Saturday, January 31, 2015

Three important questions

When I was a youngster, I wasn't a Christian. But at school - a state school, let me say - we were marched into the school hall each day to stand in line, hands together, for morning prayers.

I clearly remember standing there one day - I would be about eight - thinking "If God made everything, who made God?" The question, of course, is a nonsense. Nobody made God. But at least we were brought up to be aware of God's existence.

Now some children are brought up without a mention of God. People actively engaged in evangelism say it was once possible to start with the story of Jesus. Now they have to go further back, and start with the existence of God.

Not that people can escape it. There is deep down in every person an awareness of God. They can ignore it; they can squash it; they can deny it. But they can't escape it.

"What may be known of God is manifest in them," says Paul in Romans, "for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."

No matter how involved people get in the things of this life, thoughts about God's existence keep pushing up, like grass through asphalt.

There are three questions we all ask ourselves, sooner or later. They are

                                                                            Where did I come from?
                                                                            What am I doing here?
                                                                            Where am I going?

Could any questions be more important than these?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


It seemed like time stood still yesterday as people remembered the Nazi killing machine on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Hundreds of former inmates gathered there, unable to forget.

At the Museum of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, I remember standing in the Hall of Remembrance, which commemorates the Nazi killing centres where countless thousands died. I explained to the Jewish doorkeeper  that I was not a Jew, but a Gentile. I asked his forgiveness. "Ah,"  he said, "It wasn't just the Jews. It was Communists, prisoners of war. . . "

A gentle man from Poland recalled an incident while an inmate in Auschwitz. As he walked down a corridor, he heard another inmate out of sight singing an aria from Tosca. SS men ran over and the singing suddenly stopped. Later, he asked what had happened. "He was killed," he was told.  

Some Jews became atheists as a result of the Holocaust. "Where was God?" they said. Unfortunately, they had the wrong question. The correct question was not "Where was God?" but "Where was man?"

Antisemitic incidents in the UK last year are set to be the highest in the past 30 years. In Europe, antisemitism is said to be at its worst since the Nazi era. In France, eight synagogues were attacked in one week.

People need to remember that one day everything will be put right. Not a single thing will be forgotten. Nothing is more certain.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Frieda's miracle

Frieda Roos van Hessen was born into a Jewish family in Amsterdam. They were not practising Jews: Frieda had been to synagogue only once, for her brother's wedding. But they knew they were Jews.

Frieda had a beautiful singing voice, and decided to become a singer. She trained at Amsterdam Conservatoire, and was soon performing to packed houses. She was chosen to sing the lead in the Dutch version of Disney's Snow White. She was a soloist in a performance of Verdi's Requiem for the Dutch royal family.

Then the Germans invaded Holland. As a Jew, Frieda was forbidden to perform for non-Jewish audiences.

One day a car pulled up at the house where they were staying. Her parents were arrested and taken away. They died in Auschwitz.

Frieda hid in the house and was not discovered. That night, she fled for her life. For the next four years, she hid in eight different locations. She escaped Nazi soldiers eight times. Once she was arrested, then set free again in miraculous circumstances. At one time she lived for months in one room.

Then came the news: the war was over. There was dancing in the streets.

After the war, she met a pastor, who sent a German woman to see her. The woman told her stories of Jesus. "I thought you were an intelligent person," said Frieda. "How can you believe all this nonsense?"

The woman asked her to read Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Alone, she read Isaiah 53 and understood not a word. She began to read Psalm 22 and came to the verse which says "they pierced my hands and my feet." She let out a yell. "That's Jesus!" she said. She went back to Isaiah 53. She understood every word. "How could I have lived all these years without this?" she said. "It was like coming out of a dark hole into the light."

She was converted instantly through reading the Old Testament.

Frieda, who lives today in the United States, is now 99 years old, and still active. Her aim: to show the power of the love of Jesus.

Next Tuesday is not only the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but also Holocaust Remembrance Day. You can read about it here and here.

You can see Frieda's testimony, complete with photographs and recordings, here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Suffering for their faith

The past 12 months have seen the highest level of persecution of Christians worldwide in living memory. One hundred million Christians are facing persecution.

Islamic extremists are the main persecutor. In some countries, Christians face imprisonment, torture, rape and death.

More than 70 per cent of Christians have fled Iraq since 2003. More than 700,000 Christians have left Syria since civil war began in 2011.

The organisation Open Doors has published its 2015 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. North Korea tops the list for the 13th successive year. Meeting with other Christians there is virtually impossible. Anyone discovered in unauthorised religious activity is subject to arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture and/or execution.

Next countries on the list, in order, are Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea and Nigeria. You can see further details here.

Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors in the UK and Ireland, says "I am convinced that what happens in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa in the next three years will define the future of Christianity as we know it. We can't afford to sleepwalk through these difficult days. Open Doors isn't saying there should be special treatment for Christians - of course there shouldn't. But there must be equal treatment - the fundamental right to follow any faith, or none."

Tomorrow will be the launch of the World Watch List and a report in Parliament on global persecution. It's not too late to e-mail your MP to invite him or her to attend the meeting.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2,484 killed in Nigeria. Who cares?

When 17 people were killed by Islamic terrorists in France, the leaders of something like 40 nations - with the notable exception of President Obama of the USA - gathered in Paris to protest Islamic terrorism.

Last year 2,484 were killed in Nigeria as a result of Islamic extremism, the highest total of any nation in the world. This year hundreds more have been killed already. Men, women and children, hunted down, shot, drowned or burned alive. Who cares about them?

Among politicians, a few individuals have expressed concern. Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary - his father was a Church of Scotland minister - has expressed concern. He promised that a Labour Government would appoint a global ambassador for religious freedom to tackle the persecution of Christians worldwide.

But it seems that for the majority of politicians, Islamic extremists in Africa can do what they like. Words, perhaps. But actions?

Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors in the UK and Ireland, says: "Responding to a question from MPs about whether in light of increasing persecution now was the time to appoint an ambassador for religious freedom to campaign for religious freedom internationally, the UK Deputy Prime Minister has just responded confirming that, 'while it is necessary to keep an open mind' about whether more should be done to protect Christians, the UK Government would not be making the appointment.

"Of course that appointment wouldn't have changed the world on its own, but it would have been a step.

"Meanwhile the church is experiencing persecution on an unprecedented scale. Time is running out. Surely we need to move beyond 'keeping an open mind' and do something?"

There are things that can be done. For instance, the UK pays £249 million in foreign aid to Nigeria each year.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Jesus the Son of God?

A Muslim challenged me to produce a single example in the Bible where Jesus Himself claimed to be the Son of God. How about Mark 14:60 - 62:

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, "Do you answer nothing? What is it these men testify against you?"

But he kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, saying to him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"

And Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
 In Exodus 3:14 God revealed His name to Moses: 

And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
 Dr Henry Morris says there are seven "I ams" in the book of Genesis; 21 (3 x 7) in Exodus; seven in Psalms that speak of the future sufferings of Christ; 35 (5 x 7) in Isaiah; 70 (10 x 7) in Ezekiel; 21 (3 x 7) in Jeremiah; 21 (3 x 7) in the smaller prophetic books; 154 (22 x 7) in the prophetic books as a whole; and seven in the book of Revelation.

In John's Gospel, Jesus uses seven "I ams" with descriptions of Himself to explain His ministry. He says "I am the bread of life" to explain that the manna in the wilderness is a picture of the Messiah. Every one who seeks Him will find Him; whoever partakes of Him will never hunger; each one has to seek Him for himself; every one finds sufficient for his salvation.

The seven "I ams" are I am the bread of life (John 6:48); I am the light of the world (8:12); I am the door of the sheep (10:7); I am the good shepherd (10:11); I am the resurrection and the life (11:25); I am the way, the truth and the life (14:6); and I am the true vine (15:1).

Somebody said that whatever the spiritual question, the answer is Jesus. Would you agree?

Thursday, January 08, 2015

First birthday for baby saved from death

Mrs Mhairi Morris, of Crawley, West Sussex, was 20 weeks pregnant when her waters broke. She was taken to East Surrey Hospital, where a consultant told her her baby was a "non-viable foetus."

She says the consultant told her there was nothing he could do about it, and she would have to go to theatre. Mrs Morris felt so long as the baby was alive, she had to give him a chance. When she declined an abortion, the consultant rolled his eyes.

Doubting her resolve, Mrs Morris researched her condition on the internet, and found it was possible to carry on with her pregnancy. She was placed under the care of a woman consultant, who "kept writing 'termination of pregnancy' on my notes."

The baby was born at 25 weeks. He is now a beautiful, bright-eyed boy, and has just celebrated his first birthday.

An NHS Trust official said Mrs Morris had been given a range of options.

With abortion being so easily available, it seems the nation has lost its respect for human life.

Suppose assisted suicide were legalised. Then where would we be? 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Billy Graham (96) plans for 2015

Billy Graham, who is 96, used to make a long list of New Year's resolutions, but got discouraged when he didn't keep them. So this year he's concentrating on just one: to become more and more like Christ.

"To be like Christ," he says, "means to be like Him in behaviour - rejecting sin, living pure and godly lives, and sharing His love with others. It also means to be like Him in character - in love and peace and patience, and all the other fruit of the Spirit

"If you've never invited Christ to come into your life, do so today. Then ask Him to help you become more like Christ this year, as you submit to His word and follow Him."

Not a bad resolution for a 96-year-old. Not a bad resolution for someone of any age, come to that. 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Palestinians fail in their UN bid

The Palestinians failed in their bid for a Palestinian state at the UN.

Palestinian leaders, who have refused to negotiate with Israel, went unilaterally to the United Nations with a request for the UN to recognise a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria - the so-called West Bank - and part of Jerusalem, requiring the Israelis to leave by 2017.

Eight nations voted in favour of the Palestinian resolution in the UN Security Council, leaving Palestinians one vote short of the nine they required. (If they had received the nine votes, the bid would not have succeeded. The US would likely have used its veto.)

The eight who voted in favour were Russia, China, France, Jordan, Argentina, Luxembourg, Chile and Chad. France's vote was a surprise: France had previously promised not to vote against Israel. The US and Australia voted against. The United Kingdom abstained.

US Ambassador Samantha Power said the resolution was "deeply unbalanced" and included "unconstructive deadlines that take no account of Israel's security concerns." She said the US voted against it "because we know what everyone here knows as well: peace will come from hard choices and compromises that must come at the negotiating table."

The Palestine Authority's representative Riyad Mansour said "The result of today's vote shows that the Security Council is clearly not ready and willing to shoulder its responsibilities in a way that would. . . allow us to open the doors to for peace."

Israel's representative Israel Nitzar said "The Palestinians have found every possible opportunity to avoid direct negotiations with Israel. They have engaged in a never-ending string of political games, and now they are parading into this council with preposterous unilateral proposals. I have news for the Palestinians: you cannot agitate and provoke your way to a state."

Although the majority of Americans support Israel, relations between US President Obama and Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu are at their lowest. The US State Department last year cited Israel for "unacceptable behaviour" more times than anyone except Syria, Iran and North Korea. President Obama is said to be campaigning against the selection of Netanyahu as Prime Minister at Israeli elections in March.

While Hamas is stockpiling rockets and building new tunnels in preparation for the next war against Israel, the General Court of the European Union decided to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organisations.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The battle goes on

2014 was a difficult year, with civic rights and freedoms being attacked and secular humanists seeking to bury every public manifestation of Christianity. 2015, with thousands of children being reported for playground banter and the reports passed to education authorities and Ofsted inspectors, doesn't look like being much different.

Home Secretary Teresa May has announced extremist disruption orders to counter Islamic extremism - but which could penalise criticism of same-sex marriage or sharia law.

The Liberal Democrats, who favour liberalisation of drugs laws, want to enforce sex education - possibly with sexually explicit materials - for children as young as seven. The battle against legalised abortion continues in Northern Ireland. With reports of as many as one person in 33 opting for death in Holland, where euthanasia is legal, Lord Falconer still wants assisted suicide to be legalised in the UK.

But the Government has done a partial U-turn with its instructions to promote "British values" in schools. Faith schools were being told they must be tolerant of other faiths and staffs were to be prevented from teaching that certain lifestyles were wrong.

Christians protested. There were challenges from MPs and the prospect of a judicial review. The Church of England said Government plans were "negative and divisive" and increasing Government involvement in schools risked turning Ofsted into a "schoolroom security service."

New guidance to all schools now says achools are required to respect people, not beliefs, and no additional equality duties are required. Unfortunately, Christians say that Ofsted is not following the guidance in many cases.

The price of freedom, said someone, is eternal vigilance. Dare I wish my readers a blessed, prosperous and fruitful new year?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A few facts and figures

The Christmas and New Year holiday seems to be time for quizzes and things. So let's have a quiz.

Here's the first question. How big is the universe? Well, consider.There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy. (There are an estimated 100 to 200 billion galaxies.) The average distance of each star from its nearest neighbour is 37 trillion miles. If you were to travel through space at five miles a second, travelling 37 trillion miles would take you more than 200,000 years.

God, who created the universe, is greater than it all. (If God exists, why doesn't He reveal Himself? He has revealed Himself. He has revealed Himself, for instance, in creation. Perhaps God wants people to choose to follow Him. There is all the evidence that people need.)

How big are you and I? There are more than seven billion of us on earth at this time. Tiny specks in a vast universe. But each of us fearfully and wonderfully made. And each one of us infinitely precious.

So precious that when we went adrift, God was willing to give His own Son. Our righteousness was no longer good enough, so God allowed His Son to die so we could share His righteousness. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. If we decide to believe on Him as our Lord and Caviour.

The choice is ours.