A World at War

Fierce

What General Weygand called the battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can spitfirestand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

So said Winston Churchill on 18th June 1940 as Hitler prepared to try to destroy England.

“Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation.”

Almost 80 years later and the battle is somewhat different. England, Europe and most of the West is now a “post-Christian” society. The strange rattle in assorted London cemeteries and mausoleums is likely the interred who fought, led and died in that Battle of Britain turning in their graves.

The battle in 2016 is no less fierce than the one in 1940. It is more insidious. The tide of other faiths streaming into the West led to a need for “tolerance” that the countries they were leaving did not and do not reciprocate. Calls for sharia courts to be established in England were even heard from Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, just a couple of years ago.

What’s happened? Where are the people seeking to preserve Christian civilisation now?

Churchill lived at a time where Faith was an integral part of what it meant to be British. Strong role models through his youth and service, he called the nation to prayer during the war. Somehow I can’t imagine May doing that. Or Trump. Or Corbyn. Or any of the “leaders” dumped on an unsuspecting public today.

96953-calvaryencausticFaith is not considered important today. People who lived lives of honour and Faith in the past were respected and revered as leaders. Today they are considered weak at best, and the accomplishments men and women of Faith achieved in history are often sidelined, at least the part their Faith played in their resolve. Wilberforce is remembered as the man who abolished the Slave Trade in the British Empire, but outside a few who saw “Amazing Grace” with Ioan Gryffod, most people have no idea Christ played such an important part in that fight. “Chariots of Fire” is remembered for the soundtrack – awesome though it is – and Harold Abrahams’ achievement, but the sacrifice of Eric Liddell and the battle he fought for the principle of his Faith to not race on Sunday because it was a day for God is barely remembered. This for a man who ended up dying overseas as a Missionary.

The battle is fiercest where it seems quiet. Like a river seems tranquil where it is deepest, it often hides dangerous and powerful currents underneath. The devil has done an amazing propaganda job. He has convinced most of the West he doesn’t exist. Those of us who still believe in a literal Hell and Heaven seem to be in the minority, and are usually lampooned for saying so. For the record:

Yes, I believe in a literal Heaven and Hell.

No, I don’t believe “everyone goes to heaven” (see Luke 13)

No, I don’t care if that makes people think me a fool. Rather men think that than God.

Jesus was a fierce man. We lose sight today in the Reformation and Renaissance paintings, cherubic Jesus as a baby, spotless and freshly pressed white robes as an adult. Where is the force that started a stampede in the Temple? The warrior who set His eyes on Jerusalem?

Where is the army of the Church?

Sleeping.

Wake up. One word used to describe Jesus is “δύναμις” “dunamis”. The root of the word Dynamite. Explosive, forceful and unstoppable power. Hardly “meek and mild”. Meekness and weakness are not synonyms, in fact to be truly meek requires great strength of character. Humility is portrayed as self flagellation, which is actually a form of inverted pride and drives us away from God. Declare yourself to be what God says you are: no more and no less. Be exactly who He says you are, and don’t doubt it.

No matter the colour of skin or cast of features. No matter the gender. Remember the first to declare the Gospel of the Resurrection were women – Jesus chose a reformed hooker to tell Peter. Women had no legal standing in law then. Their testimony was ignored as unreliable. So Jesus turned things on their head and had His Resurrection declared by Mary first.

Fierce intention.

Planned aggression.

War engaged.

The Folly of Legalism

What to do when everything is Forbidden

“Thou shalt not…

So says much of the opinion from the Pharisees. It’s echoed in the doctrines of Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutherism. Calvinists swear by it. Southern Baptists in particular have a long list.

The Law in the Old Covenant was misunderstood in a huge way. The ancient Jews thought it had been given to them so they could earn a way to Heaven. They completely missed the point.

A couple of years ago I read a great book called “The Year of Living Biblically” by AJ Jacobs. He describes it as “One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible”. It’s a brilliant and funny look at the crazy Laws of both the Old and New Testaments. A satirical (I hope!) look at legalism.

The thing is, as amusing – and trust me, it’s amusing – as it is, Jacobs focusses on the things forbidden by the Bible. I think to make a point.

And it did. It got me thinking about what I believe, and why I believe it.

The point of the Law was to demonstrate to the Jews that Salvation in every area was impossible to achieve by following a set of rules. Jesus equates holding anger in your heart to murder and “appreciating” the figure of the girl across the street as adultery. Just in those two simple thoughts at some point we’ve all been guilty of murder, coveting, adultery, etc, etc…

And I do mean all been guilty of it.

Pretty much the only thing that got a jail sentence under ancient Law was debt. Everything else, they killed you. That’s why when Jesus is brought the woman caught in the act of adultery nobody throws a stone. In retrospect, every one of them realised they were as deserving of stoning as the woman was.

I heard Donald Trump say he’d never asked forgiveness from God because he’d never done anything that needed forgiving. Maybe in terms of outward actions he’s right – unless you count adultery anyway. But he’s demonstrated what his thoughts are countless times, and I think we can agree this is a man who lacks a moral compass.

Not that Hilary Clinton is any better. She just knows how and when to keep her mouth shut (mostly). Politics is rife globally with morally bankrupt pseudo-leaders claiming innocence. In South Africa, Jacob Zuma was tried for rape shortly before being elected President, and the Constitutional Court held that several hundred counts of corruption and failing to uphold the Constitution should be prosecuted against him.

It seems like anything goes these days.

Nothing it forbidden any more.

St Paul had a similar problem in the church in Rome. Much of the society there can be seen in modern attitudes. Things which were absolute negatives by Mosaic Law were so commonplace nobody noticed them as sin any more. They were just a part of the way things were. Temples had prostitutes in them – some had more than the brothels did – murder was put on daily as entertainment in the Coliseum and Circus Maximus in Rome and the amphitheatres around the Roman Empire.

What do you do when society demonstrates no moderation?World Law

Demonstrate Holiness.

Worldly society is gradually changing the rules for mankind. When warned of changes, Christians need to be the ones to initiate reforms. Throughout history for 2000 years that’s what has happened. Abolition of slavery, education for all, welfare handouts (alms), legal age of consent, age of majority, ending racism and sexism (or trying to). These have been done, and are being worked on by Christians. Men like William Wilberforce, John and Charles Wesley, William Booth, Billy Graham, CH Spurgeon and many other lesser known but equally important men and women of God have changed history.

But their focus was mainly on what was not forbidden rather than a list of decrees on stopping behaviour.

Consider your toddler. “Don’t poke the dog” is seen less as a command and more of a challenge issued to small children. My own brother died because he didn’t listen when my parents told him not to go out on his bicycle to the local garden centre because the road was too dangerous. He was nine. He caused an accident that left him dead and scarred an innocent motorist’s memory for life because of Robin’s actions.

No, “thou shalt not” has never been particularly effective. Even the death penalty doesn’t deter people these days. And why should it? Popular society has decreed there is no literal Hell, the devil doesn’t exist and God is this guy in a dressing-gown with a beard down to his knees who is a vegan pacifist. Of course that god would let anyone in to heaven.

But there are moral absolutes. God’s opinion on sinful thoughts and actions is perfectly clear. The Bible also says God does not change, but rather:

Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same yesterday and today and forever

Hebrews 13:8 (Amplified)

The Holy Spirit gives Peter a vision of all kinds of animals lowered in a blanket from Heaven, and he is invited to kill and eat (Hebrews 10 & 11) both kosher and ceremonially unclean animals. (Personally I’m glad. I love bacon!) This is an echo of Jesus’ words that it is not what we eat, but what comes out of our mouths in the form of anger or hate that makes us “unclean”.

All things are lawful [that is, morally legitimate, permissible], but not all things are beneficial or advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life]. Let no one seek [only] his own good, but [also] that of the other person.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (Amplified)

In the New Covenant, Jesus has completed the Law and granted permission to us to act how we choose. But Paul shows this freedom is only free because it has boundaries of morality and decency.

Not all things are good for us – even if the law of the World says they are ok. Man’s laws must be placed behind God’s, and it’s our place as Christians to see that they are.

Now before the extreme right wing gets their rifles out let me quantify that. (For the extreme right wing, that means I’m going to break it into small words for you so you understand.)

We should seek to protect those who cannot protect or speak for themselves. That includes babies being terminated.

PUT THE RIFLE DOWN!

It NEVER means “go shoot the doctor and blow up the clinic”. There are times when the safety of the mother needs to be considered. In the case of pregnancy by rape, the issue must never be an absolute forbidding of termination.

What it does mean to be “pro-choice” is that you are free to make the choice before the pregnancy. Sex outside marriage is not God’s plan, but if you’re going to do it at least make sure no unplanned pregnancy can happen. Abortion should never be a contraceptive option. No baby should be aborted because they will be inconvenient.

Sex before marriage is permissible in so far as it’s no longer something to be executed for, but it’s not beneficial for us. It gets in the way of our relationship with God.

I love “Bones” on TV. One of the greatest things is the battle inside Booth, the “good” Catholic, over his standing with God before he marries Brennan. He has a child with her and they live together but he can’t go to confession any more because he would have to confess sexual immorality and he can’t get absolution because his confession needs to be from a place where he will repent and completely stop the unGodly behaviour, but he won’t because he’s “in love” with Brennan.

Forgiveness is hard to come by when everything is forbidden.

It’s easy to go to God and be forgiven when it’s something we didn’t mean to do, want to do and will never do again. But when it’s something that brings a little happiness it makes it difficult. Blocks between us and God get put in place the second we say “forbidden”.

Samuel L Jackson’s character in “The Negotiator” tells his colleague to never say “No” to a hostage taker. It closes options.

God, I believe, recognises this in us. He meets us where we are.

And what was forcibly forbidden under the Old Covenant is more gently guided out of society through forgiveness and repentance – the complete turning away from these actions that threaten our relationship with God.

Forbidding leads to intolerance and hate.

And there’s enough of that without the Church adding to the mayhem. We should be the Peacemakers.

Openness

There’s many examples of openness in the Gospels. Many of absolutes as well. Certain things that had been “sinful” behaviour in the Old Covenant were redeemed by Jesus’ actions in creating the New Covenant we commonly refer to as Christianity.

The problem is that what today is touted as “Christianity” is a far cry from what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost when thousands became Christians. It’s removed from the Grace shown to all and by all in that first century movement that terrified the Roman Empire.

The wake of the horrific shootings at the nightclub in Florida have caused an outpouring of “You are in our prayers” statements from denominations that would rail against the individuals lifestyle if they pitched up at the church on Sunday morning. The hypocrisy stinks.

But there’s elements in Christianity that always get pulled out by atheists and especially by “enlightened” ex-Christians when something like this happens.

So I want to be open.

There are certain things which had been considered sinful in the Old Covenant – the one the ex-Christians and Atheists love to quote – which are overturned by the New Covenant.

Lets look at Pork and Lobster. Both are declared “unclean” foods in the Old Testament in the same books that say homosexuality is a sin (I’ll come back to this in a moment, so bear with me). Jesus teaches that what enters a man through his mouth passes through his body and is expelled. Peter has a vision:

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet descending, lowered by its four corners to the earth, and it contained all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “Not at all, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common (unholy) and [ceremonially] unclean.” And the voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider common (unholy).” This happened three times, and then immediately the object was taken up into heaven.

Acts 10:9-16 Amplified Translation

All kinds of animals, wild and domestic. Another translation includes reptiles in the description. Peter initially balks at the call, yet the voice is clear, God has made these things clean. So there goes the anti-bacon and anti-lobster crowd’s argument.

Paul refers to food and sex in 1 Corinthians:

 Everything is permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything [and brought under its power, allowing it to control me]. Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will do away with both of them. The body is not intended for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body [to save, sanctify, and raise it again because of the sacrifice of the cross].

1 Corinthians 6:12-13 AMP

He goes on:

Run away from sexual immorality [in any form, whether thought or behavior, whether visual or written]. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the one who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, whom you have [received as a gift] from God, and that you are not your own [property]? You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own]. So then, honor and glorify God with your body.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 AMP

The word used for “Run away from” literally means to “flee in terror”. Paul never held back in his letters. When he says our own righteousness without Christ is as “filthy rags” the 21st Century equivalent would be “used tampons”. This was not a man afraid to speak whole truth.

Yet he still stands by and says homosexuality is a sin.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:24-32 NIV

There’s no room for interpretation here. Sexual immorality – ALL sexual immorality is repugnant to God, not only same-gender sex, but any sexual activity outside the bounds of Marriage. God created sex to be immensely pleasurable – and it is. We wouldn’t want it and do it so much if it wasn’t!

But as with everything in this world, the Enemy got hold and twisted the action. God doesn’t say accumulating wealth is sinful, He says greed and making that wealth accumulation is sin – because money and material possessions become your god. He doesn’t say sex is sinful, just the twisted, lust induced instead of the love-induced He designed.

A dear friend of mine who I love and care about immensely was badly hurt by the church. He was sick with an illness the church he moved to told him he should be able to overcome by prayer.

It’s not that simple. His wife had an amazing gift for worship. Within a few months of moving to this new church where they had been invited to be leaders in a Worship setting, they had been undermined and lambasted to the point that they left the church, hurt by the hypocrisy and judgemental attitudes of the leadership. Without a strong Christian support network round them their marriage failed and both he and his wife now actively campaign against Christianity.

God-haters. Arrogant and boastful. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

How does this post support the victims of the Orlando shootings?

I’m being open.

But many readers will only see hate and “homophobia” in my words.

I’m not afraid of homosexuals. I have a number of dear friends who know where I stand on the issue and love me back anyway.

You see, God doesn’t hate Homosexuals. Quite the opposite. He endured flogging, humiliation, torture and the most excruciating death imaginable for homosexuals just as much as he did for everyone else. When the woman caught in the act of adultery is brought before Him, Jesus doesn’t ask who she was with. He doesn’t care. It is not specified that it was a man, just that she was sexually involved with the other person.

She may have been with the wife, not the husband. Jesus doesn’t care because she is repentant. He cares about the hypocrites with the stones in their hands and murder in their hearts. He is the one person there who is Perfect and therefore eligible to throw the first stone. When He challenges the hypocrites, calling them out on their own sin, they all walk away, the thud, thud, thud of falling rocks as their guilt over their own sin overcomes them and they walk away leaving only Jesus and the woman.

He doesn’t ask her about the affair. He doesn’t ask her about her life. He asks if nobody condemned her. Then He tells her He doesn’t either, but to go and leave her sin behind.

Why do we get so worked up about homosexuality? Personally I’m way more bothered by the obvious greed and misogyny of Trump and Clinton clawing their way to gain power and wealth, yet nobody seems to call out those sins. Probably because they aren’t gay.

I can’t refer to myself as a “Conservative” Christian any more. The description understood by the World would likely get me lynched in many circles. “Conservative” christians would have a problem with my marriage – my wife and I have different levels of melanin in our skins. What a ludicrous reason to reject someone. It’s like saying “oh, your blood type is AB+? You’re not as good as me, I’m O-“. How pathetic a reason to launch hate at someone.

Be open enough to admit, please I invite the KKK to do this, that your hate is based on fear of someone who simply looks different than you. How pathetic you are for that attitude.

But Jesus did die for you as well, just not exclusively as you seem to think.

I love the joke where the KKK Grand Wizard dies and goes to the Pearly Gates where St Peter meets him and says “God wants a word with you. Your work has been noted and pointed out for special attention from the Lord, but there’s something you should know going in.” The Grand Wizard pulls himself up and says “What is it I should know?”. Peter responds “It’s about God… She’s Black…”

In “Boston Legal”, Alan Shore (played amazingly by James Spader) has to defend a family of White Supremacists, and despite despising their beliefs he does so – successfully. The family begin to sing “Michael Row The Boat Ashore” to thank him and he turns to them and says “You do know Michael was a gay Jew from Mexico I assume?” and walks out, leaving them shell-shocked, and the audience (in my house anyway) in stitches of laughter, the comedy making a very serious point – we’re all equal in God’s eyes.

The character’s open nature about himself and his flaws draws me to him in the same way another of Spader’s characters, Red Reddington in The Blacklist, draws me. They are very different men, but their common theme is that they recognise their own flaws.

So here are mine. I endure physical pain constantly. I found out why this week, I have a condition that has weakened my spine over the years (physically) and left me in constant pain as a result. Consequently I can be very short-tempered. People don’t get that. All they see is a bad tempered man weighing 200 pounds, often riding a motorcycle.

I carry emotional scars, more than I care to share today, but many which have been open wounds for decades. Raw nerves in my mind that trigger a short-temper when touched. Most of my friends have seen it and distanced themselves from me for a time, some of them years. It makes me lonely.

I have 3 people I consider close friends. They are all young women in their 20s. I get judged for this because I am a married man in my 40s. It bugs me more than I like to admit. My closest friend and I worked together for a while and had lunch together every day for a year. My family – especially my wife – knew about this and were cool with it. But I had comments made that were thinly veiled accusations of impropriety. Partly to bug them I pressed close and as a result this lady is my closest and most trusted friend. But I still wanted to show up the hypocrisy of the accusers.

I’m sarcastic and cynical, not qualities usually admitted to by Christian writers.

I find the practice in Africa, where I currently live, of referring to yourself as “Brother” or “Prophet”, “Apostle”, “Bishop”, “Pastor” or whatever before their name ridiculous. If you have to state it, you’re not living it right. I prefer people just call me David and be done with that. God will not call me by a title, but will recognise me by a testimony. Heck, I don’t even like to be “Mr”. I treat everyone the same. Some people are offended by this. Others are enthralled. Dignity and respect – but don’t take me for a fool because you interpret this as weakness.

So I try to be open

.

I wish more Christians would, just for a moment. Maybe then there would be fewer ex-Christians.

Open

Antithetical Conundrums

Firstly, try saying the title of this post quickly after a large scotch (or your favourite drink). Yes I’m a Christian writer who likes whisky – a decent single malt – and movies some “christian” writers would avoid. I’m 41 and I don’t see a problem with either depending on the genre. I’m obviosly not referring to pronographic films or gratuitous violence, but movies such as Braveheart, Gladiator, and Lord of the Rings need the violence to reflect the story itself rather than to fill space and make it a movie not a TV episode.

I read a wonderful article by John Piper recently on the folly of Men arming Women for Battle.
This kind of leads on from my reflections on that.
Barak Obama – a man I don’t agree with in entirety but I have immense respect for as a man of integrity (normally) – recently supported the placing of women in front-line combat units. It was hailed as a sign of equality in the workplace almost universally, with only a handful of dissenting voices – mine among them – who are concerned at the blurring of male and female roles in society.
There are definite roles which are gender specific. Men, on the whole, are built more heavily with higher muscle-mass and strength than the average woman. Don’t shout me down here, it’s a biological fact. I don’t often meet women taller or heavier than me, I’m 6′ tall (181cm) and weight about 100kg (+/- 220lbs – 15-16 stone) I’ve been heavier – 20stone at my heaviest and lighter – 14 stone, but I’m a bit guy. 51″ Chest and shoulders to match. 38″ waist. Suffice to say I’m big and not a lot intimidates me.
My wife is smaller. She’s strong, but I can easily hold her off when we wrestle (and yes I mean wrestle!).
Size isn’t everything and I acknowledge that. A girl I am friends with threw me six feet across a floor using judo moves I’m not trained in. She’s even smaller.
But the fact is that if I were walking her home and we were attacked I’d be horribly out of character to step back because she has a back-belt.
And so the antithesis comes in.
Women were not designed to fight. Muscular women do not show femininity. When Madonna – who I never really thought was that attractive – traded her softness for the muscle look in the 1990’s I was horrified. My muscle definition as a dancer was never that toned. Aside from obvious gender differences she looked more manly than me!
Tonight Barak Obama tweeted “I want every young man in America to know that real men don’t hurt women”.
I totally and completely agree with this statement.
But it is the antithesis of placing a woman on the front line of a combat zone.
Women are formidable warriors, don’t mistake what I’m saying. I’ve seen first-hand the power and strength of a woman protecting her children from an assailant – one who backed off when a man stepped up to help her. But the front line of a war zone is not a place they should be. No matter how they are traned, men are still men. The instinct to protect will still be there.
Women are women. There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone uses the “men can’t carry babies” argument, so I’ll leave it out. But watch what games girls and boys play. Boys gravitate to physical games. Rough play is more common. I worked at a primary school some time ago and in the time I was there I didn’t have to break up a single fight between 2 girls, but every single day I had to deal with boys.
I was a quiet boy. I went to a boys school for my secondary education (11-18 years old) but my hobby was ballet. I got ridiculed and accused of homosexual leanings – the other boys had NO idea how difficult it is for a pubescent male to “control” himself in a class of 15-20 attractive girls! But I was shy. I had very little conversation with these young ladies, except one who I was very fond of as a result, and I struggled. As a musician and a dancer rather than athlete and scholar I found it hard to cope much of the time in an environment where I was operating in what that society perceived as a female-led role. Ignoring the physical rigours of ballet and the focus of music, it was a tough time.
But I was a boy. Computer games involved shooting things. I was in the gun club at school – and I was good. I still shoot today (yes I’m a Christian who has no moral objection to hunting with rifles for game like buck, boar etc. I’d never shoot a Lion or Elephant unless it was their life or mine. Deal with it.) I made a bow and arrows. It wasn’t Robin Hood, but it worked – kind of.
But the thought of putting a woman in battle instead of me? Never. My back pains, my knees are stiff and I’m seriously out of shape and I’m over 40. I’d still rather go into battle in my condition than have a healthy 25 year old lady go in for me.
I wouldn’t put her in harm’s way.
Politicians seem to miss that. There are female warriors in Scripture, but the point is made clearly – it is to the shame of the men if they insist the women go with them.
So Mr President, please be consistent. Equal but different roles.
Enough of the antithesis of “political correctness”.
Get back to basics. Equal but Different