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Saturday, 17 March 2018

What I Find So Amazing...

I can think of twelve people considered to be the most fortunate in the whole of human history. I even have their names: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Philip, Thaddaeus, Simon, James, Judas. To any reader, whether he is a Christian or not, these twelve names should immediately strike a sense of familiarity about them. They were the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who had the unique privilege of spending three years of their lives in the presence of the Son of God, the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. A privilege the rest of mankind had never experienced.

Even among them, Jesus had his three favourites: Peter, James and John. As James and John were brothers, both sons of Zebedee, so Peter and Andrew were also brothers, sons of Jonas. Yet Andrew was the only one of the four brothers who was not selected to ascend the mountain to witness the Transformation. I wonder how Andrew would have felt as what might be taken as excluded from a specific clique, especially involving his own brother Peter. After all, he was just a fisherman too, along with James and John. Nothing special. However, he didn't have long to ponder, because as the remaining nine were milling around at the foot of the hill, along comes this stranger whose son was demon possessed. Having witnessed a number of successful cases of deliverance by Jesus, these nine attempted to give this one a go, but without any success. Stumped, and most likely downcast at the spirit's stubbornness to shift, how fortunate it was for the Lord himself to appear at the right moment with his three friends.

Rivalry between these men was never too far below the surface. On a couple of occasions a quarrel would arise on who was the greatest. The Lord's answer to their dispute was that anyone who wants to be the greatest must be the servant and humble as a young child. Then according to Matthew 20:20-27, the mother of James and John approached Jesus with a request that her two sons would sit on the most privileged thrones in the Kingdom. These two had already witnessed the Transformation, therefore it was no big surprise that the other ten were indignant, including Peter, the only other who was also up on that mountain. Again Jesus rebuked them with the same answer of servitude. I guess that the quest for personal status was not that much different to what it is today. Yet Peter, James and John were fishermen, not unlike any commercial fishermen with us at present. Among the remaining nine who were left behind included a Zealot, a taxman, and also the group's treasurer.

Which surprises me in a way, why Matthew was not the treasurer. After all, as the tax collector, he had quite an experience with handling money. Instead, the role went to Judas Iscariot, whose background I know virtually nothing about, except that he found delight in dipping into the funds for his own pleasure. However, according to some sources, Iscariot might have been a scholar himself, perhaps some form of philosopher. In Franco Zeffirelli's film Jesus of Nazareth, Judas Iscariot presents himself as a scholar to Jesus, not like those scummy fishermen whom the Lord seem to favour. Instead, he encourages Jesus to behold, the scholar. The Lord takes him in, a contrast to being initially called as was the case with the others. And whatever his scholarship might have been, he was entrusted with the funds, rather than Matthew. 

"Behold, the scholar!" Judas in Jesus of Nazareth.

And what a tragic end for the scholar! As a result of the guilt he felt after betraying Jesus to the Sanhedrin, he hanged himself and departed from this planet into a lost eternity, the only one of the Twelve who was shut out from Heaven. I suppose money had everything to do with his downfall. At first he most likely persuaded Jesus to allow himself to take care of the money bag instead of Matthew having to do it, using his scholarship as a vantage point. Then he helped himself whenever no one was looking. Then he bartered with the Sanhedrin and with the Pharisees to hand Jesus to them for thirty pieces of silver. That is a large amount of money, considered to be a nest-egg he can retire upon and live the rest of his life in luxury. 

I suppose that in all cultures, both past and present, there has always been something grand about a scholar. Someone to look up to, an icon for respect, maybe even a god to worship. In ancient Greece, there was a whole pantheon of bickering divinities, whether they stole each other's wives or performed some other unseemly acts, nevertheless a temple was always found in a city which was dedicated to each one of them. Could these divinities stem from some very human heroes or from men of outstanding learning? That said, great scholars such as Solon, Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many more, none had ever made it into the realm of the pantheon, although their names remain familiar to this day. Therefore I tend to believe that all those within the realm of the ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman pantheons were antediluvian "heroic men of renown" - offspring between fallen angels and pre-Flood human women, according to Genesis 6:1-4, with tremendous mental and intellectual powers and physical prowess.

I am so glad that such sexual intimacy between fallen angels and the daughters of men had ended with the Deluge. I dread what our world would be like if these guys were around at present! Worse than that, chances that if the Flood wasn't sent during Noah's day, such continuous interbreeding would have eventually choked the Messianic Line. With such Nephilim existing within the line of Shem, Abraham and David, the incarnation of the Son of God would never have occurred, due to the impairment of the genome. Instead, according to 2 Peter 2:4, all the angels who had sinned, with the exception of Lucifer, are now confined to Tartarus, a subterranean prison of gloom and darkness, awaiting Judgement, whilst every demon most likely is a Nephilim disembodied by the Flood, and according to Ephesians 6:12, even right up to the present, roaming the air in want of a body, and is fully aware of its own defeat by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The angelic confinement to Tartarus, I believe, is to prevent the interbreeding between those supernatural beings and human women from reoccurring, therefore preserving the Messianic Line and fulfilling the Promise of Genesis 3:15. One way of putting it, the Flood of Noah was also an act of mercy towards the redemption of mankind as well as a punishment for the wicked and the nonredeemable.

And so as the ancestors deified these Nephilim to divinity and built pagan temples in dedication to them, so it looks to be normal human nature to exalt the great among us to this day. And that includes church life where roving guest speakers are assigned greater honour than the regular preacher or church pastor. The snag with that is heresy can be passed onto his listeners in a very subtle way which seems so orthodox, so Biblical. The worst case scenario is when someone comes along, who claim to be Oxford- or Cambridge-educated, and then publicly preach his denial of Eternal Security of the believer, such content denying the Omniscience of God and weakening the effect of the Atonement. And as I have so recently written already, this has happened. Rather than edify, the sermon caused a near-riot at a theatre where the preaching took place, and counselling sessions were needed afterwards. But after all that, whenever I advocated Eternal Security, someone would look me straight in my eyes and tell me off for daring to cross such a well-educated individual!

With the highly educated held in such reverential respect, I could not help let out a loud groan whilst still in bed. For the morning bulletin on the radio announced the death of one of the nation's top scientists, Professor Stephen Hawking. My heart was sad, very sad for him. This was because Dr. Hawking declared himself to be an atheist. Indeed, my skin always crawl whenever I hear of the death of a known atheist.

Am I being arrogant? After all, who am I to determine the eternal state of someone who has just died? No, in myself I have no right whatsoever to say whether this particular person is now in Hell or not. The case of Ananias and Sapphira is good case point here. Luke does not state their eternal destiny following their deaths as a result of deceitfulness and lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11). This particular couple was seeking glory and honour within the church without deserving it. So they sold a field and gave some of their money to the apostles, but lied when they said that their money was all they had. They kept part of it for themselves and paid the ultimate price. But we are not told where they are spending eternity. And so theologians can be locked in a debate over this issue, without the Bible's blessing.

By contrast, Stephen Hawking had no intention of being deliberately deceitful. He was a man fascinated with science. He admitted his admiration for the Universe, and especially with Black Holes - how were they created, how powerful their energy, and what would be the consequence if our planet was sucked into one, and how long do they last before finally expiring. This with his study of the Universe and how it all began - without acknowledging the Creator. He genuinely believed, without malicious intent, that the complexity of the Universe, our Earth with all its life, and Evolution and the vast time spans needed for such to happen, all ruled out the need of a Creator, who is now confined to ignorance on scientific origins of our Universe. Indeed, according to Hawking, science has replaced for the need to believe in God.

Dr. Hawking was well known for his motor neurone disease which weakened his muscles to the point of paralysis, confining him to a wheelchair. With marvellous technology, he was able to make his thoughts known by a monotone voice emitting from a computer fixed in front of him. Of all the disabled he was one of the more fortunate ones. Up to the age of twenty he was able-bodied, and his brilliant mind and advanced academic progress has already earned him a place at Cambridge. Had he been born already disabled, chances that he would never had become a modern-day Albert Einstein. Instead, his middle-class upbringing gave him such advantage before his health folded in on itself. Indeed, there is that tendency within society to look upon a physically disabled person born that way as if he is also simple-minded as well, and incapable of high-level learning. Dr. Hawking was fortunate indeed.

The late Stephen Hawking.

But what I know of him, little as it might be, I wasn't able to see any misdeed or anything unseemly about him. He was for the well-being of humanity, even if that means remaining in the EU. A complete opposite to the far-right who promotes violence, even murder, towards the ethnically diverse and those who tends to be more internationally minded. Rather like the Britain First leaders and their members who were willing to beat Muslims to bloody pulp in the name of Christianity and patriotism. Dr. Hawking had none of any of that in him.

Hawking loved science, he wanted to do good to the rest of mankind, he wanted to educate, but he was also an atheist. But I still refuse to say where he is now. It is not up to me to judge, for that belongs to God alone. Yet I mourn for him. If only -if only - he knew Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Would knowing Christ impair his knowledge? Rather, his knowledge would have been enriched. He would have still studied the Universe and glory in its complexity, then give thanks to God for his magnificent creation, opening the door for praise and worship whilst wondering in awe and admiration.

Such a brilliant mind. Such a sky-high intelligence quotient. But he never knew God his Creator. 

And that is what I find so amazing.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

A Cross Too Heavy To Bear?

Large crowds were following this particular miracle worker as he tracked across the sun-baked semi-arid desert which formed the western bank of the River Jordan, after leaving the freshwater lake of Galilee and its flourishing fishing industry. Already achieving national fame for doing good by healing the sick, driving out demons and showing mercy to the poor and the hopeless, and at the same time arousing raging envy from the religious mob, this particular Jew, as he was heading towards Jerusalem, suddenly turned around and loudly declared a three fold challenge to the eager crowds:

If you don't hate all your family members, including your own life, you cannot be my disciple.
If you do not take up the cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
If you do not forsake everything you have to follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:26-33.

Indeed he also inserts a couple of illustrations to drive his point home. One was about a man who started to build a watchtower over his vineyard but runs out of funds before he was able to finish it, and ended up as a victim of mockery thrown at him by passersby. And the second illustration was about a king who was set to go to war against a rival monarch whose military was twice as large, and was instead sensible enough to send an ambassador to ask for conditions of peace.  

This "taking up the cross" exhortation, also recorded in Matthew 16:24-28 and Mark 8:34-38, was something I became familiar with soon after conversion towards the end of 1972. For this to be repeated in all three synoptic Gospels, and even hinted in John 12:25-26 as well, seems to indicate the importance of this specific instruction. I felt trapped into a corner. I was confused at the time. Which was the true path to heaven? Receiving eternal life as a free gift through God's grace and mercy? Or by means of self sacrifice and voluntary entering a life of extreme poverty - which is a form of salvation by works?

For example, the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) was offered "living waters welling up to eternal life" without any demand from him for her to take up her cross, or to forsake everything she had, whether family members or possessions. Instead, what he did was to reveal that she was steeped in sin, having already had five husbands and unable to hold down a relationship with any of them. And there she was, cohabiting with yet another man without even first marrying. Imagine having a woman like her entering a typical church and wishing to settle in. Would she be told to reform or be kicked out? I have heard of a preacher delivering a sermon about Christians divorcing and remarrying losing their salvation and sentenced to Hell for all eternity, because of what Jesus himself had taught that to marry a divorced partner is to commit adultery, so clearly expressed in Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18. Indeed, God cannot bless a wedding if one or both partners is a divorcee, according to this internationally known "big shot" of a church pastor.

The audience, large enough to fill a theatre, erupted into a near riot. Counselling sessions were held after the meeting for anyone who needed it. The preacher who delivered the sermon called this mass repentance. Rather, I tend to see these counselling sessions as expressions of fear of potentially suffering in Hell after death. That was in 1994 at a holiday resort of Minehead. And such a spiritual earthquake can still be felt to this day, and the preacher has been known to be ranked as equal to an Old Testament prophet. But when considering that this Samaritan woman at the well had received forgiveness so freely whilst in that audience there were a large number of couples who had remarried and were trembling at their eternal fate, somehow it does not seem right. Therefore, I cannot help but see a rather big difference in the way Jesus Christ treated that Samaritan female and the way he see us today.

Which puts us in a predicament. Because in truth I did not marry a virgin. Rather, I held out my hand to a young woman, rather similar to the Samaritan, who had suffered relationship problems, and I took her in. I then married her, and I have always loved her to this day, not counting her past against her. Our marriage is strong and robust as a result. Her love, adoration and devotion for me is well expressed. But according to Jesus, and endorsed by this preacher, we have lived a life of adultery, and we are both condemned to a lost eternity. If all this is true, then I have grounds to believe that my love for my wife, which is unconditional, is stronger and more stable than God's love for us!

And sometimes I have come close to suspecting this. Between us we have had three beautiful daughters. Then a social worker had them taken away from us for adoption, simply because we did not fit the social ethics befitting our culture (we both have mild autism). Was this tragedy a punishment sent from God for our adulterous affair? Yet to the social worker's surprise, rather than raise my daughters as a divorced single father, I chose to stay with my wife and give her all the love and support I can muster. As a result of the loss of our beautiful daughters, my wife's health had deteriorated to the point that she is confined to a wheelchair whenever she is outdoors. Now, at present, we live on a knife edge. Sharp, severe pains unexpectedly come and go, and not a few times she had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance to receive morphine and oxygen.

And how much do we both wish we had a supply of morphine and canned air here at home. Then maybe home treatment can be administered without a trip to the hospital. But it is not to be. There isn't a pharmacy in the whole land which sells or prescribe morphine. And so only this week, just ten days after our last visit to Accident and Emergency where we spent most of the night, she was down again, this time with a severe chest pain. She called for out-of-hours surgery instead of the emergency number. After an apparent long while a GP and an ambulance crew called at our home. It was quite dramatic, believe me. The doctor slapped her across her face to wake her up from apparent unconsciousness and then pressed hard on the painful area of her chest, intensifying the pain. Angrily, she ordered both the doctor and the crew out of the house whilst I was still in my shell.

However, before the team left, the doctor was very polite to me and correctly assessed a muscular pain which can be treated with a gel. I rushed out into the night to purchase the gel, just in time before the superstore, where the pharmacy is located, was about to close for the night. Gentle treatment slowly brought such sought after relief without another trip to hospital. 

The next day a chilly breeze blew as one of Alex's friends from my church called round our home for an hour's chat and social. This provided a good opportunity for me to set out for a much needed stroll through a wooded beauty spot which literally starts at our rear garden gate. As I walked along, I was mentally protesting:

Why, God, why? This cross is damned too heavy to bear. I can't cope with it any more. I have come to the end of my tether. I had enough! I had enough!

I was pondering whether we were living in adultery and we are now reaping the consequences. Other Christians, both in my church and elsewhere, seemed far more fortunate, especially with a university background. For I have discovered that Further Education is also a hot spot for romance and the start of relationships. This between students of both genders who are not only pure virgins but had never had any other relationships on a platonic level before meeting at college. And so, according to experience in church, guest speakers visit, preach, and move on. Some may call more than once on a Sunday. But in every case, they are happily married, very often having met at college, or soon afterwards whilst both engaged in some post-graduating mission or project.

So I thought as I strolled along the bank of one of the two lakes. I was not like those preachers and visiting guest speakers who tote their happy families wherever they go. Instead, I saw one equivalent of the Samaritan woman, and in love and mercy, I took her in and married her. Am I now facing the consequences for such kindness? Or is all this a disciplining process, which involves carrying my own cross, and a damned heavy one at that?

The sun broke from behind a cloud. The cool breeze stilled as a result. I beheld the beauty of nature around me. Indeed it was man-made, as the whole of this site was once a part of a thick forest. As it is, the sun and shadows played upon the large area of grass, the lake, which is sheltered by a bank of trees, shimmering in its own beauty. Ducks, swans and geese swam around the lake and populated the area of grass. And it was here when a verse I vaguely remembered entered my mind. It was from Lamentations, but at the moment it was garbled, for it was a long time since I last read it in the Bible. But as I kept on reciting it, the wording soon fell into place: 

Because of  the LORD's great love we are not consumed, 
for his compassion never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23.

I recited the words as one of the popular verses we sing at church:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never comes to an end.
They are new every morning,
New every morning,
Great is thy faithfulness O Lord,
Great is thy faithfulness.

I recited those words as I walked towards a copse of trees which shelters a children's adventure playground. On a multi-seat swing which resembled a battering ram, totally alone and undisturbed, since the children were all at school, I felt my spirit rise. I looked up to the sky as it was clearing of clouds, and I was able to smile. I thanked him for his goodness, his mercy, his salvation, our strong and stable marriage, my retirement, and the beauty of his creation. How much I long to behold the Lord Jesus, and I said so. How much I long for his loving embrace, a token of love and acceptance, and I said that too. How much I desire the manifestation of God to the extent that my life is forever changed.

And I think of people in my church at Ascot. They are fellow believers just as I am. And yes, I love them as brothers and sisters in Christ. That is how I want to perceive them - created in God's image to fulfil the ultimate purpose: to love and serve God their Redeemer. No nationalism, no political alliance, no social class. Just one in Christ. For the first time in 24 hours, I once again felt elated.

Because there is a powerful message behind Lamentations. It was written by the prophet Jeremiah. He wrote it with tears running down his face (hence the name of the book). He was weeping for his beloved city Jerusalem. The capital of Israel, the City of God, a city of prayer, of praise, and of worship, and a city of peace and of joy. A city where sinful mankind can approach a holy God through means of animal sacrifices administered through a team of priests, with the High Priest making his annual visit into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the whole nation. A city where the final Atonement will one day be made for the whole world through Jesus on the cross. It will be the site of his Resurrection, and the beginning of the Church Age. And so Jeremiah wept as he watch Jerusalem razed to the ground by the invading Babylonian armies.

Yet he remembered God's mercies, which are new every morning. He realised that God's steadfast love for Israel and its capital will never fail. Nor will God's love for the prophet himself, and God's love for us will never fail either. As with back then, they are equally new every morning, because his faithfulness remains. He also promises that as long as day and night follow each other, God's love for Israel will never fail, despite what the nation has done and its rebellion.

Therefore as long as God's covenant with Israel stands, we as humans need not fear a nuclear holocaust wiping us off the planet, neither need will fear a pandemic that will bring us to extinction. Neither need we ever fear a collision of our planet with an asteroid or large meteorite. As God's covenant with Israel stands, global life will continue (Jeremiah 33:19-26). God's love is universal.

And here I can ask: Is our marriage adulterous? No, I very much doubt that. Especially when Alex had a prenuptial prayer of cleansing by our elders, and she was baptised in water, which also took place before the wedding. She was cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and I too was cleansed. And I can testify that by the strength of our marriage for nearly two decades is a strong indication that it was God who brought us together in the first place. 

Will this revelation bring an end to our knife-edge mode of living? If only! It does look as if Alex's severe pains will erupt from time to time and further trips to hospital does look to be on the cards. It does look as though I will have to continue bearing that heavy cross until only God knows when. But among such turmoil, I can be assured that God's love remains constant. 

Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Beauty of a Whiteout.

According to some reports, people living in Canada and in Scandinavia were poking fun at us within the last few days, sending memes on Twitter and other social sites. These memes were all about "the two centimetres of snow which brought Britain to a grinding halt." I suppose we need to be honest with ourselves: We are not used to coping with snow. Even a light dusting poses a threat, because we British just don't know afterwards which direction the weather will take. Whether the light dusting will melt as a result of milder air beginning to blow in from the Atlantic, or whether the icy cold northeasterly blast from Siberia will keep on blowing across the North Sea indefinitely as it collects more moisture from the sea which is then dumped across the UK as snow.

It was on one of these occasions when my wife posted on Facebook her idea of road transport reverting to horse power and donkeys transporting both us and our baggage to our destinations. Unfortunately, she did not receive a single "like" - which seems to be an indication bordering onto the ridiculous and impracticality. With such a present scenario with marooned lorries, cars and trains, maybe the idea of being mocked by Canadians and Scandinavians alike may bear an element of justification after all.

If only one has to consider being stranded inside a car overnight whilst attempting to drive to his destination only a few miles down the road, and then actually getting stuck in the snow and forced to spend the whole night in the vehicle. Indeed, the riddle of the race between the hare and the tortoise would not be that far out of place here. Just as a team of huskies would successfully transport a heavily-laden sleigh with people and their cargo to their destination across vast Canadian plains of ice and snow to arrive in good time, so over here, by the time dusk arrives, not only is the person and his belongings are safe at where he wants to be, but the horse or pony is also safely back at its stable. Indeed, there is more sense in my wife's statement than credited for.

Or for me, walking seems an adequate way to get about in adverse weather conditions. As a cyclist, when I have realised that the bicycle and snow does not make good companions, nothing is better than to slip on a pair of tough hiking boots and set off on foot. And if the overcast sky breaks and the Winter sun comes out, I find it exhilarating on the startling beauty of freshly-fallen snow glinting in the sunlight, making a vivid contrast to the blue sky above. And not just on the ground, but also on the boughs and branches of trees, and even the normally dull rooftops of houses are enhanced by the sheer beauty of crystalline whiteness of the snow glistening in the sun.

And I don't think it was accidental when God created both beast and man alike with legs rather than with wheels. Quite a clever ingenuity, coming to think of it. Legs are far more efficient in moving across snow than wheels, even motorised wheels. Little wonder that at the Terra Nova cross-Antarctic Expedition, it was history's first ever man, Norwegian Roald Amundsen who arrived at the South Pole in December 14, 1911. This was five weeks before rival Briton Robert Scott's arrival. Clever Amundsen! He used a team of huskies to transport him and his gear. Scott relied on wheels and powered vehicles for transport, and tragically lost the race. Very much like over here at present!

I guess we are very fortunate to have the warm Gulf Stream flowing from the Gulf of Mexico, past the Caribbean Islands, towards Britain and Europe. This, to me, is a constant work of God's mercy and goodness, and an important means to sustain life. This stream keeps our Winters mild. Of course, scientists are able to explain how the Gulf Stream operates by means of the Earth's rotation and other necessary forces involved in its existence, but it still stands as one of God's magnificent designs to suit the present.

Therefore, in general we in Britain are unable to cope with a more severe bout of snowfall. As with the Scandinavians, over there snowfall is normal, and I guess, plenty of it. As geology has it, the Danish peninsula is the ultimate landmass blocking the Gulf Stream from warming up the Gulf of Bothnia, bordered by the east coast of Sweden and the west coast of Finland respectively. As a result, this particular tongue of sea not only has the lowest salt content in the world, but freezes over during the Winter months, unlike the Norwegian Sea, where a weak remnant of the Gulf Stream keeps this area short of freezing over.

Therefore, I can't really hold blame to the Scandinavians for their mocking of our inability to handle snow. They are far more used to it. And they are better prepared when travelling. Although I have never visited Scandinavia (a pity, really), I do believe that the main difference between Winter motoring in Sweden to that of in Britain is the universal use of car tyres used by the Swedes adapted to the snow and ice, all of them fitted during Autumn with the expectation of the coming snow season. Like that they can drive safely all year round.

But our British inability to cope with Winter snow does not dampen or minimise our sense of optimism and self-confidence. Despite warnings after warnings of heavy snowfall and gale force winds, motorists continue to climb into their cars. With enough self confidence and optimism enabling them to complete the journey with hardly a hitch, they set off, even while it's already snowing heavily. And when they hit the motorway or trunk road, each driver gets stuck in a traffic jam which remains stationary even throughout the entire night, and then the need to be rescued and even treated for hypothermia.

Oh to hell with the warnings! It's only a smidgen of snow. I'll get where I want to be. It's no problem.

And such words remain within the mind of the driver, so confident, so optimistic. Exactly like the chap I have been privately messaging shortly before this blog was written. Always a good friend of mine, he has expressed such tremendous confidence and optimism over the future of Britain after we had left the European Union. He even re-initialised GB to mean GLOBAL BRITAIN whereas GB initially stood for Greater Britain, and therefore with his new meaning to those two letters, I have interpreted as meaning world dominance, even though he may deny that. However, according to a Guardian newspaper psychologist, there is a connection between Brexit and the quest for global power, not unlike that of the former Empire, as the spirit of imperialism lies dormant within the genes of the most patriotic. In referral to my friend, this guy is also a regular church-going Christian and one-time house-group leader around the early 1980's.

Choleric in temperament and therefore naturally task-minded and pragmatic, it is equally natural for him to be optimistic and confident, which also gives him a certain level of difficulty in fathoming out more abstract or theoretical ideas and notions. (And for the record, any settlements, homes, schools, shopping precincts, industry, public transport, roads, and many more projects were most likely all envisioned initially by a Choleric. Therefore their presence in this world are beneficial for necessary living.)

Therefore he couldn't understand how I could link his nationalistic self-confidence with Charles Darwin. So I wrote to explain that there is no real difference between world dominance and the Edenic Lie. If the Bible is to be taken as historic, then the story of the Edenic Lie and the Fall are also history. In the third chapter of Genesis, the Serpent entices Eve to eat the fruit of a certain tree which God instructed not to eat from. In further coaxing, the serpent gives a false promise that by eating the fruit would open their eyes of understanding, and become like gods knowing good and evil, and in effect calling God a liar for saying they would die instead. Eve fell for the deceit because she found the idea of becoming divine very attractive, and gave some of the fruit to Adam with the hope of the same elevation to godhood.

And here is the link between the Edenic Lie and Charles Robert Darwin with his theory of evolution. Evolution is all about the slow progress from single-cell organisms dwelling in the primeval ocean to homo sapiens living in cities, making progress in sophisticated technology, and continuing on the upward progress with the assumption towards divinity.

But there is a very serious fault with this theory. If evolution is true and historic and the Edenic Lie and the Fall mere mythology, then death did not come by Adam's transgression, as the Bible says otherwise. If death did not come from Adam's fall, then Jesus Christ was not able to overcome death by atonement and his resurrection, therefore making salvation an impossibility. The reality of Divine Creation, the Fall, and death entering the world through Adam's sin is absolutely vital for the reality of the Christian faith. There is no room for compromise. If there was no Adam and Eve, there was no Jesus Christ either.

Therefore it is quite straightforward to see a direct link between my Choleric friend's national pride, optimism, confidence, and his quest for global supremacy, with the Edenic Lie as recorded in the Bible. The want for global supremacy, even on a national scale, is nothing more than the Edenic Lie re-enacted over and over again. And in the spiritual realm, self-confidence and optimism could be fatally dangerous!

Such in the case of judgement day. On this subject, it is Jesus himself who prophetically teaches that at the door of heaven there will be many standing outside and refused admission. This is a really a scary situation and I believe this is a serious warning towards those with self-confidence and optimism. For the Lord included this in his sermon, using the AV for maximum impact:

Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Matthew 7:21-23.

I never knew you. I never knew you. I never knew you. And such words will echo in their heads for all eternity. What a dreadful thought that is, to be told that by the Lord himself, I never knew you. In my younger days I always thought: Wrong religion. Wrong kind of church service. Unable to shake off a specific sin. But I no longer believe it's any of those. By studying the defence these people use to plead for entry, a common theme emerges. Self-confidence, optimism. The deceit in believing that these guys can work their own way to heaven, even using the name of Christ. When alive, these people did not turn to Jesus to have their sins washed away and to receive forensic acquittal. Instead they trusted in their own natural abilities, using the name of Jesus to further their own quest for world fame, reputation and greatness, along with divinity, a state of godhood.

And so I write, the snow outside is now slowly melting. The wind has changed. The crisis has peaked. By Monday, commuters can travel to work by train, bus and car as normal. Schools will re-open. Offices will be fully staffed once more. The pulse of life will beat again. Optimism with Brexit will continue to be debated in Parliament. My friend will continue to be so sure of the future, perceived with a rosy optimism for national greatness and supremacy. Many church-goers will continue to revel in their own self-righteousness, thinking that they are doing God's will. The pulse of British life will beat on.

But with Charles Darwin's theory fully in charge of our minds, God will have to be left out altogether.


Saturday, 24 February 2018

Sex - So Controversial...

A long-standing friend and I stood at the window of a bar overlooking an indoor climbing gym. At that point he told me about a rebuke he received from a church elder on one of their evening meetings. As expected, it was over the issue of greeting each other with hugs instead of a stiff handshake. I asked him whether my name was mentioned. His answer was yes, the issue was between him and me. This particular case made it more of an annoying issue because I was not present to defend my case nor his, since these Sunday evening meetings were geared more for students and other people generally young enough to be my grandchildren.

In my annoyance I announced that all this began from a complaint made by the son of another one of our church members, and I told my friend directly that this young man, who is no longer with us, is in the closet. Hence all this palaver about such intimacy "spoiling the imagery of our church among unbelievers" and "to be to the likes all men" are so nonsensical and hypocritical. My friend defended his case by saying that hugging is the norm within African churches, as for some years he spent months doing missionary work, which included installing an electric power generator over a local stream, and making possible the building of a hospital. How the elder responded to such an answer I was not told.

The conversation continued about his own experience on how other college-age singletons had admitted to him about their struggles on sexual libido and fetishes when aroused by the appearance of someone of the same gender. His testimony backs my experience in encountering men who may appear godly and devoted to God on the outside but struggle secretly within when another good-looking fellow is in the same room. And too afraid or reluctant to share to others in case this may bring judgement, condemnation and possible feelings of rejection.

And my friend at the bar should know this well. There are some African nations with a Christian constitution where homosexuality is illegal and offenders can receive a death penalty. One good example is Uganda. On You-Tube, you can click on a video about a British presenter Scott Mills, himself openly gay, and investigating on why there is a high level of homophobia in Uganda along with such a fear of the death penalty. His findings has shown that the three main sources of homophobia were the churches, the Government, and politicians. Echoes of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas and its late radically homophobic pastor, Fred Phelps, who enjoyed displaying street placards condemning homosexuals to hell, along with the rest of the USA for tolerating it. With such hatred and with many cases of physical abuse, even murders, it's no surprise that even here in the UK, known for its easier and liberal stance on the matter, people are still too much afraid to leave their tightly-shut closets.

 Scott Mills rebuked by a homophobic church leader in Uganda 

And despite of all this, hugging is as natural as it can get in African churches. And as my friend knows it, we hug each other often. And he is a married man with two daughters, just as I too am married and fathered three daughters. And to add to this, it's often a case of him desiring a hug from me as well as me from him. And about a year ago there was a case of an African visitor, himself a married man with children, who after getting acquainted with me, gave me a prolonged rib-crushing embrace, which took place within view of the English church complainer whose son is a secret gay. Not surprisingly, after remarking about the reluctance among Brits to display such emotion, this black charismatic character soon left our church for another fellowship elsewhere. Without doubt, I guess he was firmly rebuked, which prompted him to leave. 

It is within me to hug other men in the church, whether they are married or single. However, I have a greater caution about hugging women, in case of offending, although there are some women I do hug. But these I know well enough not to take offence. Nevertheless, among countless man-to-man hugs over four decades, only one complained to the elders, which eventually led me to conclude that he is in the closet. And that is without ever suspecting his fetishes whilst he was still with us. And as I have already mentioned, he is by no means alone. There are a number of others found in churches whose libidos clashes with their Christian faith, and therefore struggle in their conflicts.

Yet I know where my elders are coming from. They'll be the first to quote Leviticus 20:13:-
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them has done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Paul the apostle backs this up when he wrote to the Romans:-
Because of this (idolatry), God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations with unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty (STD? AIDS?) for their perversion.
Romans 1:26-27.

So hugging is condemned! Or is it? Is there a difference between greeting someone with a hug and a scene resembling this:-
Before (Lot and his two guests) had gone to bed, every man from every part of the city of Sodom - both young and old - surrounded the house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them" (or, we may know them - KJV)
Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who had never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."
"Get out of our way," they replied. And they said, "This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We'll treat you worse than them." They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door.
Genesis 19:4-10.

And so by hugging another man to greet him in church places me onto the same platform as these inhabitants of the city of Sodom, according to my elder's perception. Or for short, I can be classed as a sodomite! Incredulous. No, I don't believe this. Because even then there is a world of a difference between those Sodomites and these Christian believers who are struggling with their sexual orientation, their fetishes, and their libidos. And so the Christian singleton who totally abstains from any sexual contact even from his girlfriend or fiancee, he is praised by his colleagues as living a holy life, while at the same time his friend, who has a desire for another man standing nearby, is not only wondering whether he has ever been regenerated or not, but lives in fear of discovery and judgement. The snag is, the "spiritually pure" hetero who is engaged to be married and is perceived as living in godliness, is not necessarily free from a sudden rush of blood if he glances at another pretty female standing nearby.

And where heterosexuality is concerned, there has always this perception within churches that to cohabit outside marriage is wrong and sinful. No, I am not advocating cohabitation. But I am rather surprised, and somewhat relieved too, by not seeing a chaperone whenever a church member pairs off with a girlfriend and start to deepen their relationship. Am I being cynical here? In the church I attended between 1975 and 1990, there was a deacon who was a self-appointed chaperone and always interfered whenever a young man, normally a graduate, gets friendly with a similarly aged female. Fortunately for Alex and myself, there was no chaperone to interfere with us before we married, since this was long after I left that church. Therefore we did cohabit for a few months before we married, including having sex. When a member of my former church - who was chaperoned along with his future partner before they were married - found out about us living together without a wedding ring on our fingers, he got quite cross about it.

He began to lecture me about sex being reserved for married couples only. He then blushed as he attempted to splutter out the second chapter of Genesis. As he was blushing, I could almost see the accusing finger of God pointing at him rather than at me. The reason for this was simple. He was, and still is, a staunch evolutionist, and therefore denied the historicity of pre-Abrahamic Scriptures and in effect calling God a liar. Little wonder if I were to say to any unchurched:- Cohabitation without getting married is against my religion - I would put anyone off seeking faith in God, and be a slippery path towards atheism.

The way I see it, this is rather a delicate subject. Especially when I read things in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. For example, Abraham slept with at least one woman aside his own wife Sarah. He slept with Hagar, who gave birth to Ishmael. Then his grandson Jacob was a bigamist, for he married both Leah and Rachel within a week of each other. And I doubt whether any church at present would endorse bigamy. Then there is the case of King David. And here I read something of specific interest. Yes, we all agree that David sinned against God when he slept with Bathsheba, because she was the wife of another man, Uriah the Hittite, a soldier for Israel who was very loyal to David. But what Nathan had to say in judgement to the King I find interesting:-

This is what the Lord the God of Israel, says:
"I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this has been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord  by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.
2 Samuel 12:7-10.  

The issue here is that God gave Saul's wives and concubines to David. So apparently David did not sin against God when he slept with all these women. Instead, this was in keeping with Middle Eastern culture and tradition - for a king or rich aristocrat to have a harem of concubines. King David had ten concubines, according to 2 Samuel 15:16 and 20:3. This was perfectly normal. In fact, Jesus himself used the same Middle Eastern custom in his Parable of the Ten Virgins to illustrate the Kingdom of God (Matthew 25:1-13). They were all virgins. Five were wise, five foolish. When the king arrived, he took in the five who were readily available to form his son's harem. They were distinguished from the son's actual bride, the king's legal daughter in law.

So with all I can perceive, it is sinful to lie with another man's wife. And this applies to divorce, about which Jesus says that anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery (Luke 16:18). Apparently, as God sees it, a divorcee is still married to the former spouse. So according to Jesus' words, to marry someone divorced is to commit adultery. And becomes even worse than that. All the guy has to do is look at a woman lustfully and his has committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28). I suppose this could apply to someone who has a fetish for someone of the same gender:- I say to you, if any man looks lustfully at another man, he has committed sodomy with him in his heart already. Little wonder any Christian with this problem struggles and often falls away.

And this whole matter seems grossly unfair. A man looks at a woman with lust and he is condemned, even if he does nothing to her. Then we read of David having ten concubines, any one of them welcomed to his bed. Or how about David's son Solomon, perhaps the most wise king throughout all history. Not only had he impressed the Queen of Sheba with his wisdom but managed to get a thousand wives and concubines into his bed! That is one woman each night for three years (1 Kings 11:1-4). It is worth noting here that Solomon married and slept with foreign women, those who were not of Israel. Solomon's sin was allowing himself to be led astray into idolatry. If he had kept his harem within the realm of Israeli women, more likely he would have stayed true to God, and the splitting of the nation between Israel and Judah which followed his death might have been avoided.

It's so messy, coming to think of it. So controversial. Here is Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon sleeping around rather freely. Even Jesus used the harem in one of his parables. Then come to the present, and we see the church judging any believer or member having sex outside of marriage. Really, as one of the guilty party myself, where do I stand?

And it's here where the Gospel comes in. Gospel simply means Good News. Very good news indeed. Because as Paul also wrote to the church in Rome, all one has to do is believe in his heart that God raised Jesus physically from the dead and confess him as the Messiah, the Son of God, and he will be saved (Romans 10:9-13). This is the promise of God, that his salvation is open to all believers, regardless of his background or what he has done. Whether a married man faithful to his wife or a pimp with prostitutes or a homosexual out on a cruise - salvation is open to all.

Open to all who believes in his heart the Resurrection of Jesus. He who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God - 1 John 5:1. The Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth regenerates the heart, the threefold revelation brings new desires, which includes a new spirit which cannot sin, and the ability to turn away known sin. But not out of compulsion or legalism. Nor for the fear of punishment. Rather, by the gradual replacement of old, sinful desires with good, God-honouring wishes. The work of grace. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Grasshoppers? That's very Generous!

As another Friday prepares to draw to a close and the majority of working folk looking forward to the coming weekend, I settle down at home after another stint in the sauna. Alex is about to bring in the dinner. Then suddenly, Ow! Ow! Arrgh!

OH, NOT AGAIN! I thought, as I tried to shut out any images within my imagination of a racing ambulance whisking her back to hospital. Yes, its another bout of sharp pain down her spine, a frequent situation which I refer to as "having a downer" - a term I coined up myself in reference to these frequent experiences. It is these downers which lies beneath our notion of "living on a knife edge" which made up part of the title of last week's blog post.

I escorted her to the sofa where she took a variety of painkillers and I encouraged her to rest. Fortunately I had a supply of those Deep Heat pads, which is a kind of jelly within a linen liner which has that propensity to radiate heat into the skin when in contact. How comforting these are for her. And the wonders of modern medical science - a jelly-like substance which can radiate heat. Imagine that. Quite a contrast to the fruit-flavoured dessert which had to be refrigerated before I could enjoy at the table during the days of boyhood. 

Yet although my beloved had received the best of attention short from a paramedic, whilst in the kitchen, my fears and anxieties turned to that of rage. Angry at God. Angry at his apparent lack of love for us. A feeling of frustration on how much more does God seems to love other, more fortunate and better educated people - especially the middle classes - as I remember on Facebook all those photos of wedding smiles and white cloth Reception tables, undergraduates lining up in front of the camera to pose in their smart hired suit and ties, snapshots of mothers cuddling their newborn and toddlers, all of them emerging onto the laptop screen as I slowly scroll downwards. Oh, it's so easy to compare our life's downers with their joyful, happy-go-lucky way of living. I am beginning to wonder whether the sceptics had a point when they say that there is an element of emotional harm emanating from these social websites. After all, as I was already reminded, people only want everyone else to see the good things in their lives, often to entice envy, and not so much of life's shadier side. Everything is so nice on the wedding day - suits, wedding dresses, bridesmaids, flowers, wedding rings, the sumptuous Reception dinner afterwards, the multi-tiered wedding cake so beautifully decorated that the pillars between each tier gives them a resemblance to the gates of Heaven.

But once the honeymoon is over, nothing appears in Facebook of the first quarrel, a sudden loss of temper, unpaid bills, dirty dishes piling up, disagreements on what to watch on TV, frustration over the bed not made up, morning bad breath, and heaven forbid - daily stresses at work eventually leading to male erectile dysfunction in bed. No, those sort of things don't appear in Facebook. They never do.

Or in the case of the mother showing off her young. Then the deep Internet silence when it comes to constant crying, refusing to eat, more food on the bib rather than in the mouth, soiled and smelly diapers, disturbed nights. Or the case of undergraduates lining up in their identical suits, white shirts and ties. Oh so very nice. So posh and all. Too bad that they rarely - if ever - do they pose in front of the camera wearing denims with holes at the knees. And I was very surprised to see such tatty garments on sale at a Primark clothes store complete with holes and loose thread. I had to smile. I wonder how my long-deceased uncle would have reacted if I had presented myself to such a smart-conscious RAF Warrant Officer dressed like that! Little wonder that Facebook is deprived of such snapshots.

Or in the case of The Daily Mail national newspaper. Especially the online version. Just about every day, unless an Earth-shaking disaster had occurred, the headline focuses on celebrity, and in particular the daily antics of Prince Harry and his fiance Meghan Markle. Generally, I have respect for both people. But with Markle, an American actress and not fully Caucasian, I would have preferred she had married Harry's older brother William. Because Prince William is third in line for the Throne, he will eventually sit there. And I would have love to have known the nation's reaction to having a black queen sitting on her throne. But too bad. Unless a disaster of catastrophic proportions overtakes Prince Charles, his son William and grandchildren George and Charlotte, Harry and Meghan will never sit on the throne. And yet the Media loves to highlight their presence as if they will take the throne tomorrow.

And whether the right-wing newspaper has a passion for the tie, I can't really be dogmatic. However, it has in the past criticised BBC News journalists and reporters for going on air without a tie, and as the paper had put it, "Standing in front of the camera with shirts open at the neck to impress their girlfriends back at home." So uncouth. So common. And so anti-British. And on the online version of The Daily Mail, there is a celebrity column on the right margin of the page. This has aroused interest when a male celebrity appears on the prompt pictured in casual open neck shirt. For all I have to do is click on the prompt, scroll down and wait expectantly. I can guarantee that a full-length photo of the celebrity dressed in suit, shirt and tie will appear lower down on the page. And sure enough, it always does. Hence my interest in the newspaper's obsession with smartness. Smartness being equal to celebrity status, Englishness in all its glory, and just one step below royalty itself. And perceived as worthy of God's greater love.

And so I live in a nation where smart dress generates respect. And more than mere respect, reverence. Especially when celebrity reaches royal status. Like the time I was having a discussion with a devout Englishman over the death of Princess Diana in 1997. His reason was that her death was necessary to prevent her from marrying a Muslim, and therefore saving our country from having an Islamic queen as Head of State. When I questioned whether Diana was in heaven or hell, the devout Englishman was offended. Of course Diana is in heaven. She is a Royal. English royalty automatically inherits eternal life with God. And I guess this must include good old Henry VIII and his rather colourful reign. 

And so our reverential respect for royalty continues to this day and will continue into the future, no matter how loudly the republicans will protest. Perhaps that is why I find history to be so interesting. And not just British history but world history going back into ancestry. I could indeed ask: What is the difference between our nation's reverence to the Queen and the reverence shown to the Egyptian Pharaoh by his subjects? I would say that his subjects had enough reverence to build a massive pyramid to house his tomb after his death. And these builders were not slaves, as previously thought. Rather, they were paid workers, with highly skilled stonemasons among them. And during the years of pyramid construction, these workers were looked after well, including provision of housing. Yet the whole project reflected the deification of their king to the point of salvation in the afterlife for both king and citizen alike.

And the same applied to the Roman emperors. When one of these kings, Augustus Caesar in 27 BC, initiated Pax Romana, a society at last free from war and military expansion, their citizens were very grateful, yet still found it difficult to worship an abstract quality, so they proceeded to deify the Emperor. By the time Emperor Nero came along, which was during Apostle Paul's ministry, honouring him as Lord in a sense of divinity was obligatory. Either that or risk the death penalty. Christian believers were given a stark choice on who is their Lord and God: Emperor Nero or Jesus Christ of Nazareth?

And so ancient history goes. Although both Egypt and Rome are credited as historical facts, it is so unfortunate that the early chapters of Genesis are relegated to that of mythology. And amazingly enough, the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is often fictionalised as well. For example, many years ago, around 1978 or 79, I read in The Sun national newspaper that Jesus of Nazareth did not die on the cross but instead fell unconscious. Believing he had died, he was taken down and placed in the tomb and its mouth sealed with a movable stone. After this, he regained consciousness and somehow managed to roll the stone from the inside of the tomb, and that despite all his injuries! Then he walked off and disappeared into some faraway country, possibly to Iraq or even Persia. And he was never seen again. And so this story was published as historic in a national newspaper. And this was the newspaper which held special honour for the great British Bulldog and imperialistic supremacy. And the six literal days of Creation? Anyone worth his salt who believes in that deserves to be ridiculed or ignored! Yet I can believe in something in addition to a literal six-day divine Creation. And that is my acceptance of the island continent of Atlantis existing before the Flood.

This began when I watched TV documentaries on sub-marine projects on our small monochrome set during my boyhood days. How I was fascinated by undersea scenery! And how divers were searching a shipwreck or working on an undersea building or repair project. And so the sea floor and its geological features and marine life became something of interest. And especially at the mid-Atlantic Ridge volcanic formation, after visiting the active crater of Mt. Etna in 1982. Since backpacking Italy and standing on the lip of an active crater, my fascination with volcanism began to grow, along with my curiosity over Atlantis, after reading about the ancient Greek philosopher Plato testifying of its past existence.

Then I could well ask: Why shouldn't Atlantis ever exist? What verifiable proof can be submitted to debunk the whole theory of its existence? And in the most convincing way? Does it pose a threat? Does it stir fear of divine judgement, just as the Flood poses a threat of divine judgement, so this Biblical catastrophe is mythologised and dismissed from history? It is something I find worth pondering.

It's thanks to Google Earth that seems to drive home the reality of this sunken island rather than to debunk it. I include this image here:

The image, although rather small here, can be examined in far greater detail and clarity on Google Earth or on Google Maps. What it shows looks like to be a vast plain crossed by a mountain range roughly resembling an archer's bow. True enough, the two tectonic plate edges meets right in the middle of the mountain range. So does the San Andreas Fault running through California, which also consists of two tectonic plates moving side by side in opposite directions from each other. I can imagine an Atlantean standing on the plain south of the mountain range, say at co-ordinates 34.28.25 degrees North and 28.57.39 degrees West. As he travels north, he will begin to see the mountain range appear above the horizon. By attempting to work out the contortion of the landscape with the help of the numeric information given by Google Earth, it looks as though the whole range has an average height of 4,450 metres approx, subject to the original height of the southern plain above sea level before the Flood.

This compares well with the height of Mt. Ararat, which is 5,137 metres high, or Mt Blanc of the European Alps, which is 4,810 metres high. According to Google Earth, the plain south of the mountain range is roughly 3,530 metres below the sea surface at its deepest point, although this varies significantly, for much of the plain is around or less than 3,000 metres below sea level. To say that the Azores Islands are the summits of the Atlantis mountain range remaining above sea level looks to be so plausible.

This seems to add verification to what the Bible says in Psalm 104:8, that the mountains rose and the valleys sank down as the Flood of Noah retreated. Even if we allow the southern plain of Atlantis sink by as much as 3,700 metres according to the Scripture, this is but an apple skin when compared to the circumference and diameter of our planet. The rising of the mountains and the sinking of the valleys are barely discernible when the surface of the Earth is seen from space. Since the Flood is debunked by modern science, it does not surprise me when the reality of Atlantis is debunked as well. Therefore I find no trouble in accepting both as historic.

So where does Atlantis and the Flood connect with Facebook images? It seems a long shot, doesn't it? It goes to show that compared to the size of our home planet, we are mere grasshoppers, according to Isaiah 40:22 and Numbers 13:33. And that is quite a generous statement. If the difference of 3,700 metres is like the thickness of an apple skin to the whole fruit when compared with the size of Earth itself, then where do we stand? Are we more like microbes? Molecules even? Or more like atoms by comparison. Really, I find it amazing how God would even notice our existence. But the reality is, not only are we created by him in his own image, but he loves us enough to send his Son as a human, to give himself as an atonement for all our sins, and to bring us into his family. If Atlantis must sink before him, and the Earth, Moon and Sun bows before him, then what significance is man made social status in relation to him?

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Living on a Knife Edge: Stack or Sponge?

A good friend and I sat in a pub not far out of London. As he was due to wed a few weeks later, he asked for some advice on the health of our marriage between Alex and myself. According to our eighteen years of marital experience, to work out our relationship, we could either perceive our priorities as a traditional stack or more of a revolutionary sponge. By means of the stack, to arrange in order of importance goes something like this:

1. God.
2. Spouse.
3. Children and child raising.
4. Church.
5. Home.
6. Money and budgeting.
7. Work.
8. Leisure including holidays.
9. Day to day Hobbies.

Of course, your priorities may differ. But if you are a committed Christian believer, then I could bet your bottom dollar that you'll have God right up there on top of your stack. Underneath God, you may put church at #2. Or home at #2 and church at #3. Or even Hobbies or Holidays at #2 and Spouse at #9. You may even have more than nine items in your stack. You could have as many as a dozen. Perhaps even more than that. For example, you could add to the list Food and Drink. With me, that's under the item Home, which would also include the Car, or Transport. Whichever way your stack may look, it's still a stack. This was the method taught to me by churches and its literature especially during my early days as a believer, while getting to grips with my new faith in the area of personal devotion.

Until in recent years of hard experience, I came to realise that although the stacking system looks so good on paper, it comes up wanting in day-to-day living. Okay, I shall elaborate. There, on the upper shelf at #1 sits God. There he is at top priority. Yet he sits there apparently with no influence over all the others. Rather like the Bible resting on the upper shelf of a bookcase. There, it may have no influence on the other books or magazines sitting beneath it unless this particular bookshelf stores only Christian literature with its pages sprinkled with Bible quotes and verses.  

And so whilst chatting to my mate in the bar, I came up with the wet sponge illustration. Here, instead of each item placed on a shelf or on top of each other according to priority, they are all sponges soaked in water in a bucket. And there is no sponge labelled God in the bucket, for God is the water itself, penetrating into the heart of every sponge in the bucket, the bucket itself being a good representation of your heart. I think this is a far better illustration than the stack, for there is no need to prioritise. Furthermore, if a tree is planted by a river or stream, then it will always bear good fruit, according to Psalm 1:1-3 and Jeremiah 17:7-8.

Perhaps you're thinking: Hold on, you did not place Prayer on your list, especially at second place in the stack. But prayer is within the God item. Coming to think of it, I do wonder how often one is engaged in prayer whilst washing the car, or taking a swim in the sea and throwing a ball at a fellow bather to catch and throw back, or involved in a league game of football, or for that matter, cuddling up to your wife or husband on the sofa, or watching TV, or at work trying to negotiate an important contract with a customer or with another company. Really, how would the boss feel if he sees you spending your office time engaged in prayer at your desk? 

Therefore I have come to realise over the years that rather than place God above everything else in my life, I much prefer to perceive him as involved with every aspect of living. For example, knowing that God is with me if I take a dip in the sea, to relax in the sauna, or when I was busy running a window-cleaning business before retirement, when I go shopping, or cuddling up to Alex, watching TV, or flying abroad or on board a fast train. Or checking the bank account or visiting the GP. Or just about to be anaesthetised in readiness for open-heart surgery, which happened almost exactly three years ago in 2015. 

And forgiving someone who actively dislikes you. To forgive in such circumstances requires the power of God. To forgive is not merely to forget or to shove under the carpet. To forgive is to be willing to extend the hand of friendship and reconciliation. Even if or when it does not happen, my willingness to do so will always be there. It's for my benefit, not for the other person's benefit. If he remains disliking me, then even after my forgiving of him, his feelings towards me will remain unchanged. It's my feelings that will change - change for the better. Like the water soaking the sponge until it pours out if removed from the bucket, I need to be soaked with the Holy Spirit at all times, so I can be a blessing to others as well as myself. 

And in our set of circumstances, the need for God in our lives is vital. Because with my wife, the need to call for an ambulance remains imminent. I can happen at any moment. This is due to an illness she has which confines her to a wheelchair whenever she is out of doors. Most likely psychosomatic illness (meaning upset mind sick body, a term no longer used in the medical world). A series of family tragedies occurring in the five months between 2004 and 2005 had an impact on the neurotic area of her physical health. This has resulted in sudden, highly intense and severe pains, particularly in her back, her legs and even her head. One moment we might be talking lightheartedly, maybe sharing a joke, or watching TV, or even cooking a meal, when all of a sudden she goes into a severe pain which causes her to writhe on the floor in agony. I have no option but to dial for the emergency services.

Then to add her constant need for medicine, especially Diazepam, along with her prescribed antidepressants, both which doctors say are addictive drugs. But her daily dosage is absolutely essential for her well-being. In truth, this sort of constant imminence is a very frightening experience, along with endless living on a knife edge, wondering just when she is subjected to another attack of intense pain. But despite of all that, we will never separate! I love her so much and I know how much she loves me. To be with her constantly, as I see it, was worth sacrificing what was my dearest pet at the time, which was long-haul travel and backpacking, onto the altar of lifelong marriage. Yet to this day I have no regrets, instead I see the responsibility as a carer as something of a privilege given by God as a means to mould us both into the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. 

And how much I need to be thoroughly soaked in the waters of the Holy Spirit of God. Maybe at first I was dropped into the bucket as a stone. A stone is totally impermeable. Water cannot get beneath its surface. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. God can - and does - change a stone into a sponge so the water can penetrate. For me, my responsibility as a carer is playing its role in this lifelong process of change, a process known as sanctification.

But having said all that, one of the most important needs required in this sanctification process is love and support, especially from my church fellowship. To know that I am loved, supported and encouraged goes a long way in coping with an emergency call-out which can strike suddenly and unexpectedly. This, I think, was one of the main reasons why Jesus established the church. I can think of three principal reasons why he was so wise to make such a move. First, the church, which is an assembly of saints meeting together, is pictured as a threefold Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ and the Holy Temple, a people for whom he gave his own life in order to build a spiritual dwelling for himself. Secondly, the church is an outward expression of God's holiness, a living letter of Christ written to win the souls of unbelievers and saving them from their sins and eternal loss. And thirdly, the church can be perceived as a spiritual and possibility a psychological hospital for the healing of the soul towards God and for each other, and maybe for the physical body too.

And as I see it, the local church should be a refuge for everyone whose conflict with sin, with the world, and with the Devil has each taken a toll on the individual's well-being. A place to run to, to take refuge in, a strong tower for the righteous to flee into, and a place for the lost to find his eternal destiny. A place which offers an alternate lifestyle to the rest of society.

Imagine a married couple who has two grown-up sons, which is a compilation from many posts on the Internet I had read before now. Both of these sons attended university and therefore they are both successful professionals with a good education and income. Their parent's pride and joy. In the course of time one son marries, but later suffers a divorce. The other, well into his thirties and still single, reports a severe back pain which is constantly troubling him. Rather like my wife Alex, but without the wheelchair. Physical disability? Not so much of physical disability as an upset mind and emotional torment. Another example of a psychosomatic illness? Perhaps stemming from being a closet homosexual? If so, are his respectable, middle class, church-going parents aware of this? If not, then the son's fear of coming out to his Mum and Dad reveals his bad perception of God reflected in his parent's religious attitude and performance. If on the other hand, they are aware of their son's sexual orientation, then distress will hit on one of either of their soteriological beliefs. If the parents believe in Eternal Security of the Believer, or Once Saved Always Saved, then they will perceive their son's sexual orientation as proof that "He was never saved in the first place." Alternately, they will fear that their son is in danger of losing his salvation, if he hadn't lost it already.

Indeed, how much do we all need to be soaked through and through with the living waters of the Holy Spirit! I have read much and heard a lot about the LGBT's rather fierce hostility against church and organised religion. Burdened down with church-based society-induced guilt, rejection and hostility from family members, forced segregation from work colleagues, isolation and bullying from fellow school and college students, along with church condemnation, such attitude creates atheism on a massive scale among them, along with apathy towards anything spiritual. With the acceptance of Charles Darwin as their Messiah, these souls, whom Christ died for, are headlong into a lost eternity.

I wish to note here that a closet gay is not necessarily a sodomite. That is why I believe such hostility and self-righteousness towards someone with a different orientation is altogether hypocritical, evil and totally unnecessary. If his orientation is towards other men but refrains from anything immoral, especially for the protection of his own reputation as well as for the sake of the Gospel, then what is the real difference between him and a straight individual who also keeps his sexual urges under control for the same reasons, and in church the hetero is looked upon as a model of righteous excellence but not the homo? Is the hetero saved and "in Christ" while the homo is forever lost and cannot be saved unless he first undergoes some orientation realignment therapy, which often includes electric shocks and other uncomfortable forms of treatment?

Such unmitigated nonsense! And that is in light of the knowledge of quite a number of unmarried heterosexual men I associate with, who are in their fifties and sixties and all of them living alone without ever having a wife or fathered any children. As far as I know, they have no need to live on the knife edge like I have to with Alex's symptoms, along with the closet gay or his parents. Neither does any of these bachelors had ever attempted to pick up a woman at a nightclub or bar. Rather, instead of allowing society to generate guilt against the struggling individual, we all need to be soaked in the water of the Holy Spirit, letting his love flow freely and without guilt or judgement. And that includes allowing the Holy Spirit to touch every area of our lives.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Who DO you Believe?

If I have got this right, whilst I sit in front of my laptop typing out this blog, a congregation of young people from churches around London and the Home Counties, including a large contingent from my home church in Ascot, are at this moment assembled at Westminster Chapel for a conference. "Conference", that is, a series of sermons delivered from the pulpit, usually on a specific subject in relation to the Bible. Rather like at the turn of the Millennium, when Alex and I attended the Prayer for Israel Conference at the same venue and hosted by that late great Israeli preacher and advocate, Lance Lambert.

At least that P.F.I. Conference was open for people of all ages, I assume, from teenager upwards, with no set upper age limit. It was also about the same time I took my young wife to the Holy Land to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. As such, the P.F.I. meant a lot for both of us. At Westminster Chapel, Lance Lambert spoke into our spirits. Therefore I have to admit of my puzzlement on why at this conference taking place at this moment, there is a set upper age limit, which is up to but not including one's fortieth birthday. In other words, the Westminster Chapel conference is for eighteen-to-thirties only. And so I ponder what will be taught from the pulpit which is so relevant for them but no longer relevant for oldies such as myself.

Westminster Chapel, London

Maybe I will ask one of the students tomorrow, after the morning service, that is with the hope that they will be able to get out of bed early enough to attend church after such a busy day. Maybe he will tell me that it was about Courtship, Marriage and Children. Or the conference may be about future church leadership. Not much use for those who regularly attend an Anglican church unless you are a student at Oxford or Cambridge. Far less if the ambition of those at the conference is to become the Bishop of Canterbury. For that, one has to post-graduate to a level of a doctorate at Oxbridge. Too bad that none of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ had managed to reach such academic levels, although one of them, Judas Iscariot, might have come close.

But let's be fair. Saul of Tarsus was a well educated Jew, a rising Pharisee, a son of a Pharisee, from the tribe of Benjamin. He had the equivalent of a doctorate attained from Oxford or Cambridge. Not only was he a rising star at the Sanhedrin, but the throwing of a garment at his feet whilst Stephen was stoned to death was an indication of future leadership. Saul was thoroughly into the Scriptures. But like all the other Jews around him, Saul failed to discern the signs of the times. For example, he was well familiar with the writings of the prophet Daniel. So were the High Priest and all other members of the Sanhedrin. I know this, because when Jesus quoted from that scroll during his trial, the entire assembly had really got hot under the collar, so much so that the High Priest had to tear his cloak from top to bottom!  

What was the sign of the times found in Daniel's scroll? Some simple arithmetic would have made a connection between Daniel's prophecy and the timing of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his Death and Resurrection. If such experts were aware that Nehemiah's commission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem took place in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year into the reign of Persian King Artaxerxes, then those members of the Sanhedrin would have been able to work out that such a particular date occurred some 483 Hebrew years earlier, at 445 BC. By making such calculations, the Jews would have been far more likely to have made a connection between this Jesus of Nazareth and the awaited Messiah (Nehemiah 2:1-6, Daniel 9:20-27, Matthew 26:57-68).

But they all missed the point. Despite such learning, they failed to connect this Jesus as their awaited Messiah or Christ. And his authoritative teachings backed by many miracles performed, especially with the raising of Lazarus from the dead, yet still failed connect this Jesus as the Christ. As for myself, I have always felt inspired by such prophecy and its fulfilment in Jesus Christ. This led me to an interest in End Time Prophecy, particularly in the 1980's when I bought books on the subject, particularly by Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye and Norman Robertson, all three predicting the end of the present age by the turn of the Millennium. Unfortunately for them, we are still here and it's still business as usual, which has also led to the rise of doubters who had since poured scorn on this so-called "Dispensationalist Theory".

Not that I no longer believe in the "Rapture" or translation of all saints to heaven before the actual return of Jesus Christ to Earth. I still believe in the Rapture, which has always been held as imminent, or could happen at any moment, totally unexpected. I have always believed in it since the mid seventies when I bought and read The Late Great Planet Earth along with its sister book, There's A New World Coming, both by Hal Lindsey. But I need to be truthful about myself here, and ask: Has such gaining of knowledge made me a better man who is loving towards others? Sad to say, the answer to that question is No. Instead, I was tempted to feel smug. Like one evening in 1974 as I was walking through Brixton in South London, I passed a Unification Church with its doors open and people milling around. This type of church is part of a group which denies the reality of the Trinity. I felt a sense of smugness as I walked passed it, when maybe I should have been praying for the light of truth to shine into their hearts, if  I believed they were on the wrong tracks.

And the same can be applied to Creationism. I have already testified on my conversion from committing myself in Darwinian Evolution to Divine Creation, from one straight to the other, on one stormy evening. But there is a danger that I could feel smug about myself in my commitment to Creation and the Deluge of Noah's day, when I'm called to love others around me and to seek an opportunity to share the Gospel to those who don't yet know God.

But is it right to do good to others whilst remaining unsure about my core beliefs? If, for example, there was an Indian Buddhist who not only shown hospitality to strangers but actually went out of his way to reach the poor and the hungry to help them. The sort of man who actually welcomes strangers and passing travellers into his home and feeds them, refreshes them and even provide a bed for the night if such a provision is necessary. Someone who is beginning to resemble Job of the Old Testament, whom God refers to as a righteous man. Then over here in England, where houses are regarded as castles, two Christians, each living across the street, squabble whether one is eternally saved or not, and ends up slamming the front door at each other and both feeling in a bit of a huff. One who holds Calvinist views, the other Arminian views. As words are thrown one from one to the other and back, any observer with neutral views will wonder who of the three is really doing the will of God and showing Christlike characteristics.

I can't help what Jesus had said on one occasion. He said,
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who had done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28-29, Acts 24:15).

Of course, every evangelical Christian will say that the "good" done for a favourable resurrection are deeds done under the power of the Holy Spirit, whilst so-called "goodness" done "in the flesh" will still lead into perdition. This may even be backed by the conversion of Cornelius. He was well into good deeds before his conversion, but this did not excuse him and his household from the need to believe in Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit. If such an incident demonstrates the case, then every church should have the brightest light to shine in a dark world. Like moths attracted to candlelight, unbelievers would flock to these churches, at least for curiosity, if not to receive some form of benefit whether physical, spiritual, or even psychological. Even Jesus himself endorsed this a little later that unbelievers will know that we are his disciples if we have love for each other (John 13:35). The reality is that any just about every English church I have ever visited, I am sad to say that I have not come across such a level of goodness and love of the level indicated by Jesus Christ, or for that matter, that of Cornelius or even the Buddhist. 

Which makes me attempt to put myself in the neutral's position. To whom would he be most impressed, the Calvinist, the Arminian - or the Buddhist? Of course, the two quarrelling Christian believers will still go to heaven after they die, despite the constant bicker and even hatred fostered between them, whilst the Buddhist will end up in a fiery hell, and that after feeding the hungry, helped those in poverty, provided a bed for the wayward traveller, or even done something as simple as offering a cup of water to a thirsty passerby who happens to be a true Christian believer. 

It is something that would cause me to pull on my own hair in frustration. I have to be honest with myself, I would be far more impressed with the Buddhist, who most likely have some form of Divine Creation belief, which ever direction it takes in the world of Buddhism. But I have not found this among English, middle-class Christian graduates. Nor for that matter, on the universality of Noah's Flood. 

And the issue of a geographically universal flood has always intrigued me. Just think, the very ground I'm standing on - whether it would be on a mountain summit, on a hillside, in a valley, on an expanse of flat plain, in a forest, at a desert, in the countryside, on a meadow, at the beach, in the city street, at a slum area, whether it's here at home in the UK, or in Israel, North America, Singapore, Australia, or central Europe - every square inch of ground I ever stood on was once underwater. However, I have read of one 19th Century theologian, a person who is a true believer in Christ and preaches salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, yet adores the works of geologists Charles Lyell, Georges Cuvier, William Buckland, John Fleming, and other great academics of his day who all deny the reality of a universal deluge, and its geological implications, to have been sent by God to wipe out a corrupt antediluvian race. This person I'm referring to is John Pye-Smith, an English churchman who wanted to reconcile the works of these academics with the Scriptural testimony of Genesis. So he worked on a theory based on recorded hydrodynamics at work within local floods occurring around the world, and their potential to snuff out life of both animal and human unfortunate enough to be caught in such deluges.

Pye-Smith made such reconciliation between the two opposing parties - the Bible and Uniformitarian geology - by coming up with the concept of an anthropological universal but geographically local Flood theory, mainly that the Flood was the result of a rapid subsidence of the Mesopotamian basin to allow the waters of the Indian Ocean to rush in and at the same time drowning the entire antediluvian race. And this without a single person escaping the catastrophe by climbing one of many surrounding mountain ranges. Tied to this idea is the impossibility of the Ark resting on the summit of the traditional Mt. Ararat located in Eastern Turkey, for this location, is not only too far away from the Mesopotamian Basin but it's summit, at 1,537 metres high, would make such a local Flood improbable. Therefore John Pye-Smith had to relocate Mt. Ararat to one of the foothills within the Mesopotamian Basin.

The traditional Mt. Ararat, on the Eastern Turkish border.

John Pye Smith with his local-Flood theory was a typical English Christian who finds himself far more at home in his compromise than sticking his neck out in full support for the verity of Holy Scripture. This looks to be very much like many of our church-going graduates I have spoken to at present. And in addition, I can give a rather shocking surprise when I browsed through a book written by one of Britain's most famous and most popular itinerant preachers, Cambridge-educated Methodist David Pawson, one-time pastor of Millmeads Baptist Church in Guildford, Surrey, before relocating to another church in the Hampshire town of Basingstoke. Pawson is the author of many books, including two of his well known debunking Eternal Security. Another of his books, a volume called Unlocking the Bible, which is basically a commentary on all the books in the Bible, including, of course, Genesis. Turning to the section of Noah and the Deluge,  I couldn't help but noticing that Pawson is in keeping with John Pye-Smith, with his version of the map of a local flood covering the Mesopotamian Valley, with his emphasis on human morality and personal responsibility towards God rather than with any importance over the geographical extent of the Flood.

Yet Pawson is popular, even among those in our church at Ascot. Here is the crutch. If someone with the likes of Pawson insist that the Flood of Noah was anthropologically universal but geographically local in extend, and I come along with the insistence that the Flood was both geographical and anthropologically universal, then Pawson's view, along with Pye-Smith's view in his attempt for reconciliation with the likes of Uniformitarian geologists William Buckland and Charles Lyell, such gentlemen would be favoured high and above my opinion set on Holy Scripture alone, because they were educated at a respectable university and I wasn't. This is indeed a melancholic situation I tend to face, which is not only here in the United Kingdom but more on a global scale, which is inclusive of our Christian-based British culture!

But for the truth of Holy Scripture would I lay down my life if I have to, even if I may be perceived by others as more of a mischievous child rather than a fully grown man of thinking and choice. But despite of this, I will always remain true to the Bible, even if it means that I'm seen as the only nutter in our fellowship and community alike.