Articles

The following articles are posted here (scroll down to view):

  • We Are Facing the Possibility of a Major Cultural Shift in Our Nation
  • Why bother about Israel?
  • Aren’t all Religions the same?
  • If love is all you need, what is love?
  • Psychics and Mediums: Who are they talking to?
  • Homosexuality and Same Sex marriage

We Are Facing the Possibility of a Major Cultural Shift in Our Nation

by Rev Barry Manuel, December 2016.

I believe that as a nation we are at a significant point in our history. We face maintaining our traditional values or moving to a totally different value system. The essential argument is around one issue that has enormous ramifications. The issue is same sex marriage. Now, to speak about this publicly is to invite ridicule and hostility. However, we must.

The Current Climate

Currently, those of us who hold to a Christian and/or traditional view of marriage are under pressure to give in to the push for “marriage equality”. Our political leaders support same sex marriage. The mainstream media and entertainment industry do as well. Attempts to hold public meetings to promote the traditional view of marriage have been met with hostile actions on the part of gay activists. Yet, some political leaders accuse traditionalists of being “bigots and haters”. That is wrong and is a serious concern for traditionalists. What do we do?

We must not be intimidated by the opposition. Yes, we may need courage to present our view. However, we have every right to do so. Therefore, let us determine to push back and promote traditional marriage.

Important Points for Consideration

Issues for Christians

All the major Christian denominations in Australia uphold traditional marriage. This is the Christian position. An individual claiming to be a Christian, who supports same sex marriage, does not speak for Christianity. Our position is enshrined in the official statements of our denominations and leaders.

Other Faiths

The major Islamic groups and Jewish groups support traditional marriage.

Ethnic and Indigenous  Support

Recently, in NSW 15,000 Chinese Australians signed a statement supporting traditional marriage. 10,000 Indian Australians and 10,000 Arab Australians did as well. A group of Aboriginal leaders representing all the indigenous tribes in Australia presented to our Parliament “The Bark Petition.” This stated absolute support for traditional marriage.

This may surprise the reader that there is such widespread for support for maintaining traditional marriage. However, there is this support!

Let Parliament decide?

An argument used by some is that we should not have a plebiscite on this issue but let parliament decide. At the risk of being discourteous, I cannot trust most of our politicians on this issue. For example, prior to the last election ALP candidate for the senate Don Farrell presented himself as a supporter of traditional marriage. After being elected to the senate he has changed his mind!  He now supports same sex marriage. So in the matter of a few weeks he changes his mind on this important issue.  Politicians seem to be pressured by the “party line” or special interest groups. A plebiscite will allow all voting Australians to have their say without intimidation. Many do not speak up because the current climate does not allow that.

Possible Serious Consequences of Redefining Marriage

Since America has approved same sex marriage a number of troubling consequences have followed. People who disagree with same sex marriage have been penalised and continue to be. Here is a report on a current issue. The report is by Dr Michael Brown.

“A serious example is the recent case of HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, who recently graced the cover of People magazine. They are the stars of the show Fixer Upper. They are now being attacked simply for attending a Christian church. If you are a public figure and attend a church that preaches that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and you actually believe that homosexuals can be changed by the power of the gospel, you should be shamed, ridiculed and perhaps even fired. That is the obvious offshoot of “BuzzFeed’s” recent article which carried the headline, “Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly against Same-Sex Marriage.” Chip and Joanna attend a church that actually believes what the Bible says. They’re part of a congregation that preaches what the church has taught for 2,000 years. And note that the Gaines’ crime was not making a public statement against homosexuality. Their crime was not making ministry-related statements against abortion and homosexual practice, as the Benham Brothers did, because of which they were promptly fired by HGTV (after that network was bullied by radical left activists). They have made NO public statements on this issue. Their crime is that they attend a church which upholds traditional marriage.”

I suggest that the gay activists do not only want same sex marriage legalised but they want all disagreement with homosexual lifestyle shut down. Free speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion will be in jeopardy.

Also, the legalising of same sex marriage will give legal permission to blur the distinction between male and female. “The Safe School” ideology will be empowered with disastrous social consequences. I guess at this stage we can only speculate as to the ramifications. However, I suspect they will be far reaching.

Religious Liberty

Evidence that religious liberty will be under threat is clear from the marriage debate in 2016. Gay activists took an Archbishop to court for distributing a booklet presenting his church’s teaching on marriage. A printing company refused to print a medical doctor’s book about marriage. A Christian group’s reservation of a hotel meeting room led to threats of violence against hotel staff. The meeting was moved to a secret location. A major accounting firm forced one of its senior executives to resign from a Christian board – the organisation supported traditional marriage. A state “Anti-discrimination Commission” treated a newspaper article defending traditional marriage as hate speech! All this has happened. What will happen if the gay activists get their way and marriage is redefined in our nation?

A  Recognition

I recognise that people with same sex attraction have been marginalised and brutalised in society. I do not support this. People who have experienced bullying because of same sex attraction have suffered hurt and some have taken their lives. My opposition to same sex marriage does not condone the maltreatment of people with same sex attraction

Finally

I am of the opinion that the redefining of marriage to allow same sex marriage will cause a major cultural shift in our nation. It will be far reaching and impinge on many areas of our daily lives and freedoms. It is time to speak up for traditional marriage and to make every effort to preserve and strengthen the family based on a father and mother for the good of society.

December 2016

WHY BOTHER ABOUT ISRAEL?

Israel today is a small country, smaller than any Australian State, with a population of less than 8 million people. However, it is constantly in the news. Currently, one of the major issues facing US President Barack Obama is Israel and the attempts to bring peace betweenIsrael and the Palestinians. The Obama administration has been debating the possible division of Jerusalem or its control by a neutral body. Jewish groups are considering the rebuilding of the temple and Muslims are warning of dire consequences if that is done – because the Dome of the Rock mosque is situated on the old temple site!  Currently Hamas in Gaza have been firing hundreds of rockets on civilian houses in Israel.  The world is watching. This tiny nation is big in world affairs. Why bother about Israel?

As I answer this question I want to acknowledge Derek Prince[1] as the source for a lot of what I am going to say.

ISRAEL HAS A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE PURPOSES OF GOD 

Jeremiah 31:17 says, This is what the LORD says:
       “Only if the heavens above can be measured
       and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
       will I reject all the descendants of Israel
       because of all they have done,”
       declares the LORD.

In effect God is saying that he will never cast off the nation ofIsrael.Israelis special to him.

Deuteronomy 7:6-9 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.

This people was chosen by God because he set his love upon them and he entered into a covenant with them. If they were to keep his covenant then they would be blessed if they did not then certain consequences were to follow. Now, some teach today that these promises of a special place for Israel in the plan of God have been replaced by the Church. It is called ‘replacement theology.’ Why do I reject ‘replacement theology’?

Romans 11:25-32 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited:Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
   “The deliverer will come from Zion;
      he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
 27And this ismy covenant with them
      when I take away their sins.”

 28As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all

 In verse 25 Paul distinguishes between the Gentiles and the Jews. He makes it clear that he is talking about ethnicity here. To say thatIsrael means the church here makes the passage non-sensical.Israel, national Israel, will turn to Jesus – verse 31 and they will believe in the Saviour – verse 26 and 27. The great American revivalist and theologian of the 18th century Jonathan Edwards said, “Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11.” So he clearly sees that this is a reference to ethnic Jews – even though the nation of Israel did not exist in his time. However, he still saw a significant purpose for the Jewish people in the plan of God.

GOD’S PLAN FOR ISRAEL

What is God’s plan for Israel? From the time God created the nations and provided the earth for them to dwell in, his plan for all the nations has centred around Israel.

Deuteronomy 32: 8-9 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
       when he divided all mankind,
       he set up boundaries for the peoples
       according to the number of the sons ofIsrael.

 9 For the LORD’s portion is his people,
       Jacob his allotted inheritance.

His plan for all the nations centre around Israel. We must remember that the inheritiance, well being and blessing of all the nations come from and ultimately revolve around Israel. What happens in Israel affects all the nations. Make no mistake about it – we see that daily paraded in the news media!

THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL

The issue of the Jews return to the land of Israel is a big one in Scripture. The Jews have been dispersed from the land twice in history: In approximately 585 BC by Nebuchadnezzar and in AD 70 by the Roman general Titus.

70 years after the exile in Babylon they returned to the land and rebuilt the temple. In 1948 Israel was re-established as a nation and Jews have been returning ever since. In recent years thousands of Russian Jews have gone back to Israel. And, now thousands of hispanic Jews are returning. There are many Scriptures that refer to the restoration of Israel. The reestablishment of Israel is the fulfilment of Bible prophecy!

Jeremiah 32:36-42 “You are saying about this city, ‘By the sword, famine and plague it will be handed over to the king of Babylon’; but this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 37 I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. 38 They will be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.

 42 “This is what the LORD says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them.

Ezekiel 36:22-28 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

 24 ” ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

And finally, Zechariah 14 A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations toJerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.

 3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king ofJudah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

 

So what do we conclude from all this?

  1. We have confidence in God and his word, we are seeing before our very eyes the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
  2. God shows himself as the Lord of History.
  3. We have inside information in what is going on in the Middle Eastand should not be taken by surpriseat the turmoil there.
  4. The restoration of the Jews to Israel is God’s plan for them.
  5. Israel will not be overcome by its enemies.
  6. We have great hope for the blessing of Israel turning to their Messiah, which will bring blessing to the world.

 

 

 

 


[1] Derek Prince, Prophetic Guide to the End times (Grand Rapids,MI: Chosen Books, 2008), p.147-158.

AREN’T ALL RELIGIONS THE SAME?

By Barry Manuel

I attend an advanced Spanish conversation class. It is my way of improving my speaking of the Spanish language. Recently, we had a discussion on various viewpoints of life. This of course included the religious approach. In the course of the discussion the question was asked: Aren’t all religions the same? Many people would answer ‘yes’. I do not. Why?

First, I acknowledge that many people in non-Christian religions are sincere in their beliefs. Also, they live decent lives and want the best for their families and societies. I am not arguing on the basis of sincerity and general conduct. Just as there are good and bad in all races and nations, we will find good and bad adherents of any religious belief.

Second, I point out that it is rather strange to say that all religions are the same. Why? Well, they have significant differences. I am not going to give a study here in comparative religion and so I will take one point: What major faiths believe about Jesus.

Some time ago someone gave me some leaflets that were available at the university they attended. The leaflets were produced by the Islamic Society and set out why Muslims believe that Jesus is not the Son of God. for christians it is essential Christian belief that Jesus is indeed the Son of God! A few years ago as I flew fromBrisbane to Port Moresby I was engaged in a conversation with a man who told me that Jesus was one of his spirit guides.

While in PNG at that time I read about a leader of a witchcraft cult, that was being accused of sacrificing a 14 year old girl. The man Stephen Tari is known as the ‘Black Jesus’. Recently, I looked at some Jewish websites and found that there it was emphatically asserted that Jesus was a man, who led a cult called the Nazarenes. He is not divine, he did not die for our sins, he did not rise from the dead and he is not the messiah. Isn’t that enough to suggest that all religions are not the same?

Third, Christianity is unique because Jesus is unique. The New Testament witnesses to the following about Jesus: he had a unique life, he did unique things, he died a unique death and he rose again. He is unique. When it comes to Jesus all religions are not the same!  The challenge of Jesus remains. C. S. Lewis was once a professor at CambridgeUniversity. In his younger years he was an agnostic, later he became a Christian. He wrote the well known children’s novels The Narnia Chronicles, which have now been made into two movies. He was a very good friend of J. R. R. Tolkein, author of Lord of the Rings. He challenges all who take the time to consider Jesus, but are unsure of what they think, with these words,

I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a mad man or something worse.[1]

I think that the evidence points to one thing: Jesus Christ is the Son of God who makes it possible for us to live new lives – lives of meaning, peace and goodness. All who trust in him experience his presence and power, and have the promise of eternal life.

 


[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Glasgow: Collins, 1982), p. 52.

IF LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED, WHAT IS LOVE?

By Barry Manuel

I show my age here a bit, but in the 60’s the Beatles sang, “All you need is love.” It was a hit and I am sure many agreed with the sentiments. Recently, I have noticed that the argument for gay marriage is based on that premise, love. If two people love each other, man to man, woman to woman, then they should be allowed to marry. After all, all you need is love. In my research about spirit mediums I noticed that one was into this love thing also.

He said, “Good, developed mediumship is never frightening because there is nothing to be gained from frightening people. Mediumship is based upon the links of love that exist between people and love never harms us.”

Then I recall after the last Federal election that some of the politicians got into this love thing and wanted to turn parliament into a great big love in.  I have a feeling that it hasn’t worked out that way. Instead of it being a ‘lover’s lane’ it still looks like ‘abuse alley’ to me. And, what about the Hollywood stars who have their love children? That is, the child is born out of marriage. I find that one a bit annoying because all my children are love children and they were born in marriage!

Then, I remember Jesus saying that we are to love our enemies. That is a challenge-often it is a struggle to love our friends!

Also, the Bible declares without any doubt that God is love. So, what is love? We really do need to get a handle on this. If God is love we do need to know what love is. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” As a hymn from the Welsh revival of 1904 says, “Here is love vast as the ocean.”  This is where we discover what love is; the love of God so powerfully displayed in the death of Jesus Christ.

The Love of God is the love of the Cross

 Here we need to focus on 1 John 4.

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 John the apostle defines love for us in the words, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) It is fairly well known that the word translated “love” here is agape in the original Greek text. Greek has a number of words that are translated “love.” But agape has a distinctive air. It is not distinctive because of its special usage in pre-biblical Greek but because of its rather weak meaning. This changes dramatically in the New Testament. There agape becomes the word that expresses the love of God. It now becomes a powerful symbol for the love that sacrifices everything that we might be redeemed and restored to fellowship with God. So as we look at verse 10 and see that love is God sending his son to die for us then we discover the full significance of agape, in the Christian sense. It isn’t tolerance. Sin is not tolerated! Christ died for sinners! It isn’t nice, kind feelings. There is something far deeper than warm feelings and niceness in the death of Jesus.

God is love and his love is declared, defined and delineated in the death of his Son. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16) Apart from Jesus Christ and his love the world would not know what true love is.

So what is it like?

  1. It is utterly selfless and self-giving. This is seen in the words “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” He is dying for others not for himself.  Theologian Emil Brunner puts this so well.

 

In the Cross of Christ God says to man, ‘That is where you ought to be. Jesus my Son hangs there in your stead. His tragedy is the tragedy of your life. You are the rebel who should be hanged on the gallows. But lo, I suffer instead of you, because I love you in spite of what you are. My love for you is so great that I meet you there, there on the Cross. I cannot meet you anywhere else. You must meet me there by identifying yourself with the one on the Cross.[1]

 

2.This love displayed in the Cross of Jesus is utterly unconditional on God’s side. We did and do absolutely nothing to deserve it or to move him to love us. In Romans 5:8 Paul says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Sinners are rebels against the love and holiness of God. As we saw in our last chapter even such a good man as the priest Isaiah was devastated when he saw himself in the light of God’s holiness. Because of sin all we can ever be is objects of God’s wrath (Romans 1:18 – 32).God chooses out of his great love and mercy to love us and to send Jesus to die for us so that we might be forgiven. That is unconditional love.

 

3.The word translated “atoning sacrifice” in 1 John 4:10 is hilasmos. This word is to be translated “propitiation” and it refers to the removal of wrath by the act of sacrifice.[2] Here is a wonder indeed. God gives to God, in the death of Jesus, the sacrifice demanded by his holiness, and God removes the wrath of God from sinners by that sacrifice. This love is utterly holy!

 

The death of Jesus is God acting to judge sin. The Cross is the holy love of God acting for sinners who defy the holiness of God – that is love indeed. The death of Jesus is not a nice example of self-sacrifice, like the act of a hero – which by the way I do not despise for one moment. But the death of Jesus is a holy death that delivers us from the absolutely deserved judgment of the holy God. This love gives Jesus up as the willing victim of love so that we can know the love of God. That is why true love does not condone sin! To be blunt true love will not approve of what God declares to be sin.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says,

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Love does not condone sin! it redeems us from sin.

The Love of God in our lives 

John tells us in the remaining verses of chapter 4 how the love of God operates in our lives.  First, in verse 13 we are told that the Spirit of God gives us the reality of living in God – and He in us. It is by the Spirit that the love of God, this awesome love of the Cross becomes real in our lives. The Spirit accomplishes the work of the Cross in us.[3]  He is the great gift of God released to us because of Christ’s redeeming work and he brings us into all the power, freedom and knowledge of the work of the Cross. In Romans 5: 5 Paul says that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This means that we do not simply know about the love of God. Through the Spirit we actually know the love of God in our experience. We know that God loves us!

Second, the love of God gives us confidence according to verse 17. This confidence is the assurance that we can stand before God on the Day of Judgment without fear of judgment. Many Christians do not have this assurance. Why? It is because they do not understand the love of God given in the Cross or they are living in deliberate sin and need to repent and be restored to fellowship with God.If we are living in obedience to God then we can be assured that we have nothing to fear on the Day of Judgment. We have confidence. All our sin is forgiven because Christ died for our sins.

If we are living in deliberate sin then such people must ask themselves if they are truly Christians – sadly they may not be. If we are confident that we are truly a Christian, then we must ask ourselves, “Why are we dishonoring our Lord by doing that which put him on the Cross?” If we know Christ then surely we must repent and seek his forgiveness. If we do that then we will be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God (1 John 1:7).

Third, knowing the love of God displayed in the Cross of Jesus results in us showing that love to others (1 John 4: 19 – 21). Here I want to say two things about loving others.

  1. God’s love in the Cross is the fountain or source of our love for others. We love and know love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Love, true love is in us. We can now love others. This will be a process of growing and learning but it can happen because its source is God not ourselves. We depend upon God to show the love we have now come to know as a reality.

2 .The depth of our love for God is seen in the love we extend to others (1 John 4:20, 21). Now that may take us some time to think about. If we know God and love him the outcome is that this amazing fountain of love flows out to others. If our love for God is a religious duty but not something that arises from a heart that has been profoundly impacted by the Cross of Christ then we are not very likely to be filled with compassion for others. When we respond with love and adoration to God because of what he has done for us then this is seen in our living and loving. If we cannot love others then it is because we do not know in our experience the love of God and our love for God may be nothing more than a dull, formal religious duty.

Here is a Powerful Story of the Love of God…..

The late Charles Colson in his book The Body tells this amazing story of Father Maximilian Kolbe.[4] This story illustrates in a profound way what it means to know the love of God and to live in that love.

Father Maximilian Kolbe was forty-five years old in the early autumn of 1939 when the Nazis invaded his homeland. He was a Polish monk who had founded the Knights of the Immaculate, a Franciscan order whose headquarters was in Niepokalanow, a village near Warsaw. There 762 priests and lay brothers lived in the largest friary in the world. Father Kolbe presided over Niepokalanow with a combination of industry, joy, love and humor that made him beloved by the plainspoken brethren there.

Maximilian Kolbe had a global vision for evangelism, and he saw the emerging technology of his day as powerful tools to be harnessed in his work. Radio, publishing, mass media – he dreamed of having the resources to use them all to spread the Good News. In his simple room at Niepokalanow, he sat each morning at a pigeon hole desk, a large globe before him, praying over the world and focusing on the many opportunities for the gospel to be shared. He did so tortured by the fact that a terrible evil was being spread in those dark days of the late 1930’s. Adolph Hitler was in control of Germany. Whole nations had already fallen to Hitler and his Nazis. Storm troopers were already marching in the streets of Austria and Czechoslovakia.“An atrocious conflict is brewing,” Father Kolbe told a group of friars one-day after he had finished his prayers.

In the morning of February 17, 1941 Father Kolbe was sitting at his pigeon hole desk, his eyes and prayers on the globe before him, when he heard the sound of heavy vehicles outside the thick panes of his green-painted windows. He knew it was the Nazis, but he remained at his desk. He would wait for them to come to him.After being held in Nazis prisons for several months, Father Kolbe was found guilty of the crime of publishing unapproved materials and sentenced to Auschwitz. Upon his arrival at the camp in May 1941, an SS officer informed him that the life expectancy of priests there was about a month.

Kolbe was assigned the timber detail; he was to carry felled tree trunks from one place to another. Guards stood by to ensure that the exhausted prisoners did so at a quick trot. Years of slim rations and overwork at Niepokalanow had already weakened Kolbe. Now, under the load of wood, he staggered and collapsed. Officers converged on him, kicking him with their shiny leather boots and beating him with whips. He was stretched out on a pile of wood, dealt fifty lashes, then shoved into a ditch, covered with branches, and left for dead. Later, having been picked up by some brave prisoners, he awoke in a camp hospital bed alongside several other near-dead inmates. There, miraculously, he revived.Kolbe was switched to other work and transferred to Barracks 14, where he continued to minister to his fellow prisoners, hearing their confessions, praying with them, comforting them.

By the end of July 1941, Auschwitz was working like a well-organized killing machine, and the Nazis congratulated themselves on their efficiency. The camp’s five chimneys never stopped smoking. The stench was terrible, but the results were excellent: eight thousand Jews could be stripped, their possessions appropriated for the Reich, gassed and cremated – all in twenty-four hours.About the only problem was the occasional prisoner from the work side of the camp who would figure out a way to escape. When these escapees were caught, as they usually were, they would be hung with special nooses that slowly choked out their miserable lives – a grave warning to others who might be tempted to try. Then one July night the air was suddenly filled with the baying of dogs, the curses of soldiers, and the roar of motorcycles. A man had escaped from Barracks 14.

After the roll call, Camp Commandant Fritsch ordered the dismissal of all but Barracks 14. The prisoners from Barracks 14 stood motionless in line. They waited. Some fainted and were dragged away. Father Kolbe, by some miracle, stayed on his feet, his posture as straight as his resolve.By evening roll call, the commandant was ready to levy sentence. The other prisoners had returned from their day of slave labor; now he could make a lesson out of the fate of this miserable barracks.

Fritsch began to speak, “The fugitive has not been found” he screamed. “Ten of you will die for him in the starvation bunker. Next time, twenty will be condemned!”The starvation bunker! Anything was better – death on the gallows, a bullet in the head at the Wall of Death, or even the gas in the chambers, All those were quick, even humane, compared to Nazi starvation, for they denied you water as well as food.

The prisoners had heard the stories from the starvation bunker in the basement of Barracks 11. They said the condemned didn’t even look like human beings after a day or two.

Commandant Fritsch walked the rows of prisoners. When he stopped before a man, he would command in bad Polish, “Open your mouth! Put out your tongue! Show your teeth!” And so he went, choosing victims like horses.  Soon there were ten men, ten numbers, neatly listed on the death roll.

“My poor wife!” one man cried, “My poor children! What will they do?”

“Take off your shoes!” the commandant barked at the ten men. This was one of the rituals; they must march to their deaths barefoot.

Suddenly, there was a commotion in the ranks. A prisoner had broken out of line, calling for the commandant. It was unheard of to leave the ranks, let alone address a Nazi officer; it was cause for execution.Fritsch had his hand on his revolver, as did the officers behind him. But he responded in an unusual way. Instead of shooting the prisoner, he shouted at him.

“Halt! What does this Polish pig want of me?”

The prisoners gasped. It was their beloved Father Kolbe. The priest spoke, “I would like to die in place of one of the men you condemned”.

Fritsch stared at the prisoner, his number was 16670. He never considered them as individuals. Number 16670 didn’t appear to be insane.

“Why?” snapped the commandant.

Father Kolbe knew he needed to be careful. The Nazi never reversed an order; so he must not seem to be asking him to do so. Kolbe knew the Nazi policy: the weak and the elderly first. He would use this principle.

“I am an old man, sir, and good for nothing. My life will serve no purpose.”

His ploy triggered the response Kolbe wanted. “In whose place do you want to die?” asked Fritsch.

“For that one,” Kolbe responded, pointing to the weeping prisoner who had bemoaned his wife and children.Fritsch glanced at the weeping prisoner. He did look stronger than this weak number 16670 before him. For the first and last time, the commandant looked Kolbe in the eye. “Who are you?” he asked.

The prisoner looked back at him and said, “I am a Catholic priest”.

“A priest!” the commandant snorted. He looked at his assistant and nodded. The assistant drew a line through number 5659 and wrote down number 16670. That was Maximilian Kolbe’s death sentence.

Father Kolbe bent down to take off his clogs, then joined the group to be marched to Barracks 11. “Remove your clothes!” shouted an officer.

In the basement the ten men were herded into a dark, windowless cell.

“You will dry up like tulips”, sneered one of their jailers. Then he swung the heavy door shut.

As the hours and days passed, however, the camp became aware of something extraordinary happening in the death cell. In the past prisoners had spent their dying days howling, attacking one another, and clawing the walls in a frenzy of despair. But now, coming from the death box, those outside heard the faint sounds of singing. Now, the prisoners had a shepherd to gently lead them through the shadows of the valley of death and to point them to the Great Shepherd. And perhaps for that reason, Father Kolbe was the last to die.

A prisoner named Brono Borgowiec, who survived Auschwitz, served as attendant to the death cells. Each day he had to remove the corpses of those who had died. He also was supposed to empty the waste bucket, but each day the bucket was dry. The inmates had drunk its contents in an effort to satisfy their thirst.On August 14, 1941, there were four prisoners still alive in the bunker, but now it was needed for new occupants. A German doctor named Boch descended the steps of Barracks 11, four syringes in his hand. Several SS troopers and Brono Borgowiec were with him – Brono had to carry out the bodies.

When they swung the bunker door open, there, in the light of their flashlight, they saw Father Maximilian Kolbe, a living skeleton, propped against one wall. His head was inclined a bit to the left. He had the ghost of a smile on his lips and his eyes wide open, fixed on some faraway vision. He did not move. The other three prisoners were on the floor, unconscious but alive. The doctor took care of them first: the needles were jabbed into the bony arms. Then he approached number 16670 and repeated the action. In a moment, Kolbe was dead.

What a powerful story of a man who knew the love of God in Jesus Christ and whose whole life had been motivated by that love even to the point of dying in the place of another. When the power of the wonderful Cross of Jesus captures our hearts it inspires us to heights never imagined by those who do not know the love of the Cross.

We do well to think much upon the Cross and what God’s love displayed there for us means. That amazing love poured out for us will soften our hearts and inspire us to love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Cited in: David Watson, Discipleship (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1981), p. 239.

[2] Leon Morris has given an extensive defence of this position in Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross: A study of the significance of some New Testament terms (London: The Tyndale Press, 1972) Pp.179 – 250.

[3] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (London: Banner of Truth, 1961).

[4] Charles Colson, The Body: Being Light In The Darkness (Dallas: Word, 1992), Pp. 318 – 326.

Psychics and Mediums: Who are they talking to?

by Barry Manuel

On Monday morning July 9, 2012 Channel Seven’s SUNRISE featured Ezio and Michelle De Angelis, self proclaimed mediums. I am calling them the “Sunrise Psychics”.  They were favorably interviewed. I consulted their website and here is their explanation of what they believe and what they do:

“Ezio shares some thoughts on the questions and comments most asked of his mediumship. What is a medium? A medium is anyone who communicates with the spirit world. There are many forms of mediumship ranging from spiritual or energetic healing, inspired or visionary art, physical phenomena, trance or channelling and of course…my favourite…survival evidence. Some people lump fortune telling into the same category as mediumship but I don’t think that’s correct.

What about fortune telling? As a rule, I don’t consider mediumship and fortune telling to be the same thing. I also don’t make predictions unless the prediction comes directly from a spirit communicator. There is a huge difference between psychic practice and mediumship. A psychic obtains their information from the energy of the person they are reading for. A medium links directly to the spirit.

Are you unique? I don’t think so. Basically I am just a normal person who does normal things. I like family, friends, football…very normal indeed…apart from the fact I talk to the spirit world. It also takes time to gain the spirit world’s trust. If you are not doing the work for the right reasons they know about it and won’t go out of their way to assist your growth and development.  Realness is important to the spirit world. They are misrepresented enough by people who don’t understand so when they find someone who wants to sincerely be a servant to greater understanding…they will do whatever they can to help that person get it right. It’s not scary. Good, developed mediumship is never frightening because there is nothing to be gained from frightening people. Mediumship is based upon the links of love that exist between people and love never harms us.

Are dead people scary? I don’t believe in communication with  dead people. In fact I have often said it is not possible to communicate with the spirit of the dead and anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves. Mediums do not communicate with the spirit of the dead but with the spirit of the living. Think about it. If a spirit can communicate intimate thoughts, shared memories and proof that they still know what is going on in their loved one’s lives, then how on earth could they be dead!”

Why is this becoming acceptable?

The world of the Occult has moved from the more secretive part of our society to, really, the mainstream today. The word ‘occult’ comes from the Latin word ‘occultus’ which simply means hidden.  Traditionally it has been used for the hidden or secret magical arts. Today the occult is a wide term that covers many practices and belief systems. Generally speaking these beliefs are based on the idea that everything is or contains energy, and one can access, change, channel and / or manipulate this energy or force or spirits for the purposes of gaining information, healing, or bringing something into reality.

People describe this energy in different ways and those involved in the occult have a wide variety of beliefs. Most occultists today believe that these powers are good and are to be used for good purposes. Coupled with this is a belief in spirits and angels.

Therefore when someone like me raises questions and criticisms from a Christian perspective then we are really seen to be very narrow people. I have to wear that because there are much bigger things at stake here. What is at stake? To put it simply – the truth. Today many people are not willing to consider that this is an issue – however it is. Without going into a deep philosophical discussion I want to state that there has to be truth or there can be no such thing as right or wrong. Briefly, Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Because of Who he is and what He has done, His word is the standard by which we check all spiritual and moral beliefs. This will be my position as I consider the many faces of the occult.

Why is there this growing acceptance and interest in the occult? Thirty years ago this area was for, maybe, the poor and uneducated but not so today – it is mainstream. It is academically acceptable. You can study it in the field of Parapsychology, which is a respectable name for the occult. Why the upsurge?

  • Materialism and scientism have failed. We sense that life has a non-rational dimension and crave its fulfillment.
  • Growth in popularity of the New Age, Eastern religions and mysticism.
  • Acceptance of Parapsychology has given the occult respectability.
  • Contemporary Western society has experienced a loss of meaning and a loss of hope it is looking for something. Some think that the answer is found in the occult or eastern mysticism.
  • The Christian Church has experienced a serious decline in influence and Christians seem to have a serious ignorance of the spiritual world. This is because of its lack of understanding for what the Bible teaches and its lack of power. 

Mediums and the Bible

Quite some time ago two noted British Psychics Raymond Buckland and Hereward Carrington wrote a book ,Amazing Secrets of the Psychic World, which encouraged people to develop their psychic powers. In the book they say this about mediumship.

Mediumship opens the door to influences and powers over which we have little control and we must be sure that, before the doors of the soul are swung back, we must be prepared to receive whoever enters. (p. 50)

That is highly significant and is something that many people ignore. They choose to think that mediums get in touch with the departed dead. The Bible makes it plain that there is no communication with the dead and in fact it is forbidden!

Here is what Jesus said,
26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27”He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29”Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31”He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “(Luke16)

Moses reported this,
10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in [1] the fire, who practices divination orsorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. (Deuteronomy 18)

Isaiah prophesied,
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Isaiah 8:19)

Who are they talking to? 

Therefore who are the mediums in contact with? They are channeling ‘familiar spirits’.

Leviticus 19:31

‘Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 20:6

‘And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.

The term “familiar spirit” applies to the practice of communicating with the spirits of the dead. A more literal translation of the Hebrew for ‘mediums and familiar spirits’ is ‘ghosts and departed spirits.’

The practice involved sorcerers, mediums or necromancers, who professed to call up the dead to answer questions. These individuals were said to have a “familiar spirit” of another dead person. In actual fact the different voice that came out of a person claiming to call the dead was not that of a dead person but that of a demon. Any apparition was also the work of demons. A demon can fake the voice or image of a dead person.

That is why God strictly forbade this heathen practice among the Israelites (Leviticus 19:31). The consequences God said would result in defilement and excommunication from the community (Leviticus 20:6, Deuteronomy 18:10-13). The one acting as a vessel or medium for a familiar spirit to talk through was to be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:27).

A familiar spirit pretends to be the dead person and reveal details about that person.

Why do people consult mediums?

It is because of a sense of loss and grief at the death of a loved person. It is understandable, but they are being deceived that is why the Bible tells us to have nothing to do with such things.

A Warning!

The Bible tells us not to participate in such things because they are harmful. Sadly, what may appear to be harmless, or even good, are quite dangerous.

Mediums and psychics are demonised. In Acts 16:16-18 we have the account of the young girl who could tell fortunes. She is described as “having a spirit of Python”. She is demonised and in her case she has occultic power. And of course, we have the Leviticus references.

When we consult mediums and psychics we are receiving messages from lying spirits. They are evil and very harmful. We can be demonised and so oppressed as a result of this contact.

What is the answer?

John 14:1-6

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

 

(1)  Jesus has the answer to death: He will take all who trust him to heaven. He promises to do that.

(2)  He alone is the way to God. He is the true mediator. We must come to God through him.

Homosexuality and Same Sex Marriage…by Barry Manuel

Currently, the push for total acceptance of homosexuality as a normal expression of human sexuality  and hence the legitimacy of same sex marriage, is receiving major prominence in Australia. The media gives wide exposure to these issues and the Greens are major supporters. Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister and professed Christian, declared that he now supported same sex marriage. Added to all this is the fact that our neighbours New Zealand has legalised same sex marriage. President Obama is an outspoken advocate of gay marriage. The pressure to legalise same sex marriage is increasing. Do we just bow down to the emotional rhetoric? No, I do not think that we should. Here are some reasons for remaining true to the traditional Christian position.

 HOMOSEXUALITY

The late John White, psychiatrist, pastor and missionary, says, “A homosexual act is one designed to produce sexual orgasm between members of the same sex.  A homosexual is a man or woman who engages in homosexual acts.”[1] He gives this definition because he prefers not to categorise people as “gay”, “lesbian” or “homosexual.” He argues, and I think very persuasively, that the acts are the source for a person becoming a homosexual. He does not consider that people are born homosexual and therefore are acting according to nature. He himself tells of a homosexual encounter that he had as a young boy with a youth leader. I say this to highlight that he is not coming from some aggressive, male homophobic position (by the way I actually question the term ‘homophobic’. I know the Gay Movement like to use this term but in my view it is a failure on their part to see that some people actually find homosexual acts as repulsive).  John White in fact writes warmly and sympathetically about this issue, yet all the time maintaining the biblical perspective.

 Homosexuality is mentioned seven times in the Bible and only fairly briefly at that. See Genesis 19: 1 – 11; Leviticus18: 22;20:13; Judges 19: 22 – 25; Romans 1:2 25 – 26; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1Timothy 1: 9 – 10. In none of these passages is homosexuality approved. Biblically we cannot accept homosexuality as an alternative sexuality. It contravenes the creational order. I think it is right then to call it “unnatural.”

 In the Bible homosexuality is not worse than other sins – see 1 Corinthians 6: 9 – 11. I suggest that Christians who oppose homosexuals and yet turn a blind eye to other sexual sins, including heterosexual lust – are showing the character of their hearts and not the character of God.

 Because of sin our humanity has been distorted in many ways. One way that people experience that distortion is that homosexuality emerges as a problem for them. The specific causes are varied, the problem is real. Some people are cured of a homosexual desire  and enter into a normal heterosexual relationship, including marriage and children. I know personally of such cases.

 However, some people do not seem to get free from homosexual urges but, nonetheless, they choose to follow Christ and live chaste and godly lives. Christ enables them to do that. I know people in that category. Homosexual “bashing” does not help people like that. In 40 years of pastoral ministry I have counselled people who have struggled with same sex attraction, both men and women. It is interesting that not one of these people came to me and asked me to in some way condone that attraction. Every one of them wanted to be free of it and to have heterosexual attraction. None of these people have got angry with me as I have sought to help them move to freedom in Christ and to change their sexual orientation. The advocates of homosexuality seem to be very afraid to openly face the fact that many, yes many people, who experience homosexual desire, want to change that. The pressure to accept homosexuality as “normal” locks many people into a life of guilt and depression.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE

Homosexuals have cohabited for centuries – in some way or another. When we talk about same sex partnerships we are referring to the new phenomenon that we in the West are encountering. Couples of the same sex who want to live together as “man and wife” and have children, and are recognised as a normal, legitimate family. This is an obvious extension of first legitimising homosexuality and then the assertion of “gay rights” activists to experience “normal family life.”

 It is fairly easy to predict how I am going to respond to this issue. I do not accept the practise of homosexuality as legitimate for a Christian or as a natural alternative sexuality. In my response to this issue I want to begin by taking an argument from nature.

 If homosexuality is a legitimate, natural lifestyle then why is not one of the outcomes a natural production of off spring? There is an observable phenomenon in nature. Male and female reproduce. Where, as in some cases, the male and female of the species do not engage in a sexual act for reproduction then reproduction is activated by other means. The point here is that even if there is no male and female sexual act the reproduction occurs naturally – “nature” has accommodated itself to that. But this does not happen in the case of human homosexuals. The homosexual act is not a reproductive act. If the majority of us were practising homosexuals then our population problems would be very quickly solved. So my first point is that a same sex partnership and family is an unnatural arrangement. And, to deliberately create a one sex family is also unnatural in the human sense.  The human species naturally has a mother and a father and needs both for proper nurture.

 Second, anal and oral sex seriously increase the risk of sexual diseases, of viral infections and even reduce life expectancy.[2] Whereas in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship there appears to be no risk of sexual diseases and the only drawback maybe life expectancy – depending on one’s level of sexual activity(only joking).

 Third, this issue of same sex partnerships is very current in our Sate – as we know. A young man came to me after hearing me publicly speak against some of the proposals to legalise same sex relationships, and said that he was adopted. As such he wanted to be adopted by a mother and father because that was what he wanted. Same sex couples are not discriminated against if we do not permit them to adopt children. They have rejected the natural way of producing children – they have discriminated against themselves. Also, they ignore the rights of adopted children to choose to have a father and a mother. So they are discriminating against adopted children! The rights of children, as in the case of abortion, are totally ignored in this matter.

Fourth, if we reject the traditional and Christian view of marriage then on what basis to we define marriage? Marriage then can be anything that we choose it to be. We can have polygamous marriage. Some would argue for that and, on what grounds do we reject that, if we have abandoned the traditional view?

 Fifth, the establishing of same sex marriages and families will move our society towards incoherence. We will in reality blur the real distinction between male and female, between mother and father. This will cause psychological problems for some people and many social problems. For example: Who will be the mother on mothers’ day in a same sex marriage of two men? Some will say that it doesn’t matter. I think that it does. To say that a man is a ‘mother’ is to make language meaningless. What about discovering our ancestry? In a same sex marriage it will make it difficult for children to know who their real biological ancestors are. I know who my ancestors are on my father’s side and my mother’s side. I find this is very important to me. I think that as we become aware of the ramifications of going down this pathway of legitimising same sex relationships then we will open up a pandora’s box.

Sixth, as a Christian I go much further than the above. A family in the Christian understanding is composed of a father and a mother who have particular responsibilities in nurturing their children. Also, the husband and wife living together in a loving committed relationship provide a safe and secure environment for the nurture of their children. Of course, we know that it does not always work as God ordained. However, we do not improve on what God says by rejecting his plan. We seek by Grace to live as close as we can to his plan. Where there has been a break up in the marriage or a death has occurred then a single parent family exists. This family can still follow God’s order and experience his blessing. But, most single parents know that it is not easy nurturing children in such an environment. However, still someone may say, “Can’t two people of the same sex live together and not have children?” They cannot live together as a “married couple.” If they desire to live in a sexual relationship with the partner of the same sex then they are rejecting God’s order and cannot experience his blessing and peace.

A final point to consider is the issue of free speech. Homosexual activists have become very domineering in their push for the acceptance of same sex marriage. Anyone who opposes their point of view is declared as using ‘hate speech.’ This is serious. In a democracy we have prided ourselves on our freedom to express our views. Now, today, if we are opposing same sex marriage or rejecting the homosexual lifestyle we are engaging in a hate crime! So Christians and others who share our position are being marginalised and shut down by the homosexual lobby. We are a democracy in this country any attempt to stifle our freedom of expression is anti-democratic and very serious indeed.

 To sum up, God has called us to a life of purpose, joy and meaning that is experienced in obedience to his order. His principles for living are meant that we can live life to the full! Where we have failed in Christ we are forgiven and empowered to live obediently to the Father and in his presence is fullness of joy and in his order is safety and security. The Good News of Jesus is that he died for our sins. We can be forgiven and washed clean by his precious blood. This is an offer to all who will take it.


[1] John White, Eros Defiled (London: IVP, 1977), p. 105.

[2] John Stott, New Issues Facing Christians today (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1999), p. 403.

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