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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

All I Want For Christmas Is...

There are those who will freely admit that this sentence concludes with a material item or items; a new book, item of clothing, CD or game or for some with bigger aspirations (and incomes); a new music system, item of furniture or even a car or house!

Then there are those who congratulate themselves by finishing the sentence with non-material things believing they are somehow better people for escaping the trappings of materialism; good health, success in business, and of course the ever elusive happiness.

There are even those (usually with some form of faith or moral conscience) who would answer with the less selfish desire for the health, wealth, success or happiness of someone else that is important to them.

But how many of us would answer that our only true desire this Christmas is for the salvation of a sister, brother, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, colleague, neighbour, friend or stranger that we pass every day on the street? And if we were to answer that this was our only true desire, how many of us would be answering honestly? To take it one step further, how many of us have been actively preparing for the opportunity since September when the Christmas shopping usually begins? How many of us have been sincerely praying and seeking God for an individual that is important to us in some way or another? How many couldn’t wait for Christmas to come in order to take the opportunity to send that person an evangelistic card or book, to invite that person to Church or to Christmas lunch or even just to have that conversation about the meaning of Christmas for a Christian? How many of us are excited about this opportunity even if we know it will be inconvenient in some way for us?

Mostly at Christmas, as Christians, we behave in the same way as non-believers with ever increasing budgets and excessive celebrations. We forget what we are doing and miss the opportunities for evangelism. We don’t take our calling seriously. We feel good if we go to Church, avoid drinking too much or spending too much and we believe that somehow this is a witness to non-believers. Maybe they will respect us more or think that we are morally more upright than they are for our stance but what does that really achieve if we don’t communicate the reason for our different behaviour. If we don’t tell them that Jesus is the only true hope this Christmas and if we don’t remind them who and what we are celebrating.

Bizarrely at Christmas we tend to focus on ourselves and our families (personal or Church) and forget those outside our circles who are likely more unhappy at Christmas time, and just after, than at any other time of the year. There is much disappointment, sadness, loneliness and tragically suicide at Christmas and yet as Christians we remain silent or take a “well deserved” break and withdraw from the hopeless and helpless souls that need us most.

We have the only message of HOPE for those still living in darkness but

“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10 vs 14

With just ONE WEEK to go there is still time to reach out to that person(s) that God has laid on your heart OR you can let another year slip by and hope that God is patient with you and with the person whose heart He has already prepared.

Let’s be bold and reach out to those with whom we have contact as it may be our last opportunity to do so.

Have a blessed and fruitful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Fog

Have you ever found yourself wandering around in fog for such a long time that you end up forgetting what life was like before the fog? And then finally you emerge after days, weeks or even months and wonder why you didn’t make more of an effort to find your way out of the fog before…like perhaps when you first entered it! Suddenly everything is back in focus and things are crystal clear. You feel a sense of freedom and great relief….

The enemy often seems to work like this but the fog appears so gradually that we don’t notice it at first. Things do get harder but we attribute it to the trials of life and concentrate on navigating through the fog rather than trying to find the escape route. We pray that God will help us to endure rather than considering that God may not want us to remain in the circumstances. We think the “spiritual” thing to do is to persevere. We don’t consider what will happen if the fog begins to overwhelm us and we start to lose track of ourselves in the midst of it.  When this happens we foolishly believe that we have come so far already and persevered for so long that any attempt to exit now would make the journey so far a waste. We forget that we are learning all of the time and that God has a purpose in everything we experience, even seemingly meaningless times of floundering in fog.

When emerging from the fog we have two choices. We can either waste more time regretting the experience/wishing we had done things differently or exited before or we can PRESS ON, re-join the Christian race and continue pursuing the things we had on our hearts before we encountered the fog. Re-joining the race will often mean leaving others behind and it can be a lonely path. But it is the ONLY option for the Christian who has his heart set on the ultimate goal; eternity with Christ in heaven.

Consider the words of Spurgeon as an encouragement to leave the fog behind and to reach out to those who are not just temporarily incapacitated (by fog) but who are permanently blind and living in darkness without hope in this life

“Even if I were utterly selfish, and had no care for anything but my own happiness, I would choose, if I might, under God, to be a soul winner, for never did I know perfect, overflowing, unutterable happiness of the purest and most ennobling order, till I first heard of one who had sought and found a Saviour through my means.”

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Why It's Not Okay For A Christian Author To Swear

I recently started a Goodreads Group for Christian Books Only. I had the idea after I joined another Goodreads group that required me to review books in order to generate reviews for my own self-published book They’re Rugby Boys, Don’t You Know? Although the category I joined was labelled “clean” I found that I was uninspired by the books I was assigned to read and as a Christian also felt uncomfortable with some of the content. I was also concerned that my own book was being reviewed by non-believers who would be unlikely to respond positively to the Christian content (although in some cases they did.)

Having been running for a few months our group now has nearly 100 members. There has been some lively discussion in the group surrounding certain topics. One of these is worthy of further consideration; the issue of Christian authors using profanity in Christian books. Those that have been reading my blog for a while, or that know me, will guess that I have strong views on this subject. I tend to be more flexible as the moderator of the group as I know not everyone shares my opinion. 

For myself, in the past I developed a “three strikes and you’re out rule” in relation to secular books, music and movies and would switch off the TV show or dispose of the book on the third swear word. I found myself becoming more tolerant to certain less offensive words and not “counting” them. This was necessary, or I would never have been able to watch or read anything! My rule also meant that I couldn’t watch anything above a 12 certificate in the UK as standards were lowered across the board. More violence, sex, swearing, drug taking…you name it.

But that’s the secular world and is to be expected to a certain extent. Christians can’t hold the world to their standards of holiness as the world makes no claim to be holy. Christians can and should, however, hold themselves to different standards, standards set by God in His Word.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12 vs 36-37

I first discovered profanity in a “Christian” book; “The Shack” about 10 years ago. I threw the book away after a few chapters due to the other content but mainly stopped reading due to the swearing. At the time, I couldn’t believe the book went on to be a best seller and that little comment was made about the language used by the author.

Since then I have discovered profanity, and more worryingly blasphemy, in many “Christian” books and also on Christian blogs, including one very popular female missionary blogger who seems to want to make a name for herself by shocking people with her bad language and making herself as un-stereotypically “missionary” as possible.  On reading the comments on her various blog posts I was disappointed to see that not a single person commented on her language. Instead they heaped praise on her and her blog has reached the “most read” lists. I was disappointed but not surprised.

I think we need to ask why Christians feel the need to express themselves in this way especially when not relaying actual events. In a book of fiction why would a Christian author choose to use words that may offend their readers or more importantly might offend God. Do authors really believe that readers will buy books because they contain profanity? Or that they will lose sales if they don’t include it? Or that using profanity creates a more realistic and lifelike scene and builds characters? To those that think this is legalism I would ask whether you would use that language in a conversation with God in prayer. If there is a word that you are not sure about, why risk using it and potentially causing a brother or sister to stumble. Find another word, there are plenty of them.

In a Non-Fiction book it is more understandable but still not acceptable. In Planet Police when someone swore I just wrote “insert two four letter words,” rather than shocking the audience with the words that were actually used which definitely shouldn’t be repeated by a Christian author. 

It beggars belief that some Christian authors are even using blasphemy (using God or Jesus’ name as a swear word) and sometimes frequently throughout their books. This is a direct violation of a biblical commandment and it’s now in print, copyrighted and for all the world to see.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Exodus 20 vs 7

What kind of message does this give out; that Christians don’t value their faith, their God, their standards of holiness? At times, Christians are even shocking non-believers with their language/ blasphemy; the world expects Christians to adhere to the values they claim to represent. When Christians don’t adhere to these values it gives non-believers a reason to doubt the sincerity of the Christian and their message. In their minds (and with the enemy’s input) they may even use this hypocrisy as a reason to dismiss Christianity altogether.

When Christian authors use profanity, especially blasphemy, they are undermining the message in their books and seeking to identify themselves with and blend in with the world. This is the complete opposite of what God tells us to do in His Word.

“Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don't touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you” – 2 Corinthians 6 vs 17

We should not be seeking to shock people, or to entertain them by using curse words or by walking danger lines to get attention for ourselves, our blogs or our books. Instead we should seek to inspire each other, as Christian authors, to greater standards of holiness so that our message of HOPE in Jesus remains authentic.

 “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:4)

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:10)

Friday, 19 June 2015

Help Without Hope; The Ultimate Tragedy

A few months ago I purchased a book cheaply in a second hand bookshop, Vietnam Doctor; The Story of Project Concern by Dr James Turpin published in the 1960’s. It had a Baptist church library (USA) stamp in it, I believed it was a Christian book about a Christian medical doctor operating in Vietnam. Every so often I read a book that profoundly impacts me; this was one of those books, but for all the wrong reasons. I decided to write about this for Christian readers in an attempt to pass on what I have learned in reading this book. Also to encourage Christians (myself included) to be wise in our missionary giving.

I realise that what follows will not be a popular view. I should start by saying that the book was extremely engaging and I read it through in a few hours. I was also prompted to research the organisation, Project Concern which is still currently active in some of the original areas, especially in Vietnam. I have no doubt about the sincerity of these people or of the good work they are doing from a humanitarian perspective.

Summary of Book Content

Dr James Turpin states that he was “converted” to Christianity at the age of 12 during a service in his local Methodist church. He describes his “fling” at preaching when he was just 14. Having failed to graduate from medical school, he became a Methodist preacher but constantly struggled with discontentedness and the desire to work in the medical field perhaps as a missionary. He married Mollie who had also had a conversion experience in her teens. As a married couple it seems they struggled to find their “place” in life and in faith. They began making plans to become missionaries more out of a sense of obligation than calling. Unable to fulfill his duties as a preacher Dr Turpin returned to medical school and finally graduated. The family then lived a life of material luxury for several years but Dr Turpin couldn’t shake off his restlessness. Finally, he began work in a slum area not far from their home in the States. He developed a heart for this work and the missionary “calling” which hadn’t been properly resolved reared its head again.

The couple (now with several children) applied to World Vision but were unable in good conscience to sign a statement stating that the Bible was 100% accurate/inspired by God. Not finding an organisation that suited them they founded PCI (Project Concern International.) PCI is a non-profit, humanitarian NGO based in San Diego, California, and is dedicated to preventing disease, improving community health, and promoting sustainable development. PCI reaches nearly 6 million people a year through programs in Asia, Africa, and the Americas (Wikipedia)

Dr Turpin and his wife started medical clinics in Hong Kong and later in Vietnam and other places, living amongst the people in the slums and working in the most needy areas. They worked with locals, handing over the work to them when they had been properly trained. They learned how to work with “sorcerers” to gain the trust of the people and allowed locals to give them “good luck charms” in the form of mirrors that they displayed in their residence.

After the initial struggles to find his place in life and his “dabbling” in Christian work, Dr Turpin makes no further mention of God or of his teenage conversion although he continues to attend church, preaching on occasion. Instead, he throws himself wholeheartedly into medical work making huge personal sacrifices and forcing his family to endure these with him. Although seemingly selfless in his efforts to help others, he acknowledges at times that his ultimate goal is his own personal contentment/fulfillment. He states several times that he believes that medical help can transform lives and communities and he even believed it could end the war in Vietnam!

Help Without Hope

Maybe some of you are reading this and thinking that it sounds like a good cause and wondering what my problem is. Clearly, this couple had a huge heart of compassion and love for the people, this is evident in the book as they struggle to manage the constant demands of those in poverty. Many of those they “helped” died after a few weeks, days, or sometimes just hours, but the staff comforted themselves in the knowledge that they had made the last hours of many lives less painful and more positive. I particularly remember one old man who came to them lonely and emaciated and asked to stay with them as he was neglected by his own family, he died after several weeks, but at least they had seen him smile and he was now at peace...right?

This book was written in the 1960’s and life expectancy in these areas was a little over 40 years. The majority, if not all of the people “helped” by these kind hearted people have now died and where have they gone? Most likely, to a lost eternity without God (unless they miraculously heard the saving message of Jesus via another source.) What benefit now of the treatment that sustained their life for a few days or hours? What of those that continue to be helped practically but who remain in their sin without spiritual hope. How can a former preacher who apparently still has an “active faith” devote his entire life to serving the physical needs of people but miss these kinds of opportunities to make a real difference spiritually?

Dr Turpin proudly states “We call ourselves medical emissaries because we're not theological; we're not trying to convert people to a religion or a way of life other than healthy," He even mentions that several partners were pleased that they had no religious affiliations and the implication is that they wouldn’t have been willing to partner with them otherwise.

Where is Dr Turpin now?

Sadly, Dr Turpin was later divorced from his wife Mollie, he remarried and finally converted to the Bahá'í Faith. (The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion which emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind. Three core principles establish a basis for Bahá'í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, that there is only one God who is the source of all creation; the unity of religion, that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God; and the unity of humanity, that all humans have been created equal, and the unity in diversity, that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance. According to the Bahá'í Faith's teachings, the human purpose is to learn to know and to love God through such methods as prayer, reflection and being of service to humanity.) (Wikipedia)

He began a law suit in the US after 2 of his children were born blind. The case was called “wrongful life.” Dr Turpin successfully argued that life should’ve been prevented as due to the genetic makeup of the parents the disability could have been predicted...

What Can We Learn

There is a lesson here for all of us as Christians. There are numerous organisations operating throughout the world with a similar set-up to Project Concern. They are staffed by well intentioned, self-sacrificial people with compassionate hearts. Many of these people are Christians. When we learn of the huge needs and humanitarian crises, of course our hearts go out to those involved and those in desperate need. We give generously to help practically but what of the spiritual need.  A healthy person with food and clothes will one day die and go to hell if they are not told of the hope they can find in Jesus, prolonging their life is not kind, it is cruel if we don’t also tell them of the ultimate cure, and of hope for eternal life in heaven.

This book had such a profound impact on me as I felt the hopelessness and meaningless of all of this activity without God. The loss of every precious soul that died in that medical clinic without knowing true hope when just a few words in the Holy Spirit’s power would have been sufficient. The frustration of knowing that this couple had professed Christ as teenagers and that Dr Turpin had once been a preacher and claims still to have an active faith. The many local volunteers and those from other countries that also worked with and continue to staff Project Concern without knowing true hope themselves and therefore being unable to offer it to their many patients.

One paragraph towards the end of the book sums up the situation. K’Moung (one of the regular staff) is speaking to Dr Turpin and others;

“I have suspected that there is something inside me that is special….And it would come to me that my mind, my heart, my life could mean something.” This started a discussion amongst the students, Koho and Vietnamese, about a life and what it meant. Each had an opinion to express, a story to tell, an incident to recall. These people swapped their ideas in soft voices and stopped only when the moon was high in the sky.” (Dr Turpin then narrates) I didn’t say another word, for I had nothing constructive to add…..” 

What a tragic waste…

As Christians we have a responsibility to steward our finances effectively and support only those organisations and people that share the Gospel as they help people. The Gospel must be the priority and practical help should also be offered where it is possible. The popular quotes “You can show God’s love with a smile” and “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words” are both fundamentally wrong. How can people know it is God’s love we are demonstrating by our smiles unless we tell them? And the second quote has been effectively changed to read “Preach the Gospel, always use words!” as this is the method that God has chosen by which people will be saved.

“Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s DONE FOR CHRIST will last.” – CT Studd

"They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know?" at Amazon

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Difference Between a Christian and an Unexploded Bomb in the UK

Well, it’s another day in the UK, which presents another opportunity for a secular organisation to dismiss a Christian worker for their genuinely held and Biblically founded beliefs. Although, the latest judgement from a London Tribunal in the case of Sarah Mbuyi, a Christian Nursery Worker sacked for expressing her views on homosexuality, in response to questions asked by a “gay” colleague, should make senior figures think twice before taking similar action. The judgement in favour of Mbuyi’s religious discrimination case will probably have many breathing a sigh of relief that at last common sense has prevailed…..for now.

However, the precedent that this case sets will not be sufficient to change mind set’s and stereotypes about Christian’s and what they do and don’t believe, which sadly are becoming entrenched. As a supposedly democratic society, we are not only being forced to behaviourally adhere to a specific set of politically correct beliefs and values, we are now being told what to say, how to say it, when to speak and when not to speak. If this continues, there will come a time when every person will be forced to think appropriate thoughts in an appropriate manner about appropriate things, and no doubt these thoughts will be pre-determined by a state sanctioned body set up to police them. Nigel Farage, although not speaking from a religious perspective, summed the situation up nicely when he was asked how people would respond to his view on a certain issue by stating that it didn’t really matter because “everyone wants to be bland, wishy-washy and like each other.” But is that really what we want and the direction we want to take? To live in a country where no one has opinions and instead subscribes to the only “correct viewpoint.” Do we want to become like lemmings or zombies with nothing in our minds?

The reaction to the Mbuyi case will be interesting, as watching Mbuyi being interviewed, it is already clear that some think that the judgement is wrong and might be overturned on appeal. But where would that leave us? Should a Christian who finds themselves in the position of being asked a question about their beliefs on homosexuality be forced to lie or change the subject or leave the room or simply state that they are not allowed to express their view. The question should really be asked why the other party in this case pursued this line of questioning in the first place as it seems that she was likely aware of the beliefs of Mbuyi but wanted them verbalised. The action taken by the Nursery in sacking Mbuyi just two days after the conversation demonstrates a total lack of consideration for her as an employee and as a Christian. There was no time for any discussion or clarification of the facts. The message; your Christian views are not acceptable to us, you’re fired!

There is a very real climate of fear (especially in the workplace) surrounding having and expressing Christian views on a whole range of subjects including but not limited to; homosexuality and gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, family life and state interference. I find myself wondering, in many of these cases that have reached the stage of Tribunals and Courts, why the parties involved didn’t just sit down and have a conversation about what had happened. Surely if both parties listened to each other’s viewpoints they could understand each other’s views, where they came from and in most cases agree to disagree.

In my own case, whilst employed as a police officer but off duty and in my free time, I attended a peaceful protest at a Gay Pride parade near my home town. During the disciplinary aftermath, it was evident that this culture of fear permeated every level. Colleagues were afraid to talk to me in case they somehow were tarred with the same brush. Senior manager’s rushed around consulting every rulebook and numerous other agencies for “advice” on how to deal with the situation. They held meetings where I was treated like a bomb about to explode; in one such meeting, after I had prepared myself to explain my Christian viewpoint, the senior manager walked in, sat down, read two pages of advice, got up and left the room before I even had the chance to open my mouth. I was left with a feeling of rejection, hurt and ultimately as if I was a “bad person” for holding my Christian view. This after many years of faithful service.

My attempts for a follow up meeting were met with stony walls of silence and when I persisted I received a formal letter advising that the matter was considered “finalised” and that there would be no more discussion about it and that we should all "return to policing as usual." Eventually I was able to meet with an even more Senior figure who advised me that some people would consider my views “abhorrent” but that I had the right to hold them. This person sensibly commented that every person likely held certain views that in some respect would be incompatible with the values of the police service but it was how they behaved towards others that was important. He conceded that I couldn’t be held to account for the “potential to discriminate” because of what I believed. I pointed out that my views were clearly written in the Bible, the very same book that most police officer’s still use when giving the oath before they give evidence in court…

My point is that Christian’s (and indeed all people) should be able to freely express their views on any subject during any conversation especially when asked for their opinion. They shouldn’t have to be worrying about how to respond or hiding what they truly believe. We should be mature enough to agree to disagree on certain issues, not respond by taking each other to court. What does a court case really achieve anyway, it doesn’t force a person to change their view or prove that a certain view is the correct one.

As a Christian I should make the point that God’s view found in His Word, the Bible, is always the correct one. I hope I can say this without the fear of alienation, widespread condemnation or of prosecution. This verse for Christian’s facing these issues at work and in other places;

“In God I trust and I am not afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56 vs 11

If you want to know more detail about the incident at Gay Pride, my police biography will be published before the end of the year. Keep reading this blog for updates. You can read about the missionary work I am involved in now in my first book "They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know?"

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Why Most People Fail to Learn Tagalog! #languagelearning #tagalog

I thought it was time for a language related blog post. Oh good…you are thinking :) I’m hoping somehow that some of the burden of learning the Tagalog language will be supernaturally transferred to you through my blog thus reducing the headache I still have after every one of my classes.  Or maybe not, let’s see.
Languages were never really my strong point, probably because I spent most of my time speaking German in my French class and vice versa for the entertainment of other students. I managed an unexpected B in German purely because the question in my final exam was “What do you do on a typical day?” and as it happened, that was the only thing I had learnt over the course of 5 years.

When I knew God was calling me to the Philippines, I began learning Tagalog words and odd phrases straight away. This was when I was still on the Logos Hope Christian Missionary Ship towards the end of 2012. My Filipino friend Arlene helped me and I used a borrowed phrase book. I learned the essentials needed to tell the street children to do things or more often NOT to do things. My first phrase was “sandali lang” which means “wait a moment,” but I was even pronouncing that wrong. However, as I was quickly learning a lot of words I naively thought the rest would be easy. It doesn’t help that saying even the most basic word to a Filipino in Tagalog always results in a ridiculously over the top amount of praise and comments like “You know Tagalog, you are very good.” 

Early mistakes included confusing the words “pusa” (cat) and “puso” (heart) thereby telling an audience that Jesus was living in my cat….hmmm. I was also ridiculed by one of my street kids when I told him that he was “jealous” (inggit ka) instead of to “take care” (ingat ka.) But by far the biggest problem I had was that Filipinos expected me to speak English, so wouldn’t be listening for Tagalog, and therefore wouldn’t understand it due to my accent. And that they would often reply in English, because they want to learn English, or want to impress me because I’m a foreigner. (Foreigners in the Philippines are treated like royalty at times and it’s impossible to change this, i’m learning to try and be gracious.)

My wake-up call came as soon as I started learning Tagalog grammar (that was when the headaches started.) It was also when I somehow told one of my language teachers that I had stopped attending a church because the people there were too small. Being a foreigner and tall in comparison with most Filipinos this was of course hilarious. I had just said the words in the wrong order and this was the result. Other mistakes; “My coffee likes to drink me” and I told a group of children that I liked the cockroach eating my face instead of that the cockroach liked to bite my face, after waking up with a huge lump that locals immediately attributed to a cockroach. Yuck!…There are many many others.

Explaining just one English verb in Tagalog to my parents the other day via Skype had them scratching their heads and searching desperately for a reason to end the call. Let’s see if you can cope :)
The root word “Give” – Simple in English; Gave/Given (past) Giving (present) Will give (future)

BUT in Tagalog…there are 12 words and each time you use a different one of the words you also have to change all of the other words in the sentence.(but explaining that might give someone heart failure so I’ll just stick with the basic verb for now.)  The reason is because Tagalog doesn’t just have past, present and future tenses but also a focus/emphasis within the sentence. You change the word used to change the emphasis in the sentence. In English we would just use our tone of voice to do this (you also need to do this in Tagalog, in addition to everything else, by changing your voice pitch for different syllables, to separate two identical words and to make the words sound correct) You can use agent, object or location focus/emphasis for nearly every verb.  Like this with the word “give”;

The root word “Bigay”                                                                                                    
Agent focus; Magbigay (timeless) Nagbigay (past) Nagbibigay (present) Magbibigay(future) 
Object focus; Ibigay (timeless) Ibinigay (past) Ibinibigay (present) Ibibigay (future)               
Location focus; Bigyan (timeless) Binigyan (past) Binibigyan (present) Bibigyan (future)

Want to learn anymore? Didn’t think so!

The vast numbers of variations continue in every aspect of the language e.g. there are 8 different ways to say a person is very tall rather than the 3 in English. Of course I have to learn all of them so that I can understand if any of them are used (at least that’s my teacher’s logic.) There is also an extra letter in the alphabet “ng” which is very hard for a Westerner to pronounce and they only half pronounce their “t’s” I learnt this when singing in church, it’s amazing how loud that “t” is when no one else is singing it. My teacher tells me to “swallow my t’s” but I haven’t quite figured out how to do this.

The funny thing (or annoying depending on your perspective) is that the Filipinos think that English doesn’t make any sense because of words like “cough” and “cow” and the other anomalies of the language. But from my perspective, the only easy thing about Tagalog is that most of the time the words are spelt as they sound. And I cannot for the life of me work out WHY there needs to be a particular focus in a sentence which definitely quadruples the number of words required and confusion rendered to a Westerner. “Aaah” the locals say “Tagalog is clever because as soon as you hear the verb you know what the focus of the sentence is.” (they start the sentence with the verb as well which is also the opposite to English) Honestly, knowing the focus of the sentence is the least of my worries when I’m trying to work out the meaning of all of the other words, which order they go in, which time tense to use and where to use the tones/gluttal stop etc etc etc……

Please forgive me for offloading this onto you…typing this has made me feel better. I’m sure anyone learning a new language has the same difficulties. Any Filipino readers, no offence intended. I love your country…honestly! And please keep learning English :)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Ashers Bakery in Supreme Court Today #supportashers #freespeech

I have been monitoring the Ashers bakery case in the UK since the story first made headlines. For those that don’t keep up to date; Ashers is a bakery, in Northern Ireland, owned by the McArthur family, who are Christians. They were asked  by a gay activist to bake a cake for a gay wedding containing a slogan indicating support for gay marriage. They declined on the basis that the message conflicted with their Christian beliefs about gay marriage. They were taken to court, not by the gay activist, but by the tax payer funded Equality Commission primarily for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The bakery is being supported by the Christian Institute.

I found it especially interesting that the people jumping to defend Ashers were in most cases non-Christians who were concerned about the potential impact for freedom of expression. Maybe this is not surprising as many Christians don’t seem to be able to make up their minds where they stand on this issue with comments like, “I don’t really know what to think about this” and other such bland statements appearing on social media platforms. But the absence of comment from many Christians is just as concerning. Maybe they feel that their faith is a private matter, or maybe they just resolve to do whatever it takes not to find themselves in a similar situation. I don’t really know the reason for the eerie silence.

I think what many are forgetting is that Ashers didn’t in any way choose to make global headlines or to be thrust suddenly into the public eye by their stance and I’m sure did not intend to be controversial, or to upset anybody. They were simply trying to live their Christian lives in peace as a Godly witness in an increasingly secular country. They have been forced to defend their Christian faith in a tax-payer funded court case which has really been a disgrace from the outset. I followed the case in disbelief at first thinking that at some stage the craziness would come to an end. It eventually concluded with Ashers being found GUILTY.  After my initial shock and disbelief, I grew increasingly confident that the judgement MUST be reversed on appeal as the negative consequences for so many areas of public life would be staggering otherwise, and not just for Christians.

I am writing to highlight the many incredibly profound statements that have been made by the McArthur family throughout their trial and to encourage continued support and prayer for them, That they have been able to maintain their Christian witness and dignity at “such a time as this” is a remarkable testimony to non-believers and I hope will convict those Christians who feel that faith is a private matter that needs to be kept hidden. 

Statements like: “We feel that the Word of God is of much more importance than the words of the Equality Commission,” have a profound ring of truth to them. On hearing this, I was ashamed to recall the times as a Christian where I had been afraid to take a stand because of a secular authority, or person, and their potential reaction. But really, if God is God, and the Bible is God’s Word then why aren’t we all taking a leaf out of the McArthur's book and standing up for what we believe. Is it really okay that a Christian should be forced to violate their sincerely held Christian beliefs by doing some action that they know will offend a Holy God? Who are we serving and who is our Master?

The McArthur's are providing a great example to all of us as Christians, as even when they were no doubt devastated by the outcome of the court case they still released statements firmly reiterating their faith in God and His plans for their future.  Even that they were “happy” to be part of His plan!

“It doesn’t change how we feel about God and it doesn’t change anything about why we took our stand, we don’t regret that for one minute. And we believe God has a plan for the future and whatever that will be we are happy to be in His plans.”

Ashers was also contacted and encouraged by a Christian bakery in the USA in similar circumstances and facing a hefty legal bill. They now join the minority of Christians who have stood against secularism in the UK and abroad including:

1.       The B and B owners who refused to allow a gay couple to share a double bed.
2.       The Doctor who was sacked after 30 years of practice for offering to pray for a patient.
3.       The Judge who was investigated for refusing to place a child for adoption with a gay couple.
4.       The Registrar who refused to marry same sex couples.
5.       The Nurse who was investigated for wearing a cross to work.
6.       The Taxi driver who was investigated for a Christian symbol in his taxi.
7.       The lady who was investigated for offering to pray for a Muslim colleague.
8.       The street preachers that have been arrested for quoting Bible verses and thereby “offending” people.
9.       The parents who complained that their 5 year old had been told he wasn’t allowed to read his Bible in his free time whilst at school.
10.   The students and hotel visitors who stood against their universities and hotels banning Bibles from the rooms.

There are no doubt many more that haven’t made the national news and others who have quietly accepted their predicament and resigned without a fuss knowing that God will bless them for their failure to compromise.

I think we need to remember that this is not about politics or political activism. I would agree that Christians should avoid getting too bogged down in politics as a life focus. These people are defending Christian liberties. If they don’t then ultimately Christian freedoms will be eroded to the point that there will be no legal evangelism. Christians need to take a stand on this issue and remember the words of Jesus;

”If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8 vs 38 (NIV)

(NB I am grateful to the Christian Institute for a lot of the facts. Please visit their website to keep up to date The Christian Institute)