Friday, April 17, 2015

A question of mathematics

What evidence is there that the Bible is divinely inspired?

That would have been a good question to have asked Ivan Panin. (Or not, depending how much time you had to listen to the answer.)

Panin was born in Russia in 1855. Exiled as a young man for activities against the Czar, he studied in Germany, then moved to the United States. He was a brilliant mathematician, with a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek.

One day he discovered, apparently by accident, remarkable mathematical structures in the Scriptures. Hebrew and Greek did not use figures, but letters of the alphabet to indicate numbers (aleph equals one, bet equals two, etc).

Take the first verse of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In Hebrew, in which it was originally written, it has seven words. They have a total of 28 letters (4 x 7). The first three words have 14 letters (2 x 7). The last four words have 14 letters (2 x 7). The fourth and fifth words have seven letters. The sixth and seventh words have seven letters.The three key words have 14 letters (2 x 7). The number of letters in the four remaining words is 14 (2 x 7). The numeric value of the three nouns totals 777. The numeric value of the first, middle and last letters is 133 (19 x 7). The numeric value of the first and last letters of all seven words is 1393 (199 x 7).

Seven in the Scriptures speaks of divine perfection. The word seven is said to appear 287 times in the Old Testament (41 x 7). The word seventh is said to appear 98 times (14 x 7). The word sevenfold appears seven times. The word seventy appears 56 times (8 x 7).

Similar structures occur throughout the /Scriptures, and are so complicated they could not have been placed there by human hand.They occur only in the Bible, and not in any other literature, including the Apocrypha.

Panin's discovery led to his conversion to Christ. He spent the rest of his life producing 43,000 pages of closely written notes on his discoveries. Before he died in 1942, he challenged anyone to disprove his findings. He had no takers.

Bible numerics is a fascinating subject. If you wanted to know more, you could start by googling Ivan Panin.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Christian? 'Intolerant, superstitious and backward'

Christians are the sort of people who built our civilisation, founded our democracies, developed our modern ideas of rights and justice, ended slavery, established universal education and who are now in the forefront of the fight against poverty, prejudice and ignorance.

Yet Christians have been swamped with such a tidal wave of prejudice and negativity that to call yourself a Christian in contemporary Britain is to declare yourself intolerant, naive, superstitious and backward. And invite pity, condescension or cool dismissal.

So says former Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.

How did it come to this?

"The contrast between the Christianity I see our culture belittle nightly and the Christianity I see our country benefit from daily could not be greater," writes Gove in the Spectator.

"The reality of Christian mission in today's churches is a story of thousands of quiet kindnesses. In many of our most disadvantaged communities it is the churches that provide warmth, food, friendship and support for individuals who have fallen on the worst of times. The homeless, those in the grip of alcoholism or drug addiction, individuals with undiagnosed mental health problems and those overwhelmed by multiple crises are all helped - in innumerable ways - by Christians.

"Churches provide debt counselling, marriage guidance, childcare, English language lessons, after-school clubs, food banks, emergency accommodation and sometimes most importantly of all, someone to listen. . .

"Belief in the unique and valuable nature of every individual should make us angry at oppression, at the racism which divides and the prejudice which demeans humanity. And it was deep, radical Christian faith which inspired many of our greatest political heroes - Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Lincoln, Gladstone, Pope John Paul II and Martin Luther King. There should be nothing to be ashamed of in finding their example inspirational, the words and beliefs that moved them beautiful and true."

Parliament may have its share of black sheep. But thank God, say I, for someone who is a Christian and is not afraid to say so.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Equality and diversity? Not in the NHS

Victoria Wasteney was a senior occupational health therapist in the NHS for eight years and had an exemplary record. She is also a Christian.

A Muslim colleague often initiated conversations about Victoria's faith. She willingly agreed that Victoria could pray for her when she was upset, and accepted an invitation to a church charity event.

Victoria gave her a book about a Muslim woman who had an encounter with the Christian God. The woman made a formal complaint, alleging Victoria had tried to convert her. Victoria was suspended for nine months pending an internal investigation, then given a written warning for "bullying and harassment." She also had to accept conditions designed to stop her discussing her faith with colleagues.

She took her employer to an employment tribunal partly because she felt it was an issue that needed to be discussed. The tribunal agreed with her employer.

Victoria is now waiting for an appeal.

You may think that a Christian has a right to talk about her faith. Not, apparently, in the NHS.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Destruction of Israel 'non-negotiable'

After Iran and the P5+1 world leaders agreed a framework deal on Iran's nuclear programme, setting the stage for a final agreement in June, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu warned US President Obama in a telephone call that a deal based on the framework would threaten the survival of Israel.

"Just two days ago," he said, "Iran said that the destruction of Israel is 'non-negotiable,' and in these fateful days Iran is accelerating the arming of its terror proxies to attack Israel. This deal would legitimise Iran's nuclear programme, bolster Iran's economy, and increase Iran's aggression nd terror throughout the Middle East and beyond."

Acts of antisemitism outside Israel have reached a record high.

While New York City Council was discussing the destruction of 1.1 million people in Auschwitz, protestors disrupted the meeting with an anti-Israel demonstration. They had perhaps reckoned without councillor David G. Greenfield, a grandson of Holocaust survivors, who put them to shame by revealing the real reason for their anger.

You can see and hear his denunciation in this short video here.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The greatest victory that ever was

A few years ago, I went to a cinema to see The Passion of the Christ. It showed Jesus being tortured in terrible detail. After quite a time, it was obvious the film was coming to a close. I found myself saying to myself "Oh, please let it show the resurrection." It did, briefly. Suddenly, Jesus was standing alive in the tomb.

The crucifixion was a remarkable event. But it would have meant little without the resurrection.

The Bible records a number of times when Satan and his minions attempted to kill Jesus. Every time they failed, for it wasn't His time. Eventually, when the time did come, God handed Him over to His torturers. I imagine hordes of demons around the cross shouting "We got Him!" "We got Him!"

They were used. God used them to produce the most remarkable victory this world has ever known. When Jesus walked out of the tomb, he wasn't resuscitated, He was resurrected. Alive for ever.

He had won forgiveness, redemption, eternal life for as many as are willing to receive it. The kingdom of darkness was defeated. From now on, it would fight a rearguard action, but it would advance only by deceit. Its final overthrow is certain

Jesus Christ is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Unto Him who hath loved us, and washed us from sin, unto Him be the glory, forever. Amen.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Two men: A stark choice

Tomorrow is Good Friday, when we remember how the world did its worst to the Son of God.

When Jesus was tried before Pilate, it was Passover. At Passover it was Pilate's custom to release a prisoner of the people's choice. Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, so he gave the people the choice: Barabbas, a terrorist and a robber, or Jesus.

In those days, Jews didn't have surnames as we know them. They were known as Judah son of Joseph, or Simon son of Jonah. Barabbas means "son of Abba." It can be translated  "son of the father." According to several old manuscripts, his first name was Jesus, a fairly common name in those days. So the people had to choose between Jesus, son of the father, who was a murderer, and Jesus,Son of His Heavenly Father, who came to bring life. They chose the son of Abba.

God was gracious to those people. Jesus died and rose again. So they had the opportunity to repent of their sin, believe on Jesus, and receive forgiveness

We have a somewhat similar choice. Jesus gave His life to be the one and only Saviour. Only the sacrifice of His life was good enough. He was the perfect sacrificial lamb. His blood, and only His blood, is sufficient to wash away our sin. We won't always have the choice, but we do have the choice now.

"As many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." John 1:12.

Do it now.