returned, a thought occurred to him. He stopped a man working near the house. "Where's  George?" he said. "I haven't seen George this morning." The man's mouth fell open. "Why sir, haven't you heard?" he said. "He's dead.

"He died last night. About five o'clock."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Take care, Christian chief warns PM

David Cameron wanted Christian churches to do their bit as part of his Big Society, but when it comes to issues that Christians stand for and petition for, Christians are seemingly ignored.

Peter Kerridge, chief executive of Premier Christian Radio, has written to the Prime Minister pointing out that politicians would do well to heed the views of Christians, "who are, quite clearly, more faithful to their beliefs than the dwindling numbers of party members."

Attendance at the three main party conferences had been "embarrassingly low" this year, a reflection of the declining membership of the three main parties from a total of around 1.4 million in 1991 to less than half a million in 2012.

"Perhaps politicians of all parties should reflect on these depressing figures when they consider their positions on the rights of Christians in the UK.

"Some 3.8 million Christians attend church on a regular basis - that's nearly ten times the number of card carrying party members."

Mr Kerridge said the Christian vote could become a deciding factor in the next election. "Christians will not leave their faith at home when they cast their votes at the ballot box," he said.

Very much to the point, would you think?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Remembering the suffering

Some 200 million Christians worldwide are suffering persecution and discrimination.

* In Pakistan, Christians are threatened with blasphemy laws, with the prospect of life imprisonment. An estimated 700 Pakistani Christian girls are kidnapped each year and forced to marry their Muslim captors.

* Christians in Syria are faced with assault, kidnap and murder. Since the conflict there began, tens of thousands of Christians have lost their homes and been driven out of their towns, leaving them without basic supplies.

* Tens of thousands of Christians suffer unspeakable cruelties in North Korea's notorious prison camps. Many are worked to death. Some are executed. Many believe North Korea is the world's worst persecutor of Christians.

* There are increased fears for the safety of Christians in Egypt as President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, tightens his grip on power. Many Christians live in poverty and face attack from militant Muslims.

* The church in Nigeria faces intense persecution by militant Islamists. A hundred bombs are said to have exploded in one town. In one area, 25 churches have been destroyed. Two congregations in one state have been completely wiped out.

* Iranian pastor Behnam Irani, aged 41, is in prison because of his faith and ministry. His life is in grave danger because of the beatings he receives. He has severe injuries, is losing his eyesight, and has been denied medical treatment.

* Ethnic Christian groups in Burma regularly suffer intimidation, rape, forced labour and the closure of churches.

* Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church's building in Moscow was demolished by the authorities in the middle of the night. The pastor may face prosecution for holding a service in the ruins.

Next Thursday, November 1, is a Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. You can attend prayer events across the UK, or you can pray at home. You can find details or download a free prayer guide at www.barnabasfund.org/UK.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The BBC and the Middle East

During Tuesday night more than 70 rockets were fired into southern Israel from Gaza. (They have continued to be fired since.)

On Wednesday The Commentator published the following:

Over sixty rockets were fired into Israel overnight last night. And how exactly did the BBC choose to report it?

That's right. "Lead with the Israeli response, and wait until halfway through to bury the fact that dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel." Or at least that's what I imagine the editor would have said. It certainly looks that way if you read their article.

Also, calling terrorists  firing rockets into civilian areas 'militants'? Were the 7/7 bombers 'militants'? Were the 9/11 perpetrators 'militants'? No - they're terrorists.

But when it comes down to the Israel-Palestine conflict, equivocation and moral relativism seems to be in the BBC's guidelines. . . 

You can read the BBC story here.

You  may feel that "wait until halfway through to bury the fact that dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel" is unfair. But the BBC did lead with the Israeli strikes on Gaza, not the terrorist attacks on Israel. And remarks about calling terrorists "militants" are fair comment.

I have no intention of commenting at this time on the Jimmy Savile scandal currently engulfing the BBC. (Plenty of others will be doing that.) But can it be hoped that while the BBC is seeking for the truth in that crisis, it might review its awful liberal mindset and its appalling anti-Israel bias?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Massacre of the innocents

There are deeply entrenched arguments for and against legalised abortion. (They can't all be true.)

Two things are clear. First, someone looking at a 20-week ultrasound image of an unborn baby or seeing Professor Stuart Campbell's amazing 3D images of babies walking in the womb would be hard pressed to deny the personhood of the baby. Second, abortion ends a baby's life.

Last year, according to Government figures, 208,553 babies were killed by abortion in England, Wales and Scotland - 4,000 a week.

Many Christians think that abortion is just another social issue, and that they are free to do as much or as little about it as they feel inclined. That's not really true.

The Bible says

Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don't stand back and let them die. Don't try to disclaim responsibility by saying you didn't know about it.  For God, who knows all hearts, knows yours, and he knows you knew! And he will reward everyone according to his deeds (Pro 24:11, 12 Living Bible).

Or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

This Saturday, October 27 - the anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act - is the National Day of Prayer about abortion. Will you pray on the day? You can find details of the day and download a prayer guide or a PowerPoint presentation here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Concerning the Jews

How many Christians are unaware that God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants - the Jews  - that has never been rescinded?

You can read in Genesis chapters 12 to 17 about God's covenant with Abraham, you can read later in Genesis about how the covenant was confirmed exclusively to Isaac and Jacob and Jacob's descendants, and you can read in Genesis chapter 17 how the covenant was an everlasting covenant. In other words, the promises God made via Abraham to the Jews still stand.

Back in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned, God made a promise. He told the serpent:

I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise his heel.

That's a promise of a Saviour. 

From the time God made that promise, Satan did everything he knew to prevent that promise being fulfilled. He persuaded Cain to kill Abel in Genesis 4; he attempted to pollute man's seed in Genesis 6; he sought to prevent Abraham having a legitimate heir in Genesis 12 and Genesis 20; he had Pharaoh order the death of all male Hebrew children in Exodus 1; he sought to have all the children of Jehoram killed in 2 Chronicles 21; he sought to have all the children of Ahaziah killed in 2 Chronicles 22; he tried to have Haman kill all the Jews in the captivity in Esther 3; he had Herod kill all the young children in Bethlehem in Matthew 2; and he made serious attempts on Jesus' life in Luke 4, Mark 4 and Luke 8, not to mention trying to destroy Him at His passion.

There's more. But what I have said already will for some be a shock to the system. So enough for one blog post.

Except to say two things.

First, what I have said above has tremendous import for every Christian. Second, please don't take my word for it. Do look up the Scriptures for yourself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'Death' pathway: Action at last?

After more complaints that hospital patients have been placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway without relatives being consulted, and allowed to die, Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham MP is said to have called for an urgent review.

Is this just a political stance? Or is there some hope that something will follow?

The Liverpool Care Pathway is intended to help patients whose death is imminent, allowing sedation and the withdrawal of intrusive treatment. I wrote about deaths on the LCP here, here and here.

Mrs Marion Hebbourne's aunt, 85-year-old Olive Goom, was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital with a broken bone, according to the Daily Mail. Mrs Hebbourne was preparing for her aunt to be released.

On the Saturday she telephoned and asked if she should visit, but was told there were no worries. On the Sunday she visited and found her aunt being prepared for the mortuary. She had been placed on the LCP without relatives' knowledge and had died alone.

The same paper reports that 83-year-old Phyllis Nicholls was admitted to Epsom Hospital with a urinary infection. Her drip was removed and morphine administered. Her daughter found by accident that she had been placed on the end-of-life pathway, but too late to save her.

The question is - how does it come about that something like the LCP, with its life and death issues, can be administered so carelessly?

Melanie Phillips, writing in the Mail, says the Liverpool Care Pathway has become a backdoor form of euthanasia, used as "an obscene abuse of people who expect the NHS to care for them, not kill them."

She writes:

How can hospitals governed by the ethical imperative to 'first do no harm' be killing patients in their care? How can the NHS have been turned in these circumstances into a National Death Service?. . . 

It has arisen from a profound confusion in society caused by a collapse of moral absolutes and a resulting inability to make the key distinction between dying and killing. . .

First, the word 'dying' has been applied to people suffering from terminal illness or who are considered by doctors or other experts to have lives that are not worth living, even when they are not dying at all.

The second stage in this abuse of language has been to re-label actions designed to end the life of someone who is not dying by calling this 'helping them to die.'

Such actions include the withdrawal of food or water. But that is starving or dehydrating someone to death. And that is not helping them to die, but killing them.

Yet that is precisely what has been happening, ever since the courts ruled in 1993 that the feeding tubes could be removed from the Hillsborough stadium disaster victim Tony Bland, who was in a persistent vegetative state, because such artificial nutrition and hydration were deemed to be 'treatment.'

The judges disingenuously claimed then that this was not killing, but allowing Tony Bland to die. But he was not dying.

With this case a fateful legal line was crossed. And so 'dying' has become a euphemism for killing.

The fundamental driver of all this is the belief that certain people are better off dead because their lives are deemed worthless, a drain on the public purse, or both.

The Liverpool Killing Pathway is driven not just by crude economic calculation, but by a wider brutalisation of our culture, at the heart of which lies the erosion of respect for the innate value of human life.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Homosexual marriage 'sacrilegious and sociopathic'

The party conference season may be about over, but the argument for and against same-sex marriage has lost none of its heat.

Norman Lund, writing on Anglican Mainstream's website, says homosexual marriage is "sacrilegious, sociopathic and heretical."

Sacrilegious because marriage was instituted by God Himself and is beyond the right or authority of earthly governments to change or redefine. Sociopathic because it denies a child's need for a mother and a father. Heretical because it violates God's revealed will concerning homosexual behaviour, violates the commandment to honour one's father and mother by denying that marriage requires a father and a mother, and violates, he says, the commandment against adultery by denying that marriage requires a husband and a wife.

The Government's most senior lawyer, Attorney General Dominic Grieve, warned that homosexual marriage would raise "profound philosophical difficulties" for some workers in the public sector.

There would be "individual conscience" issues for workers who would have to obey the rule of law by carrying out their public duties. A serious debate was now needed about the extent to which individual conscience should be accommodated.

Opponents of homosexual marriage warn that what is now happening in the United States could happen here.

* Dr Angela McCaskill is the first deaf black woman to be granted a PhD by Gallaudet University, a national US university for deaf people. She has worked at the university for more than 20 years as its chief diversity officer, teacher, administrator and leader. She has been suspended from her job at the university because she signed a petition for the people of Maryland to be allowed to vote on same-sex marriage.

* Crystal Dixon, an administrator at the University of Toledo, was fired after writing a letter - as a private citizen - to the editor of a Toledo newspaper respectfully opposing the notion of homosexual rights and explaining God's plan for human beings. Activists later tried to keep a city from hiring her.

* Viki Knox, a special education teacher in New Jersey, wrote a message on her personal Facebook page criticising the school's promotion of a "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month." People demanded she should be fired and planned protests. The lawyer who began the attack on her said "Hateful public comments from a teacher cannot be tolerated. She has a right to say it. But she does not have a right to keep her job after saying it." Under pressure and facing threats not only to her job and her pension, Viki Knox chose to resign.

* Julea Ward, a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, was dismissed from that school's counselling programme after asking permission to refer a client to another counsellor because she was uncomfortable affirming the client's same-sex relationship.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Life in a country at war

Sometimes it seems like half the world has little idea what the other half is suffering.

The violence in Syria has caused thousands to flee for their lives, Open Doors reports. Many are displaced within Syria; many are refugees outside Syria, living in the most humiliating circumstances, without shelter, clean water, power, food and medical care.

Says a Christian pastor in Syria: "Millions are not sleeping in their own beds, forced out of their homes to find themselves with their children homeless and living in public parks or in the wilderness. Others are not sure if they or their children and loved ones will see the light of a new day. Tens of thousands of families lost loved ones - a child, a father, a mother or a husband.

"Hundreds of the injured died for lack of medical care. Thousands of children go to bed terrified of the sound of shelling. . .

"My people are hurting. I can cry like Nehemiah because the walls of our cities are burnt and the people in great trouble and disgrace. I can weep like Jeremiah because of the intensity and the spread of evil. I can mourn like David because of the indiscriminate brutal killing of innocent people, children, women, elderly, youth subject to shelling or under the rubble of their homes."

Approximately 30,000 are said to have died in the fighting. There are refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. There are 1.2 million displaced in Syria; 2.5 million in Syria need aid.

Many Christians have lost their houses or apartments. "Their apartments are easily confiscated by the rebels to be used for snipers," said a spokesman. "The Christian community is the only group that doesn't fight back or doesn't protect property with guns. So when the rebels search a place to stay or to use for their battle, they choose the houses and apartments of the softest target - the Christians."

The Christian pastor says outreach continues despite the terrible conditions. "We are here for a divine reason; we trust and rely on our sovereign loving Lord. We believe that we are in the midst of a spiritual war. In this country there are many who are much more effective than us militarily, politically, economically and socially, but none have the privilege of being effective in the spiritual battle like we are.

"We thank God because the church is united across the country in prayer 24 hours a day, seven days a week, praying for the glory of God to dwell in the church, praying for an end to the bloodshed, for peace in the country, for keeping the church's faithful witness, to reach out to the suffering, to share the divine cure of the gospel, to speak the word of the Lord in all boldness.

"While revenge, power and hatred are the worshipped gods and the highest values in a dirty sectarian political fight, by God's grace we are sowing the seeds of love and forgiveness. The church is active in relief work, trying to reach the suffering with the love of Christ.

"We deeply appreciate the prayers of God's people everywhere; it is a rare time where the church in Syria is feeling the oneness of the body of Christ all over the globe. For this, we thank the Lord, for it is a great encouragement to us."

Find out more here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Einstein, intellect and little children

I was reading the other day that Einstein's "God letter" is going up for sale.

On January 3, 1954, a year before his death, Einstein wrote a letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind in which he said that "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change this."

The letter, bought by its present owner from Bloomsbury Auctions in London in 2008 for $404,000, is going on eBay with an opening bid of $3 million. A representative of the agency handling the sale said it could fetch double or triple that amount.

Mind you, you don't just get the letter. For that amount of money, they throw in the envelope as well.

Einstein once believed the universe had always existed. The discovery of scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning was, he said, "irritating." In his later years, he evidently had not discovered a personal relationship with the Cause behind the beginning.

Jesus said: "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 18:3).

So here we have Einstein, whose intellect was perhaps a barrier to a personal faith; someone who is going to spend a fortune for a letter doubting the existence of a personal God; and some people like little children who can have fellowship with their Heavenly Father at no cost to themselves.

It cost something, of course, to make it possible. It cost the Son of God a life of rejection, the torment He suffered after His arrest, the agony and shame of  crucifixion and the loss of fellowship with His Father for the first time ever as He hung on the cross.

The other day, I was talking to an old lady about Christ's sacrifice. "He didn't have to do all that," she said. Indeed He didn't. What caused Him to do all that was love.

Love is something you can't reduce to a mathematical formula. But it's real, so real, nevertheless.