Monday, August 31, 2015

A barrier that should not be crossed

Britain is inching towards legalised euthanasia. Make no mistake, Britain will have legalised euthanasia - unless people get their act together and stand up for the laws we already have.

In Holland, where euthanasia is permitted, it is admitted that people are now being killed without a request on their part. In Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, children are able to ask to be killed, and psychiatric patients are being put to death. It couldn't happen here? Oh yes, it could.

Well financed organisations here in favour of euthanasia have decided that assisted suicide should be the first step. There have been umpteen attempts to revise the law in recent years. All have failed - so far. Lord Falconer's assisted dying bill in the Lords ran out of time in the last Parliament. Labour MP Rob Marris has taken up his cause in the Commons. His bill will have its second reading in the next two weeks.

We are told that a majority of people are in favour of allowing assisted suicide. We are fed with a steady stream of high profile stories of a small number of people apparently in desperate straits. Why should they have to go to Switzerland? Why shouldn't they be allowed to decide when to end their own lives, and have help when they need it?

Hard cases make bad law. Permitting assisted suicide would place intolerable pressure on  elderly and sick who feel they are a burden to relatives.

A group of almost 80 doctors have written an open letter to MPs, published in the Telegraph. "We regularly come across patients who feel a burden to their relatives and to society." Assisted suicide proposals, they say, devalue the most vulnerable in society.

Some families would use the law to exert pressure on relatives. "Most families are loving and caring, but some are not. We do from time to time come across cases where there are signs of subtle pressures being exerted. These are difficult to prove, but they can be very real, and we fear that if Parliament were to legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill people, they would be given free rein." 

The discussion and vote at the second reading of the Marris bill is on September 11. September 11 is a Friday. Some MPs leave early on Fridays to go home or to their constituencies for the weekend. A number of MPs have indicated that they will not be there for the vote. If it passes at second reading, they say, it will still be possible to prevent it from becoming law.

But a victory for the pro-euthanasia lobby at second reading would be a tremendous psychological boost and make it much more difficult to prevent awarding the bill further parliamentary time in the future. Write or visit your MP and point out that it is vital to attend the vote. If you require further information, you will find all you need here or here.

Parliament has never hitherto been willing to condone doctors' taking innocent human life. That's a barrier that should never be crossed. What we need is good quality care, not killing.

The law has only to be changed once. If it changes, it will change forever.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Unless you become as little children. . .

Helen Roseveare, born in Hertfordshire, was converted to Christ while a student at Cambridge University. She completed her medical degree, and went to Africa as a medical missionary.

In her book Living Faith* she tells how one day they were caring for a woman in the labour ward. Despite everything they could do for her, the woman died, leaving a premature newborn baby and a two-year-old daughter.

They had no incubator - they had no electricity - and although they were on the equator, the nights could be chilly. She asked one student midwife to find a cardboard box filled with cotton wool to put the baby in, and another to fill a hot water bottle. The second girl came back in distress. While she was filling it, the hot water bottle had burst, and it was the last one.

"Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can;" Dr Roseveare told her, "sleep between the baby and the door to keep jt free from draughts. Your job is to keep that baby warm."

Later, the missionary went to pray with some of the orphanage children. Before they began, she told them about the woman, the two children and the hot water bottle.

A 10-year-old girl named Ruth began to pray. "Please, God," she said, "send us a hot water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby'll be dead; so please send it this afternoon. And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl, so she'll know You really love her?"

"Could I honestly say 'Amen,'?" thought the missionary. "I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? And I had some very big 'buts.'" The only way God could answer that particular prayer would be by sending her a parcel from home, and in almost four years in Africa, she had never ever had a parcel from home. Besides, if anyone did send a parcel, who would send a hot water bottle to the equator?

That afternoon, she got a message that there was a car at her front door. By the time she got home, the car was gone, but on her verandah was a 22lb parcel bearing UK stamps. She called the orphanage children to help her open it.

There were brightly coloured knitted jerseys, bandages, soap, and dried mixed fruit. She put her hand in again, and pulled out - could it be? A brand new rubber hot water bottle. The parcel had been on its way for five months. God had prepared it five months before to answer the little girl's prayer "this afternoon."

Ruth said "If God has sent the bottle,He must have sent the dolly too." The girl rummaged in the bottom of the box and brought out a small, beautifully dressed dolly.

"Mummy," said the girl to the missionary, "can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

 *Living Faith: Willing to be stirred as a pot of paint. Tain, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2007.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Daniel's 70 sevens (2)

Some Christians will have nothing to do with Bible prophecy, because, they say, they don't know how it will turn out. More about that in a minute.

In Daniel's prophecy of 70 weeks (Dan 9:20 - 27) we said the "weeks" were weeks of years - periods of seven years. Sixty-nine weeks refers to the period from the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Neh 2:5 - 8) to the coming of the Messiah. That leaves one "week" - a period of seven years - still to account for.

There is obviously a gap between Messiah's death and verse 27. This is the church age, not mentioned for two reasons: first, the church was a mystery in the Old Testament; second, this prophecy refers to God's dealings with Israel (Dan 9:24). God dealt with Israel until Israel rejected their Messiah; He will begin to deal specifically with Israel again in verse 27 (Rom 11:25, 26).

Israel is not like other nations: Israel was chosen by God and God's promises to Israel not yet fulfilled are still to be fulfilled (Gen 17:7, 8; Jer 30:18 - 20; 31:10, 31-34; 33:20, 21, 25, 26; Ezek 36:34 - 38).

The Bible says that one of the first events to be fulfilled in the prophetic calendar is the rapture, when the church will be taken from the earth. Some Christians don't believe in a rapture: not believing in a rapture would be difficult in light of such Scriptures as 1 Thess 4:13 - 18 and 1 Cor 15:51 - 53. Some believe the rapture will occur at the end of time: this ignores the doctrine of imminence (Matt 24:42, 44; 25:13; Rom 13:11, 12; Heb 10: 37; Rev 22:20).

After this, a wicked world ruler will arise, generally known as the antichrist (1 John 2: 22). He will make a seven-year covenant with the Jews, but break the covenant half-way through. The remaining three-and-a-half years is the great tribulation, known as the time of Jacob's trouble, when the Jews will suffer as they have not suffered since the world began (J er 30:4 - 7; Dan 7:25; 12:7; Matt 24:21).

Hitler destroyed a third of world Jewry in the Holocaust. If we are to believe Zech 13:8, 9, during this period two thirds of the Jews will die. The remainder will come to faith in the Jewish Messiah (Rom 11:26, 27), heralding a millennium of peaceful reign on the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ cannot return to earth until the Jews are ready to receive Him (Hos 5:15; Matt 23:37 - 39).

So should Christians be concerned with Bible prophecy? The prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled so far have been fulfilled in exact detail. Can we not expect the same of the remainder?

The Bible gives us our knowledge of God and His dealings with men. It provides a wonderful history of Israel and the early church. But a quarter of the Bible refers to the future. We need it to make sense of the days in which we live and to understand how we should live in these days.

Of course we are expected to study Bible prophecy. That's what it's there for.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Well, are you?

In his book Crazy Love,* former American pastor Francis Chan tells the story of a businessman named Stan Gerlach.

Gerlach was giving the eulogy at a funeral service when he decided to share the gospel. "You never know when God is going to take your life," he said. "At that moment, there's nothing you can do about it. Are you ready?"

Then he sat down, fell over and died. His wife and sons tried to resuscitate him, but there was nothing they could do.

When the pastor arrived at the family home, his widow and his son John were crying. "Did you hear?" said John. "I'm so proud of him. My dad died doing what he loved doing most. He was telling people about Jesus."

The pastor was asked to give a word to the family and friends. He opened his Bible at Matt 10:32, 33: "Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven."

He asked everyone to imagine what it must have felt like for Stan Gerlach. "One moment, he was at a memorial service saying to a crowd 'This is who Jesus is!' The next, he was before God hearing Jesus say 'This is who Stan Gerlach is!'

"One second he was confessing Jesus; a second later, Jesus was confessing him. It happens that quickly. And it could happen to any of us. In the words of Stan Gerlach," he said, " 'Are you ready?'"

That's a good question.

*Second edition. Colorado Springs, Colorado: David C. Cook, 2013.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

'They taught that they weren't alive'

Stojan Adasevic was an abortionist in Serbia. He worked five days a week, and did 20, 30 or 35 abortions a day. He performed 48,000 abortions, although some say the total was closer to 60,000.

After a time, he started having a recurring dream. In the dream, children and young people were playing in a beautiful field. They ran away from him in fear. A man stared at him in silence.

One night the man spoke. "Why don't you ask me who the children are?" he said. "These are the ones you killed with your abortions." Adasevic would wake up in a cold sweat.

Then one day he was aborting a baby three or four months old. It was the woman's ninth abortion. As he started the procedure, the amniotic fluid flowed out.

He went in with his abortion forceps and pulled out a hand, which he placed on the table. The hand fell on some iodine which someone had spilled. As the nerve endings touched the iodine, the hand began to move.

"It's moving by itself," he thought.

He went in again and pulled out something else. Let it not be a leg, he told himself. It was a leg. He went to put the leg carefully on the table, but there was a bang behind him, and he dropped it. It fell next to the hand, and the leg too began to move by itself.

He went in again, and began to crush everything inside the uterus. When he took out the forceps, they were holding a beating heart. He watched as the heart continued to beat, slower and slower, until it stopped.

He decided he would never do an abortion again. When he told the hospital, they cut his salary by half, fired his daughter from her job, and did not allow his son to enter university.

"They taught that life began with the first cry," he says. "When a baby cries for the first time. That up to that moment, a human being is like any other organ in a woman's body, like an appendix.

"That's why, immediately after birth, children were taken and their heads submerged in a bucket of water. A child would take in water instead of air, and never cry. Terrible, but that's how things were."

Stojan Adasevic is now a pro-life advocate. You can see more details of his story here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Christian preacher on trial for 'hate crime'

On May 18, 2014, James McConnell, pastor of Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast, preached a sermon on 1 Tim 2:5: "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

"There is one God. But what God is Paul referring to?" he asked. It was not, he said, Allah, the god of the Muslims. He went on to talk about the errors of Islam. "Islam," he said. "is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell."

A video of the sermon, like the videos of lots of sermons these days, was loaded on the internet. The Belfast Islamic Centre complained to police. Police began to investigate a possible hate crime.

McConnell issued a public apology to anyone he had unintentionally offended, but refused to accept an "informed warning" from the police. The prosecution service decided he should be charged under the 2003 Communications Act with sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that was grossly offensive.

McConnell said the decision to prosecute him and not extremist Muslim preachers in Britain showed that Christians were being persecuted.

"I have no hatred in my heart for Muslims. My church funds medical care for 1,200 Muslim children in Kenya and Ethiopia. I have never hated Muslims. I have never hated anyone. The police tried to shut me up and tell me what to preach. It's ridiculous.

"I believe in freedom of speech. I defend the right of any Muslim cleric to preach against me or Christianity. I most certainly don't want any Muslim cleric prosecuted, but I find it very unfair that I'm the only preacher facing prosecution."

These facts are not new. They have been well publicised, on both sides of the Atlantic. So why do I mention them now? Because later this week is the date scheduled for Mr McConnell's first day in court.

The Crown plans to call eight witnesses for the prosecution. Mr McConnell's solicitor plans to turn it into a landmark trial with a range of political, religious and academic witnesses from across the UK to give evidence regarding freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Hate crime or freedom of speech? It looks like being an interesting case.