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Saturday, 18 August 2018

"A" Level Results - and Stabbings.

Two pieces of news came to my attention this week. One joyous, the other very alarming. First the good news bringing joy to many. No, I'm not referring to the Gospel at this point. Rather, I'm referring to the multiple thousands of young people who have received their "A" Level exam results. For those who had passed their required grades, it is a time for partying. For those who had failed to meet their marks, it is a time of disappointment along with an awareness of feeling lost, confused, unsure in which direction to take. 

Then there is this issue of "Clearing". To be honest, I have not been familiar with this word when applied to university admissions. Clearing what? I'm familiar with clearing the floor of rubbish, or of a room of items not put away in their proper places. Or of clearing the table of unwashed dishes after a meal. I am also familiar with clearing the road of excess traffic stuck in a queue, for for that matter, a cough to clear the throat of phlegm. But what is the obstacle or disarray causing such "blockages" of the way to university? Could it be that inconvenience in failing the required set of entry exams? Are such school failures the "blockages" that needs to be cleared for university entry?

And to those who have passed, why does the media, both television and newspapers, always show girls jumping up an down, shrieking with delight? And why mostly girls? Where are the boys? Do these boys look at their successful exam results and in a very British way - nod, and say to Mum, "I've passed." And that's it, as each one carries on checking his mobile phone or tablet for any new messages as if nothing had happened? And so, as each successful male student stays at home, fixated to his computer screen in his bedroom, the girls go out to party at a local nightclub to deliberately stone themselves in anticipation of a glittering bright future. So one picture I saw at a Daily Mail online of a group with a high proportion of girls in Cardiff, as well as others in Leeds and Newcastle.

A group of successful students in Cardiff. The Daily Mail.

Of course I'm aware of boys also going out to celebrate as well. Who in his right mind wouldn't? It's only that the media, especially the BBC, which seem to have a preference for showing girls celebrating. I'm I showing bias here, perhaps even sexism? Maybe if the media showed more boys than girls rejoicing over their exam result, the feminists would be up in arms, with the BBC taking much of the flack thrown by them.

It is a vastly different world to what it was in my day. Let's see. Back in 1968 I left school on a Friday, to start my new job on a Monday. No kidding. I left school at fifteen years of age with absolutely no qualifications to show, and I was "condemned" to a life of manual labour, starting with sweeping the factory floor. That was more than half a century ago. There were no celebrations, not even among successful "A" Level candidates. There were no such thing as gap years, and only a small minority made it into university. And those who did were revered by the rest of society as academic icons, not far short of celebrity status.

Perhaps with then Prime Minister Tony Blair crying out Education! Education! Education! back in the late nineties and into the new Millennium, had brought about a "degree inflation", when up to 50% of the student population entered uni, quite a contrast from the less than ten percent who did in my day. Nowadays it looks as if these admissions are not only essential to a fulfilled life, but it looks as if it's now essential for survival. 

And how could this be made a clearer example than what the Daily Mail dub as "Wild West Britain" - meaning a growing culture of knife and gun crime. Only this morning, I turned the page to see a two-page spread of the gang stabbing which took place in Camberwell, Southeast London. Weapons used included zombie knives and machetes, and even a medical crutch used as a club. One victim lay disemboweled and screaming for his mother, a further two had gaping stomach wounds, several more were also slashed.

This was a result of gang warfare, and this particular brawl was about a leather belt and to whom it belonged. Predominantly male, I doubt that any of them involved ever succeeded at school, let alone ever entering university. As one writer in The Guardian once wrote, the underlying motive making the bedrock for gangland culture is the preservation of masculinity and with it, self-image, even if it means taking of another's life, often without a cause. If there is any truth to this, then it seems that to kill a rival boosts the ego, gains self-confidence and uplifts his own image of masculinity. And as I perceive, makes up the terrible sense of low self-esteem caused by poor home life and failure at school.

After the Camberwell brawl. Daily Mail.

If a person's level of education makes a great deal on his self-esteem, then I wonder how I managed during the formative years of my working life without killing someone. Well, no matter how I might have felt back then, at least I never had a debt of multiple thousands of pounds hanging from my shoulders after leaving college. And all these celebrations taking place at present makes me sit back, rather mystified, and wonder: How on earth can all these students celebrate, knowing that they will stack up massive debts? I have read tales of a fairly large percentage of graduates leaving further education to take up jobs which are beneath their degree level. And knowing that they each have a large debt to pay off. Yet at present these new candidates still see their futures as glittering and very promising.

As I see it, there are generally three groups of young people in the UK at present - those who did well at school and those who didn't, and some in between. Among those who did reasonably well, or even mediocre, there is this Clearing system for university admissions. Clearing allows some failed students into Further Education, so I understand. Then there are those, like me, who leaves school with nothing to show. It is among these, with very low self-esteem, who are liable to be sucked into crime and gangland culture, often involving drug rivalry and warfare. But there is a third group. These may not excel at school either, but for our society, they are the most useful and most needed.

I'm talking about builders, plumbers, electricians, gas engineers, carpet layers, and all other vocational apprenticeships. People we can't do without. If at home a pipe bursts, I don't call a computer programmer, instead I call a plumber. Or if our circuits blow, it's the electrician I call for, not an accountant. Without bricklayers, roof tilers, carpenters and window glaziers, I would not have a house to live in. As for computers, I may or may not have one. I didn't own an Internet-connected computer until I was well into my fifties. Before then, I lived quite adequately without one. And even now, I don't own a smartphone or tablet. Indeed, no one into I.T. or computer programming can thrive without the builders first constructing his workplace, whether it's at home or in the office. Indeed, these tradesmen can be seen as the backbone of modern civilization rather than the desktop employee, the latter favoured by the Daily Mail.

And here's the rub. In recent years I have noticed that many tradesmen are foreigners, especially from Eastern Europe. They don't seem to mind getting their hands dirty. It makes me wonder why so many indigenous Brits are vying for university? Could it be because they are too snobby to dirty their hands?

It's rather like what I have seen and experienced as a window cleaner. I have watched householders curtly greet a tradesman without giving anything other than pay his fee. But someone such as an accountant or even an estate agent were to call, and he is treated with coffee and biscuits and as much hospitality the customer can give. Indeed, there is much favouritism for the business suit over the boiler suit!

Of course, death is the Great Leveler of all men. One day our Queen will die along with the homeless tramp. But there is another Leveler all men of every social standing must face: the Judgement. But as the Gospel goes, Jesus Christ was crucified and died to atone for our shortfalls, he was buried, and on the third day Resurrected from the dead, and now gives eternal life for all who believe.

Wonderful stuff! Eternal life given to all believers on the basis of the Resurrection.

Which brings me to the confusion brought along by some preachers. Lately I have heard talks debunking this "Asking Jesus into my heart" business. It is based on Revelation 3:20, which reads:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and sup with him, and he with me.

To one graduate who was debunking this "asking Jesus into your heart" ethic, I then asked him:
What is the last word of Revelation 3:19?

He wasn't able to answer. Actually, the last word of Revelation 3:19 is repent, which has the same root word as given by Peter in Acts 2:38:

Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins.

The passage in question was about the resurrected Jesus speaking to a church in Laodicea, which consisted of all believers, and he rebukes them for their apathy. According to this preacher, it had nothing to do with unbelievers. But could there be a second application?

Take for example Isaiah 41:10-13. I have seen in the past where some Christians have highlighted these verses with a marker at the margin, or even crayoned over these verses with a light colour to bring out their emphasis. I myself felt that these verses spoke to me directly. What assurance of God's love! How keen God is to strengthen us and to help us, as well as holding us up in his righteous right hand. How reassuring it is to know that he will protect us and save us from our enemies, and therefore no need to fear them.

Until you come to verse 14, where he has been addressing his worm Jacob, his little Israel, just as verses 8-9 does in preceding the said text. Oh dear! Those verses from 10-13 does not speak to me at all, for I don't have Abraham's blood within me, and therefore I cannot be of Israel. So these reassuring verses does not apply to me unless there is a second application.

The idea of a second application makes the whole Bible relevant to all of us, Jew and Gentile alike. To both the student candidate for university and to the street gangster alike, Jesus said on one occasion that if anyone asks the Father for the Holy Spirit, God will be happy to grant such a request (Luke 11:13) - yes, to evil hearts! And Paul writes to his Ephesian readers to let Jesus dwell in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17) through faith. Therefore it does look as if asking Jesus into your heart of Revelation 3:20 is Biblical as a secondary application to that of speaking to a church of apathetic believers.

This is backed by the scores of testimonies I have read of other Christians. Tales of life-changing experiences after "asking God into the heart" or something similar, abounds, and it gave me joy to read of these. But to some it does not appeared to have worked, as one of our Elders have testified, and even I have found myself "asking Jesus into my heart" many, many times during my earlier years whenever I was gripped by fear or doubt. So where is the problem?

I had to sit and think about all these things. And I come to conclude on the object of faith. Which is it? (A) Heart belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Or (B) asking Jesus into my heart? The answer is (A). Thus a diagram like this can be drawn:

(A) Believe----> (B) Ask----> (C): Baptism and commitment.

Salvation begins with (A) - initial heart belief. (B) is if the new convert wishes to ask in expression of his faith.

Where one might be in error is thinking that asking Jesus into the heart (B) initiates salvation. For some people this may do. But not necessarily for others. Maybe for the latter group, this ethic (B) is done to see whether it might work, like as if an experiment, or to test the formula without initial faith. To initiate salvation, one must have a heart belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to atone for their sin. I would go as far to say that asking Jesus into the heart is an act from an initial heart belief rather than itself the initiator of salvation, which seems to tally with Romans 10:9-13.

Yet there are many who prayed this prayer (also known as the sinner's prayer) and still experienced a radical change of life, a life favoured towards God and enjoying his salvation.

And that's what so important here. All university students are eligible for God's grace. And there are many who do turn to him. And God's grace is available to the vilest street gang member, as I have shown two weeks previously on the El Salvador blog.

University student, a doctor, a computer programmer, a plumber, a dustman, a window cleaner, and a former street gangster, all of one mind and one spirit as they share fellowship in the love of God through faith in Jesus Christ with no favouritism felt at all between them.

If only...


  1. Dear Frank,
    Thanks for the brilliant observation that Jesus is the great leveler, for our eternal destiny depends not on our education, job or status, but simply on whether or not we have trusted Him as Lord and Savior. As for the process of salvation, I believe it is a complex interplay between our will and the Holy Spirit working on our hearts. We can't be saved unless He indwells us, but we must first want to know Him ("ask Him into our heart"), for we will not enter uninvited. Yet we can't want to know Him if we don't believe that He is the Son of God, which only the Holy Spirit can teach us. To be saved, we must first realize we are lost because we are sinners, of which the Holy Spirit convicts. And yet our own will is involved in repentance, not only in wanting to stop sinning but in having a change of mind (turning away, or repenting) away from hell and toward Heaven. But we can't do that without yielding to the Holy Spirit. Thanks for the excellent post and God bless,

  2. Hi Frank,
    God is no respecter of persons, and He wants all to be saved. Saying a prayer because someone has told you to say it does not necessarily alter anything. You have to mean what you say, and no man can come to Jesus except he is called by God. There is a time for everything, a time to believe, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, and God is the One Who knows that time.
    God bless you and Alex.

  3. Great post, Frank.

    One has to wonder how much of the crime would be prevented if we encouraged and complimented those who do the essential jobs instead of just those who play sports or obtain advanced degrees. As you pointed out, God cares about every person, not just those who did best in school.

  4. Great post Frank! I've posted a new post. You might like it...