If you are a train enthusiast, this is not for you.


If you enjoy good dining and a quiet holiday read on….

On this trip we learned two new things:

  • Chocolate is cheaper than therapy, and does not require an appointment.
  • Chocolate is the answer, whatever the question.
  • Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso.

If you have ever thought about travel across Canada, then VIARail is the answer to your problem. Forget about Rocky Mountaineer, they throw you off the train when it gets dark. VIARail is the real rail experience. The train is everything. At almost three furlongs – two engines and 22 cars – it is only surpassed by the goods trains which share the sames lines on their journeys from Vancouver to Toronto – or, if you wish to leave the mountains till last, Toronto to Vancouver.

The stops are frequent, but not too long, so don’t stray too far from the train if you really must get off.

But who needs stops – the views are superb, whether it is of the north Ontario woodlands, the endless prairies, the Albertan forests or the mountains of British Columbia. The changing flora and fauna on the journey provide much interest for the traveller, but even the least interested in matters of the train will be absorbed by the magnificent variety of goods vehicles which form part of the great strings of goods trains – often well over a hundred cars. This traveller counted one hundred seven and fifty on one such string.

Whilst on board you will have a personal steward who is responsible for the well being of all travellers in his or her car. As for accomodation, you may have a private room, a suite, couchette or for the real enthusiast on a very tight budget join in the fun of economy. If you are in other than economy then you have the benefit of a private dining car – meet new people – or not as your preference may be. Three very hearty Canadian meals are provided each day, with the timing of sittings not unexpectedly dependent upon station stops! Train travellers will understand.

So in the words so beloved of the UK train industry – let the train take the strain!


Where do you go when not in London?

My favourite curry house is in Crane Court, but where do you go when you are not in the City of London? That was the question that faced us when we were in that town which has apparently not yet made peace with Russia¹. The answer came from a friendly church pastor in Wooler: The Magna Tandoori, Berwick. And so we went. “Hmmm”, I thought as we walked in, “this might have been a mistake. There are no white tablecloths on the tables….ah well! beggars can’t be choosers and no one else had had a recommendation. “

We had been welcomed well enough and shown to a table in a good position. But now not expecting the best I sat down with my friends. Next problem – no popadoms. I was used to these delicasies simply appearing on the table, but here we had to ask for them.

But that is when it all turned around. The lack of tablecloths was made up for by the extensive menu – all of the old favourites and where else will you find duck and venison on a curry menu. Well, that had to be tried, and together with king prawns and other dishes, a variety of different rices and peshwari naan we all feasted away rounding the meal off with a little desert – the lemon sorbet is recommended and complimentary coffees on the sofas.

It was only then that I noticed how quiet it had been. All too often a place without table cloths is far too loud, either because the hifi had had its day and the volume control is jammed at the top or through the lack of furnishings to absorb sound. The quietness was not disturbing, but really added to the atmosphere. I could almost think that there was some music playing, but if so it was just there in the background not being intrusive so we could enjoy talking together without having to shout or strain to listen.

Excellent evening all round!

One word of warning, take a couple of teenage lads with you to help out with the food. This is not skimpy nouvelle cuisine. The helpings are generous.

O! Angelina

Returning to chocolate, we must not forget the establishment just across le rue de Rivoli from le jardin des Tuileries. Leave by l’allée de Castiglione, turn right and it is a less than a few hundred yards down on the other side of the road. A booking is essential if you do not want a long wait, but a long wait is worth its weight in chocolate. There are other branches of this establishment, to which ingression is somewhat easier if you pick the right day.
But Angelina by the Tuileries must be the foremost chocolate house in Paris. If you have nothing else but time for the Louvre, well they have one inside, but skip lunch and visit Angelina.

There are other versions of the story, but why refute a good story with too many contrary facts.

¹We are not at war with Russia, but according to some sources since Berwick had changed hands several times, it was traditionally regarded as a special, separate entity, and some proclamations referred to “England, Scotland and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed”. One such was the declaration of the Crimean War against Russia in 1853, which Queen Victoria supposedly signed as “Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, Ireland, Berwick-upon-Tweed and all British Dominions”. When the Treaty of Paris (1856) was signed to conclude the war, “Berwick-upon-Tweed” was left out. This meant that, supposedly, one of Britain’s smallest towns was officially at war with one of the world’s largest powers – and the conflict extended by the lack of a peace treaty for over a century.²

British hater?

Ultimately the question is not going to be: Did you hate Britain?

Did you hate Jesus Christ?

You may think that that is a strange question. When you consider the life of the Lord, Jesus Christ, many people will say how could you possibly hate him? He went about doing good, teaching people, healing people, casting out their demons. Even the liberal theologians, Arians of a variety of colours, races and ethnicity, and atheists acknowledge that he was in every, or at least many, respects a remarkable person who deserves no little respect for how he conducted himself whilst he walked upon this earth in his mortal flesh.

But to show someone respect is not the same as to love them. And to hate someone does not preclude the giving of respect to them.

What then is the answer to the question?

Before going there, what was the point of asking whether someone hated Britain or not? Why did they think it mattered? Is the answer not something to do with nationalism – or as the Italians are not ashamed to call it nazionalismo – whether the answer to the question is yes or no, the very asking of the question derives from nazism. If my answer to the question Do I hate Britain? is No, then I may quite rightly be called a nationalist, that is to say a nazi. In the late twentieth and now the 21st centuries that has become an epithet which no English speaking man would want to be written on his memorial. ‘He loved his land. He was a nationalist. Era un nazi[onalista]. He was a nazi.’ But if my answer is Yes, then what? I am villified by the press as a man who has no right to live and remain in that land.

You wish to quibble with me, don’t you? To be a lover of your country is not to be a nazi. I am sorry, but it is. There is no getting away from the fact that that is what a nazi is and is what is a nazi. He loved his nation. Amava la sua nazione. Egli era un nazionalista. He was a nazi.

The point of this, is not to prove whether or not you are a Nazi, in the much more narrow and restricted sense in which the word has come to be used in the English language, but to show that ultimately the question Do you love Britian? or its counterpart Do you hate Britain? or indeed any other country, land, nation, sovereign state, federation or empire for such things are not coextensive, there are nations within federations and nations across countries, and even nations within nations, is not of such significance that it really matters, for whatever the answer to the question there will be others who will give a different answer for different reasons, though they may both enjoy the same rights, privileges, upbringing ethnicity and legal status.

So to return to the real question: Did you hate Jesus Christ?

I have already suggested that it is difficult not to give him respect and recognize his goodness, but to say that I love him? Well that is an entirely different matter indeed. But unless you love him, you do in fact hate him. Why do I say that and what evidence is there to support and prove that?

Do I love him?
How do I know?
Am I against him?
Am I for him?
What did he say?
If you love me…
Many will say to me….

Now you may dispute with me and say, but did he not himself say: he who is not against me is for me?

Finally, there is a connection between this question and the one asked in the press: do you hate Britain? The Lord said to Cæsar’s captain: Is that what you say or have others told you? My kingdom is not of this world. If it were my disciples would rise up and fight.

My kingdom is not of this world tells us that he does have a kingdom, and so the question becomes: do you hate Britain or do you hate his kingdom? A man cannot serve two masters. He cannot own allegience to two countries¹. So do you owe allegience to the kingdom of the Lord, Jesus Christ, or do you refuse him allegience and prefer one of the kingdoms of this world? If you prefer this world, you do not love him. If you prefer his kingdom then you have in the strictest sense of the word, hated this world and the kingdom into which you were born.

So then, a better eulogy for your memorial than ‘He loved his land. He was a nationalist.’ would be ‘He loved the Lord. He loved the kingdom of God. He hated Britain.’ but no-one would ever write that, would they?

The psalmist, speaking of the kingdom of God, wrote:

¹His foundation is in the holy mountains. ²The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. ³Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God! ⁴’I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to those who know me; behold, O Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia: ‘This one was born there.’ ‘ ⁵And of Zion it will be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her; and the Most High himself shall establish her.’ ⁶ The LORD will record, when he registers the peoples: ‘This one was born there.’ ⁷Both the singers and the players on instruments say, ‘All my springs of joy are in you.’ Psalm 87

¹I beg to differ over the attitudes of some of the countries of the Commonwealth for it is possible to own allegience to more than one for allegience in those states is allegience to the one common head of the states not to the states themselves. Sadly holding to such a doctrine is political suicide in this so called enlightened age (a misonomer – the enlightenment is over two hundred years old) or modern (another! we are living in a post-modern (and post Christian) society. Modernism is also now a centenarian.) society.


Did anyone watch ‘The root of all evil’?

What was it about?

Essentially it was a rant – admittedly a very calm and collected one, but a rant nevertheless – by Richard Dawkins who is supposed to be a proponent of all that is best in the scientific method. However his chief concern often appears to be to ridicule and denigrate religious people.

Did anyone watch ‘The root of all evil’? What was it about?

Essentially it was a rant – admitedly a very calm and collected one, but a rant nevertheless – by Richard Dawkins who is supposed to be a proponant of all that is best in the scientific method. However his chief concern often appears to be to riducle and denigrate religious people.

The programme looked at many examples of the worst kind of excesses that you will find among religious people. The Crusades of the Middle Ages left a bitterness in the heart of Islam towards Western Europe which is still felt today. Closer to home we have the troubles of Northern Ireland. Then you have the ethnic cleansing in the early years of the Turkish republic. Today the strife between Hindu and Muslim in India, or between Muslim and Muslim in Muslim Iraq. Not to forget to mention the continuing persecution of Christians by Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists. It also looked at some rather exotic practices, eg snake therapy!

Now it is not my purpose to defend religion against Dawkins’s attack nor to attack Dawkins – that can be left for another day – for it cannot be denied that there is some truth in his criticism. But the Bible has something to say about both sides of this divide.

Listen to what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church. 2000 years ago it was a very important city, now it is less so. The nearest airport is 40 miles away.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who believe it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the scholar. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For the Jews ask for a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.¹

For us the Greek may be represented by Dawkins. His religion – and it really is one though he would hate to have to agree that it is – is faith in human reason, faith in human thought to find the answers to everything. There is bit of a contradiction here: how can you have faith in human reason? If human reason has been brought about by chance events taking place over 000s of Ms of years then is there any good reason to think that it is itself nothing other than random thinking which only has the appearance of order and rationality about it? The Greeks were full of this also. They had supreme confidence, as Dawkins does, in the ability of man.

The Jews on the other hand are the religionists. Paul is not here talking about the man in the street, but about the leaders and fundamentalists among them. He was one himself before he was converted. They are fanatic about their religion. For them there was no distinction between religion and politics after all Israel had been formed as a theocracy. Power and religion went together. It is always the same when men think that the kingdom of God is of this world. They have to impose their ideas and ways on everyone else. Islam would like to do that today – even in this country – you hear calls for Sharia law to apply and in the USA you will find some who want to try to impose the old laws which applied to the Jewish state. Dawkins is right to expose the shortcomings of this kind of religion.

But do you see what the result is? Neither the Jew nor the Greek, neither Dawkins nor the religionist, understand what God was doing in Christ.

The Jews wanted a king who would take political power and subdue the other nations. The religionists want to do that today with the resulting fallout of evil. For them a man who died on the cross was a failure – it was shameful – it was a stumbling block. How could a king allow himself to be dealt with in such a way?

The Greeks wanted a man full of wisdom and strength. Not necessarily a king, but a man who by reason and argument would demonstrate the superiority of his philosophy. Dawkins looks for that today. For him, as for the Greeks, faith is a sign of weakness. The way of death was only for the fool – let us eat drink and be merry, they say, for tomorrow we die. The cross is foolishness.

So when Dawkins looks at the cross, or when the religionists of today do so, they only see failure, folly, a stumbling block. Like the crowds around the cross they can only shout out: if he is the [Son of God]… let [God] deliver him!² They cannot see that in the death of Christ, God was dealing with the most fundamental problem of all: man’s sin.

Deal with man’s sin and you deal with every other problem. The Greeks and Dawkins of this world must come to see that it is not human reason that will solve everything, but a recognition that human reason marred by sin needs to be straightened out. For the Jews and religionists it is not the imposition of their truths on others that will solve everything, but a recognition that God in Christ on the cross was doing that by reconciling men to himself.

So what of us? Are we going to be on Dawkin’s side or the side of the religionists? There is no other choice for the man who will not come in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ. Either we follow Jesus, or for us the cross will be a stumbling block, weakness or folly.

¹ 1 Corinthians 1:18-24.
² Matthew 27:40-43

Hatred or not?

Or is this just a word used badly?


Homophobia: noun Latin homo – man, Greek phobos fear

This is a mule of a noun being the mixture of two languages as it is. Now there really was a time when a Greek fear of the Latin man was a sensible necessity as Rome had started to build its empire in the east. But Greece need not have feared as Rome merely assimilated Greek thought and culture for its own benefit.

In modern English usage the word has lost something of this meaning.

  • literally: man-fear, the fear of man
  • subjectively: the irrational fear that someone else hates you
  • objectively: a state of mind imputed to those whose lifestyle is inimical to your own
  • politically: an excuse for denying freedom of speech to those with whom you disagree

Cause: generally by a suppression of the fear of falling under the judgement of God, whose existence is denied, on account of the adoption of a particular lifestyle

καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι· φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ.

And fear not the ones killing the body who but the soul are not able to kill. Fear but more him being able both soul and body to destroy in hell Matthew 10:28 Copyright (c)1966, 1968, 1975, 1983 by the United Bible Societies

Chickens in a coop

Why is offence so easily taken?

What should the chickens do?

Did you hear the one about the chickens in the çoup?

Well, the story goes something like this:

Once upon a time there were hundreds of chickens in a coop. They had plenty of room and really had quite a nice life. Food came regularly and they were pretty much left to their own devices for most of the time. They had a lot of good friendships among themselves, and some interesting family relationships. But news had started to filter through to them from the outside world that there might be a small problem, and one day they may need to do something about it.

None of the chickens really took this to heart until they heard about what had happened in a coop some distance away. A fox had somehow managed to gain access to the coop. Normally foxes are kept well away by a ‘security ring’ which the keepers of the coop had placed around them. What had gone wrong? It was reported, on no mean authority, that almost half of the coop had been taken out, and those that were left were suffering badly from PTSD.

This news prompted the governing committee of the coop to meet to discuss the situation. How were they going to meet the challenge if a fox managed to enter their coop? They were aware of two outcomes for the occupants of the coop and needed to make preparations both for the chickens who would be taken out and the consequences for those who would remain. It seemed to them that they would have to engage in some preparatory exercises with the members of the coop so that in the event of such an incursion they would know what to do and how to behave in order the limit the damage that the presence of a fox in the coop would cause. However how could they do this without increasing the sense of unease that had begun to develop in their closely knit community.

They decided that they would continue to trust in the well established security ring rather than risk a panic or riot in the coop. This head in the sand attitude was however swiftly blown away when a neighbouring coop reported a breach in the security ring. The fox, or was it foxes, had not actually gained entrance, but it was thought that they may have simply been testing the strength of the system and a full scale incursion into the coop would soon follow.

So what were they to do? It seemed that some kind of practice exercise would be required. They would identify and train several of their fellow chickens, as policemen and security personnel. Their jobs would be to protect the other members of the coop. They would do this by patrolling the coop and keeping an eye open for trouble and possible damage to the perimeter of the coop in order if at all possible to forestall any possible attempt to gain access to the coop.

The committee also understood that they would have to prepare for an incursion. The security personnel would have particular responsibilities in such a case and the other members of the community would also need to know what to do. It seemed inevitable that they would have to stage a fake incursion in order that the community may learn what the proper response should be.

Now a practice run would be quite an undertaking. How could they realistically hope to do this? It was unthinkable that they could use a real fox in the staged attempt, but something had to be found to produce an air of realism or else the whole exercise would be, not only a complete waste of time, but of no value in teaching the community how to respond in the face of a real emergency.

Well, said one member, a fox is a dog, is it not? We shall use a dog. We shall invite one of the local dogs to come in a pretend to be a fox for the purpose of this exercise.

The other members of the committee were quick to take up the suggestion and an invitation was drafted to the chief shepherd dog.

The proposal caused an outcry! The dogs were enraged. Foxes may be extremists they cried, but not all dogs are extremists. Most dogs are moderates and peace loving. They don’t want to hurt chickens. If you use a dog in your show you imply that all dogs are extremists and you risk turning the entire dog community against you. We shall provide a suitable actor for you.

No amount of protest that no such thing was meant, that the chickens understood that not all dogs are extremists intent on harm, but the reality was that foxes – all foxes – are. So, some weeks later after much planning the exercise would go ahead: What to do in the event of an incursion into the coop.

The chickens had been taught that the first thing to do is to remain calm. If they become agitated they will lose control of the situation giving the upper hand to the incursant (no longer called a fox). They had been taught to move themselves to the highest parts of the coop which the incursant would not be able to scale. They had been taught that if cornered to make themselves look bigger by puffing out their feathers and stretching their wings, by doing this they may frighten away smaller incursants. If the incursant was a larger animal then they should stay close together and present a united front to the incursant.

Nobody knew quite what to expect or when, apart from a few committee members and the chief shepherd dog who had agreed to assist and brief the actor in the role. For a few days there was an eerie quietness in the coop. You could tell that the chickens were getting uneasy. And then it happened. There was an outcry outside the coop. This distraction caused the security forces inside the coop to turn away for a few minutes from their job of watching the perimeter and it was at that moment the incursion took place.

Suddenly, and unnoticed by anyone – how did he get there? Where was the breach in the perimeter? No one knew, but it had happened. The incursant had arrived. But the chickens knew what to do. Keep calm. Move to the high places. Puff yourself up if cornered. Stick together.

The chickens moved calmly, swiftly and almost silently to their chosen places high in the rafters and eves of the coop, safely out of the way of the incursant.

The incursant did not seem to be at all surprised at this. He investigated all of the places within his reach. He moved swiftly around the floor of the coop where no chickens were to be found. Then with a hop, skip and jump he decided, as there were no playmates there, it was time to leave, so returned to his entry point to make his egress.

It was then that the chickens gasped in horror. Just as they had been watching the incursant as he roamed around the hutch so they also watched as he left the coop and they, from the dizzy heights of the coop, saw what he did not see. Alas, for our poor little lamb had not noticed the two extremist dogs. The foxes, whom they so much dread, had crept up stealthily whilst the exercise was being undertaken and positioned themselves ready for ambush.

Where now were the moderate dogs who had chosen the lamb for an actor? History does not record for us either the fate of this lamb nor of the coop, but rumour has it that when Alexander passed that way he cried out: What coop was this?

The prophet wrote:

⁴Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. ⁵But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; ⁷he was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Isaiah 53:4-5,7

And the Lord himself said:
³³Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles; ³⁴and they will mock him, and scourge him, and spit on him, and kill him, and the third day he will rise again.
Mark 10:33-34

The folly

The pacific galaxy of languages may be extraordinary

Bure da! Wie geht’s, s’il te plait?

Now wouldn’t you think I was a bit of a Dummkopf if I came up to you in the street and started talking to you like that? Well, there was a day when something like that happened, and it was not just one man who did it, there were hundreds if not thousands who suddenly found that they could not understand the man who was working next to them.

The Bible tells us what happened in Genesis 11¹, which you may read below. The corroboration for what happened on that day, about 5ky ago, is all around us today, and is found in every record we have of human civilisation. Evolutionists would have us believe that our languages derived from the babblings of animals and gradually became the complex languages we have today. Sadly, for them, the evidence is against it. Far from languages becoming more complex, languages have become much more simple. English is a relatively simple language compared with most other languages, but it has not always been so, and the other languages of Europe in the main have been derived from the far more complex languages of ancient Greece and Rome. We also find that languages appear in history fully formed. There is no halfway house where a language is struggling to find expression.

But what we find in the experience of men is exactly what we would expect to find when we look at what the Bible says actually happened – and remember that the Bible was written by men who were there, who saw what took place. So then Genesis 11: This is somewhere around 3-500 years after the flood.

Now notice that this is a judgement of God on men. The fact that you cannot understand what people are saying when you visit Paris – or even some parts of Wales – is evidence of this that God is angry with us and has already judged us. You see God has left us without any excuse. We cannot say to him, I did not know you were angry. Just as he left evidence of the flood everywhere over the earth, so also he has left evidence of this judgement everywhere over the earth.

But notice also that in this judgement God is merciful. He had promised Noah that he would not send another great flood over the earth. He simply confused our languages so that men run away from one another and become scattered. Can you imagine the devastation and chaos that that would cause? But God kept his word. He had other things in mind, he knew that one day he would send a Saviour to undo all of the evil that men had done and pay the penalty for it.

And so it was about a week after Jesus went into heaven he sent his Spirit and the disciples who were together in Jerusalem at that time found themselves speaking languages that they did not know, so that all the strangers and visitors to Jerusalem could understand what these simple men were saying in their own language. Again that is in the Bible in the New Testament Acts 2².

You see in his Son, Jesus Christ, God is undoing the judgements that men deserve. I told you last time about the dreadful day of judgement that is coming. It is far more terrible than men have ever seen or could ever imagine, but that same judgement day sees the renewal of everything that there is. This old earth will be transformed into something far more wonderful than anything we can ever imagine, where God’s people shall live in peace for ever. The language barriers that we see around us today will be gone. Whether we will all speak one language or whether we will speak many different languages and pick and choose the best one for what we want to say at any time, who knows? We don’t know yet, but we do know this, it will be well worth getting there.

And God has provided the way. On the day when God began to undo the language barriers the people who heard Peter preach asked him: What shall we do? Peter said: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the cancellation of sins! The promise is to you – to all – as many as the Lord calls³.

So then, we are without excuse. The evidence of God’s anger is all around us, but he has given us a way of escape – follow Jesus. Turn from your sins and trust him. He will save you. No one else can.

¹ Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. ²And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. ³Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. ⁴And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” ⁵But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. ⁶And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. ⁷Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” ⁸So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. ⁹Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:1-9

² Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. ²And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. ³Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. ⁴And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
⁵And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. ⁶And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. ⁷ Then they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? ⁸And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? ⁹Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, ¹⁰Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, ¹¹Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” ¹²So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” ¹³Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” Acts 2:1-13

³ “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” ³⁸ Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ³⁹ For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:37-39


Not all Pharisees remain Pharisees

Last time we considered how Job¹ changed his mind when he met God.

I want to look here at how another man was changed when God met him.

When he was a young man you would have said of him that the world was his oyster. We only know a little about him, but this much is clear, if he had been alive today it would have been straight As at GCSE, A* at A level and his choice of a place in the best university. He was a man of great learning. He could have gone anywhere he wanted to go. But there was one thing that stopped him.

As well as being brilliant, he was religious. You would probably say he was a bit of an enthusiast, a fanatic, but that is perhaps to overstate it. He was certainly a good man. You could trust him. He took his faith seriously. He was a Jew, and not only was he a Jew – well listen to his own words:

[I was] circumcised on the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, concerning the law, a Pharisee, [concerning zeal, persecuting the church,] concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless².

He wanted to live in a way that pleased God, so he did everything he could to keep the law of God. He studied the law: he was taught by one of the greatest teachers of his day. He joined the strictest sect of his day, the Pharisees. Note: pharisee does not mean what we mean by it today. He thought that by doing this he would earn his way into heaven. That was the common teaching of the Pharisees: Do good and you shall live by it.

Saul did recognise however that he had sinned. The law said: you shall not covet, and Saul saw that that condemned him. But he also thought that these other things were worth having – being a Jew, being a Pharisee, keeping the law in all external matters, and that they would count for more than the mistakes he had made.

This all changed when Jesus died and rose from the dead. His disciples taught that good works would never get you into heaven, you had to trust the one who died on the cross, and had been raised from the dead. Saul hated that message, just as those before him who had crucified Jesus. He wanted to get to heaven on his own merits, and in any event, the Messiah would never have let anyone crucify him. His zeal as a young man hardened into a fanatical hatred, and he set about persecuting the church. He thought that he was doing the right thing and that this would earn him favours with God, until one day when bent upon destruction the Lord stopped him.

Listen again to what he said:

At midday I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun shining around me and those who were with me. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I said: Who are you, Lord? And he said: I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting³.

Saul then understood. Jesus is the Messiah. The one who died on the cross had been raised from the dead. If that were so, then the other things that the disciples of Jesus taught were also true. He would not get to heaven on his own merits, he had to trust in Jesus who died for sinners. So years later, we find him saying to others who were beginning to think that they could earn their way into heaven:

We have no confidence in the flesh…[all those things] that were [supposed to be] gain to me, I have counted loss for Christ².

His way of thinking had been changed, just as Job’s was. Job had to learn that God could do as he pleased with him. Saul did not need to learn that, he knew it. But Saul needed to learn that, even though he was a good man, even though he kept the law in every way that he possibly could, it was not enough. He was a sinner, condemned by the law, and that the only salvation there was was in Jesus Christ. It was his encounter with Jesus that changed his way of thinking.

Now what about you? Where do you stand? What needs to be changed in your way of thinking? It is only when we change that, and say to Jesus that we shall follow him, that we can be saved.

¹ See JobPaul and two thieves
² Philippians 3:3ff
³ Acts 26:13ff


The use of nettles

Did you think that the only good that could come of nettles was soup?

Then think again.

The past few times you have been here, I have taken your thoughts to judgement. There is a day coming when Jesus will return as king and judge of all men. We can be sure of this because God has always kept his word in the past. We can also be sure that God is judge because there is evidence all around us that he has already judged this world in a number of ways. We briefly considered Noah’s flood, which came upon this earth about 4500 years ago. Soon after that followed the destruction of the tower at Babel which is when men started to speak in different languages. The evidence for these is still around for us to see.

I want you now to consider two more evidences. It is evidence as to what was meant when God spoke to Adam in the garden of Eden on the day that Adam disobeyed God. You will find it here in Genesis 3¹

Notice two things: Dust you are and to dust you shall return. God here confirms to Adam that he must die, and so in time Adam died. All men since then have died – apart from 2, which we can tell you about another time – and the others who have not yet died, that is we who are alive today, can expect to die and return to the dust. There is nothing that we can do to prevent this, and though we may try to delay that day as long as we can it will come.

Secondly, the earth will produce thorns and thistles. I understand this to be a picture, which would soon become very clear to Adam, of everything that was going to go wrong with the world in which he lived. The garden would no longer be a place of beauty of its own accord as it were, Adam would be constantly having to weed it out to remove the thorns and thistles from the ground. You have similar things to think about – your bedroom does not stay tidy of its own accord, you have to do something everyday to keep it that way. If you leave it alone it goes from bad to worse. And thinking about the garden again, Henman would not be able to play on the courts at Wimbledon if the gardeners did not do their job to keep the courts in their best condition.

But see also there is a promise here: someone will come to sort this mess out. I went across the common this evening and found these two things – nettle and dock – God’s judgement had fallen on this earth, but God has not forgotten men. He still cares for us, and provides remedies for us even though we don’t deserve them. If you are stung by the nettle you may soothe the sting with the dock leaf and generally speaking where you find nettles there will be dock leaves not far away. If you fall ill, then we have found cures for many things – not found for all! – or your body just fights against it and you may recover. The younger you are the better your body is at fighting. And when we consider the problem of sin, for it is sin that brings these judgements on us, God has provided the remedy, just as he promised here to Adam and Eve.

He sent Jesus, born of the woman, who took the curse of our sin and the wrath of God on himself so that we could be free of it.

And the promise he makes he gives to all who will come to him for forgiveness. We have all sinned, and all deserve to fall under the wrath, anger and judgement of God, but everyone who comes to Jesus will be saved from this. So when you see the nettles, remember the nettle is part of the penalty for our sin and that God will judge us, but have a look around for the dock – and remember that God is merciful and though we deserve judgement he provides relief for us in Jesus Christ – and then put your trust in him.

¹ Genesis 3:1-15
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
²And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; ³but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ “
⁴Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. ⁵For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
⁶So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. ⁷Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. ⁸And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

⁹Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
¹⁰So he said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
¹¹And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
¹²Then the man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
¹³And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
¹⁴So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. ¹⁵And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel


There is much talk about human rights in the present age.

But there is little talk of duty.

What good is it if a man presses his rights, but forgets his duty towards his fellow citizens? He is no better than the Pharisees who were condemned by the Lord, Jesus Christ, who said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”‘ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.” (Mark 7:9-13 NKJV)

By applying the law of rights – I have a right to do what I like with my money – the Pharisee, or indeed anyone who wished to do so, was able to lay aside his duty to provide care for his parents. All too often we press our rights without thinking of the consequences for others. Better to be wronged surely than deprive another of his rights or to fail to do your duty! The apostle Paul writing to the Corinthian church, where people were all too ready to press their rights, said: Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! (1 Corinthians 6:7-9 NKJV)

What of the conflict of rights? What of the right to smoke? If such a right, to slowly destroy oneself, could possibly exist. Does this right not conflict with a right to clean air? I do not doubt that it would not be difficult to come up with a list of rights that conflict with one another on a very practical level, but also much more seriously on an ethical and moral level.

When we arrived in Winnipeg early in the evening we heard others speaking about going to visit the cathedral. Looking around we saw a cathedral like structure not far from the station. Could that be it? It looked like a cathedral. As we walked towards the bridge which passed nearby, we saw that indeed it was a cathedral, in a very secular sense of that word, for it was a museum to the god of the post modern age, Human Rights. Men fall down at the feet of this god, as if he must always be satisfied, whatever the outcome may be, and whatever common sense might say. Human Rights must be obeyed even if the granting of a right to one deprives another of a right. Who is granted and who is deprived depends more upon the ephemeral wishes of public opinion, or perhaps more upon the wishes of the liberal elite, rather than objective truth, so rather than human rights being granted, we are subject to the tyranical rule of the new despots of liberalism.

I have no wish to belittle the importance of rights, but to come back to the words of the Lord, rights cannot relieve us of our duties. The duty of the king to protect his people must at times mean that he will deny some of his people their rights. A man may have a right to family life, but if that man is a danger to the king’s other subjects, then it is the duty of the king to deprive him of his rights for the protection of his people. The king’s duty trumps the rights of the individual.

I do not think for one moment that this is popular teaching! Our response to a rebellion in the middle east shows that the West has lost its direction in this regard. Rather than supporting the king in his efforts to do his duty and maintain peace for his people, just because we disagreed with the king, we encouraged the rebels. Did we not think! Or did we naïvely think that by replacing one ‘rights’ violator we would not end up with another ‘rights’ violator?

There is a better museum of human rights to be found in Winnipeg than this monstrosity. In the grounds of St Boniface’s cathedral just a short walk from the CMHR, there is a pastiche, though a very serious pastiche, on the theme of the tomb of the unknown soldier. A young women leans forlornly on a marble grave stone. It is not clear whether she is the mother or the child, but whether she is the mother of the child she is one of whom the grave stone speaks eloquently, but silently, in French and in English:

  • À la memoire des victimes de l’avortement
  • In memory of the victims of abortion

The right to life has in our (post)-modern (so called) world been trumped by the right to do as you please with your own body. The mother is persuaded by the abortionist that the cathedral of her womb may expel the bishop whenever she wishes, after all it is her body, not the body of another. And so we prove that we are no better than the Spartans, and certainly no less cruel.

The sign outside the CMHR suggests that it is both a keeper of the past and a beacon for the future. As keeper of the past, then perhaps one can only suggest that it keeps the past so well that compassion has been lost within her. Of what use is compassion in a world dominated by rights!

For my part, there is only one thing that can follow a claim to be keeper of the past and beacon of the future – a folly of the present. Oh that men may see that the Lord who made the heavens and the earth, desires righteousness above rights, and compassion from and towards humanity.

The prophet Micah made this plain when he spoke out: Hear now what the LORD says:… He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (6:8)

My parable of the banker shows whereup, when rights trump duty, we can end.

I suppose I should let the CMHR speak for itself. Without contradicting what I said above they do some good. What is a pity is that the doctrine to which they hold, not being derived from Biblical teaching, leads them at times to reach the wrong conclusions.


Ultimately the question is not going to be: Did you hate Britain?

Questions, questions, questions!

Are there too many questions?
Why can’t a bicycle stand up? It’s too tyred
What does a clock do when it is hungry? Go back for seconds.

Have you heard about – or seen – The man who sued God?

Who can tell me what it is about in one sentence?
Might this is have been modelled on Job?

Let me tell you about one man who wanted to sue God, and then another time about another one.

So first of all we shall consider Job.

Job was very upset with God, and demanded an audience. Listen to him:
Job 23:1-8 (or so) Where is he! Why doesn’t he answer?

I suppose we could ask those questions, couldn’t we, when things are not going right, when we consider what a mess the world is in?

How should God answer Job?
Should God tell him what he is doing?
Should God tell him why he is doing it?

God has something different in mind to what we might think.
God wants Job to get the big picture right first,
then he might begin to understand the detail:

Job 38 God starts to ask Job questions.
Job 40 He shows Job just how irrational he is being.
How Job contradicts himself in making his complaint:
If Job is right, then God is wrong (v8).
If God is wrong how can Job expect a fair hearing?

Job gets the picture Job 42:5

What happened to Job?
His outlook was turned around! He got a new way of looking at things.
Nothing changed overnight for Job, but he certainly saw things differently.

It is the same for us – when we come to Jesus,
he changes the way we look at things,
he changes our way of thinking.
We become new creatures in him.

If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things have passed away, and all has become ´new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)