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.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Caring, or killing? A statement

Following complaints that hospital patients in Britain are dying unnecessarily because of careless use of the Liverpool Care Pathway, top healthcare organisations are calling for better supervision.

The LCP was designed to bring hospice-style care to patients in hospital in the last days or hours of life.

It aimed to allow the patient to have a peaceful death by avoiding unnecessary and burdensome medical intervention. It permits withholding of medication, hydration and nutrition and allows the patient to be sedated until death takes place.

There have been complaints that patients have been put on the pathway unnecessarily, and that by withdrawing hydration and nutrition and sedating the patient, death has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There have been suggestions of unofficial involuntary euthanasia.

Several months ago, senior consultant Professor Patrick Pullicino said too often elderly patients who could live longer were placed on the LCP, which had become an "assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway."

There was often a lack of clear evidence for putting the patient on the pathway. Pressure on beds and difficulty with handling difficult patients were involved.
"If we accept the pathway we accept that euthanasia is part of the standard way of dying, as it [the pathway] is now associated with 29 per cent of deaths. Very likely many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are killed by the LCP."

I wrote about deaths on the LCP here.

Currently a patient can be placed on the LCP on the say-so of one doctor.

More than 20 organisations, including the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nursing, the National Council for Palliative Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, Age UK and the Alzheimer's Society, have now issued a joint statement. It points out that the LCP does not preclude the use of clinically-assisted nutrition or hydration, but prompts clinicians to consider whather it is needed and in the patient's best interest.

It says a decision to consider using the pathway should always be made by the most senior doctor available, with help from other staff involved, and should be countersigned as soon as possible by the doctor responsible for the patient's care. Carers and families should always be included in the decision-making process.

"We support the appropriate use of the Liverpool Care Pathway and make clear that it is not about ending life, but rather about supporting the delivery of excellent end of life care."

Friday, October 05, 2012

Are you looking for freedom?

If there is a God, people say, and God wants people to know Him, why doesn't He show Himself? Why doesn't He appear clearly to people, so they would have no doubt about His existence?

I think the answer is that God has given people a free will. There is ample evidence that God exists, in the sun, the moon, the stars and the wonders of nature. And God has promised that those who seek Him will find Him.

But God forces Himself on no one. People have a free will; the power to choose. If they choose to live all their lives without Him, they can. But if they live all their lives without Him, they mustn't expect when their lives end to find God there waiting to welcome them. If they live all their lives without Him, they will live in eternity without Him, by their own choice.

Sometimes people don't want anyone to rule over them. They want to decide for themselves, free to do what they want to do, free from moral restraint. But freedom isn't freedom to do what you want to do. That's not freedom. Freedom is freedom to do the right thing.

I ran my own life for 24 years, until I realised I'd made a mess of it. I realised there was Someone who not only could run it better than I could, but had my own very best interests at heart.

The man who is in Christ is free - free from the things that drag a man down, free to live the life he was made for. The Bible says that he whom Christ sets free is free indeed.

That's freedom.