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Saturday, 25 June 2016

Melancholy Man

Some years ago, my younger brother took our Mum up to the Scottish Highlands, to visit an insignificant-looking area of open space known as Culloden Moor. It was the site of the last battle ever to take place in Britain, on April 16th, 1746. Lasting about an hour, the contest was between Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charles, who desired to sit on the Throne in London, and was also leader of the Jacobites - against the Government officer William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The latter, whose troops were predominantly English and better trained, won a quick victory over the mainly Scottish Jacobite troops, leaving a considerable number of casualties, mostly from the Jacobite side. After his defeat, Bonnie Prince Charles took flight. This eventually led to the Scottish Highlands being integrated into Britain, in the process of the formation of the United Kingdom.

Cottage Hospital, Culloden Moor.

About two years after Mum's visit, I took my wife Alex to the same area while spending a few days at a hotel in Inverness. Hardly an attraction, the moor was an open field covered mainly with heather, with a network of trails allowing visitors to wonder freely, along with a nearby car park (if I remember) a small museum, a cottage used as a hospital, and of course, most important of all, a refreshment cafe and shop. What has changed since our visit in 2005, was the building and opening of a rather swank-looking Visitor's Centre in 2007. No doubt, the facility would have been much appreciated by William Augustus and his men for a respite after the battle!

Hence the beginning of a era for the British Isles known as the United Kingdom, consisting of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, where everyone within its shores lived in relative peace for more than two centuries. So when Scotland held a referendum for independence on September 2014, I was worried. For my heart would have been as much broken as the United Kingdom would have been, if the Scottish National Party had won.

Back in 1990, a friend and I cycled from John O'Groats, on the most northern point of the Scottish coastline, to Land's End on the tip of Cornwall. We remember the border crossing well. A straight road passing two signs, one on each side of the road. One read, "Welcome to Scotland." The other merely read, "England." But there were no white lines across the road, no passport controls, no customs. One just drove along uninterrupted, as anywhere else in the open countryside. The same applied when we crossed into Wales, albeit briefly. All three crossings consisting of an open road passing through without any form of obstructive barriers. That is the meaning of the United Kingdom, where anyone can pass through national boundaries as if they did not exist, itself a tangible expression of a total lack of tribal conflict or seclusion.

It was very different at the world's smallest continent throughout the 20th Century. Made up of a number of independent nations, Europe became the source of two of the world's most atrocious conflicts, both costing lives by the millions, followed by high levels of then-unrecognised Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among the surviving veterans, some homeless and often seen tramping along the streets of London back in the sixties and seventies, intoxicated with alcohol, at times even with methylated spirits. All because by 1939, one national leader believed that his country was populated by a superior race, and had aspirations to conquer and rule over the rest of Europe, including Britain. At the same time he had six million Jewish men and women sent to prison camps to face death. Just for being racially inferior.

After visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum on the western outskirts of Jerusalem in 1993, I grew appreciative of the concept of a European Union acting as a deterrent against international and inter-tribal warfare, along with serving as a barrier against a Communist invasion, even though I gave little thought about such a union at the time. But throughout the last couple of months I grew to understand the benefits of Union membership, and what it could mean if we vote out of the European Union, even prompting a domino-effect of the Union to fall apart completely, meaning that one day in the future, a third world war could break out over another conflict between two or more European nations. Most likely not in my day, as I am already in my sixties. But as I look on young families with their toddlers, my heart sigh, wondering what kind of a future they will grow up in.

As I listened to the News on the radio that Friday morning of June 24th, I fell into shock which turned into depression, which gripped my soul for more than twenty-four hours. Not long after hearing the announcement that Brexit has won the national referendum by a narrow margin of 52 to 48 percent, our Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, stood outside the door of number 10 with his wife Samantha standing slightly behind him, both looking very distressed as he announced his resignation. Up to the present I have always disliked our Prime Minister for what he stood for, seasoned with his Etonian background and his past membership of the notorious Bullington Club for aristocratic students at Oxford University. Furthermore, he has always shown a higher regard for the elite above the needs of ordinary people. But on that morning I thought I detected a tear rolling down his face. I felt a pang of pity. Despite his background reputation and performance at his post, I just couldn't gloat over his national public humiliation. Instead I felt sorry for him.

Which heightened my depression. I attended the gym for my normal three-times-a-week two hour workout. Normally I leave the gym with a feeling of well-being after such a workout. But not on that Friday. Instead, I sat alone in the sauna, itself almost deserted, and finding myself at a position which clarifies any depressed man:  

It was also on that day when I recalled some of the weirdest statements made by various church leaders about the European Union before the result was released. One leader of a church in Southampton ordered his congregation to vote leave, insisting that the European Union is the work of the Devil and therefore an abomination before God! Then at a Bible study group I heard about another pastor of a more localised church saying the same things about the Union. On that occasion, on the day of the referendum itself, I stood up and declared that all this was total nonsense, and even rebuked the elderly couple involved for being so gullible. Their reply was that they felt God saying these things in their hearts. The next morning I heard the result. 

Did God really speak to them? Was I in the wrong? Worse still, was I in rebellion against God, as depicted by the nations, including Israel, in the Biblical book of the prophet Amos? This has brought me near to a sweat - until I also remembered that the Archbishop of Canterbury has voted to remain, and quite likely most, if not all, the clergy of the Church of England. If the clergyman second only to the Queen has voted to remain in the EU, then there must be a serious flaw in the theory that the European Union is an abomination before God.

Reading the Biblical book of the prophet Daniel throws some light into this issue. As a captive of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, the young prophet revealed the meaning of a dream the king had one night in bed. The dream was that of a massive statue standing in front, consisting of a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, lower legs of iron, and feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. Then a large boulder, not cut by human hands, rolled down a nearby mountain and struck the statue at its ten toes. The whole edifice crumbled into powder, and like chaff blown away by the wind, nothing of it remained, but the boulder which demolished the statue grew into a mountain which covered the whole earth.

Then some time later, the elderly prophet had a dream of his own, that of a stormy ocean. From the swelling waves arose four beasts - a lion, a bear, a leopard, and an unknown ferocious beast. His attention was drawn to the fourth beast, and from its head grew ten horns, and another horn grew after the other ten. These two dreams both share the same interpretation - that four empires will rule over the nation of Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, God's own city, from Daniel's day to the end of human history. Of these kingdoms, three are clearly past, while the fourth has been suspended - to allow for the present Church age - only for this kingdom to resume power sometime in the future from this point of time - as we have not reached the end of the Church age, let alone human history. But the importance of these four empires to Israel and its capital Jerusalem cannot be underestimated. It has nothing to do with the Church.
(See Daniel chapters 2 and 7.)

But the one important principle underlined here, and that these kingdoms were decreed by God himself. It was God's plan for the Jews to be ruled by these four non-Jewish empires for their continued disobedience and rebellion against his laws and commandments. The fact that all kingdoms, nations, and empires are firmly in the hands of God himself, who re-affirms through Paul that there is no authority existing that hadn't been established by God (Romans 13:1-7). As such, it is God who causes empires to rise and fall, to enthrone kings and also dethrone them at his own will.

Which leads me to conclude that if people, even Christian believers, had said to me in the past that the British Empire was established by God, then it must follow suit that the European Union was established by God as well, wasn't it? Why do some Christians endorse the British Empire as a work of God, but emotionally denounce the European Union as a work of the Devil, and therefore a divine abomination? Didn't the British set out to conquer the indigenous in their own homelands, make slaves of them, and through bloodshed rule over them with absolute authority - for some four hundred years? And yet these same people who approved of the British Empire are now screaming out, we want our country back! The EU made slaves of no-one, they never ruled with the same kind of absolute authority, and there certainly was no bloodshed. Furthermore, the Union is only forty odd years old, a tenth of the Empire's duration! Yet many see it as evil.

We want our country back! I bet that that was exactly the cry of the conquered indigenous under colonial rule for four hundred long years. And then the English in particular sampling a mild form of their own medicine for just a few decades brings shock and horror. I cannot see the fairness, but perhaps fortunately for us, we as a nation are now free from the cruel, bureaucratic dominion of the EU, even after all this time, never a gun was fired by them in our direction. Now the Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is thinking of another referendum for Scottish independence. Because the Vote Remain was won by the Scots with a wider margin of 62 over 38 percent of the vote, compared with the 52 over 48 percent for the Vote Leave on the national average.

A second Scottish Referendum for Independence looks now to be on the cards, according to the Media. If the voting goes ahead, and they vote out, a very peculiar set up could emerge. They could be accepted back into the European Union. Even before that, the United Kingdom as we know it at present would be broken up and cease to exist. Quite likely, a passport control booth would be set up at the very spot we cycled through unhindered back in 1990. And the same applies to all other roads, along with border checks within intercity trains out of London Kings Cross and Euston Stations. And passport checks for cross-border domestic flights. A dire possibility? I guess that could be the case, but perhaps not. But the weirdest peculiarity would appear on the new map of the European Union, if it does not fall into itself. 

The map would show a uniformed continental block (if the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and Italy remains in the EU) with Scotland, and maybe Northern Ireland too, shaded in with Europe, but between Scotland and the north coast of France, there would be a landmass unshaded, as neither England and Wales would be in the EU. This peculiar resurgence would be the end result of the English (and Welsh) cry that "they wanted their country back."

But however events will turn out in the days, weeks, months and years to come, I have come out of my depression and set my faith in the Lord that neither my countrymen or ourselves would be any of the worse for wear as a result of leaving the European Union.

May God save, keep, and bless everyone who puts his trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A Samaritan at the Pulse

Omar Mateen, a native New Yorker, looked to to world to be a normal family man with a young son. Not many knew that he made several attendances to the Pulse gay nightclub in the city of Orlando, except perhaps by several of the regulars who frequent there. What was his motive? Was he secretly surveying the interior and its patrons as part of a terrorist group conspiracy? While he socialised, danced, and even bought drinks at the bar, was he laying down plans for a future assassin, to take place at exactly the right time for maximum effect, in order to honour Allah and secure a place in Paradise as a deserving Jihad?

Or could he have been a closet homosexual, despite being a husband and father, as hinted afterwards by his widowed wife? Could his secret orientation give him so much bother, shame and a low self esteem? Did he have a secret desire to mate up with one of the slim or well-built men in the club? Or even attempted to chat up a fellow he took a special fancy to, and was instantly fobbed off? As a result of the rejection, did he end up feeding his fantasies of wiping out the lives of other gay men and women? Had his plans of turning his fantasies to reality satisfy the intense rage brought on by his own self-rejection, as well as by rejection from others? 

I guess we would never know for sure what really went on in his mind, having himself been shot dead by a police officer, several hours after the shooting. But it was in the intervening period, when Mateen took a number of clubbers as hostages, that something wonderful took place. During the siege, one surviving member, undergraduate nurse Josh McGill, was close to another club member who was shot three times on the arm, and bleeding badly. So Josh took off his own shirt and used it to make a tourniquet, stopping the bleeding, and accompanied the victim to a nearby hospital. Josh McGill had literally saved his colleague's life by his quick action. 

Undergraduate Nurse Josh McGill
I can't help comparing McGill to that of a Samaritan, recorded in Luke 10:25-37. This story was one of the many parables spoken by Jesus himself. There are strong parallels between Josh McGill's goodness and that of the good Samaritan. There is also a distinct parallelism between McGill's patient and that of the passing Samaritan. The Samaritan's victim was a traveller who was set upon by thieves. He was left wounded with bleeding, and probably dying of his injuries. McGill's victim was also badly wounded by another, and was bleeding to death. The Samaritan bounded up the victim's wounds and took him to an inn, to be taken care of by its staff. McGill had his patient taken to hospital also to be taken care of by its staff. Also, the Samaritan was hated by the religious Jews of his day. Bring gay, McGill would be hated by many church leaders and their members, even by politicians.

Although to some, this can be a difficult question to answer: Who was really doing the will of God, the homosexual club member on a night out, or the pastor spewing hate from the pulpit? I could ask another question: Am I in the wrong to have a profile on a gay website? Someone such as myself, professing to be a Christian believer and is committed to a local church - be also a member of a website dedicated to gay fitness and sports - and also to spiritual and political matters? By reading this admission, how many fellow church members would tut-tut me, along with other readers of this blog?

Being a member of a gay website, with its forums and messaging boards, has given me a massive insight of the relationship between unbelievers and religion. And nothing can make an unbeliever, gay or straight, so hostile to God than organised religion. It is my conviction that religion had sent vast multitudes to Hell, and has left Heaven virtually unpopulated. And there is no better channel than from the mouth of a homosexual who has experienced hate, rejection and prejudice, and has suffered shame, guilt, and fear. It is from the forum posts that I came to learn about one late pastor who led Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

His infamy was borne out of the protest demonstrations whenever a gay pride was marching through a city, and even at funerals of dead U.S. soldiers. Placards lined the streets, shouting GOD HATES AMERICA, along with GOD HATE FAGS (short for Faggots, slang for the stereotype feminised male homosexual) and FAGS CURSED FOR HELL, and other similar placards with angry, hateful logo. Little wonder, under such a cruel upbringing with corporal punishment in abundance, his son Nathan grew up to become a committed atheist. 

The late Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps out on a hate crusade.

Two more church leaders can be included here, and unlike Fred Phelps, they spoke in direct reference to the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub. One is Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona, which insist that only the King James Version of the Bible is the true Word of God. In reference to the Pulse nightclub shooting, he came up with this statement:
The good news is that there's fifty less (sic) paedophiles in this world.
This is the same church minister who prays for the death of President Barak Obama for giving consent for voluntary abortions. Fortunately, at present there is no sign of Anderson's prayers being answered, as their current President will be out of office by the end of the year. By contrast, my wish is that Barak Obama will never fall victim to premature illness, or end up involved in a fatal accident.

Then there is a quote from Roger Jimenes, pastor of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, California, and also a believer of the King James Version of the Bible. He made this reference to the same incident in Orlando:
If we lived in a righteous Government, they should round them all up and put them against a firing wall, and blow their brains out.

Charming! and we wonder why gay men in particular hates Christianity. It does make me wonder, if such preachers can spew such statements so freely from the pulpit, how do the members feel? Assuming, of course, that by remaining under the leadership of such men, the whole congregation is in full agreement. It wasn't difficult for me to click on to their websites to find out about the background of such men. I have discovered that both these leaders are as orthodox and fundamental in their credo as any other church leader or elder. They believe in the universality of sin, and the atonement made by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is received by the believer through faith as opposed to works, and once saved always saved, with their explanation that since we can't work to gain salvation, we can't work to lose it either.

Steve Anderson - "Fifty fewer paedophiles."

Roger Jimenes - "Blow their brains out!"

These are theological statements which I am fully committed to myself. I too am an advocate of eternal security of the believer, and my understanding of the true nature of sin makes it impossible to uphold the Arminian view that salvation can be lost by the believer. Therefore, in the theological circle, I must stand with them. But by condemning homosexuals as if a separate species to that of the straight community, such leaders ride on high horses to the point that they have become like the Pharisees. If they see themselves as so righteous, then it is easy to look down from their high towers to judge and condemn those who live different lifestyles. Any differences between them and the Pharisees narrows to virtually none-existence, as the Pharisees saw themselves as in favour with God due to being sons of Abraham, and therefore heirs and guardians of the Abrahamic Covenant (Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8, John 8:39).

So as the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, hated the Samaritans for who they were, not being proper descendants of Abraham, so these church leaders hates homosexuals for the same reason - not being of the spiritual descendants of Abraham through faith in Christ. Furthermore, as Roger Jimenes insists, he would not allow any gays into his church when they meet on Sundays, just as the Jews would have kept the Samaritans out of their synagogues.

It is distressing to read about how such advocates of Eternal Security abuse such a wonderful truth to its detriment. One of the main reasons why once saved always saved must be true is because of the very nature of sin. James has written that if someone who keeps the whole Law stumbles at just one point, he is guilty of breaking the whole Law, and therefore must face judgement (James 2:8-11). If a believer can lose his salvation by excess sin or departing from the faith, then Heaven would be totally empty of all redeemed humans. Great men such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, and all the prophets, along with all New Testament saints, including Peter, James, John and Paul, would all be lost eternally if salvation can be forfeited. In other words, all of these men of faith mentioned would now be in Hell. Such is the devastating reality of Arminian theology.

None of us are aware of what was the spiritual state of Josh McGill's heart on the night he bound up a victim's wounds. But he had compassion, a virtue found wanting in these church leaders. There is a strong likelihood that McGill hated organised religion. On the other hand, he could be a committed Christian himself. What? A committed Christian in a gay club? Well, why not? How could he show the love of Christ to those around him? Is being gay worse than being a murderer? These church leaders seem to think so. But James doesn't agree, as he equalled adultery and murder as both transgressions of the Law. But instead of outright murder, the sin he accuses his readers is that of favouritism, something very common in churches to this day. In most churches, favouritism is tolerated, even practised by the elders. For example, choosing a graduate over a manual worker to preach. But homosexuality is not tolerated at all. Yet James categorises favouritism with murder, and no doubt, homosexuals with adulterers. But both are equally sinful, and no saint can claim total freedom from such sins (1 John 1:8).

To put it in James' perspective: Fred Phelps, Steven Anderson, and Roger Jimenes are murderers, and according to 1 John 3:15, 4:8, no murderer has eternal life in him, neither does such know God, for God is love. I suppose it is possible to be spot on at every theological issue, as these three were, but still remain lost. Could it be possible to mistake intellect with real faith? Because the fruit of real faith is love, very much like the love Josh McGill has shown, even if he's homosexual.

One thing we have seen lately is that a gay man, dressed in a singlet or tank top, has shown a practical love of Jesus Christ, in sheer contrast to the smartly dressed but hateful church leaders of our day.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Fill Our Churches with Muslims!

Warning: Strong language.

My spirit groans within as I resign myself to two major issues to come within the next month. The first is to do is the reality that Britain will leave the European Union as a result of the referendum which is due, from this time of writing, in less than two weeks. Polls indicate that the Outers - consisting of both Brexit and Vote Leave - are at present in the lead by 10% over the Remain campaigners. And the gap looks set to get wider as Tory-leaning newspapers and TV interviews continue to plead with undecided voters to vote out. And to add to this, a large percentage of traditional Labour voters up in the industrialised North are voting out as well, despite their representatives at Westminster pleading with them to vote Remain. The other issue is about the opening of the European Cup football tournament, and perhaps with a level of justification.

Because even 24 hours before England kicks off against Russia in Southern France, trouble among fans of both sides had already brewed. English fans, over the top with drink, shouting, Isis Isis, where are you? At another point they were chanting, Fuck off, Europe! We are all voting out! Little wonder that the French (and other Continental citizens) could have angrily responded with, Well, fuck off out then! You're not welcome any more! Russian fans were so infuriated with such behaviour from the English side, that they laid into them, resulting in a street brawl which hastily brought in the police and security officials to the scene. Afterwards, the same English fans lay the blame squarely on the Russians for initiating the violence. Meanwhile, back in the UK, the nation rejoice over the official 90th birthday of the Queen, consisting of the Trooping of the Colour at the Mall, a pageant performed by all the military regiments of both Britain and the Commonwealth, and watched by the adoring public, a large number having the same abusive Euro-septic mentality as the English fans in Marseilles.

The spirit of national pride, with all the inter-tribal hatred existing between them. And the West claim to be Christian. It does make me wonder on how such citizens of Western Christendom would have responded if they opened the Bible at 1 John 3:14-15. They would have read:

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in them.

I'm aware that some Christians refers to only fellow believers as brothers. But according to verse 15, any fellow human can be a brother, as we are all of God's universal paternity. As Luke 11:13 indicates, even an evil man can approach his Father in heaven and ask for the Holy Spirit, and his request will be gladly granted. It is what we call "the sinner's prayer" in our day. Little wonder that when Muslims enter the UK and witness for themselves various levels of national prejudice, they fail to convert to Jesus Christ, and instead build their own mosques, and continue on in their Islamic faith.

And here lies the bone of contention. Perhaps the one main reason why the Outers are ahead in the polls is the issue of immigration, and the slow destruction of British culture as we have always known it. Only earlier in the week there was a video posted on Facebook about this white, elderly Englishman, probably in his late seventies, ordering a young Muslim to "go back to your own country!" The rhetoric was so insulting that, after about five minutes of abuse, the staff at the superstore where all this took place had to intervene. The truth being that the young man was born here, as with his parents, and therefore as much British as his oppressor. According to the Outers, it was the European Union who had allowed in multiple thousands of refugees from Syria and other Middle East Countries, with the false belief that the UK is their prime destination, due to the law of Freedom of Movement within the EU.

To be honest, I'm just about sick of it all! Every day there is a debate on the news bulletins and on online newspapers. Both sides firing at each other with rather unconvincing arguments over the future of the Economy. To and fro, to and fro, heaven help me, I'll be glad when this is all over, even as a defeated 'In' voter, after my affiliation to the losing side, I can rest my cheeks within both my hands and sulk a little, knowing that the referendum issue had missed the whole point. And that is, Jesus Christ is, and will be, the only way, the truth and the life. No man can come to the Father in heaven except through him.

Because it is here in the West, including the United Kingdom, where a far better chance of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is possible. Instead of looking at the Islamic world with fear, trepidation and hate, why not try love? The love which only the Holy Spirit can bestow on the believer in Jesus. Paul, once a devoted Jew, a Pharisee, and a son of a Pharisee, who believed that all non-Jews were unclean, had this to say:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ has 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 are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:26-29.

If ever there was a melting away of tribal and national warfare, this must be it. Faith in Jesus Christ. That is why, instead of driving away Islamic immigrants out of the country, why not invite them in, so they can see for themselves that the Resurrected Jesus is far superior to the long-dead Mohammed, whose bones rests inside a tomb in Medina. Jesus is risen! He is alive! More than that, he is ready and willing to bestow eternal life to everyone who, by faith, calls on his name. What a wonderful alternative to all the tribal differences between nations and the ongoing political dispute over the coming referendum.

Because there is only two groups of people alive in this world, as was always the case since the dawn of history. The saved and the lost. Those who believe that salvation is a free gift given to all who has faith, versus those who believe that salvation must be earned through works and religious devotion. Nationalism is based on works and merit, not free grace. The triple-fold result of nationalism is ethnic pride, together with the feeling of racial superiority, along with hostility towards neighbouring nations, such as with the English towards the Scots to the north and towards the French to the south. Such hostilities, amazingly enough, has shaped England to what it is today, with a rich history to show. On the political front, the European Union has helped unite such nations, including that of Britain's former enemy - Germany - which disputing has been the cause of two world wars with millions of lives lost. Nationalism can also bring hostility to the Jews, as was the case of Nazi Germany which had some 6,000,000 Jews slain in the Holocaust. Even at present, there is a general dislike for the Jews among the far-right, the most fervent advocates of Outers.

How the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ had demolished all the barriers which are the bottom causes of hatred, fear, and warfare. The European Union can only provide a social unity, resting on political co-operation. But it still leaves the human spirit unregenerated. The free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is far better, and in theory, it should result in a far greater sense of unity and brotherly love which is divine and eternal. And the crunch of the matter is that this free gift is available, including all Muslims, taking in the terrorist groups such as Isis and the Taliban.

Yet our churches here in England seems to hang on to the status quo. As long as all attendees conform to Britishness, then we'll remain within the safe zone. Vote to leave the EU. Slow immigration down, better still stop it altogether. Then send all the illegals back to their own countries. At last, public bodies such as the NHS will be relieved of such a heavy burden of overpopulation. Employment will be freed up from foreign employees, and jobs can go back to British workers, who will demand higher wages. And not to forget the return of the traditional tea break. But as the foreigners return to their countries, the chance of finding faith in Jesus Christ diminishes, particular among the Muslims, as a typical Islamic country is very hostile to Christianity. In short, our churches unwittingly approve of the Muslim's eternal doom for the sake of Britishness.

Recently we at Ascot have dispatched a small team to India. The team included one of our church elders. They were in India for just over a week, helping to set up a large church conference and festival, a little like our annual Spring Harvest and New Day Christian festivals. Hundreds of Christian believers attended the conference, and returning home with changed lives. It was a wonderful move of the Holy Spirit in a faraway tropical sub-continent. Over here, one conference held, I think, is the New Frontiers International Conference. These mass meetings attract thousands. What an ideal venue for Muslims to integrate freely, and seeing for themselves the freedom resulting from the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus. Eternally saved without works or compulsory religious devotion. Only through faith alone, and the joy overflowing from the heart of believers. Yes, I wish that thousands of Muslims would enter the European Union, including the UK, to see the love of Christ, and be saved. But not only Muslims but Hindus and Buddhists as well.

It is not the will of God that anyone should perish, but all should come to repentance, so Peter writes in his letter (2 Peter 3:9) - and God commands all men everywhere to come to repentance (Acts 17:30). Out in the East there are whole nations consisting of the lost, hearts of those who had never seen the love of Christ in us. Yet while these populations slowly perish without hope, we bicker over the referendum and our national sovereignty. We represent our country whilst at a football tournament and end up causing trouble and stirring fights. All for the sake of patriotism, while one after another, including all the football supporters and the unbelieving British, slip into a lost eternity. What a sobering thought!

Maybe just a word of realism here. It is humanly impossible to encourage huge masses of Muslims and other adherents of different faiths to attend a large Christian conference. It's equally impossible, humanly speaking, to persuade unbelieving Brits to attend such meetings. But with God nothing is impossible. Perhaps if all of us who truly believe can muster a heart for the lost, maybe the Holy Spirit can start moving. After all, if three thousand Jews were saved through the sermon of just one man at Pentecost, who knows what God can do.  

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Gorilla Warfare...

Within the last week or so, there has been quite a fuss over the shooting of a gorilla at a zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio. By now, as most would have already been aware, the killing was to protect a young, three year old boy from any harm after falling into its caged territory. The shooting was highly criticised by animal-lovers around the world, with much of this aimed at the apparent lack of adequate supervision or proper parenting by the boy's mother.

The criticism aimed at the killing of the primate was due to the beast's "superior" intelligence, so I read in a newspaper. Considering that science has also proved that pigs reared in the farm and then slaughtered for food has one of the highest levels of intelligence in the animal kingdom, yet no one bats an eyelid when led to the abattoir to supply bacon for our English breakfast. But as we make a loud noise over the unjustifiable shooting of the gorilla, we merely make a quick passing sigh when receiving information that another one hundred refugees had drowned when their flimsy, unseaworthy boat had capsized in the middle of the Mediterranean. I suppose that news of drownings are so frequent, that we become dull-minded to the intensity, probably forgetting that those people consisted of families - men, women and their children, with often the children by themselves while their parents remain in their home country, at least for the time being.

Strange in a way. Had the Cincinnati boy been rescued successfully without any harm to the primate, most likely there would have been celebrations, hailing the rescuers as heroes, while at the same time feeling relieved that the caged primate lives to see another day. But as the news bulletins deliver updates of a boat full of refugees, there is a tendency here to groan inwardly, pondering on how the West will cope with this surge of immigrants, and an heightened fear if any of them managing to reach our English shoreline. The feeling of relief that these refugees had made the crossing safely seemed to have been overlooked, If I'm guessing right. After all the ongoing debate over the coming referendum to stay in or leave the European Union hangs more on the question of immigration even than the future of the economy. 

And this debate was intensified, if not actually sparked off, by the discovery of the body of a drowned toddler, found washed up on a Turkish beach a few months ago. The reaction to the find was quite remarkable. It was the basis for the German Government's pledge to let in a large multitude of refugees into their country. And at the same time accusing the British Government of lacking compassion when entry restrictions were discussed at Parliament. The debate has split the nation down the middle, with those, like myself, believing that the refugees should be allowed in on compassionate grounds - against those for the sake of patriotism, the economy, or religious grounds, believing that Parliament should keep the doors firmly shut. In the end, mainly to save face over growing discontent, our Prime Minister agreed to 20,000 refugees to settle and integrate over the next five years.

Is there something in common between a drowned toddler and a gorilla killed by a gunshot? If so, what could it be? Could it be that they were unable to talk and therefore couldn't defend themselves, or at least given the chance to let them have their say? Had the drowned body had been that of an overweight grown man, would the intensity of human compassion rose to such levels at the time? Perhaps the present debate over immigration may not be so intense.

But with the case of the gorilla over in Cincinnati, why such a fuss - the ooh's and ah's over the unjustifiable killing of a large primate, when countless numbers of beasts face the slaughterhouse every day to keep us fed? And then reading the latter chapters of the Book of Exodus and just about the whole of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, where repeated instruction for sacrificing cattle bulls, goats and birds - mainly turtle doves - by the hundreds within the lifetime of every Hebrew family. Yet we may glib through such Scripture feeling relieved from such duties and the sight of the flow of blood and piles of ashes, and probably the accompanying stench, with hardly a thought on how much these animals must have suffered.

Could the mourning over the death of an innocent gorilla was because such species are seen as "close cousins" in the Darwinian concept of evolutionary advancement? It reminds me of a movie I once watched as an adolescent. The film was centred on two giant beasts which confronted each other in Japan. One was a Tyrannosaur named Godzilla, and its opponent, a huge gorilla-like beast named King Kong, which was worshipped as a god by the natives of an island where the beast lived. The fight was intense but the ultimate winner was King Kong. He then swims back to its homeland, leaving the giant reptile, which posed a threat to the surrounding human population, lying lifeless. It was expected by the audience that King Kong will eventually win. It was much closer to us in evolutionary terms than the other.

Or could the fuss be that the primate confined to a cage in Ohio was seen as a pet? The English has a worldwide reputation for being a nation of animal lovers. And that must mean keeping animals as pets. By contrast, the fox was looked on as a pest here in the UK. So for many decades, perhaps centuries, fox hunting with dogs was seen as an English aristocrat's pastime, sitting on horseback and watching his pack of dogs chase a terrified fox, catching hold of it, then tearing it alive to shreds. It was the Labour Government, that in February 2005, had the sport outlawed, and that itself was very controversial, with many of the better off, posh individuals shouting, even within the Houses of Parliament itself, in protest for eroding such a popular English tradition.

As for pets, veterinary surgeons are frequently found, daily watching the distressed faces of pet owners arriving to bring their sick dog or cat in for treatment. The rivers of tears shed by a family when their pet dog or cat had to be put down are legion, including that of a neighbour who was heard wailing when her family buried their aged poodle in their garden on the morning it was found dead in the kitchen. The attachment between a pet and the owner's heart is not new, but seem to have gone back to Old Testament days, one instance recorded around three thousand years ago.

There, a parable is told by Nathan the prophet to King David, found at 2 Samuel 12:1-14. Instead of being out, leading his troops into battle against the Ammonites, he stayed at home, and strolling around his palace, spotted his neighbour's wife out bathing. Noticing her beauty, the king summoned her, and she eventually became pregnant. To cover up his adultery, he instructed her husband, who had returned briefly from the battle, to spend some time with his wife. He refused. So the king sent him out back to the battlefield with instructions to the captain that he must be posted at a very vulnerable location, to be an easy target for the enemy. The king's plan was fulfilled. The husband, Uriah, was killed in battle and the widowed Bathsheba became Queen. But at a price.

Nathan the prophet was sent by God to pass judgement on David's sin. He used an illustration about a very rich man who owned many flocks of sheep, cattle and other livestock. This rich man had a neighbour who was very poor. The poor man worked hard to buy a single lamb to keep as a household pet. He fell in love with his pet, cuddling it, and even allowing it to feed off his plate. Then one day a traveller arrived to feast with the rich man. But instead of selecting one of his own, he took the lamb from the poor man and prepared it for the feast.

The king was furious. In his ranting, he made a declaration that he, the rich man, deserves to die, and he must pay the poor man four times what he had taken (that is, two male and two female sheep, ready for breeding.)

Nathan held up his hand. "Whoa there, David! You are that rich man." Then after revealing the adultery which has brought the judgement, and the imminent death of their child, David fell to his knees before God at the Tent, and wrote Psalm 51, which contains the line:
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me  - Verse 12.
So he did not lose his salvation through his double sin of adultery and consent to murder. But both knew of the affection the poor owner had for his lamb. The rich man also knew, but lacked compassion, just as the king himself lacked compassion for his neighbour Uriah.

The affection of the human heart towards pets could well be what remains after the Fall, which previous to this, Adam and his wife Eve were commissioned by their Maker to keep the earth and take care of it, which included caring for all the animal species under their dominion. I, for one, keep goldfish, and the reward for caring for them and making sure their aquatic environment is best suited, is therapeutic relaxation while watching them swim around the tank peacefully.

Our love for certain species could well be a picture of how much God loves us and how much he cares for us. That is why I love the verse which reads:
Casting all your cares on him for he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7).
A gorilla was shot and died at a zoo because he posed a threat to a three year old boy, who found himself in its cage. But the sudden death of this primate has upset the hearts of many, perhaps a reflection of the human heart as it was before the Fall in the Garden of Eden. If it wasn't for sin to enter the world which brought about the Fall, how much of a far better world this would be if we all had a universal love for each other and as much care for each individual as much as we love our pets.

The sorrow for the death of the gorilla, our love for household pets, including the ewe lamb owned by the poor man, followed by our sorrow of their demise, David's anger over the rich man's lack of compassion, all seem to be a strong indication that our natural inclinations are more in tune with the record of Genesis than with Darwin's theories.