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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Gay Away the Pray!

As I strolled along London's Oxford Street one Summer in 1991, I turned into Poland Street and entered a bar specifically catering for gay men and women. Not long after buying myself a drink at the counter, two young men entered, obviously partners. The better-looking of the two caught my attention. Sporting a moustache, he was otherwise clean-shaven with long hair reaching past his shoulders. His partner, also with long hair, was fully bearded.

I approached their table and asked permission to sit with them and talk. The better looking fellow was not only willing to have my company, but also began to praise me for having such courage to approach a complete stranger to open a conversation. Shortly after, he came up with this question:
You are religious, aren't you? Into Christianity?

I gasped. How did he know? And that wasn't the first time that has happened either. I recall January 1980 whilst at a temporary job at a Reading warehouse. A female colleague who I hardly knew came up to me and affirmed that I was a Christian believer - before ever opening any conversation with her.

My new friend then went on about his involvement at his local church where his pastor was fully accepting of his lifestyle. In those days I couldn't accept any idea that this pastor, whoever he might be, was a true Christian, but one of many who just had a mere profession. Of course, I had absolutely no idea of the state of this minister's heart in relation to God. I just thought that by being friends with this person, who happens to be in a relationship with another of the same gender, has exposed this pastor to be a fake, a phoney.

This gentle, softly-spoken man must have developed a crushing fancy for me, even to the detriment of his partner, because a while later he began to ask whether I would like him to take me to his home. At this point he became more persuasive. At this I began to feel my skin crawl, as I realised that his home really meant his bedroom, and I politely turned down his offer. However, we were both clinched in a tight hug before I walked out of the bar.

I have wondered about this church minister, whoever he might be. From this time of writing, I'm going back more than a quarter of a century. Things might be different now. But who he was and where he was, he was a far cry from many of his contemporaries who preach condemnation towards homosexuals and making them the subjects of God's hatred. I wonder who is really the better representative of Jesus Christ? This unknown church minister somewhere in London, or the late Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, in the State of Kansas, who paraded the city streets with "God Hates Fags" placards. (Fags, short for Faggots, is a degrading nickname for an effeminate male homosexual.)

Fred Phelps was, of course, a representative of the extreme, the zenith of religious hatred and bigotry. But there is a general anti-gay sentiment in most churches. But their efforts to "pray away the gay" seemed to have been a disastrous failure among Christians who are homosexual or with gays seeking counselling altogether. One such advocate of "deliverance from homosexuality" is Franklin Graham, the son of the famous American evangelist Billy Graham. Franklin did not graduate in theology or in any spiritual or pastoral degrees. Instead, he graduated in business. But in his attempt to match his father's credibility, he latched on to the idea that any homosexual can be delivered from his orientation by "asking Jesus into his heart" and presto! The gay man becomes straight, that is, a "normal" hetero.

Such "successful" attempts to change one's orientation, according to what I have read, are extremely few and far between. Such rarity has made me question whether such "healing" can really be genuine. More likely that the "cured" person has married and even fathered children, and there seems to be some records of this, but his orientation is still present, although repressed. Sooner or later such arousal resurface when just the right set of circumstances were to occur, and I have read plenty of records of this too. That is why I tend to believe that the "cured" person is really bisexual, a term meaning to be attracted to both genders. This may be more of a case when it comes to having a fetish towards a particular part of the body, such as the thigh, the feet, or even the neck. Many years ago in the early 1970's, I recall an article published in The Sun national newspaper about four images of a man wearing a shirt.
The first pic was of him with his shirt fully buttoned up and wearing a tie.
The second was him without the tie and with just the top button of his shirt undone.
The third had him with the upper two shirt buttons undone.
The fourth showing him with his shirt totally unbuttoned.

A group of volunteers gave their verdict on their sexual arousal. It turned out that stimulation was strongest at the third image, meekly followed by the second. There was hardly any arousal with the first picture, and it also dropped significantly on the fourth. Gay forums on the Internet seemed to have backed this up. Under the heading Popular Fetishes, the open neck of the shirt was on the list, although not at the top of the chart. If this is true, then the bisexual, for example, could be aroused by the open-neck shirt of both man and woman, making possible for straight sex and fathering children. My point is: this praying away the gay looks to be nonsense, without any veritable evidence that it works.

The homosexual world does fascinate me. This fascination might have arisen from being bullied at school, and being accused of being homosexual in the classroom and the school playground. This accusation has reared itself over and over again throughout adult life. Yes, even right up to the present day, I actually had to answer a question asked by one of our present church elders, most likely motivated by hatred from a very English Pharisee who also attends our Sunday services. I told him that even if the Bible was to give consent to same-sex activity, I still wouldn't go for it, for the simple reason that such activity has no appeal whatsoever, as demonstrated by my refusal to go home with such a good looking fellow back in 1991. It has much more to do with personal lack of appeal rather than religious conviction.  

That said, before marriage, I tended to gravitate towards a gay bar in order to seek friendship of the "bromance" level. Bromance is a level of companionship without the sex. The friendship between David and Jonathan recorded in the Old Testament is a good example of bromance. And according to reading gay forums posted on the Internet, there is a considerable number of gay men who are also put off various same-sex activity, particularly anal-intercourse, but still have a preference of same-sex friendship over opposite sex relationships. As for myself, I believe that church attitude against excess showing of emotion was what made the gay bar attractive, especially in London, a city where I was able to remain anonymous. As for the church, according to my own experience, is generally very reserved, with emotion frowned upon, middle class, very heterosexual, and tend to be judgemental over those who don't fit the ideal English model.

Exactly like back in 1978. As the Summer of that year approached, a small number from the singles group were preparing to hire a narrow boat to ply the canals of the Broads of East Anglia for a week. The group consisted of both young men and women, each sharing cabins according to gender, and each contributing to the common purse. While the team was still in formation, I approached one of them with my share of the financial contribution. I was told flatly "No!"

I felt crushed as I wallowed in such rejection. But at least God was good to me, and I walked into a travel agent to book a flight across the Atlantic to New York, the start of a month-long backpacking trip across the States, taking in the Grand Canyon and California. But still the rejection had a long term effect. How much more intense would this be to the average homosexual?

No homosexual chooses such a way of life. Even psychologists admit that one can be born with a predisposition towards homosexuality, later developing towards full same-sex orientation. Although the ratio of the gay population to the straight population is only about 4%, the rate of suicide among gays can be as high as 40% - which is much higher than among heterosexuals. They are the ones who suffer social rejection and harassment - even falling victim of murder, family rejection, shame and embarrassment, loneliness, a want of a family of his own, church condemnation and a feeling of alienation from God, a fear of Hell disguised as scepticism, together with unfulfilled sexual desires, along with the threat of disease. Indeed, no child would have chosen this way of life if the alternate straight life was of easy choosing.

And so to see church leaders condemning gays - even if they don't necessarily practice the sex - driving them away from God and towards atheism. Their anger towards God can be so intense that it is impossible to turn their hearts towards him short of a miracle. And the negative spirit felt towards them is continued to be felt in the assembly. And that what makes this so wretchedly unfair. He feels alienated and condemned because of who he is, and not just what he might have done. A gay person walks into a church for the first time and he is ghosted by someone who, just by glancing, has decided that this person is evil and is to be avoided. Yet this same judgemental person may be a lover of money and tend to give in to greed as well as to nurture snobbish superiority. He may be standing next to someone with a history of adultery, but is looked upon as "one of those human weaknesses" and so far better tolerated. And there could be someone else who has suffered a divorce, or his son is divorced, and that's too is reasonably okay. Another standing in the church may have a constant affray with his next door neighbour, another wishes he could quietly poison his boss and secretly dispose of his body, yet still looks calm and collected while he is singing a hymn. Yet another cannot control his temper whilst driving his car. And not to pass over the young man who keeps glancing at a pretty lass standing by her husband.

The reality of human nature, whether in church or outside. Yet all can take comfort with the Biblical fact that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). God's wrath was lifted from the whole world the day Jesus Christ died on the cross, and by his resurrection, eternal life is given to all believers, including homosexuals. God is no longer angry with us. If only a trace of anger remained, then nobody would be saved, as everyone of us have broken the Law, even by a minor stumble (James 2:10). If God is no longer angry with us, then we have no grounds for homophobia, whichever form it takes. No person has any right to shun a homosexual, or to refuse friendship. If God loves that person enough for Christ to die for him, then he is no worse than anyone else, for without Christ, we are all guilty of sin. That's why I find people like Franklin Graham, alongside with Fred Phelps of Topeka, Steven Anderson of Phoenix, and Roger Jimenes of Sacramento, to have taken a bad attitude towards gays, singling out their sin for special condemnation and to hold special prayers to "pray away the gay" in them without paying too much attention to these other "secret sins" lurking among their hearers. Then we wonder why gays are so hostile to the Gospel.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Sitting on a Park Bench...

Retirement certainly has its benefits! No more getting up in the mornings to survey the weather, and then after breakfast and Bible reading, having to hobble off to where my ladders and associate equipment had always awaited my arrival. But then again, retirement is a constant reminder that as each day comes and goes, every morning as I look into the bathroom mirror, I could see that I'm not getting any younger. Instead, I watch as I gradually age and my awareness of the grave approaching remains an inescapable reality.

Therefore, together with having to take five different pills everyday for life, I also accept my GP's recommendations seriously enough to visit the gym twice a week for a thorough two-hour workout. Other days of the week I put on my hiking boots and saunter off to Nowhere - just for the benefit of exercise. Then as if the icing on the cake, each Sunday I crack off five miles on the bicycle for church before repeating the journey home.

What a lovely day it was during the week as towards the end of one of those walks, when I paused at a park bench located within a copse of tall trees, mostly silver birch, but with a variety of other species too. It was while I was sitting to rest, pray and meditate, that a powerful thought crossed my mind:
God is not angry with me anymore. His wrath is completely removed.
His wrath against sin completely removed. Not only from me, not only from all other believers, but for the whole world. At this point a verse of Scripture comes to mind: 2 Corinthians 5:19 - To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (AV).

Although I was fully aware of this verse for many, many years, this time it was almost like a Damascus Road experience, the kind both Paul the Apostle and Reformer Martin Luther had experienced. God is not angry at us anymore! I think this is so difficult to take in. For example, all I had to do was Google Once Saved Always Saved, and 6,960,000 results appear in just half a second. And two of my blogs on the subject appears on the first page. But directly above my link there was one submitted by the Assemblies of God church, thoroughly debunking the concept of Once Saved Always Saved. And above that, another link to the Watchtower Society also led to a rebuke against the doctrine. By scrolling down the listing, I could see that the vast majority of links led to articles debunking Once Saved Always Saved.

And these articles weren't necessarily written by laymen. Rather they were written by church pastors and roving ministers, some of them even holding a doctorate. By reading some of their articles, I have come to the conclusion that they centre their opinions on three main New Testament passages: Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:8-10, and Hebrews 6:4-6. Other verses are quoted as well, including Philippians 2:12, where we are exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Ah, the threat of Hell-fire yet again! 

And so it is easy for them to assume that once you are saved, you will always be saved. Therefore eat, drink and be merry, for Heaven is guaranteed. Go out and revel in your sin - wine, women and song for you - as one eternally saved, you have no fear or worry about the consequences. Really. These pastors, teachers, and academics, some having the title Dr. in front of their names - come on! Are they so ignorant? How could I ask this about such a well-educated person? And with such teaching prevailing throughout our churches, what has come out of all this?

The most obvious reason for advocating Once Saved Always Saved, also known as Eternal Security of the Believer, is because God is omniscient. That means that God not only knows absolutely everything which is happening at this moment, but everything that will happen in the future. And that includes the life of every single individual who are yet to be born. And that where ignorance among these academics kicks in. With the abundance of prophecy found in the Bible, many which are already fulfilled with startling accuracy, can they really believe that God does not know what a person, especially a Christian, is going to do next? Especially if the believer is fully acquitted, has the imputed righteousness of Christ credited to him, a new creation, reborn of the Spirit, and adopted into God's family as a gift from the Father to the Son, and becomes a citizen of Heaven.

Then God himself being gullible as he is, a believer falls into sin which remains unconfessed, and he slips into apostasy. Then God has to undo everything he has already done - first he would impute his sin upon him, making his imputed righteousness of Christ null and void. Then somehow become unborn. Then he would remove the Holy Spirit from him, next he is disenfranchised from God's family and left to be claimed by the Devil again. Finally, he loses all his inheritance and has only the consequence of eternal loss. Talking of the Devil, this shows that Satan is stronger than God himself, whom with his lack of foreknowledge, the Almighty does not know what's going to happen next! Really, does the atonement made by Jesus Christ on the cross have any power at all?

Can you see what wretched blasphemy all this is? Yet doctors of theology constantly preach and write such heresy, knowing that they will be listened to, just because of who they are. And the average Christian bow the knee to their authority, not because of a sound knowledge of the Bible but through admiration of the preacher's academic background. 

But where does it, for example, leave me and many other Christians? Or, for example, someone who is homosexual? That is a case in point, because this is mentioned in Romans 1:18-32. Generally, the LGBT community is hostile to God and the Bible, because on how the churches quote these Scriptures as proof  of their sin without assurance that God has already made peace with them, and he is no longer angry with them. They don't need to be told that what they are doing is wrong. Instead they need the love of God through faith in Christ. So this gay man has faith in Christ, but despite all assurances from the rest in the fellowship, he will be aware that he will be peered at from the corner of the eye by not a few with a Pharisaic attitude. 

The worst thing about being gay is that it is not out of personal choice to have his libido excited by a presence of someone of the same gender. It just happens, even without initial intention. And he was aware of his orientation from childhood without making any conscious choice to be gay or straight. Then an elder, pastor or visiting speaker raises the issue on how wrong and sinful homosexuality is. Of course, the speaker is a married man with children, and when he gets into bed later in the evening, he can enjoy his relationship with his wife without a strand of guilt and with full approval from God. The homosexual is fully aware of this. However if a dashing young man also walks in and he is sexually stimulated, the feeling of guilt within the crowd could well make him feel uneasy. Quite likely he has that longing wish to be "normal" with a wife and family. Instead, he listens to a guest speaker condemning homosexuality as a serious sin, yet still uttering the inept statement "to love the person, hate the sin" - and quoting Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:8-10 and Hebrews 6:4-6 as proof-texts that either he was never saved in the first place or he is in danger of losing his salvation.

The homosexual feels trapped, and cannot enjoy a loving relationship with Jesus Christ in the same way as the heterosexual speaker can. Oh, it's all very well for him! His wife will be waiting for him in bed. But for the gay, he feels trapped and cannot find a way out of his natural orientation. Rather, knowing and being fully aware that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself and not imputing their trespasses against them will go a long way towards personal holiness. 

It is human nature to anthropomorphise God. That is to liken God to "a big man" in the sky with human attributes and characteristics. True enough, we are made in his image. We have his threefold characteristic of thought, emotion and free will. Also, like him, each man is a trinity, having spirit, soul, and body, just as God himself is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But we are not omnipresent, neither omniscient, nor omnipotent. And because of our fallen state, by nature we don't have his holiness either, but we do have a sense of morality put in us by God himself and a conscience to bear witness of this morality. If, as an example, my natural father had been overbearing, then it's most likely that I would perceive God in the same way - overbearing.

The idea of a Holy God reconciling a sinful world to himself without imputation of transgressions is rather too hot to handle. Probably that was why churches has struggled with this throughout the centuries, even to this day. The trouble which such struggling is eventually the rise of the Pharisee. And sadly enough, the Pharisee is not confined to some Jews living at the time of Christ. They are with us now, sitting in the same church as the rest of us. They debunk any idea of Once Saved Always Saved, they make great efforts to keep the Law, they are prone to be judgemental towards those who don't fit their model, and they are great believers in nationalism, classism, and culture. And they have a strong dislike for mavericks. 

And that is why not everyone likes me in our fellowship. I'm too much of a free-thinker. Pedantic too. And perhaps quite controversial. I stick up to by beliefs. More important, I will always uphold the historicity and verity of Holy Scripture. If the Bible teach that the Earth is only six thousand years old, then it's only six thousand years old. If the Bible imply eternal security of the believer, then I'm willing and ready to stand up and face down anyone who thinks otherwise, no matter how clever he might be or where he attended university. I would be willing to rebuke a doctor for dishonouring God in such a despicable way by teaching salvation by works, and placing a stumbling block at his hearers and hindering them from walking in holiness, which is the same as walking in love, as God himself is love.

I guess I am who I am. I stand up to what I think and feel. If some people don't like it - tough! I love independent travel, I love my church, I believe in hugging, I love the spirit of internationalism because that is a far better representative of the Kingdom of God than nationalism, especially here in England with its isolationist bulldog spirit which breeds hatred, prejudice and even physical violence. Not exactly godly, is it? And I am convinced that this "bulldog spirit" is actually a demonic entity dwelling invisibly in the air. After all, by deceiving people with pride, self-confidence and optimism, along with a history of imperialism sustained by Darwinism, this entity continues to send up to 95% of Brits into a lost eternity. It is a dreadful thought. Facing such a startling reality gives me no pleasure. Indeed, this is an awful and sorrowful tragedy. But it does not have to be this way. Instead, as I already mentioned in my last blog, anyone can come to Jesus Christ and be saved. Even if this means learning about who he is and what he has achieved by his sacrifice made on the cross for us, his burial, and three days on, his resurrection, conquering death and making eternal life accessible to all believers.

And then to change his mind to believe in his heart that this Jesus of Nazareth is the risen Christ, the Son of God. We call this change of mind Repentance. And here is something I still find very difficult to understand: If God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and not imputing their trespasses against them, then how is it that the vast majority of Brits are heading for a lost eternity?

The best illustration is at a Magistrate's Court. The defendant is proved guilty of a crime serious enough for a death penalty. However, his uncle, totally innocent of any offence, steps in and offers to die in his place. Therefore his uncle is executed and the defendant is free to go. But to be set free he has to accept it. But he doesn't. Instead he insist that his uncle was telling porkies. Eventually the judge had no other option but to execute him. Such a needless tragedy! 

Such as the state of Britain, deceived by the lie of Darwinism.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The Cliff, the Beach, and the TV.

Perhaps as any married couple would agree, that taking a break and going somewhere for a few days, a week, or even a fortnight, is a nuptial booster and a marriage refresher. So it was with us. And what better place for us was at that part of the world well known for its geological magnificence and uniqueness, together with beautiful people. And that is at the length of coastline stretching from Christchurch, through to Boscombe, Bournemouth, and Swanage. Of the four place names, only the resort of Swanage can be regarded as part of the true historic Dorset, as I recalled the other three resorts as being in Hampshire, and therefore sharing the same county as the heavy shipping docks of Southampton, and the naval centre of Portsmouth, before the boundary change which occurred on April 1st, 1974 which took in Bournemouth, Boscombe, and Christchurch as the three towns of the new East Dorset.

Thus, in 1962, when I was a nine-year-old London schoolboy, our primary school took us to Swanage for a two-week educational trip shortly before the Summer closure. Immediately I was impressed with both the chalk cliff of Ballard Down to our left as we looked out to sea, and the smaller, more built-on Purbeck limestone promontory of Peveril Point to our right, which were actually to the north and to the south of Swanage respectively, as this particular stretch of English coastline faced east rather than south, with the far-away outline of the chalk cliffs of West Wight appearing on the horizon on any clear day.

It was when our strict teachers got us all in twos, making a neat double line, that we began walking along Peveril Point that as I glanced towards Ballard Point on the other side of the bay, that this unique phenomenon occurred. And that was the gradual appearing of the Foreland and Old Harry Rock, very much like a telescope slowly extending from behind the main cliff. Then when we returned to town, the cliff slowly telescoped back behind Ballard Point, as if it was never there. This unique geological phenomenon has stuck with me ever since, with memories of such a view remaining with me throughout my childhood, extending into adulthood. Rather surprisingly though, our teachers, who were pretty good in smacking our bottoms, did not explain anything to us when I asked, maybe due to their lack of local knowledge of the area to fill this curious young mind. Either that, or we were perceived by them as too immature to understand a little of geology combined with vectorisation.

Ballard Down Cliff, viewed from the town and from Peveril Point.

This geological curiosity has enabled me to visit this area many times over, and staying at Swanage Youth Hostel, I took walks along the chalk Down and followed the trail running along the edge to Old Harry Rock, then onwards into Studland Bay, north of Ballard Down. In the other direction from Swanage, the trail winds around Peveril Point, over the grey Purbeck cliffs of Durlston Bay until reaching Durlston Head with its castle-like restaurant and coffee bar perched on the clifftop, then the trail swings left as the coast, from this point remaining preserved by the hard and resistant Portland Stone cliffs, resumes in facing south over the Channel, eventually towards the resort and harbour of Weymouth, passing along spectacular but strenuous rises and dips which makes up the Jurassic Coast, now a World Heritage Site.

Just a little past Durlston Head the loud fog-horn of Anvil Point Lighthouse wails across the sea on one foggy morning back in the 1980's. And I can interpret this as a wail of mourning - after all, the whole of the Jurassic coast, stretching from Studland Bay, taking in Old Harry Rocks, Swanage itself, all the way past Weymouth towards Lyme Regis which borders with Devon - is one huge graveyard. Fossils of dead marine life tells me of a long-forgotten world which was drowned by a global Flood. It is throughout my life as a Christian who believes in the historicity of the Bible, that the whole of the Jurassic coastline held a fascination over me, combined with a sense of universal mourning, and a deep feeling of curiosity on how that forgotten world must have looked, once so fresh from initial Creation.

This Flood which wiped out the first world, all because of human wickedness which came dangerously close to eliminating the Messianic Line from Adam to Christ. Had that line been cut, then the initial Promise would have been broken, and we would all be left in our sins to face Judgement. And that would have included Abraham, Moses, David, all the prophets, and every saint recorded in the New Testament ending up in Hell, neither would churches exist to this day. Indeed, the Flood and the Holy Spirit working through Noah's faithfulness had played an important role towards our redemption. Yet the fog-horn wails, one mighty blast following another, an endless chain of loud blasts echoing across the landscape and sea alike, as if weeping over the huge graveyard that was once such a beautiful antediluvian world.

As such a combination of a fascinating coastal landscape combined with Biblical revelation has always attracted me to this part of the world, and therefore it's no surprise that we have been visiting as a married couple more than once. Even right up to this week. We stayed at a hotel accessible for wheelchair users which was close to the shore on the East Cliff of Bournemouth. From there we spent a full day at Swanage under glorious sunshine, and once again for the umpteenth time I watched the Foreland and Old Harry Rocks telescope out from the end of Ballard cliff as we walked along towards Peveril Point. 

But it was on the next day when we took a stroll eastwards towards Boscombe that we came across a large crowd of what appears to be foreign students, some of them engaged in beach volleyball. Although many spoke English, I can tell by their accents that these were not home-born. There was a very cheerful atmosphere as they all enjoyed each other's company. I could not help but feel my heart warm towards them. Among them there was no sign of aggression, no disputes, apparently no drugs or even alcohol, just joy shared among them, with a few cooking food over a small bonfire on the sandy beach. There was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was preparing to set, the distant view of the Isle of Wight on the horizon looked more stunning than ever.

I thought, Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the churches had that same joyous contentment. No theological disputes between denominations, no judging over other members, non of this Pharisaic behavioural attitude constantly pouring over us every time I walk into church, no peering with condemnation out of the corner of the eye, no fussy dress codes, no hatred, no division. Just joy and sweet fellowship. If only every one of these beautiful people knew Jesus Christ as their Saviour! All each has to do is to believe that the crucified Jesus is the risen Christ, and to trust in him. It is that easy. And each one would be forever saved, being eternally adopted as a child of God.

These people on the beach were not hippies, I assume they were students. But they represent an international unity, including any of the British among them. And I have no reason to doubt whether there were any English students or by-passers among them. It was a very happy atmosphere. Furthermore, there was not a single shirt-and-tie to be seen among them. Many wore tee-shirts, others singlets or tank-tops, others were topless altogether. But those who were engaged in the volleyball looked be be quite committed to the game. Then I made a mental comparison with the reputation the English have while abroad. Unfortunately not so much with beach volleyball or backpacking as drunken revelry which is a quick lead into violence and hospital visits. And with such a stinking reputation, many, if not most of them, would be Brexit voters who "despise foreigners".  

Boscombe - Overseas students enjoy an evening on the beach.

And so we began to make our way back to our hotel, we passed some elderly Jews.
Alex then asked, What can I say to the Jews that would please them?
I answered, Greet them with "Shalom" - which means "Peace".

There must be a Jewish community east of Bournemouth, because we encountered several more Jews as we headed back.
"Shalom." Alex greeted.
"Shalom." was their reply.

I was pushing Alex's wheelchair up a cliff face switchback walk. As I was struggling a little, a couple of gentlemen in red tee-shirts approached us, offering their help with the wheelchair. Although I turned down their offer, whilst sitting on a bench to rest, we struck up a conversation, with them admitting they were Christians.
"Yes, we are Christian believers too." I replied.
We already knew that. One of the men answered. When we first saw you, our spirits testified that you are both believers. God bless you, God indeed bless you both!

We arrived back at our hotel and turned on the TV in time for the 10.00 News. After the end of the bulletins, David Dimbleby's Question Time followed. Among those on the panel was Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg, a startlingly handsome youngish Etonian who was smartly dressed in suit and tie, constantly repeating his defence that "We will be stronger out of Europe." Despite so many different questions thrown at him by the audience, the MP kept on repeating the same words like a drugged up mantra. And whenever he kept on repeating the same words, he received a greater applause from his supporters in the audience. The subject was about how our economy would fare after leaving the European Union. And all he could answer was, We will be stronger out of Europe. He then insists that We will fulfil the will of the people. The will of the people?

No, at 52/48% to leave the EU - that, in my opinion, is not "the will of the people." 52% over 48% is too narrow a margin to be called "The will of the people." Now if the result was more like 65% over 35%, or dare say 75% over 25%, then that would be more akin to "the will of the people" - not merely a margin of just 4%. 

But Rees-Mogg continues to use this statistic to defend his point. But he would not bring himself to the real reason why we must leave. And that is pride in national sovereignty and xenophobic nationalism as a whole. Rees-Mogg knows that such a reason given to leave the EU would stir angry debate from the opposition. Rather than face such hostility, this member of Parliament ducks out of the debate during the TV programme. 

I sat on the bed feeling despondent, if not actually angry. Because, after reaching the dizzying heights of the joys of holiday spirit, including the Bible's revelation of Creation and Noah's Flood in the stunningly beautiful coastline of Southern England, along with the camaraderie and happy atmosphere felt among international students, I come crashing down back to Earth! The real world taps on my shoulder to remind me just where I am.  

I suppose that there is some similarity between Rees-Mogg and the opinions of many traditional churchgoers. Even in my own church, because of my maverick standing, I feel constantly watched by a cowardly Pharisee who also attends the same fellowship. His attitude reflects his own perception of God - a very unlovable deity who is quick to judge and send to Hell anyone who strays from the faith or even thinks and behaves at odds with our national culture. The sort of entity from whom I would run away, be in fear of punishment, not having in my heart to worship with loving awe. Exactly the kind of "god" who has spawned generations of atheists throughout history. Yet the apostle John has written that this is how we know that we are true children of God: To believe that Jesus is the risen Christ and to love one another (1 John 5:1). To believe that Jesus is the risen Christ regenerates the heart, and the fruit of this regeneration is to love my brethren, fellow believers in Christ. Therefore I cannot dislike this Pharisee, but only wish, and maybe pray too, for a reconciliation. But for this to happen, a radical change in his perception of God must first take place in his heart. 

England has some stunningly beauty spots - Dorset being one of these places. The sort of venues I have no hesitation in visiting over and over again. And England acts as host to a multitude of foreign students who can teach us a lesson or two about social respect and joy with each other's company without discrimination and prejudice. Some thing many of our traditional churches can learn a thing or two.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Problem with Jimmy...

I was feeling rather nervous as I stood alone at the arrival's lounge of Ben Gurion Airport. It was already dark outside and I wanted to get to my final destination, Jerusalem. Not seeing any buses waiting outside, I had little option but to hail a cab. During a talk with the driver, he suggested the Ron Hotel at Jaffa Road. With no accommodation already booked, this rather naive 23-year old backpacker accepted the driver's suggestion, although still dreading how much the taxi fare from the airport was going to affect his rather limited budget.

I was dropped off at the front of the hotel, and then asked at Reception whether there was a room available. There was, and I eventually settled down on the wide double bed at a room upstairs. As I rested after such a journey from London Heathrow, suddenly from outside - BOOM! The loud sound of gunfire from a powerful weapon nearby has made me quickly realise that this was no holiday resort populated with nice young people enjoying a beach party. This was practically a war zone, with the conflict between the Israeli and Palestinians remain ongoing despite the winning of East Jerusalem, with its ancient and medieval Old City, from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day war.  

The Ron Hotel is located at Jaffa Road at the junction with Ben Yehuda Street, with Zion Square at the intersection. Back in 1976, traffic flowed through Ben Yehuda Street, making it a busy highway.* A rather long walk eastwards along Jaffa Road took me close to Jaffa Gate, on the west side of the Old City. It was thanks to the June 1967 Six-Day War, that the wall partitioning the Old City from the modern West Jerusalem was torn down, no longer with the need to cross the international border into the neighbouring Arab nation of Jordan in order to enter the Old City. With Jewish Israel and Arab Jordan being enemies back then, such a border crossing would have been nigh impossible, even among tourists. Instead, back in 1976, thanks to the War victory, I was able to enter the Old City from West Jerusalem as easily as walking through a garden gate, while carrying what was then the Israeli Pound for currency, a throwback from the British Mandate which ended May 14 1948, when the sovereign state of Israel came into being for the first time since 586 BC.

Inside Hezekiah's Tunnel beneath Jerusalem Old City, 1976

Two more trips to Israel followed, the next was in 1993 after receiving a vision in October of the previous year. This time, after alighting from the Egged Bus from Tel Aviv, the only major change was that Ben Yehuda Street was pedestrianised, forming a pleasant traffic-free shopping mall. Also within the Old City, the central gutter which was the prominent feature of every narrow Medieval street were all paved in, leaving outlines coursing through the centre of such narrow streets. Also many of these narrow streets were roofed over. Pungent smells of spice filled the air, as just about every shop at one street sold their own version of the herb, while at another street was the meat market, including whole heads of sheep, complete with their skins, hanging at the shop front awaiting purchase. But as with 1976, in 1993 we pedestrians still had to give way to those wheeled carts carrying merchandise to the shops. These carts were each drawn by a donkey and were driven by an excited boy, constantly shouting us all out of his way. It was also here, at Souq David, a short distance within Jaffa Gate, that I came across a small Medieval hotel-turned backpackers hostel which was to become my home for the next two weeks.

Probably why my first trip to the Middle East in 1976 became the talk of the town at the engineering factory where I worked. Fellow employees gasped at my apparent "bravery" in taking such a trip on my own, and not a few asked me questions. Backpacking in the Middle East seem to have been relatively unknown. By 1993 however, we independent travellers were still a minority, and it looked as though the majority of backpackers were unbelievers and not affiliated to any church, synagogue or mosque. But since the 1970's or 80's, holiday companies catering for Christian groups began to grow and flourish, and in the nineties it wasn't unusual to see such groups at various sites of antiquity and religious alike.

For me, backpacking has its own advantages. Such as allowing the land to talk back to me and for me to listen and take note. By staying at a hostel in Jerusalem Old City, the dormitory was Medieval with a domed ceiling, and unlike the traditional HI hostel, the room accommodated both genders, with even couples sleeping on the wide window sill, and at other convenient areas when all the bunk-beds were taken. On one Friday the streets of the Old City were jam-packed with all-male Muslims, all sauntering in one direction towards the Damascus Gate. So thick was the crowd that I had to stroll along at their pace, which gave me the opportunity to "interview" one of them, and find out just where they were all heading. It turned out that they were all heading to the Temple Mount, or to them, the Al-Haram al Sharif, which boast a wide open space surrounding the Dome of the Rock, along with the large Al Aqsa Mosque, backed by the striking golden-brown ridge of the Mount of Olives when bathed in sunshine, this huge square on the eastern edge of the Old City provides much space for their weekly prayers on their Islamic Sabbath.

Temple Mount featuring the Dome of the Rock

What I have already observed both in 1976 and 1993 became even more clear in 1994, on my third trip. Staying at the same hostel in Souq David for a whole month, the effect of the Jewish Sabbath became fully effective. Beginning at Sundown Friday, literally everything shuts down - every shop, every office, every bus disappears, every mode of transport ceases, including private cars. Only a few taxis ply the otherwise deserted streets. West Jerusalem becomes a ghost town, along with all other settlements right across Israel. There was even one occasion, whilst the more orthodox population of Jews were celebrating the start of their Sabbath at the Western Wall, that one family kept on looking at me with a degree of hostility. Fortunately for me, there standing by was one young man whom I approached. I asked him if there was an issue with the family. After a word with them, he approached me with the explanation that by carrying my camera strapped across my shoulder, I was looked upon as working. My intercessor diffused the situation by explaining to these orthodox Jews that although I'm at a holy site, I was non-Jewish. They smiled and walked away. Phew! And so for the next twenty-four hours the whole of Israel lies still and quiet until sundown Saturday when the whole city comes alive. Shops open, people fill the sidewalks and shopping mall, cars and buses ply the roads, and life resumes to beat on.

This was while Yitzak Rabin, the Labour Prime Minister of Israel, was holding his Cabinet meeting at the Ron Hotel which caused a significant set of events in 1994. Throughout the day, countless Jews, every one of them wearing a white shirt, black trousers and a black yarmulke, headed for the Western Wall. Since I was fascinating to watch such crowds of Jewish men march fearlessly through an Arab city, I took the opportunity to follow these Jews to see for myself what they were up to. I took a position at the opposite side of the plaza for a grand view of the procession. A huge crowd of Jews were praying at the Western Wall, the numbers so great that the crowd formed a sea of black and white. Behind me a TV cameraman was on duty, and being a Sabbath, this did not strike well with the Orthodox Jews near him. He had to stop filming when one or two of the Jews actually picked up stones to use as fuselage!

That evening at sundown, after enquiring on what was going on, I made my way to Zion Square, which was at the intersection of Jaffa Road with Ben Yehuda Street. The mass of people were concentrated at the Ron Hotel, where the Prime Minister was having his Cabinet meeting. How strange, coming to think of it, that only eighteen years earlier I actually slept at that same hotel. TV cameras were everywhere, and large posters were seen here and there. Right behind me and directly opposite the hotel was one rather large banner. It featured a crude but fully recognisable outline of Yitzak Rabin in the process of being sodomised by PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Presently the banner was set alight admit cheers from the watching crowd. I couldn't help feeling rather claustrophobic as I felt squeezed within the crowd as the flames reached upward. A while later I decided to gently elbow my way through the mass of people until I was free to make my way back to the hostel through the empty and deserted street of the Old City.

Listen, and the land will speak to you. Both the mass prayer at the Western Wall and the public demonstration at Zion Square were about the Government's proposal for the Palestinians to set up their own headquarters in East Jerusalem - practically the undoing of the Six-Day War victory in 1967. Little wonder that there was high resentment among the Israelis over such a proposal.

The Jews, God's holy nation with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their founding fathers, whose tombs are marked by their cenotaphs located at Hebron. They are the people who were, and are, custodians of the Law of Moses. It is to them the true meaning of holiness and the reality of sin were delivered. And it was to them, and them only, that various ceremonials were delivered, including the Sabbath, Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, and the Jubilee year. Some excellent laws that would benefit both for health and prosperity were also delivered to the Hebrews only, although we as non-Jews can benefit from them as well. But we as Christian believers, there is a problem. According to Paul's letter to the Galatians, in 3:10 and 5:3, there is the emphasis that whoever wants to hold on to the Law must keep the whole Law, or else he is cursed! James has also written that whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles at just one point has broken the whole Law (James 2:10).

So was did I feel somewhat aghast when a testimony was circulated in connection with Leviticus 19:23. According to this particular verse in the Old Testament, the first three years of a newly-planted fruit tree is considered "uncircumcised". That is, the fruit must not be eaten at all. Gardeners are not unfamiliar with this issue. According to them, for these first three years, all the flowers must be plucked off the tree with the fingers during full bloom and before the flower wilts. This will add strength and vitality to the tree for future fruition. But to allow the tree to fruit but refrain from eating is not keeping the Law at all, even if all the fruit is collected into a bowl and given out to other people. The same can be said, for example, the annual Passover meal. If a non-Jew eats the Passover without circumcision for all male members of the family, then he is committing a serious sin, because according to Exodus 12:48, this meal is forbidden to all non-Jews, unless he is first circumcised.

The same can be said about the beard. According to Leviticus 19:27, even the beard must not be trimmed or its edges cut. This looks so insignificant to modern day thinking, and I wonder whether anyone who is clean-shaven will go to Hell after death for breaking this particular law! To be honest, I have pondered why this rule mattered, for in 1979 I grew a beard for several months, and I found out through experience that I didn't like it, especially with the occasional itching. Then a few years ago I grew a moustache, which not only did I find somewhat uncomfortable but my wife didn't like it either. I can only speculate that the reason why God commanded Hebrew men to grow and cultivate a beard was to identify them as Israelites. A kind of a natural uniform to separate them and distinguish them from the heathen, especially the Canaanites, whose idolatry and superstitions would have been a snare.

I think that this is a plausible theory. While I was in Israel, especially in 1993 and 1994, I saw that every orthodox Jewish male wore white shirt, black trousers, a yarmulke, and sported a beard. If I was to see a person looking like that anywhere around the world, I would immediately identify him as an orthodox Jew. Even as far away as the USA, Australia, New Zealand, as well as here in the UK, it is very easy to identify a Jewish man. Even a boy can be easily distinguished by his skullcap. 

Orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall, taken 1994.

However, the Law is the Law. James has written that if one kept the whole Law but stumbles at just one point, he has broken all of it. He becomes a lawbreaker, he has broken the law. And the consequence of this is to face judgement, just as in our Courts at present. In his opening verse of his letter, James makes clear that he was addressing Hebrew readers: To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, (James 1:1), that is the Diaspora. These Jewish readers were fully familiar with their Hebrew Scriptures, including those issues concerning Passover, the Feast of Weeks, Succoth, fruit trees, what to wear and not to wear, the beard, how not to grow crops, along with favouritism forbidden (James' favourite topic) along with moral laws dealing with theft, adultery, murder, biased scales and other issues. 

I think that is to boast that one has kept one item of the Law, when actually, that particular issue was not carried out according to the Scripture, is dangerous, fails to edify his hearers, and prone to make the testifier self-righteous, judgemental toward others, and what I have seen, deep into classism and favouritism. As Paul had written, the Law kills, but faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and walking in the Spirit of Christ brings life and spiritual refreshment to all around him.


*According to Google Maps, the names of these locations looks to have changed since our last visit in the year 2000, with the Ron Hotel looking like if no longer in existence, together with further main roads since developed.  

Saturday, 24 June 2017

A Child's Cry.

As our home is one of a block of fully-attached terraced houses, it is not unusual for noise from neighbours at either side to penetrate our rather thin walls. Only a couple of weeks ago we were disturbed by the thumping of drums issuing from the powerful high-fidelity music system owned by one of our neighbours. The continuous deep-bass thumping had not only irritated me, but vibrations can be literally felt in our lounge and Alex my wife started to suffer from headaches. This was enough for me having to handwrite a kind letter explaining the situation with a request to turn down the bass tone. Within minutes of posting the letter through their front door, all felt silent. Since then, only occasionally was I able to hear a much tinnier version of what they were playing next door, at a much more tolerable noise level.

However, our neighbour on the opposite side of us happen to run a private daycare business for young children of working mothers. Although quiet at weekends, lately we were both disturbed by an apparent new arrival - a child no more than two years old at a guess, and could be considerably younger. So for several mornings we could hear constant crying, the child screaming out,
Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!...

To hear such wailing can only bring distress. Although out of our sight, our imaginations are vivid with mental pictures of a helpless toddler sitting on the floor, a toy or an uneaten sandwich between his legs, loudly crying his eyes out whilst arms outstretched, longing for his mother's presence during whom she sits alone in her car, driving to her office to face another day. How helpless have I felt, how sad, how distressing. And I wonder how many times this sort of thing is repeated across the country, and particularly in the Home Counties, where we live.

The normal explanation given by mothers for this scenario is that she has to work, otherwise her husband's sole income would not be sufficient enough to support the home budget. Although in some cases this may indeed be true, I can't help feeling a degree of scepticism over their universal "must work or go broke" excuse. And this feeling of scepticism could apply even more here in the prosperous South of England. In this day of female academic success, the real reason why they feel that they "must work" is to pursue their career prospects. That covetous career ladder for which these past three years spent at university, along with the dizzyingly high college fee debt hanging over their heads, certainly makes the prospect of promotion worthy of pursuit, even to the cost of the child's emotional welfare.

So what I have read in the past,* the child's most important years of his life are the first five years spent at home with Mother. One striking example can be found in the early chapters of Exodus. In the second chapter we have a married couple, Amram (meaning the Exalted one) and his wife Jochebed (meaning God's glory). Having given birth to two children already, Aaron and Miriam, their third and youngest child was Moses, which by then the Egyptian Pharaoh had already decreed that all Hebrew boys born must be destroyed. To preserve his life, Jochabed had her son placed in a casket and left to float in the River Nile under the watchfulness of his older sister Miriam. Soon it was spotted by the daughter of Pharaoh, and offered to adopt him into the Royal family. However, Pharaoh's daughter needed a maid to wean him before adoption, and after Miriam approach with the offer, the infant was committed to his own mother to wean him.

This meant that as the lad began his life in Pharaoh's palace, he was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, the equivalent of a doctorate today. His was also groomed to be the future king of Egypt, and as such, the ruler of the whole known world. As his own Hebrew people sweated under their cruel taskmasters under the hot sunshine, Prince Moses was at his most comfortable ease, reclining in the softness of sofas in the palace. But he never forgot what his parents taught him during his sensitive infant years. He recalls sitting on his mother's lap day after day to be taught with affection about the God of the Hebrews, and of the Covenant made with his forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and how one of Jacob's sons, Joseph, who rescued both Egypt and his own family from starvation by a severe seven-year famine. He recalls his mother escorting the young boy outside, and made to watch his own people suffering under the taskmaster's whip, the groaning under heavy labour, and then turning to look up to his mother, only to watch her face crumple into tears.

"Look, Moses, these are your people, the Hebrews, slaving under the Egyptians's whip."
"Mummy, is Daddy among them, suffering with all the others?"
"Yes sweetheart. Daddy is suffering under the whip with all the rest." 

Jochabed lowers herself to the level of Moses' eyes, tears rolling down her beautiful cheeks.

"Please, my dear son, remember what you have seen today. You are a Hebrew, and these slaves are Hebrews, your fellow countrymen. Soon you must go to Pharaoh's palace. At the palace you will be adopted as an Egyptian and you will learn of their wisdom. But please promise me this."
"What promise, Mummy?"
"That as you grow up in the palace, promise never to forget who you are, who your family are, and who all these slaves are."
"I promise, Mummy."
"One day, sweetheart, you will lead your people out of this land to enter their own land. As I have already told you before, God has revealed this to both Daddy and me at the time you were born."
"I won't forget, Mummy."

As the Prince lounged at ease on the sofa, his head full of the wisdom of the Egyptians, memories of his mother's tutelage were revived, recalling that above conversation a few weeks after his fifth birthday. He also recalled how his mother sat him on her lap every day of his childhood, and with a loving, attentive attitude, taught him everything he needed to know, including his future leadership of his fellow Hebrews, even to the cost of the throne itself. This was the most important time for Moses. Mother and child spending time at home together. Something Moses had never forgotten throughout his life. It was his mother's tutelage which influenced her son's decision to identify himself as one of the Hebrews in expense of the fleeting pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-25) as well as refusing identity as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, hence turning his back on the throne so he could suffer with God's people. Such was the mother's influence towards his young upbringing!

This story tells a great deal. From this I have come to the conclusion that it is a privilege for a mother to bring up her child in a godly manner at home, which to me, has far greater honour than seeking promotion at the office, especially as her toddler cries for her whilst in the hands of strangers. Then to add to this - if finance is the reason for the need to work away from home, then such a reason is weakened by the expense for childcare. It is easy to remember stories appearing in the Media about the income of working women almost swallowed up by childcare expenses. But for many, this is the sacrifice to pay for the chances of office promotion and ascending the career ladder. Then we wonder why these days many children grow up with poor performance at school, emotional imbalances, drug use often riddled with crime, frequent appearances in Court, and a high suicide rate. Such could be the end result of the quest for prominence at the workplace, which also creates a disdain for more menial tasks.

It was like when I was recovering from my heart operation over two years ago. During my three month convalescence period, I paid a visit to one of my window cleaning customers, she being a nurse. During conversation, I asked her whether there is any truth to the rumour that since nursing requires a university degree, many shun the profession, believing that the task of wiping an elderly patient's rear was beneath their academic status. The customer instantly recognised what I was talking about, and gave it a phrase: Too posh to wipe. And yes, she answered that this is one of several core problems with maintaining nursing staff, therefore the heavy reliance on immigrants, as my own experience in hospital can testify.

This obsession with the career ladder also makes me ponder whether that here in the UK alone, up to 200,000 elective abortions are carried annually. 200,000 abortions a year! That is around 548 terminations each day. And that is in Britain only. Mostly for the preservation of the work or social ethic? Really?  This was well dramatised earlier in the week in a series of the BBC soap, EastEnders, where one female character went for an abortion, which she kept secret from her boyfriend, in order not to ruin her chances for office promotion. When I consider these things - leaving a weeping child to the care of strangers, sacrificing part of income to pay for childcare costs, the terrifyingly high numbers of elective abortions - I have wondered whether allowing female students into universities was a wise idea. And I write this with the presupposition that every woman reading this would pick up stones in readiness.

This quest for knowledge and divine power. This strong force driving our hearts upwards at the cost of child upbringing at the tenderest age, along with a high rate of elective abortions, which is the killing of defenceless humans, whose silent scream when faced with extinction cannot be heard except by God alone. The crave for promotion, to rise from the ranks, to attain greater power. Tied in with all this is the desire on a national scale to leave the European Union in order to "have our own country back" with the proud, confident and optimistic hope for not mere survival, but to raise to its former imperial glory, to make Britain "the greatest in the world" free from ethnic and cultural diversity. The cry of "Hurry up, let's be out of there" (the EU) keeps on shouting across right-leaning newspapers, whose journalists are ready to stone anyone who dare oppose the move, dubbing such opposition as "Remoaners" - even "Remainiacs".

No, all this quest to leave the European Union is not so much for the benefit of the Economy, you understand, even if this is one the reasons used to promote Brexit. Rather, its for independent national glory and sovereignty. A reversal to an all-white, home-born, xenophobic Britain, deep in classism, head of the Commonwealth, just one step from being the motherland once again of a worldwide Empire. This bulldog, this massive bulldog, even wearing a tie made from a Union Jack flag, remains the icon of a strong Britain - a powerful force to be reckoned with.

And so we are endlessly fed with such fodder, day in, day out, when I turn the radio on at seven in the morning, whether I turn on the TV at six in the evening, this same, stomach-turning slop comes out of rather than goes into my ears.

No doubt it has all to do with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:4-6, we read (KJV):

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and the tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

If this is history rather than fable, then the serpent is very much alive and speaking to this day. The want for power, the quest for divinity, to rise from the ranks, to be someone, a man or woman of renown - isn't all this coming from the mouth of the snake? For the need to believe in Evolution, to evolve forever upward from a single cell amoeba to some superhuman deity with supernatural powers - isn't that the serpent talking? Or for the importance of knowledge above character? University knowledge, a degree, a doctorate, whilst confining the Scriptures to the realm of myth - serpent talking again? The wanting to climb the career ladder, to reach for the top? The bulldog spirit of national glory and sovereignty - without the need for God - snake talking again? I tend to think that the British bulldog is a spirit, an invisible entity in the air, a fellow fallen angel and assistant to the serpent, who is continually enticing our nation to stay away from the truth of the Gospel and replacing it with self confidence, pride and optimism, using Darwinism as its bedrock.

Frightened children left with strangers, the wailing cry of Mummy! Mummy! Mummy! heard through the wall and from the neighbouring back garden, the rivers of flowing tears, the number of abortions and silent screams reaching well into the thousands, much if not all, to climb the career ladder to power just as the snake had promised to Adam and Eve. Added to all that is the collective aspiration for national glory, strength and supremacy.

Contrary to myth and folklore, the serpent is very much alive and talking, enticing even regular churchgoers, and therefore weakening their testimony of the Gospel to the watching world.

*Dr. M. R. DeHaan M.D. The Jew and Palestine in Prophecy, Zondervan Publishing House, 1950,  11th Reprint 1972.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Angry at God.

Poor Noah! He was pretty well screwed up during the years following the Flood. How just one or two verses can reveal a great deal about a saint's personal life. No matter how faithful a believer can be, God is always patient and accepting.

When I first started to read the Old Testament book of Genesis, three issues had crossed my mind. First this Noah in a large houseboat featuring the long necks of two giraffes peering over the parapet wasn't quite a complete fairy tale after all, since the narrator writes with serious historical intention. Secondly, Noah appears to be alone, rather like an orphan, in a hostile antediluvian society. And thirdly, I assumed that his father Lamech has been dead for decades, and he is the last of his generation, alone with his wife and his three already-married but still childless sons. However, back in those days a question still loomed in my mind, recently asked by a sneering atheist at work, on where Cain had gotten his wife.

Getting stuck into this first book of the Bible, it is the provision of carefully-preserved genealogical records which has thrown much light into the narration. Not only can the question of Cain's wife be adequately answered, but the issue also hints of a massive population explosion not long after the Fall. Adam must have fathered far more than just Cain and Abel before the birth of Seth. Within the first 130 years of his life, an unspecified number of unnamed sons and daughters must have been born from Eve's womb. Not to have done so would have violated the specific commandment given to them by God himself - to procreate and populate the Earth (Genesis 1:26-28).

By the time Noah was born, both his father Lamech, along with his unnamed mother were alive and well, together with his peculiarly-named grandfather Methuselah, and his unnamed grandmother. The name Methuselah might well have raised the curiosity of young Noah, combined with the revelation given at his birth that he is destined to bring relief from the hard toil resulting from the cursed ground. Even from a young age, Noah already knew that the name Methuselah means At my death comes the waters. Combined with his own destiny, he was aware that something drastic will happen later in his life. Just a casual reading of the genealogical records narrated in the fifth chapter will reveal that right up to the start of the Flood, Noah was not the lonely orphan I first perceived him to have been. Here we are told that apart from the birth of Lamech, Methuselah had other sons and daughters, therefore the youngster growing up into a family of aunts and uncles. Then Lamech himself had other sons and daughters, supplying Noah with brothers and sisters, and perhaps nephews and nieces too. Indeed, if cousins are to be included, Noah grew up in a very large family.

The sudden death of Lamech after a comparatively moderate age of 777 years might well have answered Noah's begging question: Would his parents drown in the Flood? With the Ark nearing completion, all eyes were on his grandfather Methuselah. As the white-haired and white bearded grandfather's face displayed more wrinkles by the day, Noah had no option but to ensure the timely completion of his vessel, and that despite the ridicule thrown at him by those he loved, and the shaking of heads by other relatives who had confined him to the realm of lunacy. Then suddenly one morning, Methuselah was found dead in his bed. Noah flew into panic. His ark wasn't quite ready. That was when God revealed to him that seven more days were to elapse before the waters arrived, enough time to cross the t's and dot the i's, five years after the death of his father Lamech.

As the storms raged outside, Noah must have felt very lonely and disturbed as the ark rocked about whilst afloat on the shoreless ocean. It wasn't that long after the door finally closed, sealing them in, when massive earthquakes, roaring rumbles of thunder, water and even volcanic lava gushing out of the ground, that he heard his own panicking brothers and sisters, along with their screaming offspring, grandchildren, and maybe even their great grandchildren, together with his aunts, uncles, and cousins, all calling out his name and begging for the door to be opened. But as fists punched the outside of the hull, Noah knew well enough that the door cannot be opened. Such would jeopardise everyone else within, along with all the livestock. His own wife tried to comfort him, along with attempted encouragement from his three sons and their wives. But as the livestock drifted into hibernation for the duration, a certain stillness ensued, save from the turbulence of the waters outside. If only his relatives believed his message and entered the Ark whilst there was still time, instead of mocking and ridiculing! Now it was too late. 

It was over a year later, after having received reassurance, that Noah, his family, and all preserved livestock disembarked somewhere on a high mountain. But even with the happy announcement of the birth of his first grandson Canaan, sired by Ham, he could not alleviate his sorrows as he looked around the deserted land, bereft of all humans other than his own family. Even though he busied himself farming and harvesting grapes, his combined twist of torrid emotions of loneliness and family loss caused him to drink to excess. Whilst lying drunken in his tent, it was likely that his grandson Canaan sexually molested him, making him believe that it was his wife who was trying to revive the old man, while the boy's father looked on with some amusement before calling in his brothers Shem and Japheth.

Then there was no Government ministers to lay the blame on, no street protests, no media, thus there was nobody to blame. As it was, Noah and his family survived a natural disaster, this one so grand that it wiped out the entire human population. Because of their wickedness. And yet, as God made a covenant of the rainbow with Noah and his descendants, God also makes a statement that although the whole of humanity was given a fresh start, the human heart remains evil from youth (Genesis 8:20-22). It was as if the Flood has failed to reform the heart over the coming generations. So why promise never to bring another deluge, despite the natural heart remaining unreformed? I believe that an invasion of fallen angels interbreeding with antediluvian women had very nearly eliminated the Messianic Line, starting with Adam, through Seth, Noah, and through to Jesus Christ (Genesis 6:1-4). This interbreeding between fallen angels and human women produced a race of Nephilim - giants, and maybe together with those weird, cone-headed offspring who had high, above-average intelligence and greater evil, and therefore grew up to be men of great infamy. If the entire human population became infected with such offspring, the Promise of Genesis 3:15 would not have been fulfilled. Since after the Flood, the birth of such offspring apparently remained restricted to the line of Ham through Canaan, and they were to play a role in the discipline of the fledgling nation of Israel, which eventually eliminated them entirely, particularly from Joshua's day through to King Saul's reign. If all this is true, the need for a global Deluge has played a role towards our salvation. 

Since then, natural disasters as unleashed its powers throughout history, although never again to wipe out the entire human race. The natural phenomenon which demolished the Tower of Babel was a natural disaster, along with the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, wiping out the cities of Pompeii, Stabiae, Oplontis, and Herculaneum. Then there was that explosive eruption of Mt. Krakatoa in the Sunda Strait, on August 26, 1886, which wiped out at least 36,417 people at surrounding coast-lands. Then not to mention the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, killing around 3,000 people and flattening 80% of the city. Then within our lifetimes there was the tsunami which epicentre took place in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004, taking up to 280,000 casualties. Then there was the destruction of New Orleans by a tsunami stirred up by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. This disaster took at least 1,245 lives.

Here in the UK nature is far less harsh, befitting the gentle rolling hills and pastures green of rural England. Therefore, disasters here tend to be man-made rather than from the pure wrath of nature. Perhaps the worst was the bubonic plague which struck London between the years 1665 and 1666, taking 100,000 lives, about a quarter of London's population. This disease was spread by fleas biting people after being in contact with infected rats. Natural disaster? In a way, yes, but easily avoidable if only a better knowledge of sanitation was in force. The Bible teaches that human excrement, for example, should be buried in a hole already dug in the ground outside the camp, and then covered over with the soil (Deuteronomy 23:12-13). Instead, human excrement, rotting food and other sources of filth were thrown out from the windows to the street below, festering vermin which spread such fatal illnesses. The Great Fire of London of 1666 was, as I see it, an act of God's grace and mercy. This disaster took very few casualties, but destroyed property in abundance - along with the rats which carried the bubonic plague.

However, other than terrorist attacks occurring in America, Europe and Britain alike, the latest disaster now dominate the news bulletins. That is the fire which quickly consumed Grenfell Tower, a residential block occupying the poorer area of London North Kensington, with the wealthy area of Notting Hill just a stone's throw away. Here, the poorer, hard up residents lived cheek by jowl with the mansions owned by the rich. When I read about this, yes I was angry at God himself for allowing the fire to rage the way it did. Why always the poorer people suffer like this? And why such a special favour shown to the better off? Like as in most evangelical churches where the Gospel is shared among the middle classes, graduates and professionals, while at the same time, Islamic and other non-Christian refugees, immigrants, struggling families, and the plebs of society are left to burn alive or die from smoke inhalation without ever a chance to hear the Gospel for themselves. Salt is further rubbed into the wound when I consider that many of the wealthier occupy the pews of Anglican churches - giving the impression that God favours the wealthy and the better educated.

This craziness, this unfairness, this picture of a posh lady praying to God over her choice of a new dress while two to three thousand miles down the road the life of a starving child ebbs away while his mother looks on helplessly. Ditto of another child suffering from malnutrition and AIDS, with no fault of his own, slowly passes away while at that same moment over here, the patriotic Englishman and churchgoer prays and even fast for England to win the World Cup. Something seems rotten here.

Until the full truth comes out.

That is: The fire at Grenfell Tower was the result of cheap flammable cladding covering the outer masonry, so that this 1970's built structure will look more appealing to the nearby wealthy residents. The result of shoddy administration of the authorities plus the sheer greed of the contractors - putting profit above the safety of these pleb residents - extricates any accusation from man's perception of divine unfairness.

Noah had no reason to feel deluded by God's apparent injustice, especially to his wider family. Neither was there a need to harbour and feed those twisted emotions which tormented him. Rather, he should have realised that the terrible catastrophe he was saved from was brought upon antediluvian mankind by their own evil deeds and their own unbelief.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Lud-dum, Lud-dum, Lud-dum...

Around twenty years ago a good Christian friend came round to my bachelor's apartment for a coffee and a chat. He was Grammar school educated, a graduate on Physics, and held down a respectable career in computing. By that particular evening he was already married with two growing children. And he was a very committed member of our church, especially on his emphasis on tithing. He also had a leaning towards Darwin's evolutionary theory in preference over creationism. He was one of many like-minded graduates who populated our congregation every Sunday, along with junior church activity (a modern name for Sunday School teaching) and midweek house-group activity.

Whilst over coffee, he asked me this question:
Why, do you think, we (as a human species) are here?
Without hesitation I quoted the King James' Version of Revelation 4:11:-
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive honour and glory and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Emphasis mine.)
Then I asked him, Does that answer your question?

He was astonished. Here is a self employed window cleaner giving a quick, clean and sensible answer to a question while centuries of philosophers had spent years writing volumes about this question in their more academic attempts to answer, so my friend says. Then I explained to him that it wasn't I who answered as much as the Bible giving answers to many fundamental questions such as why we are here. Then I went on about how I loved the way King James had expressed it - for thy pleasure they are and were created. This was better than all other more modern versions which uses the phrase, for your will they are and were created. But unfortunately, after checking my Interlinear Greek/English New Testament, it turned out that for your will is the correct translation - even if has less of an impact. Indeed, the phrase for your pleasure sounds much nicer.

However, no matter how much or how little of Bible knowledge I may have, I am aware that all of these graduates have a Facebook account. Yet I don't have a Friend connection with any of them, although a quick look at their profiles would reveal quite a number of familiar names on their Friends list of those I knew for up to the past forty years. It's not that I have rejected any of their requests, rather it is that I'm not welcome into their circles, and that includes the chap who called round my apartment that evening. Bible knowledge and spiritual health has nothing to do with it. Rather, it's among these self-reserved, emotionally-restrained, well-educated middle class Englishmen - what a great pity it is when an emotional, intense and maybe outspoken Italian who means what he says, does not fit into the nice, calm, don't-rock-the-boat circle.

Maybe I do get some satisfaction in kicking up the mud, but always for the common good. For example, when a Tory-voting church-goer emphasised the advantages of selling off our public-owned National Health Service, of which funding from the public purse made it the envy of the world, and without stating any benefit such a sell-off to private companies would ensue, I quickly replied that any person, company or corporation investing in the NHS will expect to receive dividends. It is human nature. An individual or group of people will always buy shares with the intention of making a profit. Since the NHS does not produce any saleable products in the way that a factory does, sooner or later the only way that these shareholders will receive any reward for their investments is to start charging patients for treatment. There was no reply from the Conservative church-goer. And I doubt whether any die-hard Tories would mutter a word to counter what I have said.

Then I'm not expected to be believed either. What? A window Cleaner? What does he know? In the world of traditional Englishness, plebs like myself are seen to be bathing in the filthy waters of ignorance, and therefore perceived as too "smelly" to sit in the boardroom among those from an academic, suit-and-tie background. Am I exaggerating? No, I'm not exaggerating! In 1997, after giving a talk at the church pulpit about my travel experience and the Second Advent, I was actually told by one of my listeners that the couple sitting behind him was sneering at my low social status. At another discussion, a devout Englishman, close to my age and who loves to display his emotional reserve, actually boasted that throughout my talk, he was in full concentration of his football team's progress in the national League. Then not to forget the snide I received from one of our former Elders when I proposed to teach a class after a family had nominated me.

I suppose it all comes to our culture of isolationism. Living on an island. By checking the etymology of the word isolation, it does share the same root word as island, which itself is from a word meaning insular. And such as expressed by using proverbs like An Englishman's home is his castle, our emphasis on privacy and self-reserve spills into every aspect of daily living. And that includes the present upheaval of political circumstances centred mainly on Brexit - the national desire to break free from the European Union. Despite all the economic reasons given for its benefit, the underlying emotional factor of Brexit is xenophobia, a fear of foreigners. This fear that these foreigners immigrating here and having something to show us, and therefore our perception of national and racial superiority, together with secure smugness, feels as though they are all under threat. And this threat includes the fear of being told what to do by the European President and his team of unelected civil servants in Brussels. The want of self-rule, independence, as well as the power to police other nations. And as such wanting of national backing and security during her negotiations with Europe, our Prime Minister calls for a snap election, confident that her negotiations in Brussels will be strengthened by overall national reinforcement. Instead, she came unstuck when loss of some of her party seats to the Opposition led to a hung Parliament.   

And so in order for Theresa May to form a new Government, she needs an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. This Brexit-supporting political group was founded in 1971 by a devout Protestant, Reverend Ian Paisley, whose stance was to oppose the Roman Catholic Irish Republic Army. With such religious leanings, it comes as no real surprise that the party, set to shore up May's weakened role as Conservative Prime Minister, has in its membership Young Earth Creationists and a strong attitude against abortions, gays and same-sex marriage. Indeed, I can't help feeling that here in the UK, any popularity D.U.P. may have at present will slide downhill rapidly, especially among the LGBT and feminists alike.

Not that I'm an advocate of voluntary abortions, homosexuality and same-sex marriages. Instead, I believe that pushing personal morality without the love of God through faith in Christ will harden the heart against God and cause him to run towards atheism. On Facebook, I follow a site: Atheists Against Pseudoscientific Nonsense. At present it has 91,430 followers and growing, although I would not be surprised at all if among its followers, there is a number of committed Christians like myself who are also followers - to keep an eye on what the site throws up on the computer screen. One of its main targets is Young-Earth Creationism. Nothing is so laughingly mocked and so debunked as nonsense than believing in supernatural Creation, Adam and Eve, and a global Flood, all within the first ten chapters of Genesis. And it seems ironic that it is here in the UK, well known for its Christian Constitution, that the first seeds of Darwinism was sown here, as Charles Darwin was an Englishman, and his book, On the Origin of Species was written here in English. With former theorists pushed aside, such as Frenchman and atheist Jean Baptiste Lamarck who preceded Darwin, England can be likened to a beating heart pumping blood into its arteries, as the blood of Darwinism flows to the furthermost corners of our planet.

And all this with little realisation that the theory of Evolution completely destroys any historical credibility of the Christian Gospel. If Adam and Eve had never existed, but instead we are all descended from primates, then there is absolutely no purpose for Jesus Christ to have died for our transgressions, for without our first parents, there was no Fall to atone for. And with no Atonement, there would be no Resurrection. And without the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Death would remain in power forever, without ever been defeated. To attain eternal life would be an impossibility. Little wonder that if there is a god, he he depicted as either a brutally cruel stick-wielding moralist in the sky, or some fictional spaghetti monster who slips a cog whenever a homosexual is conceived in the womb, and then afterwards blame him for being what he is. Little wonder that the Scientific knowledge of Evolution as fact has Atheism as a bedmate.

And so the heart that is England beats on - lud-dum, lud-dum, lud-dum, lud-dum, lud-dum... whilst the blood of Darwinism, carrying in its red corpuscles the knowledge of Scientific facts, is pumped to the remotest parts of the planet to feed every cell (human being), and then returns to the heart through veins whilst carrying the waste of religious and superstitious nonsense, to be disposed of into the wind before returning to the heart once again enriched with Scientific knowledge. And so as the physical heart is an independent organ in its own right, so our nation wants to be independent in its own right through Brexit whilst educating the world with Darwinism.

And now we have some Government alliances who believe in Divine Creationism. Could they be blood clots that threaten the life of the heart and which would eventually lead to cardiac arrest? Fortunately, the blood of Darwinism has properties which will dissolve the blood clots, and save the muscle from arrest (through ousting out of these ministers and calling for another General Election). Like the Apostle John in Revelation 17:6, I can't help feeling somewhat astonished with what is going on around me. For the Prime Minister's mantra to "Fulfil the wishes of the British people" to leave the European Union was actually not, in reality, the "wishes of the British people" - as nearly half, 48% of all who voted, wanted to remain in the EU. Then as time passed after the 2016 Referendum, we who voted to stay in became known as Remoaners, even Remaniacs, and rather like Adam and Eve, along with Noah's ark, we who voted to remain were brushed aside as fantasists and a perpetual nuisance, mere diminishing clots floating in the Darwinian blood of patriotism, and slowly being dissolved into oblivion.

Glory be to Great Britain! Independent, Right-wing, full of hope and glory, with racial, national and cultural superiority, xenophobic, and with want of stability in Parliament. And having Evolution taught as scientific fact as the bedrock for an economically healthy nation. After all, with such ambition and with such aspiration, who needs an anthropomorphic image of God, the "Big Bearded Man" in the sky watching over us with a big stick in his hand, constantly telling us to renounce Science and believe in mythological fairy tales, or end up in a fiery hell myth. After all, it's just not British.