Total Pageviews

Saturday, 30 July 2016

He Went All That Way Just To...

As this is written at the last weekend in July, here in the UK all the schools have closed for the Summer - and individuals, couples, and families take their car for the long drive to their resort, or take the train, as one friend of mine is doing today, or head for the airport. The annual break involving long distance travel in one form of another can be the source of either excitement or stress, often both. Bored kids making a fuss at the back seat of a car stuck in traffic, trains delayed or even cancelled, your reserved train seat taken by someone else and are left to decide whether to stir up a fracas or humbly find another vacant seat. Then the hassle of airport check-in, passport and security hold ups, flights delayed up to six hours, sharing the cabin with a nearby screaming infant whose parents are unable to pacify, or to find yourself sitting directly behind a passenger who punches the seat recline button from the moment of take-off. Not to mention in-flight meals which is practically inedible.

The in's and out's of the annual dose of the Three S's - Sun, Sea, and Sand. People who has worked hard all year to save enough to afford such a break, others who had exhausted their credit cards and so pushing out of their minds the reality of a huge bill awaiting their return home. There are even some who boarded the 'plane holding a special deal ticket, like I did in 1997 on a flight to Singapore, and are not only 38,000 feet above the ground but over the moon as well. And so, with a generation which takes long-haul travel for granted, away from the workplace, Summer life beats on.

Like the year I did a little backpacking in the Holy Land back in 1993, 1994 and again with Alex in 2000. Not only were these exciting in themselves, they were spiritually enhancing, visiting sites mentioned in the Bible. In all three trips I stayed at a small backpacker's hostel, a medieval building near the heart of Jerusalem Old City, from where it wasn't difficult to board an Israeli Egged Bus to any part of the country, including Haifa up north or Eilat near the border with Egypt. Other routes I have used includes Haifa to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, one route stopping at Nazareth while another taking the main road bypassing this ancient city. Also Haifa to Acre, a comparatively short ride of just a few miles, along with a considerably longer journey from Jerusalem to Masada, passing through En Gedi Nature Reserve and Resort on the west coast of the Dead Sea. Then the route I have used often, the Egged Bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. And finally, why not mention the Palestinian-run buses to Bethlehem and Hebron from the Arab bus station, situated well away from the Jewish bus station on the western side of the New City, which involved a 15-20 minute walk from Jaffa Gate of the Old City.

It was on one of these bus rides that have gotten me to think about Jesus Christ and how he got about throughout his ministry. Purely on the human, physical side, by comparing myself to Jesus Christ, I couldn't help feeling a little embarrassed. If I was late to catch a bus, I would feel panicky. The same if I had found myself in the middle of nowhere if the passing bus failed to turn up. The sheer remoteness of the En Gedi Nature Reserve bus stop in the middle of nowhere amidst a desert environment was rather unsettling for me as well as my wife who was with me, then over eighteen weeks pregnant with our first daughter. 

And that she was pregnant whilst in the middle of the desert is food for thought here, even at the time such thoughts never crossed my mind. But supposing she had a sudden bleed at that bus stop? Yes, what then? Most likely panic would have compelled me to step onto the deserted road and flag down the first car that came along, to beg for a rush to the nearest hospital. Fortunately, nothing of any of that occurred. The bus arrived, a little late, but a rush of relief as the modern, air-conditioned bus began to speed us back to Jerusalem.

And all this takes me back to the days of Abraham and his wife Sarah, living in tents as nomads out in the desert. There were plenty of pregnancies successfully coming to term, leading to healthy births taking place in such an environment during that time. No hospitals, no monitors, no medicine or any medical or surgical procedures. No teams of doctors or nurses. Yet a record of successful births. Abraham's firstborn, Ishmael out of Hagar, then Isaac out of Sarah, Midian and four other sons out of Keturah. It seems apparent that being much closer to Creation in time than the present day, the human genome used to be far more robust back then. Therefore the chance of miscarriage and stillbirths were very few and far-between. The vast majority of births occurred without incident, but according to Genesis 35:17, well-trained midwives existed, giving a clue that Hagar, Sarah, and Keturah all gave births under trained supervision, when hospitals were non-existent.

The theory of the human genome enjoying a far superior and robust existence in the distant past may clear up a mystery of the aged Sarah being taken in the harem of Abimelech King of Gerar (Genesis 20). She might have been already pregnant with Isaac. Yet she was already in her nineties, and herself admitting "I'm well past child bearing, as with my master. So should I have pleasure?" (Genesis 18:11). I tend to imagine a woman in her nineties to be stooped, in need of a walking aid, her body skin very crinkly, and crowned with thin white hair. But apparently, in the days of Sarah, with stronger genome, she was still strikingly beautiful with an element of youthfulness, even at her old age, therefore attracting the king's attention, just as Pharaoh king of Egypt attempted to take her into his harem some years earlier.

But it was the mode of travel which intrigued me while sitting in an Israeli bus that day in 1993. I have wondered whether the robustness of the human genome at the time of Jesus Christ had made him and generally most men at the time far more hardier than our present generation, with the ability to travel over miles without any motorised or mechanical aid. True enough, donkeys were available for long journeys, and Mary, then pregnant with Jesus, most likely rode on one from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Jerusalem, a distance of about seventy miles 113 km, as well as with Joseph to Bethlehem a few months later. Then there is a case of the two men from Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. The resurrected Lord met them along the way, and he agreed to enter their home and have supper with them. After revealing himself to them, they both were excited enough to return to Jerusalem to inform his disciples (Luke 24:13-33). And according to verse 15, they were both walking and not riding on donkeys. Therefore to walk fourteen miles 23 km, in the space of an afternoon was quite something, by comparison to our present mode of travel. Whether they returned to Emmaus straight after, making the entire walk some 21 miles, 34 km, all in an evening, we are not told.

Jesus travelled entirely on foot throughout his ministry, only using a donkey for his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The overall distance from Jerusalem to Caesaera Phillipi, where Peter confessed Jesus "to be the Christ, the Son of the living God" is 105 miles, 170 km, which is in the region of northern Galilee (Matthew 16:13-20).  Throughout his ministry, Jesus covered that distance and more, including his visit as an adolescent to Hebron to pay honour to his founding fathers buried at the Cave of Machpelah. To be honest, I would be very surprised if throughout his life, Jesus had never seen the very fortress built over the cave by Herod the Great a few years before the Nativity, and the very same structure still standing now, which I have seen with my own eyes.

The fortress at Hebron, familiar to both Jesus and me.

But of all his journeys, the most intriguing for me must have been the one he made from the Gennesaret region of Galilee, on the east coast of the lake, to Tyre in Sidon, a journey of about 38 miles, 62 km, and recorded in Matthew 15:21-28. He starts on a journey, again by foot, with his twelve disciples. The trip must have taken them at least two days, into a territory that wasn't even within the ancient area of Israel, but in the Phoenician stretch of coastline which is now Lebanon. There a Canaanite woman approached Jesus to heal her daughter of demonic possession. In this case Jesus walked by, ignoring her, and looking as if they whole journey was wasted, for there is no record of him having ministered to anyone else in Tyre. 

As Jesus turns to the woman, he declares that he is here to minister to the house of Israel, and not to the dogs. According to some scholars, the reference to "dogs" here is more akin to a household pet rather than a feral beast such as a wolf. The Canaanite mother apparently realises this, because she goes along with the analogy:
Yes, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which falls from the master's table.
-Which depicts a household pet. Jesus was impressed with her faith and proceeded to heal her daughter.

This may be a little story almost hidden within the midst of the Lord's ministry to the Jews. But it is a story which tells a lot. The moment he summoned his disciples to start on a journey north to Tyre, he already knew the purpose of his mission. He was fully aware of this Canaanite woman, most despised by the Jews, and her suffering daughter. We read of just these two, mother and daughter, with no record of a husband and father whose duty was to love and look after his family, as it would have most likely have been his duty to inform Jesus about his daughter's plight.

The unnamed mother was despised by the Jews as one being outside the Covenant with God and therefore rendered unclean by them. Even his disciples, their patience already running low, tried to persuade Jesus to ignore her. I guess it was Peter who made the loudest protest, as it was he who later found it difficult to come face to face with Cornelius, another non-Jewish convert. Peter simply saw this woman as an abomination, in keeping with Jewish culture and customs. But not for the Lord Jesus.

Despite the gruelling history of the Canaanites and their mistreatment of ancient Israel, Jesus still loved this woman, just as God loved Rahab the Canaanite prostitute who gave shelter to Joshua's spies during the siege of Jericho, and her faith was rewarded by becoming the ancestress of King David and of Jesus himself. Along with Cornelius, God will always have respect for anyone with faith in him, whether he be Jewish or not. And Peter had to learn the hard way. After her daughter was delivered from the demon who possessed her, Jesus began to make the 35+ miles back to Galilee to continue his ministry, to eventually walk the 85 miles, 138 km, from Capernaum, to be crucified in Jerusalem.

What a demonstration of God's love! To hike 38 miles just to save the daughter of one woman, who wasn't even Jewish, then to hike back to his normal region of his ministry, a round trip of almost eighty miles. But the healing of her daughter meant much more. It was to demonstrate to the city of Tyre itself that the Messiah has arrived, and by believing, many more will be redeemed. Although not recorded in Scripture, there is a slight possibility that this woman and her daughter had made their way south, where the fame of Jesus was a lot more prevalent, and there is an equal possibility that she and her daughter might have been two of the 120 in the upper room, recorded in Acts 1:15-16. This is only a speculation, of course.

But a Canaanite at a predominately Jewish assembly of believers? And Peter himself at that point still unconvinced that their Messiah has atoned for the non-Jews as well? But this is the result of being under the Shadow of the Cross. Their conviction of sin and redemption must have been so strong, that every ethnic, cultural, and gender barrier has been removed, at least temporary at the time. A leader of the Pharisees sitting next to a Canaanite woman with both of them deep within the Shadow of the Cross will be more conscious of their crucified and risen Messiah than his awareness of who is sitting beside him, especially of his own guilt in being involved in his crucifixion in the first place.

And that is what the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ has come to achieve: the removal of ethnic, cultural, and gender barriers, reconciling the Jew to the Gentile as well as mankind to God. It was an effort worth demonstrating, even if the Lord had to undertake an eighty mile 130 km, walk just to heal the daughter of a non-Jewish woman. There is something about the love of Christ for this person with which the car, or for that matter, even a donkey, would have never sufficed. 

I guess most of us who read Holy Scripture, and particularly the Gospels, may read through the reality of the Lord's ministry in a glib way, overlooking the comparatively difficult way Jesus had to get around when compared to today's methods of motorised transport. And not only Jesus, but the whole of the population, as it's recorded that a large crowd of people journeyed with him to many locations, covering many miles on foot. Perhaps with a more robust genome within the population, the feelings of tiredness and lethargy we would have experienced might have been less obvious.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Battle Lost, War Won.

Nearly all of my blogs on this page covers a range of subjects including various current affairs approached from a spiritual angle. Generally I enjoy writing about my opinion on such topics as remaining or leaving the European Union, Nationalism, Cultural Issues, the behaviour of celebrities or of men and women of high standing, a Creationist's view of Darwinism, different religions and their fruits, even on church life, and so on. Sometimes I involve Bible study to a greater or lesser degree. But I prefer to stick with contemporary issues rather than just dig into Bible study - there are enough blog authors on this website who writes on serious chapter-and-verse topics, and I myself have been edified by reading such posts. Where I might be more personal is often to do with travel, a subject I enjoy indulging in, or my own experience in various situations. But seldom do I relate much about myself on a personal level, or that of my wife and our three daughters.

So a special agreement was made between my wife and myself before commencing on this week's blog, which I hope will sufficiently demonstrate how much of having faith in God means to both of us, and to inspire hope to anyone reading who is at present in need of some encouragement. However, I feel it's better not to mention the names of either of my three daughters here.

Before I married at a mature age of 47 years, I generally enjoyed life as a single person living alone at a bachelor's apartment. Not only was I enthusiastic for the Bible but also for church life - despite the latter often being geared more for families rather than single people, although to be fair, around 1980, the "Singles Group" was formerly held on a weekly basis at the home of the Pastor after the main evening church service, until the Pastor himself, his patience exhausted, threw them all out of his house almost violently, due to their lack of serious commitment. Luckily for me, that was the one night I wasn't in the mood to attend, but instead went straight home from the evening service, therefore missing out on the drama! - I also spent a lot of my spare time reading books written by authors whose intent was to broaden my understanding of the Bible. I always loved "the bigger picture" - that is, the completed jigsaw picture the Holy Scriptures represent rather than putting too much emphasis on one or two single pieces and using those pieces for devotional purposes or for debating. Not that any of that is wrong in itself, but I have found that too much of this form of study tend to lead in forgetting - or never realising - what the whole Bible is trying to tell us. 

A classic example of this "single piece" debate which I was dragged into, was centred on Hebrews 6:4-6, about whether salvation can be lost or not, while forgetting or not even realising that the whole book was written to the Jews, as the title itself implies, explaining to them that the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ had ushered in a New Covenant which is far better than the Old, and therefore making the Old obsolete. The snag was that many of the Jews had rejected the Gospel after examining and even partaking in its benefits, and reverted back to the Old Covenant. Maybe if the whole letter was taken seriously, such debates would not have needed to have arisen in the first place, as we will see, this subject holds a hugely important place in our faith.

Aside from spiritual matters, travel was my passion, having rejected package holidays for independent backpacking, which I did mainly on my own. Hosteling was the preferred form of accommodation, necessitating on buying the ingredients and preparing my own meals, which along with meeting other backpackers and making new friends in the member's kitchen, also creating a huge saving on the budget. 

But it was the day I married Alex that had a massive impact on life. My career as a long-haul, far-flung backpacking days were over, and I rather grudgingly accepted the reality of package holidays, at least with the honeymoon itself, a flight-and-hotel package at the Mediterranean island of Rhodes, which was suitable for couples. But I guess my real travel bug wouldn't fully rest, with a backpacking trip to the Holy Land to celebrate our first anniversary, by then Alex being 18-20 weeks pregnant with our first daughter. This was her first and only trip to Israel so far, but my fourth trip, after visiting in 1976, 1993, and a year later as a volunteer at a Christian Conference Centre in 1994. Later in our marriage, we managed a package trip to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, a second trip to Rhodes to celebrate our tenth anniversary, a trip to Kos, another to Malta - all packages, and an independent trip to Sicily to mark our seventh anniversary. By then, any feelings of grumpiness faded away to be replaced with thanksgiving to God for allowing us to go on these trips as a couple. They were exhilarating to her as much as to myself. However, since our wedding day, I had never set foot in a dormitory of a backpacker's hostel. Alex would have none of it. The thought of sharing a room with sleeping females had no appeal to her.

Our First Anniversary in Israel

How could I forget the day my first daughter was born? Delivered by elective caesarian due to her breach position at the time of delivery, I spent the next hour with the baby sleeping in my arms while her mother was wheeled to a recovery chamber before admitted into the maternity ward. As I watched her tiny chest rise and fall in her natural breathing, I had a mental vision of the whole of my life passing by, from my school-days through to a dogsbody at work, to my conversion to Jesus Christ as Saviour, to backpacking, to getting married.

My second daughter was born just over three years later, the two birthdays being just two weeks apart. Unlike with the birth of the first, the second was a fully natural birth. But it was the first-born I adored. Except for work and the weekly trip to the sauna, the first-born accompanied me wherever I went. Much of this was that I wanted her by my side as much as possible, while at the same time giving my wife some relief. How I enjoyed taking her out whenever I had to go out to buy something, and to take her into town, patiently spoon-feeding her at a cafeteria, and changing her diaper. Also train trips to Reading and even a day trip to London, just the two of us, allowing her to run around the garden fronting what used to be the college I attended between the years 1968-1971. And the times I took the family to the coast for the day, and even enjoyed short holidays, mainly in Cornwall.

But for some reason, unknown to us at the time, we were struggling. Struggling to raise our children as normally as we could. To cut a long story short, the time came, much to our shame and detriment, when we had a Social Worker assigned to us, a slim and quite a pretty woman. I believe her, at the time, to be in her late twenties or early thirties. Yet there couldn't have been a worse person to have been assigned for such a role. Not very long out of university, she made sure of our awareness of her superiority in her nationality, her high level of education, her social class, her income, and her authority. A self-confessed atheist, she had a short fuse, quickly angered, she was proud, arrogant, and quite patriotic. How such a person could qualify as a social worker for the care of children beats me! One thing I was aware of: the last family under her assignment fled their home and were found in Scotland. She was given one more chance in her assignment over us.

We were not the only ones who feared and hated her. The school teachers of our first-born kept well clear of her. Her own colleagues at the office stayed out of her way as well. She was disliked by all other Social Workers at her department. Really, she was using us as pawns in a desperate attempt to save her career. And I'm not exaggerating. So not very surprising, our own anger was roused at last - my wife growled at her and I ordered her out of our house. Her authority challenged, she meekly walked out of the door, which I slammed shut behind her.

And that spelled the end of us as a family. A couple of days later, at three in the morning, two or three police officers entered our home, accompanied by a couple of females I had not seen before. They went straight into both our daughter's bedrooms and ran out of the house with our semi-awake girls. It was actually a dawn raid, leaving my wife screaming and screaming.

A few weeks later, our Social Worker, who applied to the County Court for permission to have our daughters taken from us, finally cleared her desk. Her contract annulled, she disappeared - and she was never seen again. And that was more than a decade ago. But what had brought all this on in the first place? Why were we initially struggling? According to the Social Worker, we were rebels with a large proportion of stupidity, and both of us too thick to raise children. However, the Psychologist who we both spent several hours with during the assessments came up with something else - we both suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, something I had not heard of until the diagnosis was made. Nowadays its seen as the milder side of the Autism Spectrum, affecting mostly boys with a higher intelligence quotient. And true to form, the mental ability test I had to go through at the Psychiatrist's office revealed a higher-than-average intelligence, a ray of sunshine amidst storm-clouds of constant criticism, judgements, and negative analysis as parents.

Greek Island of Kos, our 12th Weeding Anniversary.

And what of over the years to follow? At first we made as much effort to live as normal lives as a childless couple. Our girls were adopted permanently. For the first few years we were allowed to spend ninety minutes a year of heavily supervised contact at a neutral area - well away from both our home and of the adoptive parents. It was during this period that we flew out to Lanzarote, to Sicily, to Rhodes, to Kos, and to Malta, nearly all to celebrate our wedding anniversary. But the shock of our loss caused me to have daily paroxysms of rage, mainly in the mornings downstairs with Alex still upstairs in bed, and therefore out of the way as I prepare to set off to work. This must have lasted for up to two years, maybe even longer. Fortunately, through prayer and meditation, I was eventually set free from such mental and emotional torture.

Then the annual contacts stopped, most likely due to the strong affection remaining between the first-born and myself, ending in prolonged hugs which irritated their adoptive guardians. It was this when my dearest began to lose the ability to walk normally, and became confined to a wheelchair. Despite all efforts from the NHS, which involved four months as a hospital in-patient, no cure could be found, except a lifelong daily dose of antidepressants and other vital medicine.

If anything could challenge my faith in God, it is to wheel my beloved out of the house in a specially-made chair. No longer able to nip out to the shops to buy a pint of milk, she is not able to power the wheelchair on her own - she needs me to push her wherever we go. I look back and remember how we both cycled together, to go out on long walks together, especially abroad. As we looked forward to see our daughters again in the Summer, there was always a simmer of hope which kept us going. But at present, as I look back on better times when a quick decision to book a flight meant a week or two in a foreign land - with a wheelchair that is no longer the case. I recall the times we strolled along the beach arm in arm, both during the day and into the night, gazing at the clear starry sky. The evening we sat at an outdoor restaurant in Kos, with the sea lapping at the wall we sat next to. Strolling along the harbour, watching the moored boats gently bobbing by wave action. Enjoying the ancient Greek and Roman ruins with pungently fragrant herbs thriving around them. Such lovely experiences which took our minds off the loss of our daughters.

But now pushing a wheelchair with my dearest sitting helpless within. Crushingly sorrowful. Sometimes feeling lonely and helpless, as there are even Christian believers around lacking empathy, not understanding what we have been through, what we missing, and what we are going through now. There are times I feel despair. After all, watching the very one I love more than anyone in the world in such a helpless condition...haunted by memories...

That's when there is still hope. Faith in God. Knowing that he is with us and knows what we are going through. And our belief in Once Saved Always Saved, as mentioned earlier. Did you know that this very concept is the strong bulwark of our faith? The very thought of us needing to hold faith or be forever lost would have caused us to crumble under the weight of the stress. Rather, after being assured of knowing that all things work for the good for those who are called according to his purpose, we are given the promise that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:28, 38). Eternal Security is vital for our daily situation and ongoing circumstances.

On top of this, not long after our daughters were taken from our home, I felt God speaking to me while reading from the prophet Jeremiah. In it I came across these words:

A voice is heard at Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.
This is what the LORD says:
Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears,
for your work shall be rewarded, 
declares the Lord.
They will return from the land of the enemy.
So there's hope for the future,
declares the Lord.
Your children will return to their own land.
Jeremiah 31:15-17.

Our third daughter was born, again by natural means, three years after our two daughters were taken. Just prior to her birth, a conference was called among the Social Services Department on the future decision for the unborn child. I was present at the conference. There I was offered two plans. Plan A was for us to keep the child but to have our names on the Child Protection Register, as before. That means a steady stream of professionals coming and going through our door for the next eighteen years. Or Plan B, which is to voluntarily give our daughter away for adoption. We chose Plan B without hesitation. No way would we ever want a repeat of what happened before. Not for our sakes only, but for our unborn's sake as well. We know perfectly well that if we are unhappy, so will the child be as well. Far better for her to grow up in a happy environment under adoptive parents who will give her the best she could possibly have.

At present everything looks gloomy, hopeless, defeated. We had lost the battle. But God in whom we trust, has already won the victory for us through the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.

And eventually we shall win the war. Hope will never be entirely lost.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

To Take A Peek Inside...

Mohamed Lahouaj Bouhlel, the terrorist trucker who deliberately slew many in Nice, hardly ever attended a mosque, so his cousin testified. He ate pork, a meat forbidden in Islam. He also drank wine - also forbidden in the Islamic faith. And oh yes, he took drugs as well, also forbidden. Yet as he used his truck as a weapon to plough into a cheerful crowd celebrating their Bastille national holiday, he cried out in Arabic: Allah is great!

Is he?

Allah must be one hell of a lousy entity if he has ordered such a massacre to be carried out in his name. And then, the hating trucker had hardly completed his divine assignment when the police approached and shot him dead. Maybe some of the more radical Muslims are now looking at this martyr and feeling envious of his entry into paradise populated with virgins for eternal enjoyment as a reward for his Jihad commitment. So the Muslims believe. On the contrary, if the whole Bible is a true and a reliable document, then this Allah is certainly not the God of the Bible, neither the God of Israel, nor the God of the Christian. Allah had never created the Heavens or the Earth, neither breathed life into any organic substance, whether it be animal, human or vegetation. Rather, Allah is more likely a demonic entity residing in the air, and the slavish master of deceit for every Muslim who has lived and died without ever knowing Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. A shocking testimony! Furthermore, this would immediately bring up the question - how can I be so sure that I am in the right faith and they are not? Does this train of thinking make me equally bigoted as the Jihadist himself? More on that a little later.

 Victims of the terrorist attack, Nice.

But what was really on Bouhlel's mind? Simply this: Hatred of society. Hatred based on envy of the freedom enjoyed by us Westerners. No diet restrictions, no ban on alcohol, no compulsion for religious attendance, women don't have to cover their faces with a burka or veil. Education is free, and leading to advances in Science and technology. But most of all, we are free to enjoy some fun without the fear of breaching religious restrictions. For example, I do not perceive as sinful to have a glass of wine with my dinner, or to bite into a delicious pork fillet, or for a mate and I to enjoy a day out at the fairground, or to take my wife out to a dance hall or to a rock concert. And at church I can stand and clap my hands in joyful praise, even feeling free to remain seated while others are standing. No tight religious liturgy or order of service, as in a mosque. And no calls to compulsory prayer at fixed times. Instead, we are free to pray any time.

Tied in with this may well have been a feeling of inferior complex. Perhaps wishing for a higher level of education and a profession to go with it, bringing in a decent income. Decent by comparison with high income earners in France or any other Western country, and not by Arab standing. Envy gives way to hatred, and hatred into revenge, bloodthirsty killing of as many as possible. No consideration for young children or their mothers. Instead, man, woman and child suffers without any discrimination, without a sliver of pity.

His hatred of Western society with all its liberties was also tied with hatred of his own childhood religion. Islam is a religion of fear, based on works and punishment. Hell is real to Muslims as well as to Christians, but with the former, one has to work to earn his place in Paradise, although a direct entry is granted to anyone who dies in defence of his faith, or better still, to fight in order to spread it. What I find amazing is there has always been a parallelism existing between the history of Islam and the history of Roman Catholicism, where direct entry into Heaven is concerned. The Vatican grants a plenary indulgence for anyone who dies whilst defending or promoting the faith. That means the martyr enters Paradise from the moment of death through his own merit, and not on the merit of Jesus Christ.

But with the case of Bouhlel, I don't believe either Heaven or Hell mattered to him. He hated his own religion, and he hated the freedom within the constitution of Western society. And he took his revenge. It is certainly not new.

The first recorded case of hatred based on envy is about Cain and Abel. Abel offered a sacrifice based on faith which was acceptable to God and, in a sense, he was set free from the penalty of his sins. Cain's sacrifice based on self-effort was rejected by God, and we read that "his face fell". Consumed by envy, hate and anger, he did not hesitate to slay his own brother (Genesis 4:1-16). In the New Testament, a well detailed record of the first Christian martyr is readily available. After showing the real meaning of the Law to all the Sanhedrin members assembled, and demonstrating their inability to keep that Law, Stephen was led outside to be stoned to death (Acts 7). The real fury among the Sanhedrin was aroused when Stephen shared his vision of the risen Lord standing up beside his Father, ready to receive him. Again, expressing his own freedom from the Law led to his murder by the hands of those who maintained living under the Law.

Nice during better times - symbol of Western liberty.

Then to mention the countless believers who were martyred for their faith and freedom in Jesus Christ, first by the Jews who were still bound by the Law of Moses, then by the Romans, who for millennia had to sacrifice at the altars of their pagan deities. Indeed, the believer's freedom in Christ did not go down well among those under the Law, whether Jewish or Gentile. And so, over the first centuries began the rise of the Catholic Church, whose Catechism rejected salvation through faith in Christ alone. As a result, the Vatican instituted the Office for the Preservation of the Faith, still in operation to this day. This department of the Holy See was responsible for the torture and killing of "heretics" who found freedom in Jesus Christ alone.

As the aggressive stance of the Catholic faith subsided with the rise of Protestantism and the widespread reading of the Bible by the common people, another source of aggression began to rise - and that is within Islam, and at present poses the greatest threat to the West since the War. As I see it, the liberties we enjoy both as individuals and socially were initially laid by our Bible-believing Christian forefathers, particularly in Northern Europe, Britain, and North America. These freedoms now enjoyed represents the freedom bought by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and are meant to allow us to live for God out of the purity of our regenerated hearts. Catholic-dominated Southern Europe, along with South America, learnt of such freedoms only after the Roman Catholic Church was forced to relax its church regulations under the eyes of the Protestant world.

What a great pity it is, when deserting the Bible has led to the rise in crime and the decline of personal morality. For example, a quiet social at the pub. There is nothing wrong in that in itself. From time to time I go out for a drink with my mates (although these days, being on medicine, I abstain from all alcoholic drinks.) But none of us has ever left the pub drunk. Unfortunately here in the UK, excess alcohol consumption is a problem among the younger people in major cities. Our reputation abroad, especially at the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, has become notorious through consumption of cheap alcohol. With the thought of taking my wife in a wheelchair to Paris in the Autumn, I am concerned about the high levels of pickpocketing and handbag-snatching. And that despite the presence of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, the principal church of the whole of France.

Reading and understanding of the Bible, mixed with faith, liberates us to live for God from the purity of our hearts, enhanced by the presence of the Holy Spirit within. Paul himself writes that having faith in Christ liberates us from the obligation of the Law of Moses (eg: Galatians 3:1-25, 5:1-6 where circumcision is part of the Law) but gives us the enablement to live in Christ with the power of Christ in our hearts. Supposing much of society read, believe in, and take heed of the Bible. Would there be far less evil in the world? But amazingly enough, it is the academic world which must take a large proportion of blame for our present society's rejection of Holy Scripture. The theory of Evolution is constantly pushed through schools, colleges and the Media, mainly television. Darwinism is constantly being popularised in BBC documentaries presented by atheists such as Professor Brian Cox, along with naturalist David Attenborough.

Multitudes tune into, watch and soak in these Darwinian theories, maybe not realising that such propaganda destroys the credibility of the Bible. For if the record of Divine Creation is proved to be false, along with the existence of Adam and Eve, then how could the record of the Virgin Birth of Christ, his Crucifixion and Resurrection be reliable? Genesis holds the key of the entire Bible. If proven historically untrue, then the whole Bible falls, including the New Testament. And it is this unbelief which enslaves us to the moral law with the resulting increase in evil. There are many atheistic academics who knows the Bible very well, maybe even better than Christians do. But their head knowledge without faith provides a source for ridicule rather than believing, and the multitudes follow in their footsteps, simply because they are well learnt and therefore counted for reliability.

But I need to answer this question: If I, for example, declare that Jesus Christ and the Bible is right but Mohammed and the Koran is wrong, does that make me a bigot? One source of proof is Old Testament prophecies. No other book contains prophecies which as been fulfilled over thousands of years as the Bible has. Even in the dawn of human history, a prophecy was announced by God to the serpent, within both Adam and Eve's earshot. All three heard the prophecy of the coming Messiah (Genesis 3:15). Later, Melchizedek  brought a meal of bread and wine to Abraham, after freeing Lot and the people of Sodom from hostile armies (Genesis 14:18-20). The bread and wine can only symbolise the body and blood of Jesus Christ, some two thousand years before he was born.

The story of Moses' early years is also prophetic of Jesus Christ. When he was a boy, the young Hebrew was adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh King of Egypt. He grew up in the King's palace. When he was in his forties, he went out to see for himself the plight of his own Hebrew people. He saw one of his own brothers being beaten by an Egyptian guard. In his quest to deliver Israel, he killed the guard and buried his body. The next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting. Moses went over to them and asked why they were fighting each other, since they are brothers. But the one in the wrong replied, Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Will you kill me like you killed the Egyptian yesterday?

At this, Moses fled from Egypt to the desert of Midian, where he spent the next forty years tending sheep, and marrying a non-Hebrew wife Zipporah, before being called by God in a burning bush to return to Egypt (Exodus 2). Jesus came into the world to redeem Israel and rule over his Jewish kingdom. But instead he was crucified, buried, and on the third day rose physically from the dead - a phenomenon never experienced by Mohammed or by any other religious leader. He then ascended to his Father in Heaven, where he is now, waiting for the command to return to the Throne of his father David in Jerusalem.

Moses was rejected by the children of Israel, so was Jesus rejected by the same people. Moses went into exile, so did Jesus after his Resurrection. During his exile, Moses married Zipporah, a non-Jewish wife. The Bride of Christ is the Church, which is mainly Gentile, which he is at present gathering together during his "exile". Just as Moses returned to Egypt to rescue Israel from slavery to the Egyptians, so Christ will return to deliver us from our sins and all its effects, including death.

Other prophecies relate directly to the Jewish Messiah. Micah foretells of his birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and that a virgin shall first conceive (Isaiah 9:14) and the child will be called Immanuel, which means God with us. David's psalm foretells of his suffering on the cross, along with the accurate description of how his clothing will be distributed - a thousand years before the event taking place, and long before the Roman form of capital punishment by crucifixion ever existed (Psalm 22). Isaiah gives a full chapter over the future suffering of Jesus - some 700 years before it happens (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Then Zechariah 9:9 foretells Jesus entering Jerusalem riding upon a donkey, a foal of a donkey, which was fulfilled at his Triumphal Entry. And in Zechariah 11:12-13, an accurate prophecy of the thirty pieces of silver was foretold, which was fulfilled in Judas Iscariot's betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. These are just a few of the many prophecies regarding Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

It has been mathematically proved that if all the prophecies foretelling the life of Jesus were not divinely inspired, then the probability of all these prophecies being fulfilled entirely by chance would be one out of a number consisting of one, followed by 181 zeroes!* On the contrary, the Koran does not contain any prophecies whatsoever, which makes the Bible unique among every other book ever written in human history.

The claims of Jesus himself. One of his titles is Immanuel - "With us is God." A series of sermons delivered at our church at the moment is about what Jesus says about himself. Statements such as: I am the Way the Truth and the Life, I am the True Bread from Heaven, I am the Door of the Sheep, I am the Resurrection and the Life, I am the Light of the world - has never been spoken by Mohammed or by any other religious founder. These statements must prove either:
That this Jesus of Nazareth is totally insane, or a deliberate liar, or -
What is says about himself is true, and therefore must be the Son of God, something Mohammed does not and cannot claim.

Thirdly, Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the only person in human history ever to rise physically from the dead. This itself is enough testimony that he is the unique Son of God.

My faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God is not based on bigotry, but of his testimony on who he is. And Mohammed, whose bones are still with us, buried in Medina, cannot even compare.

Too bad Mohamed Lahouaj Bouhlel never knew Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Had he, he would be alive and well now, along with 84 other people who have so far died at the promenade in Nice.


* Henry M. Morris, The Bible and Modern Science, Moody Books, 1968. P. 120.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

"How" - Yes; But No "Why".

One of our church Elders sat across the table at a Starbucks coffee bar adjoining our nearest superstore to my home. As I sipped through a Cappuccino Grande, we enjoyed a hearty conversation over various church issues, perhaps also wondering whether to thank the Americans for allowing us to sample their culture here in the UK, or to rebuke our cousins across the Atlantic for stealing an Italian recipe and making it their own. It was probably midway through the conversation when he came up with a statement which made me consider whether on this blog page I demonstrate a dislike for educated men, or of education itself. On the contrary I have a strong respect for educated people, or else I would never visit my GP, or that matter, submit myself to the knowledge and experience of the cardiac surgeon and his team that morning last year I had open heart surgery.

But much has to do with the the academic's attitude, especially towards us "commoners" or "plebs" which makes up a large percentage of the population. Here, in this part of the world, traditional manufacturing industry has been replaced over the years by high-tech offices, where production is centred around computer programming, various services, and administration. The grease stained boiler suit has become as rare as an oasis in the desert, replaced by the business suit - although ironical, the tie looks to be heading the same way as the boiler suit. Living within a geographical strip roughly located between the A3 and the A4 motorways, the British equivalent of the Silicon Valley, I can't help noticing a high proportion of well educated people, particularly in the churches. For someone who has struggled at school back in the sixties, living in such a modern environment can test one's self-esteem. One of the benefits of being in a local church is to experience a society free from any social, academic, and ethnic barriers, and for everyone to be seen as equals in God's eyes and the eyes of the fellowship.

One of the men I have come to admire is Professor Brian Cox, at present on a series of weekly BBC programmes Forces of Nature. I think it's the way he presents himself that has drawn out my attraction towards him. Always appearing casually dressed in front of the camera. So far I have not seen him wearing a shirt-and-tie throughout any of his scientific presentations. Rather he tends to be drawn towards wearing a crew-neck tee shirt. To me that says something. In fact, I believe it says a lot. That is, he prefers to identify himself as one of us rather than way up there in a cliquey "them-and-us" sphere of attitude. This along with how he explains his theories. Easy to understand without any patronising.

Brian Cox at the Grand Canyon.

On one of his previous presentations, he explained the meaning of entropy. In one visual demonstration, he was at a semi-desert environment near an abandoned mining town, with derelict buildings slowly filling with sand blown in through shattered windows. He crouched down and started to sift the dry sand making up a sand mound. He explained that the natural mound was high in entropy, since despite his rough handling, it retains its natural shape. Then he picked up a sandcastle mould and slapped it on the ground. When lifted, a castle consisting of damp sand remains standing, like on any sandy beach. This has low entropy, because, as he explains, this ordered structure can only become disordered through time. Even if he does not touch the castle and spoil it, the wind will blow away the sand grains until the castle disappears altogether. 

This is school-level education which unfortunately, the staff at my school considered the whole class too slow-learning to understand. Or to put it bluntly, too stupid. So it was never taught. Only the brightest students had the privilege to learn the meaning of entropy and its mathematical relation with the second law of thermodynamics. An easy explanation delivered without the need to wear uniform - no school jacket, no school badge, and no school tie. Just good knowledge delivered over the airwaves in a way the uninitiated would understand.

Like the explanation of why a snowflake always have six sides yet each looks different from each other, and why a larger heavenly body is always spherical. The first is to do with the structure of the water molecule, and the flake's unique journey to the ground from the clouds, and the second from the forces of gravitation at work within the formation of the star, planet or moon respectively. Thanks, Brian.

The scientist is intrigued with the vast complexity of the Universe as well as with natural wonders here on Earth. But with an apparent obsession with entropy, he gives a large segment of his presentation to the end of the world, the end of the Solar System, and the end of the Universe as a whole. Since everything starts off in an orderly state, then gradually decline toward disorder, he was apologetic for delivering a dire prophecy that trillions upon trillions of years into the future, not only our own Sun will be long gone, having burned all its hydrogen fuel into helium and then exploding into space as a Nebula, but the time will come when every single star will cease to exist, leaving the entire Universe as a dark, cold empty void, with all atoms gone forever. A very dire prophecy indeed, which he delivers with absolute certainty.

Which to me, leaves me to ask: If everything in the Universe was orderly, then how did it all begin? Cox advocates the Big Bang theory. But the energy needed to start off the explosion, along with all the gases, clouds, and other substances that will eventually form stars, planets, and smaller pieces of rock - how was this energy activated in the first place? I don't think the physicist has an answer, for practically nothing was said about what was already in place prior to the explosion. But to give him credit, he along with other scientists when confronted with a problem of such nature, he will admit that Science cannot explain everything without further research, and they are happy to wait until such appropriate evidence emerges. As an atheist's point of view, Science remains open to research and debate, while they see the theist having everything explained cut-and-dried, and therefore evidence supporting their theories must, sooner or later, emerge.

Then on September 28th 1969, a meteorite fell to Earth near the Australian town of Murchison, Victoria. Examination of the surviving fragment has revealed the presence of amino acid within the rock structure. This came at a time when the theory of evolution was under scrutiny by various academics, including geneticists, along with individuals such as Michael Behe and Fred Hoyle. It was Hoyle, atheist, astronomer and mathematician, who calculated the mathematical impossibility of just the enzymes to have evolved by chance. The enzymes is just part of the protein chain found in the nucleus of every cell in the body. Yet the probability of just the enzymes evolving naturally stands at one chance out of a number consisting of one, followed by forty thousand zeroes, which is considerably more than all the electrons existing in the entire Universe!

Fragment of Murchison Meteorite.

The Murchison Meteorite must have been a vital lifeline thrown to Darwin's theory of evolution just in time, otherwise before suffering its final throes which would have led to it's impending death. At present, the idea of some form of basis of life embedded in a meteorite as it fell into the primeval ocean is now the accepted possibility. I have seen a bizarre cartoon appearing in a national newspaper promoting the idea that we are originally from outer space, a theory I understand to be embraced by Brian Cox.

I enjoy watching Brian Cox and his scientific presentations. I love his informal casual dress and appearance. I love the way he identifies with one of us rather than one of the aloof elite. There are lots of things I could learn and understand without struggling to comprehend. Entropy is one of them. So is the unique structure of the snowflake. And gravity, with its effects on why our planet is spherical. But he always remains within the sphere on how all these things come about. He stays clear of the inter-relating sphere on why. This, I think, is because why will involve religion. And Cox, along with Hoyle, is an atheist. They both reject the Scriptural record of Divine Creation by an intelligence greater than themselves.

Cox's delusion with religion most likely originated in his teenage years as he attended Hulme Grammar School in Oldham, Greater Manchester. Most likely at morning assembly, where worship was conducted under Church of England liturgy. This was something I remember quite clearly at my own school back in the sixties. Church of England liturgy. And on the staff platform stood the deputy head. He did not lead the assembly himself, but this man was the most feared by all the pupils. Nearly every day he dispatched a hapless boy to wait for him at his office. When he arrived, the student received a caning. Just for talking briefly when he should have been listening. This caused my own perception of God to be very bad, and I ended up hating him, and my only source of consolation was to deny his existence, and stay well away from any church building. I even recall my first day at college. At the front of the main hall stood what looked like a pulpit. I felt my spine shiver at the thought of the possibility of another morning assembly. Furthermore, I wasn't alone at school. I recall a number of boys who went down the same road towards atheism as well.

I can't say whether Brian Cox had a similar experience at school or not. But I wouldn't rule it out.

A popular Atheist's Poster

At present, how I would love to sit at table with Brian Cox. But not to discuss the origins of the Universe or the origins of life. Brian would run rings around me in an instant! But instead to ask him:
What is your thoughts on the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

I would keep the conversation solely on Jesus Christ. His death by crucifixion, his burial, and on his resurrection. His Resurrection. That one event in the whole of cosmic and human history which is defiant of all scientific reasoning (together with his miraculous conception, that is, to have conceived without fertilization from a male sperm.) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ sets this faith apart from all other religions. If Cox were to ask me to prove his existence and his resurrection as factual, which would be the likeliest direction he would take, then I would ask him to check and verify his knowledge of human history. For example, in 1555 Bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burnt alive at the stake outside Balliol College in Oxford, with their strong conviction that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and rose again physically from the dead. These two preferred to give their lives than deny the truth.

But if Cox was to push the idea that the disciples, or even the Pharisees, had stolen the body of Jesus from the tomb, such reasoning would not stand the light of day. The Pharisees would have quenched the growing movement instantly by producing the body for all to see. But as with the disciples, of the twelve, eleven had willingly given themselves to martyrdom, along with the apostle Paul, and many others, including Stephen, who allowed himself to be stoned to death by the Sanhedrin, for testifying that this Jesus of Nazareth had indeed risen from the dead. If, on the other hand, Jesus did not die at all whilst on the cross, but merely passed out, then assuming he recovered on the third day and disappeared to some unknown location - a theory once advocated by The Sun newspaper around 1980 - then the martyrdom of so many would be based on a lie, as with the other two theories. Surely nobody would ever give his life to something he knew to be untrue.

Multiple thousands have given their lives to the truth of Christ's Resurrection throughout history. Churches grew, even divisions occurred, and the Reformation happened. Churches exist to this day - all advocating the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth as a historical fact.

This is very important to someone such as Brian Cox. He needs to believe in the truthfulness of Jesus Christ - his supernatural birth, his existence, his death, burial and resurrection, and to trust him for his wonderful gift of eternal life. Only then will his brilliant knowledge of scientific origins of the Universe will fall into its proper place.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Cause for Tragedy and Hope. (Fiction)

Ninety year old David Bull coughed and spluttered slightly as he reclined rather cheerfully in his favourite armchair, after his son Graham had dropped him and his 87 year old wife back home from a short trip out. As he cleared his throat and relaxed, his wife sauntered to the kitchen to prepare for him a cup of tea. None of this modern tea-bag rubbish, but the traditional brew in a china teapot, from which a strainer over the mouth of the cup will keep the beverage relatively free from a sediment of spent tea leaves.

The weather outside was awful - cool for late June, dull, and wet. Not that it mattered to the elderly gentleman. For where it was cold and inhospitable outside, inside his heart was warm, glowing with happiness - and pride. As he reclined, he began to let his memories slip back to that dreadful day as a seven year old boy, frightened and with a deep sense of uncertainty. For that was the day he felt that his parents were abandoning him to the fate of the boarding prep school, the start of the long, eleven-year separation from home for a military-style curriculum of full-time education.

Every morning he and all the other boys were escorted to the school chapel for the worship service, where the Christian religion was presented to them in a cold, formal manner. If that was not enough, mandatory grace was said before meals, with which the food was practically inedible, purposely prepared that way to set them upon the road for military service and leadership, and for the hardships that would come their way throughout adult life. David had watched two or three other boys at first refusing to eat, but of no avail. For the strict Matron made sure they ate, force-feeding them amidst weeping and tears. David knew better than to suffer such humiliation. So he ate without relish three times a day, an ordeal to be endured, but never without the thanksgiving to God delivered before the cutlery were lifted from the table.

Day by day, the youngster dreaded the cane, the instrument for corporal punishment, which back in those days was administered by any member of staff, as well as at the headmaster's office. And such was administered rather liberally, for even the smallest offence. When David discovered that there was a news agency not far from the school gates, during one break he slipped out, and with the paltry sum of pocket money, bought himself a Mars bar, a wonderful moment of taste and enjoyment after an endless sequence of horrid dross passing over his tongue. He didn't get away with it. Midway into his next lesson, the headmaster summoned him into his office, and there received five strokes of the cane across the palm of his left hand, before returning to the classroom with tears running down his face.

Those were the worst years of his young life. How he longed for parental love. The comforting arms of his mother. A mother he can run to and shed tears without a shred of shame and embarrassment. The encouraging father-son relationship. Missed opportunities for father and son to spend time together, for example, on a fishing trip, or even just a walk in the park. And an occasional treat such as a bar of chocolate. But no. Father was too involved with his military-allied job. Mother devoted herself to his younger sister. David began to see himself as a nuisance to his parents, always getting in their way. So he believed back in those days. Therefore their best solution was boarding school. At least that was him out of the way. It was years later did he realise their sacrifice through the cost of such education clearing out their bank accounts.

By the time he arrived at public school, his heart was already hardening against showing of emotion. Big boys don't cry - it's the sign of weakness, and therefore a potential target for relentless bullying. One afternoon, the droning of the history master caused his thoughts to drift. Suddenly, the master cracked his cane right across his own desk, making an ear-splitting sound loud enough to wake up the dead. David jolted upright. With his eyes piercing the student's, he ordered him to repeat the last ten minutes of the lecture. David was unable to. So the master brought him to the front of the classroom and in front of everyone present, administered six hard strokes of the cane across his buttocks. The pain was excruciating, but still made every effort to refrain himself from shedding the slightest tear. He had in the past watched other students receive the same punishment, then turned around to smile, and thanked the cane-wielding master as they returned to their desks. David wasn't quite able to reach that point of emotional stoicism. Instead, he wiped a stray tear which managed to escape his lower eyelid, with discretion, hoping that no one in the classroom had seen what he had just done.

Eton College, a famous public school.

It was at that stage in his lifetime that David saw Englishness and Christianity being synonymous with each other, no longer able to tell them apart. Daily morning assembly under Church of England liturgy and the keeping of religious laws were no different from the strict school rules from which the slightest breach would result in corporal punishment. Faith equalled stoicism to such a degree, that any show of emotion was a sign of weakness, and therefore seen as a betrayal of God's purpose, particularly for the King, Country, and Empire. Up to that point in his teenage years, David accepted the Christian philosophy as it stood, that God is a God of war and conquest, and that strict discipline and stoicism to military excellence met his approval. But on one Sunday, when David was at the school chapel with all the other boys, that something occurred which turned his heart against religion altogether. It was the lesson - the reading of Scripture aloud in public - which caused the teenager to shudder, for it was delivered with such an insincere tone of piety. For the Scripture read was 1 Corinthians 13, from the King James Version, followed by an explanation that the word Charity to mean love, and not merely a benevolent organisation. And who took the lesson? None other than the history master who had not long before had publicly smarted his buttocks.

For the rest of his life, David hated God, and everything else to do with all religion, not just the Christian faith. As a result, he became a committed atheist, which carried him along for the rest of his life. However, on the positive side, the school curriculum was good, and despite the total lack of love in a cold, unwelcome atmosphere, he learnt how to play rugby well during the Autumn and Spring terms, spruced up his swimming skills at the school pool, and excelled in cricket and athletics during the Summer term. The gym also featured a boxing ring, where during some P.E. lessons, he found himself sparring with a partner. But the crown of his long years of boarding school was to leave with five A Levels, which gave him a good standing for a University degree.

But after leaving school, he remembered having to join the Forces before attending University, and he chose the Army, the best way to release his pent-up frustrations, with a promise that he would attend the Officer's Training College based at Sandhurst instead of a civil University. But as this was still the War years, and after a few months of training (not a lot different from school discipline, except that the Sergeant had a louder voice) he was posted to Rhodesia, to keep a possible skirmish under control. It was there, as an indigenous uprising against colonialism was threatening the peace, that he was firing his machine gun pell-mell, without proper aim, through a village. As he was returning to base, he saw a young mother lying dead outside the front door of her home in a pool of blood, her dead newborn's mouth still attached to her breast. He realised that it was his bullets which passed through the baby and through its mother while breastfeeding. He felt an emotional blade piercing his heart, perhaps for the first time since it was deprived of all emotion during his school years. Instead, his upbringing compelled him to quicken his pace, and put such a sight behind him. King, Country, and Colony must come first. But the stab continued as a dull ache for the rest of his life.

Back to the present, as the elderly gentleman relaxed in his armchair and sipping his tea, his memory of that shooting was as clear as it had taken place just yesterday. His felt his pride and happiness drift away at the haunting of such a vision. and he began to feel troubled in spirit, the aching of his heart resurging.

The next day, he awoke to the news that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. That should have brought him joy, after the short trip to the polling station with his wife and son on the previous day. Instead he felt very apprehensive. Seeing that the day's weather was a contrast to that of the previous day - warm, dry with some sunshine - he decided to take a stroll through the high street. And so with his son Graham, who lived just a few blocks away, along with his wife, the three sauntered along the shopping precinct. They approached a coffee shop, and at one of the tables set outside the window, a Mediterranean-looking young mother sat, breastfeeding her infant, his tiny head adorned with a mop of black hair. The dull emotional ache he had always felt suddenly became acute, and he stood as transfixed outside the shop window, close to them. Presently, a group of very disturbing young men approached, three wearing tee shirts bearing racist slogans. The fourth was actually wearing a red tie over a white collared shirt.

The four youths began to sneer at the mother as she cradled the child to further protect him from view. At this, one of the lads yelled, "WE ARE OUT! GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY!" Then the smartly dressed youth threw a missile at the young woman, hitting her on the shoulder before lodging between her chest and the baby. David thinks the missile might have been the core left from an eaten apple.

Graham shouted "OY!" as all four cowardly youths took flight and ran off. Then both mother and son went over to console the young woman, and made sure she wasn't too distressed by the incident. Meanwhile, David's lower lip trembled and a tear rolled down his face. He also knew that love for Queen and Country had nothing to do with the racial abuse. Rather it was out of envy, disguised as patriotism, at the reality that someone had succeeded in fathering the next generation, whoever that person might be. Most likely, to them, some foreign pen-pusher with the sign Vote Remain proudly displayed on his desk.

The family returned home, with the son deciding to remain for lunch. As the senior citizen was weeping over his shocking reminder after so many years, his wife asked him if he would like to hear some words of Scripture. David knew that his wife was converted to faith in Jesus Christ some 25 years into their marriage, along with their son. Quite a contrast to the strong atheism she had when they first met at a ballroom while he was on leave. But throughout their marriage he would not buy it. His public school upbringing on State religion had made sure of that. But the haunting memories of that shooting in Rhodesia has made him think again about the best things in life. And one thing that was missing in his younger years was love. It was almost a miracle that he was able to love his wife as he did. He remembers her as a ravishing beauty that night he first set eyes on her. And to him, age has not faded such beauty, even if the world outside their home may think so.

She took out her Bible, and together they read these verses from the Authorised version:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but hath eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but hath eternal life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:14-17.

She then flipped forward through some pages and then read out this:

That if you confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For all whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Romans 10:9-13.

David lowered his head as in deep thought, while his wife and son felt it was right to retreat into the kitchen. While they were gone, he started to pray with sincerity, perhaps for the first time ever in his entire life, knowing within that Jesus Christ has came into the world to die, was buried, and rose physically from the dead three days later, to bring peace and hope. He then called on God to forgive him for everything he has done, and to ask God to dwell within him, then thanked him for his mercy and goodness. He then called his family back into the lounge.

"I have called on God for forgiveness and peace," he announced. "Already I feel at peace with God, with the world, and within myself."

His wife and his son both jumped for joy, then embraced each other in a tight hug. Then they both went over to him and tightly hugged, beaming with happiness and joy.

In the early hours of the morning, while his wife was soundly asleep, David woke up to find himself in the loving arms of the risen Christ in Heaven.


Although the story is fiction, all the incidents, including the shooting, were taken from the past testimonies of others, including from one or two whom I talked, and therefore are all historic.