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Saturday, 24 November 2018

What Lies Behind My Convictions?

Every Saturday morning I can be seen sitting at a corner table at Starbucks. Corner table because that's the one next to a large, double-glazed window, therefore maximising the illumination. And that can be quite helpful when considering that spread out in front of me is the latest edition of the Daily Mail national newspaper. Not that I am able to get to that particular table all the time. From time to time I'm beaten by a regular elderly gentleman with a laptop. Perhaps whenever he beats me to it or not depends on whether he has remembered to set his alarm clock the night before. Who knows? After all, I usually arrive at or just before nine o'clock, when the queuing up for the counter service is at its minimal.

But this morning, not only that the table was vacant, but the whole restaurant was just about deserted. Therefore I was served at the point of entry, a very unusual feat! But it was afterwards when families began to queue up at the counter that the environment began to bustle with life. And that includes very young children, including a newborn directly in front of me. And I could not help but feel for this baby girl, the way she was dressed, or at least, her headwear. For her white woollen cap was decorated with two rather large fluffy pom-poms, giving the poor child a ridiculous appearance of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse. Oh dear. The choices some parents make!

Then another family sat just two tables from where I was sitting. Dark skinned, this baby boy in a pram, I estimate to be up to a year old, kept on looking at me as I turned and smiled, bringing laughter to both of his parents. By then the restaurant became rather crowded, with the queue snaking into the Sainsburys superstore, to which Starbucks is annexed.

But rather than continually reading the paper, I looked upon these children. And this led me to reason within myself: Why do I believe the way I do? And why do I push my opinions at an intensity which one can consider as forceful? My anti-Darwin views and emphasis in Creation, for example?

Perhaps I need to go back to the Gospel. When Adam and Eve disobeyed a simple commandment God has given to them in the garden, their sin meant that I was born with a serious problem. Just as on that day they both died spiritually, followed by a physical death, so I too, was born with this inherited sin, already dead spiritually, and I still am destined for the grave. But in his love for us, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, also known as the Second Adam, to suffer a horrible death on the cross to atone for my transgressions, he was buried, and on the third day, he rose physically from the dead. His Resurrection proved not only that He is the Son of God, but able to give eternal life to all who believe.

When I first believed, I was not only forgiven but was actually acquitted, or justified, and the righteousness of Christ was imputed or credited, to my account. Therefore, God the righteous Judge not only sees me as one merely forgiven but also sees me in the way he sees his only Son, Jesus Christ - absolutely righteous and fit for Heaven! That is the truth - I am now a son of God. But because while I'm still at this side of the grave and therefore remaining subject to sin, as a son I'm also a recipient of God's discipline, as forewarned in the 12th chapter of Hebrews. 

Oh, the wonders of Salvation! After God foreknew, he predestined, then called me to conform to his Son, to receive glory at some future date, known only by God himself. Furthermore, because of the dreadful suffering Jesus had to go through whilst on the cross, I am a gift, or reward from the Father to the Son, as specified in John chapter 17. Therefore, because I don't believe that the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God is capable of erring, I can be assured that once saved, I will always be saved. Eternal Security is one of the bulwarks to withstand any of life's trials.

All this is due to the fact that, unlike the first Adam, the second Adam spent more than thirty years on this planet as a man - without committing a single sin. Therefore, if the Son of God went through life without a single sin committed, and God sees me as he sees his Son, then it stands to reason that he sees me as without sin either. Very hard to believe? Indeed, especially when I look upon day-to-day life, riddled with imperfection. Such as not showing enough love or charity to those who may be in need of it, or to do good things but with the wrong motives. Or to get my own way to the cost of another person. Waiting in the queue for what seems to be such an unnecessarily long time has tested my patience many times before now. Maybe I can thank God that I don't drive a car or any other motorised vehicle. What I have seen, the driver's seat can be a hotbed for foul tempers!

Yes, of course, God wants me to live a holy life on a day-to-day basis. How I live as a Christian believer is very important to God. It is the only way that he can be glorified. And the glory of God is other people repenting, changing their minds, and turning to Christ for salvation. Jesus instructed to let our light shine before men, so that they may see what we do and glorify the Father (Matthew 5:16). As Paul later wrote, we are to shine like stars in heaven for the benefit of other men (Philippians 2:12-16). By living to please God, unbelievers are more likely to take note and change their minds about Jesus Christ.

However, the fact stands that I am a son of God, adopted into his family. What a wonderful state to be in. But for this to be real, a belief in six literal days of Creation, along with the reality of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as history is absolutely essential to my faith in Jesus. The accepting as history our first parents, their supernatural creation from the soil of the ground, their disobedience and Fall, the Flood of Noah some 1,656 years after Creation, are all as important and historic as the call of Abraham, the nation of Israel, and King David, who was the ancestor of Jesus Christ himself.

There was a time that I was a devout evolutionist. I certainly was one during my teenage years. Then at age twenty, it was as if God himself was standing in front of me during one stormy night at my parent's house. He gave me a choice. Keeping my belief in evolution? Or change my mind and accept his revelation of his divine Creation? After reading the first three chapters of Genesis for the first time ever, I knew whose side I was on.

Creationism has ever since been the bedrock on which my faith in Christ rested upon. Creationism is a rock, evolution is sand. And it is a crying shame that all unbelievers had built their faith on the sand, and not only unbelievers but Christian graduates had also based their faith on the sand, that is to say, Theistic Evolution, the "halfway house" with which God gave me no option for me to indulge in. It was one or the other. There was no third way.

A bedrock of my faith - Grand Canyon Hike, taken 1995

Therefore going back to Starbucks. As I sat at that corner table, watching young children with their parents, I was thinking on what will they learn as they grow up. Too bad, evolution will be presented to them as a scientific fact. If Creationism is mentioned in the classroom, then it will be relegated as one of many mythologies that makes up classic literature. But it would not be taught as historic.

This would have dire repercussions. Because, when I see children, I don't ponder on their potential level of education. Nor do I wonder which career they will want to pursue. Instead, I ponder on whether they will know Jesus Christ personally and spend eternity in God's Kingdom. I don't want to think of the alternative - a lost eternity. But that is what Darwin's theory does. It puts a wedge between the person and knowing God. Evolution does lead to atheism. It would not bring such a person to Christ. Unless, as it was the case with me, the light of God's grace had pierced the veil, and illuminated my heart enough for the need to repudiate evolution.

My late father was an evolutionist, and he was also a self-confessed agnostic. After rebuking me to come to my senses (ie to return to Darwinism) and failed, I think he had a sense of embarrassment while he was with his friends. There were times when I prayed for this nominal Catholic, but with no avail. The day I attended his funeral was a day without much hope and a temporal loss of a belief in the power of prayer. Now my mother, who is approaching ninety, has severe dementia and in need of daily care. After spending years in prayer and "attempting to convert her" I watched as she remained steadfastly loyal to her Catholic religion, after making a promise to her mother in Italy never to change religion, immediately before emigrating to London around 1950. 

Sure enough, during her later years, and especially during her earlier widowhood, she always made an effort to pray each night before lights out. But her prayers has always been ritualistic: set prayers such as Our Father (Padre Nostro) and Hail Mary (Ave Maria) - as she always prayed in Italian. Her prayers have always been within the Catholic tradition - that is, with a hope that such efforts will cleanse her soul from sin - when the reality is that prayer should be the result of an already acquitted soul. As such, I have to conclude that only God knows her spiritual state, and who knows, I may even be in for a pleasant surprise when it's my time. However, Mum was not committed to evolution in the same way Dad was, but as I believe, she still leaned in favour of it.

Although I have been a Creationist since 1973, and I have studied historical geology, evolution itself and its effects on history after my conversion, the big move did not arrive until 2016, when Dan, my financial advisor and longstanding Creationist friend, hinted that I should attend the initial Creation Ministries International Conference, held in London. After booking a place for both Alex and myself, together with the hotel reservation, I contacted another good friend of mine, Dr Andrew Milnthorpe, and told him about the conference and its date, covering two days. He too made reservations for both conference and hotel alike, and off we set, the three of us, to the conference.

Although the initial conference was a blessing to attend, where my eyes were opened on several issues, it was at the second conference two years later where I found myself really shaken and stirred. Held at the same venue - Emmanual Centre near the Houses of Parliament - it was the opening discourse delivered which had a soul-shaking impact on my life. As with the first meeting, again it was Dr Andrew Milnthorpe, Alex my wife and I who attended, this time requiring two nights at the hotel, as the first day began as early as nine in the morning.

Creation Ministries International Conference, London, 2018.

I could have easily gone home soon after the opening talk. I was shaken and stirred by that sermon alone. What was it about? Simply this: The theory of evolution has destroyed the authority of Holy Scripture. And when the Bible is no longer taken seriously, then the people perish. It is an awful thought, a dreadful reality. That's why the sight of young children hits me. It hurts. I suppose I do feel for those around me who do not know the love of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet there are academics or simply better-educated people who have won the hearts of both believers and unbelievers alike. That is, of course, a believer such as myself who has an admiration for both David Attenborough and Brian Cox, both evolutionists yet both a good source of genuine scientific knowledge. After all, it was through Brian Cox from where I got a better understanding of the science of entropy.

Without a doubt, David Attenborough is admired by just about everyone who had ever watched his programmes, which is mainly about natural history. He has been known to come up with statements which humbleness had made them unforgettable. During one of his undersea filmings and describing a shark or other marine organism which has come dangerously close to the cameraman, Attenborough quipped, It's not that the sharks have invaded our territory, rather it's us humans who have invaded theirs. Of all BBC natural history presentations, none had ever eclipsed this particular classic. But his constant use of the words, Evolved, Evolution, Evolutionary have always caused a slight cringe within us as we listen. If only Attenborough listens to what God is saying and acknowledges Divine Creation. But instead, he prefers Darwin's worldview, and so to speak, allows himself to go with the current.

And that's a shame. Because as I have already demonstrated here, in addition to the testimony of supernatural Creation, God's salvation and regeneration of the spirit is within easy reach of every one of us, including both David Attenborough and Brian Cox. It is the mercy of God made available to every one of us. It is so wonderful. And God is patient, not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-10) and that God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).

Salvation is open to everyone. Anyone can come to Christ and be saved. What a shame, though, that too much respectability is given to the academic instead of to the Bible. And that is the cause of the sorrow which drives my opinions even, at times, to the point of literacy aggression.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Dust, Ashes, Loyalty, and Treachery.

Why are we here? I was once told that there have always been highly trained philosophers throughout history who were never able to answer that question. In a quest to leave religion out of the debate, one fellow had taken a look at a cliff-face of stratified rock layers, often containing fossils of long-dead organisms, and came up with the theory of Uniformitarianism. I know, it's one heck of a long word - and typing it in here may give an impression of being a graduate. However, the person referred was Scottish geologist Charles Lyell, who in 1837 published his book, Principles of Geology. In a nutshell, it was about his theory that the rock strata were laid down very slowly by water over millions of years.

Charles Darwin, after sailing around the world in The Beagle, finally arrived at the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, and from observing the wildlife thriving on these volcanic peaks, and taking into consideration Lyell's book, in 1859 he published his more famous book, On the Origins of  Species by means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, normally known simply as On the Origin of Species. It was the book which changed the world and liberated society from "the horrible shackles of religion" which included giving an account to a God in heaven.

Charles Darwin

Darwin changing the world? I would go as far to say that what he had written and published has caused a hypothetical earthquake which ripples could be felt today. And the ripples, rather than fading away as in a physical quake, these are constantly intensifying, right to the point where not only the earth is shaking but the heavens too.

Strange really, on how such a book could have an effect, both directly and indirectly, upon the lives of millions. As mentioned in previous blogs, Hitler's henchmen, academics such as Dr Josef Mengele, Dr Joseph Goebbels, Dr Alfred Rosenberg and Reinhard Heydrich were all former Roman Catholics - until they entered university and became more aware of the theory of evolution by means of Natural Selection being far more "in tune with reality" than their religious faith could ever offer, and all renounced their former religion, embraced Darwinism, and allowing this to be their mindset to get behind Hitler to launch the Holocaust.*

There is something about the university as a recognised institution. It was successful in transforming former Catholics into atheists, any beliefs in Creationism into Darwin's evolution, from being potential medical carers to mass killers. Furthermore, the university seems to have the ability to transform a man into believing he is a god. Not only is this accumulation of knowledge raises the student's status towards supposed divinity, but verifies the Edenic Lie to be fully historic.

Sure enough, there are talking animals recorded in the Bible. The serpent, or snake, was one of them. It was it which made Eve reconsider God's motive in not allowing them to eat of a certain tree in the garden and then promising divinity just by eating of its fruit (Genesis 3:1-7). Then there was the case of a talking donkey ridden by the prophet Balaam, recorded in Numbers chapter 22. The prophet was so engrossed with the king's reward to curse the young nation of Israel, that an angel, invisible to the prophet, stood in front while Balaam urged the donkey on. Then in exasperation, the donkey spoke human words. What astonishes me was that Balaam took all this in his stride, as if it was an everyday occurrence, without any hint of shock or surprise! I wonder how a present-day jockey, competing at Ascot Racecourse, would react if his horse told him in plain English to ease up?

To the secularist, such divine breaches to the natural order have made the whole Bible disbelievable and far from reality. And I guess this includes the story of the Tower of Babel, recorded in Genesis 11:1-9. Here, after a few generations, the descendants of Noah grew into quite a sizable community. Although meant to spread across the Earth by God's command, instead they deliberately disobeyed, preferring to confirm their status as gods by building a city and tower "to reach unto heaven". Their pride and ambition to climb the ladder of divinity, in this case literally, was so intense, that God himself had to intervene. Indeed, the snake spoke to them at Babel, and keeps on speaking, saying the same sort of things to us, right up to this day.

And from this divided community arose one man, Abraham. Married for many years to his beautiful wife Sarah, but remaining childless, this man knew his own worth before God. He was so different from his contemporaries. Instead of thinking he could make himself divine through hard work and in trusting natural selection to raise his descendants to godhood, he thought of himself as just dust and ashes, as recorded in Genesis 18:27-28.

Abraham had a very healthy perception of himself. Because to think of himself no more than dust and ashes was an acknowledgement for the need of a Saviour. And that is why we are here. To know God, our Creator, and a Saviour to save us from our godhood-obsessed sinful natures. And that is how I want to think myself as - dust and ashes by nature, yet regenerated and transformed into a son of God, to be "a little Christ" (the correct meaning of the word Christian), and to spend all eternity in God's presence. And hand-in-hand with this is to acknowledge that every person born is the very image of God, regardless of skin colour, nationality, religion, occupation or wealth.

Creationism recognises that every person is made in the image of God. Evolution discriminates against the weak and favouring the strong and the fit in the struggle for life, allowing the weak and the unfit to perish through extinction. And that can apply to race and nationalism, too.

Charles Darwin himself acknowledged this. He actually believed that the English were the superior race, more advanced in the evolutionary scale than all other nations. His cousin, Englishman Francis Galton, redirected Darwin's evolutionary theory from general biology to social evolution, something still sticking to us up to the present.

Tower of Babel.

And so this passing week, where social evolution seems to be the underlying motive involving loyalty against treachery in the political world here in the UK. It was all about Brexit, and after months of failed negotiations with Brussels, at last, our Prime Minister, Theresa May, has come up with a deal which if passed by both Brussels and Parliament, will keep the United Kingdom united and at the same time, keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic open, without a physical barrier, which was removed after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on 10th April 1998. The deal includes the restriction on people movement - the main sticking point of the 2016 Referendum - as well as better fishing rights and freedom from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. But the issue also involves remaining in the single market for tariff-free and borderless trading.

For example, much of our necessary medicines are manufactured in the EU and shipped here in the UK. If May's deal is passed, any threat to our medicine supply will most likely be lifted, and our supplies should continue as they always have. But if the deal falls through, and that can still happen, then it's either a No-deal Brexit, which could see our medicine supply, for example, restricted or even cut off - or no Brexit at all, therefore remaining in the EU (wishful thinking!). This is really important to us, as both my wife and I are dependent on a regular supply, in my case, for life.

Theresa May admits that her deal is far from perfect, but it is the best on offer. She spent months working hard at it, to bring it to an agreement with Brussels. When a draft agreement was made, immediately a number of Tory MP's started to write letters to the Party Chairman for the Prime Minister to be given the vote of no confidence, in other words, to oust her out from power.

One of the leading "hard-Brexiteers" who was to write such a letter was Jacob Rees-Mogg, sometimes known as the Englishman's darling. Despite May's hard efforts over the months to knock out a deal, in him, we see treachery in its worst form - campaigning to have the Prime Minister kicked out of power while she is in a vulnerable position. 

For the benefit of those who are regular readers of my blogs, I have made known my disagreements with the Conservative Party. For example, I have always been against any form of privatisation of the NHS, I was never keen on big business making big profits at the expense of its workers and its customers, I never had any time for rich, idle aristocrats or posh people, I have always been on the side of the low-income earners and their rights to benefits. I have favoured re-nationalisation of the railways, and I was even sympathetic for socialist Jeremy Corbyn in power as Prime Minister. 

But this case is different. I actually admire Theresa May for her sheer determination to get a deal through, and I admire her for her resolute stance in not giving to these hard-line Brexiteers who are in a sense, baying for her blood. And I admire her husband, Philip May. By reading on how supportive he is towards his beloved during her most difficult moments is heart-moving. And I hope, as a daughter of a vicar and both regular church-goers, they feel free to call on God's grace to empower her in her endeavour. She is going to need it!

But I cannot say the same about the treacherous Jacob Rees-Mogg and his ilk. Immediately after the deal was announced, he immediately campaigned for her to be voted out of office. He was the very first to write a letter of no-confidence. For a leader who has tried her hardest, to be kicked while she is already down is disgraceful. Yet Rees-Mogg is a practising Catholic. He claims to be a devout Christian. Like May, he too goes to church each week. Yet he does this to her. It is because of his religious and educational background that I have singled him out among hard Brexiteers.

Therefore, what has Rees-Mogg's bad behaviour to do with Darwin's evolutionary theory and its consequences? Here I take the guidance of Jesus himself:

Ye shall know them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:16 AV.

Simply this: Despite his Catholic upbringing, I also believe him to be a devout evolutionist despite that he never said this in public. By accepting Darwinism, he also accepts the biologist's idea of racial superiority, that is to say, he believes that the English are a superior nation to all other nations. Charles Darwin himself believed this. His cousin Francis Galton also believed this. therefore it's no surprise that Rees-Mogg also shares their beliefs, as it can be so clearly seen whilst in the public eye.

Having been to Eton, one of Britain's most prestigious schools, and then studied at Oxford, Rees-Mogg never leaves his house without a tie. He even takes his sons out on holiday, each dressed in suit and tie, regardless of the warm Summer weather. Therefore he constantly poses as the ideal English gentleman. And of course, very patriotic, seeking sovereignty, independence, and a hopeful future glory for England. Before now I would have passed all this off as a mere eccentric. But after his campaign to have the PM thrown out whilst in her lowest ebb - that is not eccentricity. Rather it's downright wickedness!

Jacob Rees-Mogg on holiday in New York, 2018.

And here is what I find rather distressing: There are Christians, some even in my own church at Ascot, who supports Jacob Rees-Mogg, and uphold him as a shining beacon of Brexit and the return of traditional Englishness. Furthermore, he is given full credit for his educational and social backgrounds, his patriotism, his stiff upper lip, and year-round smart dress. Indeed, with such support given by those who call themselves Christian but are really graduates, it makes me wonder how I could possibly remain one myself, identifying as being of the same faith. Then again, before now, it's quite likely that they didn't know any better.

Really, I hope their eyes are suddenly opened by the MP's act of treachery and betrayal. To add to this, I have a hope that God's mercy does pierce any veil the Church has over Rees-Mogg's eyes, and to see what his has done, and repent, afterwards letting his colleagues know of his change of mind and give that much-needed support for Theresa May and her struggle to complete a momentous task. 


*Jerry Bergman, Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview, Joshua Press, 2014.  

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Outsmarted by a Vending Machine?

Alex my wife felt rather hungry, not having eaten for five or six hours. She asked me whether there is a vending machine in the vicinity. I answered that there is one at that particular corner, but when I arrived at the spot on the far side of the 'L' shaped room, the old machine had gone. Searching elsewhere, I found what appears to be a new installation at a nearby corridor, just out of my wife's view.

Just the sight of this high-tech snack dispenser has made my skin crawl a little. A reflection of our increasingly sophisticated society? Maybe so, maybe not, however, what I did notice for the first time ever, was that there is a debit card terminal built into the machine, along with coin slots and an array of push-buttons, or a typewriter-style keyboard, whatever it's referred as. Thinking that inserting my bank card into the slot and keying in the code number of the item chosen from the wide display behind the glass window, I would first type in the code, then the machine debits my card at the appropriate price. And so I thought.

Nothing happened, except that there was an electronic display of the price at a slot directly under the keypad. I managed to lift the lid located below the display window, but none of those coils, on which each item is suspended, made any effort to turn. Was my card debited? I don't know, but I decided to insert some coins instead - after removing the card from the terminal - and keyed in the code. 

Again some obscure message was displayed. I think it was reading, Continue Shopping. I was confused. All I wanted was one item, which was for Alex. I ended up gazing rather forlornly at the whole machine until another message appeared on the slot: Abandon Shopping? When I pressed the right button, some coins fell into the reject tray, which brought some relief, but nevertheless, I felt defeated by modern technology, but fortunately for me, with no-one near me to watch the whole episode, I was spared the embarrassment. I then apologised to Alex and with her kind response, answered, Don't worry about it.

Vending machines, of course, are nothing new to me. But my familiarity with them had always consisted of inserting the right coin(s) and out dropped the item. And that was it. And that applied to both food and drinks. And going back to the late sixties, how could I ever forget this particular vending outlet at college, where I had to attend on a weekly day-release scheme set by the Government at the time? It was a hot drinks dispenser, which I believe sold only tea. First thing in the morning, after nearly an hour's train travel into London, coupled with being squeezed into a packed Underground train, I made straight for that machine after entering the building.

On one occasion the plastic cup fell onto its side as it was automatically dropped from its holder. I felt a complete pillock as I watched the tea pouring over its side and into the drip-drain underneath it. On another occasion, I carefully drew the hot tea out of the dispenser, only to see a bluebottle floating dead on the surface. I had to chuck the whole thing out. But those were the days when vending machines were straightforward to use, even if a bug in the tea came, on one occasion, with the price.

Then again, there were other times when technology seems to run ahead of my capabilities. Topping up my mobile is one of them, at least occasionally. It is very fortunate that my regular cashpoint, at our local Sainsbury's superstore, has enough patience for me to hesitantly type in the eleven-digit number correctly, then to repeat the sequence for verification. No problem. Elsewhere I have been given a warning that my time is about to run out, then cuts short my transaction attempt when, out of panic, I tend to dither further.

I suppose these electronic dispensers and cashpoints are designed with the assumption that every individual who makes use of these machines must be rapid keyboard typists or graduates who know by heart how to decode the extreme complexity involved in buying a sandwich, a Mars bar or a packet of crisps. It is as if the food is some kind of reward one gets for solving a challenging problem, very like that of a dolphin receiving its food after performing an astounding act before an audience of onlookers, or that of a mouse finding its food after navigating a complex maze of transparent plastic tunnels. Indeed, so it looks to me, modern society is centred around the graduate.

Is life fair? Really, it looks to me that life is very unfair! For example, let's go back to that vending machine incident. Where about did this happen? Indeed, it was at the waiting room of Royal Berkshire Hospital A&E. But we were not waiting to be seen by the medic. Rather, we were waiting for a taxi to take us back home after my wife had suffered another episode of severe back pain and the resulting overdose of Oramorph. We called the ambulance, not so much for a backache as with the overdose, which requires her to be seen straight away. For her backache, we have medicine in place to meet the situation without the need for A&E. But an overdose is something quite different.

All this is quite contrary from my original perception of retirement. After working manually for nearly half a century after leaving school in 1968, I had hopes for full-time leisure - swimming, gym, sauna, day trips, holidays abroad, as well as, of course, church. Indeed, since my retirement commenced in 2015, all these were fulfilled, including two Eurostar trips to Paris. But at present, with my beloved confined to a wheelchair whenever she is outdoors, living on a knife-edge is certainly nerve-wracking. Like the time when we were extremely unfortunate enough for the elevator to break down in London at that moment when my wife just happens to be in it. The sudden jolt had jarred her back, the severe pain meant A&E instead of boarding the train home. After, the staff at nearby St. Thomas Hospital decided to keep her in overnight, resulting in further payment for an extra, unscheduled night spent alone at a hotel. 

And I wonder where God is in all this. How is it that of all married couples around us, we are one of a small minority to whom a wheelchair is needed? The worst thing about all this is Alex is considerably younger than I am. To see her like this is heartbreaking.

But I would never ever leave her! My love for her is strong, robust, and she loves me equally. I'm not exaggerating when she says that I am the best man she could have for a husband. And I always think of her whilst out on my own, whether it's on a quick trip to the shops, at the gym, sauna, or on a train trip to Reading or to London to visit a longstanding friend. And here is another setback. Her disability has put limits to her travel to the extent that she is restricted in using the London Underground, and I fear to take her back on Eurostar lest an episode overseas means treatment at a foreign hospital followed by a massive bill.

Damn! Damn! Damn! Why did we vote to leave the EU? Even if we as a couple voted to remain in the EU, we still lost the Referendum. Surely, that will put a real stickler on international travel, wouldn't it, especially to European countries, unless our Government can knock together a deal in time with the EU which would give us ease of access. 

But whether remaining in the EU or leaving, my wife's disability will always restrict travel, maybe for the rest of our lives. Nevertheless, I will, as I always have, acknowledge God in all things, especially the good. As in last week's blog which was about hiking the Grand Canyon, I can say with conviction that I wouldn't have been able to make such a trip without God's sovereign help. The same applies to all travel, whether it was to France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, Israel, Singapore, Australia, Canada and the USA. All these I have recognised as being a rich blessing from God. And now, I see our marriage as a wonderful blessing from God, and I am and will be, always thankful to him.

Our 16th Wedding Anniversary, Bournemouth 2015.

It is too easy, too tempting to moan about my fate under such a burden of my wife's disability. The anxiety on when she would have another attack is always at the forefront of my mind. Yet by going through such an experience, there is something worth learning. And that is having a responsibility - a very special sense of responsibility. And I believe that this responsibility itself comes from God. That is why I so fervently believe in daily Bible reading, usually in the morning before getting up, this being the powerhouse upon which our marriage not only survives despite illness but thrives.

True enough, to read the Bible on a daily basis is a learnt habit. It did not come naturally at first after conversion. One of the reasons being, that I might have found something in Holy Scripture which contradicts my cherished beliefs. For example, believing in Once Saved Always Saved and then reading Hebrews 6:4-6. Rather than putting the Bible down and walking away in discouragement, instead I kept it open in my hands with the determination that somehow I would solve the apparent contradiction. And eventually, this has paid off. A thorough reading of the Bible over time has led me to discover that Hebrews 6:4-6 isn't about a Christian falling into apostasy. As this is a letter written for Jews at the time of the Temple offerings still being made, therefore the author is warning them not to reject the offer of salvation from the risen Lord Jesus in favour of maintaining Temple sacrifices.

I suppose the confusion comes from the phrase made partakers of the Holy Ghost found in verse 4. Does this indicate a fully committed, regenerated Christian falling into apostasy? Or, as I believe through means of studying the rest of the Bible, that it indicates a curious unbeliever who spends some time fellowshipping with true believers and enjoying all its benefits, but at the end of the day, decides that this Jesus of Nazareth is just an insignificant imposter, and being a Jew, returns to the Temple? 

After all, the letter is addressed to the Hebrews (indicating all Jews rather than just Jewish believers). The theme of the letter is about how the Temple and all the ordinances connected with it was to lead to Christ, his death, burial and resurrection, and having fulfilled the Law of Moses, therefore making the Temple obsolete. If someone rejects Jesus as Saviour, then there are no more sacrifices that can be made to atone for him short of the need for Jesus Christ to be crucified all over again.

I have a book by Philip Bell, an ardent Creationist, which is titled Evolution and the Christian Faith. In it, he gives the sad testimony of Charles Templeton, a one-time fervent American evangelist who was known to win many to Christ among massive revival audiences. Eventually, he himself had departed from the faith. In 1996 he wrote Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith, just five years before his death in 2001.

As one who believes in Once Saved Always Saved, this presents a dilemma. Any Arminian Christian would hold Templeton as a classic example that salvation can be lost by the believer. But reading other portions of the Bible, during the Judgement, we read of Jesus saying, I never knew you, depart from me ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:23). If the Holy Spirit has actually used Charles Templeton to bring others to Christ for salvation, then how can I be sure that Jesus would actually say, I never knew you when actually, he did? Didn't Jesus himself say that the Holy Spirit will abide with and in you forever? (John 14:16-17).

I guess that such what looks to be a contradiction can boil down to our natural inability to accept that God can, and does, admit someone such as Templeton into Heaven. Many who share my Eternal Security truth would say that Templeton was never saved in the first place. I think that is nonsense! Rather, for such a former evangelist to enter Heaven would be a shock to his system and will demonstrate the very glory of God in showing mercy to such a one swallowed by intellectual deception.

But what I find interesting is what was the cause of Templeton's apostasy? It was his belief in Theistic Evolution! If ever there was such a force that turn Christian people into atheists and shut the minds of everyone else from the truth of the Gospel, it is Darwinism, whether theistic or not. And lately, I have read about a terrible shocker. So shocking this was and such a tearjerker, that it has an ongoing effect on my emotions.

It's about atheist Richard Dawkins' intention to write a children's book with the purpose of putting young children from any belief in God and direct their innocent young minds on Evolution, ensuring that any religious account of Supernatural Creationism is to be confined to myth and fairy tales.

God help me! Heaven help them! The very thought of a toddler being fed such intellectual poison is a heart-rending proposition. Yet we tend to forget that something very similar has been happening in Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and animistic countries for centuries. Newborn babies grow up in an environment where they never hear the Gospel of Christ, the only way to Heaven. Personally, I find all this heart-rending yet I feel totally powerless to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, popular presenters such as David Attenborough, Brian Cox, and Andrew Marr, all committed Evolutionists, continue to push their beliefs through television, especially the BBC. And the average man in the street absorbs all that is presented, perhaps without realising that all this stuff in the name of Science has stripped the Bible of any historicity, authority and credibility. However, such a denial of Holy Scripture is settled in his subconscious, a barrier between himself and the Gospel.

Evolutionist Prof. Brian Cox visiting the Grand Canyon.

I may not get to grips with the up-to-date vending machine. I may find a dead housefly floating in my tea or coffee. I could dither in panic while trying to key in my mobile phone number at a cashpoint. But neither of these indicates a deprivation of wisdom. Because the firm foundation of wisdom is to know God through faith in Jesus Christ and to be thoroughly stuck into the Word of God, the Holy Bible. There is nothing to lose by making a daily reading of the Bible as natural as eating and sleeping.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

A Lesson From a Cheap Camera.

One fascinating thing about having friends on social websites such as Facebook is that many would share their photo albums on past travel experiences, and observers like myself can enjoy a moment of nostalgia, having fond memories of my own experiences at the same venue.

As such, a new website friend, Dave Betts, who has recently arrived as a newcomer at our church in Ascot and has raised my hopes for a "proper" face-to-face friendship, has on his photo page an album featuring his visit to the Grand Canyon with two other mates of his, a trip made within the last three years or so. One picture shows him sitting precariously on a narrow ledge above what looks like a sheer drop into the abyss below. I have to admit, such posing at such a dynamic background makes for fascinating photography - one which would qualify for any magazine publication or display at an art gallery.  

All three were definitely having a whale of a time! And as Dave himself commented, this particular trip fulfilled his life-long dream of wanting to see the Grand Canyon for himself. And so the trio hired a car, most likely using the FlyDrive scheme, where car hire is purchased together with the air ticket, thought up by the travel industry for the benefit of British and European tourists who desire an independent trip around the States.

Grand Canyon from near Kolb Studio, 1995.

Which, to me anyway, is very different from the escorted tours available. Indeed, there are many who prefer the comfort which comes with such holidays, free from any personal responsibilities. But the trouble with such ranger-led trips is that the keeping of tight schedules can cramp such experiences, such, for example, had emanated from one couple arriving at the South Rim on such a tour:

You have twenty minutes, the escort announced to all as the tourists alighted from the coach. As one couple was spending their precious moments enamoured by the displays at the Visitor's Center, suddenly one of them, the wife, I think, shouted, 
Heavens! We have only five minutes left! 

Quickly they dashed to the rim in time to take a quick look at the magnificent work of nature before compelled to return to the waiting coach and continue on with the journey. Unbelievable? Maybe so, but I actually read the account in either National Geographic or The Rough Guide to the Grand Canyon some years ago, so it must be true. It's the sort of thing that makes me feel aghast about such tours - as if time and money spent on them were more important to the company responsible than the sense of fulfilment felt by the tourist, to which such companies are obliged to meet.

However, unlike Dave Betts and his mates, I couldn't take advantage of the FlyDrive scheme which was so popular in my day, as I don't hold a driving licence. But back in 1978, once again I bought an air ticket along with the go-as-you-please Greyhound Bus Ameripass ticket, a document which allowed unlimited travel across the USA on the bus for a fixed period, which for me was four weeks. This time, I was determined to visit the Grand Canyon National Park, after having missed it on my first ever transatlantic trip a year earlier in 1977. It was also on this initial trip where on the flight from London to Toronto that something went horribly wrong.

At Indian Gardens, Tonto Plateau, 1995.

It was the moment, shortly after take-off, that I wanted to capture a fascinating scene of the Scottish landscape under a clear sky from my window seat. And that's when the camera shutter suffered permanent failure. It was my Dad's camera given to me, a type 120 which was housed in a metal casing complete with a leather jacket, and used a paper-backed spooled film which captures negative images 2.25" square. He had it for years, right from my boyhood days. What? On a transatlantic flight with no camera? Therefore, once landed in Toronto and having found a suitable hotel, the first shop I called was at a photography outlet. There I bought a cheap 110 pocket Instamatic which was housed entirely in plastic and captures images at just 13mm by 17mm in size. The resulting pics taken were generally okay, although with soft detail outlines which gives the impression of being very slightly out of focus. 

The following year, in 1978, I took the same pocket Instamatic for the second transatlantic flight specifically to visit the Grand Canyon. After landing in New York and settling down at a seedy-looking hotel in the heart of Manhatten, again with a Greyhound Bus Ameripass, I began my journey towards Flagstaff in Arizona, stopping at various cities along the way.  At my arrival at four in the morning local time at this quiet settlement, I discovered that I have just entered the Pacific Time Zone from Mountain Time Zone, therefore I felt discouraged at the extra hour I had to wait alone during the small hours at the otherwise deserted bus terminal for the special Greyhound Bus to Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.

During that wait, I was meant to spend just a day at the Canyon, so I deposited my luggage at a left-locker located in the waiting room. By 7.30 am I boarded the bus, expecting to return by nightfall before continuing the journey overnight to Los Angeles.

Looking North into Bright Angel Canyon, 1995

Upon arrival, I was struck by the sheer size, beauty and dynamism of the Canyon! As I looked down upon the buttes consisting of sedimentary strata, mainly of sandstone and limestone, I knew straight away that these rocks were laid by water before the river cut into the plateau to form this huge gorge. A testimony to Noah's Flood? As I walked along the rim, I noticed hikers going down and coming up a trail, which head was close to Kolb Studios set at the rim's edge. Therefore through inquiry, I discovered that I could reserve a bed for myself at the desk at Bright Angel Lodge for Phantom Ranch way down below. Bright Angel Lodge is also close by to the trailhead, which shares the same name as the Lodge itself.

Wow! A cancellation at one of the Phantom Ranch dormitories allowed me to buy a reservation ticket. Suddenly, the whole plan of the day changed. I was not to return to Flagstaff that evening. Instead, I'll be spending that night at the Ranch, which is located a little way north of the Colorado River, and also where Bright Angel Creek joins the main river after flowing from a spring close to the North Rim. Because I wanted to take in the grandeur of the Canyon from the South Rim, as well as explore the village and Visitor's Center, I stayed at the Rim longer than I should have done.

And so by late afternoon, after hiring a rucksack and packing it with suitable eats as well as a gallon of drinking water bought at a nearby superstore, I started to make my way down Bright Angel Trail, just as the blue sky turned into a grey overcast. It is interesting, coming to think of it, as I hiked rapidly down the switchbacks, also known as Jacob's Ladder, I noticed the vast majority of walkers were heading the other way, out of the Canyon. In fact, I would not be exaggerating (or understating) that I was the only one going down. Everyone else was coming up. One hiker even stopped me to ask whether I had a Camper's Pass. I explained that I had a reservation for Phantom Ranch. He looked satisfied and allowed me to proceed.

By the time I arrived at Tonto Plateau - the level shelf halfway into the Canyon where Indian Gardens Campground was also located - I was entirely alone. This is because, as I learned later, that the vast majority of visitors purposely don't make it to the bottom. A large number of walkers make it to the 1.5-mile rest station and then turn back. Far fewer proceed to the 3-mile station, which is at the foot of the South Rim cliff. The majority who do then turn back up. This leaves a small percentage of hikers who continue on. Hence my isolation at Indian Gardens, just as a thunder rolled overhead.

Nearby was a notice warning of flash floods that can endanger hikers. Wow! Exactly what I wanted to read! Now for the first time, I felt a tinge of fear. But I walked on, with the magnificent splendour of Buddha Temple butte towering directly in front of me, and Cheops Pyramid butte to the left of it, backed by the wall of the North Rim. The trail divided at this point. One branched off to Plateau Point, on the edge of the Inner Gorge, from where a dramatic view of the River can be seen directly from above, as it cuts through gneiss and granite bedrock upon which the sedimentary strata sit. I stayed on the main trail, which plunges into the Inner Gorge by means of switchbacks known as the Devil's Corkscrew.

As the massive walls of the Inner Gorge towered over me, the thunder continued to roll, but there was hardly any rain. If ever there was a time I felt alone and cut off from the world this was it. By the time I got to the bottom, there was a constant hum of bugs, millions of them, such as crickets, filling the air with such a rich sound. Eventually, I came across a hut with a couple of humans milling about. What a massive relief it was to see another human!

Deep in the Devil's Corkscrew, 1995.

I called out, and seeing me approaching (as their hut was by the trail) they invited me in. They offered me some refreshment and begged me to stay the night with them. They were French hikers, and although communication was difficult, we certainly were able to make our thoughts known. However, I declined their invitation. Not only did I suspect what they were doing was possibly illegal to National Park rules, but I also felt determined to finish the hike properly. Therefore I bade them farewell.

The trail rounded a bend and I found myself right next to the River as it was getting dark. The trail continued alongside, with the towering view of Zoroaster Temple Butte, on the North side of the river, yet seen from here as directly in front.

I crossed the River at Silver Bridge, one of only two which crosses the River and I eventually made my way into Phantom Ranch reception to claim my bed at one of the single-gender dormitory huts. The other occupants consisted of a young German, whose girlfriend slept in another hut reserved for females. And there were two "locals" - hikers from Los Angeles, and two vacant beds. Considering the intense demand for these beds, with many potential hikers turned away at the booking desk at Bright Angel Lodge, it was no surprise that later that night, after we were all in bed and still awaiting the new arrivals, a discussion arose to why these beds remained unoccupied.

Therefore here is an extract from the diary I kept of the entire trip:

"They most likely turned chicken and turned back to the village", one of the Californians sneered.
I lay in bed, grateful for the darkness hiding my embarrassment. Because I too am a coward. How could I forget the fear I felt whilst alone further back (at the Devil's Corkscrew?)

As we all (at the Ranch) set off the next morning, watching the clear waters of Bright Angel Creek flow non-stop to the Colorado River, the camera shutter was constantly clicking. One picture after another. The dawn scene deep in the Canyon was indeed a fascinated sight. How the outlines of the surrounding buttes made a contrast to the clear sky above, along with the sound of the rushing River.

Zoroaster Butte dominates River, 1995.

I finally arrived at the village after nine hours of hiking to the Rim from the Ranch, with the last three hours so torturous as the rucksack weighed on my back whilst ascending the Jacob's Ladder switchbacks.

It was after I arrived back home and had the film developed when I felt intense disappointment! All the snapshots of the Inner Gorge failed to come out properly - just dark, black silhouettes breaking a velvety sky along with a poor reflection from the River.

It was a horrible disappointment. Like if a mission I set off to had failed in its accomplishment. It was a very hard lesson to learn. That is, never set off on such trips with a cheap camera. I was just asking for trouble.

All this played on my mind for the next seventeen years. During that time I was made redundant from the engineering job I had, and I started my window cleaning business, which I kept going successfully for the next 35 years. But the thought of re-visiting the Grand Canyon to complete my "original mission" was always on the front of my mind. 

1995 arrived, and with it, another backpacking trip to the USA, this time taking with me a better camera, the type 135, then the standard cartridge film throughout the nineties. Again, the same trail was used, but instead of the storm, the sky remained clear into the night, giving the most fantastic astronomical display I have ever seen. And true to form, snapshots of the Inner Gorge and River came out far better than the originals.

As the Psalm goes:

Oh Lord,
How manifold are thy works!
In wisdom hast thou made them all:
The Earth is full of thy riches.
Psalm 104:24.