Monday, June 29, 2015

A time to live - and a time to die

Growing old has its advantages. The older you get, the more real heaven becomes.

I know that all my sins are forgiven and I have a home in heaven. Let me hasten to say that this has nothing to do with who I am or what I have done, and everything to do with what Jesus did on an old cross two thousand years ago.

Let no one think that he can get to heaven because of the good life he has lived or the good deeds he has done. If that were possible, Christ would not have needed to have died. Let no one think that salvation is automatic. Like any other gift, it has to be received.

But let no one who has believed on Christ as Saviour for his salvation doubt that Christ has paid the price in full.

There was a time in my life when heaven was something in the distant future. Having received God's forgiveness, I did not fear death, but if I am honest, I might have feared the process of dying.

No more. I realise the time will come when I no longer wish to stay here. At a moment of God's choosing, I will stop breathing and pass from here to there. I hope people won't grieve. I will be as much alive as ever I have been; in fact, more so.

The Bible doesn't tell us everything about heaven, but it tells us sufficient.

Heaven is a place of beauty. It's a place of service. A place of infinite creativity. A place of wonderful relationships. A place of surpassing joy.

"You will show me the path of life;
   In your presence is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures for evermore"  Psa 16:11.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A matter of life and death

Three sets of circumstances seem to have found their way into the news in recent days.

The first happened at Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Ealing, West London. After suffering an abortion, a woman is said to have collapsed on the floor, hyperventilating due to bleeding from a tear in her uterus. She was discharged a few hours later. She fell unconscious in the taxi and was pronounced dead at hospital.

A doctor and two nurses have been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.

The second occurred at Peckham in Lopdon. A woman who was 32 weeks pregnant was attacked in the street and kicked in the stomach. She was critically ill in intensive care. The baby died.

A 21-yar-old man, said to be the woman's ex-boyfriend, was charged with destroying the life of a child capable of being born alive.

The third circumstance was an announcement that so-called emergency contraception is now legally available nationwide to girls under the age of consent.

The drug, called ellaOne, can be offered under the NHS to any girl of reproductive age if it is stocked at the pharmacy. It is said to be effective up to five days after sexual intercourse.

The circumstances are different, but all have one thing in common - a lack of respect for unborn life. Some years ago, it is most unlikely that any one would have happened. Now the process of change is almost complete.

Soon I will be the criminal. For trying to force women to have babies. For daring to question a woman's "right to choose." For standing up for the lives of innocent unborn babies.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Muslim thousands turn to Christ

More Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the 13 years since 9/11 than in the entire previous 14 centuries of Islamic history, according to missionaries in the Islamic world. They say many Muslims are questioning their faith.

In his book A Wind in the House of Islam,* David Garrison says we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history. Because converts to Christianity can face the death penalty, it is impossible to know how many new believers in Christ there are in the Islamic world, but he estimates there are currently between two and seven million.

The book, the result of two-and-a-half years of research, involved travelling more than 250,000 miles to conduct interviews with more than 1,000 people.

Whereas Muslims once came to faith in Christ one at a time, he claims to have found 69 movements - a movement is defined as a group of more than 1,000 baptised believers or 100 new churches within a Muslim community - started in the first 12 years of this century. This compares with virtually no movements of converts to Christianity in the first 12 centuries of Islam.

The converts he met included many senior religious leaders. In 2011 he met with 20 leaders from a fundamentalist Muslim people group. Nineteen of them had been baptised. Seventeen of them were imams. Three were women.

He asked why they had not left their community to form a church. One of the women said: "When God wanted to reach men, He became a man. If God had wanted to reach hyenas, He would have become a hyena. If we want to reach our own people, we've got to stay in our community to reach them." They were willing to pay the price, even if it meant death, to bring others to Christ.

The following day he met a sheikh who had led 400 other sheikhs to Christ; 300 of them had been baptised.

Lucinda Borkett-Jones, writing in Christian Today, quotes Garrison as saying that violence in Islam is not new. What is new is that when believers experience this violence they can turn to the internet or turn on the television and see the alternative: Christian evangelism in their own language. Bible translation, multimedia evengelism and the growth of international travel have facilitated the change.

One man found Christ after reading a translation of the Koran in his own language. He went on to see 33,000 people come to faith in Christ by encouraging them to read the Koran in their own language.

A group of converts in Central Asia tell each other: "If you're persecuted, just thank God you haven't been beaten; if you've been beaten, thank God you haven't been thrown into prison; if you're in prison, thank God you haven't been killed; if you've been killed, thank God that you're with Jesus in heaven."

Christians need to stop fearing Muslims, says Garrison. "This is not the day to fear, fight, hate or kill Muslims. This is the day of their salvation. If you want to be on God's side this day, be a part of what God is doing."

*A Wind in the House of Islam, by David Garrison. Monument, Colorado: WIGTake Resources, 2014.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How God answered Izabella's prayer

Izabella was brought up in communist Rumania, where no one was allowed to go to church, no one was allowed to own a Bible, and no one was allowed to talk about God. (Funny how people say there is no God. If there were no God, people wouldn't have to try so hard to disprove Him.)

When Izabella was seven, she and her brother found a Bible under the floor. They didn't know what it was. They took it out and read it. They'd never heard such stories before. A few years later, a friend invited Izabella to a little underground church. She pleaded and pleaded with her father to allow her to go. Finally, he said that she could. In the meeting, the pastor read from a book, and she recognised the story. She was so excited. 

There was no electricity most nights, so the children had to go to bed when it got dark. Except when it snowed. Then it wasn't quite so dark, and the children were allowed to play outside.

"I want to learn how to pray so I can start praying for snow," Izabella told the pastor. "Izabella," he said, "just talk to God as though He is your best friend. Tell Him what's on your heart, and He will answer."

That night, Izabella prayed. The next morning, she rushed to the window. No snow. November and December came. Still no snow. She was so disappointed."Did you know that this prayer thing doesn't work?" she said. "Izabella, God always answers prayer. You are expecting beautiful white snow to fall from the sky, but maybe God has something different in mind," the pastor told her.

One day, people started running in the street. There must be something at the grocer's. Perhaps oranges or bananas! Izabella and her brother rushed to join the queue. But people were running past the grocery shop.

Big lorries arrived. When the backs were opened up, there were lots of colourful boxes. A lady came up and said "This is yours." "What do I have to do?" said Izabella. "Nothing," the lady said. "It's just yours, totally yours." They were shoe boxes of presents from Samaritan's Purse, a foreign charity.

"Is there anything I can pray with you for?" the lady asked."Would you pray with me for snow?" The lady didn't ask any questions. She just did it.

Izabella fished among the gifts in the box and took out a transparent globe. She didn't know what it was for. A boy shook her arm as she held it. It began to snow. It was a snow globe.

Suddenly it hit her. This was a moment she would never forget. There was a God! He'd been drawing her to Himself since she was seven. He had been looking after her all these years. And He did answer prayer!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Daniel's 70 sevens (1)

Daniel chapter nine contains one of the most remarkable prophecies jn the Bible. It was given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel told him:

"Seventy weeks are determined 
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.

"Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.

"And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And to the end of the war desolations are determined.

"Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate." 

The "weeks" are weeks of years - periods of seven years. So from the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of Messiah the Prince was to be a total of 69 weeks, or 483 years. Taking a biblical year as 360 days, that would come to 173,880 days.

In a book The Coming Prince, published in 1894, Sir Robert Anderson, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, theologian and author, said Ahasuerus' command to rebuild Jerusalem (Neh 2:5-8) was made on March 14, 445 BC.

Christ always refused efforts to proclaim Him king until the time  came for Him to fulfil Zech 9:9: 

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey."

Assuming Christ began His ministry in AD 28 (Luke 3:1) and He died at Passover, then the date of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem would be April 6, AD 32. Adding extra days for leap years, March 14, 445 BC to April 6, AD 32 is - 173,880 days.

The crowd rejoiced and praised God as Jesus approached Jerusalem, but when He saw the city, He wept. The reason? "Because you did not know the time of your visitation" (Luke 19:44). He foresaw the destruction of the city and the Temple, accompanied by the slaughter of countless thousands.

You will need to refer to Anderson's book to check the accuracy of his calculations - but the accuracy of the prophecy is remarkable

Notice that this Old Testament prophecy says that Messiah had to come before the destruction of the Temple. The Temple was destroyed in AD 70.

We have accounted for 69 of the 70 weeks. Which leaves one week still to be accounted for.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Learning to make a difference

Civil war in Syria is now in its fifth year. Nobody knows how many people have been killed. Estimates vary from 100,000 to 300,000. Half the population of Syria have fled their homes. ISIS now controls half the territory of Syria.
The little girl in the picture is four years old. She has never known anything but war. When the cameraman pointed his camera at her, she automatically lifted her hands in a gesture of surrender.

What sort of a world do we live in?

A fallen world where wickedness can flourish.

But what can I do? I am a committed born-again Christian.

Above all, pray. Prayer works. "Call to me," God says, "and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you did not know" (Jer 33:3). The Bible is so full of stories of answered prayer and Jesus spent so much time teaching on answered prayer that it's a wonder people don't pray more often. God spared the children of Israel as a result of Moses' prayer. (You can read the story in Ex 32:9 - 14.)

It's all right for Moses. But what about an insignificant person like me?

You are not insignificant. You are a child of the King. It is not by accident that you are a Christian. And it is not by accident that you are living now, at this time. Just as the wicked have freedom of choice, so do you. Only you can decide to pray. God is deeply concerned. Ask Him to put some of His concern in your heart, so you can pray heartfelt prayers.

But I don't know enough about how to pray.

You can read all the books on prayer and know all there is to know about prayer, but it won't be any good if you don't pray. Let Him teach you. Begin to spend time in God's presence. Be content to wait. He will give you prayers to pray that He is waiting to answer. Never doubt that your prayers are heard.

One more thing. Now is the ideal time to start.