Saturday, March 29, 2014

Same-sex marriage: A sad day

The first same-sex marriages in Britain took place today..

The following time-honoured words, as someone pointed out, have effectively been consigned to the dustbin of history:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commanded of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy man's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication;
; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.

Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity, unto which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. . .
God ordained marriage at the beginning of time:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  Gen 2:24.

Jesus clearly supported it:

"Have you not read that he who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,'

"and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?

"So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."  Matt 19:4 - 6.

Marriage has stood for thousands of years. Those who have dared to redefine it have done the nation a great disservice.

The Cutting Edge Consortium and the LGBTI Anglican Coalition welcomed the change in the marriage law, which they say "has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge."

They continue: "We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development."

They may have a long wait. God's institutions, and God's word, are not so easily overturned.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fjghting goes on: 80 die

Islamist rebels linked to al Qaeda have taken the town of Kessab, in north-west Syria. Eighty people were killed, at least 13 of them beheaded, three churches were desecrated and homes were looted.

Several thousand Armenian Christian residents fled for their lives, taking refuge in neighbouring towns like Latakia. Some are staying with relatives and friends; the rest are sheltering in overcrowded church buildings. A dozen or so families with members too elderly to leave have remained in Kessab, and were reportedly taken hostage.

Some 150,000 Syrians are estimated to have died since fighting began. Ten million of the country's 24 million population are now believed to be homeless. Up to four million have fled the country for Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. 

Sixteen million, including more than five million children, are calculated to be in need of humanitarian aid.

Baroness Warsi, the UK's minister for faith and communities, has set up a Foreign Office group for freedom of religion or belief. She has warned that Christianity is in danger of becoming extinct in the countries where it was founded.

But when is someone going to do something to stop the fighting in Syria?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Aborted babies' bodies used for fuel

NHS hospitals have burned the bodies of aborted babies to heat hospitals.

The Telegraph reports:

The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in 'waste-to-energy' plants which generate power for heat.

Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded 'totally unacceptable.'

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4's Dispatches discovered.

The question which seems to have been asked by most bloggers on hearing the news was "Well, why not?" Well, why not indeed. If these are just "the products of conception," just "a clump of cells," what matter how they are disposed of?

But if these are human babies, it's time to end the whole grisly, murderous business of abortion. But I suppose that's too much to hope for.

So no doubt we will continue with the usual hypocrisy. You can dispose of an unwanted unborn baby at will, without even having to see a doctor, but the bodies of the babies must be treated with respect.

The saddest comment I came across was from a female reader of Cranmer's blog. "One of my miscarriages," she said, "was at Addenbrookes, and I specifically asked what happened if I left my baby's remains there. I was told that the chaplain said a prayer for her and then the remains were sent for cremation. 

"I could live with that. Now Addenbrookes is one of the hospitals named in this report." 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Iran accused of hijacking MH 370 flight

It's 14 days now since Flight MH 370 disappeared without trace on a standard night flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, and still no definite news. The Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 went missing from radar screens in the early hours of March 8 in one of the most baffling aviation mysteries in recent times.

The Times of Israel says that Israeli airline security experts - Israel is the nation with the greatest experience and expertise in airline security - believe the plane was hijacked.

Isaac Yeffet, who was head of global security for El Al, Israel's national airline, and now works as an aviation security consultant, says the evidence points to Iran. He points to the two Iranians who made it on to the plane with stolen passports.

"My guess is based on the stolen passports, and I believe Iran was involved. They hijacked the plane and they landed it in a place that nobody could see or find it." 

Shifting attention to the pilots and far-flung conspiracy theories, he says, was a mistake. Based on the Israeli intelligence strategy of profiling, the pilots were unlikely suspects. "We are talking about a captain who is 53 years old, who has worked for Malaysian Airlines for 30 years, and suddenly he becomes a terrorist? He wanted to commit suicide? If he committed suicide, where is the debris?"

 Eran Ramot, a former Israeli fighter pilot and head of aviation research at Israel's Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, says it would be very complicated for someone other than the pilot to have flown the plane. The flight made a U-turn from its planned route and dipped in between radar points for hours with all of its tracking systems turned off.

Like Yeffet, he believes the plane was intentionally flown to a secret location. He  is holding out hope that the 239 passengers and crew on board are still alive.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shut up - or speak up?

Same-sex marriage has been legalised. We have lost the battle. So what do we do now - shut up about it? Or is it even more important that we continue to preach the truth about marriage?

I ask the question just now because I have come across an excellent blog post by Regis Nicoll on Breakpoint. He lists a number of arguments used in favour of same-sex marriage, with counter-arguments underneath. Here are a few extracts:

Marriage 'equality' follows Jesus's teaching about love and inclusion.

Love incarnate once said "If you love me, you will obey what I command." Among His commands is the prohibition of sex outside of marriage. As He gave no expressed or implied allowance for same-sex "marriage," His prohibition includes indulging homosexual desires, regardless of a committed relationship, church blessing, or legal union. . . 

As to inclusion, while it is true that Jesus extended His invitation to all, His call was not without conditions. Nicodemus was told he needed to be born again, the disciples were told to deny themselves and carry their cross daily, a rich man was told to give up all his possessions, a prostitute and a lame man were both told to stop sinning, and in a parable about the kingdom a man was turned out,of all things, for wearing the wrong clothes.

The good news of the kingdom is that "many are called," but the requirement of repentance means that "few are chosen."

Since God made people that way, He'd have no problem with them marrying.

The Creator's design of sexuality is intended to satisfy the good and essential function of reproduction. It is a function that same-sex couples are incapable of accomplishing. They can only mimic the sex act for the purpose of sensual gratification.

The suggestion that God would frustrate His expressed purpose of sex with an untoward desire is unreasoned. Whatever causes same-sex orientation, it is not God, any more than He is the cause of congenital disorders like club feet or cleft palates. The person who insists that homosexuality is "how God made me" is conflating a dysfunction with a design.

Proscriptions against gay 'marriage' neglect the personal experiences of homosexuals.

While personal experiences may be genuine, intense and heartfelt, they are not a reliable guide to truth. Depending only on our experiences we would think the earth flat in a geocentric cosmos where time and space are absolute. It is only because we have discovered laws transcending personal experience that we know that reality is sometimes radically different than what our experiences suggest.

Opposing gay 'marriage' represents a moral judgment about others, something Jesus warned against.

The same goes for endorsing gay "marriage." Not only is endorsement a moral judgment about the practice, it's a moral insinuation, if not judgment, about those who disagree. In fact, "disagreers" are routinely called (and judged as) homophobes, haters, and. . . anti-gay bigots with impunity.

But popular proof-texts notwithstanding, Jesus never said that Christians shouldn't judge the actions of others. He taught that we should remove our "specks" so that we can "see clearly" their specks, and He told His disciples, "If your brother sins, rebuke him."

Jesus never said anything against homosexuality or gay 'marriage.'

If the "argument from silence" settles the morality of homosexual behaviour, it does likewise for child sacrifice, paedophilia, slavery, rape, bestiality, and a host of other practices that Jesus never mentioned by name. . .

In a disarming passage, the apostle Paul uses marriage as a word picture for the church, and it is clear why. Just as the complementary design of man and woman creates "one flesh" out of two people for the purpose of multiplication, so the complementary gifts of the Holy Spirit create one Body out of multiple members for the same end.

That's only part of it.You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Transformed by love

What happens when a couple of lesbians go to church to cause trouble?

John Burke tells the story.

"Let's go for fun! We'll see how much we can push their buttons," said Amy. "Come on!"

Amy had been in a nine-year relationship that had broken up, leaving her wondering why her deepest longings could never be satisfied. She and Rachel had started seeing each other when they decided to attend one Sunday morning.

"I came on  a mission to shock people," says Amy. "Rachel and I would hold hands in front of people, but instead of the disgusted looks we expected, people met eyes with us and treated us like real people. So we started coming to church weekly. We kept moving to the front each week, trying to get a reaction so that we'd be rejected sooner rather than later. When we couldn't shock people, we stopped trying and started learning."

Rachel stopped attending, but Amy continued.  "I was searching for something," she says. "I definitely wasn't looking to change, but I wondered if God had answers to my deepest longings.  Problem was, I didn't trust God at all.

"The more I listened and learned about the teachings of Jesus, the more I started to actually believe that God really did love me. I heard more and more about being His masterpiece, and in time, I actually started to believe it."

She found out her father had nine affairs while she was growing up, a secret which rocked her world. She saw how the roots of her sexual issues tied together with his. She was just like him, using people to find comfort, life and love outside of God.

As time went by and she learned more of the Scriptures, she fell more and more in love with the Lord. Then she went to a seminar, and what God showed her shocked her. The speaker was talking about bullying.

She remembered a boy who had bullied her all year. Then one day, he apologised for the way he had acted, and invited her to his home. When she went round, two teenage boys were waiting. They raped her. She was nine years old.

The memory was extremely painful, but it was part of the healing process.

Seven years later, Amy leads a ministry in the church to help others find healing.

You see, you can't tell Jesus anything about yourself that He doesn't already know. He loves you. He forgave self-righteous people, adulterers and prostitutes. He wants to forgive you. 

But that's not all. He wants to transform your life into something beautiful. He wants to make you the person He intended you to be. His love can do that too.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The story of Hae Woo

Hae Woo lived in North Korea. Her husband crossed the river into China, where he became a Christian. Sent back to North Korea, he was placed in a prison camp. When his children visited, he wrote the gospel on the palms of their hands so the guards wouldn't overhear. He was tortured to death.

Hae Woo was shocked to hear her husband had become a Christian, but she knew instinctively that this was the truth. She recognised the dangers, but having noted how her husband had kept his faith despite the pain and suffering, she decided to become a Christian to finish the work her husband had started.

She too had fled to China. Betrayed and sent back, she was sent to a prison camp. At the entrance, she saw a sign: "Do not try to escape. You will be killed." God spoke to her: "Do not be afraid. I will help you."

She was tortured for four days.

There are between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians in North Korea. Between 50,000 and 70,000 live and die in prison camps. Beatings, torture, starvation and exhaustion are routine.

Sometimes they had soup, with nothing in it but dirt. They were reduced to eating rats and snakes and searching for grains in cow dung.

God spoke to Hae Woo about evangelising other prisoners. He told her who to speak to and what to say. Five others were converted. They held secret meetings in the toilets.

Hae Woo had no Bible, but meditated on Psalm 23. "Psalm 23 was a real encouragement," she says. "The Lord was our shepherd, no matter what we faced. Even in the presence of our enemies, God was our rod and our staff. We had hope. The goodness and love of God followed us."

Released at the end of her sentence, Hae Woo escaped to South Korea.

Last week she spoke about life in North Korea at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament attended by more than 30 MPs.

"I'm stunned and horrified by what has been shared today," said one. "How can we do more to help?"

Monday, March 10, 2014

Democracy? Not from where I'm sitting

David Cameron, you will remember, is the man who, despite the fact that most people didn't want it, insisted on legalising same-sex marriage.

Now the Christian Institute says his Government has been responsible for what it calls the biggest liberalisation of abortion procedures since 1967.

The Abortion Act says that two doctors must certify that they are of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the woman complies with a legal ground for abortion. Guidance from 1999 says doctors "must give their opinions on the reasons under the Act for the termination following consultation with the woman."

Former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told Parliament in March 2012 that he would consult on new guidelines for abortion providers outside the NHS. The institute says new interim guidelines were sent to clinics in July 2012 - 17 months before the public consultation began. They said that doctors did not need to see women seeking an abortion.

The new rules were intended to address the problem of doctors pre-signing abortion forms and of sex-selection abortions. They did neither.

A poll taken for the institute shows almost 90 per cent of people thought that a woman considering an abortion should be seen by a doctor, and 76 per cent believed that not doing so would put the woman's health at risk

The Government is to allow a free vote for MPs and peers on Lord Falconer's controversial assisted suicide bill, and is said to have made it clear it will not stand in the way of a change in the law. Norman Lamb, the minister responsible for care for elderly and the disabled, was among the first at the weekend to say he would vote in favour.

Lord Falconer's bill is the fourth on assisted suicide to come before the House of Lords in the last decade. The other three were voted down. 

It's almost like someone has decided assisted suicide ought to be legal, and lawmakers are being given new chances to vote until they get it right.

If this is democracy, I don't care for it.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Sex and the church

2.   Stand up for the view that living and thinking in a distinctively Christian manner in relation to sex and marriage is a vital part of Christian discipleship. Ask your church leadership to do the same.

3.   Get yourself educated on the dangers of all sex outside this framework and the benefit to children of married heterosexual parents, and teach your children the uncensored, real version. Ask your church leadership to do the same

4.   Become culturally and politically engaged through groups like Christian Concern, Christian Institute or C4M in the UK, or National Organization for Marriage or other conservative groups in the US.

5.  Pray individually and corporately about these matters. 

The need is desperate.

Friday, March 07, 2014

More pressure on Israel

Israel is being pressured to make further concessions for peace - though no pressure is being exerted on the Palestinians to do their part. US President Barack Obama has warned Israel that if peace talks fail and the Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, "then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited."

The "window was closing" for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and he urged Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "seize the moment" to help achieve a framework agreement to extend peace talks. Israel also faces a boycott from the European Union.

The Palestinian Authority complain Israel continues to build settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the PA still refuses to recognise the state of Israel.

 Prime Minister Netanyahu said "Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven't." He called for a "real peace. . . based on mutual recognition" and chided the Palestinians for promoting "incessant violence" against the Jewish state. "I think it's about time they recognised a nation state for the Jewish people," he said. "We've only been here for about 4,000 years."

Israel's government has said it is serious about peace, but would not be pressured into endangering the Jewish state. Prime Minister Netanyahu wants Iran to be forced to dismantle its uranium enrichment centrifuges in a final nuclear deal.

"It is profoundly in all our interests to let this process play itself out," said President Obama. "Let us test whether or not Iran can move far enough to give us assurances that their programme is peaceful."

He expressed confidence Teheran was convinced he was keeping all options on the table, including military action, should diplomacv fail and Iran seek to develop a nuclear weapon. "I know they take it seriously," he said.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati recently told a crowd in Teheran: "Death to America is the first option on the table."

The Bible says God gave the land of Israel to the Jews for an "everlasting possession." May they not be tempted to give away more land to no purpose.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Precious last words

One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He went back to heaven was something of tremendous import.

"All authority," He said, "has been given to me in heaven and on earth" (Matt 28:18).

When God created the earth, He made man to have dominion over it. "God said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth'" (Gen 1:26).

God didn't intend to rule over the earth. He intended man to rule over it on His behalf.

Satan, who had already fallen from his position in heaven as "the anointed cherub who covers" (Ezek 28:14), tempted Adam to disobey in the Garden of Eden. Adam fell, and lost his position of authority. Satan became "the god of this age" (2 Cor 4:4).

 When Jesus came, He provided us with redemption through His blood by His death and resurrection, delivering us from the power of darkness and translating us into His own dear kingdom. But that's not all. He disarmed principalities and powers, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (Col 1:13, 14; 2:15). Satan has lost his authority. The only weapon he has left is deceit.

Jesus was now able to say to His disciples "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore" - because of this, because all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth - "and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:18 - 20).

That's not an option. That's a command. Having departed physically, He has left us in command again, with His authority to do what He would do if He were here. And we have this promise: "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (v20).

How are we doing?