Monday, June 30, 2014

Anger, hatred. . . and forgiveness

You may remember the photograph of a young girl running naked down a road in Vietnam, screaming. You may have heard that she later became a UNESCO goodwill ambassador. But have you, I wonder, heard the rest of her story.

Kim Phuc was sheltering with others in a temple in her village near Saigon during the Vietnam War. She was nine years old. A South Vietnamese soldier heard approaching aircraft and advised them to run. A South Vietnamese pilot saw them leaving the temple, mistook them for the enemy, and dropped napalm bombs.

Kim Phuc tore off her blazing clothes. She ran until she couldn't run any more, and then passed out. At hospital, they weren't going to treat her, because they didn't expect her to survive. They were eventually persuaded. She was in hospital 14 months, and had 17 surgical procedures.

She began to study to be a doctor, but the government took her from university because they wanted to use her for propaganda purposes. She was eventually given permission to study in Cuba, where she met another Vietnamese student. They married, and en route to Moscow for their honeymoon, left the plane while it stopped to refuel in Newfoundland and applied for political asylum in Canada, where they now live.

Kim Phuc established a foundation to provide medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war, and travels the world speaking of her experiences. She has received honorary doctorates from three universities. Here's how she describes her life:

The anger inside me was like a hatred as high as a mountain. I hated my life. I hated all people who were normal because I was not normal. I really wanted to die many times.

I spent my daytime in the library to read a lot of religious books to find a purpose for my life. One of the books that I read was the Holy Bible.

At Christmas 1982, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. It was an amazing turning point in my life. God helped me to learn to forgive - the most difficult of all lessons. It didn't happen in a day and it wasn't easy. But I finally got it.

Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed.

Napalm is very powerful but faith, forgiveness and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone would learn to live with true love, hope and forgiveness.

If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself. Can you? 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Meriam's case 'the tip of an iceberg'

The case of Meriam Ibrahim, the mother of two young children sentenced to death in Sudan because she is a Christian and her father was a Muslim, is only the tip of a very big and ugly iceberg. The overwhelming majority of people in the West remain woefully ignorant of the sufferings of non-Muslims under Islam.

So says Raymond Ibrahim, journalist and author, here.

(Meriam, who had her convictions overturned on appeal after an international outcry and was set free on Monday, was re-arrested at Khartoum Airport on Tuesday.)

Ibrahim quotes the cases of a number of Christians set free from the condemned cell after international protest, like pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, freed after three years under sentence of death in Iran, Abdul Rahman, freed from the death cell in Afghanistan, and 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, freed from sentence of death in Pakistan.

Rahman was released under the pretext that he was mentally retarded, although most sources indicated he was quite sane, and Masih was portrayed as mentally retarded prior to her release. This, says Ibrahim, is because Islamic law says the insane are not responsible for their actions.

The point is that these cases were reported by the mainstream media, and the resulting international outrage made these Christians too much of a liability to punish as sharia requires. But thanks to the mainstream media's general indifference, there are countless more Christian "blasphemers" and "apostates" rotting on death row in all three countries, not to mention all around the Islamic world, whose cases are not reported on. 

If the mainstream media reported more on the sufferings of Christians under Islam, says Ibrahim, their lot would likely improve.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The life and death story of Melanie Pritchard

When Melanie Pritchard was pregnant, she chose a pro-life hospital to go into to have her baby. That decision was a very important one.

While in hospital preparing for the birth, she signalled to a nurse that something was wrong. She felt she was going to pass out. Suddenly, she slumped to one side. Her husband, who was standing at the foot of the bed, saw her heart rate and blood pressure turn to zero on her monitors. Her skin turned blue. She was not breathing and had no heart rate. She had suffered a cardiac arrest  and was clinically dead.

She was rushed to the operating theatre. Her husband prayed: "God, I know this is more than I can handle, which means You have a plan and a purpose in this, and I trust You; but please, if it be Your will, allow me to hold my wife again." He had never felt more helpless and afraid in his life.

After the baby was delivered by caesarean section, doctors fought for an hour and a half to resuscitate the mother. She had been without oxygen or a pulse for approximately 10 minutes. After repeated use of a defibrillator and using CPR, they got a faint heartbeat.

Her husband went to see their new baby, not knowing whether his wife was alive or dead. As he wiped the tears from his eyes, a nurse asked him the baby's name. "Gabriella," he said, "heroine of God."

Family and friends arrived at the hospital and began to pray. They e-mailed, texted and tweeted people they knew and people they didn't to ask them to pray. A doctor said Melanie had probably had an amniotic fluid embolism, which was usually fatal. He did not expect her to survive and asked the family to say their goodbyes.

During the caesarean, doctors had accidentally cut an artery. They found five litres of fluid in her abdomen, and had to stuff the abdomen with towels to compress the bleeding. They had to leave the abdomen open, with the increased risk of infection. Melanie had two blood transfusions, and was going into DIC, a condition of erratic blood clotting.

Her heart was barely beating. Her lungs had failed, and a respirator was breathing for her. If she did survive, doctors thought she would be brain damaged. She was transferred, in an extremely critical condition, to another hospital which had an ECMO machine, which provides both blood flow and breathing.

She survived an operation to stitch up her abdomen. Then in the next 24 hours, she was weaned off all medication, except pain medication. She was breathing on her own.

Says Melanie: "Words cannot express my gratitude for the multitude of prayers that covered me throughout this traumatic event. I am happy to say the prayers worked! Thanks to the hands of doctors, nurses, many blood donors, and an ever-merciful God, Gabriella and I are alive and well and I have made a full recovery.

"It has been almost four years, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank the Lord for allowing me to survive something very few live to talk about. . . God has the power to take us from the depths of darkness, even the darkness of death, and bring us into the light, and for that, I praise Him!"

You can read the full story here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

'Bring back our boys' - Israel

Eight days ago, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped as they hitchhiked home from their yeshiva. Minutes later, a police number received a two-minute call from one of them, who whispered "We've been kidnapped." The number receives a large number of hoax calls, and the call was not taken seriously until four hours later, when the parents of one of the boys reported he had not arrived home. A car believed to have been used in the kidnap was later found burnt out.

Tens of thousands gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to pray for the teenagers, Naftali Frenkel (16), Gilad Shaar (16), and Eyal Yifrach (19), and prayer rallies were organised across the nation and in Jewish communities abroad.

Thousands of soldiers manned checkpoints and carried out house-to-house searches in Hebron and surrounding villages, and later farther afield. Many Palestinians were arrested who were among the 1,027 prisoners released in 2011 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier abducted five years earlier.

An Israeli Defence Forces spokesman said security forces had foiled 64 abductions since the beginning of 2013, most affiliated with Hamas, the terrorist organisation which controls Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas was behind the kidnap. Hamas denied the charge, Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would co-operate with Israel in an attempt to find the youths. Mr Netanyahu said he would hold Mr Abbas accountable, since the abductors came from territory under Palestinian Authority control. 

"Terrorists abduct innocent Israeli children, while we save the lives of ill Palestinian children in our hospitals. That is the difference between our humanitarian policy and the murderous terrorism that is attacking us."

By coincidence, on the day the youths were kidnapped, Mr Abbas' wife Amina was admitted to the Assute Medical Centre in Tel Aviv for surgery on her leg. She was discharged on Sunday.

The search goes on.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Scotland Yard apologises to pro-lifers

Scotland Yard has apologised for using a draconian "riot law" to prevent a prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic.

A small group from Good Counsel Network, a Roman Catholic organisation, hand out leaflets outside a British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic in Twickenham. Police used strongly-worded Section 14 Public Order Act notices, commonly used to disperse rioters and football hooligans, and forced them to continue their vigil across the road, where they could not speak to women attending the clinic.

Justyna Pasek said she felt like a criminal. "We pray and hand out leaflets," she said. "We speak to women who want to speak to us. We don't chase after women, we don't stop anyone going into the clinic, and we never block the gates.

"The officers were aggressive and I felt harassed and mistreated. I thought this was a free country, but this reminds me of the Communist rule I used to live under in Poland."

A police spokesman said: "We now acknowledge that the implementation of Section 14 notices was incorrect. The Metropolitan Police service respects the right to lawful assembly and freedom of speech. But we will respect the rights of others not to be intimidated."

"It is bitterly ironic," said Christian Medical Fellowship chief executive officer Peter Saunders, "at a time when doctors involved in sex-selection abortions or illegal pre-signing are not being prosecuted, that police are instead misusing the law to intimidate peaceful protesters.

"It is a reminder that police can themselves be affected by societal prejudice in their judgments and of how commonplace abortion has become.

"It seems not to matter what the law says. Whilst those who blatantly disregard the Abortion Act get off scot free, those who protest risk police intimidation and arrest."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The shambles that is Britain's abortion industry

The Department of Health has published abortion figures for 2013. There were 202,577 abortions in Great Britain; 190,800 in England and Wales and 11,777 in Scotland.

Of 185,331 abortions in England and Wales on England and Wales residents, 98 per cent were funded by the NHS. Abortions using abortion pills, as opposed to surgical abortions, were up at 49 per cent of the total. Thirty-seven per cent of the women had had at least one previous abortion; 49 women had had eight previous abortions or more. Legal abortions in Britain have now topped eight million.

But the Department of Health figures, it turns out, cannot be relied on. The reason is bad record-keeping by abortion doctors.

Here is how the discrepancies were revealed. The National Down's Syndrome Cytogenetic Register is notified by hospitals each time a Down's syndrome diagnosis is made, and researchers follow each case to abortion or birth. The register showed 994 babies aborted because of possible Down's syndrome in 2012. Some were over 24 weeks.

Abortion doctors are required by law to report each abortion to the Department of Health with reasons for the abortion. Department of Health figures showed only 496 abortions for the condition. In some cases, other reasons were given for termination. The remaining records are missing.

In 2011, of 937 Down's syndrome abortions, only 410 could be matched by DoH records.

Are the offending doctors to be pursued with a view to prosecution? Evidently not. The DoH says simply "The Department of Health asked the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to consider the possible reasons for under-reporting of abortions on the grounds of fetal abnormality and make recommendations for improvement. . . The Department of Health will work closely with RCOG and other organisations in implementing the recommendations where possible."

Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, said it was clear that doctors had breached the law. "Worryingly, the department appears to have made no attempt to see the law is properly enforced. We now know that nearly half of abortions for Down's syndrome were incorrectly recorded. How many doctors were referred for investigation? None."

Ms Bruce led an independent parliamentary inquiry into abortion on grounds of disability, a particular concern of hers.

"Abortion for foetal abnormality is something society would rather not face. But every single day at least eight babies have their lives prematurely ended because they happen to be disabled," she says. "This kind of practice does not belong to the 21st century. Disabled people are equal and we should not have special laws to prevent them from being born."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Will Christians please take some notice?

"Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also. . ." (Heb 13:3).

For long enough, churches have been bombed and burned to the ground in Nigeria. Thousands of homes have been torched, and thousands of Christians shot down. For many, it seemed like the world didn't care. Finally, the kidnapping of more than 200 young girls has captured the West's imagination.

For many years, persecution of Christians in Sudan has been brutal. A countless number have been bombed and butchered. Christians have been found literally crucified. Finally, Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year-old Christian woman with two very young children, sentenced to death after a family dispute and shackled to a prison wall, has captured the world's attention.

For three years, Syria has been blown apart in one of the fiercest battles in memory. Thousands have lost their homes and their possessions and fled the country. Islamic fighters, with military jihad as their motivation and acknowledging allegiance only to Allah, have now spread into Iraq, taking the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and reportedly surrounding the country's largest oil refinery.

 They belong to a group named ISIS, said to be more ruthless than al Qaeda. Their beheadings and crucifixions are well known. They have assassinated adults and  children, their bodies left lying in their homes and in the streets by the hundred. Thousands, including children, have fled for their lives, and are without food and water. Kurds are blocking refugees from entering Kurdistan. Some refugees find themselves in towns now surrounded, and are facing death.

What the ,mainstream media perhaps does not make clear is that Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, is the site of ancient Nineveh, and has been one of the last resorts for Christians in Iraq. It has been a Christian centre for the past 2,000 years. Most of the Christians there are probably now among the 150,000 escapees, fleeing they don't know where, but afraid for their lives.

"Please help us" are the cries coming out of Iraq at the moment. May they be heard.

"As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10).

Monday, June 09, 2014

'Mutating virus' of militant Islam

The predominantly Christian area of Gwoza in Borno state in northern Nigeria is under seige. Suspected Boko Haram militants have burned more than 1,000 homes to ashes; one source said more than 300 people had been killed.

In one village, militants told villagers to gather to hear them preach. When they gathered, they opened fire. More than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls are still held.

Church leaders gathered in London at the weekend for an emergency conference on the crisis. Pastor Ade Omooba, co-founder of Christian Concern, warned that militant Islamism is a virus in the atmosphere which mutates, affecting people in Britain as well as abroad.

"I want to emphasise that what we are seeing playing out in Nigeria is part of a much wider threat to the free world from a militant form of Islam that seeks to destroy Christianity and freedom of expression.

"Nations are sleepwalking if they think they are free from a faraway threat of Islamic ideologues. These people are out to destroy the freedoms that Christian democracies have provided - freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom to follow beliefs without fear of persecution, torture, rape and death.

"Militant Islamism will destroy the lives of those who join it, as well as the lives of their families and communities. Just look at the mutations of this radical Islamist virus - across the world we have al Qaeda, al Shabab, the Army of Islam, Hezbollah, Harak al Mujahadeen and Boko Haram. They are all part of a worldwide ideology, which is bent on imposing a sharia regime in every land."

You have been warned.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Preparing for revival

Many must have prayed for revival in Wales. Evan Roberts prayed for countless hours, but with no evident response. "I prayed and prayed," he said, "but nothing seemed to give me relief." Then one night, he was wakened at one o'clock in the morning.

"I found myself with unspeakable joy and awe in the very presence of the Almighty God. For the space of four hours I was privileged to speak face to face with Him as a man speaks face to face with a friend. At five o'clock it seemed to me as if I had again returned to earth.

"Every morning for three or four months always I enjoyed four hours of that wonderful communion with God. I cannot describe it. I felt it and it seemed to change all my nature. I saw things in a different light, and I knew God was going to work in this land, and not in this land only, but in all the world."

He had a crisis experience with the Holy Spirit during a meeting in the chapel at Blaenannerch. "I felt a living force come into my bosom. It held my breath and my legs shivered. . . The living force grew and grew. I was almost bursting. . . What bothered me was God commending His love.

"I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me, and the tears of perspiration flowed freely. I thought blood was gushing forth. . . For about two minutes it was fearful. I cried 'Bend me. Bend me. Bend us' . . . What bent me was God commending His love and I not seeing anything in me to commend.

"After I was bent a wave of peace came over me. . .  As they sang, I thought of the bending at the Judgment Day, and I was filled with compassion for those who would be bent on that day, and I wept."

Evan Roberts was a changed man. He wrote to a friend: "I have received three great blessings. First, I have lost all nervousness. Second, I can sing all day long. Some physical impediment obstructed me before. And third, I have gone as hard as flint. Thanks be to God, what an easy thing it is to thank now."

He asked his friend Sidney Evans: "Do you think it is too much to ask God to give one hundred thousand in Wales?"

It was not presumption. So many people were converted in the months of revival.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Four conditions for revival

It is said that Evan Roberts prayed for 11 years that revival would come to Wales. When he was 26 and had been for two months in Newcastle Emlyn preparing for the ministry, the former coal miner went to see the principal.

"Mr Phillips," he said, "I can't concentrate on my studies. A voice keeps telling me I must go home to speak to the young people. Is that the voice of the Spirit or the voice of the devil?" The principal was wise enough to recognise the call. "You can have a week off," he said.

When he arrived home, his parents were surprised. "Why aren't you at your studies? Have you been sent down? Are you in trouble?" "No," he said. "I've come home to speak to the young people." "What young people?" "The young people in the church." "We were in church yesterday, and we didn't hear an announcement." "No, the minister doesn't know yet."

He spoke to the minister, who suggested the Monday evening prayer meeting. The minister told the meeting: "Evan Roberts believes he has a message for you. Those of you who want to hear it can stay behind after the meeting." Seventeen people stayed behind.

Said Roberts: "I have a message for you from God. First, you must confess any known sin to God, and put any wrong to man right. Second, you must put away any doubtful habit. Third, you must obey the Spirit promptly. Fourth, you must confess Christ publicly." Sixteen people responded.

The minister asked Roberts to speak again on Tuesday evening, on Wednesday evening, on Thursday evening. . .  Finally, he said "If I can make it right with the principal, will you stay and speak for another week?" Roberts stayed for another week. Then the dam broke. Revival came.

You must confess any known sin to God, and put any wrong to man right.

You must put away any doubtful habit.

You must obey the Spirit promptly.

You must confess Christ publicly.

 How about those for conditions for revival?

Monday, June 02, 2014

A time for change?

Are you a Christian? Then there's something dreadfully wrong with you. You're unthinking; you're unscientific; you can't see how badly Christianity botches morality. You represent a deeply defective culture that's been getting all the most important things wrong for a hundred generations.

Did you know that?

 So says an American writer, tongue in cheek no doubt, but illustrating a point. The Christian is the odd man out in society, the barrier to scientific advancement, the hindrance to human enjoyment. Or so they would have us believe.

When they start calling good evil, and evil good, watch out.

Recently I have been studying the subject of revival; listening to tales of things that have happened during such times, particularly during the 1904 Welsh revival, when churches were packed to suffocation daily, tavern keepers went bankrupt and thousands of lives were transformed.

 The revival started in South Wales. I have been in the chapel in Loughor where Evan Roberts worshipped and where the revival largely began. It spread throughout Wales.

In Anglesey, in North Wales, a policeman was standing on duty outside a courtroom. He heard the sound of singing inside the court. He went in to see what was happening. The accused had broken down, confessed he was a sinner and asked his lawyer not to defend him any more. The judge adjourned the court.

"Now," he said to the accused, "may I speak to you, not as a judge, but as a Christian? You have sinned against society, but first, let me tell you how to get right with God." The accused was converted to Christ then and there. The jury burst into a spontaneous Welsh hymn of praise, and the policeman joined in.

Lord, revive us again!