Saturday, October 31, 2015

Is this the end of free speech?

Extremism disruption orders (also known as EDOs), which the UK Government is to include in a counter terrorism bill in the next month or two, are a cause for real concern.

Their premier target, of course, is Islamic terrorists. But they don't stop at attempting to deal with people planning to commit murder and wanton destruction.

The orders will allow courts to take action against people considered "on the balance of probabilities" to be "preaching, inciting, or justifying hatred on the grounds of disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and/or transgender identity." Innocent people could be caught up. Like people who disagree with same-sex marriage, or Christian street preachers. The mere risk of "causing distress" would be enough to trigger the new powers.

One MP said EDOs would deal with racists, religious fundamentalists and homophobes. They would "in some circumstances" be applied to a teacher teaching that homosexual marriage is wrong. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, is reported to have said in a letter to a constituent that EDOs would go "beyond terrorism" and "eliminate extremism in all its forms."

In a typical Christian response, Voice for Justice UK says people who fall foul of these orders would include mild-mannered Christians who oppose same-sex marriage or gender reassignments, or who say that homosexuals unhappy with their sexuality have a right to therapy.

"How can Bible-believing Christians possibly be equated with Islamic hate-preachers inciting violent jihad?" they ask. "Christianity is a religion of love and of obedience to God - it is not part of a jihadist culture that will brook no alternative to its own value system and converts at the point of a gun.

"Mr Cameron is entirely wrong to manipulate the proposed legislation in order to ensure compliance with secular and LGBT ideology. It is not just wrong, but unnecessary. Christians are not the enemy."

This week the Christian Institute, which is well aware of the dangers, became unlikely partners with the National Secular Society and Peter Tatchell in launching Defend Free Speech - -  at the Houses of Parliament. They will challenge the Government to identify legitimate targets that are not already covered by existing law - like the Public Order Act 1986, the Terrorism Act of 2000, the Terrorism Act of 2006, the Serious Crime Act of 2007 and the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act of 2014.

The Government has already done its best to make everyone agree with what it thinks are "British values."

The Government must not tell the church what to believe. And if it attempts to prevent someone expressing an opinion in public, we are on our way to a totalitarian state.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What do YOU think about Jesus?

Researchers working for the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and HOPE have been questioning representative groups of English adults to find out what English people know and believe about Jesus, what they think about Christians, and whether when Christians talk about Jesus they are drawing people closer to Him or pushing them farther away.

Of the people questioned, 57% called themselves Christians, 12% atheist and 9% agnostic; 9% called themselves practising Christians. Some 39% believed the Bible was God's word.

Some 60% believed Jesus was a real person; 21% believed He was God in human form; 30% believed He was a prophet or spiritual leader, but not God. Some 43% believed He rose from the dead.

Some 67% knew someone they perceived to be a practising Christian; 60% enjoyed the company of a Christian they knew. Some 58% had had a conversation about Jesus. After the conversation, 19% wanted to know more; 59% did not.

Some 72% of practising Christians felt confident to talk with non-Christians about Jesus.

Some recommendations:

●  An enormous challenge; great opportunities. Prayer is essential.

●  Christians are liked. Recognise it, challenging the prevailing negative media image of Christians.

●  Encourage Christians to prioritise talk about Jesus to friends and family. One in five of them is open to Him.

●  Discuss how we can establish as top priority making Jesus known to those who don't know Him.

●  Support Christian parents in encouraging their children to follow Jesus.

You can see full details at

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Your prayers can save lives

Abortion, previously illegal, was decriminalised by Parliament in 1967. We were told that the Abortion Act would allow previously illegal operations, carried out in dangerous conditions, to be done safely. There would not be a significant increase in the number of abortions. Claims that the act would lead to a large increase in numbers were decried as irresponsible and sensationalist.

The Christian church was asleep. The act was passed in a half-empty House of Commons.

Last year, according to Government figures, 201,567 babies died by abortion in England, Wales and Scotland.That's over 16,000 a month, nearly 4,000 a week, over 550 each day. Over the past 48 years, over seven million babies have died from legally permitted abortion - equivalent to a tenth of the total population.

The number of babies who die from abortion in the UK each day equals two Lockerbie disasters. The number of babies aborted each week is greater than the number of people killed at the World Trade Centre on 9/11. The number aborted in two years exceeds the number of British casualties in the whole of the Second World War.

Of last year's abortions, 98 per cent were carried out for so-called social reasons. Less than two per cent were carried out because of suspected handicap.

Next Tuesday, October 27, is the National Day of Prayer about abortion. Can we arrange a prayer meeting in our town? Can we pray with our church, our house group or our youth group? Can we pray with friends? Can we pray at home? 

You can find information to help with prayer here

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Helping the terminally ill

Baroness Ilora Finlay is a heroine of mine.

She is a professor of palliative medicine. She promotes palliative care, opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide and argues eloquently against their legalisation.

What some people didn't know as she argued against an assisted suicide bill some years ago was that her 84-year-old mother was lying in a hospice with advanced cancer, wanting to die.

Friday, October 16, 2015

'This is genocide - and it must end'

A report presented to the House of Lords on Tuesday says Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq, where Christians have lived for centuries, possibly within five years - unless emergency help is provided on a massively increased level.

The report, Persecuted and forgotten?, by the Roman Catholic group Aid to the Church in Need, says the church's survival in parts of Africa and the Middle East is threatened by religiously motivated ethnic cleansing by extremist Islamic groups.

Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, writes: "My own cathedral has been bombed six times and is now unusable. My home has been hit more than 10 times.

"We are facing the rage of an extremist jihad; we may disappear soon. Truly we are 'reckoned as sheep for the slaughter.'"

The report says Christians are the world's worst persecuted faith group. Of 10 nations where persecution is extreme, persecution in nine of them has worsened in the past two years.

You can see details of the report here, and a report by Sheila Liaugminas here.

 The Pope has said that Christians in the Middle East are facing genocide - "and I stress the word genocide" - and it must end. 

Friday, October 09, 2015

Preparing for wholesale violence

The land of Israel is engulfed in a wave of Arab terrorism.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas announced at the United Nations that he and his organisation would no longer be bound by the Oslo accords. He refuses to negotiate with Israel; his plan appears to be to force his demands to be accepted with the support of other nations. There was increasing trouble at the Temple Mount.

Last week a young Jewish couple, Rabbi Eitan and Naama Hankin, were shot dead from an overtaking Palestinian vehicle. Their four children, aged nine, seven, four and four months, who were with them in their car, were not seriously injured but witnessed their parents' murder. The alleged gunmen and the organisers of the attack were arrested on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, a 19-year-old Palestinian attacked a 24-year-old Israeli, his wife and baby with a knife in the Old City of Jerusalem. The husband was stabbed to death; his wife and child were injured. A father of seven, 41-year-old Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, who went to help, was also killed. After the stabbings, the Palestinian grabbed a gun and began firing at security forces. He was shot dead.

There have been ten random terror attacks in the past two days. A terrorist drove his car at officers at a checkpoint near Ma'ale Adumim, and there have been stabbings in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva, Afula and Kiryat Arba, near Hebron.

"The goal of terrorism is to sow fear," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "and the first order in defeating terrorism is to be level-headed and resilient. We have known worse times than this and we will overcome this wave of terrorism with determination, responsibility and unity."

The Jerusalem Post says Israel is on the verge of a violent Palestinian uprising, but was acting with restraint so the day-to-day routine was not disrupted.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psa 122:6).

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Jewish Holocaust survivor saves Christian refugees

Publisher Lord Weidenfeld, who is Jewish, is spending a fair portion of his fortune rescuing Christian refugees from ISIS. Born in Vienna, he was fed and clothed and helped to reach Britain to escape the Nazis shortly before the Second World War by Quakers and Plymouth Brethren. "I had a debt to repay," he said.

"The primary objective," he told the Times, "is to bring the Christians to safe havens. ISIS is unprecedented in its primitive savagery compared with the more sophisticated Nazis. When it comes to pure lust for horror and sadism, they are unprecedented."

A chartered plane has already flown 150 Syrian Christians to a new life in Poland. They will be supported with living costs until they are settled. With the help of other Jewish philanthropists, Lord Weidenfeld, who is 96, hopes to have up to 2,000 Christians airlifted from war zones in the next 12 to 18 months.

Lord Weidenfeld has been criticised in certain quarters for rescuing Christians and not Muslims. To ensure Britain is taking genuine refugees and not economic migrants purely seeking a better life, Prime Minister David Cameron is taking refugees direct from refugee camps, but, in common with the UN and the EU, without reference to their religion. Christians often do not go to refugee camps for fear of intimidation by the Muslim majority, but prefer to congregate in church halls, meaning they would otherwise again miss out.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Can anybody have written more?

Charles Wesley, one of the 19 children of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, joined the Holy Club at Oxford, covenanted with the other members "to live disciplined Christian lives, given to serious study of the Bible, prayer, fasting and charitable works." He was ordained to the Anglican ministry and went as a missionary to the American state of Georgia, but came back a failure. 

While still a young man, he was taken ill and was in such extreme pain that he expected to die. He was visited by a young German Moravian missionary, Peter Boehler. Boehler (who was also largely incidental in the conversion of Charles' brother, John Wesley) asked him: "Do you hope to be saved?"

"Yes," he said. "For what reason do you hope it?" "Because I have used my best endeavours to serve God." Boehler shook his head, and said no more. "I thought him very uncharitable," wrote Charles, "saying in my heart: 'What? Are not my endeavours a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavours? I have nothing else to trust to.'"

Boehler continued to visit, and to pray that Charles would again consider the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ, examine himself whether he was in the faith, and if not, "never cease seeking and longing after it" until he attained it. 

Charles' deliverance came on Pentecost Sunday that same year. He said he felt the Spirit of God striving with his spirit until by degrees the darkness of his unbelief was chased away. "I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ."

During the next 50 years, Charles wrote more than six thousand hymns. That's 120 a year; an average of one every three days. Some 250 years later, some of them are still among the nation's favourites: 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
  Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
  I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
  I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.