Saturday, May 30, 2015

Scotland says No to assisted suicide

The Scottish Parliament has again rejected a bill - by 82 votes to 36 - which would have allowed people with a terminal illness to seek help to end their lives.

Had the bill succeeded, Scotland would have been the first part of the UK to legalise assisted suicide.

The bill was originally brought forward by the late Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who died last year. It was taken up by Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

It would have allowed assisted suicide for mentally competent adults from 16 years old with "a terminal or life-shortening illness" or a "progressive and terminal or life-shortening condition" who had "concluded that the quality of their life is unacceptable."

A Holyrood committee concluded that the bill contained "significant flaws," but said the full parliament should decide. The Scottish Government did not support the bill. MSPs had a free vote.

Gordon Macdonald, convenor of Care Not Killing in Scotland, commented: "Vulnerable people who are sick, elderly or disabled can so easily feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to end their lives so as not to be a burden on others. Parliament's first responsibility is to protect the vulnerable. That is what has happened."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Popularity? No thank you

Jesus wasn't looking simply for believers. He was looking for disciples.There is a significant difference between the two. Some people are content just to "believe." Some are happy just to believe and go to church on Sunday. But from Jesus there always comes the call to follow Him.

Jesus said (in Luke 9): "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."

And in Matthew 10: "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. . . He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it."

A remarkable story is told of an unnamed African Christian who was told to renounce Christ or he would be killed. He refused to renounce Christ, and was martyred. The following was later found affixed to the wall in his room:

I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished with low living, sight-walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits and popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognised, praised, regarded or rewarded. 

I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer and labour with power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, meander in the maze of mediocrity. 

I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, prayed up, paid up and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me.

And when He comes for His own, He will have no problems recognising me - my banner will be clear.

When it came to it, he didn't have to make a decision. His decision had already been made. 

Could you make a decision like that? Could I?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Petition for 'gay cake' company

You may have heard that the McArthur family, who run Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland, are committed Christians. When they were asked to bake a cake bearing the slogan "Support gay marriage," they declined, as the slogan was against their deeply held beliefs.

They were taken to court in Belfast by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland (with £40,000 of public funds), accused of discrimination.

Judge Isobel Brownlie upheld the Equality Commission. She accepted that Ashers had "genuine and deeply held" religious views, but they were conducting a business for profit and were not a religious group. They had unlawfully discriminated against the plaintiff - homosexual activist Gareth Lee - on grounds of sexual discrimination.

Daniel McArthur, Ashers' general manager, said they were extremely disappointed. "The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign, no matter how much they disagree with it. Or as the Equality Commission has suggested, they should perhaps just close down, and that can't be right."

They are considering an appeal.

I am delighted to see that a petition has been started asking Tesco to continue selling products from Ashers bakery. (Homosexuals, in their usual mean-spirited fashion, are evidently trying to close Ashers on their own.) You can see the petition here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Two anniversaries on the same day

There are at least two reasons to remember tomorrow. First, tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday.

Pentecost Sunday commemorates the day the Holy Spirit came and filled the early Christian disciples. Those early believers were aware of Christ's crucifixion to pay the price for man's sin. They realised He was the Son of God. They knew He was risen from the dead. They were ready to go out and preach the glorious good news. Well, almost.

Jesus had said "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). But He had also said "Tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). So they waited.

On Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit came. A multitude gathered to see what the commotion was about. Peter stood up and preached, and about three thousand were converted to Christ.

The wonderful thing is that the same experience is available today. Peter said (in Acts 2:39): "For the promise is to you" - those who were there that day - "and to your children," - those who were to come - "and to all who are afar off," - those in Manchester, and Medjugorje and Milton Keynes; and as though to make it perfectly clear - "as many as the Lord our God will call." If you are called to God's salvation, the infilling of the Holy Spirit is for you.

Second, tomorrow is the anniversary of the conversion of John Wesley. Wesley, one of 19 children, went to Oxford, belonged to the Holy Club, and was ordained to the ministry of the Anglican Church. He went to Georgia as a missionary, and returned considering himself a failure. "I went to America to convert the Indians;" he wrote, "but, oh, who shall convert me?"

He was impressed by the conduct of Moravians on board ship, and on his return to London made the acquaintance of some Moravian believers. Then came May 24, 1738.

"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in  Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." He was 34 years old.

He went on to ride an estimated 250,000 miles and preach an estimated 40,000 sermons. He preached, it is said, "as though he were out of breath in pursuit of souls."

The Methodists have lost much of their power since those days. Methodist churches in England are closing in numbers. But God is still able to call others like He called Wesley. "I will build my church," said Jesus, "and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18).

A beauty of the Bible is that it tells us about the past, the present and the future. Many Christians are suffering a hard time at the moment. But the Bible tells us how things end up. We win.

Monday, May 18, 2015

You believe in traditional marriage? Watch out

The Coalition for Marriage has published a leaflet outlining 30 cases of individuals or groups who have been "punished" for "believing in traditional marriage."

Each case is documented and carefully referenced. The 30 cases are said to be a small minority of those that have occurred. The vast majority are from the UK.

"Those who believe, teach and practise traditional Christian teaching on marriage, relationships and sexuality are. . . going to find themselves increasingly on the wrong side of the law as this new political correctness is taught in schools, enforced by the constabulary and judiciary and promulgated by the media, in Parliament, through celebrity culture and inevitably in our churches," writes Peter Saunders.

"Our first priority in opposing its pernicious influence must be to ensure that our congregations - and especially our children and young people - are firmly grounded in biblical teaching and also well briefed in how to argue against the new agenda. It is a task that will require clarity, compassion, and, above all, courage.

"The enemy's goal is to undermine real marriage and the family. We must resist him with every fibre of our being - through speaking up for the truth and by faithfully upholding God's model in our personal lives and Christian communities."

An organisation known as ILGA - the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - is a worldwide federation of 1,100 member organisations from 110 countries campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights.

Its European wing maps the LGBT status of every European country, including the UK. It gives the legislative objectives achieved and those still sought, in great detail.

Northern Ireland still does not recognise hate crime on grounds of gender identity and has not yet legalised same-sex marriage. Scotland has not yet criminalised hate speech on grounds of sexual orientation. But overall the UK bridges not yet crossed are very few.

Says Dr Saunders: "The ILGA is building a similar legal analysis for every nation on earth and its member organisations are working collaboratively to achieve every legislative objective.

"Some may say 'so what?' Why shouldn't LGBT people have the freedom to have what they are calling for?

"But the problem is that legal rights for some constitute legal duties for others. Gay rights were once a concession. They then became an expectation. Now it seems they are a requirement. What began as 'accept me' quickly became 'affirm me' and then 'celebrate me. . . or else.'

"Those who resist being coerced to deliver on the LGBT agenda pay a heavy price - not just ridicule and marginalisation, but legal sanctions - dismissal, fines, imprisonment, gagging and being driven from the public square. These activists will not tolerate disagreement or dissent. Every knee must be made to bow, to recite the mantras and creeds and to grease the LGBT machinery."

The three main political parties all pledged in their election manifestos to do more for LGBT rights.

"They are full of specious euphemisms which cleverly disguise the realities for those who will not play ball," says Dr Saunders.

"The Conservative manifesto trumpets its pride ijn legalising same-sex marriage and promises more: 'Our historic introduction of gay marriage has helped drive forward equality and strengthened the institution of marriage. But there is still more to do, and we will continue to champion equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. We will build on the posthumous pardon of. . . Alan Turing. . . with a broader measure to lift the blight of outdated convictions of this nature.'

"The Labour manifesto speaks of combatting 'homophobia'. . .

"The Liberal Democrat manifesto boasts about 'marriage liberalisation'. . .

"It is clear that the Tory Government after the General Election will be actively advancing the LGBT agenda."

Might I point out that just 1.5% of the UK population is homosexual or bisexual?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A very worthwhile job

Maggie Gobran is a Coptic Christian. She was brought up in Egypt, the daughter of a wealthy physician. She had maids, wore the latest fashions, holidayed in Europe, bought clothes in Paris. She had a good education, and became a marketing executive and a college professor.

In her mid-thirties, with a husband and two children, Maggie felt the need to choose between living the rest of her life in self-pleasing and doing something more worthwhile. She felt the call to full-time service.

In Cairo there are garbage villages. Fifty thousand people live in them in shacks among piles of rotting garbage, some seven or eight to a room, many with no water or sanitation. They are known as garbage people.They collect the garbage from Cairo's residents and exist off what they find among it.

They live in sewage, disease and overpowering stench. Almost half the children there will die before they are five years old. Many of the people are illiterate; some have never travelled on a bus or slept in a bed. Violence and sexual abuse are commonplace.

Mama Maggie, as she is known, began to visit the garbage villages. In 1989 she founded Stephen's Children, a charitable organisation. Now hundreds of workers and volunteers help with food, clothing, free medical treatment, education and vocational training.They serve 30,000 poor families every day. Mama Maggie builds kindergartens, schools, community centres, children's camps and homes for boys and girls.

She rises to pray at 3am. During the day, you will see her in a garbage village. washing children's feet and assuring them that they are loved. Often, she disappears to a monastery in the desert to seek God's face on behalf of the children.

"I want to go on with our work for the poor more and more, until it spreads all over Egypt, the Middle East and the whole world, to make a better place for humanity - especially the children," she says.

"This is the real love story. The one that lasts for ever."

In recent years of political turmoil in Egypt, churches have been burned to the ground. Christian homes and businesses have been torched. Christians have been killed. Many have been kidnapped for ransom.

One man's house was surrounded one dark night by a mob with long knives challenging him to come out so they could kill him. The man stepped out into the street. He focussed on one young man in the mob. "Why do you hate me?" he said. He looked the young man in the eye. "I don't hate you," he said. "I love you." The mob slowly melted away into the darkness.

Mama Maggie has been advised to leave Egypt for her own safety. "Jesus would not leave," she says. "He would stay with His people. I must do the same."

Mama Maggie's story is the subject of a new book, Mama Maggie: The untold story of one woman's mission to love the forgotten children of Egypt's garbage slums, by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn. Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books, 2015.