Total Pageviews

Saturday, 24 September 2016

A 5th Gospel?

A church minister from abroad once had a strong influence over the forty-plus years of being a Christian believer. Back in 1976, the pastor of a Pentecostal Church in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires, came over to visit the UK, and delivered a series of sermons at a public auditorium in Reading, not far from where I live. After the sermon was over, I sauntered to the front where he was standing, with both of us ending in a clinch of a tight hug which must have lasted for a better part of a whole minute.

His sermons had a big impact on me, especially when it comes to praising God. His church was typically Pentecostal, where informal services, free from any fixed liturgy, normally include the four phrases of worship: Praise God!, Hallelujah!, Glory be!, and Amen! Then one day he asked his own congregation what they were praising God for. Where anyone would think that his greatness and power, the source of the free gift of salvation should have been the obvious answer, instead his congregation was shocked into stunned silence. It was then that the pastor coined up the term Empty praise.

Their praises were likened to boxes with gaily-coloured wrapping, very much like unopened Christmas presents under the decorative tree. Praises are offered to God as if we are offering to him all the well-wrapped presents. Then the Lord takes each of these gifts, excitedly unwraps each one, only to find each box to be empty. Empty boxes. His insistence that our praises to God can be ritualistic without any real substance given for praising him, has struck a cord in my heart, causing me to ponder on why I'm praising God. His effect had lasted for the rest of my life. Whenever I want to praise God, I always try to reason why I'm praising him. Praising him for who he is - the Almighty, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, along with his love and mercy - the most obvious being the free three-fold gift of salvation: Justification, Imputation, and Eternal Security. But there are many more reasons: Such as the beauty found in this world, a healthy marriage to a loving wife, our daily supply of food and clothing, having a roof over our heads, a history of travel, both as a singleton and as one of a couple, and thanking the Lord to see this particular day in human history.

It looks to me that there is an overlapping link between thanksgiving and praise, even though praise for what it is actually means to exalt God for who he is. It is difficult to praise someone who is a spirit: invisible, inaudible, and untouchable. So, as Paul wrote to the Romans, that the invisible qualities of God, his eternal power and divine glory, are seen in his Creation (Romans 1:20). Little wonder whenever I gaze upon something naturally spectacular - like a powerful waterfall, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, or for that matter the stars in the night sky, or admiring trees, whether its the Traveller's Palm trees of Singapore, the Mangroves of Queensland or the sturdy English Oak, I can't help but magnify the goodness of God as Creator in my heart. Hence a gift of praise offered to God which is actually worth opening.

Travellers Palm - I saw plenty in Singapore

But praising God was not the only topic this pastor was delivering. He was also the same man who coined up the term The Fifth Gospel. That is, we as Christians tend to favour parts of the Bible which is favourable, and leaving out the less favourable. Rather like a child licking off the jam and then handing back the bread. The Gospel of Offers versus the Gospel of Demands. Basically, the Fifth Gospel is man-centred, in opposition of a far less popular God-centred demands. Maybe looking at these Scriptures may enlighten such statements this Argentinian pastor has made.

We have this verse, found in Matthew 11:28:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28 may be called a verse of the Fifth Gospel, according to the pastor. It is a popular verse found quoted by itself in text books or preached from the pulpit. However, the very next verse may not be held so highly, because here the Lord is asking for something:
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...

A yoke is a wooden bar strapped across the necks of two oxen for the purpose of pulling a cart in unison. What the Lord Jesus is really offering is a lighter yoke in exchange for the heavy yoke in trying to keep the Law of Moses. But even the offer of a light yoke is not seen as part of the Fifth Gospel. 

A more striking example is found in Luke 12:32 - 
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

What a lovely example of a verse from the Fifth Gospel - the offering of the kingdom from the Father in Heaven. But then the Lord takes a very different direction in the very next verse, one of demand and certainly not part of the Fifth Gospel:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor.

Ah, not quite so nice after all! This voluntary impoverishing approved by the Lord has been the cause of my envy towards the homeless back in the 1970's, particularly in London, due to a false belief that by the state they were in, they were closer to God than the average citizen such as myself. He doesn't even stop there. Soon after conversion towards the end of 1972, I was drawn to this verse: Luke 14:33, which reads:
In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

In the forty-plus years of being a Christian, I don't think I have ever heard this verse preached from the pulpit. Far from being an example taken from the Fifth Gospel, I once read that this particular verse is the most unpopular verse in the entire Bible. Of all statements Jesus has uttered, this one must be the most demanding. What does it mean, forsaking all that he has, as the KJV puts it? Comparing this verse along with others of the same topic, Jesus does seem to indicate that selling our possessions to the poor in order to qualify for discipleship was part of his mainstream teaching. To the extent that Peter gasped at such a statement and asks:
Who then can be saved?
In which Jesus replies:
With man that's impossible, but with God all things are possible - Matthew 19:26, Luke 18:27.

Those finalising words - "With man that's impossible but with God all things are possible" - has lifted a yoke so heavy that it was practically impossible for me to bear, especially during the early years after conversion. And such an impossible yoke was placed around my neck by a cult group using false teaching aimed mostly at hippies and the desolate roaming around the streets of the city. With very little to give, what they had was easy for them to turn over to this particular group, which in return gave them a sense of belonging, together with a special favour with God. Really, it was nothing short of salvation by works, and as one as myself struggling in those days between Roman Catholicism and the free gift of salvation, all this was just an additional burden. However, these conclusive words from the Lord's mouth has changed the perception of everything. To make a choice to sell everything he has to give to the poor is impossible for a believer to undertake in his own strength, unless the grace of God works in the person's heart in such a way to bring him to the decision to voluntarily impoverish himself for the sake of the Kingdom. Even then, such a decision is the result of salvation, and not to merit it.

But the contrast of attitude towards which is part of the Fifth Gospel to what is not, could not be more apparent than the key verse which defines our church. the verse referred to is John 10:10, which reads
The thief comes only to kill and to steal and to destroy. I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full. It is John 10:10 which was chosen to be the church's catchphrase, and not, for example, Luke 14:33.

I'm not at all surprised that this verse, which could be considered as one from the Fifth Gospel, has become the catchphrase for our fellowship in Ascot. But such an offer by God through faith in Jesus, is necessary to attract the crowds. So such occurred during his ministry. Crowds gathered to hear the teachings of Jesus, to be healed by him, and to be fed supernaturally. They were indeed "lost sheep without a shepherd" as he expresses it. Then he suddenly turns around to this same crowd following him and utters strong words such as leaving father and mother, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, along with everything he has, and even his own life as well, if anyone wants to follow him seriously. Impossible?

But actually, what he was doing was showing the truth of the First Commandment given by God through Moses to Israel:
You shall have no other gods before me - Exodus 20:3.

If this is true, then the forsaking of father, mother, brothers, sisters, children, his wealth, and even of his own life for God's glory falls within the realm of keeping the Law of Moses perfectly. According to the Law, my love for God must exceed everything else in my life. If I don't measure up to this standard, then I'm in serious trouble and in need of a Saviour. And that is the whole point of the first three Gospels, often referred as the Synoptic Gospels. Their main purpose was to demonstrate the true purpose of God's Law, how the Law is meant to be fulfilled, and how every person ever born falls short of such perfect keeping and in danger of Judgement. Just as the Synoptic Gospels shows up our sins, our weaknesses, and our shortcomings, so the Gospel of John reveals the solution to a universal problem.

The commandment of God is an impossible yoke to bear. As Peter gasped, "Who then can be saved?" The correct answer is that left alone to human devices, it is impossible to be saved. Each and everyone of us stands condemned!

That is why the teachings of Jesus contains many offers and promises, most of them found in the Gospel of John, but also found scattered across all four Gospels. These offers Jesus makes to the crowds are not from the Fifth Gospel, as such a "gospel" does not exist. Instead they all are from the true Gospel of salvation by free grace given to everyone who believes.

Experience has taught me, over the years, that such "wisdom" including that which was delivered by the Argentinian pastor simply plays upon semantics, and can be dangerous, even if the speaker meant well. I am aware that he would like to see churches, including his own, take on a more devout commitment towards God, including holding a deeper and more sincere meaning to praising God, but to tamper with the free grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, is the highway to damnable heresy and will bring down the curse of God, according to Paul's entire letter to the Galatians.  

Saturday, 17 September 2016

An Example of Inter-Class Friendship.

A few months ago, a long-standing friend who I knew for the better part of thirty-five years, handed me a leaflet after the end of the morning service. It advertised a coming Creation Ministries Conference which would be held over two days at the Emmanuel Centre in Central London, quite close to the Houses of Parliament. This friend of mine, who is also my Financial and Pensions Advisor, has always been a keen Creationist, to the extent that while filling out some Private Pension forms at my home, he spotted a book on our bookshelf, The Last Two Million Years, a publication from the Readers Digest series of books and magazines, and questioned our commitment to the Biblical truth of Divine Creation, including a Young Earth, as opposed to the popular notion of the planet being billions of years old.

I explained, truthfully, that the book was given to us as a gift by someone else who didn't really want it any more, and we simply kept it. Other than that, we (Alex and I) assured him that we are committed Creationists. 

Emmanuel Centre, London

That had not always been the case. Up to 1973, at twenty years of age, I was a committed Evolutionist, having been fanatical about Dinosaurs during my school days of the mid-sixties. It was when alone in the house during a thunderstorm outside that I decided to pick up a Bible and find out for myself how it all began. I was very moved as I read through the first three chapters of Genesis, and becoming tense when I read through the verses on how first Eve, than Adam took the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, against God's own instructions. I needed no more persuasion. Immediately I had converted from an Evolutionist to a Creationist at an instant, as a result of reading these three chapters, and praying, asking God to forgive me for all those years as a believer in Darwinism.

But there was a dilemma, one I would have considered quite serious: the reconciliation of the existence of the Dinosaurs with the Young Earth theory. From that night of conversion, I have found no problem with the Biblical view that early mankind must have co-existed with Dinosaurs, especially before the Deluge of Noah's day, which gives an adequate answer not only to these creature's sudden demise and extinction, but also explain the quick formation of fossils, as it is agreed among Palaeontologists and Geologists that water was the agent for all fossil formation, where ever they are found. But I was already laughed down for advocating this concept, with atheistic scientists such as Richard Dawkins comparing the time scale with New York bordering onto Los Angeles. Therefore, it's not too much of a surprise to have seen various pictorial literature of Creationism tending to associate the rise of "beasts of the Earth" on the sixth day as consisting of a modern horse, elephant, sheep, and cattle, along with any species alive at present, as if the artist was too embarrassed to include long-extinct species such as what we now refer to as Dinosaurs. All this didn't help, along with the rather curious assumption that the sun, moon, and all the stars of the entire Universe were all four days younger than the Earth itself, leaving me to wonder how the planet was illuminated in the first place, with day and night already existing. How was I to tell my Darwin-believing friends what I now know to be true, without being made the laughing-stock of a company I was working for? 

So began a long process of re-learning, which provided such a challenge to me back then. Like the time when one mocker asked me who was Cain's wife, if only he existed on the entire planet, along with his brother Abel, and their parents Adam and Eve. Although unable to answer at the time, such a challenge spurred me to dig into the Bible itself and bring out the clues which readily answers who Cain's wife was. And such a question could be easily answered by reading Genesis chapter four and five. Cain slew his brother Abel, and not long after that, Eve gave birth to a replacement for the Messianic Line: Seth. Then in chapter five, we read that Seth was born 130 years after Creation, which gives ample time for Eve to give birth to many other sons and daughters before the murder, an idea backed up by Cain's own fear of repercussions for the killing, along with is ability to "build a city" named after his son Enoch. If true, then this brings up the idea of humans having superior genome early in history, in addition to Eve's birthing prowess, also providing the answer to the question I have long been asking: How on earth could Abimelech King of Gerar take such an interest in the aged Sarah, Abraham's wife, while she was already in her nineties? (Genesis 20) - unless Sarah's superior genome caused her to remain astoundingly beautiful and youthful-looking, even at her apparent old age.

This embarrassment over Creationism could be the reason why, during Religious Education lessons at school, the Biblical chronology began with the call of Abraham, totally ignoring all pre-Abrahamic Scriptures. It left the door wide open for mockery from scoffers, who insists that Darwin's Evolutionary processes were the only way we got here in the first place. So re-learning was a long process, which included my first backpacking visit in 1976 to the Holy Land, where I fell in love with the ancient city of Jerusalem, after discovering to be the most important city in the entire Bible, and therefore in the whole of human history. There was even one archaeological marvel, an ancient water conduit now referred to as Hezekiah's Tunnel, which was dug through solid rock under the city itself under the direction of the king of Judah in 700 BC, which I have explored in 1976, and again in 1993. It is mentioned twice in the Old Testament: 2 Kings 20:20, and 2 Chronicles 32:30.  Simply this: If the city which the entire Bible has put such emphasis actually exists, and can be physically located, then why deny the historicity of Divine Creation?

Inside Hezekiah's Tunnel with one other companion, 1976 

The Bible is true. The same tunnel with myself out of the way!

Last week the three of us made our way to London to spend the night there. My wife and I boarded the train, along with a third person who also has a passion for Creationism, and is a subscriber of the Creation Ministries website. He was willing to join us after I invited him. The biggest difference between him and me was not so much the wide age difference as the fact that he is a Doctor, a post-graduate who, I believe, has specialised in genetics, and therefore able to call himself a Geneticist. So three people went merrily to London - a Doctor, a Housewife, and a retired Window Cleaner. And we even stayed overnight at the same hotel. There was not a hint of social, national, or racial superiority among any of us during the weekend, but we looked on each other as fully equal. If anything, I probably was the leader, not to make up for my apparent academic deficiency compared to my friend, but out of age and experience.

That is in-keeping with Creationism, as opposed to Evolution which lies behind social class and inequality, as well as being the stigma behind racism and national superiority, all three I had suffered from time to time as a victim throughout life. I recall the 1970's, when I was still young physically, and a lot younger spiritually, that any major clash with fellow church-goers had much to do with social class - a semi-skilled factory machinist thrown into a group of University graduates. Despite their efforts to be social and accepting, somehow in their subconscious, I was never perceived as equal to them. I even offended one of them in an opposing group when I managed to answer correctly a higher proportion of questions from a trivial quiz game. He didn't like that at all!

I have discovered back then that these graduates embraced Theocratic Evolution, that is, Darwinism under the control and supervision of God himself. Notwithstanding the blatant flaw of Adam and Eve having ape-men as ancestors. According to this theory, Adam's parents and grandparents must have been as equally human as they were, and going back quite a number of generations, maybe hundreds of generations. Yet each pre-Adam generation died. They were all mortal. What a contradiction that is to Romans 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, where Paul insists that through one man sin has entered into the world, and therefore through one man's sin death came to all men (from Adam onwards). What I have found astonishing is that these young church-goers were graduates, with IQ's higher than mine, strongly supporting their level of education and middle-class standing, yet unable to work out this simple Biblical principle! 

The three of us attended the seminars. It was the first lecture, delivered by Engineer Stuart Burgess, which arose my surprise and amazement. He quoted atheist Richard Dawkins having greater respect for the Young-Earth Creationist who wholeheartedly holds to the literal six-day Creation, than he would to a theologian who embrace Theocratic Evolution. As Dawkins would have insisted - Creation and Evolution are mutually exclusive. One cannot favour one without the compromise of the other. So had Richard Dawkins showed up at our trivial quiz contest, he would have shown a greater respect for me above the others in the same room, much to the shock of all present.

Richard Dawkins.

And so how great minds goes. One of the worst aspects of our culture is the undue respect given to the higher educated, especially when standing at the pulpit. The more clever the professor is, the greater respect he receives. Thus I have seen the most damnable heresy infect the intellect of Christians around me, simply because this particular perpetrator had studied at Cambridge University and "Knows the Bible inside out." He was even referred to as "A prophet of God on the level of Isaiah" by other Christians - even if there's no proof of any Biblical basis for this, and to be fair, the man referred to has never, according to my knowledge, made such an admission about himself. Rather, the honour was bestowed to him by other Christians enamoured by his professionalism. And so the same applies to Darwin's advocates.

One of the most amazing train of thinking among Evolutionists and Atheists is the theory that everything must be subject to Science - the knowledge of man about everything in the world, including Evolution. According to them, Evolution itself remains beneath man's technology. Now if Evolution was an undisputed fact, this would indeed be true. There are scores of records where Evolution had got it wrong: Mutations, redundant organs, disease, mild illnesses, early death, malformations, extinctions, and so forth. For technology to function properly, every part must be fully functional and in its right place. The computer is a good example. Any fault with the internal wiring and the computer would not function. Likewise, if any of the binary digits in the software was misplaced, the program would crash. But for one who believe in Creationism, all these "Evolutionary defects" are more likely the result of the Fall and the Edenic Curse. As testified in the case of both Eve and Sarah, the human genome was at a much more stable condition nearer the time of Creation than at present.

And the lack of adequate reference to the genome was something I felt was missing from the Conference. Because the sheer complexity of the cell and its nucleus would be enough to shatter Evolution altogether. The dizzying complexity of the DNA molecule, the RNA, the Ribosome, the Golgi Apparatus, and many other minuscule parts all playing their role in the production of protein, makes the cell evolving by chance to be mathematically impossible. An example of this was noted by Fred Hoyle, Atheist, Astronomer, and Mathematician. I am aware that I have mentioned this already in recent blogs, but since this is about our inter-class unity at a Creation Ministries Conference, it's well worth giving another mention here.

Hoyle worked out that just part of the protein chain, the enzymes with each of its amino acid parts carefully folded in proper sequence, the chance of such a chain alone evolving by chance is one out of one, followed by 40,000 zeroes! Even the estimated age of the Universe does not come even close! Knowing such a result, instead of acknowledging Intelligent Design, as the Scriptures testify, Hoyle dreamt up the theory that first there was never a Big Bang, rather the Universe has always been eternal, giving the hope that the cell might have evolved elsewhere in the eternal past, and arrived at the primeval Earth embedded in a meteorite in the relatively recent past. Such a theory is known as Panspermia and it seemed to be widely accepted by Evolutionists to this day.

Despite the lack of positive evidence, Evolution continue to be upheld by the learned, and the rank-and-file bow the knee. This includes Social Evolution, the idea that some cultures are more advanced than others, and even the belief of various stages of inequality within a culture. As I see it, the social class divide is evil, just as racism is evil, along with national superiority. As these three were the underlying basis for the Holocaust, when six million Jews were needlessly slain, along with homosexuals and the mentally handicapped. According to the Nazis, such slaughter was based on Evolution, and their own efforts in "giving evolution a helping hand" in the selection of their superior Aryan race.

I have seen that social class divides the church, the evaluating of a person's worth depending on education, wealth and social standing rather than on character and spiritual maturity. The sort of stuff that was also going on during the days of the apostle James. So bad it was, the the apostle gave one of the sternest rebukes, (James 2:1-7) short of the rebukes delivered by Jesus himself (eg, Matthew 23). Believing in Creationism, the Fall, and Redemption is the Great Leveller. As I like to put it: Standing under the Shadow of the Cross. Under such a Shadow, every form of prejudice, favouritism, and personal status just blows away, like shrivelled leaves caught in the wind.

A Doctor, a Housewife, and a Window Cleaner, each Divinely Created, each recognising their own shortcomings, each in need of redemption. This is how all churches should be. Each person seen as one begotten of the Father through faith in Jesus. Each person seen in the same way as God sees him, as one imputed with the righteousness of Christ. Each person in the fellowship seen as possessing eternal life, with Heaven as the eternal home for all. Each person seen with all sin forgiven, therefore having no basis for judgement. The recipe for sweet fellowship and hospitality. No special credit given for higher education, social class, or nationality, nor anyone looked down for lacking any of these.

It's a weekend I will not forget easily. 

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Shoes & Ties - Just Shoes & Ties.

Something has made remarkable headlines this week, not just in the national newspapers but also from the BBC National News. It was about one headmaster of a school at Margate in Kent, who turned away up to seventy pupils on the first and second day of the new term, mostly due to inappropriate footwear. Parents complained. Whether there might have been a genuine case of convalescence from a serious foot injury where a softer shoe is required, nearly all of the cases were to do with the footwear not being leather or not entirely black. Students of both genders were refused admission and were sent straight home instead. Even if this meant a journey on the train to an empty house whilst the parents have already gone to work.

Matthew Tate, the new head teacher of Hartsdown Academy, who was enforcing the rules, spent his time at the school gates very much like a bouncer at the doors of a nightclub, inspecting the uniform of every pupil as he or she approached. It is quite a contrast to the days when I attended school back in the 1960's, when the headmaster remained concealed in his office, and not make an appearance to the pupils except at morning assembly, when everybody - pupils and staff alike - watched him stand at the pulpit set up on the stage a metre or so above floor level. We too had uniform in our day. Black trousers, a black blazer sporting the school badge on the left breast, a grey shirt and of course, the school tie which was striped with yellow, red and black. As with the shoes, apparently everyone wore black, but I cannot recall any incident between staff and pupil regarding footwear.

And no member of staff stood at the gates inspecting every pupil. It was far more important for them to meet in the staff room - that one location totally hidden away and fully off-limits to every student - where the day's issues, including private light chatter, home affairs and disputes were discussed over coffee. And the only reason why a pupil may knock on the headmaster's office during the day was because a teacher sent him there to receive a caning, as corporal punishment was the norm in those days. But seldom the punishment was about uniform.

And that was especially during the Summer term, those three months separating the main Summer break from the Easter holidays. It was the time when quite a number of boys turned up at the gates without a tie on a hot day, and the staff in general turned a blind eye. As one classmate often sat at his desk with not just the top button of his shirt undone, but the second one as well, he apparently took pride in exposing an area of chest during lessons. And he was by no means the only one. Even in my class, it was not unusual to see several boys tie-less during lessons, yet no staff member in general had raised any real issues, at least not as I can recall.

Except on an easy target like I was during adolescence. Perhaps lacking masculine qualities such as being good at team sports - football and rugby in particular - one morning at the boy's changing room adjoining the school gym, the P.E. master thrust his finger down my shirt and demanded, Why aren't you wearing a tie? The one question I couldn't answer.

Maybe it was one of his off-days, perhaps an early-morning dispute with his wife, or his young son misbehaving over the breakfast table, a fellow teacher rubbing him up the wrong way within the privacy of the staff room, or perhaps sheer ennui over nothing of real significance happening, along with myself being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but seeing me without a tie gave him the satisfaction of venting his frustration. From that day on, I always arrived at school wearing the uniform tie - even on a hot day - for no other reason but to keep my nose clean and avoid punishment. But as far as I am aware, over the four years I attended that school, I recall only one other similar incident, when one female staff member, perhaps also moody that day, ordering a pupil in our class to "straighten his tie" - much to the boy's protest. 

But in all, it was a very different culture in my day compared with the present situation at that academy in Kent. But back then it might have had something to do with the two-tier schooling system based on selection. The Grammar school was where every pupil fortunate enough to pass his post-primary eleven-plus exam attended, in preparation for University. Those who failed, like I did, ended up in the Secondary Modern. Although I have never been inside a Grammar school, it would not have surprised me that the dress code there would have been a lot more strict. No pupil would have dared attended improperly dressed, especially without a tie! By contrast, my school prepared us for anything vocational ranging from manual labour up to office administration jobs, maybe even office management with a bit of luck thrown in, and that could have been the reason for our more lax dress attitude.

Since past Governments developed a sense of unfairness towards the disadvantaged over selection, many Grammar schools merged with the Secondary Modern to produce the Comprehensive. In the days of self-employment, at least one customer informed me of her son's Comprehensive school, when after the day is over, no pupil was allowed to take off his tie after leaving the gate until he reaches home! And so what appears to me as a super-strict dress code making its way into national news headlines. 

The majority of the public, nearly 70%, favoured the headmaster's actions, and deeply criticised the parents who for one reason or another, failed to dress their offspring to full standard. And according to the Media, of the seventy pupils sent home, 69 of them were to do with inadequate footwear, the one remaining, she left her blazer at the school at the end of the last term and therefore turned up on her first day without one. She was sent home with the others.

I'm not against the school uniform, if there is truth that the dress code is the equaliser, and also lifting up morality in the classroom, as well as achieving better exam results. But had I been that headmaster, I would have allowed the pupil into the school premises, but also have sent the pupil home at the end of the day with a letter to his parents explaining what the uniform consists, and give the parents up to a week's grace to amend any issues. It is during this grace period that the student still continues with his attendance.

Lately, the weather around here has been hot and muggy, with high humidity in the air. A few days earlier I took a train to Reading, a large town about eleven miles away. During that short trip I saw quite a number of office staff commuting and taking their lunch breaks. Very few went about wearing ties or even jackets. I couldn't help even noticing several office commuters wearing a shirt with both upper buttons undone. I also remember the continuous daily watching of foreign news correspondents delivering their reports wearing their shirts without a tie. And at present it is becoming the same with home reporters too. Then I saw a number of school boys and girls on their way home in full uniform, including blazer and tie. And I couldn't resist feeling that British society has become very unfair, in addition to our growing cultural hypocrisy. Even uniformed Police officers nowadays are seen tie-less, and Police uniform has always been very distinct. It is beginning to look as if the compulsory wearing of the tie is restricted to school pupils only.

I know, I know, I have an issue with ties! I have always seen it as a status symbol with a whiff of hypocrisy. But where school uniform is concerned, this is only a sticking-plaster to fix a much deeper wound. Is leniency of school dress code really the cause of moral decline in the classroom, of so much has been reported? Or is it the decline of belief in God and the veracity of Scripture the real cause of moral decline? I ask this question because the headmaster involved with this issue, Matthew Tate, professes to be a true Christian believer. So, did his action at the school gates brought these parents and their wayward offspring to faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour? O did it create hostility. Furthermore, did his actions bring glory to God in Heaven?

The only sure and more lasting fix in restoring classroom morality is a spiritual revival, which means most in the school, if not all, experiencing a rebirth through faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour. And that applies to both staff and pupils alike. Turning inadequately-dressed pupils away may bring only a temporal solution, but it still leaves the heart unregenerated, the sinful nature within each and every heart not dealt with, and brings no glory to God. His present actions might well have raised his respect and popularity among the majority of men, but not to the hosts in Heaven.

Matthew Tate claims to be a committed Christian believer. Therefore he should take a page out of the Bible and act and relate the same way his Lord Jesus Christ would have acted. And the Lord's way would be always welcoming and to give life to all who calls upon him.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

When London Flooded - Dream On

I will never forget the time when after days of severe weather, the River Thames burst its banks and much of Central London was flooded. In fact the water level rose so high, that other than by boat, the only alternative way to get around was to swim. And it was then I saw a young female in distress. She was close to my age, looked plump, had shortish curly hair and wore spectacles. And she was crying for help.

I managed to reach her, and thanks to my own training as a life-saver back in the early seventies, I successfully towed her to safety. Safe on a building, a high ledge or area of high ground, she was weeping with gratitude for saving her life and I held her tight, consoling and comforting her.

It must have been some time later, when the streets of London had returned to normal, that I had found out where she worked. Longing to see her again with high hopes of a relationship leading to marriage, I located the building and having entered, I rushed up several flights of stairs. I then entered her office, a rather plush environment. There she was. It was definitely her, the young woman I rescued earlier from drowning. But this time she looked different. Although still wearing glasses, her hair was longer and straighter, and no longer plump, she had slimmed to become a beautiful woman in her own right.

She turned to see me standing at the door. But instead of rushing over to greet me as was expected, she remained at her desk and just turned to look at me, without smiling. She then literally turned her nose up on me before resuming her work. Crushingly disappointed, I understood her message perfectly well. With myself from a working-class background, she perceived me to be beneath herself, a social inferior. The type of man she was looking for had to be one holding a degree and with a high-income earning profession. Despite saving her life I wasn't good enough for her. It was as simple as that.

Feeling defeated and humiliated, amidst bustling traffic and pedestrians, I sauntered along Millbank, then into Abingdon Street, approaching Parliament Square. How I wished that the streets of London were still under water! Life seemed much more fulfilling during the crisis. I turned to look towards the world-famous Government building. On a level of paving between it and myself were two puddles, each between 15-18 inches across, and no more than half inch deep. Those two puddles, each quite close to each other, were the only remnant of the flood which earlier inundated the city. I stood to look at the two puddles and wished to turn back the clock. Then finding myself in bed at my bachelor's pad, I realised that it was all a dream. But a dream from which not only did I wake up remembering in full detail but still fully remembered vividly more than thirty years later.

Yet the dream still has an affect on me to this day. But it's certainly not a new phenomenon. In the Bible, the Pharaoh king of Egypt had two dreams, one after another but each carrying the same line of meaning. The king was disturbed by it all and Joseph, who had a reputation for interpreting dreams, explained their meaning to Pharaoh. Like with me, he must have remembered those dreams for the rest of his life. Then there was the famous one experienced by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He hadn't been on the throne for that long, but his dream of a giant statue fully demolished by a moving boulder sent shivers down his spine, and demanded a genuine interpreter who would not take advantage of his circumstance. With the prophet Daniel revealing the dream and its interpretation, he too must have remembered his dream for the rest of his life.

Then there was the other Joseph, the husband of Mary and the adopted father of Jesus Christ. Joseph had several dreams, four in all, the first three telling him what to do and the fourth was a warning. The first one was for him to go ahead and marry Mary, despite his belief in her unfaithfulness. The second was a command for him and his family to flee to Egypt, and the third to return to his homeland of Israel. The fourth was a warning not to resettle in Judea but to return to his home town of Nazareth. No doubt, Joseph too must have remembered all those dreams for the rest of his life. And furthermore, we can read about all those dreams thousands of years later.

A dream led Joseph and his family here.

Whether my dream, in the mid eighties, of London flooded was a message from God or not, I can't be dogmatic either way. But it seemed to have been packed with meaning. There was this woman in distress, unable to save herself. Then I swam to her and towed her to safety. But in order for me to do so, she had to submit to me fully, and allow me to do all the rescuing. There was nothing she could do to earn her safety, nor could she help me either. I had to do it all.

Beginning to look familiar?

Because that is what the Son of God had to do to bring me, and all other believers, to safety. Like her I was lost in the sea of sin, and like her, unable to earn or work towards my salvation. All I could do was submit to his rescue, which I did by believing. But as my dream continued, what happened after that? Apparently, she thought so highly of herself that she had forgotten the favour I bestowed on her. Could this be an illustration of the attitude some believers have over others, found in many churches of our day? Because all the churches of true believers are pictured as the Temple, the Body and the Bride of Jesus Christ, in effect any insult or misdemeanant shown towards a Christian brother or group of believers strikes at the heart of God himself.

Is it a crying, crying shame that I don't come across verbally as a very intelligent, cultured, or a well-educated, gentlemanly Christian? Has it always been this way since I started attending church in 1974? Furthermore, does it matter at all? Does it bring honour to God if I'm seen through the subconsciousness of other Christians as "somewhere down there" instead of "up here with us" in their way of thinking? But can things be different "behind the scenes"? May I show you just one example?

Lately I have been raving about the threefold pillar of salvation. Acquittal, Imputation, and Eternal Security. Did you in the past ask yourself whether you agree with this concept and if so, asked yourself where I got this idea from? Who was the enlightened preacher or guest speaker who expounded this concept? Or what is the title and who is the author of the book I have been reading about this?

Answer: Nobody at the pulpit or at the front of the church meeting has ever brought up such a concept. And furthermore, in the past forty years as a believer, I cannot remember reading any books directly expounding such an idea. The theory of a threefold gift of salvation given to every believer was a result of studying Scripture, especially in Paul's letter to the Romans. And although Paul himself might have been unaware, the Holy Spirit which inspired such Scriptures knew perfectly well that one day Rome will be the home of the Vatican, the headquarters of a worldwide Church which will teach a false gospel of infused righteousness, a faith-works salvation which can be easily lost by the believer on just one "mortal" sin. So the Holy Spirit, foreknowing all this, inspired Paul to write a thesis directed to Rome and its people. It was from these studies that I became aware of the threefold pillar of salvation. I now fervently believe that Paul's letter was divinely inspired to counter the present teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

It is a bit like Isaac Newton watching an apple fall from a tree. He then wrote a thesis about gravity. Newton didn't invent gravity - it was fully functional long, long before he was even born. What happened was that he discovered the reality of it. His theory was widely read because he was seen as a very clever man and therefore his views were authentic and respected. Maybe, coming from a working class background, my views can be easily disregarded. And sometimes I feel that they are.

Look, No Tie! Isaac Newton

So that was why I wrote about this topic on this week's blog. After reading of three separate incidents, all occurring within a week. One was about the culture of "No Brown in Town". That is, a very promising candidate was refused an offer of a banking career in the City because he was wearing brown shoes at the interview. Another promising candidate was told that his tie was "too loud". He didn't get the job either. Neither would the candidate wearing a shirt with a breast pocket would be hired. The second incident involved a group of Etonian students having flown to Russia to visit its President, Vladimir Putin. These students, dressed to the hilt in suit and tie, were all oozing the kind of self-confidence prospective British employers are looking for, according to one journalist. Not confidence in the assurance of God's love and mercy, but confidence in their own intelligence, education, and self-merit. The third issue was the rather idiosyncratic British custom of not dining before seven o'clock in the evening, according to the upper-middle classes. According to the Media, only the "lower classes" eat before seven - even if eating earlier was better for health reasons - to which the former would have taken offence.

It is those petty customs, cultural, and daft-sounding ideas which, to my belief, weakens the church of its divine testimony. Rather, by looking at each other under the Shadow of the Cross, which itself will destroy every barrier and prejudice among believers, would result in greater benefits for all.