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Sunday, 25 September 2011

"Christ Will Be Coming Back." Whoops!

There is a story of a farmer milking his cows one Sunday morning when a church vicar who was walking past the farm, paused and called out,
"Christ will be coming back!"
He then walked on, without saying anything else, towards his church to prepare for that morning's service.

Not long after the service had began, the vicar spotted the farmer, now changed into clean clothes, sitting at one of the pews, listening to the sermon. Afterwards, the farmer was asked what brought him here.
"When you reminded me that Jesus will be coming back, I wouldn't had wanted him to catch me milking cows when I should be at church, would I?"

And so says the Scripture:
But you know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:2b-3.

The Second Coming of Christ, nowadays a belief held by nutters and crackpots - as the secular world regards fundamental Christians, or "fundies" as they are often known by. And little wonder. If the idea of supernatural creation has been robbed of any element of truth and relegated to that of a crackpot belief held by nutters and fundies, it would be of no surprise that any idea of the return of Christ would be regarded in the same manner. Just as Peter predicted:

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."
2 Peter 3:3-4.

By reading the above quote, it becomes obvious that supernatural creation is intrinsically linked to the Return of Christ. To admit one is to admit the other. To deny one also denies the other. And so the idea of supernatural creation keeps on getting stabbed in the back. At present, we are about halfway through a series of programmes broadcast on the BBC, Planet Dinosaur where the theory of evolution is "proved" over and over again. Last week we watched on the development of feathers on one species of dinosaur, allowing it to glide from tree to tree in order to catch its prey. Evolutionists then declared that by fossil evidence our modern bird species are direct descendants of these gliding lizards. Divine creation doesn't stand a chance!

Then just today, the Mail on Sunday carried it front page headline, the BBC is to jettison the initials BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) out of political correctness, i.e. that these initials are offensive to other faiths. These will be replaced by the BBC with BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era). The scoffers, by winning the heart of such a worldwide broadcaster, had certainly won a victory.

The second coming of Christ had always been a topic of great interest to me, ever since the 1970s, when I found myself in discussions with some Jehovah's Witnesses on this subject. The Watchtower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses published books on prophecy with movable dates. When that particular day in human history came and went, it wasn't a case of "Whoops, not this time" but clear proof, so they said, that the Society is constantly revising and improving on their creeds as the Lord hands down more and more revelation from his "heavenly table." As such, the Society remains unblemished.

Aside from all this, my keen interest on the Second Coming has its beginnings in the 1970s. This became a study known as Eschatology (knowledge of last things). This subject certainly peaked in sales at Christian bookshops within the last thirty years of the Twentieth Century, when a new Millennium was about to dawn. I have books written on the Last Things by quite a number of authors. These include:

Hal Lindsey: Late Great Planet Earth
Hal Lindsey: The 1980s Countdown to Armageddon
Hal Lindsey: The Terminal Generation
Hal Lindsey: There's A New World Coming

Hal Lindsey

Dr. De Hann: The Jew and Palestine in Prophecy.
Tim LaHaye: The Beginning of the End
Norman Robertson: Understanding End Time Prophecy
Salem Kirban: 666
Dave Hunt: How Close Are We?
Dave Hunt: Global Peace
Dave Hunt: Occult Invasion
Dave Hunt: The Cup of Trembling
Dave Hunt: A Woman Rides The Beast

More than a dozen books written by six different authors line my bookshelf, each either dealing directly with Eschatology or have some reference to it. And all agreeing with each other, one can call as truth the Pre-Trib Rapture and the Second Coming, two future events with the seven-year Tribulation period, dominated by the rule of the future Antichrist, in between. So to lay out the chronology of the Last Things as expounded by these authors, we get something like this:

1. Church Age (present)
2. Rapture of the Church (future, and on from there)
3. First 42 months after Rapture: Tribulation, Rise of the Antichrist.
4. Second 42 months: Reign of Antichrist, Great Tribulation. Total: 84 months or seven Hebrew years.
5. The Second Coming of Christ, Antichrist destroyed, wicked judged.
6. Establishment of Christ Kingdom on Earth, reigning from Jerusalem for a thousand years (hence Millennium). Israel to be the chief nation of the whole planet.
7. Final Rebellion.
8. Last Judgement.
9. Re-creation of God's eternal Kingdom.

It is important to note that the nation of Israel must be fully established before Christ can come back to reign. I believe it was first, the establishing of Israel as a nation once again in 1948 after approximately 2,530 years of non-existence - a phenomenon no other nation can claim. And secondly the winding up of the twentieth Century with the onset of the 21st Century and also the third millennium which resulted in "end-time prophecy mania" which hit the Christian bookshelf.

I for one, fully believe in a pre-Trib, Pre-Mill Rapture. But I want to base my belief in it on what the Bible has to say on it, not merely on authors' verifications, even if there is agreement between them all. First, 1 Thessalonians says this:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Also read Isaiah 26:16 to 27:6. Don't let the chapter break throw you. It is one passage, as it has been for the first two thousand years after it was written. The whole of Eschatology can be contained here, in a nutshell.
Breaking it down, it says first, that Israel as a nation mourns over its own history, 26:16-18.

Then the "dust of the earth gives up the dead, verse 19.
The living told to "Go, hide themselves from the wrath to come, verses 20, 21. Where they are told to hide cannot be on this planet because they could still be found by someone. This "hiding away" must be a heavenly transfer. Note that first, the dead is raised. Secondly the living saints disappear. This tallies exactly with Paul's version in his letter to the church in Thessaloniki.

27:1, Judgement of Leviathan, tallying with Revelation 20:1-3.
27:2-6, Christ's Kingdom established, as with Revelation 20:4-6.

So there is a Biblical reason on why I believe in a pre-Trib Rapture. But how did this teaching develop? Actually it comes as a surprise that some Calvinists reject this branch of Eschatology altogether. It is believed that during the Reformation started by Martin Luther and endorsed by John Calvin, many Christians who began to read and understand the Bible for themselves soon discovered that the Great Whore of Babylon of Revelation 17 was the Roman Catholic Church with its Pope as Antichrist. Both Luther and Calvin believed this, as did their followers. The Reformation, as a result, denounced the Church of Rome as counterfeit Christianity.

It was in 1590 that Jesuit Francisco Ribera, in order to protect the Papacy from these accusations, formulated the pre-Trib Rapture and the rise of Antichrist as something deep in the future. As a result, the Pope was seen as innocent from the accusations aimed at him by the Protestants. Ribera formulated a doctrine which is known by present theologians as Premillennialism.

Ribera's thesis was taken up by Cardinal Bellarmine, the same individual who convinced the scientist Galileo that the Earth could not possibly orbit the Sun. Also, Edward Irving, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, also accepted Ribera's thesis as authentic, therefore also shielding the Pope from being the beast riding the whore of Revelation chapter 17.

A leader of the Plymouth Brethren, lawyer James Darby also accepted the views of Ribera, Bellarmine and Irvine, and developed the doctrine of Dispensationalism, which features the Rapture, Tribulation, the rise and reign of the Antichrist and the Second coming of Christ, followed by his reign from Jerusalem. I feel it is necessary to expound exactly what dispensationalism is, for the reader who is not acquainted with theology or church history and teachings. In a nutshell, I could describe the dispensation system, which means that human history is divided by a series of dispensations, or time periods which were defined by James Darby. They are as follows:

1. The age of Innocence - Adam and Eve
2. The age of Conscience - from the Fall of Adam to the Flood.
3. The age of Human Government - from the Flood to Abraham.
4. The age of the Promise - from Abraham to the Exodus.
5. The age of the Law - from Mt Sinai to the death of Christ.
6. The age of Grace (Church Age)- from the Resurrection to the Rapture.
7. The age of the Kingdom - from the Second coming to the end of history.

In 1909 Cyrus Scofield published his Scofield Bible, based on Darby's work, which became central to most American seminaries. So, according to some Calvinists, the doctrine of Dispensationalism was from a Jesuit, Francisco Ribera, exonerating the Papacy from Protestant's accusations of being the Great Whore of Babylon.

The Church of Rome - exonerated from the Reformer's accusations.

There are Christians who will believe that the seven time periods are simply too many, and argue that there were only two, Law and Grace. But I dare to go a step further - the dispensation of Grace spanning the whole of human history. In reality, nobody can keep the Law of Moses perfectly. And absolutely perfect obedience is required for everlasting life. But since it's impossible to keep the Law, that's where the death and resurrection of Christ plays the major role. Eternal life is a free gift of God given through faith alone. It has always been a free gift of Grace, from the fall of Adam and Eve into sin to the very end of history. Faithful men of God were saved by Grace even before Jesus Christ came along. They were saved by faith in the promise of the coming Messiah, as depicted in Genesis 3:15. Today one is saved by looking back at the Messiah crucified.

I will ask: Is the knowing of the Return of Christ necessary for Christian living? Yes, absolutely.

As with the story of the farmer at the beginning of this article, the thought of Christ's return spurs the soul to holiness and greater purity in his life. It plays a big role in Christian living, giving greater motivation to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, to reach for the lost, to encourage love and bonding between brothers. It is also an ingredient for church growth.

I could be called a preMillennialist. I could even be accused of defending Roman Catholicism, or to be tainted with the lies of a Jesuit, or even be called a Catholic and be classed as a partaker of the Whore of Babylon. But none of these are important to me. Just as I believe that there are many Catholics who have trusted in Jesus Christ and are actually saved, so it does not matter whether I believe that the Rapture will come or not, or Christ will come with another method. What is important to me is, am I reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ? Am I filled with the Holy Spirit? Do I delight in reading the Bible? Do I love the brethren? These are the most important questions we all need to look at. Getting your points in Eschatology is lower on the list, but nevertheless, knowing that Christ will come back spurs us to holiness.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

David and the Giant - Worry.

You have been out for the evening and you are now walking back home alone late one Friday night. Your route passes through a narrow alleyway, which cuts the walk short by several hundred metres. Then about halfway through the alley, a gang of youths, about four or five of them in all, enter the alley where you are due to exit. They were high on alcohol, one of them picks up a stone and throws it at a semi-derelict window, cracking the glass, while laughing and guffawing at their misdeed.

You feel your heart beat faster to force oxygenated blood into every muscles of your body, your skin crawl and your hair as if standing on end. Your breathing becomes heavy, and within the bloodstream, extra platelets are produced in readiness of a possible wound, within the blood coagulates faster, saving on blood loss. And sitting on top of each kidney, your Adrenal gland pumps an endorphin, Adrenaline, which alert you to either fight or take flight.

Even if you run, they get exactly what they wanted and start chasing you, nevertheless you run, and run fast! Because you know that by confronting them, you would have been the loser, ending up in hospital with a smashed face or as with these days, a stab wound, possibly fatal. This little drama is the result of fright, a magnificent mechanism in ensuring self preservation. This reaction to an emergency is caused by a rush of adrenaline into the bloodstream, a direct result of the warning message passed to the brain from the eyes and ears. Afterwards, the spent endorphin will then be disposed of by the kidneys after the threat is past. I guess it is of no coincidence that the Adrenal glands happen to be located sitting on the kidneys themselves.

The Kidneys and Adrenal Glands

The same when a domestic cat is confronted by a dog. The cat arches its back, hisses, its heart races to pump adrenaline-rich blood to all the muscles in its body and the cat flees, usually up a tree or over a nearby wall. Fright had taken its course again.

Fright reaction is caused by a massive injection of adrenaline into the bloodstream, and it is for self-preservation in the face of a potential, life-threatening situation. But fear is something very different. Another term for fear is worry, and I think that there is no real difference between the two words, except that fear is to do with a potential physical uncertainty, while worry has more to do with uncertainty of the future.

For example, if you are fearful, then you will look down the alleyway and hesitate to take the short cut, and despite that all is still and quiet, you decide to avoid it, and take the longer but more safer route. During that moment, adrenaline is pumping into your bloodstream, even if there was no cause for concern. In fact the fear could quite well continue, even once you're safe in bed. It's just the thought of what could have happened that keeps the fear alive, and doing so, the Adrenal glands continue to pump the endorphin into the bloodstream, and if prolonged, can cause lasting harm to your health.

Worry is related to fear, and it means uncertainty of the future. One of the biggest causes of worry is money. Do we have sufficient funds to pay our creditors? In my younger days, before Direct Debit, anxiety over the quarterly power bill always preceded the arrival of the bill itself. Back then I had no real idea of the total the bill will display at the bottom of the column. The worry was, would the figure be so high that I didn't have enough to meet it? I had ideas of facing a Court hearing, possibly a jail term - such stirring of imagination caused by an uncertainty had a detrimental power over my health, particularly to one who was a natural-born worrier. Thank goodness for the arrival of the Direct Debit system. This arrangement in regular payments had lifted a very heavy burden of worry.

Payment of bills was one cause of worry, another was in preparation for travel. If you check my profile, or click on to one of my previous articles, Vagabond! (8th May, 2011), you will see that I have traveled a good part of the world. But it was the weeks leading up to the day of take-off. Would I fall ill? Would I be faced with a sudden, unexpected expense? And this was the big one - would there be a strike grounding the airplane? A threat of a strike had always been a worry when preparing to travel. When I flew to New York in 1978, take-off was right in the midst of the French Traffic Control dispute. That meant all flights to the Continent were delayed or postponed. While I was boarding the Transatlantic flight, right on time as well, a group of people at the next gate were told to return to the lounge. Their flight to Spain postponed yet again after a night stay at the departure lounge. A young man, about my age, rolled on the floor in hysterics, his screams of frustration echoed the length of the corridor. That scared me. No wonder that, just a year later, in 1979, the Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan was soundly defeated by Tory Margaret Thatcher in that year's General Election.

It is unfortunate that 33 years later I still have areas of worry. And here I want to be honest and avoid the idea of portraying myself as a "super-saint". As a committed Christian and a self-employed window cleaner, a loss of a client brings fears of the future. As with bill payments back in the 1970s and 80's, I try to imagine what it would be like being without a job, leading to homelessness with my wife Alex and I begging off the streets. Or to move across to the other side of the country just to engage in a dead-end job I wouldn't enjoy, or to have a cruel boss who takes delight in condescending upon and feeding on my personal weaknesses. And with many of my present clientele aging and drawing their pensions, along with a large proportion of the younger generation believing that we window cleaners are a waste of time and money, indeed there is much ground for worry and fear for the future.

Walking hand-in-hand with fear is anger, mainly at unfairness of life. Last week I lost a client who informed me that he now has his own ladders, and now prefers to clean his own windows.
"After all," he concludes, "during this economic crisis I must save on my expenses as much as possible."

Then only yesterday I read in the Daily Mail an excellent article by columnist Max Hastings, titled Looters in Suits. In it, he tells of our personal and economic hardship was primarily caused by the ferocious greed and incompetence of the City bankers. Starting with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in New York during 2008, their greed caused our banks in the City of London to the brink of collapse, had it not been the bailout rescue from the tax-payer. Then after that the bankers continue to reap incredible high incomes and bonuses despite the rest of us tightening our own belts to stay out of debt. Little wonder I get angry at times!

Worry, fear and anger. The three most powerful emotions that are detrimental to our health. I have a book written by Dr. McMillen. Although the updated publication was in 1980, it is very much up to date as the first copyright in 1963. Dr. McMillen wrote that many physical illnesses, such as vomiting, diarrhea, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, along with bleeding ulcers, kidney disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, backache, tiredness, fatigue, colitis, strokes, goiter, arteriosclerosis (a hardening of the arteries) and many other ailments are caused by these and other similar emotions.

Yet it was Jesus Christ who, during his ministry, gave a straightforward piece of advice. He said:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds in the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34.

This Scripture, when mixed with faith, can be the David who defeated the giant Goliath. No doubt, when Jesus was teaching this, he did not have just our spiritual well-being. He was thinking of both our emotional and physical health as well. What he was actually doing was providing the key to happiness guaranteed to keep the doctor away if this advice was perfectly followed. This can only be done through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

Instead, to most people, this piece of Scripture is as far away from reality as it can get. The question here is trusting God, or faith in him. It can be very difficult to have faith in that which is invisible and intangible.

Yet these verses apply to everything I have mentioned above. Trusting in Jesus Christ and his goodness. Should this deliver me from worry and anxiety, fear of the future? It should do!

Let me go back to the things I have mentioned. Starting with bill payments - the fact is, since I flew the nest in 1976, then aged 23, I have never known to miss a bill payment. In 1980 I went through a period, just over a year in duration, when I had no job and hardly any money. I existed on a low benefit, which I had to sign for every week. One day I called at a house of a fellow church member for something, and I saw their table spread with such succulent dishes, that my eyes for a moment was transfixed. Then I walked home to my meager supplies, literally weeping tears. But then, I never went hungry. God knew what my needs were even then. Then a red-letter phone final reminder bill arrived, and I spread it on the kitchen worktop and prayed over it. Soon afterwards an anonymous envelope dropped through the door, containing enough to pay the bill. This happened a couple of times.

It was then I started my window cleaning business and became self-employed, signing myself off the benefit payroll. I have been working for more than thirty years and I have never felt in need. So if I lose a customer from time to time, I should not panic. After all, if God had taken care of me for all this time, why should he dump me in it now?

But sometimes he does. Job in the Old Testament, a very wealthy but a good man, lost everything including his health and just barely clung to life. Yet his faith in his God actually confounded the arguments of his three closest friends who tried to blame him and his sins for his losses and sorrowful state. Yet his faith triumphed. How would I react?

In travel, so far I had never been delayed by an industrial dispute. And I started traveling as early as 1972, when as still a teenager, flew to Spain with a college mate (and we are still close friends to this day). The only delay I suffered was in 1993, when a fault in the 'plane's hydraulic system delayed us for six hours at Gatwick.

Sydney, Australia - one of many places visited as a "vagabond".

Trusting in an invisible intangible God is often very difficult. He doesn't talk back audibly like a friend does. That is why prayer is essential. I have found that nothing is a better tonic than when faced with a crisis, is to bow the head in prayer, spilling out my fears and anxieties to my Heavenly Father and asking for the filling of the Holy Spirit.

But alongside prayer, we have the church. Church is not the building with a spire, it's the people in it. It is said that Jesus Christ had two bodies after his Resurrection. He took one with him to Heaven, leaving the other behind. And it wasn't on a whim or by forgetfulness! His body was left behind for a purpose.

Worry is a debilitating emotion. When a Christian finds it difficult to handle it, the members of the church are there to encourage and build up faith. At last week's loss of a client, I attended a prayer meeting that same evening. I shared my plight with one of the elders who happens to be a very good friend, and one whose spiritual life I look up to. The outward situation didn't change but I felt an inner strength to handle it better.

My encouragement to all Christian believers is to be involved with your church. The church is a group of fellow believers in Jesus. As such, it is the visible, tangible body of Christ with whom God can speak to you audibly. And together we can defeat the giant.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Tender Mercy and Goodness of God - a Testimony

William Shakespeare is famed for his writings of theatre plays, for example, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice and many others. This is a fact which is accepted by the vast majority of the population. But on one BBC television programme, The One Show, a general discussion forum where diverse topics are covered in every region of the UK, the presenters focused on the opinion of several academics who deny that Shakespeare was the writer of these plays. They even attempted the use archaeology within the writer's home town of Stratford-Upon-Avon to add proof that their opinions were correct.

William Shakespeare

Personally, I didn't buy any of those academic opinions. The reason is rather straightforward. William's father, John Shakespeare, was a glove maker. In other words, what we would call a factory worker today, working class, blue-collar. How could his son have developed such a literacy talent?

According to these academics, he couldn't have done. Plays such as Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Winters Tale and Romeo and Juliet were, to them, all written by some other person whose parents were a lot more cleverer. And a few very unconvincing bits of relics were found in the archaeological pits to substantiate the opinion of the skeptical academics.

On a somewhat different story but based on the same principle, according to a Daily Mail newspaper report, two female contestants on the University Challenge BBC2 quiz were mocked and severely criticized by mostly male viewers using the Facebook page on the Internet. Having not watched the programme myself, I cannot tell whether the two academic women were on the same team or whether they were even on the same programme. But that is not the point. Rather the point being that they were both harassed on the Internet for being snobby, intelligent and too full of self-confidence, according to their critics. Reflections of inferior complex or lack of self-esteem?

But to be fair, the Reader's Comments which appeared under the main article mostly defended the harassed females. Only a small minority upheld the critic's messages posted online, and they were red-arrowed with disapproval.

And then, looking back, I also recall the murder of Stephen Lawrence one evening at a South London suburb. Lawrence was black, and going by his images, he had that look of intelligence and promising of a good education. The images proved correct. He was studying to be an architect. Then, while waiting for a bus at a stop on the evening of 22nd April 1993, five white English men first threw verbal abuse, then they crossed the road to stab him to death. A clearly racist murder. Personally, I'm not fully convinced that colour alone was the one and only motive. Rather, the victim oozed high intelligence, and the five white men having sensed this all felt their self confidence were under threat. Really, there was no real difference between this case and those of the two females on University Challenge where motives were concerned, the only difference was that one case led to a serious crime, the other two were not considered to be criminal victims.

My own belief that the secondary reason for the Stephen Lawrence murder might have been motivated by a sense of inferior complex, seem to be endorsed by the case of one of the killers, Gary Dobson, who was jailed for five years in July 2010 for drug dealing. The other four, I think, were either jobless or held manual occupations, a good indication of low level of education or low academic abilities. So the very thought of a well educated black man was anathema to them.

But where is the connection between this information and the title of this article? Well, I hope to demonstrate how good and merciful God has been to me over the years, despite the prejudices I had to go through, and to show that what God has done for me he can do for you, if only you will diligently search and ask for his wisdom.

The pinnacle of God's mercy: The Crucifixion

If you read my Blogger profile, you will see that I don't give my nature of occupation. That is because I am a Domestic Window Cleaner, who goes about dressed in casuals, as my profile pic indicates, and not of an elderly gentleman dressed in a suit, wears glasses and sport thinning hair! Among those who know me well, they may think, So what? You love writing, keep up the good work. And yes, I have actually received such encouragement! This shows the value of true friendship.

But others may think: A window Cleaner? How can such a person know anything, let alone writing these articles? Unreasonable? Not what I know of.

And my answer: I allowed the Lord Jesus Christ to work in my life.

Here I begin by stating that at school I received the annual report which stated, Frank tries hard; Standard below average. This was an indication that my poor performance at the classroom desk was not my fault, therefore the report I handed personally to my parents did not merit any form of punishment.

And that applied to every subject, including the subject of General Science, with which at the end of the 2nd academic year, I've literally received 100/100 marks on the exam papers and became the talk of the school.

But I remained in the slowest learning class, in which I was constantly teased by one annoying pupil who was one grade above me: Who is in the dunce's class for science?

After leaving school in 1968 with no qualifications to show, my working life has always been manual. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but I feel that it's a crying shame that here in England, the general mentality is that if one had failed at school, nobody expects or even desires for him to work himself upwards. A manual worker not only stays a manual worker (again, nothing wrong in that) but any thought of self-improvement of his mental capabilities seem to be frowned upon. Could this be because it poses a threat?

Here are a couple of classic examples. The first example being back in 1992, the elders of Ascot Baptist Church, where I attend to this day, gave me an opportunity to give a talk on what Heaven might be like, based on the description found in Revelation chapters 21 and 22. Now at the front row sat Keith, a "devout Englishman" who always condescended on my Italian origins. His sense of national superiority was not unique. I have came across this sort of thing many, many times - among my clientele and fellow church members alike.

After the talk was over and as such, the service as well, Keith went around literally bragging that he had not heard a single thing I was saying at the front. Instead, he said he was deliberately diverting his thoughts away by indulging in some other subject, most likely in his case, football and particularly England's hopes in the next World Cup contest.

The second example took place in 1997 and it was in a very much the same environment, giving a talk about my travels, and bringing up the idea on why in California in particular, there seem to be an obsession with alien life from other planets. Toys, ornaments and inflatable models and balloons of these life forms were on sale just at about every second shop along the street. I then theorised that there might be a connection between this obsession with alien life forms and end-times Biblical prophecy. The issue here was not whether I was right in this matter or not, but rather one man in the congregation, also with the name Frank, suddenly standing up and declared aloud for all to hear, that he too had seen these model life forms on sale where he was, and my description of them was spot on. He then declared that my possible interpretation was worth thinking about.

Afterwards, I asked him why he stood up and made such a public announcement.
He replied that during the talk, he overheard a couple of people sitting behind him mutter words to the effect,
What does he know about the Bible or prophecy? He's just a window cleaner!

And oh yes, I have just remembered another incident which took place in 1989, which I think is worth recording here. It concerned something which occurred at Bracknell Baptist Church. What the incident itself was, I can't recall, but one of the elders asked me to write a report on it, because of my involvement.

When I presented my written work to him, he plainly asked me who wrote it. It took some convincing that I was the author. Meaning: The standard of the written document was above my standing for me to be the author.

God's mercy. In 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Paul the Apostle specifically states that God chooses the foolish in this world to confound the wise. On similar lines, James instructs not to pay higher honour to the rich man on the expense of the poor man dressed in rags (James 2).

I became a true believer early in 1973. I am convinced that there has been a change in my I.Q. at this turning point in my life. I was immediately interested in the Bible and what it had to say on everything.

I went to a Christian bookshop next to St. Paul's Cathedral in London to stock up books which will help me understand the Bible better. But in the Bible itself, particularly in the Old Testament, I noticed that God was referring to Jerusalem more than any other city in the ancient world. I also noticed that Jerusalem was the place Jesus Christ was crucified, then he rose again near the city, and the first Church began in Jerusalem. I also noticed that this same city played a major role in future prophecy, namely, that Christ is to reign from there in the future.

So in 1976 I decided to visit the place for myself, to see it first hand. I went as a sole backpacker. The details are recorded in one of my former blogs, Jerusalem, City of Peace which was published here on Sunday 13th February, 2011.

Visiting Israel in 1976 was a wonderful experience which added strength to my faith. Then in October 1992, a friend and I had a massive row one weekday morning while I was at his home. The worst thing about it was that I knew that I was in the wrong. So I started window cleaning at a nearby street feeling very dejected. It was at this low point when I had what could be called a vision. I was to go to Jerusalem to pray for the city.

But was this from God? First, the vision came suddenly, quite unexpectingly. Then up to this time I always made enough to live on reasonably well, but I was never able to save up for a proper holiday. From that very week onwards, I found myself saving up quite steadily, allowing me the ability to pay for the entire holiday plus all the other expenses without any difficulty. Then I took off from Gatwick Airport early August, 1993.

What I found amazing was that it should have been my friend who should have received the vision, not me. He was in the right, I was in the wrong. But while I was in Jerusalem, I felt God speaking to me about why the Islamic Dome of the Rock stood where the Temple once was. Alongside this, I watched the crowd of Jewish people celebrate the start of their Sabbath. It was such a thrilling experience. I just felt the pulsating presence of God in the enclosure, which fronts the Western Wall. These Jews were God's ancient people. Their presence in Jerusalem showed me how faithful God was to his people. And if God was so faithful to the Jews, how much more will he be to us? Also I found myself sharing my faith in Jesus at the hostel I was staying at, after being asked by one backpacker why I was in Israel. By the time I had finished talking, I found myself the centre of attention among the other backpackers.

Damascus Gate, Jerusalem

Reading the Bible and books to help me understand the Bible also not only helped in my faith, but by reading both books and the newspaper, I slowly learned how other authors composed their articles, so when it comes to writing myself, I can use some of their techniques. But on top of this, I felt that God himself was teaching things direct to me without human intercession. That means I had answers in my thoughts concerning things I was asking especially in the book of the prophet Daniel, which contains visions the prophet had about the bigger picture of God's revelation to mankind.

This was because for a long time I had a desire to know what is the bigger picture was about. In other words, how did it all begin, why we are here, how would it all end, and why will it end in the way the Bible says. And why does Jerusalem play such a large role, and my visits to this city made such a massive impact on my life, especially on the spiritual.

But on the day-to-day practical side, when things are up, I can thank and praise God for. But when thing become trying, God is there I can trust, and run to. I have suffered some trying moments in my life, and a close friend of mine, who already knew much of what I went through, exclaimed,
I am surprised you have not committed suicide! I would have done!

He got distracted before I could explain that I know of the sovereignity of God in my life and with a degree of peace in my heart, I can ride over all things. God is not only my Saviour, he is my Rock, my Strength and Shelter.
Although this has not happen so far in my life, but it could: Suppose I was to lose everything I had, would I still trust in him? Would I still be thanking him for eternal life and for all the goodness, I have received from him? I hope I will be able, then again, it would not be of my own effort, but the infilling of the Holy Spirit in my life.

And this is the key to everything. I'm writing here to all true believers in Christ who is reading this. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and let the love of Christ flow in you richly.
May God bless you richly.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Pelagianism - The Foundation of British Christianity - Really?

In my last blog, 300 Young People Saved... I suggested the idea that underscoring the Calvinism/Arminian debate was the possibility that not everyone who gets converted, particularly at a large Christian festival such as Newday, Spring Harvest or Stoneleigh, become genuine believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Here I brought up the Parable of the Sower, delivered by Jesus Christ himself, which can be found in Matthew 13:1-9. We saw that the first group, which represents the hard soil trodden down to form a solid surface of the footpath or wayside were those whose hearts refused to take in the Word of God and after a while, had forgotten it. I then suggested that it was unlikely that any in that group of 300 were represented at Newday.

Then there were those in the fourth group, the good soil. These people had hearts which took in the divine message and with it nourished their souls. Eventually they will produce crops which will glorify God and become beneficial to others. These are the true saints, genuine believers who have received the gift of perseverance within their salvation package, and therefore they will never fall away and become lost souls again. This concept is known formerly as The Perseverance of the Saints, Eternal Security of the Believer, or Once Saved always Saved and this was advocated by Church Reformer John Calvin, Hence Calvinism.

But Jesus also mentioned two other types of ground on to which the seed fell, one being the rocky ground with a thin layer of soil. Seed which fell on this kind of ground actually sprouted, but soon withered under the scorching heat of the sun. These represented the falling away from the faith as soon as a challenge arose or when the chips were down. The other kind of soil affected was one which had other plants growing from it, choking out the young saplings. These were those who loved the world and the things therein.

It was this departure from the faith and from the churches which might have stirred the debate. If these people first believed, were they saved? For the Calvinist, no they were not saved. They most likely had an intellectual belief in the Gospel but failed to mix this information with saving faith, that is, to place their personal trust in the Saviour. I confess that I hold to this concept. The Arminian, on the other hand, believes that all three were actually saved, but both the rocky ground and the overgrown had fallen away and in turn, had lost their salvation and therefore are lost again. As such, we can ascribe a greater sense of generosity to the Arminian for accepting all three groups as potentially saved, but remain subject to self-perseverance of the will or suffer eternal loss.

To sum up: The first group, the footpath, are unbelievers who first resist then forgets the divine message. The fourth group, the good soil, are true believers who had allowed the message to bear fruit in their lives. The other two, the rocky and the overgrown grounds, can be described as "false converts." This phrase became common during the Great Awakening of the churches in America during the 19th Century. It is used by some churches to this day, and I think it's more of an American terminology than a British one.

Although in a typical church, it can be very difficult to tell a false convert from a genuine believer, sooner or later they will manifest their phoniness, mainly by falling away from the faith and leaving the church entirely, either in an apathetic state (couldn't care less about anything spiritual), or with a degree of hostility.

We also saw in the last article how 19th Century evangelist and revivalist Charles Grandison Finney used the term false convert quite freely in his lectures and sermons. However, after reading some of Finney's Revival Lectures as well as the assessments of his critics, it is a sad fact that I cannot agree with all of Finney's theology, for he had based his philosophy on Pelagianism which, in a nutshell, it means that one can be saved by self-purification of one's own heart, the free will and ability to choose between good and evil. Finney strongly advocated total obedience to God's Law in order to be saved.

In order to present this article, I had the privilege to read an article here on the Internet presented by Lewis Loflin, a devout supporter of Pelagius. You can reach his website by entering "Pelagius" in your Google browser, then click, "Pelagius Was Right".


According to Lewis Loflin, Pelagius was a rugged British monk who was born around AD 354 and died any time between 418 and 425, although records of his life are pretty scant. But there is reliable evidence that Pelagius opposed the teachings of Augustine, who believed in the Sovereignty of God and Original Sin. Instead, Pelagius advocated salvation only through free will and full obedience to the Law of the Old Testament.

Loflin is a Pelagian himself, which reveals in his blog a startling departure from Biblical truth with which not only set the stage of Finney's theology but also the thought pattern of many a British form of Christianity - individualistic, freewill and stoic.

Within Loflin's blog, Pelagius advocated these six points:

1. Adam was created liable to death, and would have died, whether he sinned or not.
2. The sin of Adam hurt himself only and not the human race.
3. Infants at their birth are in the same state as Adam before the fall.
4. Neither is the death nor fall of Adam does the whole of man die, nor the Resurrection of Christ (brings man to) rise again.
5. The Law introduces men to the Kingdom of Heaven, just as in the same as the Gospel does.
6. Even before the coming of Christ, there were some men sinless.

It is also interesting that Loflin also supports the Arian heresy, which flourished during the fifth Century. Arian was a bishop who denied the Deity of Christ, therefore relegating him to an angel inferior to the Father and as such, forever subordinate to God. The Watchtower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses teach very much the same heresy today. The consequence of all this is that the Atonement of Christ on the cross had no longer any imputation power to redeem the sinner. Instead, Christ was crucified as a show of public justice, a theory which Charles Finney advocated.

Instead, the sinner has the natural ability to turn from his sins and put his faith in Christ. But rather to receive the imputation of Christ's own righteousness bestowed on the sinner, the sinner himself must reform his own heart to full obedience to God's Laws as defined in the Old Testament, namely the ten Commandments. It is actually a life of perfectionism. According to Finney, the Christian is always in danger of slipping back into apostasy (looking after his own selfish affairs and not on God's interests) and ending up in Hell after death.

But at least Charles Finney accepted all of the New Testament as the inspired Word of God, which includes all of Paul's letters, on which some of his sermons have as the main text. Lewis Loflin on the other hand, has a distinct dislike for Paul, and he does not accept his letters as inspired. Instead, he slams at both Martin Luther and John Calvin for embracing the theology of Paul and Augustine and rejecting Christ's own moral teachings as irrelevant.

Pelagius (as shown by Loflin) taught that only sinners will die for their own sins and denies any connection with Adam's. He quotes Scriptures such as Ezekiel 18:20 and 33:20 as examples. Rather, according to Loflin, it was Paul who coined up the idea of inherited sin, especially in the 5th chapter of Romans. He also pushed forward the idea that there were men who chose to remain sinless before the first Advent of Christ. This would include Abraham, whom God called his friend, Caleb, King Joshua, Isaiah and Daniel, who God called "beloved". In Luke's first chapter, the priest Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth were described as "walking in obedience of God's Commandments, blameless" before the conception of Christ. And when Jesus was ministering, a young man approached and asked, "What must I do to enter life?" To which Jesus replied, "If you want to enter life, obey the Commandments." (Matthew 19:16-17). According to Pelagius and Loflin, no mention of the cleansing power of the Blood of Christ is found here.

Although Pelagius disagreed with Augustus on Original Sin and divine Grace, as one born a Roman Catholic, I can see a remarkable resemblance between the teachings of Pelagius and the Catechism of the Catholic Faith.

There are some differences too, such as in Catholicism, the cleansing power of God's Grace in the Sacraments, particularly Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist (Holy Communion). All this was denied by Pelagius. But how a sinner attains Heaven, there are similarities between the Catechism and Pelagius. In Rome, one must be baptised as an infant - to cleanse the baby from Adam's Original Sin (a doctrine taught by Augustine), then receive Confirmation, the receiving of the Holy Spirit according to Pentecost, then Communion, where the power to cleanse from sin is in the sacrament itself. But to get to Heaven, the Catholic must remain sinless and obey both the Ten Commandments and the Church's own Commandments. If he commits a mortal sin, he loses the Grace of God and will go to Hell for eternity after death. The only way a fallen Catholic can regain this Grace is to undergo Penance, a set of prayers and good works ordained by the priest. Similar to this, Finney taught that a fallen Christian must start again with his first work to receive forgiveness, which like with the Catholic Church, is for past sins only.

St Peter's Church, Rome

Then in the 16th Century, a Spanish Jesuit monk Luis Molina became the lecturer of a young Dutch student named James Arminius.

For a detailed discussion of this event, click on to my blog published April 10th, 2011 - Once Saved Always Saved, Part 1 - Origins

Molina was able to convince Arminius of a halfway knowledge between the Roman Catechism and Calvinism, which was Arminius' background. Molina taught this "Halfway Knowledge", also known as semi-Palagianism. This teaching was a way to reconcile two opposing views on one's salvation - self-will versus the Sovereign Grace of God. Semi-Pelagianism became the core teaching of many Protestant Churches, particularly the Anglican Church and the Methodists. And that, according to Loflin, the Arminians deny having anything to do with Pelagianism. There are, of course some differences. Arminians accept God as the Father of all true believers and one is saved by Grace through faith, but this grace is merited on human choice of the free will, and in turn, every believer must persevere in his faith and walk with God, or else he falls from Grace and lose his salvation. Arminians will encourage a fallen believer to recover his grace through repentance, but there is a point of no return, beyond whom the apostate is lost forever, unable to repent. It is interesting to note that the point of no return, in addition to Finney, was also advocated by David Pawson, one of England's leading Methodist and Arminian preacher, in his book, Unlocking the Bible.

For an answer, here I wish to concentrate one Biblical based argument about the sinlessness of all Old Testament Saints. It becomes obvious that neither Pelegius nor Loflin really understood the Bible at all.

For example: Isaiah, when confronted by the Glory of God, cried out:
"Woe is me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."

Then the prophet Daniel, when interceding for his people and for Jerusalem, prayed:
...We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and rebelled. We have turned away from your commands and your laws. We...we...etc, and not "They have turned away... Chapter 9:4-19.

Abraham, when interceding for Sodom, referred to himself as dust and ashes, and even young David sees himself as a flea when confronted by King Saul. All these indicate that these great men of God were indeed sinners and not sinless, as Pelagius and Loflin thought. They were indeed saved, but not by their obedience to the Law but by faith in their coming Messiah.
The righteousness of Christ were imputed to them due to their faith in that their Messiah was due to arrive in the future of their point in time. For us, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to every genuine believer for his faith in the Christ who has already come. In other words, they looked forward, we look back, but the faith and imputation is the same. Works in upholding the Law follows after salvation, not before.

New hearts are given to every believer, it is not the reformation of the old, sinful heart. We are regenerated, born again, given a new birth. We become a new creation, the old has passed away, crucified with Christ. The Bible promises something much better than the likes of Augustine, Pelagius, Arminius, Finney or Loflin could ever offer.

Loflin made a comment about the statement made by German theologian Karl Barth when he visited Britain. He noted the strong adherence to Pelagius by the Brits- a reflection of the rugged individualism of the Celtic monk, free to choose between good and evil, stoic, faith being practical as well as spiritual, his care of the garden, the natural environment and for wildlife, along with respect for each other. All very well I suppose, but with reasoning like that, what is the point of Christ and him Crucified?