Sunday, May 21, 2006

Speaking against evil!

Hello friends,


It seems that in our increasingly secular world, the Christian gospel is being mocked, and scorned more and more. As a Christian, I am not surprised by this. We were warned in many ways by Jesus himself, that we would be persecuted as He was. When Christians do speak out against things which go against there own moral code, they are often labelled as being “extreme” or “fanatical” or “right-wing” along with a variety of other labels depending on the context. It seems as though provided Christians keep to their own “holy huddle” they can shake their heads and tut-tut as much as they like, but if they dare speak out against immoral behaviour or undermining of Christian values, they get told to keep quiet. However, when Christians don’t speak out, they are labelled as being irrelevant and having head in the sand.


SO what are we to do? Should we shut up and be “tolerant” or should we speak out and say when something runs contrary to our ‘religious’ sensibilities.


A Scripture was brought to my attention today that I believe has relevance in this discussion. ”Jesus said…”The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.” (John 7:7)


So Christians are left with the following dilemma: and I do not pretend that this is an easily resolved matter. Different Christians will respond differently to this issue and I would not dare criticise either side of the debate as frankly, I am not sure. The dilemma is this:


On the one hand, taking a stand on any issue that has a religious or moral undertone in it, means that a person risks being labelled “politically incorrect” a supposedly heinous crime in modern society. After all, in today’s modern society, there are supposedly no absolutes.  A person cannot take a stance against abortion, because, so society says, it is the woman’s body and she has a right to make decisions concerning it. The whole question of where life begins is left up in the air. I could go on down this road with this debate, but I won’t – suffice it to say that I am Pro-Life – i.e. anti abortion, except where clearly the continued pregnancy represents a real threat to the mother’s life (not lifestyle). On the other side of the coin, I would be careful about coming over as judgmental towards people who perform abortions, or women who have undergone abortions (not that I know any personally) or anyone involved in the process of enabling abortions. I would not judge a nurse or a doctor who are involved in performing abortions and would never say that a Christian should not work for or aid in the carrying out of abortions. In this whole debate, the strongest argument for legalised abortions is that many back-street abortions are performed, where mothers’ lives are endangered. There was a case a while back where a young woman who had found herself pregnant went to one of the back street abortion places but the abortion went wrong and the patient was rushed to a government hospital where they had to complete the abortion in order to save the woman’s life. One of the nurses on duty in the emergency ward refused, because of her religious convictions, to be involved. She was sacked for refusal to follow orders and took the matter to court. I cannot recall the outcome of that case, but it was a difficult case with merits on both sides of the argument. I do believe it is wrong to become judgmental of others, as if we, somehow are superior to them. We are not any better than anyone else, and everyone, whether Christian or non-Christian blows it in one way or another. So who are we to stand up and say that this or that is wrong? The expressions like “Live and let live” and “c’est la vie” are bandied about. Tolerance it seems is the watchword of the moment. My question is can we tolerate absolutely everything and make excuses for every criminal act. Babies, not old enough to stand have been raped, and society is rightly horrified, but society does not seem to realise that this didn’t happen all of a sudden, but is a direct result of morals being gradually eroded and so what was not accepted in society became accepted, and then a bit more, and so on, and so on. It is my contention that society can and has become too tolerant.


On the other hand, Jesus saw injustice in society and he did not worry about the politically correct thing to do. He did not button his lip. He got angry and chased the money changers from the temple courts. Jesus spoke out against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and called them such endearing terms as “a brood of vipers” and “white washed tombs”  Jesus did not allow the Pharisees to stone the woman court in adultery, but exposed their hypocrisy. He however did not excuse the sin of the woman but said, “Go your way, but don’t continue to sin” – in this regard, don’t continue being an adulteress. I believe that there are times when as Christian, I need to take a stand and say something is immoral and wrong.   The problem with many Christians is that they develop selective blind spots. That is they are ready and willing to stand and wag their fingers at this or that perceived wrong, but when an injustice is being perpetrated by “their group” whether it is racial, political (left-wing/right-wing) or religious (Protestant/Catholic) they are not willing to admit to it. SO we have in the United States, a group people who are labelled the Religious Right or the Neo-Conservatists who scream blue murder against abortion and homosexuality and cry “Death to Islamist Terrorists” – meaning every Moslem, and yet refuse to acknowledge that George Bush, whom they support, was not entirely truthful about the reasons for going to war against Iraq. (Last time I checked – the ninth commandment says “Do not bear false witness.” ) . People known as Liberation Theologians are quick to condemn the injustices perpetrated by Capitalistic Governments against the poverty stricken Third World while at the same time, aiding and abetting terrorists fighting against governments. There is an English proverb that goes, “People living in glass houses should not throw stones.”  If we are willing to point an accusing finger at this or that injustice, we must accept it, when others point accusing fingers towards us. It is difficult to maintain objectivity when it comes to some issues, but it is important that we at least try, and that if we want to be heard when we raise a concern, we too must be willing to hear the other perspective on the matter  or when someone criticises us. But I don’t think that means we need to retreat into our ivory towers or bury our heads in the sand.


Christians are not the only ones who rant and rave over perceived injustices, or by any means the worst, as the recent outrage against the “Mohammed Cartoons” show. But it isn’t only religious ‘nutbars’ who get their knickers in a knot. Think about the “Green Peace” movement and the animal rights groups. Yesterday a group of fathers called Fathers for Justice disrupted a lottery draw  to protest against the law that favours mothers in custody cases in the United Kingdom.


Having said all that I am now going to comment on something that really annoyed me as a Christian. Yesterday I sat up late and watched the Eurovision Contest. The first country represented was Switzerland, and I really liked the song. But few songs later, came Finland. They sang a song called Hard Rock Hallelujah. The singers were dressed up and made up to look like demons. It was terrible. A mocking of Christianity. It really irked me that that song was the one that won it. But how, as Christians, do we respond?


I look forward to hearing from you. Let me know what you think.


Have a great week




Sunday, May 14, 2006

13 May

STOP PRESS: I started writing this yesterday, 13th May, but never got it finished. I have added a bit today and now I send it out. I have already done the Children’s ministry – it went well. Craig did most of the sharing. As you might have guessed, the children are very familiar with the story of Zacchaeus. I hope you had a lovely Mothers Day, Mothers.


13th May


Last night I was listening to a Christian Radio Station and I heard Adrian Rogers relate an anecdote that sent shivers up and down my spine:

I will try and recount it as he shared it:


In Chicago, there is a night club. It is called “The Gates of Hell” (or Hades). In that same street is a church with the name of Calvary. A visitor to the town was looking for directions and asked a local person, “Where do I find the Gates of Hell” to which the local replied, “You carry on right past Calvary.”


Many people say they don’t believe in Hell. Interestingly, many people who believe in a heaven, don’t believe in a hell. Many people who acknowledge the existence of God, are not convinced there is the devil, Satan. I wonder where you stand on this matter? Do you think that he is the collective figment of our imaginations?


Ironically, if you don’t believe in the devil, he is more than delighted. It makes his job easier if we don’t believe he exists. He can more easily manipulate your mind if you don’t know he is there. If you believe in Jesus, and you believe that He is God, and that He told the truth, you had better believe that there is a devil. The bible tells us about how Christ was lead into the wilderness for a 40 day period and during that time, the devil attempted to tempt Him, but failed. Jesus, himself, spoke often about the devil.


Be self- controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8


Does this mean we quiver in our boots for fear of this enemy of our souls. No, for as John wrote, concerning Christians: “He who is in you is greater than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Paul writes: “In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37)


The thought has just occurred to me: People now are aware of, and acknowledge the existence of the HIV. We know what it is, and we know what it is capable of if it gets into our systems. Regretfully, there are some people who refuse to accept the fact of its existence, and who try and explain the illness by some other means. Most people simply shake their heads when they hear of someone who says “There is no HIV.” We all know how wrong they are, and we all know how important it is that they do acknowledge its existence. Most of us know there is HIV and that HIV causes AIDS. We also know how the virus can get into our bodies, and consequently what precautions need to be introduced in order to prevent that happening. But if you asked me, am I scared of HIV, I would answer – NO – HIV can’t hurt me, if I take the necessary precautions. If I take care not to engage in risky behaviour, and to take necessary precautions such at wearing latex gloves if dealing with another persons bleeding wound. (I know this goes out to many medically trained people and if I have said something wrong here, you have every right and the invitation to set the record straight – but I don’t suspect that anyone will.) Some of you may be saying – well what is the point? My point is this, just as you don’t need to fear the HIV as long as you acknowledge that it does exist and are aware of what dangerous or risky behaviour might precipitate an infection, so, we as Christians need not fear the devil, Satan, because he has already been defeated by Jesus Christ through the cross, but we do need to acknowledge that he does exist and that he can lead us astray if we are not aware of his ways. The only way the devil can defeat you is through deception, and the only way deception can get to you, is if you believe the deception. But people need to be aware that they are being deceived in order to withstand that deception.



I am not going to launch into a major Bible study on the subject of the devil. However I just thought I would mention that the devil is real, and that it is desire as expressed in the verse above to “devour” you – that is destroy you. Jesus refers to him as the Thief who comes to steal, kill and to destroy (John 10:10) in contrast to Jesus himself, how He claims, has come to give abundant life.


Tomorrow, I teach a Sunday school class for the first time, and we are going to be talking about that “wee little man, Zacchaeus”. SO have a good week.


Last week, I received an email with a thought about Mothers that I thought would be appropriate for Mothers’ Day: So here it is –


Being a Mum

... the special bond between a mother and her child

Before I was a Mum I made and ate hot meals. I had unstained clothing and I had quiet conversations on the phone.

Before I was a Mum I slept as late as I wanted and never worried about how late I got into bed. I brushed my hair and teeth everyday.

Before I was a Mum I cleaned my house each day. I never tripped over toys or forgot the words to lullabies.

Before I was a Mum I didn’t worry whether or not plants were poisonous. I never thought about

Before I was a Mum I had never been puked on, pooped on, spit on, chewed on, peed on or pinched by tiny fingers.

Before I was a Mum I had complete control over my mind, my thoughts, my body and I slept all night.

Before I was a Mum I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests or give shots. I never looked into teary eyes and cried. I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.

Before I was a Mum I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn’t want to put it down. I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt. I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much. I never knew that I could love being a Mum.

Before I was a Mum I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart outside my body. I didn’t know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby. I didn’t know the special bond between a mother and her child. I didn’t know that something so small could make me feel so important.

Before I was a Mum I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every ten minutes to make sure all was okay. I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache, the wonderful fulfillment, or the satisfaction of being a Mum.

I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much ... before I was a Mum.

Author Unknown




Monday, May 08, 2006

This week's blog - or is that - last week's blog?

Hi there,


Well I’ve mulled it over and scratched my head, but this week’s blog does not seem to come to me quite like they normally do. So let me start by sharing a bit of personal news. No nothing earth shattering or exciting I’m afraid, but news all the same:


I am working on this huge assignment – one of the biggest I have ever had to do – all about Children who, (to use the currently politically correct phraseology) experience barriers to learning. For people who might not understand, this refers to children who were previously regarded as having disabilities, or experiencing learning difficulties. One of the things that make this such a complicated task is that I have to use the politically correct terminology, and it is so easy to slip into the old way of saying things.


The other bit of news that I have this week is that I managed to finish another assignment that I have been finding very interesting to write. It has taken me three weeks to get it done, (a lot longer than I usually take for an assignment (thought that is usually because I start writing it too late and I am sitting up through the night desperately trying to finish the assignment by the due date and then praying that the Internet will work properly so that I can submit it online.  This year I have resolved to take a different approach. I really have no excuse to run behind at the moment, because unlike previous years, I have not had to work full time as well. The assignment I have just finished was about HIV/AIDS. I thought I was quite knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS until I started doing the research for the assignment and found that I did not know as much as I thought I knew. I had a superficial knowledge. I knew enough, I suppose, to avoid becoming infected. (If you don’t know, or are not sure about the risks of HIV/AIDS – please write to me – I will treat your email as confidential and I will happily discuss this subject with anyone – I will treat your questions with confidentiality.) I didn’t really understand though, how the virus attacked the immune system and how the immune system is ‘used’ by the virus to replicate itself and invade the whole body. It was an eye opening experience. I also dealt with the sensitive topic of helping children who are grieving due to the death of a loved one. Again, there were things that I thought I knew about certain cultures but discussion showed me that I did not know. In particular, I had written something about what Jews believe about the afterlife. I thought that they, like Christians, believe in heaven and hell. Apparently I was wrong. According to my Jewish cousins, Jews believe in “the next world” where everyone’s soul goes after a period of cleansing. Thank you to those who put me right on that. I wouldn’t like to ride roughshod over a child’s beliefs especially at a time of grief.


I went last week to a combined home group meeting of our Church – we had a stir-fry supper, and a time of sharing. They introduced the time of sharing with words to this effect – “Everyone has to share something romantic – I hope you are prepared.” Well – I thought to myself, that is going to be difficult because I have no personal experience of that yet.” However, I soon realised that I did not have to talk about something romantic – I could also share a “God – moment”  or some testimony – now that’s a different story as I abound with personal experiences of God’s intervening hand. I decided to share on two things (these may be news to a few of you readers too)


I told them that when I decided that the move south was necessary, the hardest part of leaving Harare was saying goodbye to the fellowship I belonged to – Harvest Christian Fellowship. While I knew that I would be able to stay in touch, I would not be seeing them from one week to the next. (Now while distance does make the heart grow fonder), I realised that I would be needing to find a new spiritual home. I shared with the home groups how special the people of Harvest were to me and shared specific examples of how Harvesters helped me along the way – in very real and practical matters which I won’t go into here. It was a wrench, and I left a little piece of me in Harare, I am sure. Well for those of you who are not harvesters, Harvest meets in Gateway High School hall, and the official name is Harvest Christian Fellowship. I came down to South Africa, and I wanted to find a fellowship that I could become a part of it. I spoke to Malcolm and Karen and asked them if I could go to their fellowship and of course they were more than happy to take me along. The fellowship they belong to is called Hilton Christian Fellowship. The meet at Laddsworth School hall. But the similarities don’t stop there. This fellowship is also populated with wonderful, caring people who take an interest in you and are ready to share and help wherever they can. I have joined a home group as referred to before in my blog and next Sunday I am going to be helping Craig with children’s ministry.


The second part of my testimony is what may be news to quite a number of you. I have delayed talking about this until I had a better grasp of the situation myself. Not long after I got down here, I was sitting working at the computer and my watch alarm went off. Now, although it was on my wrist, and everyone else heard it, I did not. My brother, who happens to be a doctor, said that I should get my hearing tested, and it was confirmed that I had significant hearing loss in my right ear. I have been consulting with an ENT and he tested and conformed that there is a hearing problem, but at this stage, we are adopting a wait and see approach. I discussed with the doctor whether a hearing aid would be required and he said that it was up to me, and that if I did not feel particularly disabled without one, I shouldn’t worry. I reflected on it, and have come to the conclusion that since I am now aware that I have a hearing problem, I am actually better off than before when the problem existed, but I was not aware of it. I have decided that I do not need a hearing aid as I can cope without one. If that situation changes, I will think about the hearing aid again. The doctor wants me to have an MRI. We are doing a wait and see on that too. In about 4 months I will have another audiologist test me, and if the situation has deteriorated, then I will have an MRI just to eliminate the possibility of a cyst or a tumour pressing on my cochlea. In the mean time, I am not going to worry. The likelihood is that this hearing problem is linked to my hypothyroidism. I didn’t know before, but I have since learnt that there is a high correlation between children with hypothyroidism and deafness. Which brings me to the point I shared at the home group meeting – I praise God that as a child growing up I had the ability to hear, and to develop language. Yes I had physical struggles as a result of my thyroid hormone deficiency, such as fine and gross motor co-ordination, but I could hear and though I was slightly delayed in learning to talk (so I am told) I did learn. Now, even if my hearing deteriorates completely, I have heard and I can continue and can cope. I obviously hope that it does not deteriorate, and am praying and asking the Lord to heal me in this regard, I am at peace about the whole situation and will accept this as from the Lord and will ask him to give me the grace to bear it with courage. Which brings me back to my comments above about politically correct terminology. Apparently you are not supposed to refer to people as deaf as this will result in stigmatization (ridiculous I know!), but instead people are “hearing impaired.” While I quite accept that the old “deaf and dumb” label can be regarded as offensive, and the preferred term was “deaf mute” and that some silly people regarded people who were deaf as being of lesser intelligence than hearing people (Now is that stupid or what?) when I was at St Giles, a school for the physically handicapped, I was taught that “disability does not mean inability.” Something I have held onto all my life. Because of my life experiences, and the fact that I am now studying education, I believe God is preparing me to work with disabled children, probably on the mission field.   


1529 words already and so I will finish with that bit of news. May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon and give you His Shalom (peace).