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Saturday, 16 September 2017

I Don't Believe in 'IF' Anymore...

Yes I am aware that for readers approximating my age range, such readers would recognise the above title as that of a song written and sung by Roger Whittaker, released in 1977. But this little word, at least according to what I have experienced, have read about, and listened to, has proven catastrophic over two millennia of Christendom. This is actually a continuation of last week's blog, When I Question My Faith, and continue to examine what I believe in, why, and to try to analyse why atheists believe the way they do.

I can't help but feel sympathetic for the average atheist. Or for that matter, the agnostic too. The main difference between an atheist and an agnostic is that the latter accepts the possibility of God's existence. In turn, the atheist denies his existence altogether. But neither would accept the revelation of God's divine creation as history. My late father was an agnostic. He believed in the existence of God. But he rebuked me, even to the point of teasing, for believing in a young-Earth creation as recent as six millennia in the past, together with the idea of a talking snake, and the thought of a shoreless ocean annihilating a whole race of men and air-breathing animals alike. Ahem. And not to mention a talking donkey rebuking a mad prophet who had dollar signs in his eyes! Not long after my conversion, and still living at home, Dad saw me read a Bible that was given to him by a Jehovah's Witness back in the 1950's. So indeed it was quite an old copy, a King James version with two columns of cross-references, one on both edges of each page. For up to twenty years this particular copy of the Bible sat at our bookshelf, totally undisturbed as it was squeezed between other books on both sides. But that particular day, after a few months reading it, Dad took the Bible out of my hands and with anger, literally tore it to shreds right in front of me.



Of course, I was horrified, and also suffered a terrible loss. Not long after, when our Catholic priest came round to have a talk to me, I agreed to attend his church on Sundays. So for a short while I started attending. This pleased both my parents and it seemed to bring peace to the household at last. But I did not feel at home in a Catholic church, and it was not long before I left, to attend a live Anglican Church in Brixton, South London, much to the disappointment of my parents. But the point is that such disagreement among Christian worshippers is fuel thrown to the fires of atheism. And to my confusion too, back in those days.

And this blog was written just a day after a terrorist incident at an Underground train in West London, where a bomb planted in one of the carriages was only partially detonated, and flash-burning every passenger who was unfortunate enough to be close to the bomb. The device failed to detonate properly. Had it, then there would have been a high number of deaths within the train, and for those further away, plenty more would have been seriously injured. I for one, am convinced that the failure of the bomb to detonate properly was from God's mercy, who imposed a "restriction" on what the device can do. Sure enough, any atheist would burst into laughter at my theory and ask why if God was able to restrict the explosion, then why not prevent it entirely? Really, was God's hand simply not long enough to have prevented the detonation altogether?

The Islamic terrorist, in turn would have asked the opposite question. After carrying out his duty so faithfully, why had Allah let him down so badly? Didn't his deity inspire his prophet Mohammed to have all unbelievers and apostates slain? Then further confusion arises, especially among the unchurched, that Yahweh and Allah is perceived as the one true merciful God, worshipped and adored by Christians and Muslims alike, according to the Vatican. Yet no matter how hard I try, I have found it to be impossible to reconcile Yahweh, who sent his Son to atone for our sins, with a son-less deity who is bent on murder, terrorism, and revenge. And yet despite such difficulty in reconciling the two entities, I can still conjure up an image of Jerusalem in my mind. A city I'm already very familiar with, having spent some time of my life there. The Old City is divided into three monotheistic religions - Muslim, Jewish, and Christian. Even the Christian section of the city is sub-divided, with the Armenians having their own Quarter, making four Quarters altogether. The other Christian Quarter has in it Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Coptic churches, along with a Lutheran church, and an Anglican church just inside Jaffa Gate. Among all of them, the concept of Eternal Security of the Believer is relatively unknown, even if both the Anglican and Lutheran churches are perceived to be closer to Biblical truth than the other churches, which tend to lean more on custom and traditions.    

And this I can testify. I attended services at Christ Church Anglican, close to the gate, on several occasions. Behind the pulpit, the twin tablets on which the Decalogue is displayed remains in full view. And they insist on the historicity of Holy Scripture. That was why I felt that I belonged there whilst I was living in Jerusalem, even if I didn't agree with everything they taught. Oh, how short the walk was along Souq David, from my hostel to the church, passing shops open for business, Arab shopkeepers constantly beckoning passing tourists, along with the banter of daily life. Yet as I saunter through the Medieval streets of the Old City, here was the one city which was home to three different monotheistic religions - all three teaching that faith without works is dead, and that the believer, whether Islamic, Jewish or Christian, must work to a greater or lesser degree to secure his salvation. Unfortunately for the Muslims, this entry into Paradise after death often involve jihad, or holy war, where many are slain to promote Allah and to convert to the writings of the Koran, which all Muslims believe to be written under Allah's inspiration, and therefore free from error.

Christ Church, Jerusalem - interior.


Exactly like we as Christians accept the Bible to be free from error. Then you as a Christian, reading this, how would you feel if I was to say that the Bible isn't free from error, but instead contains some inconsistencies? Yes, you read that right. Would you instantly click off from this page and go elsewhere, dismissing me as an apostate or liberal? Before you do, let me ask you to read on and consider these inconsistencies:

Such as Matthew 27:9-10. Here the apostle cites an Old Testament prophecy, and saying it was a quote from Jeremiah. But actually he was quoting from Zechariah 11:12. Then we have Mark declaring that Jesus was crucified "in the third hour" - that is nine o'clock in the morning (Mark 15:25), whilst Matthew writes that by the sixth hour, that is midday, Jesus was already on the cross, and it was then it began to get dark (Matthew 27:45), with Luke fully agreeing with Matthew's testimony (Luke 23:44). However, John has Jesus still standing in front of Pilate's judgement seat at midday (John 19:14). Where there might have been some collaboration between Matthew and Luke with Mark's testimony, yet it does seem rather stretching to believe that Jesus was already crucified by nine in the morning, especially if Luke records Pilate sending Jesus to Herod sometime in between. And only Luke records this visit to Herod's palace. Furthermore, we are not told how long Jesus stood before Herod. It could have been as long as an hour. Then considering the slow movement of the crowds, along with the bustling and confusion, allowing up to thirty minutes each way to make the journey across Jerusalem, which means there have, most likely, been a break in Pilate's judgement for up to two hours, making John's testimony of Jesus still standing before Pilate at midday more credible.

But the rather wide inconsistency between Mark's testimony and that of John's testimony in the timing of the crucifixion still remains. Then again, I have little idea when exactly in the morning was Jesus escorted to Pilate's palace by the Jews. But all four seem to agree that it was early morning, most likely shortly after daybreak, which would have been sometime between six and seven o'clock. If that was the case, then Mark's testimony of a nine o'clock crucifixion does hold some plausibility. But that still does not explain the inconsistency between Mark and John.

Then there is another apparent inconsistency which can still baffle many to this day, and which I had difficulty in coping with. Consider these verses:

Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? 
And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples.
And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover.
Matthew 26:17-19, also Mark 14:12-17, and Luke 22:7-14.

Yet John says:

Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgement: and it was early; and themselves went not into the judgement hall, lest they should be defiled; but they might eat the Passover.
Pilate then went out to them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?
John 18:28-29. All quotes from the AV.

If I, who had read the Bible for over forty years, still find these conflicting verses difficult to grasp and reconcile, how would a new convert to the faith feel when he comes across such contradictions? And how would the atheist gloat, grinning from cheek to cheek with glee? Many church-goers don't seem to be aware of such contradictions, and if they are aware, they tend to sweep them under the carpet and pretend that's it's not a problem. But as I see it, where atheists are concerned, these contradictions present a massive problem for us who may want to witness to them and verify the historicity of Holy Scripture. And the trouble is, many of these atheists are not Biblical ignorant. They can open the Bible and read out these verses and we can only hide our blushes by cupping our faces in our hands.

The Bible is messy. It often does not appear so straightforward. Take another example of apparent contradiction. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul assures us that we are eternally secure in our salvation, and nothing can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ. And that is not only confined to man's persuasion to think otherwise, but not even demons, nor "powers in the air" nor height or depth, nor anything in the whole of creation can separate us from the love of God. Then flick through a couple of pages, and you see Paul's warning that we as non-Jews are likened to branches of a wild olive tree which were grafted into the cultivated olive tree. Then he warns us not to be conceited, or else we too will be broken off, just as the unbelieving Jews were (Romans 11:16-22). Here, in the very same letter, the apostle first reassures us that we are eternally secure in Christ, then afterwards we are to fear of becoming disenfranchised from God if we become too high minded. Then turn over some more pages until you come to Paul's letter to the church in Colossae. After discussing such glorious promises in partaking in the Resurrection of the just, Paul then concludes:

In the body of the flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreproveable in his sight:
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.
Colossians 1:22-23.

And considering many more similar verses scattered across the whole New Testament, people has come up to me with the explanation that yes indeed, we as believers are eternally secure in Christ, and no one can take our salvation away from us, no, not even the spiritual realm of demonic powers in the air. But as long as you must yourself remain in the faith. According to them, you remain safe in Jesus Christ if you don't voluntarily walk away from the faith, or else it's hell after death. And they quote these and other similar Scriptures to prove their point.

I have looked upon history to see for myself the fruits of such a train of thinking. And all I could see was apostasy and the rise of iniquity among those who professed to have lived in a "Christian country". The Popes of Rome, for example, along with many of the Cardinals and of the clergy, were the most wicked men to have ever walked the earth! Cases of prostitution, adultery, paedophilia, murder, suppression, exorbitance, betrayal, conquest, the Inquisition with its many cases of physical torture, and many more crimes are forever etched into the history of the Roman Catholic Church spanning the centuries. And mainly, in my mind, due to the concept of the sinner "doing penitence" instead of just changing the mind about Jesus Christ being the risen Christ, the Son of God. Doing penance is the core of Catholic catechism. The process is to eradicate sin before the believer can be justified, and if sin is not eradicated, then there is little or no hope of heaven in the afterlife.

Church of St. Peter, the Vatican.


Yet despite of all this, the Bible is messy, and the atheist knows this. What I find by reading Holy Scriptures is that Prophecy, which is scattered throughout the entire Bible. By being extremely accurate in predicting events which took place even thousands of years after the prophecy was given, thus advocating the omniscience of God. And here is the crunch. If a "saved" person can simply walk away from the faith, then wouldn't the "omniscient God" be aware of this to begin with? Or to put it another way, would an all-knowing God make any effort to save a person if he already knows that that person will one day fall away? And what kind of gift is that apostate is to the one who suffered so painfully on a cross? A "naff" gift? Can't this all-knowing God choose properly? And to add to this, consider the spiritual realm. If a person "voluntary walks away" from the hand of Jesus Christ who is supposed to be holding him secure (John 10:28-30), then to walk away means that he must be going somewhere, no doubt to a more attractive location. And who is showing him that location? The Devil? If so, then the Adversary is stronger than God himself and it has also proved God to be a liar.

Questions, questions...

And yet, the Scriptures does look as if such contradictions exist in them. Free from error? There are times when I have pondered. Really, I have! I have to admit, even to myself, that I don't think that I could stand up against an atheist who knows the Bible well. Not unless I possess a Greater Power within who can not only take the knocks, but can deliver answers which would refute the atheist's every question, proving once and for all that this Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the risen Christ, and God manifest in the flesh.

And with such a manifestation of the Glory of God, in Christ I rest my case.



Saturday, 9 September 2017

When I Question My Faith...

I sit at a Starbucks coffee bar, a newspaper lying open on the table in front of me. I take a momentary break from reading to look up at the people around. A young family sit at a nearby table. Along with father and mother, there sits a three year old daughter, her lovely blond hair glistening like gold, and although acting as if somewhat flustered, her behaviour is by no means irritating to her parents or to anyone else in the restaurant. Next to the mother a Moses basket sits, containing their newborn, sleeping soundly. Just another typical British family. I sigh, as I ponder on their relationship with God, whether such a relationship exists or not. Then I return to the article I was reading in the newspaper.

The actual Starbucks Coffee Bar referred here.


Then again, had it been a Muslim family, or a Buddhist family, or a Hindu family, or even to the extent of a Jewish family, I would have felt more certain of their lack of a relationship with a Christian God, a little fact that would have caused me to sigh in despondence. Furthermore, if they claim to be Christian, then that would raise further questions in my mind. Do they regularly attend church? If they don't, then that rules out any connections they might have had with God. But if they do, then which denomination? If it's Roman Catholic, then I would mentally question their certainty of their salvation - as they repeat, mantra-style, their prayers to the Virgin Mary for her to plead to a rather truculent Son of God to show some mercy on them. Are they Jehovah's Witnesses, or Mormons, or are affiliated with Christian Science, or perhaps Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology? Then their certainty of salvation would be under doubt, because neither of these groups confess Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ, at least not in the same sense that he is God come in the flesh.

This is becoming rather like a computer program flowchart, something akin to this: 

10 Let r = r+1
20 If r = 3 Then Print "Non-Christian": End
30 Let a = ask family
40 Let b = baptist church
50 Input a
60 If a = b Then Go to 80
70 Go to 10
80 Print "A Christian Family.": End

Perhaps you get the idea. The computer shows that only those who attend a Baptist Church can be perceived as truly Christian. An insulting statement? No doubt it is, but in reality, because our Baptist church confessed that Jesus Christ was the incarnate Son of God who died on a cross to atone for our sins, was buried, and on the third day he rose physically from the dead, and he is now seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, and that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and the Church is a group of people which God had called to be his own - all this was what I believed to be the utmost necessity, and how I thought during my younger years as a Christian believer! What was the ultimate motive which was behind such a train of thought?

It has all come down to this: the Bible teaching on the universality of sin and the existence of Hell. Drummed into me by Mother since a very young child and further endorsed by the Catholic Church within I grew up, even after conversion towards the end of 1972, I had much difficulty in accepting a God of love. Rather, for many years I had a subconscious idea that my performance must play a role in my salvation, even if this performance consisted mainly in keeping every doctrine and belief as true to the Bible as I possibly can.

But other questions arose in my mind. One question which I actually prayed aloud to God whilst alone was: Why did you create us all in the first place when our eternal destiny after death is in the fires of Hell? I must admit, there have been times when I found the concept of eternal suffering incompatible of a God of love. Very much the thinking of an atheist. Then considering Richard Dawkins' description of God of the Old Testament as a megalomaniac, homophobic, sadomasochistic, malevolent bully, and somewhere within me there is a sense of agreement. The impossible keeping of all six hundred-plus laws, some as petty as forbidding of wearing two or more garments made from different materials, makes any human being utterly impossible to enter heaven after death. And not to mention the potential of failing to love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength, along with not confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord - it is Hell for Eternity. 

And as one atheist had asked, If considering that the love-relationship between Christ and the believer is likened to a husband-and-wife relationship, would the marriage last?

A good point. I can imagine the terrible pressure for the wife if her husband keeps on demanding utter perfection in keeping with his laws, or be confronted with the threat of eternal fire. Would all that engender love for him in her heart? Or would she immediately go after another man who showed her unconditional love and acceptance, and end up with an adulterous affair with such a man? Even as a Christian believer, I have pondered in my mind about the sincerity of Christ's love for me, especially when reading in the Bible about his promises of eternal resurrection and heaven, then come across that awful word if - mainly in the context of: if you stand firm in your faith - such as found in Colossians 1:22-23. This gives the impression of God's love as conditional. Imagine how a wife would feel if even though he loved her to bits, yet still stands as conditional on her remaining faithful. But over the years as a married man myself, I have wondered how I would feel if I caught my own wife in bed. At first I said to her that this would be the only cause for a separation. But as time passes by, I began to re-evaluate the situation would it ever occur.

By reading the story of the Old Testament prophet Hosea, how his wife deserted him for prostitution, and who was eventually sold on the slave market. Hosea bought her back and kept on loving her despite her unfaithfulness. Would I do the same if my wife strayed? Indeed, true love is unconditional. If she would ever stray and became unfaithful, I will ensure that I remain faithful to her and will always love her, and ask her to stay with me. And there will never be a need for all that, for such unconditional love will always result in the wife's faithfulness to her husband.



How is it that God's love appears to be far less stable, and wholly hangs on the believer's faithfulness and performance? And the very existence of Hell? A place where every human being who does not acknowledge God will end up - in an eternal fiery furnace? Looking around Starbucks, along with people everywhere, including those on television, I do find it very hard to swallow the concept that one day they will all roast for eternity for not acknowledging God during their lifetimes. Such thoughts spoil my love for such a God. It is rather like a good-tasting mug of coffee. Add a pinch of salt and the taste would be impaired. I would not be able to enjoy the coffee in the same way like I did before. So with my perception of God and the existence of a fiery hell.

I may indeed believe in Once Saved Always Saved. And there is plenty of proof of this found in both Testaments of the Bible. But just being aware of an eternal hell does spoil my perception of God. Yes, there are times - even to this day - when I feel exactly this way. Taking such ideas and feelings on this subject into consideration - I can't help about my knowledge of God's omniscience. That means he is all-knowing - nothing can take him by surprise. So I imagine a newborn, such as the one asleep in the cot at Starbucks, whom God already knows that this human will spend eternity in hell after death, unless of course, he repents, if so, then God already knows about that - even if its another twenty, or thirty, or even seventy years in the future.

As I gaze on the newborn sleeping in the cot, I can't help feeling crushed if God already knows its eternal state, especially if both parents are unbelievers or follow a different religion. Perhaps I'm wallowing in my own ignorance. After all, the Bible does ask who can understand the infinite wisdom of God. But I can't help feeling the way I do. Then I look up and remember some of my fellow Christian believers - well educated middle-class professionals who were seldom seen smiling but instead always going about their business with stone-cold expressions on their faces.

And that is a shame. As I have written here last week, whilst I visited the Kerith Centre in Bracknell, I was able to observe some regular long-standing members with cold expressions. And the Kerith Centre is by no means unique. Even in my own church at Ascot, there are some of the same stone-cold expressions, who hardly ever smile, and there is one in particular who is very much aware of the existence of Hell, and who is outright hostile towards me and very judgemental - even towards others. And I have been to other churches around London and the Home Counties, and have seen very much the same sort of thing. And going by my own experience in relating with other Christians, I have come to the conclusion that just by the mere existence of an eternal hell may be behind such cool, sombre attitudes.

The universal awareness of the existence of Hell may be one of the base-rocks of the belief in Darwin Evolution. In fact, I would not be exaggerating when I say that the majority of Christian graduates I have met and spoken to over the last forty years believe in Theistic Evolution over Divine Creation. This is quite simple to understand. To embrace Evolution - Theistic or Secular - is to deny the historicity of Adam and Eve and their Fall into sin. And to believe that death reigned long before our first parents had ever existed invalidates the significance of their deaths, and therefore robs the Atonement made by Jesus Christ on the cross from any significance in restoring humanity to eternal life. If death did not occur due to the Fall, but instead, necessarily integrated as vital for Natural Selection to work and for Evolution to progress upward, then sin is not the cause of death, and if sin is not the cause of death, then there is no need for an eternal hell. By dwelling on such a concept, it does not become too difficult for me to realise that the awareness of hell provides that vital bedrock for Darwinism to flourish, and by believing in Evolution as fact provides an escape from such an awareness of hell.

It is rather like the wife who is stuck in a loveless marriage to a law-giving husband. Because of her own imperfections, she feels that she isn't really loved at all, but instead remains under the eye of judgement. When another man arrives who shows none of this judgement, it isn't long before she shares his bed. Evolution is perceived as very much like the suitor. It provides an escape from the dire reality of hell, even in the subconscious, perhaps making the faith more appealing, but at the same time denying its reality.  

Sure enough, I have written enough blogs here to demonstrate the significance of what the Atonement made by Jesus Christ on the cross, followed by his Burial and Resurrection three days after his death, all have in reconciliation and restoring us back to God. And by believing this causes the believer to have his spirit regenerated and becomes an eternal child of God. I think I have been pretty clear on all this. But the Bible also says that the wisdom and knowledge God has is beyond understanding (Job 36:26, Romans 11:33). My knowledge is far from infinite - there is many things about God which I am not aware of, and neither would I ever be aware of this side of the grave. But there is one thing that I have an inkling of awareness - and that Hell exists, its eternal, and such a dreadful place was not initially prepared for human habitation. Instead, it was prepared for the Devil and his angels.

I suppose that it's easier to understand that anyone who deliberately side with the Devil in defiance of God's calling may indeed deserve to suffer with the one he was so consciously keen to follow. But the truth is, the vast majority of humans are totally unaware that they have Satan as their "father". Even the Pharisees weren't aware of this (John 8:44), and they all thought that they were doing God's will. Such a concept, straight out of the mouth of Jesus Christ, makes me aware of the millions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, alongside followers of all other heretical religions and their eternal destiny. I guess this is part of the wisdom of God which lies outside my finite knowledge. I once looked at a photograph featured in a past issue of The Guinness Book of Records. It showed the world's largest crowd assembled at a public venue. They were all Hindus, men, women and children, who all gathered there for a religious festival. But according to Jesus' own words, recorded in John 14:6, they are all destined for eternal damnation, with most, if not all, totally unaware of this. Indeed, there are times when I question God's love for the world, so popularised by John 3:16.

I don't think it's hardly better here in the UK. For example, were you aware why I was for remaining in the European Union, and against Brexit? I guess the answer to that was concealed in my subconscious, but now, in writing this blog, I became aware of the main reason in my conscious mind. By being part of the European Union was meant for easier access for the Gospel to spread across to the Continent. Instead, we as Christians have become distracted by the want of our island isolation, that we have but forgotten the Gospel altogether. We became so obsessed with our English Bulldog culture, or rather the restoration of it, that we have either forgotten the Gospel, or we were ignorant of the fact that this very Bulldog spirit we hold so dear, is responsible for the blinding of many from the true light of the Gospel.



Perhaps you may argue that throughout the forty plus years we have been in Europe, the Gospel had never spread across the English Channel. Never mind that New Frontiers International, based at a large church in Brighton, had just this in mind, and no doubt efforts were made, but now the need of tougher international barriers to hamper their mission.

This is an unusual blog, I will admit. In general I love to exalt the love of God, his power and his redemption. But this week I wanted to "out" my real thoughts and emotions, to share my doubts which at times plagues me. However, allow me to finish with a bit of Solomon's wisdom:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Ecclesiastes 11:13-14, AV.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

What a Weeping Cissy!

A certain man had two wives, which means that under our present law he could be classed as a Bigamist. His first wife was the older of the two, whose weak eyes spoilt her facial beauty. However, his second wife, who turned out to be the first wife's younger sister, was strikingly beautiful, and it was of no surprise that she became her husband's true love, at the cost of his older wife's misery. However, the older spouse successfully gave birth the six of his sons in her desperate but unsuccessful attempt to win her husband's heart, whilst the ravaging beauty remained childless. Even two additional concubines each became mothers of two more of his sons, making a further four in all, totalling ten sons altogether.  

At last, his younger wife gave birth to his son when his firstborn had already grown up. Not long after this, his older wife died prematurely, most likely from a broken heart, and was buried in the family tomb. The man referred to here was Jacob, who was renamed Israel, and to anyone even faintly acquainted with the Bible through Sunday school classes, Jacob's wives were Leah and Rachel. Poor Leah! Enduring a loveless marriage, yet able to give birth to six of his sons, including Judah the fourth-born, who carried the Messianic Line. Rachel at last had given birth to Joseph whilst at middle age. As a result, Joseph became daddy's favourite, much to the jealousy of his older brothers. And this feeling of jealousy towards their youngest brother was not only universally shared, but it also morphed into hatred - especially after cockily revealing to them that he will one day rule over his brothers.

Joseph was around sixteen or seventeen years when he was rewarded with a sibling from his own mother. But this was a bittersweet experience for both Joseph and his father. His favourite wife died at childbirth, and she was buried at a separate location, away from the family tomb. Unfortunately, we are not told when Leah died, but when she did, it must have been close to Hebron where the family tomb, also known as the Cave of Machpelah, is located. However, it was most likely that Jacob was already a double-widower by the time the ten older brothers had sold their teenage sibling to the Midianites, who were heading to Egypt.



What a crush this must have been to poor Joseph! Some time after being sold as a slave to an Egyptian governor Potiphar, the handsome slave was falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar's wife, after having her advances and her attempts to seduce him snubbed by him during his master's absence. He was then thrown into prison, what looks to be for an indefinite term. 

Whilst in prison for a crime he didn't commit, such a circumstance could have been a just cause for self-pity, bitterness, or even rage. There was a high likelihood that he was still grieving for his late mother, he misses watching his younger brother Benjamin, whose birth he might well have witnessed, grow up into adulthood, and pondering what his father may be thinking and feeling. Does his father believe that he is still alive somewhere? Or does he believe that he is dead, and therefore grieving for his favourite son? There is no way he can glean such information. But at least he may be comforted by the fact that none of his older brothers would have been aware of his imprisonment. Such thoughts of them gloating over his fate might have been enough to send him over the cliff. Instead, by walking in the Holy Spirit, he knew how to build a good relationship with both the wardens and fellow prisoners alike. 

And so a steward reveals to a troubled Pharaoh about how a dream he had was interpreted by Joseph, and his prediction came true. The former slave was released from prison, and after interpreting Pharaoh's two dreams, he was promoted to Prime Minister, the second in rank after the King himself and therefore just about equal in authority. It was some years later, when a severe famine had struck, when all his ten older brothers arrived to buy grain to take home to their father.

Although Joseph acted stoically during their first encounter, having recognised his brothers, he had emotions which he had to hide from them. This we know, for the narrator slips in the little incident of turning to weep during a brief interval (Genesis 42:24). It could be the thought of his missing brother and his deceased mother which caused his emotions to rise. Or it could be just the presence of his own family in a strange and foreign land. Whatever it might have been, it was some time later, when his younger brother, who was also the son of Jacob and Rachel, turned up with the others. Here, the narrator does not hold back when he writes, "And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there."
Genesis 43:30, AV.

Soon after, the narrator adds, "Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.
And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard."
Genesis 45:1-2, AV.

It goes on, "And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.
Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him."
Genesis 45:14-15, AV.



Here is one of the most powerful rulers of Egypt, next to Pharaoh himself, yet he had no qualms about weeping in company. If God has ever been wise on how to bring out love, pity and affection from others, it is in the form of shedding tears, especially in the company of loved ones. I have always admired this particular Bible character because of this alone. Two more characters I can think of who also had no qualms weeping in company. One of these is the apostle Paul. He was the apostle to the Gentiles, used mightily by God to spread the Gospel to non-Jews across the Roman Empire and founded churches in his known world. With leanings towards a work-loving Choleric temperament, Paul had the natural ability of a strong leader, determined, courageous, and tend to persevere undaunted in his task, regardless on how difficult it might be or what obstacles he may face in his determination to finish his project. But of what he naturally lacks was compassion for the more timid, as well as being prone to anger. A striking example of this was when he came to blows with his best mate and partner Barnabas, recorded in Acts 15:36-41. The disagreement was over John Mark quitting from his role in their mission and returned to Jerusalem, which is recorded in Acts 13:13. Unlike Barnabas, with his gentle nature and willing to give John Mark another chance, Paul couldn't stand quitters, so he refused to have John Mark accompany them for the next mission.

Another example of Paul's short fuse is recorded in Acts 23:3 where he stands before an accusing Sanhedrin. A priest strikes him on the cheek, to whom he responds: May God strike you, you whitewashed wall! Then not to leave out Paul's contention with Peter for his hypocrisy shown before Gentile believers eating at table, recorded in Galatians 2:1-14, when Peter, Barnabas, among other Jews, suddenly withdrew from the table when news arrived that devout Jewish believers sent by James were due to arrive at any moment.

Then comes this verse, even if it's the only one of its kind coming from Paul's pen. It is 2 Corinthians 2:4 where he writes that, "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you." There is one other verse which testify of Paul's tears, and it's recorded by Luke in Acts 20:31, which reads, "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn any one night and day with tears.

The public showing of emotion by someone like Paul is very much out of his natural character! His dominant emotion was chiefly anger, with a general lack of natural love, affection and compassion. And so to read of his post-conversion life as one shedding tears in public for the benefit of fellow-believers must be miraculous indeed - someone who had allowed the Holy Spirit to work within him by softening his character for the benefit of those he was to minister to. It is the power of the Holy Spirit to minimise his anger by adding tenderness, along with love and gentleness to his character. As a result, I would not be surprised to see Paul embracing another man as he cries tears on his neck - very much the same way Joseph did over his brother Benjamin.

Then who can forget the shortest verse in the entire Bible? It is John 11:35, which simply says, "Jesus wept." Here is the Jewish Messiah, the Christ, Son of God, Son of Man - weeping in public. An incident noted by all twelve disciples, along with the Pharisees, for they commented on how much Jesus loved Lazarus, who had just died recently and was buried in rock tomb. Of course, Jesus walked in the power of the Holy Spirit without a single fail. He was indeed God manifest in the flesh, and there he was, with the Cross well within his sight, crying like a child over the death of a loved one.

Which brings me to ask: Was Joseph, with his abundance of tears, a cissy? He cried out so loudly over his brother Benjamin that it was heard as far away as Pharaoh's house. Then there was Paul, the determined, hard working, persevering, opinionated, and often angry religious Jew who formerly persecuted Christian believers, rounding them up to bring them into Jerusalem to face prosecution, quite likely execution. He set off on that task with determination. He wouldn't let anything stand in his way while he was on that road to Damascus. So intense was his determination, that the Lord had to literally blind him just to make him see the error of his ways. Then, after that, he testifies of his weeping in public as part of his ministry to edify fellow believers. Had God really changed Paul from a strong, masculine and determined man into a weak, quivering wreck of a weeping Nancy-boy?

Or did God transform Paul into a proper masculine man?

Because Jesus himself was a proper masculine man, yet he had no qualms to cry in public.

And these are the three Biblical characters who had no qualms about showing emotion in public, or even to give a hug. And one of the three happens to be God incarnate. And so I write this blog a week after visiting my former church, which is now the Kerith Centre in my hometown of Bracknell. 

I became a regular member of Bracknell Baptist Church as it was then, in the Spring of 1975, just over two years after conversion. Over the years I have watched people come and go, including witnessing the deaths of many of its older members. And the arrival of new members, especially from 1978 onward, from universities across the country. This was due to several high-tech companies setting up business in our town and began trading here. These companies attracted young graduates as employees, who also began to fill our churches. Some of these graduates are still here with us to this day. And so I have seen when I paid a visit to the Kerith Centre last Sunday, when our own fellowship at Ascot had closed due to many attending West Point Bible Festival near Exeter. And so I was recognised by at least two of them, but not a single greeting, not a question asked how my walk with God is progressing, nor how my wife or family are keeping, or even if I'm enjoying retirement and what I do to occupy my spare time. Instead, just a stone-cold expression on their faces as they went about church business. Not that I was invisible. I wasn't invisible. I was seen. And I was ignored. Thankfully, I did spend some time enjoying a conversation with a couple of other members who had a genuine interest in my welfare. To them I will always be grateful. And having had a rather lengthy chat with one of them, I left the building feeling edified and with a general feeling of acceptance. But had those two had not been there, then I would have been ignored entirely by those who knew me for the past 35-40 years. 

I guess it's a very different environment from Biblical times, when men lived in tents and tended sheep. Our society of today is vastly different from Joseph's day. I realise that. Today we are far, far better educated, far more aware of class, profession, wealth, and status, and quite likely awareness of physical good looks too. And the end result being the cliquey culture, an in-group/out-group basis for acceptance depending on like attracting like. In other words, if you are different, then you're out, ignored, rejected. The trouble with this kind of set up is, if I have a genuine concern for their welfare, their walk with God, health, jobs, etc, then this makes it difficult to break the ice, because of a fear of rejection. This could mean the person whom I approaching turning and walking away, as if I'm chasing him - and believe me, that has happened before now in church! More likely it would mean delivering just one answer - "fine" - and then turning to speak to someone else or engage in a task. 

It is deplorable, coming to think of it. Then I wonder why, in a so-called "Christian Country" maybe up to 98% of the English population are heading towards a lost eternity? Do you realise that this grieves my spirit? Here I'm talking about the influence of Christian believers living in a cliquey, in-group/out-group culture. Say, for example, they arrive here in September 1980. That is 37 years to this day. Such a duration would cover 1,924 sermons preached, one every Sunday. Of course, no one would attend all 1,924 sermons. We have to allow for absences, including holidays, sabbaticals, work rota, illness, family issues, or simply the desire to stay in bed. But with the approaching of two thousand sermons, many of these sermons carrying weighty power, can lives really remain unchanged after all that time? After all, would I be able to distinguish a Christian graduate who is an established church member from another graduate, unchurched and an atheist?

Other than Jesus Christ, I think one of the Bible characters whom I lift my hat in respect has to be Joseph. Despite suffering ill-treatment throughout much of his youth by older brothers consumed by jealousy, he loved them to the end. And he embraced each one of them, and wept over each one of them unashamedly. If I had been there myself, I probably would have wept simply by watching.

There is something about Jesus instructions for every believer to love each other. He taught that this was the only way the world would know that we are his disciples. That we love one another (John 13:35) and to love one another is proof that we are born of God. And sorry to they this, but this godly love does not mean cliques! Neither does it mean listening to sermons every week then forgetting them, either. For that matter, it does not mean being good at the church electronic monitoring consoles either, or to be a good steward with a collection basket. Or to be good at the guitar, keyboard or drums. It means embracing with genuine love and acceptance all with different backgrounds and of all kinds of characteristics and personalities. 



In recent years I was told off by our church elders at Ascot for hugging too much. The main reason given was that hugging is not part of our culture. Hugging is not British. Between men, it's not masculine. It is a crying shame that because we are not physical brothers, we are culture-bound not to show affection. A limp shaking of the hands together with talk about business are acceptable, but not showing affection. 

Indeed, it's a crying shame.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Mentoring? Yes, That is Good.

Without a shadow of of a doubt, the Internet has opened up a new world previously hidden from our private lives. And especially You-Tube. And after spending several years browsing through many of the website's numerous videos, by chance I came across one particular channel, and soon after, I became a subscriber of one young atheistic student with remarkable knowledge and insight for one still a teenager, despite that he still has yet to attend university. He has my head spinning despite him being young enough to be my grandson. Okay, his name is Alexander J. O'Connor, bearing the stage name of Cosmic Skeptic. 

Alexander J. O'Connor


Together with his high level of knowledge, whilst on air I found him to be reasonably humble. He does not slag off the ordinary Christian believer. Rather, he respects his beliefs. Rather he aims his guns at the "Big Shots" - the better-known evangelists and televangelists for debunking Science and advocating Supernatural Creationism, especially to a wide audience with their intention to "enslave the minds of young children to religious ignorance and from the wonders of Scientific facts." The "Scientific facts" referred to here are to do with Historical Geology and Darwinian Evolution, a rather small section of General Science, which also includes man-invented contrasts such as between civic engineering and watchmaking, along with chemistry, medicine, thermodynamics, computers, navigation, meteorology, astrology, magnetism, the elements (atoms, molecules, etc.), acoustics, optics, oceanography, volcanic and seismic sciences, plate tectonics, along with many other branches, all growing out of the three most important boughs of the Scientific tree-trunk - Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth Science. Even Physical Science itself has three branches - Physics, Chemistry, and Astronomy. Therefore in such a vast array, Darwinism occupies only a small branch, yet this small branch of science is taken to mean the whole of Science versus Divine Creation.

As a UK resident (Oxford, I believe) he had recently flown to California upon an invitation to make a thirty-minute presentation to an audience at a conference centre, followed by a further thirty minutes of questions from his listeners. And so there he was, a British teenager dressed in an open neck shirt without a tie, most likely the youngest presenter the centre has ever hosted. Yet possessing the knack and ability to challenge the older, more experienced, smart-suited televangelist whose motives sometimes comes over as more financial rather than spiritual or Gospel-centred. His presentation was about why he favoured science and atheism above creationism-based religion. And that includes all religions, not just fundamental Christianity.

There at first seems to be a vast chasm between this lad and myself when I was his age. Where he had accumulated such knowledge for his age I cannot be sure, but one thing I am aware of. That is if I was born around the year 2000, give or take, and happen to live next door, he would be a towering giant in the intellectual sense by comparison to myself, a dwarf. Yet we both have very similar backgrounds. We both grew up as Roman Catholics and by the time we have reached teenage years, we both had become disillusioned with religion. Perhaps his definition of an atheist is more true to himself than it was for me. Because during my teenage years I actually hated God and everything to do with religion, namely the churches. And whether the same applies to O'Connor, that's not for me to say. But there is one area he himself had brought to attention: And that during his presentation, he admitted that he has a fear of Hell, after watching videos of lost souls of people being tormented by the Devil and his minions after their deaths, leaving him with the awareness of the possibility of its existence.

That is not a good position to be in. Such videos can strike fear into those who watch them, and does not generate admiration or worship to God at all. I strongly advice not to watch these videos at all because these videos does not edify, nor does it draw the one who is watching closer to God. In fact, I actually believe that he who watches such videos will doubt the love of God rather than emphasise it. I know. When prompts for such videos had appeared on You-Tube, out of curiosity I clicked to view - with regret. I was left trembling with fear myself, even if I was a true believer in Christ myself for many years. The cause of such fear? Several factors:

a) The awful truth that had it not been for the atonement itself made by Jesus Christ on the cross, then I'll end up in Hell myself, making every achievement accomplished completely pointless. This leads to,
b) Dread of my beloved wife suffering unending torment in Hell herself. I just could not bear such a thought.
c) The cruel reality of the creation of all mankind by God if his destiny is eternal torment after death.
d) Whenever I'm out and about, watching people going about their daily business, including families with babies and young children, then pondering on their eternal destiny.
e) Considering whether I was "lucky" to have been born in a "Christian Country". What chances of Heaven is there if I had been born in a non-Christian country, such as in Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, or other pagan lands? And what about those who are Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, or involved in some other para-faith heresy? And all showing devotion to their particular religion?

And so Alexander J. O'Connor and I have basically the same religious upbringing - adhesion to the Roman Catholic faith. And both of us put off by it. Of course, I cannot see into O'Connor's mind. But I can see into my own. And this is what I have seen:

That the Roman Catholic Church has based its soteriology on a bad translation of their Latin Vulgate Bible. Where I'm referring to is the Greek word for Repent, found in the New Testament. The actual Greek word is Metaneo - a change of mind. The Latin words for change of mind is Mutatio Animi. But the Latin Vulgate Bible, upon which the whole of Roman Catholic theology is built, instead has the Latin word Paenitentia, now translated Repent in the English New Testament. But this Latin word does not mean merely a change of mind. Rather it indicates a seeking for forgiveness of sin by means of specific works, including set prayers. The Church of Rome has a sacrament essential for this way of salvation - Penance.

So if the life of a devoted Catholic is to mind carefully not to sin, go to Mass every Sunday and holy days, confess to a priest at least once a year, and do the penance set by the priest - any trip up, a fall into sin - especially of a severe kind - then it is Hell. One can be a devoted Catholic for an entire life, but still end up in Hell after committing a last minute sin immediately before death. Then we wonder why we either devote ourselves to the Virgin Mary as intercessor between us and God, or to actually hate God or to deny his existence.

And at the age of twenty years of age was when I was told about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It was then when I believed that I was "born from above" acquitted from all sin, a new creation, and became an adopted son of God. The entire transition from death to life was wholly forensic. That is, the act was carried out in the heavenly Court, without any works done on my part.

A forensic judgement of sin might have been made from above. That is a fact, but this does not necessarily mean the reality of it in day-to-day living. Rather, a confusion soon arose in my mind on why there seem to be a conflict between my new faith and that of my former faith. Then to add to the confusion, a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses came to our door and started to debunk the genuineness of both Roman Catholicism and my new faith in Jesus Christ alone, with their insistence that unless I become one of them, I would not receive eternal life at all. What a confusion! However their denial of the reality of the Holy Trinity had quickly made me decide that I will never become one of them, but that did not stop the ongoing debate. Thus, so soon after conversion, I came to realise that there are different facets of Christianity, and all disagreeing with each other as well as each group insisting that they are the ones who are doing the will of God and they alone will inherit eternal life.

To believe in the free gift of eternal life given to the sinner by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone was incredibly difficult for one who grew up believing that salvation is to be earned. Believe me, it took years for me to undo everything I have learnt. And added to this was the idea that eternal life was something earned by holding specific doctrines and belonging to a specific group. There we go again. Eternal life earned, not giving freely as a gift. Hence the intensifying of the confusion, and drifting along a shoreless ocean like a rudderless ship. What I needed was a mentor. And a mentor I accepted. But not in person, for he lived across the Atlantic, but instead, through his writings.

Thus shortly after conversion, I became aware of a large Christian bookshop just opposite St. Paul's Cathedral in Central London. I began to go there every Saturday afternoon to look for anything that would build up my faith and to learn more about different faiths and why they believe their creeds. It was not long before I came across a rather thick book which bore the title: False Doctrines Answered from the Scriptures, by Dr. John R. Rice, D.D., Litt. D. (who died by the end of the 1970's). The very first multi-chapter section dealt with The Errors of Romanism, together with Jehovah's Witnesses and many other groups which had skewed from Biblical orthodoxy. Gradually the picture became clear. However, Dr Rice was an advocate of Eternal Security of the Believer, or as we now refer to as Once Saved Always Saved. Dr. Rice advocated this truth with a passion, something that would have beneficial effects for the rest of my life.



More than a decade later, I became acquainted with someone who had some books he no longer wanted. So he asked if I can have them, and he gave them to me freely. These books were each written by the late Dave Hunt, founder and former head of The Berean Society, whose aim was always to check teachings and sermons with Holy Scripture. I have four of his books, three of them had made an impact on my Christian life. They were:

1. How Close Are We? - Examines how the life of Jesus Christ here on Earth fulfilling Old Testament prophecy right up to the Crucifixion, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension. Therefore the author was able to focus of the imminent return of Jesus Christ without setting any dates.

2. The Cup of Trembling - Concerning the present city of Jerusalem and the ongoing fight for governance between the Jews, the Palestinians, and even by the Vatican. Details the Abrahamic Covenant and how this effects both the Jews and the Arabs and their ancestors.

3. A Woman Rides the Beast -  A detailed history, doctrines and customs of the Roman Catholic Church going back to Constantine and beyond.

These three books all had an impact on my Christian life, something which might have been the motive behind the vision I received in October 1992 to visit Jerusalem and to pray over the city, which I did in 1993. His fourth book, Global Peace, I did not find so inspiring, but that did not hold me back from accepting Dave Hunt as my second mentor. Hunt, like Rice, was also an advocate of Eternal Security of the Believer.

But I did not want to be too reliant on my mentors to believe in Once Saved Always Saved, especially after facing challenges against it from fellow church members and itinerant preachers alike. And getting stuck into the Bible was what I needed. To let the Bible speak for itself. So by persisting reading of Holy Scripture, I have discovered for myself that of the three characteristics of God - Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent - all three revealed in Psalm 139 for example - Omniscience had struck me as the most supportive characteristic for Once Saved, even if the other two played a role as well. Other Old Testament chapters such as Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 11:12-13, along with a great many prophecies foretelling the life of Jesus Christ are such revelations of Omniscience! And concerning us believers, God first foreknew, then he predestined, then he called us, and we are yet to receive glory (Romans 8:29-39, Ephesians, chapters 1-2.) Jesus himself promised eternal security, especially in the Gospel of John chapters 6, 10, and 17. It is even "hidden" in some of the parables spoken by Jesus, for example, the Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matthew 13:24-32) - which indicates that although tares remain as tares, it is also true that wheat remain as wheat, which being a species in itself, does not turn into tares. Then following is the parable of the Yeast (v.33) where a woman mixes yeast into the unbaked dough which not only leavens the dough, but the yeast (which I believe represents the Holy Spirit) cannot be separated again. Hints of Eternal security.

However, reading prophecy - and there are tons of it in the Old Testament - not only from Isaiah to Malachi, but in the Psalms, and in other parts of the Old Testament too, not only foretells the coming of the Messiah but the restoration of Israel as a sovereign State after 2,500 years of none existence (the last of its sovereignty was wiped out with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC) yet around 700 BC, Isaiah asked, "Who has seen such things? Who has heard of such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be born at once?" (Isaiah 66:8).

Yes it can and it did. It took place on May 14th, 1948. That was the day the British Mandate lowered its flag, and the Israel flag was hoisted up in its place. It was the one day Israel once more became a sovereign nation, just as Isaiah prophesied! And I had the privilege to walk the streets of Jerusalem after Israel became a sovereign nation, and I was able to see for myself the revival of its Jewish customs. And like a young sapling of a tree, at first I needed a mentor just as the sapling needed a stick to help support it. But as the sapling puts down its roots deep into the ground, so likewise, as I rooted myself firmly into the Bible, I was no longer in need a mentor, neither does the tree. Instead, I'm ready to mentor somebody else, just as the tree is ready to bear its fruit.

Flag of Israel


The Bible may be a book of fables in the eyes of Alexander O'Connor, but with a large section of prophecy, many already fulfilled to startling accuracy, no other religious book can hold a candle to the verity of Holy Scripture.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Terrible, Terrible Loss

A good friend of mine whom I knew from church took my wife Alex, our three year old daughter and myself in his car to Hayling Island, a rather sedate Hampshire resort on the South Coast. Since neither of us as a couple had ever owned or driven a car, it takes the devotion of an unattached male friend with a car to escort us to one of the nicer parts of the English coastline, free of excess commercialism, no railway station, no amusement arcades lining the streets, no abundance of shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, no lavish or towering grand hotels forming the skyline, and no heavy road traffic - and most important of all - no pleasure pier jutting out to sea. All of these features being the traditional characteristics which makes a typical English holiday resort. No, Hayling Island has none of these. Instead, it is a literal island separated from the mainland by a tidal channel about two hundred metres across, which is crossed by a single road bridge. The island itself consists mainly of open fields and meadows, dotted inland with small residential villages, and its south-facing pebble beach backed by sedate residential houses.

However, at the beach there is an amusement park with restaurants and coffee shops, next to a large car park. Among the fun rides, a roofed bumper-car attraction caught my daughter's attention. She immediately made known to me that this is where she wanted to go.


My daughter's insistence reminded me when I was a small boy myself, and at that time I begged Dad if I could go on the helter-skelter which was located on the end of Brighton Pier. His answer was typical: No, such things costs money. It was always No. Such was his philosophy of thriftiness. Indeed, the family budget was well managed despite their rather low incomes, but what at the cost of his son's memories after growing up? And that is significant. It was on one of his more generous moods when father and son were walking along Lupus Street in the Westminster district of Pimlico, when he suddenly stopped at a roadside ice-cream vendor and bought me a vanilla cone. Of all the ice-cream confections I ever had, spanning from childhood to the present day, this particular cone was well remembered - because it was bought for me by my father, as if totally out of character. Coming to think of it, the timing of this act of generosity might have coincided with the news that I have a younger sibling on its way.

And as a result, it was no surprise that at my father's funeral, this ice-cream incident was featured in my epitaph speech which brought my listeners to tears. With the price of a few pence from his wallet, he had bought was not just the ice-cream cone, but something much more, something priceless.

And so as my own daughter pulled me by my hand towards the bumper cars, such memories were aroused. But also with a determination that my daughter's memories will always be worth more than thrifty budget management. We climbed into the nearest car, and in full view of both my wife and friend standing by the edge, I managed to steer the vehicle round and round the outer perimeter of the floor. Because of the presence of my daughter, none of the other riders had made any attempts to bump into us. And as I drove the car, I took a glance of my daughter enjoying herself, something which to me will always be priceless.

Becoming a father for the first time ever, even at the age of 48 years old, was definitely with Earth-shaking emotion. I sat alone with the newborn in my arms whilst my wife was recovering. As I watched her sleeping soundly in my arms, it was if my whole life flashed by, with memories galore, both good and bad. Even all the glories of world backpacking with all the highs and lows of independent travel becomes like a shadow when compared to the brightness of my daughter's birth. She was my everything. If her life preservation involved the cost of my own life, then I would have given it willingly. How the sight of my own offspring had brought out the full spectrum of emotions, from tears to laughter.

So what a disaster for us when the State believed that we were unfit to raise our own children because we were unfortunate enough to suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the mild end of the Autism Spectrum. I say "State" but really it came down to the opinions of just one adult female. A self-confessed atheist, a patriot, a proud advocate of classism, and of course - a university graduate. Whatever she says, the Court bowed in obeisance. A few words spoken from her mouth and a family is destroyed. I will never watch my daughters grow from toddlers to children, into adolescents, then into adulthood. I will never enhance their memories with good things, nor have the opportunity to lavish my love and affection. Indeed, I could gaze at an ice-cream parlour anywhere in the world robbed of the privilege of buying any treats for my daughters.

Raging anger towards this Social Worker persisted for months, and it was felt at its most intense in the mornings. Asperger's Syndrome? I wonder how many parents with A.S. had successfully raised their children into balanced adults throughout history? Not that A.S. was recognised throughout history, that is, until this Austrian doctor bearing the name Hans Asperger, who in 1944 discovered its existence and made a successful diagnosis of the condition. But for it to be diagnosed, it must have been around for some time, maybe spanning several generations. Even at present, I am aware of a happily married man whose father had A.S. That particular parent must have got something right somewhere. Then thinking about military life, especially when conscription was obligatory, I have wondered how recruits with A.S. coped with boot camp and rigorous discipline, let alone fighting in two World Wars.

Dr. Hans Asperger 


As I had already mentioned in the last post, Asperger's Syndrome is most probably a genetic defect, most likely occurring at conception, but perhaps also possibly developing during gestation. What it is, is that the brain is not properly wired up for normal social interaction, hence making group socials in particular difficult for the sufferer. But I was never convinced that having A.S. should disqualify us from parenting our own children. Hence my raging fury endured for months, maybe as much as a couple of years after our daughters were literally snatched from our home at three in the morning during February 2005, leaving my wife screaming. All because of one female's opinions!

Oh yes, it was easy to be angry at God, as well as with the State. We both felt mercilessly robbed. And then the emotional pain gotten from constantly seeing families all around us, has exacerbated the problem. It is also easy to become introspective, to constantly examine ourselves whether we have committed any specific sin. But no consciousness of any specific sin had ever come to our minds. Instead, we felt to be victims of an extremely unlucky set of circumstances.

And here I am left with a stark choice.

Either forget everything about God, his existence, his so-called "love" and his constant demand for personal holiness. Forget church, forget about reading the Bible, do my own thing - eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.

Or use this set of circumstances to draw close to God, pray for his mercy and goodness, pray for our strength in marriage, but above all, pray for the welfare of our daughters - especially for the salvation of their souls.

Christmas 2005 was approaching, our first Christmas without our girls. As was the seasonal custom, I opened the Bible to Matthew's Gospel and began to read his version of the Christmas Story, and after reading about Herod's slaughter of the Innocents, I came across these two verses:

Then was fulfilled that which was written by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama there was a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Matthew 2:17-18 AV.

Immediately I felt a compulsion to turn to the verses from which Matthew had quoted, and continued to read:

Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard at Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to thy border.
Jeremiah 31:15-17. AV.

Immediately I believed the word, and I felt my spirit comforted, strengthened and revitalised. A situation parallel to this:

And (God) brought (Abraham) forth abroad, and said, Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars, if you are able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it unto him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:5-6 AV.

Or to put it in modern English:

Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited to him as righteousness. 
NIV.

Reading Jeremiah 31:15-17 was practically equal to experiencing regeneration the second time over, although I had already been a Christian believer for the past thirty-three years. By reading such assuring Scriptures has played a major role in looking at the world with open eyes. However, waves of furious anger towards the Social Worker came and went, with times of peace between each wave. Over a course of time I began to feel concern over my wife's spiritual welfare. What was her attitude towards Jesus Christ? Was she a true believer?

Carrying her two daughters within herself amounted to nearly eighteen months in total. Little wonder that the loss of her children had affected her more intensely than the loss had affected me. So much so that her health began to deteriorate to the point that by the Summer of 2013, she was no longer able to walk upright. This was quite a contrast to when she was able to out-sprint me easily, leaving me in a cloud of dust. A GP recommended admission into hospital as an in-patient. Upon entry into her ward, she looked up at me as I stood over her and reassured me with these words:
Please do not worry. I know Jesus Christ as my Saviour.
What reassurance! For the next four months whilst she remains confined as an in-patient, I had to adapt to sleeping alone in our double bed. And every day without exception, straight after work, the cycle ride to the station for the train trip to Reading, where my wife had taken residence.

Knowing Scripture and believing the revelation God has given us had carried us through testing times, as if passing through the fires of Hell. But as I wrote last week, Hell was not able to break us, just as Jesus had promised:

Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18.



As such, to this day our childless marriage remains strong, robust and stable. And just this week we received letterbox contact after a long time waiting. This features a letter on their progress, especially at school where they are preparing for their GCSE exams along with three latest photos. They are now teenagers and how beautiful they both look! It was the receiving of this letterbox contact which was the inspiration of this blog, although we are not allowed to publish these pictures here. Sorry about that.



Saturday, 12 August 2017

A Genetic Defect...

A typical evening social. It could be a group of Christian men sitting at an extended table at an Indian restaurant. This particular group being of the Ascot Life Men's Curry Club, which is part of our church social agenda. Or I could be one of a smaller group of secular friends enjoying a drink at a pub. Or it could be a group of lifeguards sitting around a bar table over a drink, following a pool training session on how to save a swimmer in trouble, together with resuscitation techniques. Never mind that a time gap of more than forty years separate the Reading Life Saving Club (no longer in existence) from the Ascot Life Men's Curry Club. The circumstance has always been the same. While all the others are engaged in conversation, I sit quietly by, taking it all in - unless the subject under discussion is one I'm particular interested in. 



The subject in discussion could be about football (soccer, England's national sport) along with type of car ownership, political issues, computer technology, project details or problems at work (office), money matters, or just general chit-chat - for example, some odd or amusing incidents which had added some colour to the otherwise mundane daily grind. Most of these had never aroused much interest. This could be because I know too little about the topic to make a worthy contribution into the conversation. Yet if there were just two of us - just one other person with me sitting at the bar table - then even for me, the most boring subject - football, car ownership, insurance, or intricate computer technology - these could still stir a healthy and lengthy conversation between the two of us. But never so well in a group.

Unless it's a topic that would stir my spirit. Such as Jesus Christ and the Bible, religion in general, travel, individual sports such as running and cycling, together with the triathlon, along with anything which can ignite a conversational spark whilst in company. So in a social group, Christian or secular, I tend to be the quiet one. Something I had noticed for decades and could not understand why. Neither could I cope with any notion of recording my voice on tape, like I did when I was a youth. This was because my accent is, and always have been, unusual. It has nothing to do with Italian origin as some had suggested. Listening to any Italian speak, sure enough, he may gesticulate wildly as a typical stereotype, but his tone of voice will not be unlike any other "normal" masculine accent. Then I wonder whether my social impediment and accent could have been linked with a prolonged bachelorhood. After all, I did not marry until I was 47 years old.

But having this accent has put me at a disadvantage. That is, what ever I say seems to have not been taken seriously by others. I even wonder whether, even in the subconscious, there may be a connection between disregard of both my vocal and written contribution and remaining quiet during a social. I eventually became aware there was something wrong when after our daughters were born, the health visitor made a reference about us to social services. To cut a long story short, our beloved girls were eventually taken for adoption. It was a shock which shook the very foundations of the Earth. And it was during the parental assessments prior to the adoption when a long session with a psychologist that a diagnosis was made. I discovered that I was on the mild end of the Autism Spectrum, with Asperger's Syndrome, or A.S.

Although I have already heard of A.S, I never suspected that I had it. Yet I could see straight away that this is the answer why I am who I am. But it could have been much worse. The other end of the spectrum, which is in the realm of severe autism, this often goes hand-in-hand with mental retardation, or slow-learning. If I had been there, then I wouldn't have been allowed out of the house (or institution) without constant supervision - let alone backpacking the world on my own! Instead, the psychologist also revealed a positive side of the assessment - that my intelligence quotient was high average - a trait common among men with Asperger's Syndrome.

This brings to mind a Christian friend of mine (not in my church). The psychologist, most likely the same person who assessed me, has revealed to him that he too has Asperger's Syndrome. A few years younger than me, his voice tone is rather high pitched and authoritative, which tend to stand out in a group conversation. And he remains single to this day, which might have been the reason for consulting a psychologist in the first place. But when it comes to intelligence, this man is way above me. Not only had he graduated at university with a maths degree and also being fluent in French, but his learning abilities has qualified him for Mensa membership. It is this high intelligent quotient and dual language that has enabled him to fit in a group social better than I could, because of his rich knowledge and impressive talk. His liking of sport tends to be towards badminton and squash rackets, the latter he regularly competed with me during the 1980's, around thirty years ago. But when it came to overseas trips, unlike me, he preferred the comfort and security of group travel, usually with the Christian holiday company Oak Hall.

But what I find rather remarkable is that although he is a Christian, he favours Evolution over Divine Creation. Of all his cleverness, I find this to be an anomaly. What is the actual cause of A.S. even experts cannot be certain. But it's most likely a genetic defect, either handed down at conception or maybe occurring during gestation (Mum lived in London whilst carrying me throughout 1952 - a city known for its thick smog before the Air Pollution Act of 1955 and the Clean Air Act of 1963 were passed). As a young boy, I recall the outside of nearby Victoria Station literally black with soot before 1963, when a massive clean-up programme got underway. If either the London smog played a role in the development of A.S. whilst in the womb, or whether it's a genetic defect handed down from either side of the family, then this must be more to having been a victim of Natural Selection rather than a beneficiary. In other words, the law of entropy at work with the downward trend from high-ordered complexity of initial Creation, to a state of disorder and degeneration of the genome. This seems to fly in the face of Darwinism rather than support it. Yet despite such obvious evidence, my Christian friend still believes in the gradual upward trend of biological and genetic evolution.



Which brings to mind the Holy Scriptures. The psychologist has noted that people with A.S. has a greater tendency to lean towards spiritual matters, and likely to be more accepting of religion. And here is where I believe the Bible has played a major role in development of intelligence. When I wore the school tie during the sixties, not only did I suffer from A.S. - even if this was still unrecognised back then - but I was further down the spectrum. That is to say I was a slow learner, although not to the level of retardation, since I was still allowed to be out and about without supervision. During Spring of 1968, I left school without any qualifications, a status which "condemned" me to a life of unskilled manual labour.

It was less than five years after throwing out the school tie that something occurred towards the end of 1972. Some time afterwards, I voluntarily enrolled for evening classes at a local college. The first subject I took on was General Certificate of Education: Ordinary Level, or G.C.E. "O" Level English Language. I passed the exam which I should have left school with. Later I decided to give Geography a try. Again I walked away with another G.C.E. certificate under my arm. If only I kept up the motivation. I could have walked out of college with a biology certificate, and maybe a history or physics certificate as well, which either along with the other two, could have qualified me for a clerical occupation - a massive step in vocational progress. However, in both these cases I had already flown the nest to set up home in a bachelor's apartment, therefore there was nobody else at home with me to urge me on. Yet I still passed both exams. But I didn't believe that mere maturing of the mind as I grew older was the only groundwork, although this most likely have played a part as well. Instead, over the years I became convinced that in addition there was another factor which played an important role.

Constant reading of the Bible since conversion to Jesus Christ in December 1972 has without a doubt played a major role in the heightening of intelligence quotient. Perhaps I could be wrong in this, but according to years of observation, there seems to be a definite connection between Bible reading and higher I.Q. This applies to others as well as to myself. And this also applies to atheists alongside believers. For example, famous atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins knows his Bible well. By his own admission, he sat through Christian assemblies during his school days when he attended Oundle Public School in Northamptonshire, known for its affiliation with the Anglican Church. There he embraced Christianity until about age sixteen, when after reading Bertrand Russell's book Why I'm Not A Christian, he began to believe that the works of Charles Darwin to be far more to his liking than Holy Scripture. Although without a doubt, Dawkins was most likely to have been born with a high average I.Q. - I wouldn't put it past him that Bible knowledge gained throughout his school days had enhanced his quotient.

Christopher Hitchens is another example of an Independent School student. From thirteen years of age he attended the Methodist-affiliated Leys Boarding School in Cambridge, where Christianity was the central core of all education. Along with attending services held at the school chapel several times a week including Sundays, Hitchens must have accumulated much knowledge of Holy Scripture before attending Balliol College in Oxford. Unfortunately the raising of his I.Q. by studying the Bible resulted in setting against Holy Scripture from which later this author wrote books such as God Is Not Great, and The Portable Atheist, along with his other writings, including his critique over the British fetish with the Royal Family. Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, along with Sam Harris, and not to forget Bertrand Russell, all with brilliant intellects. All these academics have demonstrated a high familiarity with Holy Scripture and thorough knowledge of the Bible, as revealed in their books.



Among Christians, the vast majority of British Christian males of my age range and younger, according to my own observation across a time span of over forty years, have attended grammar school, followed by university graduation and then successfully holding down a profession. A large percentage of Christian men who held degrees were raised in Christian homes, although this does not rule out a minority of graduates with non-believing parents who made it into university and were converted there. But in general, I have found that children growing up in Christian homes and are fully familiar with the Bible are more likely to attend grammar schools followed by university graduation. This seems to be endorsed by the presence of the Christian Union, a student-run group found in all colleges and looks be be popular and well-attended. In turn, I have known men who were converted to Christ later in life but still retained their manual jobs. Two builders I once knew were in this group, along with myself who was converted at twenty years of age yet had never graduated. But apart from these, working-class men are very far and few-between within a typical English church.

If I'm right about what I have seen over the years, then although a vast majority of present-day undergraduates are unbelievers, far more Christians, along with those familiar with the Bible are likely to graduate than those who don't. And Christians who never made it into university are those more likely having met their Lord later in life. What I have observed over the years looks to have backed up my own assessment that reading the Bible and becoming familiar with it has the potential of raising the reader's Intelligence Quotient.

Nevertheless, I was never set free from Asperger's Syndrome. It's still there. But not only being familiar with Holy Scripture has raised my I.Q. but has provided spiritual strength for us as a couple to pass through the fires of Hell when our daughters were taken away from us, yet Hell was unable to break us. Our marriage remains strong and robust. Each day I want to love my wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for it. A sacrificial love for my wife emanating the love Christ has for his people. Today I attended a friend's wedding (yes, both bride and groom were Christian graduates - an inspiration for this blog). During the public prayer section of the ceremony, I exhorted them to read their Bibles every day. Read their Bibles every day and feast on the goodness of God's holy Word, and Hell will always remain powerless to break them or destroy their marriage.