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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Is There Something in the Air?

Just a couple of weeks ago the above graphic appeared on the main scroll of Facebook. It is a tongue-in-cheek psychological test on your anxieties or negative thought processes that goes on in your mind. The object that I first saw in the picture was an apple cut in half, although I could see that there was something not right about it and as such, I would hesitate to take a bite.

It was when I took a closer look that I began to notice that the cut face of the fruit is actually a butterfly or moth, with the pips arranged to resemble an anxious face gazing apprehensively at a maggot crawling on a knife which had just bisected the apple. The answer to the accompanying question - what was the first thing I saw in the picture? - it was the cut apple itself. And the result? I was afraid of death, particularly among others. That was my given analysis.

As already mentioned, the test was tongue-in-cheek, most likely a data list of psychological analysis, of which any one could have been selected at pure random by the computer, very much the same as the daily horoscope readings are selected before publishing in a daily newspaper or weekly magazine. But in this case my analysis from answering one question from a given list proved to be 100% spot on! Fear of death has dominated my thinking process, after being warned of eternal Hell as a young boy by my mother whenever I said or did something amiss. So belief in the afterlife helped mould my thinking process - to the stage of hating God by the time I've reached teenage years.

It was after conversion to Jesus Christ when I was twenty years old that I developed a concern about other people's eternal fate, particularly my family and friends. For example, my late father was only a nominal Roman Catholic, who himself admitted his agnosticism, although he never denied the existence of God in the way I did. Yet thinking of where he might be now - if he is conscious - sends me into feelings of helplessness, despondency, even fear. According to my experience, awareness of death has put everything in life into proper perspective. Just as King Solomon concluded in his Old Testament book Ecclesiastes. Life is vanity, chasing after the wind, and rich man, poor man, along with the lowest worm, the same fate awaits us all.

So it happened to a teenage Muslim jihadist I read about in the paper earlier this week. He was forced by his commanders to drive into an enemy village and detonate a bomb that was planted in the vehicle he was driving. He knew too well that he had no other choice. Had he refused, his comrades would have either dished out severe punishment or the death penalty. Likewise if he had driven off in an attempt to escape. As it was, he was given the privilege to die with full honour, with the promise of Heaven. Instead, the unwilling suicide bomber burst into tears with terror. Supposing this Allah, to whom he was about to sacrifice his own life, was non-existent, and all he had was a false ticket to Heaven? Yes, what then? This might have been the reality which struck him at that vital moment. The terror of eternal Hell, taught throughout Islam as well as in Christianity.

A teenage jihadist's final moments of terror. 

As I read the forum of comments trailing the online article, I felt rather shocked by the brutal lack of sympathy expressed by us British readers. Statements such as "One less terrorist", "Burn in Hell", "It's Hell for you", and even "At least you won't set foot here, a Christian country." So the plethora of cruel statements fill the ever expanding column with not a hint of compassion directed at the lad's feelings. Hatred of the Muslims by a nation which claims to be Christian. Indeed. Then again, the entire philosophy behind Islam is built on a very truculent and unreliable deity. 

Muslims believer that Allah is the very God of Abraham, with his eldest son and their own ancestor, Ishmael. They also reluctantly acknowledge Ishmael's younger brother Isaac, and his son Jacob, the father of the Jews. They accept that the children of Israel were called by God to be his own people. But over the centuries of continual disobedience and unfaithfulness, God decided to throw out the Jews and replace them with a new group, the Church, But soon after the Church was established, it too fell into apostasy and unfaithfulness, according to Mohammed. By the seventh Century AD, God - who to the Muslims had always borne the name of Allah, throws out the Church, and through this prophet, a new religion was established, a faith which had its ancestry in Ishmael. Of all the 360 idols standing within a pagan temple in Mecca, only one remained standing after all the others were destroyed under the prophet's orders. That was the moon deity which bears Allah's name.

I sincerely believe that such a fickle deity as Allah is the driving force behind jihad and national and international terrorism. I don't think jihad stems from a misinterpretation of a few verses in the Koran. Rather it's the fear that if they don't live up to Allah's expectations, they too will be thrown out by their deity and some other group would take over. And why not? What guarantee is there for their security if their god has a record of disowning those he claimed were his yet were disobedient or lacked commitment?  I believe it is this fear of disenfranchisement that motivates Muslims to fight their jihad. And furthermore, to gather en-mass to the holy site in Mecca. Here, vast crowds of Muslim pilgrims chant to their deity out of fear rather than a love for Allah. As long as Allah remains pacified, he will not cast them off like he did with Israel and the Church.

Vast crowds of pilgrims at Mecca

Vast crowds gather to worship a deity, a pagan one at that, out for fear of being cast off. It makes me wonder how just by being born at a certain area virtually guarantees slavery to such a system. But Islam is not the only religion, further east there are two more prominent faiths, Hindu and Buddhism. At least with those two, we do not hear of jihad-type "holy wars" to convert the outsider, or die. Could this be that because these two faiths are very ancient, Hindu in particular, predating centuries before Christ? And therefore they don't worship a god known for disowning his people? Who knows? That is only my speculation. As with the Islamic jihads. But this one thing underlies all these faiths. That is, every individual is born innocent, grows up to learn about the religion of the land, spends his life in worship of such deities, then dies without hearing about the love of the true God through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God. I think of these things. Millions born in the large part of the world who grow up without any knowledge of Jesus Christ.

And why does this touch a nerve in my heart? Could it be because the apostle Peter made this plain statement:
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12.

So it stands to reason that all Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all other faiths not acknowledging Jesus Christ leads to death, simply because life comes from Christ alone, as the apostle John has written, that in him, Jesus, was life, and that life was the light of all men (John 1:4). This is where I find everything concerning this matter so hard to swallow. Christ died and through his resurrection, atoned for the sins of the whole world, thus reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). Yet to this day much of the world remains in ignorance. Just how effective was the Atonement? Yet we read that the light of Christ shines into every man ever born. Even nature itself testify of creation. I stood at the bottom of the Grand Canyon one night in 1995. The display of stars overhead was astounding! Never in my life in the UK have I seen such glorious heavenly splendour. The threefold testimony of Revelation, Nature, and Consciousness are three witness for the existence of God. And even Revelation itself seem to be threefold - the Bible, the presence of the churches, and the restoration of Israel as a sovereign nation. 

Although both the Middle East and the Far East regions of our planet seems to be shrouded in darkness, for us to call ourselves "a Christian nation" seems to be equally deceptive. True enough, our Constitution is founded on Christian principles. For an example, in the Law Courts, a witness swears to tell the truth by holding a Bible. But all these things don't make us a nation of true believers. Instead, I have found that the majority of British people do not know the love of Christ. In my mind I believe that Darwinism has played a major role towards mass unbelief. Nowadays, the revelation of divine creation in six literal 24-hour days followed by a day of rest on the seventh is held as ridiculous, and it is considered that no scientist worth his salt, or anyone with an ounce of common sense would even consider such revelations as historical. Yet the existence of our weekends and Sabbath days in other countries, along with the global institution of marriage, together with our Constitution and those of many other lands, all testify to the historicity of the Bible.

No other science discipline has been so controversial as Natural Evolution and Historical Geology, the latter being the works of Scotsman Charles Lyell, on which Englishman Charles Darwin based his own works of Evolution. On these two authors, considered brilliant in the academic world, the truthfulness of the Gospel is denied, as it stands to reason that without the historicity of Divine Creation, the reality of sin, atonement, and judgement have no place in rational thinking. And so, as we advance in knowledge and civilisation, this same knowledge, I think, holds responsibility for our spiritual and moral decline, with more and more stepping off this planet into a lost eternity. Tragic!

Is there something in the air? An entity who is behind all this darkness, and blinding people from the truth of the Gospel? Perhaps the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 4:4, that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ. And also of Ephesians 2:2, when every one of us was under the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit at work in those who are disobedient (of the command to receive the Gospel).

It is a terrifying concept, especially to the ones you love most. After all, I wonder how the mother of the Islamic teenager, unwillingly forced to blow himself up, must have really felt? Especially as she remembers holding him as a newborn in her arms.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Sweeping around a Corner.

Retirement. It is so hard to believe that such a turning point would happen to me. Sure, I have seen it happen many, many times. Always to others of course. As for myself, how I could I have ever thought it would happen to me? Indeed, retirement gives me the opportunity to look back on my entire life.

Such as, I could recall in the most sharp memory images, when I was a young boy growing up in Pimlico, close to the north bank of the River Thames in London. Rollerskating up and down the quiet street, with far fewer cars parked along the kerbside than at present, this was one of two parallel streets forming an elongated rectangle, with both streets bearing the name of St. Georges Square. In between the two streets was a strip of public garden, fenced and gated. It was here where dog walkers brought their pooches while I kicked a ball across the long-disused area of hard tennis courts, which had their heyday before the War, and the adjoining area of lawn was ideal for picnics during the summer. And every year on November 5th, a giant bonfire dominated over thousands of fireworks let off by older children, many unsupervised by adults, yet according to my knowledge, there was no record of any accidents caused by misuse. Such was the 1950's and early sixties style of discipline.

Pimlico apartments where I grew up

One end of the street joined Grosvenor Road at a T-junction, where I only have to cross the main road to walk alongside the river. On the other side of the river, heavy industry hums away on its daily business, many of its buildings blackened with soot. The industrial estate was dominated by the four classical chimneys of Battersea Power Station, resembling the legs of an upturned table. Across the other side of Chelsea Bridge, the heavy industry on the south bank of the Thames gave way to Battersea Park, famous for its permanent Fun Fair, dominated by the Big Dipper, the largest wooden roller coaster on the site. Close by was the Water Chute, where a passing car speeding down a long incline threw water with powerful force onto a glass screen shielding us from a soaking.

How I loved standing by that screen as the water hits it just a few inches from where I stood. Outside the fairground but within the park, there was the Tree Walk, a long boardwalk suspended high in the trees, passing a building where inside, a room moved - throwing us from one side to the other, while near its roof a giant figure of Popeye stood, flexing his muscles, and next to him was his oppressor Brutus, who continually swayed to and fro in permanent laughter. The street where these amenities were located was lined with all manner of stalls, giving a permanent carnival feel. I also recall the miniature train, and a magnificent fountain display just outside the Fun Fair. Not to mention a couple of swing parks as well - Battersea Park really was a fun paradise! And the four chimneys of the nearby power station looked across the whole park as if silently supervising the area.

At present, Battersea Park is only a shadow of its former glory. Thanks to a fatal accident on the Big Dipper roller-coaster in May 1972, where five children were killed, the fair closed down and everything demolished and removed, including the boardwalk and all other facilities. Also all the stalls disappeared, and nothing would ever be the same again. Oh the highlights of childhood, devoid of responsibility, that early phase of life when owning a train set or Meccano was far more important to me than my parents earning enough to sustain a family. As Battersea Park metamorphosed from a fun paradise with a carnival atmosphere to an area of quiet greenery occupying a square hemmed in between Chelsea and Albert Bridges, so reaching teenage years involved the loss of that sense of innocence that comes only in the early years as more responsibilities takes over - especially after leaving school.

Battersea Fun Fair before 1972

Water Chute, Battersea Fun Fair

And here such a big change of life came in April 1968, at age fifteen years, when I left school with no qualifications, and landed a job at a family-owned business in manufacturing period furniture. And my very first task on that initial Monday morning? Picking up the broom leaning at a corner and sweeping the floor. Than having swept the floor of one department, I had to repeat the process at an adjoining shop floor. Every weekday morning began with the sweeping. I did not feel bad about that, as back then it was the accepted routine carried out by every school leaver who had failed to achieve any educational levels, let alone a university degree. Although pushing a broom was very humbling among a workforce of skilled craftsmen, I believe it was the broom which transformed the boy into a man, rather than at school.

But I was always perceived as different. Everyone at work made sure that I knew my place, at the bottom rung of the ladder, and they made sure I stayed there. And somehow I was made aware that I as an Italian was seen as inferior to the British, even if I was actually born in England myself. The War was often mentioned, with their boasting that it was won by the British, with the Italian forces relegated to uselessness in military conflicts. The truth - which they made sure remained quiet - was that the War was won by the Allies, with the U.S. fighter 'plane Elona Gay dropping the first atom bomb on the Japanese island of Hiroshima, thus ending the conflict when Japan surrendered. By heck, I wish that I knew all this as an adolescent while sweeping the floor! Such knowledge would have been a weapon in its own right to shut the mouths of everyone in the factory.

Do I want to write a self-pitying dirge? No way! Rather as an opportunity to glorify God, along with the liberating power of the Gospel. And how comforting to know that there is a Strong Tower into which the righteous run into, and they are safe. Now as one retiring, I can look back at my working life, and calculate that, of the 47 years since leaving school, only less than six years of production didn't involve time spent cleaning. This was when I worked in a precision engineering firm between October 1973 to June 1979. All other times involved cleaning, even as a pool lifeguard earlier in 1973, when I had to mop down the pool edge walkway, and even jumped in to scrub off the scum from the safety rail within the pool's edge. This was done early in the morning before the amenity opened to the public. Then from August 1980, after trying out various other jobs including a few months in a warehouse, I eventually became self-employed in domestic window cleaning, which kept me going for the next 35 years.

Living in a country where social class is such an obsession can really be disheartening. As I watched one former Prime Minister shout Education! Education! during Parliament, I have seen the obsession among young people of both genders become enthralled with the possibility of achieving their A* Level which would open the door to University. Their obsession is as if their lives depended on it. Let's face it; imagining themselves sitting at an office desk in front of a computer, and maybe with a telephone as well, is far, far more appealing to these young students than the thought of pushing a broom in a noisy factory shop floor.

Only today (Saturday) an article appeared in a national newspaper, which was written by a Psychiatrist, criticising the appalling bureaucracy which has such a hold on the National Health Service. He relates a story out of personal experience about an elderly female patient who had fallen from her bed, and as she lay on the floor, she called for help while wedged between the bed and the bedside cabinet. Her cries was heard by a nurse who sat at her desk, taking her coffee break and ignoring the patient's calls. When the doctor summoned her to help in lifting her back to her bed, the nurse refused. The situation was resolved when a visitor entered the ward and assisted the elderly woman back to her bed.

The Psychiatrist explained that the nurse was a victim of a system where a university degree is now essential to enter the profession. This has developed a culture of "Too posh to wipe" - a bad attitude - confirmed by one of my clients who works as a nurse herself - where such graduates believe that wiping a patient's bottom is far too menial to merit their degree. The writer then explained about the ambition of many a young nurse to climb the career ladder into Management, where she enters the office staffed with men in suits and who had never handled a stethoscope, and yet were responsible for meeting financial targets and destroying the compassion towards patients, which was the whole object for having the N.H.S. in the first place.

Swimming pool where I was lifeguard in 1973

The man in a suit who has never pushed a broom in his entire working life. How much I wanted to be one myself so many years ago, perhaps because that was what my parents would have liked me to have become. The suit, a symbol of high education levels and career success. Held in reverence by society as a whole, even by some manual workers. Instead, I was shown my place and kept there. Despite my knowledge of the Bible, accumulated over the years, I was never permitted to teach or exhort. I recall one of the Elders, who is not with us anymore, who answered my request to teach a class by saying that someone else was better qualified for that role. Better qualified? Because he worked in an office? Then this blog page. When this was typed, my total score of hits topped 51,000. At first this looks healthy. But I was tempted to change my blogger name to Dr. F. E. Blasi. If I had, chances that the total score of hits might have been closer to 100,000. But I would be deceiving my readers. Lying is not exactly godly. Then again, the general flow of all my blogs does not reflect those written by a doctor. I believe that many readers would have seen through the ruse.

So I look back at 47 years as a manual labourer, with the last 35 years as self-employed. Now I'm entering retirement. Unfulfilled ambitions? Rather, I believe that pushing a broom across the floor was very beneficial psychologically. The feeling of humility, I believe, was the key in converting to faith in Jesus Christ. It was the driving force to grasp knowledge of the Bible, and to plead with my Maker for the Big Picture of God's entire revelation. Faith in Jesus and Bible reading has inspired me to visit Israel as early as 1976, which opened the door to world travel. Faith in Jesus had always been the backbone of feeling content about living in rented accommodation instead of home ownership, and riding a bicycle instead of driving a fast car. Faith in Jesus as Saviour has put life in its proper perspective, not to chase riches here on Earth, but to store them in Heaven. It has helped me from envying other people's good fortune or higher social position, knowing that the same fate awaits us all.

Battersea Park was indeed a fun paradise for families. In a way, the whole park was a reflection of Heaven - a place of joy, happiness, a cessation from worry, anxieties. It was a place of rest, to refresh the soul. True Heaven will have all this and much more. It will be eternal, a place of everlasting joy.

But to get there, I had to trust in Jesus Christ - his death, burial, and resurrection.

To help me towards faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, it was necessary to stoop low and push a broom in full view of all my betters. 

Saturday, 12 September 2015

When God spoke to me...

I have arrived at one of the biggest crossroads of my life. This very weekend I officially retire from full time work, a permanent ceasing after 47 years of earning a living since April 1968, including 35 years as a self employed domestic window cleaner. It will feel strange, even if I most likely take on an occasional job from time to time, such as cleaning the windows of a friend's house, or even willing to emulsion the walls of someone's bedroom (the very last paid job completed as a bachelor before I married 48 hours later). Or maybe giving a hand at midweek church arrangement - unpaid, but enjoying fellowship whilst volunteering - really, anything to get out of the house daily. For the idea of retiring from full time work was inspired by the thorough enjoyment I'd experienced while on convalescence from February this year, all three months of it, and to tell the truth, the need to return to work in June had broken my heart. 

One of the benefits of the convalescence period was the strengthening of our marriage. The ability to be at hand whenever Alex needed me gave her a far greater sense of assurance than when I was out of the house from morning to evening every weekday. But I have never disliked my work, especially as one self employed. I now smile at this, but I recall having a chat with one of my clients, and telling him how wonderful to be the human boss of the business, and as such, the underlying secret of its longevity. Human boss? I wonder what my client thought of that statement? I doubt that he had ever met a non-human boss. Or perhaps he has met quite a few! But for me at least, I acknowledged that the true Boss was God himself, and I was merely a steward of the responsibilities the occupation consisted.

But to divorce Mondays from Sundays is wrong, I believe. With many a church-goer, a typical week may looks something like this:

Sunday - Devotion to God. Monday-Friday - Work and responsibilities. Saturday - Day off.

Such a way of living, subconscious as it may be, may surprise a person when the Lord suddenly cuts in during the week. So I recall such an unforgettable Monday morning of October 1992. That was the morning I had a vision to visit Jerusalem during the following year to pray over the city. Up till then, for the last twelve years, I was struggling financially to make ends meet. That year, I was fortunate enough to accompany a mate to the Lake District National Park up north in Cumbria, a typically average break in those days. Then from that very morning onward, I was able to put away £20 every week for ten months. This gave me more than enough to spend a full two weeks in Israel, staying at a backpacker's hostel in the heart of Jerusalem Old City. Since then, I have experienced a dramatic change in lifestyle. From the same line of work, I was able to return to Israel a year later in 1994, where I stood on the summit of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city from the east. It was at that moment that I had a sudden inspiration to backpack the United States exactly a year later, opening the door to further travel, including Singapore and Australia in 1997.

This is the grace of God expressed through love. Looking back, I am now convinced that the vision I had that dreary Autumn morning was from God, simply because of the resulting change in my life.
Grace - Gift Received At Christ's Expense. What other language can such an acronym be applied to such a beautiful word? That is what grace is about, isn't it? Receiving good things without deserving them, let alone attempting to earn them. And the greatest demonstration of grace is found in Luke 11:13. Here Jesus, who is addressing a crowd he calls evil, promises the Holy Spirit to fill anyone who simply asks. That is grace. For someone with an evil heart to be filled with the Holy Spirit. No if's or but's. God's grace overcomes evil. The Holy Spirit enters an evil, unregenerate heart and regenerates it, making the person a new creation and adopts him into God's own family. That's why I believe in the "sinner's prayer" - asking Jesus to come into the heart. It is synonymous with asking for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three in one Godhead, the Holy Trinity.

I was reading the Old Testament book of Job just the other day, and what his young friend Elihu had to say about God's grace was quite intriguing. For he says,
If it were (God's) intention and withdrew his spirit and breath,
all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust.
Job 34:14-15.

This brings me to mind of a newspaper article about a book recently released, Magicians Of the Gods, by Graham Hancock, who also wrote Fingerprints of the Gods which sold over a million copies worldwide. In Magicians, Hancock uses various ancient prophecies from non-Biblical sources as evidence that within the next twenty years a comet will pass within the Earth's gravitational pull, explode in the upper atmosphere, and its impact on the planet will wipe out all life, including mankind, parallel to the supposed impact of an asteroid which had eliminated all dinosaurs some sixty million years ago.

Perhaps there is only one Biblical reference to this kind of disaster, and it's found in Revelation 8:8-11. Here, two large bodies from space falls to the Earth. The first is "something like a huge mountain, ablaze, was thrown into the sea." The second, "a great star, blazing like a torch" fell on land, most likely in the Middle East, while the first fell into the Mediterranean. This looks to me like one comet or asteroid which broke into two and the friction with the air caused them both to become incandescent. But neither brings the whole of mankind to extinction, but rather only one third of all sea creatures in the Mediterranean, along with just a third of all mariners who were unfortunate enough to be within its impact zone. Likewise, the second fragment poisons the rivers, and according to Revelation 9:1, the impact caused a cloud to cover the land, darkening the sun and moon.

Very much like that of a volcano blowing its top, as with the case of Krakatoa in August 1883. This explosion has killed up to 36,000 people, many by the resulting tsunamis, and darkness lasting for three days covering an area of 275 miles 442 km. For such an event as this, the explosion did not wipe out the whole of the human race, and it looks like the asteroid of Revelation would have a very similar effect, but it will not make the human race extinct. And that is because of the grace of God.

And here is where I believe authors such as Graham Hancock had got it wrong. Because of the grace of God, life on Earth as we know it will never be destroyed by a comet or asteroid impact. And it was both Abraham and the prophet Jeremiah who gives the reasons. Abraham was interceding for Sodom not to be destroyed if there were as little as ten righteous people living in the city. God assured him that the presence of just ten righteous persons would be enough to save the whole city (Genesis 18:16-33).

Jeremiah wrote that the very existence of the Earth and the Universe as a whole hangs upon the promise God has made with Abraham's descendants, the nation of Israel. In Jeremiah 33:19-26 for example, it is God himself who reassures the distressed prophet, who had watched his beloved city Jerusalem fall into the hands of the Babylonians, that unless the divine covenant with the day and with the night can be broken, God will never reject the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is the wonderful promise of his grace, that the very existence of Israel guarantees the ongoing life for the entire planet.

To believe the Gospel saves us from such anxieties - comet impact, volcanic eruptions, rising sea levels, tsunamis, a mass pandemic, worldwide famine, or anything that could wipe out the whole of mankind on a universal scale. Because of God's grace, it will not happen. And amazing enough, it was God's grace that had saved my life, literally three times when I was a youth, including a daring challenge to swim out to the end of the pier at a seaside resort. About halfway, it turned out that the tidal current was so strong that I found myself drifting towards the support structs of the pier itself, and I grabbed and held on to a girder, or else the current would have sucked me under. It was only through another swimmer, older and stronger than myself, who gave me line-by-line instructions to get me back onto the beach, which had saved my life. The grace of God has triumphed.

Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O LORD.
Psalm 25:7.

Since God's grace has sustained me from the day of conception to this day, why should I fear and worry over the future, particularly in the financial area? As this is a huge turning point in my life, it is so tempting, and quite reasonable too, to ask, What now? Experience has already shown that claiming benefit, in this case Pension Credit, as I am still two years under 65, has been a fickle affair, with a maze of clauses and conditions that can trip me up, in this case forcing me back to work after telling all my clientele of my retirement. How embarrassing! How much of a prat would I feel? Trusting in the goodness of God brings peace. Realising that all things work for the good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). If the benefit claim fails, and I have to return to work, I'll be bitterly disappointed, but I will also be aware that God not only knows about it, but he is sovereign. Everything is for a good reason.

May I close with a request for prayer, that all will go to plan, and I indeed can retire from full time work with God's blessing. And may God bless you all.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

A Divisive Issue

One of the most popular songs which is still played to this day is Imagine, by ex-Beatle John Lennon. Released in 1971, this song contain the lyrics:

Imagine there's no countries,
it isn't hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
and no religion too.
Imagine all the people,
living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one.
I hope one day you'll join us,
and the world would be as one.

I guess it doesn't take a rocket scientist to imagine a peaceful, war-free, religion-free global population which is also free from its hold on possessions. No rich man, no poor man, but all wealth distributed equally in a Utopian, socialist fairness for everybody.

Dream on.

Because, probably without Lennon's awareness, such a society actually existed - globally. Maybe not so much as socialist Lennon might have depicted it to have been, but instead, there was enough resources for everyone to own abundantly. However, unlike the paradise island of Atlantis of Plato's Timaeus and Critias, where at first everyone was gentle to each other before greed began to set in, this global population did not provide a pleasant environment to live in at all. Yet in spite of this, there was just one language, there was practically no religion, no national boundaries, and most likely no diversity of racial skin colour, culture, and characteristics. To add to this, their health must have been superb, so close to physical perfection, that an individual can live close to a thousand years. It was also hinted that the women were so stunningly beautiful that even the hosts of Heaven took note. No doubt, the men too, must have been extraordinary handsome with well defined muscular bodies and facial features at which many a modern male would simmer with envy.

No doubt this could be defined as a social experiment for the heavenly host to observe and take note. And what a lesson they had to learn from it. This universal, global society of Homo Sapiens without any national boundaries was a catastrophic disaster! So evil it was, that God himself shook his head in sorrow and regretted that he had ever created mankind in the first place. He had to wipe out the entire primeval human race and start all over again. But if God has ever regretted creating man in the first place, at least he had never regretted redeeming those who believed. Such was the case of Noah, the only righteous man in a population of billions, who had enough faith to believe God's revelation of the coming judgement, and by faith he built the ark to save himself and his family from the universal floodwaters.

But from the decedents of Noah's three sons - Shem, Ham and Japheth, again the population grew, sharing the same one language, and like their antediluvian predecessors, they too shook their fists at God by defying his commandment to "populate the whole earth." So they migrated en bloc east, and came across a plain which they named Shinar, located at the Mesopotamian Valley, through which the rivers of Tigris and the Euphrates flows to the Persian Gulf. From there they began to build a city with a tower which reached into the heavens. I believe that this tower was the solidification of mankind's pride, an attempt to reach the heavenly realms by self effort rather than through God's undeserved grace and mercy. This, I think, may be accentuated by the fact that building on a valley floor rather than on one of the mountain ranges on either side, indicating their fullness of pride and rejection of any divine help, in this case providing a natural uplift in physical elevation.

God came down and frustrated their building project by giving them different languages, so no longer understanding each other's speech. The building project was abandoned, and a name given to the site, Babel, meaning Confusion, from which the name Babylon had originated, the name of the city symbolising false religion, which is trying to get right with God by self effort instead of God's grace. It may be worth noting that Babylon is synonymous with Antichrist, a word meaning Instead of Christ, who is the only source of undeserved grace and mercy. As the apostle once said, that there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

As the building project was abandoned, everyone found someone whose speech they understood, and each group with the same tongue dispersed across the planet, as God originally intended. As each language drew its own communicators, each group grew in size separately, forming nations, each with its own boundary, speech, and sovereignty. As the Bible so teaches, the concept of nations was not an offset of Evolution, but a system established by God to keep global evil in check, so post-diluvian mankind does not go the same way as the antediluvian population. One group of people, of the line of Shem son of Noah, were the Hebrews, from their father Eber, the fourth generation from Noah. It was in Eber's line where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were born, the forefathers of the nation of Israel, which afterwards, the term Hebrews was specifically applied to them.

The Old Testament seem to endorse patriotism, particularly for Israel. King David, for one, seem to have had a strong dislike for all non-Israelis. One good example of this is found in 1 Samuel 17:26 where his attitude towards Goliath became apparent. When he first saw him, he asked,
Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?

Uncircumcised. That is, one who was not born of the line of Jacob. He wasn't even born within the line of Shem son of Noah, but of his brother Ham, whose son Canaan Noah had cursed. Goliath was as much an alien in David's eyes as he could possibly be. Other Biblical writers had shown a strong loyalty to Israel above all other nations, including Jeremiah and Daniel, both whose hearts longed for the welfare of Jerusalem, the city where God had chosen to put his name. But their loyalty to Israel as a nation was based on one very important principle: That is Israel as a nation was called by God to be his own people, walking in holiness. Israel was set apart by God - that is, until the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Atonement made by Jesus Christ when he died on the cross was not only for the sins of the world, but to atone for international barriers, especially between the Jews and the non-Jews. The tearing of the curtain inside the Jewish temple, which separated God's presence from all mankind, carried a great deal of meaning. It was torn from top to bottom, a divine act, a symbol that all mankind from all the nations of the world now has access to the presence of God, every sin washed away in his shed blood, in perfect holiness, and in God's good pleasure. Paul couldn't have put it any better:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you (non-Jews) are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29.

Which brings us up to the current immigration crisis. Thousands have fled the unrest from the Middle East, particularly Syria. This unrest is caused by Islamic militants, who wish to impose a state over its people, a religious environment where extreme intolerance causes anyone with a different opinion to be punished by death. Islam, however, is not Christianity. It is a religion of works, to attain a heavenly realm by human effort ordered by the instructions given by their founder Mohammed. According to Islam, one can only be saved by following and obeying the teaching of Mohammed. Their god is Allah, a moon-deity, and not the God of the Bible. Therefore, according to them, salvation is from Allah, the moon god, instead of through Jesus Christ, therefore Antichrist. As a result, war erupts, and refugees are left to flee their homeland by the thousands, with many perishing in their attempt to reach Europe.

A refugee child lies drowned on a beach in Turkey.

And this has split the opinion of the United Kingdom. Those which seem to have a greater sense of national patriotism are against the idea of letting these refugees access to our land. It is the same with Hungary. Over there, a far-right group, akin to being neo-Nazis, are hostile to the refugees who are trying to make their way into Austria and Germany. Then there is the other group who insist that we show compassion by allowing such people to settle into our land. I find it sad, really, that although Jesus' death on the cross has torn down the barriers between nations, nationalists have re-erected these barriers and are keen to close all doors. Therefore how we feel about these desperate refugees attempted to flee war-torn homelands has caused a divisive issue across our land, along with mainland Europeans.

But these issues are political. I'm more concerned about spiritual issues. In other words, for these Muslims to be converted from Mohammed to Jesus Christ, from Allah to the living God. Is such a conversion necessary? Absolutely! Here are some facts:

1. Allah is not the God of the Bible, nor the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Instead, Allah is a moon-god, whose crescent symbol adorns the minaret of every Muslim mosque.

2. Muslims hates the Jews, and their desire is to see Israel as a nation pushed into the sea, and annihilated. Muslims also wants to see all true Christian believers killed. Christians as a whole has a respect for the Jews.

3. Islamic salvation is gotten only by human effort under the obedience of the Koran, written by Mohammed their founder. Biblical salvation is through undeserved grace and mercy from God through faith only.

4. Mohammed died on the 8th June 632 AD. His bones are still with us, buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia. The Lord Jesus died by crucifixion, was buried, and on the third day after his death, was resurrected physically. The tomb of Jesus remains empty to this day.

5. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead not only guarantees our salvation, but it's vibrant proof that this Jesus is the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, and God himself. Since Mohammad is dead, he is none of these, instead, his bones awaits the resurrection to judgement.

6. Muslims have a hatred for all "heretics" i.e. non Muslims. The quest within the Christian's heart is to bring all men to Jesus Christ through faith, borne out of love for them.

7. Every Christian believer had experience a new birth in his spirit, and he is a new creation, adopted forever into God's family, and therefore will not be judged as sinners. The Muslim is a slave to a dead man, and he is not a son of Allah, neither is he adopted into his family, but will either save or damn each Muslim in accordance to how committed he was to his obedience to Mohammed.

As such, I believe that we as a nation should show greater compassion to these refugees. After all, we have much spare land, enough even to build a whole new city, providing jobs and a new source of economy. The price to pay is our national pride. But far more important than this, are efforts made to persuade them that Jesus Christ is a much better person to trust than Mohammed. But this conversion to the love of Christ should not be limited to the refugees only. Rather, the love of God through Jesus Christ must percolate into the Islamic heartlands. This included reaching the advocates of ISIS and other radical groups that Christ is far better than their "prophet". Only then will many of the problems in this world will be solved.

And John Lennon will have something to sing about.