Remembrance Day – Thank you for your service

My Father served in WWII in the Reconnaissance Corps, as a despatch rider, serving in Africa and Italy. He landed at Salerno, and if you know anything about military history, you’ll know that was an horrific conflict – all through Italy. Terrible brutality and suffering. He survived that, but not unscathed. He had bronchial problems all through his life and suffered many years of nightmares.

He never attended any Remembrance Day parades or visited any of the places where he served – many did that, but he didn’t, the memories were just too painful. He did eventually attend the Remembrance Day parade, and I’ll explain how that came about later. He especially, and my mother, as I recall, always watched the Remembrance Day Sunday service on TV. He always had the utmost respect for the Armed Forces.

Dispatch Riders (Dad)

He picked up many habits from that time, I’m sure. One habit he never lost, and it was so ingrained in him, was to tip his shoes or slippers back before putting them on to check for scorpions. He did it every single time. A habit learned in the desert. I don’t recall him ever putting on a pair of shoes or slippers or any footwear without tipping them back first.

The big change came for him when his rebellious son became a Christian. Quite extraordinary. He was clearly not a religious man, even though my parents sent me to Sunday School, as many did back then. As he told my mother ‘he didn’t want his son ramming religion down his throat.’ To which my mum said, ‘You leave him be Maurice, it’s doing him some good.’

Well, his rebellious son did ram it down his throat – and down my mother’s throat as well. I didn’t see it quite like that of course – and I’m glad I didn’t otherwise I might not have said anything at all. Oh to have that zeal!

Remarkably, my parents came to a Christmas Day morning service at Railway Terrace (in Rugby), where I was a member. (Thinking about it, they must have come to my baptism, but my memory isn’t clear of the order. I digress. Perhaps I could check the date?) At this service Clive Goulden was preaching. And my word, he did not pull any punches. His text was ‘And you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21) And I clearly remember that! It was a full on, both barrels, no holds barred, Gospel message. You have to understand, my Dad was a plain speaking man. He would tell it straight. A spade was a spade. He respected plain speech.

We went home after the service, and before we ate, I was asked to give thanks. I’m not sure if it was after this service, but they both said ‘what terrible sinners they were.’ My parents were good folks. And they thought so too. So this confession of being sinners, especially from my Dad, was a really big deal!

As things went on my Dad softened towards the things of God. Then one time they were away in Bournemouth on holiday. While they were away, on the Sunday they went to the church where Harry Kilbride was the Pastor / Minister. After the service they both went to see him. Back then after the service the minister would go into the vestry and see anyone that had spiritual concerns or was affected by the ministry. This was Peter Jeffery’s practice as well. I’m not sure how widespread this was but I think a) There seemed to be a need for it. Sometimes there was a queue to see the minister out of concern for their souls. This is unbelievable! A queue. To see the minister. Do we see this now? Not to my knowledge.  And b) this was what Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones did at Westminster Chapel. Whether it was a case of simply copying MLJ, I don’t know. All I know is people wanted to talk and ministers made themselves available in that way at the time.

At that time then, they went in to see Harry. After chatting for a while about where they were spiritually, and I think each was waiting for the other to become a Christian, but he told them he thought they were already converted. Somewhere along the line both had trusted The Lord Jesus for their Salvation. The evidence of this inward change was beginning to manifest itself. For the first time in a very long time my Dad and I began to have a real relationship.

Back to where we started. My parents started to regularly attend the services, eventually becoming members, and entering fully into the life of the church. It was during this time my Dad struck up a friendship with, I think at the time, a serving soldier. His name was Ian. Ian had been a Christian for many years, coming to faith, I think, through the ministry of SASRA (The Soldiers & Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association). Because of my Dads time in the Army they got on really well with much in common. It was Ian that encouraged my Dad to get his medals mounted – up to that time they simply sat in a box, almost hidden, at the bottom of his wardrobe. (Dad said they gave them out like Smarties – sweets) The other thing Ian did was to encourage him to take part in the Remembrance Day parade. Up till then, as I said, he never went on a single one. I had never been on one either. It was a great moment to watch my Dad march past (with other Veterans) wearing his Reconnaissance Corp Beret, Blazer with Badge, and his recently mounted medals. It was a great sight. I was proud of my Dad.

And that’s why, or partly why, I try to attend some sort of Remembrance Service each year. I believe we should remember and be thankful for our Armed Forces and their sacrifice. But I also attend and remember for my Dad. Dad is in Glory now. But Dad, thanks for your service.

On Supporting Christian Bookshops

On Supporting Christian Bookshops

I’ve come to believe that Christians ought to support their ‘local’ Christian Bookshop. At least more than they do already. I put local there in ‘quotation marks’ because ‘local’ doesn’t necessarily mean where you live anymore (see below).

Bookshops are Closing

Speaking to a rep recently I learnt first-hand that Christian Bookshops are closing all over the place. At least two not so far away have closed. The rep I spoke to used to supply them, but not anymore. When I’ve been serving in the shop, customers here on holiday are thankful we are open. Why? Because ‘the one near us has closed’ they say. It’s not uncommon to hear that. Local Christian bookshops are closing!

As a Christian book buyer, I have used Amazon, like many of you, quite extensively. I’ve bought a lot of books from them. Two things have changed my thinking on this.

The Amazon Factor

The first was when they (Amazon) banned Ryan T Andersons book (When Harry became Sally) from their website. In fact, it looks like just about everyone of the main booksellers (e.g. Smiths & Waterstones) in the UK have followed their lead. To my knowledge, you still can’t buy it anywhere over here. However, I ‘read’ it on Audio, but on principle I’d buy a copy if I could get hold of one – from a Christian bookstore. I admit, some books you just can’t find anywhere else but on Amazon so I’m not advocating a ban. They have huge buying power and independent bookstores find it difficult to compete. Actually, it’s virtually impossible to compete on price – though on rare occasions it can happen. Things have changed, or become clearer. Despite the convenience, and they are convenient, Amazon are not our (Christians) friends. It’s that simple.

The Community Factor

The second reason was an article I read some months ago about local bookshops. This was in the US, but the principle was the same. The principle being that as a local business they supported the local community. The article demonstrated how they slotted into the life of wherever it is they are situated. Like everything in the US, as my Dad used to say, is BIG. So I think a small bookshop over here cannot compare to small over there. Context is everything I guess. The principle holds though. Small over here does more often than not mean small.

Providential Bookshops

The Bookshop in Rugby

In addition to that, was my own experience that hadn’t quite registered until very recently. When I first became a Christian through the witness of a friend one of the things I realised was that we needed to get Bibles and find a church. As strange as it may seem, we thought we were the only Christians in the town (we can discuss that another time). Here’s the thing, somehow or other, I knew there was a Christian bookshop in the town. So with my raggy old jeans and unkempt beard I made my way to the Christian bookshop in Castle Street, Rugby. (As far as I know it’s still open.) I went in, held my hands up in the air and proclaimed, ‘I’m Saved!’ Wally then proceeded to tell me of a church where I would get good teaching. And he sold me a Bible. That’s why (and how) I went to Railway Terrace (Evangelical Free Church) where Peter Jeffery was the Pastor. Going there was absolutely foundational to my Christian life. I can’t stress that enough! Isn’t the providence of God amazing!

Then Sue, my first wife, through the witness of a friend, in great distress went into her local Christian bookshop in Leamington (now closed). There she met David Arnold, a lifelong friendship emerged through this – especially with their daughter Ruth. David was an elder in the church in Rugby. Funny that isn’t it. Sue started attending the church in Rugby with David & Fi and their family. We then met at the church and were married, and the rest as they say is history. Isn’t the providence of God a wonderful thing!

The Conclusion of the Matter

The point being, as I said to someone recently, is that bookshops are ‘more than the sum of their parts.’ Here in Aberystwyth, we get people come in that just want to talk. It isn’t always convenient, true, but they come in. If Christian bookshops aren’t there no one can come into them. We are just a tiny tiny part in the scheme of things. But in the providence of God, we are a part. Like most Christian bookshops, we aren’t just a shop – it’s a ministry.

Here’s my conclusion then, and something for us all to consider: If you, we, don’t buy our Christian books from local Christian bookshops they will close. It’s that simple.

Thoughts on the Church in Afghanistan

Thoughts on the Church in Afghanistan

You may not necessarily agree with this, and if you have some knowledge of the church situation there, I’d appreciate your input.

I realise it’s very easy for me to make the following comments from my centrally heated home where I have plenty to eat and drink and live in a very peaceful part of the world. I also don’t have to wonder if the door will suddenly burst open and my children and wife will be taken away, or wonder if I’ll be taken outside and beheaded because I’m a Christian and have a Bible app on my phone. I do not fear for my life. I’m fully aware of all that. And I’m thankful for that too. I shouldn’t despise the providence that God has been pleased to bless me with.

Having said that, here’s my thinking on the situation of the church in Afghanistan. Few would deny the withdrawal has been handled with anything other than total incompetence. Even wickedness. But this too has been brought about by the Sovereign Lord. It isn’t a mistake. As a Christian I’m sure your thoughts turned immediately to the church in that truly awful situation. I do not in any way wish to, or mean to undermine, or trivialise the situation of our brothers and sisters there. Maybe you read some of the reports of Afghani pastors. Perhaps you read about their determination to stand for the Lord Jesus. One can only say, ‘Of whom the world is not worthy (Heb 11:38).’

This is where I might need some specialised help. The Lord Jesus has his people everywhere so we know there must have been Christians in Afghanistan before the US arrived 20 years ago. Probably very few and known only to a few on a need-to-know basis. But it seems to me that the church in Afghanistan, though still small, is a lot larger than it was. And is vocal and visible. I shared this with a friend (originally from Lebanon) the other day who thought it made sense. I asked him this ‘What makes the church grow more than anything else?’ His answer was ‘Persecution.’ Which is exactly right. Was it Tertullian that said, ‘The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church?’

If that is true, and church history confirms that it is often the case, then the arrival, or return, of the Taliban, far from destroying the church could in fact be the means by which it will grow and be strengthened. Jesus has said, ‘I will build my church (Matt 16:18).’ It’s His church!

What I’m saying is that for the past 20 years the church has not been dormant. They weren’t 20 wasted years. We’re being told they are wasted years because world governments have no interest whatsoever in the church. Their concern is entirely materialistic. It’s purely utilitarian. So if you are in the military, and a Christian, or even if you are not a Christian, your service there was not in vain.

With all the above in mind then, here are some things that I will be praying:

Pray the Lord of the church with keep them and watch over them.

Pray for the Church that they will remain faithful (even unto death (Rev 2:10).) – and if some of them don’t remain faithful, pray for their restoration.

Pray that even under those terrible circumstances the church, and especially the Pastors, will be bold for Christ.

Pray the church will receive good sound teaching that will build them up in their most holy faith: and for the availability of the Bible, in print, and electronic. And for good literature.

Pray for a real and powerful visitation of God by his Holy Spirit. Upon the church and upon the people.

Pray that God will also visit the Taliban and convert many of them. Pray that their zealous opposition to the Lord Jesus will be turned, like the apostle Paul. “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” Acts 9:21 & 22; Galatians 1: 23 & 24.

Pray that God will open the hearts of the Afghan people to the Gospel and for opportunities to hear the message of life.

We should also thank God that he has a people in Afghanistan at all.

It is a truly terrible situation. Of course it is. I do not minimise that for a moment. But these things, it seems to me, are the things of first importance. Obviously, much could be added to the above that are not unimportant (health, safety etc.).

There’s an irony in that the Taliban think they have come to destroy the church. But God may have brought them to help build it.

And let’s not forget, God will not leave those sins of the Taliban, or of wicked evil Western governments that abandoned them, to go unpunished. God will not be mocked, not by Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, the Taliban, or by anyone else.

I don’t have a direct line to the secret plans of the Lord God, but I pray this is so. I could be completely off on this. But why can’t God do it? Let’s pray He will.

Am I talking nonsense? I hope not.

The Gulag, Live not by lies, and Wokeness.

Very difficult to think of a title for this post. But I’m continuing to listen to this abridgement of Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation.’ Narrated by, I believe, his son which lends to it a certain poignancy.

Listening to this is relevant to the book I’m reading by Rod Dreher, ‘Live not by lies.’ The title of Dreher’s book is from the writing of Solzhenitsyn. Reading about Communism in Dreher’s book isn’t quite the same as listening to the writing of someone that lived through its horror. The quote below from Solzhenitsyn puts some realism into our current situation and is really helpful as I read Rod’s book. The section is where Solzhenitsyn is describing what happened to Russians that were taken prisoner. I already knew this but to hear it narrated is quite different. Simply by coming into contact with The West was enough to get you imprisoned on your return home (In chapter 6 of The Gulag ‘That Spring’). Or even shot. It didn’t matter if you had defended Russia or were decorated. It was all stripped away in the name of the ideology. You were an enemy of the State. All that was necessary was that you confess your crimes.

Dreher describes the Totalitarianism we are experiencing as ‘Soft Totalitarianism’ but make no mistake it’s the same ideology. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Captain in the Russian army. During his imprisonment he encountered other soldiers, like himself, decorated soldiers, but it didn’t make any difference. They were now an enemy of the State all the same.

So here’s the quote:

‘The West simply had to understand that Bolshevism is an enemy for all mankind. But The West did not understand at all! (from Ch 6)’

That quote, especially if you listen to it in context, is incredibly powerful. The young, it seems, and other Social Justice Warriors (SJW) want to play or experiment with Communism. They think it’s a good idea. But to repeat the quote from Solzhenitsyn ‘the West did not understand at all.’ Call it Wokeness or SJWism if you like. Whatever we call it let’s listen to Solzhenitsyn and realise ‘that Bolshevism (or soft totalitarianism) is an enemy for all mankind.’ It’s an enemy to us all. Including those trapped by it. The West still doesn’t understand.

What’s interesting for us is that we can see this at work today. For example, a person aligns themselves with the leftist Woke ideology. They like to display their credentials. Or businesses do the same. But they happen to comment, for instance, that because someone ‘identifies’ as a man or woman it doesn’t make it so because the biology says otherwise. They are still a man or a woman however they might ‘identify.’ We know these cases. That is enough. You are condemned. It’s like a Russian soldier coming into contact with The West. The retribution is merciless and swift. You are cancelled. Yes, the Soft Totalitarianism doesn’t put a bullet in your brain, or throw you in the Gulag, but its aim is to destroy you. It’s truly Satanic. It’s from the same source. (You can read about many of these cases in Douglas Murray book ‘The Madness of Crowds.’ Or consider J. K. Rowling (See here for the latest attacks) or Martina Navratilova.)

I’ll continue to listen to ‘The Gulag’ and to read ‘Live not by lies.’ Maybe a ‘review’ or some comments later. We really need to be equipped not only to spot it but to defend against it and where possible rescue those from its grip. Not everybody on ‘The Left’ is our enemy. When it comes to Free Speech we (Christians) can find ourselves standing with surprising allies. They are our friends. But ultimately without Christ they are still lost. They might not be in the grip of Wokeness, but they are still lost. They need the Saviour too.

‘The dearest idol I have known’

It’s a funny thing how just one passing thought can change our perception. I can’t remember where it was (a Travelodge I think), but a few weeks ago I mused on the line of this well-know hymn:

O for a closer walk with God

and came to a different conclusion. Probably nothing new. And you might well wonder how come it took so long to see it.

In our better moments we do long for that closer walk. And we do lament having a ‘closer walk’ in times past but not so much now and so we also say with Cowper:

Where is the blessedness I knew

Unless you are a Christian, and have experienced that closer walk, you won’t have a clue what I’m on about. One of my favourite hymns expresses it as ‘one transient gleam of loveliness divine.’ (Anonymous; from Stockwell Gems)

A Christian can live for a very long time on ‘one transient gleam‘ such is the power of ‘loveliness divine.’

In verse five then of Cowper’s famous hymn we have these words:

The dearest idol I have known’
whate’er that idol be,
help me tear it from Thy throne,
and worship only Thee.

(William Cowper, 1731 – 1800)

Just the other day in our prayer meeting we heard of the various idols that even as Christians we have. I’ve always thought of it in that way. The many idols we have. But not anymore. Of course we do have idols a plenty, and Calvin, I think quite rightly, describes the heart as an ‘Idol factory.’ (See below) But if you think of a factory, someone is usually in charge. I’ve worked in factories (on the shop floor) making stuff so I know the production process.

I’ve no idea if Cowper had this in mind when he wrote that hymn, but I do think he could well have. What is the dearest idol? That is singular. Could it be a car, money in the bank, a career, health, or the many many other things in our lives? No, I don’t think so.

The dearest idol is me. I’m on the throne. And I need to get off it.

So the factory analogy: I’m in charge and I produce stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. My factory is very efficient. And there is lots of overtime available. But my factory has a new owner now. Remarkably, the new owner gives me a lot of flexibility. I get to make a lot of decisions. But it’s not my factory anymore and we make a different product now.

And Cowper is right, we need God’s help to tear it down. Not only can we not do it, we don’t want to do it either. We like being in charge. If you’ve not been a Christian very long I have to tell you the struggle to tear self from the throne is a lifelong struggle. It ebbs and flows. I’m not very good at it. Anyone who has been a Christian for a long time will tell you it is so. Telling you otherwise is a lie.

The overwhelming sense that I have as an ’employee’ of the new owner is of gratitude. Or it should be. And in my better moments it is. What a gracious and wonderful owner he is! Usually employees don’t get to visit where the owner lives and there’s a strict boss employee relationship. But not with this owner. This owner makes you part of his family and eventually you get to live in his house, with him – forever. Maybe I’m talking like a madman, but it wasn’t easy for the factory owner to make it so. His own Son had to die in order for me to be part of the owners family. And even though he knew I would still try and be in charge – he still did it. Why? No idea. But he did. It isn’t a boss employee relationship anymore – it’s family now.

The old owner was a tyrant and let me do whatever I wanted and made me think it was my factory. But it wasn’t. He was in charge all the time really. The old owners only real aim was destruction even if it seemed like all was well. It isn’t well if that’s you. As Paul puts it:

Tit 3:3  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray (AV has Deceived), slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
Tit 3:4  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
Tit 3:5  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:6  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Tit 3:7  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The Lord has diagnosed the problem:

Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

We know this to be true. And yet, ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ (Rom 5:6) Will you not come to Him? (Matt 11:28)


Like many of you, perhaps, you’ve often heard the Calvin quote where he said the heart is an ‘Idol factory.’ Sometime ago I decided to find it. So here’s the quote:

Hence we may infer, that the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.‘ In modern parlance, a factory.

If you’ve ever worked in a factory it’s a brilliant analogy. The mind is in constant production – it never stops. Just a little further down the same page Calvin says this:

‘The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labours under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has conceived inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind, in this way, conceives the idol, and the hand gives it birth.’

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Henry Beveridge), Book 1, Chapter XI, Section 8. p.97, Volume 1, Wm B Eerdmans publishing, 1997.

‘When Harry became Sally’ & ‘Irreversible Damage’ – Recommended reading

I read these a while ago so I apologise for the delay in posting but here are two books that I’d like to recommend. Both are ‘Jaw-dropping’ to read. I didn’t take any notes. The first by Ryan Anderson I ‘read’ as an audio book. The second by Abigail Shrier, I also read without taking notes. I’d like to simply make a few observations about them both in this post.

I’ve now read these two books and Douglas Murrays book (Here’s my post on that) so I’m in a slightly better position now to continue reading Carl Trueman’s book (which I will eventually get round to reading and review).

When Harry became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson

I believe the author is a Christian (RC I think). I didn’t really know what to expect with it being banned by Amazon. But if you were expecting a book full of scriptural references, you’d be wrong. I can’t recall one reference. In fact, I’m not sure I remember any reference at all to the Christian faith.

The book is a devastating critique of the Transgender moment (or movement) and its ideology. The book demonstrates how utterly illogical it is for a man to become a woman (and vice versa).

It’s important to say that it isn’t a nasty book, rather it is written in a respectful manner. I thought it was well written with detailed research. He neither approved or reproved but he does present the facts (which is probably why it is banned). The anatomical details of the changes and the surgery required are quite tragic (as well as quite detailed) and demonstrate the awful lengths to which people will go.

The key to whole movement, I think, is in Chapter 2. I’ll provide the actual quote because I think it’s really important to grasp this. It’s more than Harry becoming Sally. Harry is Sally. And so the body has to be brought in line with the brain and not the other way round. The body must conform to what is the (claimed) Ontological reality. So any criticisms of Transgender people (or the movement) is a direct assault on their being. This is why any criticism is taken as a direct assault on the person – from their perspective that’s what it is. This is in complete opposition to the real reality – if I can put it that way. That is, in reality this is opposition to God and his created order. It’s rebellion at the deepest level. And it isn’t cheap rebellion either. I’m not talking cost in pounds or dollars but deep, very deep, personal pain – mentally and physically. Utterly tragic. And so for many that are caught up in this it isn’t a conscious rebellion because young people especially are being manipulated to satisfy the ideology of the Activists. They are being used. That’s the bottom line. Here’s the quote then from Chapter 2 under the heading Transgender Ontology:

‘People say that we live in a postmodern age that has rejected metaphysics. That’s not quite true. We live in a postmodern age that promotes an alternative meta-physics. At the heart of the transgender moment are radical ideas about the human person – in particular, that people are what they claim to be, regardless of contrary evidence. A transgender boy is a boy, not merely a girl who identifies as a boy. It’s understandable why activists make these claims. An argument about transgender identities will be much more persuasive if it concerns who someone is, not merely how someone identifies. And so the rhetoric of the transgender moment drips with ontological assertions: people are the gender they prefer to be. That’s the claim.’

However, some have realised the mistake of going the route of surgery based on what is a false and extremely dangerous ontology – ideas have very powerful consequences, and not all good (That’s an understatement by the way). And so in Chapter 3 we are given a series of testimonies that would advocate caution – at the very least. The claim to being Transgender is still accepted.

I do have a view on this, but I can’t work out why politicians of mainly the left, but the right as well, are sanctioning something that is so obviously damaging. Just the onslaught of logic ought to be enough to convince anyone that there’s something not right here.

Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier

Again, this is a jaw dropping and tragic read. More tragic actually. Abigail concentrates on how this Craze is affecting young people and especially teenagers. NOTE: She is using the word ‘Craze’ in a sociological sense not as a pejorative. It does capture something though. Abigail is not a Christian, so in a few places she does use language some might find offensive – try not to let that put you off though.

Honestly, if you are the parent of a girl, especially a teenage girl, you should read this book. Your child might just breeze through her bodily changes and all will be well. But she might not. Writing as a woman with daughters herself is helpful. She isn’t a philosopher or theologian, but she is an investigative reporter (on this anyway). And she’s a good one as well. We need people like her.

To be forewarned, is to be forearmed!

There are some shortcomings with the book which I think we need to realise. This came through with an interview she did with the two guys on their Triggernometry YouTube channel – worth watching. The shortcoming is this: Her worldview (and theirs) is self defeating. This isn’t a huge problem (for now) but we do need to be aware of it. As I write it makes me wonder if this is why Ryan Andersons book has been banned and this one by Abigail hasn’t. (Although there were those that wanted to ban her book as well – see Abigails article here.) Ryan’s book is grounded in a Biblical Worldview – this one isn’t, or not deliberately so anyway. Truth comes from God. Truth has to come from somewhere, and if not from God (the bible) it has to come from somewhere else. I’m grateful that there are still people like Abigail that can write and research from within a Judeo-Christian worldview (I think she is Jewish) but it isn’t the same as being grounded in a Christian Worldview. Don’t get me wrong I’m very thankful for her. She is most definitely our friend, in this, as is anyone that supports Free Speech. But by supporting same-sex marriage, homosexuality, and transgenderism she just, for now, draws the line in a different place to others in the culture.

Someone said ‘Support Trans Kids.’ Frankly, giving in to this ideology is NOT supporting Trans kids, at all. What it does is damage kids. Often it is exactly that: Irreversible damage.

Here’s another terrifying article (When the State Comes for Your Kids) by Abigail that shows the sort of things that are happening in some States in the US. Make no mistake, the ‘activists’ will take your kids if they can. Thankfully, the Government in the UK, for now, is opposing plans to make changing gender easier. I say for now because the ‘activists’ will not stop. See here for more on the UK situation.

Finally, I’ve shared this before but it’s such an important interview that I’m including it here as well. This is an interview with a transgender man, Scott Newgent (he admits to actually being a biological woman), who shares with us the reality of what changing is really like and what happened to him, and about the opposition he is encountering because he is speaking out. Go here for the interview with Dan Crenshaw.

It should go without saying that we are to be loving towards transgender people, whatever stage they are at. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree with it. But we need to lovingly and graciously disagree. That is almost impossible by the way if any disagreement is seen as an attack on their being, not their belief. We have to try though. I won’t bore you by saying more, but I do urge you to read these two books especially if you have teenage, or younger, girls.

‘By that will’ The love of the Father for the lost

Heb 10:10  ‘And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.’

One of the things that happens, happens to me anyway, in the Christian life is that the reality, or the power, of certain verses (or it can be doctrines) from the Bible come to your mind and soul with such power that you never in some sense lose that impression. When this happens it’s often the case that you will remember quite vividly when and or where when that happens. It is true for the whole Bible that it is without doubt the Word of God and we will not be moved from that knowledge. But individual verses also have such a profound impression on us that nothing will move us from their reality.

This then, for me, is one such verse and is one of my favourite verses in the whole Bible. And I do remember where I was at the time. Especially the words, ‘by that will.’ At the time I was reading the AV so it was ‘the which will.’ Apart from the powerful impression this verse made on my mind, it is of course the truth of it. It’s the truth of these verses that gives them their power. As well as the kindness of God in showing us them in that way. And is why we will not be moved. I think Peter, for example, never forgot the when and the where of when he first realised exactly who The Lord Jesus Christ is. It doesn’t mean, probably like Peter, that we understand the full implications of the ‘revelation’ we receive but the impact remains. Jesus asked Peter who did he think he was (Mat 16:15). Peter’s reply is worth quoting:

‘Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mat 16:16).”’

Here’s the reply:

‘And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven…” (Mat 16:17).’

It seems to me that the ignorance of or the downplaying of the Father’s love is something the church should not be doing. It just shouldn’t be. Reading ‘The Whole Christ’ by Sinclair Ferguson has brought to mind (again) so much that I’m thankful for over the years. Frankly, I can’t quite say how I arrived at what I consider to be a happy position. I guess that’s one advantage of being a Christian for 40 years or so. A lot of theological trends come and go, and them come back again. That doesn’t mean ‘I’ve arrived’ or anything like it. I think the older I get the more I realise just how much I don’t know or understand. But the few things I do know and understand are exceedingly precious.

We have a problem that was highlighted once again for me the other day. It’s this. Jesus is such a lovely person, he’s a nice bloke, but that Father God of his is so wrathful and nasty. Even in the church the emphasis can be skewed towards the same attitude. Jesus is nice and the Father isn’t. But this verse serves as a reminder that it was God the Father that sent Jesus. We do not find, for example, Jesus saying to his Father ‘I’ve had a great idea….’ No. Jesus does the will of his Father. And it was the will of God the Father to send the Lord Jesus into the world. Yes, he came. He came willingly. But if I can reverently say, It wasn’t Jesus’s idea to come into the world. Obviously we are doing something here that didn’t happen in the way it would happen to any earthly plans. Within the Trinity everything is known. But in the economy of God it is the Father that does the sending. What does Jesus say in response to his Father’s will? ‘I delight to do your will (Psalm 40:8).’ and ‘“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; (Heb 10:9)’ ‘Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” Heb 10:7.“ ‘Behold’, says Jesus, ‘I have come to do your will (Heb 10:9).” And in John 4:34 ‘Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work….’

When we are tempted then to think God our Father is like some overseer looking on at what Jesus does in some sort of detached manner. Not at all. Realise that it was God the Father that willed your salvation. It was God the Father that sent his Son to die for you. It was God the Father that poured out his wrath upon his Son for you! This is no detached onlooker. Not at all! Our Father in Heaven is involved in the very details, in the nitty gritty of the salvation he has for us. Remember this: Jesus said ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms.’ Yes, Jesus goes to prepare a place for us, but it’s the Father’s house where he goes to prepare the room (John 14:1-3). God our Father willed our Justification, and our Sanctification. And the price was the sending of his Son. ‘By that will.’

Christian, do not doubt the Father’s love for you. He has invested a great deal in you. Even the blood of his dear Son.

‘And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:10).’

Covid is for the Church – not the world?

There’s a tendency for the church to look out upon the world with an eye to judgement. That’s probably an understatement, nevertheless, there’s a lot in the world that would rightly fall under the judgment of God. The millions of abortions that take place on its own confirms that. It isn’t surprising then that some Christians could see the current pandemic as a judgment from God. We look on to see the world repenting and calling upon the Lord (or rather look on and don’t see that). The Church being in the world gets caught up in these judgments from on high. We look in vain. There may be a few people here and there that turn to God, but by and large the world carries on as usual. The church is sidelined. That is the way of the world. Let’s face it, the church today (in the UK anyway) is an utter irrelevance.

It’s probably not a unique thought. But what if it’s the other way round and we are looking at this all wrong? What if it’s really the world caught up in God’s judgment upon the Church!

Just as we look vainly upon the world for repentance towards God, we look vainly upon the church to do the same. The world looks upon the church in vain. Where is the repentance and a turning towards the Lord in repentance and faith? We might say, ‘What have we to repent of?’ Our self-righteousness world be a good start.

These thoughts came out of my reading just the other morning. My default is probably set to look out and judge the world. But it came to me specifically that the Covid Pandemic has been sent by God as a judgement on the church. We always, or nearly always, think that if anything bad happens in the world it’s a judgment from God upon the world. It’s a damning and profoundly unsettling realisation that it could well be the other way round. I am quite upset about it. I’m finding it to be quite disturbing actually. For one thing it means I’ve been looking at it all wrong.

The verses I’m referring to are found in Chronicles. The context is Solomons dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Of course, all Gods dealing with the church are by grace. Even His judgments are a mercy to His people and to His church. I’ve heard the phrase used a few times lately that God is sifting the church. It does seem to be the case. Perhaps God is sifting us as individuals as well. What are our convictions? Do we care more about being correct than people? Some evidence then that the church needs to be looking at itself rather than casting a self-righteous judgmental eye on the world – which we’re pretty good at doing.

We know that God sends the pestilence, even this pandemic. I don’t think most Christians doubt that. God hasn’t been surprised or caught off guard by any of this. But I do think we (I include myself here) may have seriously misjudged its purpose. I’ll admit to being late to realise this. Maybe too late. I think my fear now is that once things start, dare I say it, returning to ‘normal’, it will be ‘business as usual.’ The meetings will restart and return to ‘normality.’ The pandemic will have passed, and we’ll all thank God and return to thinking how wonderful we all are, and nothing will have changed. My biggest worry, like I say, is that for the church, it will be ‘Business as usual.’ Do we want ‘business as usual’? What did ‘business as usual’ look like?

How then, in the light of this, assuming it’s true, and I’m right about this, are we to respond? To respond right now. I don’t think prayers for God to end the pandemic are really going to cut it.

If all that’s happening is really about the church, and it really is, how are we to change? I don’t think I’ve read much along on these lines. A lot has been said about the legality etc of the lockdowns and how the government are persecuting the church. You know the stuff I mean. Those are real issues by the way.

Christians have, and are, deeply divided over how to deal with the pandemic and our responses to government overreach are just as divisive. Wearing masks, closing churches, social distancing, and vaccinations are just some of the many ways we have been divided. We have our views. I have mine. And I’m not saying these are not valid. For example, the government is overreaching in many areas. They are manipulating the population. But what if we have all missed the point?

As churches we want to get back to normal. We want to get back to business as usual. But what is normal? And what is business as usual? What did those things look like? What is normal for us? What is a normal prayer meeting for example? Do we want a return to normal? Are we happy that our normal prayer meetings now just continue as normal but online? Or our normal services just continue now as normal online. And when our services return to normal will they just continue as before?

We do ok with normal. Normal is safe. Normal is cuddly. Normal has no surprises. We can manage normal. Normal is under control. Under our control that is. I think, perhaps what the word normal describes is formality. We are very formal. Normal is formality. Could it even be described as having a form of godliness? Or even in Revelation the Lord Jesus describes one church as having a reputation for being alive. But that wasn’t how Jesus described them! We are just so correct and righteous.

We pray (sometimes), or sing, for God to come sweeping through us. Maybe he is. But not in the way we expected!

And as we (at Towcester Evangelical Church) heard on Sunday morning, don’t think for one moment the purposes of God will be thwarted. They won’t be. But we will miss out. Don’t worry though. Everything will be back to normal soon! God will have passed by unnoticed, and we’ll be left to carry on with business as usual.

The world, on the face of it, is completely opposed to the Christian faith. And I understand all the reasons for that. But I think there’s another side to this. And that is, unconsciously or not, the world is looking to the church for hope and redemption, and for mercy and forgiveness. Where else is real and true hope to be found? There is nowhere else. Only the church of the Lord Jesus Christ has the good news of the Gospel to dispense to the world. It is us, Christians, that have been commissioned by God to preach Good News of a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.

Honestly, I’m at a bit of a loss to know quite what to do with this. I believe the very thought of what I’m suggesting will be met, by some, with opposition, or much more likely to be met with the cold shoulder of indifference.

We can’t revive ourselves, and we can’t turn the tide of secularism back, so isn’t it time for us to call upon the Lord to have mercy on us? To revive us. To wake us up out of our slumber. Or are we (self) satisfied with ‘business as usual.’ Are we, or will we be satisfied with being ‘normal?’

 

Paradise PD – A slightly different Christian perspective

There is outrage, again, over the Netflix production ‘Paradise PD’ that blasphemes the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it blasphemous? Yes. Is it offensive? Yes. Do I like it? I haven’t seen it, but probably not. Will I watch it? Unlikely. Though I might if I had to. By the way, I didn’t even realise this was a series and in its 4th season. I’m guessing the series have a pop at everyone – hmmm, maybe not everyone (you know).

I accept the moral outrage by Christians but I’d like to come at the episode, what I know of it anyway, from a different perspective. Let me just say, because it probably needs saying, I’m not endorsing it in any way shape or form, just looking at it from a slightly different perspective. 

Remember the old ‘The end is nigh’ sandwich boards of the past. They ridiculed it, but you know, the end really is nigh. It’s a true statement. Messiah-Nara might be meant to ridicule and be funny, but actually it’s a statement of truth. It will be the end for His enemies.

What ought to be fascinating is the fact that Jesus just won’t go away. The usual tactic then is to ridicule him. They tried that in the New Testament so doing it this way is nothing new. We ought to be encouraged because they are still doing it. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Here’s a few things about this episode that I know from the criticisms. Like I say, I haven’t seen it, so what I say here isn’t personally verified. I wonder if the writers of this episode know more than they are letting on. My speculation is that they could be, or at least have first hand knowledge of evangelicalism. They’ve been influenced by self-righteous controlling church leaders. Maybe in a bizarre way this episode is a cry for help. Here are a few points then not in any particular order.

Free Speech

I need to say this. I believe in free speech. If they want to produce this episode that is their right to do so. However blasphemous it might be. I don’t have to like it to allow them the right to produce it but free speech also gives the right to protest against it. I rarely sign petitions. There is a petition to take it down, but honestly, I don’t think I’ll be signing it. There are many petitions out there wanting to ban Christian stuff as well. I don’t see too many petitions against heavily polititicised LGBTQ stuff which is far more insidious that this film. I think the petition in this case will just make more people want to see it. In a way it’s self defeating. But I understand the outrage.

The Cross

The picture shows Jesus breaking the cross and the nails turning into Uzi’s (Probably 9mm). Of course there is a mixture of fact and fiction but nevertheless it shows Jesus victoriously breaking the cross and wreaking judgment on his enemies. Jesus could have come off the cross, but then there would be no salvation. So that didn’t happen. But think about how Aslan in the Narnia story after the White Witch and all her host had done their worst and killed Aslan, what happened? Aslan breaks the stone table and is victorious. The story is playing out the reality of Jesus’ victory. The Bible tells us that he triumphed over his enemies through the cross.

The greatest possible symbol of weakness becomes the greatest symbol of victory and of power. So that he has put to shame all powers through the cross. We might not like the picture but actually, intended or not, we see a triumphant Messiah.

A Fallen World

Because we live in a fallen world we should expect to see this sort of stuff. It’s everywhere really. This show is a bit more in your face but it just proves the truth that we are rebellious against our creator. It’s a form of imprisonment, they can’t help themselves. We can’t help ourselves. Which is exactly why we need a Saviour. And the only way we can be saved is through Jesus dying on a cross. So in an unintended way the film demonstrates our own fallenness and of our need for a Saviour.

Final Judgement

Jesus is crucified as the Lamb. But in revelation we read about ‘the day of his wrath.’ The Lamb is mighty. And all his enemies will be dealt with. Being slaughtered using a pair of Uzi 9mm’s will seem a mercy when considering the awful reality of an eternal lake of fire. People will be laughing, I’m sure, but it’s not a laughing matter. The enemies of The Lord and His anointed one (Messiah) will be destroyed.

True Knowledge

The film shows an underlying knowledge that not only is there a real Jesus, but also a real knowledge that there is a judgment to come. This episode, and those like it, demonstrate how the truth is actively being suppressed as the bible teaches. Not only does the bible teach it but we know it to be true. Our consciences tell us it’s true. The conscience of the series tell them it’s true as well. Try as they might, Jesus is not going away. He can’t be got rid of so he must be mocked.

True Forgiveness

I was thinking how outraged we can get. Then I wondered how The Lord Jesus reacted to His own crucifixion. We get all pious and outraged but Jesus said ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ I can think of things I said about Him before God had mercy on me. The foul blasphemies that poured out against the Lord Jesus from my unrighteous lips! But He had mercy on me. Someone prayed for me. Someone told me the Gospel. Jesus saved me. The amazing good news is that Jesus saves all who will call on Him. Will you call on Him?

A Mighty Christ (Messiah)

I’ll just end with this. Maybe you watch the series, and you’ve seen the episode about Jesus and the Cross. I’d ask you to consider the points I’ve tried to make. This Jesus who just won’t go away is going to return to judge the world, to judge you. Then, the choices we have made about The Lord Jesus will have eternal consequences. So I ask you to consider Him.

‘Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Heb 12:3).

Mighty Christ from time eternal,
Mighty, he man’s nature takes,
Mighty, when on Calv’ry dying,
Mighty, death itself He breaks.
See His might,
Infinite,
King of Heaven and earth by right!

Mighty was He in heaven’s purpose,
Mighty, in the pledge to save,
Mighty, from His birth to Calv’ry,
Mighty, bursting from the grave.
Still will He
Mighty be When things hidden now we see.

Great my Jesus in His Person.
Great as God and man is He,
Great His comeliness and beauty,
White and ruddy, fair to see,
Great that sight,
Sovereign Might,
Throned secure on heaven’s height!

vv. 1 & 3 Titus Lewis, 1773 – 1811;
v. 2, Anonymous;
tr. Graham Stuart Harrison 1935 – 2013 (No. 117 Christian Hymns, E.M.W)

Behavioural Science (in the UK) & The Gospel Invitation

These ideas have been knocking around in my mind for a while now, but I heard recently on talkRADIO someone mention, for the first time anywhere, The Behavioural Science Unit. I was beginning to think I was the only one that had ever heard about this. It’s also called ‘Nudging.’ There is a unit (in government) that is actively engaged, using these techniques, in manipulating the behaviour of the population. That’s us. So I have stood back and observed, over the past year or so, our behaviour being manipulated. There is active coercion happening.

Many of you might not know what ‘Nudging’ is. Some time ago The BBC had a program on ‘The Power of Nudge‘, and it was quite astonishing. The reason I know about this is because I listened to it at the time of its first broadcast. Quote: ‘What really changes people’s minds (about the idea of nudging) is because it works.’ This was part of a series on ‘The Pursuit of Power’ in case you think I’ve gone crazy. This was a part of a Behavioural Science unit in No 10 when David Cameron was PM. (This unit is now independent and is called ‘The Behavioural Insights Team’ or ‘Nudge Unit’ –  https://www.bi.team/bit10/  They still use Nudging) The original unit had a sunset clause attached to it, set at 2 years in case it didn’t work. But it did and does work. The UK (and other countries) are now (as I see it) a huge experimental ‘Petri Dish’ of behavioural management and control. I’m sure there are other such Units. Is it a conspiracy then, if it’s happening.

Incidentally, Dr John Lee (Professor of Pathology) in his video (HERE) (dated 1st May 2021) mentions The Behavioural Insight Team (from 30m) that uses FEAR to manipulate the population. I watched this on 4th May 2021. Again, this is clear evidence that we are being manipulated (as if we didn’t already know). This is not something to cast off as something only a few conspiracy nutcases believe – because it’s really happening.
I wonder if advertisers used these techniques whether they’d be legal. Subliminal advertising is illegal, even though the jury is out on its actual effectiveness. Nudging really does work though.

There’s a Vaccine advert that has been running (ad nauseam) quite regularly on talkRADIO and is, I think, a typical use of nudging. Remember, nudging works. That’s why they do it. In the advert we are told to ‘Join the millions already vaccinated…. Every vaccination gives us hope.‘ There are other Ads, but the point is to move us, or nudge us, into action. To manipulate our behaviour. And you can’t miss all the signs everywhere to reinforce the behaviour (social distancing & masks). By the way, I’m not making any comment on taking the vaccine, or not. Merely that ‘Nudging’ works. I didn’t catch who it was and only caught the last part of an interview (some weeks ago now) on talkRADIO but I think it was an MP that said he was ‘surprised at how easily people gave up their liberties.’

It’s inconceivable there is only one of these businesses operating. The Big Tech companies are doing it all the time. Sometimes by withholding information, at other times by using targeted information, at other times by taking down information that doesn’t fit the narrative. Did you see the film ‘The Social Dilemma’? Maybe you thought it was an exaggeration. Perhaps, to some degree. But the point is it’s happening. Whatever your view of President Trump is or was, it comes to something when Tech Companies can pretty much silence the President of the US.

As we appear to have some sort of end (to the pandemic, not the aftermath) to this madness what’s the point in saying all this now? The point is this: don’t think the behavioural insight team, and other such teams, will be clearing their desks and closing down the office as the crisis comes to an end. I think that would be unbelievably naive. No, the ‘insights’ gained through this will be used in other ways (I’ll leave those other ways to your imagination) to manipulate the population into other behaviours (or beliefs). The trick is, of course, to do it a) without us realising it and/or b) by making us actually want it – so we become complicit in our own change of behaviour. Talk about 1984 (‘I love you Big Brother’).

How does this affect the Church?

Apart from my concern as a citizen about losing my freedoms, the other (more important) reason I’m interested in all this is because this is the sort of manipulation that when presenting the Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God we DON’T do. We don’t manipulate people into becoming Christians. We don’t ‘Nudge’ people into the Kingdom! Even if it works, and it does – we don’t do it. This is one reason why I’m not in favour of big organised evangelistic campaigns or what is called ‘the Invitation System.’ We should run a mile from any such methods. As the Bible says: ‘… we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2).

But there’s also a dark side to all this. The church is engaged in a war. Not a physical war. But a spiritual one. ‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). And as Paul tells us in another place ‘… the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Cor 10:4).’ ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Cor 10:5).’

And it’s quite interesting at his point how the Apostle Paul speaks of taking every thought captive…. I’m not sure we can so quickly dismiss some of this stuff as ‘conspiratorial’ as many Christians seem to do. How is it all affecting the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Bible says ‘we are not ignorant of his (Satan) designs (2 Cor 2:11). Perhaps we are ignorant of Satan’s schemes in this area? I’m all for the plain teaching of the Gospel. We shouldn’t employ any subterfuge in presenting the Gospel or any ‘bait & switch’ techniques. But that doesn’t mean, as we have read, we shouldn’t be unaware of Satans devices. Love not the world nor the things of the world (1 John 2:15). Manipulating and coercing people is a worldly activity. It’s what the systems of the world do. We don’t manipulate and coerce people into the Kingdom of God. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He that makes his people willing in the day of his power (Psalm 110:3). We don’t use worldly methods. And we don’t need to either. The Spirit of God doesn’t ‘influence’ people, rather, he makes them alive (Eph 2:5)!

It’s important for us, therefore, to know there is someone that speaks the truth. The Lord Jesus many times used the phrase ‘I tell you the truth’ (verily, verily) and that is exactly what he did, and does. He didn’t use methods of coercion or manipulation. He speaks the truth, even when we don’t like it. So when he invites us to himself, as he does right now, promising rest for our souls, we can be assured that he is speaking the truth. In other words, we can trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

Come to me (Says Jesus), all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(Mat 11:28 & 29).’

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
new life the dead receive,
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.

(O for a thousand tongues – Charles Wesley, 1708-88)