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Wasn’t St Thomas fortunate to be able to see Christ’s wounds for himself and then believe?  We will never have that experience during our lifetime.  Yet, we believe.

For my 2010 post on this subject, please see ‘Doubting Thomas — John 20:19-31’. Today’s painting of Thomas’s encounter with the risen Christ is by the Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890).

The Revd P G Mathew, Reformed (Calvinist) pastor of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California, has several observations on Christ’s appearances to people after the Resurrection, including the apostle Thomas, and what these mean for us today.  Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

From ‘Beware: You Are on Display, Part Two’, Mr Mathew explains:

In John 20 we read of Christ’s appearance to his disciples the day of his resurrection. The apostle Thomas, also known as doubting Thomas, was not with the others for the Lord’s first appearance. In verse 25 we read, “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ but [Thomas] said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.’”

One week later Christ appeared to the disciples again in his resurrection body and Thomas was present also. In verse 27 we read that he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

What does this tell us? That Jesus Christ, in his resurrection body, still has holes in his hands, made in behalf of those he came to die for. As long as those holes are there, we can say we are engraved on the palms of God. These indelible impressions are impossible to erase, and, in fact, in Revelation 5:6 John writes, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.” Throughout all eternity the nail holes will be there. That should tell us that God loves us!

He picks up the theme again in ‘Fear Not: Jesus is Risen’:

Thomas believed when he saw Jesus and touched his hands and feet and side. But Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Our faith is supported by the evidence of the apostolic witness revealed in the Scriptures. Christ is not asking us to believe irrationally.

But Jesus is not going to favor us with a private resurrection appearance. We are to hear the eyewitness reports and believe. John proclaims, “These things are written that you may be believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31) …

How does anyone believe without seeing Christ? We have the apostolic witness in the pages of the Scriptures. So Peter says, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:23–25).

After the Resurrection, Jesus ensured that He spent a considerable amount of time with His disciples.  In ‘Mandate of the Master’, Mr Mathew relates:

The apostle Thomas himself doubted Jesus’ resurrection. He wanted to touch and feel the risen Christ. He wanted to put his finger in his side and his nail prints. So one day Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” How did Thomas respond? “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28).

Jesus showed himself alive to his disciples on many occasions over a period of forty days, Luke tells us, so they could know that their Master truly had risen from the dead with a physical body. They could look at him and touch him–the risen Christ was not a ghost, in other words. He ate with his disciples many times and appeared to Peter, James, Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, seven of the apostles once in Galilee, ten of the apostles once in Jerusalem, all eleven apostles two times, the women at the tomb, and to five hundred at one time in Galilee. Why do you think Jesus showed himself so regularly to his disciples over this forty day period following Easter Sunday? Because they had the responsibility of bearing witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the fact upon which Christianity rests. They were the ones who must testify to the one who destroyed death by his death and was raised from the dead–Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe.

So, if He had appeared to them only once after rising from the dead, people could have dismissed this as an illusion, that the disciples were so distraught they only imagined He was alive.  And, various theories abound.  Everyone who saw Him was hallucinating.  Or, Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead; His closest friends went to the wrong tomb.  Or, it’s just a pure fabrication.  If any of these were true, it is difficult to see that Christianity could have lasted as long as it has. In fact, the Church and her true followers will be on Earth until Judgment Day, whatever depravity befalls the world.

From the disciples’ personal experience of the risen Christ as written in Scripture, we are to take our belief:

Jesus’ apostles, therefore, were eyewitnesses of both the resurrection of Christ and the ascension of Christ. They understood who Jesus Christ is, and we must understand also. He is the one who died on the cross for our sins, the one who was raised from the dead, and the one who destroyed death for us. He is the one who defeated the world, Satan, devils, and every power that is against us.

Yes, this is an uphill struggle in a postmodern, ‘rational’ world which puts credence into everything which goes against Christ.  We have idolatry of all sorts: sexual gratification, healing crystals, New Age self-love, Gaia-worship and all the rest. Yet, when it comes to our only Mediator and Advocate, the world says, ‘No thanks. Not good enough for me. He is not someone about whom I wish to know more.’  This is because Christ represents the vanquishing of sin.  Christ isn’t about a wealthy, sex-filled, risk-free, malady-free life. ‘Where’s the magic?’ people say. ‘Where’s the excitement?  Nowhere.’  And the notion of the Cross is abhorrent to many.  Others  worship all-powerful gods or revere violent warriors.  ‘Your guy died a humiliating death on a cross.  My leader killed thousands and amassed countless riches.’

Nevertheless:

Every Christian is called to be a witness to Christ. What do we mean by witness? The word “wit” means “to know,” so a witness is one who not only knows the facts regarding the gospel but also personally knows Jesus and his work of salvation. A Christian witness is a spiritual person who speaks spiritual truth in the Spirit’s power to lost sinners

This Jesus sends us who are Christians to be witnesses to all nations.”As the Father sent me, so send I you,” he said, and then he breathed on his disciples the Holy Spirit. So we must know the Master and the message. We must have an encounter with the living Christ so that we will speak about him as the Savior and Lord of the universe. As Paul said to Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). In Ephesians 1 Paul prayed that God would give the Ephesians understanding. May God enlighten our understanding as well so that we may know the hope of our calling and declare that hope with passion and conviction to a hopeless world.

We think that we are nothing much in this world, and many people don’t hesitate to tell us about it.  But Mr Mathew says that the original apostles, all from Galilee, were viewed in the same light.  Yet, they travelled throughout Asia Minor proclaiming the Gospel:

God chose us–the nobodies, the nothings, the Galileans–to bear his glorious name and to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ to a dark world! And we can be assured that if God chooses us, he will also qualify us and make us competent and strong to stand before the devil and the world. “Fear not!” he says to us. Why? Our Master was dead, but now he is alive forevermore. Our Master holds the keys of death and Hades in his hands …

Just as the disciples were commanded to speak to the people of Jerusalem, including the Sanhedrin, so we can speak to those who are hostile. How? By the power of the Spirit of the living God. We also are Galileans, in the sense of being nothing in the eyes of the world, and yet God also qualifies us, equips us, makes us able, sets us on fire, drives away our fears, and fills us with the third Person of the Trinity so that we might testify before all people the gospel of the our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus told his disciples they must also witness in Judea and Samaria. Now, that was another problem. Why? Jews despised Samaritans. They called them half-breeds. But God loves Samaritans, and he commands his people to take the gospel to them.

Not only that, Jesus said, his disciples must take the gospel to the end of the earth. This meant beyond the nation of Israel. This was really a problem for the Jewish disciples, who called Gentiles dogs

So, the apostles knew they would not be well received, yet, they went.  Some were imprisoned or  martyred for the faith.  Many Christians still are today.  The environment will always be hostile to Christianity, even if it didn’t appear so in the ‘good old days’ of the last 150 – 200 years or so.

However, Mr Mathew sees another aspect to our reluctance to spread the Good News.  And that has to do with our own unworthy conduct.  Who but an unbeliever will be the first to point a finger at us and exclaim, ‘Hypocrite!’  So, we must try to do better in our conduct, our personal affairs and our Christian example.  If we’re not righteous, then, that’s something we need to work on.

Declaring the gospel verbally when our lives are disorderly is not evangelism. And perhaps the reason we don’t want to declare the gospel is that we like to sin. But sin–whether it is sexual immorality or greed or whatever else–causes us to be loaded with guilt and we lose conviction and power. How can we have power when we want to practice sin? Proverbs 28:1 tells us “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” Therefore, let us try the way of righteousness and see whether our tongues will declare God’s praises.

Lent has been over for a week.  If we have begun to master a new discipline — self-control and less sin in one area or another — let’s try to work further on that throughout the rest of the year until it becomes a habit.  That frees us up to choose something else either during Advent or next year’s Lent.  These periods of self-denial are part of the sanctification process.  Let’s use them wisely so that we may testify to His greater glory.

Forbidden Bible Verses continues next week

Never say that smokers didn’t try to warn about fat tax, drinks tax and so forth.

We have had endless public information campaigns on smoking (still do, but fewer), recently it’s been alcohol (very similar to the anti-tobacco rhetoric) and now … hey, it’s fatty food!

On March 24, 2011, Time scored a double-hit on churchgoers and fat: ‘Why Going to Church Can Make You Fat’ (H/T: CAGE Canada).  So, Christians are the only fat people around?  Interesting. (Photo credits to lissparishchurch.co.uk.)

Time says (emphases mine):

Maybe it’s all the church socials, but a new study finds that those who attend religious activities are more likely to gain weight than those who don’t go to church as often.

Religious involvement is linked to many positive health outcomes, such as happiness, lower rates of smoking and alcohol use, and even a longer life. But research has also suggested that middle-aged adults who are more religious are more likely to be obese. Past data have noted only a correlation between religiosity and weight gain, however; they did not show whether participating in religious activities leads to weight gain, or whether overweight individuals are more likely to seek support in their faith.

So researchers at Northwestern University sought to find out how attending religious events is associated with weight gain over time. They analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which followed more than 2,400 people aged 20 to 32 for 18 years. Over that time, the scientists reported at an American Heart Association conference, people who went to church or church activities at least once a week were more than twice as likely as people with no religious involvement to become obese.

… the authors speculate that those who attended church were more likely to have a broader social network, which in turn may lead to more opportunities to gather over food and drink.

The results also suggest that religious groups could benefit from targeted diet and exercise programs, says study co-author Matthew Feinstein, to counteract whatever trends may be promoting weight gain among church-goers.

Note the number of times ‘church’ and ‘religious’ are used in connection with ‘weight’ and ‘weight gain’.  This is subliminal: church is unhealthy and will make you fat.

I hope that the good people of Liss Parish Church don’t mind my borrowing their photos, but they do look like happy Anglicans, the type of people one would expect to meet in England.

The worldwide anti-smoking, ‘tobacco control’ campaigns are based on spurious sciencewhich is now being disproven little by little, although you aren’t likely to read about these studies in the newspaper.  From Sir Richard Doll, he of the lung cancer surveys involving smokers (because nearly everyone smoked in the 1950s), to Sir George Godber (Britain’s Chief Medical Officer from 1960 – 1973) to Stanton Glantz from Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco (current American king of anti-smoker — yes, anti-smoker — campaigns) to Gro Harlem Brundtland (who has never liked smoke and was able to start the WHO campaign against tobacco and, by default, smokers).

This has worked so well globally that numerous treaties have been signed hither and yon.  Incidentally, the climate change campaigns are based on the same tactics of the anti-tobacco campaigns.  Both have manipulated data — and the anti-tobacco rhetoric was so successful that the climate change folks began adapting it for their own use.  There, too, it’s difficult to expose; any ‘dissidents’ are vehemently criticised or banned from further research — fact might end up entering into it.  The cry in so many lectures and press conferences is, ‘Think of the children!’

Ditto drinks and now fattening food.  Never mind that, until recently, nutritionists have said that what matters is the number of calories we consume daily, not what type.  Recently, Professor Mark Haub of Kansas State University proved this once again.  Among other news outlets, the Daily Mail reported on his weight loss experiment (emphases mine throughout):

Mark Haub said that on the ‘convenience store diet’ his ‘bad’ cholesterol also dropped by 20 per cent and his level of triglycerides, a form of fat, by 39 per cent.

Professor Haub … lost 27lb, going from 14st 5lb to 12st 6lb …

He cut his usual daily calorie intake from about 2,600 to less than 1,800 by eating one Twinkie deep-fried cake – a mini-sponge cake with cream filling – every three hours instead of meals.

To add variety to the cakes, which are often sold deep-fried, he ate Doritos, Kellogg’s Pops cereal and Oreo biscuits, and had a daily double shot of espresso.

The final third of his daily intake came in the form of a multivitamin pill and a protein shake, along with some kind of vegetable such as a can of green beans …

‘It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal. I just think it is unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits.’

During the ten-week diet, Mr Haub’s body mass index went from 28.8, which is considered overweight, to a normal 24.9.

His body fat fell from 33.4 per cent to 24.9 per cent.

Before his Twinkie diet, Mr Haub considered himself a healthy eater with a diet including whole grains, fibre, berries and bananas.

‘I wish I could say the outcomes are unhealthy. I wish I could say it’s healthy. I’m not confident enough in doing that. That frustrates a lot of people. One side says it’s irresponsible. It is unhealthy, but the data doesn’t say that,’ he said.

I am pleased to read he said, ‘The data [don’t] say that’. (‘Data’ is the plural of ‘datum’.) He’s criticising knee-jerk, spurious, emotional reactions designed by people who want to control others’ lives.

But proper data just aren’t good enough for the healthist control freaks worldwide who want us to live 10 or 20 more years so that we can continue to be productive masses of atoms and keep paying our taxes! (Thanks to Ayn Rand for the ‘atoms’ reference — Phil Donahue interview early 1980s.)

So, what do we have — coincidental, I’m sure — it just happened to appear around the same time?  The Lancet, the well-respected English medical journal, is calling for a fatty food tax and moreThe Mail tells us:

Government measures to change diet are supported in the study by experts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Health Organisation.

A key proposal suggests treating foods high in fat, salt and sugar in the same way as tobacco, where advertising is restricted and price has been pushed up to discourage use.

Oh, look. Notice any commonality there?  World Health Organisation and tobacco?

Dick Puddlecote warned about this back in August:

We told you so.

The floodgates are wide open now. Anti-smoking lunatics have picked the lock and every single issue fruitcake is queueing up to dictate the way you live your life. What’s more, they are very confident that – with the denormalisation of smokers as a guide – government, badgered by the joyless health-obsessed, will be happy to accommodate them.

At least in Niemöller’s observation each minority was targeted in sequence. The articles above [see DP’s post] span a mere couple of weeks, the last two were only published today. And there will be more in the next week, and the weeks after that, all becoming ever more shrill and urgent in their hyperbole.

The small matter of dictating to smokers has now become an avalanche of righteous ecstasy as every avenue of your life is now open to scrutiny and control.

Err, we did tell you so.

I am only too aware that fat people and drinkers despise smokers. ‘I might weigh a ton, but at least I’m not killing other people.’  ‘I might be a lush but at least I don’t stink.  Do what you want with smokes but don’t touch my precious drinkies.’ Okay … Whereas … smokers blogs around the world are trying to unite the three.

So, once again, we all have to fall in line with yet another diktat.  No, it hasn’t happened yet.  But that’s what people said about the smoking ban a decade ago.  And about alcohol.  And now look what’s happened there — the Coalition have given local councils permission to raise the price of strong drink. We are told there is ‘no safe amount of alcohol.’ Nudge, nudge. It’s the Big Society — thinking globally, acting locally.

Maybe next it will be ‘no safe amount of church’??  After all, you might eat together afterward!

Just as smokers are being increasingly denied employment, health and dental treatment, housing, hotel accommodation and sitting on a park bench, drinkers and the overweight are next in line.  It probably won’t be long now before you’re given an alcohol test (I know of one American company which did this routinely in London in the 1990s) or having your triglycerides checked as part of a job interview.  Oh, wait — if you live in North Carolina, your employer has the right to weigh you whilst he performs a nicotine test.  From a September 2009 post at Junkfood Science:

Employers will now perform random tests of employees for evidence that they’ve smoked outside of work and will weigh employees in the workplace and report their BMIs to the state. Employees deemed noncompliant with the State Health Plan’s employer wellness initiative, will pay one-third-more for health insurance. Employers believed that eliminating smokers and fat people would lower health costs.

I am not sure that the estimable Sandy Szwarc meant that last sentence to appear as it did, but the employers might have.

And, just to show you how tolerant anti-smokers are of the obese, here’s a pictorial from the Non Smokers’ Movement of Australia — ‘Fat Smokers’ (H/T: Tea and Cigarettes).  The type of person who likes that post probably also writes vile bile like this, spotted on Just Rage (I’ve cleaned up the language for you; H/T to Smoking out the Truth):

I hate smokers and I’m sure all other non-smokers hate them, too … I’ve hated smokers for many years and I am almost positive that one day, I will successfully kill someone who smokes. I encourage any non-smokers who are reading this to go out and kick the —- out of smokers.

‘Successfully kill’ — is there such a thing as an unsuccessful kill? I didn’t realise the world had so many perfect people.  But, isn’t saying things like that a hate crime?  Apparently not, with smokers as the object of one’s disgust.

Yet, many smokers’ blogs are empathetic towards their social drinking, overeating brethren.  Pat Nurse of Tea and Cigarettes is one of many smoking bloggers who supports others in the struggle against legislated societal control.  In ‘The Next Target’, she writes:

Now healthists have smokers under control they are swiftly moving on to the next target for profit and general propaganda using the same formula.

It took them 40 years of Big Pharma funding to make the lie of SHS a “fact” and then hype up its dangers year on year to the point where there is now an hysterical fear of smokers and smoking.

They had to make other people believe that smokers could harm them before Government would take them seriously. They are now using the same format on fat people who they’ve only recently started to persecute.

Apparently :

“It looks like obesity is becoming more infectious,” said Alison Hill, a graduate student at the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

What next? Banning anyone over a certain size from entering public places in case we “catch” their fatness? Do they really think we are that stupid?

Stand FAST, a Canadian blog, also featured a post on this topic:

The pharmaceutical industry will be laughing all the way to the bank as demand grows for appetite suppressants and anti-fat vaccines in the wake of the new war on obesity.

But, if the science proves that obesity is a communicable disease . . .

Obesity may well be a legitimate public health concern.  But suing fast food joints and banning happy meals is not going to resolve the problem.  Neither is junk science.

Yep, and what appears in the news just a couple of days later?  A Telegraph article, ‘”Fat gene” may lead to a thin pill’:

People with two copies of the genetic variant — about 16 per cent of all Europeans — were on average 3kg (6.6lbs) heavier than those without it.

Gee. A whole 3kg (6.6lbs) heavier.  Definitely worth taking a pill for that. (Not.) What sort of side-effects will it have?  None, except (I bet) for loose stools, flatulence, headaches and blurred vision.  All the usual things you get with so many miracle tablets. Thankfully, researchers at Oxford University say it’s a long way off.

Frank Davis writes astutely about the ‘Four Horsemen’ — smoking bans, global warming, the European Union and the war on terror:

But they maybe share a number of characteristics. Firstly, 3 of the 4 are illusory threats. Tobacco smoke is no threat to anybody. CO2 in the atmosphere is no threat to anybody either. The War on Terror is a war against an illusory enemy. I’m not even sure that Al Qaeda even exists. Only the EU, as a bulwark against yet another murderous European war (which is the primary reason why many people have supported it, myself included), looks like it may not be a response to an illusory threat. But perhaps that’s illusory too.

Another shared characteristic of the Four Horsemen is that they all entail losses of freedom. The smoking ban has brought a profound loss of freedom. The Global Warming scam also proposes future profound losses of freedom, as carbon emissions are cut, and everybody has to use dimbulbs and crap. The EU is a veritable fountain of restrictive regulations, of which their impending European smoking ban is just one minor example. And the War on Terror has been the excuse for increased surveillance, policing, detention, scanning, etc, etc.

And a further characteristic is that our politicians, whatever country we live in, regularly act to enable these Four Horsemen. There was an almost Gaderene rush by MPs in the UK parliament to vote for the smoking ban 4 years ago. And almost all politicians are fully signed up to Global Warming. I think David Cameron even has windmills on his house. And they all voted for the Iraq and Afghan wars …

These politicians may as well be the Four Horsemen themselves, pale riders riding on these horses galloping from the horizon.

And another shared characteristic is that there is little or no popular support for any of them. Nobody really likes the smoking ban. Nobody is worried about CO2. Nobody likes the EU. And nobody supports the Afghan war. We just grieve for our soldiers who are being uselessly killed in it like their forefathers were uselessly killed in the trenches of Flanders 100 years ago.

I no longer understand our political class …

Back to everyday people, though. Our polarisation saddens me.  The push for — and, even worse, acquiescence to — this type of control concerns me.  Yet, few care, even the next set of victims.  Smokers have offered drinkers and the obese moral and activist support and will stand together with them.  After all, smokers have been ostracised for years.

Many around the world will be wishing Prince William and Kate Middleton all the best on their wedding day, Friday, April 29, 2011, and for their life together.

It is unclear what liturgy the Anglican celebrant will use for the Solemnisation of Matrimony, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, excerpts of which follow for this most important occasion (emphases mine):

At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,
DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
      First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
      Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
      Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

And the Minister shall add this Blessing.

GOD the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.

O GOD, who by thy mighty power hast made all things of nothing; who also (after other things set in order) didst appoint, that out of man (created after thine own image and similitude) woman should take her beginning; and, knitting them together, didst teach that it should never be lawful to put asunder those whom thou by Matrimony hadst made one: O God, who hast consecrated the state of Matrimony to such an excellent mystery, that in it is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church: Look mercifully upon these thy servants, that both this man may love his wife, according to thy Word, (as Christ did love his spouse the Church, who gave himself for it, loving and cherishing it even as his own flesh,) and also that this woman may be loving and amiable, faithful and obedient to her husband; and in all quietness, sobriety, and peace, be a follower of holy and godly matrons. O Lord, bless them both, and grant them to inherit thy everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It is convenient that the new-married persons should receive the holy Communion at the time of their Marriage, or at the first opportunity after their Marriage.

Two stories today about our green and sceptred isle.

The first comes from Cranmer.  Two schools near Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire — home to the potteries — have decided to dispense with free New Testaments with Psalms from the Gideons.  What makes this even worse is that one of them is named after a clergyman: Abbot Beyne.

Wikipedia has this entry:

Abbot Beyne School began as a grammar school endowed by Abbot William George Arthur Beyne Jr. in the early 16th century, functioning by 1531. The boys’ grammar school moved to Winshill in 1957. It was administered by the County Borough of Burton upon Trent, known as The Grammar School with about 600 boys. The girls’ high school opened in 1928. From April 1974 it was administered by Staffordshire County Council …

In 1975 the school was merged with the Winshill Girls’ High School[1] and Ada Chadwick Secondary Modern School to become Abbot Beyne mixed Comprehensive School on Mill Hill Lane

Abbot Beyne boasts an array of sporting facilities, including; two gymnasiums, rugby pitches, two athletic tracks, two football pitches and numerous tennis courts.

It gets GCSE and A-level results above the England average, with the A-level results being slightly better than the GCSE results.

Okay, so we discover the kids can read and add up.  And who needs Holy Scripture when you’re into sport?  It’s, like, so much cooler.

The other school is Paget High School, located in Branston:

There are two schools in Branston, Rykneld Primary School and Paget High School.

Also a major part of Branston these days is the Centrum 100 Retail/Business Park, home to business such as Punch Taverns, Currys, McDonalds and shops like Morrisons and the Bannatyne Health Club.

Branston was the original home of Branston Pickle, before production moved to Bury St. Edmunds in 2004.

The parish church in Branston is St Saviour’s, part of the Diocese of Lichfield.

The name Branston is Old English and means an estate belonging to a man called Brant, a personal name of Scandinavian origin. The medieval village stood near the river, its position decided by its proximity to a ford.

In 942 King Edmund granted an estate at Branston to Wulfsige the Black, possibly an ancestor of Wulfric Spot, the founder of Burton Abbey, and in 1066 it was held by Godgifu (Lady Godiva), the widow of Leofric, Earl of Mercia.

I like the way Branston’s entry talks about banal shop and hospitality chains before actually getting to the town’s history, which is far more interesting. (Note to self: research Wulfric Spot.)  Perhaps that tells us something about the local mindset.  If so, more’s the pity.

Cranmer takes up the story (emphases mine):

It transpires that the head teachers of the Abbot Beyne School and Paget High School near Burton On Trent in Staffordshire have decided that the dispensing of God’s Word ‘may spark complaints from different faiths’. They have, of course, received none: once again, we have the over-zealous, politically-correct invocation of multicultural sensitivities intervening to prevent a distinctly remote possibility if not a highly unlikely probability.

Maggie Tate, deputy head teacher of Abbot Beyne, said: “The reason we stopped the Gideons coming in is that we are a comprehensive multi-faith school. We felt it was inappropriate to allow one faith group to distribute material in school.”

Cranmer responds:

Well, Ms Tate, His Grace has got a bit of news for you. This is not the United States of America: we have an Established Church. It is insufficient for you to be giving ‘moral-themed assemblies’ and your boast that your school has ‘the highest proportion of pupils in Staffordshire sitting GCSEs in religious education’ is irrelevant. The law (Educations Acts of 1944, 1988 and 2006) requires you hold a daily act of collective worship which is ‘broadly Christian’. While ‘moral-themed’ may indeed constitute that which is ‘broadly Christian’, your prohibitive edict on the Gideons suggests that your understanding of the law as it relates to Religious Education is flawed. You are required by statute to give primacy to the Christian faith in order ‘to reflect the history, traditions and majority make-up of the country’ (Education Acts of 1988, 1996 and 1998). By banning the free distribution of the New Testament, and by censoring the gospel message of the Gideons, your contempt for the history, traditions and majority make-up of the country is manifest.

As for Paget:

Don Smith, the head teacher of Paget High School, said: “As a non-denominational school we do not allow any religious groups to come in and give out literature. If we allowed the Gideons into school then we would have to allow other groups too. While we teach pupils about different religions, we do not want people coming in to the school and pushing their own religious views.

Wow — ‘pushing their own religious views’.  That from a head teacher (equivalent of a principal).

Cranmer points out:

no other religion is known for distributing free text books en masse to the nation’s schoolchildren … But what would it matter if other groups did bring in free literature? Why can’t such books and pamphlets constitute resources in the nation’s impoverished RE departments? Why can’t they be used to stimulate discussion and critical debate? Why not let the students ridicule, criticise, reflect, consider and decide for themselves what they want to send to Room 101, instead of instituting a draconian blanket ban upon everyone?

Agreed.  He adds:

But it’s perfectly in order for him to forge a ‘multicultural’ ethos and inculcate his staff to induct children into his personal spiritual worldview, despite the doctrine of state multiculturalism having been criticised by the Chairman of the Equalities Commission and condemned by the Prime Minister.

It is in the nation’s schools that the real battle is being waged for the nation’s soul. Our future depends upon our children. We cannot leave them entirely to secular-minded head teachers and left-leaning teachers, and neither can we devolve entirely control over the curriculum. There is a tension here, but the Church of England’s via media lights the way.

And long may it continue to do so.

The next story is from Israel Matzav about the Ahava cosmetics shop in Covent Garden.  Carl in Jerusalem writes:

Pro-‘Palestinian’ thugs have forced the Ahava cosmetics store to move out of London’s swanky Covent Garden neighborhood.

The owner of the shop, currently in Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, is looking for other sites after owners of neighbouring stores complained to the landlord following protests.

A spokeswoman for Shaftesbury PLC, which owns the property as well as several others in the Seven Dials area, said: “When Ahava’s lease expires in September, we will not offer them a new one” …

Last week, four demonstrators stood trial for aggravated trespass after they chained themselves to a concrete block inside the store last year.

Colin George, manager of clothes shop The Loft, next door to Ahava, said: “I’m pleased Ahava is leaving. It’s brought the street down. I’ve complained to the landlords, as has everyone here. Everyone would like them to leave. I wish they had left two years ago.

“Protesters are just going to follow them around, wherever they go. Maybe they should be an online business instead.”

Wow.  I bet if Ahava were affiliated with another world faith, Mr George would not have been so cavalier.  If this were so upsetting, why didn’t the other shopkeepers and the landlord confront all the protesters and ask them to leave?  No, it’s much easier to carp about Israel and how awful businesses who trade with the country are.  Pathetic.

I hope that Ahava find new and equally well-situated premises soon.

The common catalysts for stories like this are generally leftists.  See for yourself — if you haven’t already — as you read similar stories.

Whilst browsing the superb collection of WordPress blogs, I came across one from Jesus Christ is Lord entitled ‘Hollywood’s False Messiahs: Conditioning the People for the Anti-Christ?’

The blogger explores various futuristic films from the past decade.  Be careful about how you are influenced by them.  I’ll give you a few excerpts but would invite you to read the post in full.  Emphases mine below.

The fact that mainstream evangelical Christianity would rather join with Hollywood than oppose it notwithstanding, there is one theme in major Hollywood films that seems to be curious: the false messiah. Please recall John 5:43, where Jesus Christ says I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. This refers to Jesus Christ’s rejection by the world as its true Messiah and Saviour, and the same world’s willingness to embrace false messiahs in His place … How fascinating it is that Hollywood is using movies to prepare the way for the man of sin by releasing “entertainment” that conditions its audience for following him. Consider some examples.

Star Wars – Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader:

“Star Wars” is the product of George Lucas, who apparently is an adherent to the theosophy belief system (which is a combination of religious philosophy and mysticism). Anakin Skywalker was born to a virgin slave woman, was prophesied as “the one who would bring balance to ‘the force’” (a dualistic non-personal energy), and after a period of “temptation” by “the dark side of the force” experienced a sacrificial death to secure the triumph of good over evil, and had a sort of “spiritual resurrection.” He also had a forerunner, a John the Baptist sort of herald who preceded him in a death by martyrdom in Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The Matrix – Neo:

“The Matrix” is a product of a worldview that is a combination of postmodernism, Marxism, liberation theology, eastern religions and gnosticism given to us by what used to be “The Wachowski Brothers”, but now consists of one Wachowski brother and another who underwent a sex change operationNeo saves mankind from an oppressive world order of machines (which stands for white people, technology, western culture, Christianity and capitalism) to bring in a new bohemian order. The coming of this “Neo” was prophesied by “the oracle”, who is a “goddess” figure that created him as an “incarnation” of herself to help her overthrow the (ultimately secondary) antagonist, “the architect”, a malevolent “god” figure …

Avatar – Sully:

This is the product of the atheist environmentalist James Cameron, who saw fit to produce a movie that claimed to prove that Jesus Christ never rose from the dead. It combines Viet Nam and Iraq War allegories with promoting a generic synthesis of eastern, New Age and tribal animistic beliefs. In Hinduism, an avatar is the descent of a deity from heaven to earth, although it is more like an appearance or manifestation than a true incarnation, more akin to the theophanies of the Old Testament than Jesus Christ. However, since the introduction of Christianity into India, many Hindus have concluded that Jesus Christ was an avatar from their religion who appeared in Israel to provide spiritual and moral instruction and enlightenment, essentially assimilating Jesus Christ into their own religion. (In a more modern, secular sense, an avatar is a physical representation of an idea or personality. Note that many websites call the personalized picture that accompanies a username/account an “avatar.”)

The Last Airbender — Aang:

Unlike the director of the other movies,  M. Night Shyamalan has a more traditional worldview and is old-fashioned by Hollywood standards in that he actually respects Christianity on some level (see Signs), has a negative view of the occult (see Unbreakable) and rejects postmodernism as it relates to evil (see The Village). Still, Shyamalan jumped at the chance to write and direct a movie that not only presents a false messianic figure, but aims its worldview at impressionable children …

Aang, the messianic figure, is an incarnation of the planet’s spirit component (i.e. an incarnation of Gaia). This Aang discovers that he is the prophesied avatar, and – reminiscent of the prophet Jonah – flees his spiritual calling and as a result winds up in the ocean during a storm. Aang “dies” when he is frozen in ice, is “resurrected” 100 years later, and as the last (or unique) representative of the “air nation” (analogous to  heaven) then defeats a penultimate evil threat: the lord of the “fire nation” (analogous to Satan and hell). Aang’s role is to ensure peace, harmony and world order, and as a human incarnation of spirit, he is a link or bridge to both.

Job, the blogger, has found a number of common threads running through all of these media offerings — see his post for the full list and his analysis:

  • All the films embrace eastern religions and philosophies.
  • All the films reject monotheism and organized religion in favor of a type of spirituality.
  • All the films heavily emphasize martial arts (i.e. karate, kung fu, judo, tai chi) including but not limited to swordsmanship. Make no mistake, just as Albert Mohler (and this own site) says about yoga, eastern practices like martial arts are part of the religion. So, the use of martial arts – often combined with other forms of weaponry and warfare, whether lasers in Star Wars or guns in The Matrix – makes the violent aggression in these messianic films entirely religious in nature, religio-military propaganda after the manner used to justify the Crusades, or in a more recent era the same religious-military propaganda used by axis powers of World War II …
  • All on some level contain elements of there existing some common, shared or “connected” mind or spirit among humanity.
  • The films go out of their way to depict racial and cultural diversity and “gender equality” (and this was rather striking in the 1970s when Star Wars was made) among the protagonists (who represent the new world order) while – with the exception of “The Last Airbender” generally depicting the antagonists as white males (representing the existing world order).
  • In each, the antagonist represents or at least bears a striking resemblance to our existing world order, and the protagonist represents a new world order (that again, shares the common points mentioned) ...

The blogger states that he has no socio-political agenda, just that he has found common characteristics of these films.  He astutely concludes:

Unfortunately, the world rejects this successful mission on the part of Jesus Christ because the world rejects the idea that it is sinful; that it stands inherently guilty before a holy sovereign God that is Ruler and Judge. To it, the Biblical concept of sin does not exist (a la Buddhism and new age) or one can earn salvation from whatever idea that they do have of sin through works (Hinduism and some forms of shintoism). Either way, it does not recognize a need for a Saviour from sins, and therefore the Person and work of Jesus Christ is irrelevant to its concerns and a foolish offense to its desires.

… But the refusal to acknowledge that the root cause of political oppression, economic exploitation, discrimination, wars etc. is the sinful condition of humanity requires the one promising temporal deliverance to do so by picking up the sword, taking the fight to and overcoming “the other side”; the oppressors that are perceived to be responsible for all the evil …

He points out that the Book of Revelation predicts active persecution:

Christians will be the evil empire … 

This will be because the church (and perhaps also the Jews) will represent the old world order. It will also be because of the church’s witness! During this time, the remnant will bear witness that the anti-Christ is no true deliverer but a fraud, and that the real solutions are not his program, but rather turning away from sins in true repentance and submission to the true Messiah who is Jesus Christ. Needless to say, it will not be a message that the world wants to hear. Similar to the early Christians who were persecuted often to death for refusing to worship the Roman emperor, such ideas will be considered “unpatriotic” (a fact which should strike contemporary Christians that are politically conservative with no small amount of irony) in the anti-Christ’s regime.

It honestly does appear that with these sorts of movies, Hollywood is providing a picture of the man of sin, and paving the way for his appearance in the process.

Thank you, Job — excellent work and point taken! Anything repetitive on television or in film — adultery, violence, gratuitous death — should be viewed with suspicion.  The more of these scenes we see, the more desensitised we become, to the point where we say, ‘So what?’  Yet, we are rapidly moving closer to that moment where the balance is tipped against Jesus Christ, the Church and the faithful.

This year marks the bicentenary of the death of Robert Raikes (14 September 1736 – 5 April 1811), the Englishman who helped to turn Sunday School into an international institution.

He did not found Sunday School, as the first was opened in 1751 at St Mary’s Church in Nottingham.  In 1769, Hannah Ball founded one in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. However, Raikes laid the groundwork for a number of Sunday Schools across England during his lifetime.  In the United States, mill owner Samuel Slater, originally from Derbyshire, began one for his child labourers in 1790.

Raikes was the grandson of an Anglican vicar, Yorkshireman Timothy Raikes, and the son of a newspaper owner, also named Robert.  Robert Raikes the Elder (as he is known) had settled in Gloucester by the time Robert Raikes the Younger was born.  His Gloucester Journal had been in publication for several years by then.  Raikes the Younger inherited the newspaper in 1757.

Raikes was concerned about the effect that the Industrial Revolution had upon children, especially boys.  He saw that because of a six-out-of-seven day workweek, they had no means of moral, religious or educational development.  Many adult factory workers were illiterate.  Furthermore, either exhaustion or social circumstances prevented them from attending church.  In the worst cases, fathers had ended up in jail or the workhouse, as they were too impoverished to pay their debts.  Raikes visited these institutions regularly and was appalled at the conditions, including the lack of food.

Raikes’s middle-class contemporaries hired governesses or tutors for their children.  Some sent their sons to fee-based local grammar schools or to boarding schools, which are still known today as ‘public schools’.  There were no state-run institutions at the time, although a number of charity or church-endowed ragged schools — some better than others — existed for the education of the poor and working class.

Raikes was so unsettled by the social conditions in Gloucester’s slums that he asked the Revd Thomas Stock of Ashbury, Berkshire, for advice.  Surely, a day-long school session held on Sundays and using the Bible as the textbook would teach the boys how to read and introduce them to Christianity.  Diligent students would then have not only skills to help them out of the grind of poverty but also equip them with good morals and biblical knowledge.

So, in 1780, a Gloucester woman, Mrs Meredith, opened her home to start the first Sunday School.  Raikes publicised the new venture in the Gloucester Journal and it quickly caught the attention of Englishmen nationwide.  In a recent biography of Raikes, the Telegraph recounted the story (emphases mine below):

In beginning Sunday schools, he worked with a local clergyman, at first paying four women to teach children in their houses. In 1780 he started a Sunday school in his own parish of St Mary de Crypt, hearing the children’s reading and awarding prizes.

Writing about the success of his venture in his own paper, Raikes attracted the attention of the Gentleman’s Magazine. The idea spread. “I find these schools springing up everywhere I go,” John Wesley noted in 1784. By 1786, 200,000 children were said to be involved.

Raikes had hit upon a need at a time when people were willing to do something to remedy it. Others had been working elsewhere on a similar idea. There was much energy among nonconformists, but Raikes was keen to make the enterprise serve the mission of the Church of England. Some parsons were reluctant to help, finding no warrant for it in the Book of Common Prayer and disapproving of independent lay initiatives.

Initially, only boys were allowed to attend, possibly because of their future roles as primary breadwinners. However, it was not long before Raikes and his teachers admitted girls to the classes. Raikes wrote the instructions for the teachers and described how they structured the day:

The children were to come after ten in the morning, and stay till twelve; they were then to go home and return at one; and after reading a lesson, they were to be conducted to Church. After Church, they were to be employed in repeating the catechism till after five, and then dismissed, with an injunction to go home without making a noise.

As one would expect, Raikes was not without his critics.  Wikipedia says:

There were disputes about the movement in the early years. The schools were derisively called “Raikes’ Ragged School”. Criticisms raised included that it would weaken home-based religious education, that it might be a desecration of the Sabbath, and that Christians should not be employed on the Sabbath. “Sabbatarian disputes” in the 1790s led many Sunday schools to cease their teaching of writing.

In 1811, the year Raikes died, the Telegraph states:

there was founded the splendidly named National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church. One thing it did was to provide booklets for Sunday schools. Under the modest name of the National Society, it still exists, promoting the Church education of a million children on weekdays.

Twenty years after Raikes’s death:

Sunday schools in Great Britain were teaching weekly 1,250,000 children, approximately 25 percent of the population.

Nonconformist churches and chapels also started Sunday Schools, particularly in deprived areas.  It was not unknown for adults to begin attending them in some regions.  From there, church-sponsored activities and associations began, particularly for the needy and disadvantaged.  One excellent illustration is that of Surrey Chapel in Southwark (London), which existed between 1783 and 1881.  Southwark, although somewhat transformed now with a number of office blocks, is still a poor area and has a number of council estates for its residents.  Surrey Chapel, however, helped transform the borough.  From Wikipedia (earlier link):

When built it was set in open fields, but within a few years it became a new industrial area with a vast population characterised by great poverty amidst pockets of wealth. Recently the site itself has been redeveloped as an office block (currently occupied by the London Development Agency), and Southwark Underground Station has been built opposite …

Its founding pastor, Rowland Hill, having a strong interest in inoculation, established one of the most effective vaccination boards in London at Surrey Chapel …

Surrey Chapel, though owned and managed by independent trustees primarily as a Nonconformist chapel, was operated as a venue for music, singing, and for the meetings of charities, associations and societies, several of which became closely associated with it. For a time, the composer and arranger Benjamin Jacob was organist, attracting thousands; a practical response to Rowland Hill’s well known concern about chapel music of the time: ‘Why should the Devil have all the good tunes ?’

Surrey Chapel – as a result of this ‘open door’ policy – became a popular London venue … as well as the site of the first Sunday School in London. So much so, that new premises had to be found to accommodate the growth in services, ragged schools, Sunday schools and the Southwark Mission for the Elevation of the Working Classes – an auxiliary to Surrey Chapel managed by the plain speaking George Murphy for the increasing numbers of industrial poor of the district.

infed (the informal education homepage and encyclopaedia of informal education) tells us:

By the mid-1800s many Sunday Schools had passed into the control of working people, although the membership of chapels would appear to have been drawn rather more from the skilled than the un-skilled working class (McLeod, 1984, p.24). Three quarters of working class children were attending such schools in 1851 (Lacquer 1976: 44). This was popular provision on a massive scale.

… the key element in the success of Sunday Schools was that they provided the education and expressed the values that working-class parents wanted for their children. In particular, it was the transmission of the values of the ‘respectable’ working class or labour aristocracy that were stressed: self-discipline, industry, thrift, improvement, egalitarianism and communalism. Sunday Schools, when considered in this light, paralleled other working class institutions such as friendly societies, trade unions and savings banks. Sunday Schools were used not simply to improve literacy and religious knowledge but also, arguably, to enhance the culture of working class life.

Indeed, if you walk around the area near the site of the former Surrey Chapel, you can still find a workingman’s temperance mutual society in Blackfriars Road. The council block across from the chapel (now the LDA building) is called Rowland Hill House.

As for Sunday Schools in the United States, the New York Times archive has a long article from 1865, which describes a meeting of the Methodist Sunday School Union, incorporating Methodist Episcopal churches.  This excerpt gives you an idea of the Sunday School ethos:

ORANGE JUDD, Esq., editor of the Agriculturist, then made an address. He gave some reminiscences of his own early days, when Sunday-schools were first organized among the log cabins where he lived when a boy, and referred to his own long experience as a Sunday-school teacher, and to his sense of obligation to Sunday schools for the good reading and good training they supplied, and explained how the children could bring other children into the schools …

In the course of his address, Mr. JUDD called on all those present who desired to go to heaven, to signify it by raising their right hand, which occasioned a heavy vote

The exercises were ended in the usual manner, and the children filed out in good order, and with pleased faces

The proceedings of the afternoon were inaugurated by the singing of “Glory to the Father give” by the united schools, subsequent to which Rev. W.F. COLLINS offered up prayer. The singing of the “Children’s Jubilee” was followed by an able address by Rev. W.W. HICKS, of Delaware, who welcomed the children and spoke to them of their duties toward God. A second address in the same spirit was delivered by JOSEPH LONGKING, Esq., and the “Sunday School Banner” by the pupils brought the exercises to a close. The benediction having been pronounced by the chairman, the assemblage then dispersed …

The galleries were thronged with the parents and friends of the little ones, who presented an orderly and attractive appearance … D.L. ROSS, Esq., delivered an address happily appropriate to the occasion, which elicited attention from all the children. He alluded to the necessity of Sunday-school instruction, to mold the early character, and its vast influence in disseminating the gospel among the young. After drawing a vivid picture of the thousands of little ones exposed to every temptation in this city, he contrasted their condition with those who had the advantages of the religious instruction which the Sunday-school afforded, and urged the necessity of advancing in the work.

Back in Blighty, the Telegraph concludes:

Sunday school and parish church formed a virtuous circle, each supporting the other.

Today, with leisure to be had on other days too, parish groups have diversified, but surely nothing can compare for intensity of mutual improvement with the 19th-century Sunday school.

As Easter Monday is a bank holiday in the UK, perhaps my British readers will watch a film sometime during the next 24 hours.  It might even be a J Arthur Rank film, introduced by the famous gong, pictured at left.

On November 21, 2010, the BBC devoted its Sunday evening Songs of Praise to J Arthur Rank, film industry mogul and philanthropist.

Not many people today know that the 1st (and only) Baron Rank (pictured, right) was also a practising Methodist.  He was born in Kingston upon Hull 1888, the seventh and last child of a wealthy flour mill owner and philanthropist, Joseph Rank.  Incidentally, the business — Joseph Rank Limited — later became part of two other well-known flour companies, Hovis and McDougall.  Combined, the concern was known as Rank Hovis McDougall and was part of the Premier Foods conglomerate until 2007.  Joseph Rank’s name lives on in an eponymous trust, about which you can see more on its home page and blog.

What follows is a synopsis of the programme and other sources as cited. Pam Rhodes is the Songs of Praise presenter. I’m sorry to say that her supercilious smirking got on my nerves.  She did not appear to take the subject matter too seriously, although, I must admit this is the only time I have ever seen the programme.

Joseph Rank was a keen competitor in the milling business, even travelling to the United States in 1902, to discover how to beat the Americans at their own flour processing. (Photo at left courtesy of the Joseph Rank Trust.) However, he was also deeply devoted to Jesus Christ and to Methodism.  He wrote a letter to Arthur and another son in which he said (emphasis mine):

God can help you if only you seek him in sincerity and truth.

Having said that, he was a stern taskmaster and had the respectful obedience of his children as well as the admiration of his friends and associates.

Arthur Rank followed in the family footsteps at the mill.  In his spare time, he taught Sunday School.  By the 1930s, he illustrated his lessons with the new medium of film.  The use of religious and moral short features, some of which he had made himself, spread to other churches. Consequently, he founded the Religious Film Society. Rank’s first film was called Mastership, which featured a well-known Methodist minister, the Revd W H Lax.  The film showed a story of workmen falling prey to drink, with one of them landing in jail.  Mr Lax asks the man whether he will choose God or drink.  Mr Lax also delivers a sermon in the film.

Although Arthur Rank wanted to show the films to a wider audience, he had no takers.  Around this time, film was thought to lead people into bad ways.  The Methodist Times complained about this, to which the London Evening News replied that the Methodist Church should look for a solution.  Rank stepped up to the challenge and founded the British National Films Company.

As his great-nephew, Colin Rank, said of Rank’s unintentional transition from flour to film, ‘God took him along a road’.  This road led Rank to hold interests in British film studios and other media concerns.  By 1937, his company became known as the Rank Organisation, which, even today, sounds rather grand, indeed.

The Rank Organisation had its headquarters in Soho’s Wardour Street, which was at the time, where British film companies had their offices.  By 1940, Rank owned five film studios, two newsreel companies and 650 cinemas.  In 1945, he said he wished to open up the world to British films:

if they are good enough and entertaining enough.

His biographer, fellow Methodist Michael Wakelin, said that Rank had hoped

the country and the world would be a better place wherever Rank films are shown.

Wakelin developed his interest in Rank from an early age.  His mother used to take him to the cinema where, as the gong sounded, she would whisper to him

He’s one of us, you know — a Methodist!

Ironically, when Arthur was younger, his father Joseph saw little to commend him.  Yet, as Rank moved towards middle age, he exhibited — out of all his brothers — his father’s gritty, steely determination.  By 1943, he dominated the British film industry and would continue to do so for the next 20 years.

Yet, Rank was not without his critics.  Some Britons took him at his word when he said that he would show films with good moral messages.  Yet, as any classic filmwatcher today will see, the Rank Organisation produced a variety of films, including The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and The Wicked Lady.  Although we see them shown on afternoon television now, some were intended at the time for adult viewing only.  The Wicked Lady was a case in point.  However, Rank thought that even racy stories could carry a powerful message for adults.  In the case of The Wicked Lady, good wins out in the end, which illustrates his point. He wanted to reach as many possible audiences as he could.

Someone in Songs of Praise compared Rank to John Wesley in that they both had an easily-accessible, popular style of evangelising.  Wesley was known for his outdoor sermons in the public square and for really reaching people wherever they were at that moment.  Similarly, Rank’s films touched cinemagoers in much the same way. Films can tap into the places a sermon cannot.

Although Rank had amassed a spectacular fortune, he never lost sight of God. He started a mobile cinema which would stop at churches to show religious films. One of these was about John Bunyan. The mobile cinema was another useful method of evangelisation for all ages, particularly young people. At home, Rank’s wife Nell helped him keep his feet firmly on the ground.  He relied on her as an informal advisor, often asking whether certain ideas and plans were worth following through.  It was not unusual for her to say no!

J Arthur Rank was made a life peer in 1957. Both Lord and Lady Rank wished to give something back to society, specifically Hull and the surrounding countryside.  Lord Rank created the Arthur Rank Centre, which puts the Church at the heart of its endeavours. The centre provides training for clergy entering rural ministry and runs the Rural Stress Helpline for those in rural areas in need of encouragement and help. A farmer’s lot is not an easy one these days. The Revd Dr Gordon Gatward is the current centre director.  He says that he often feels the presence of Lord Rank when he has decisions to make!  Lord Rank also instituted Arthur Rank Training which works with 200-300 youths, providing them with useful and relevant machine and manual skills for employment.

Lord and Lady Rank had two daughters — Shelagh and Ursula.  Shortly before he died in 1972, aged 83, Lord Rank wrote a family member:

You have big tasks before you — but the Power available is tremendous.

It was intimated in the programme that ‘Power’ meant the Holy Trinity. 

Songs of Praise read out his personal daily prayer, which is as follows:

Dear Heavenly Father, You always loved me. I ask in Jesus’s name for strong, active and continuous faith that I may always be conscious that the Holy Spirit lives in me.

What follows are a selection of his favourite hymns, which came live from the congregation of Carshalton Methodist Church (Surrey) in the programme.  I’m sorry that those are unavailable to share with you, so I have selected representative YouTube videos from other churches.

It’s worth noting that Lord Rank’s favourite hymn was ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ (hooray!):

He also liked ‘Love Divine’ (Blaenwern):

‘O Jesus, I Have Promised (Day of Rest):

and ‘Lead Us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us’ (Mannheim):

On Easter, Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’s Resurrection — His rising from the dead.

This feast is the most important in the Church calendar.  To find out why, please see ‘Easter: the greatest feast in the Church year’ and ‘Easter Sunday: Thoughts on this greatest of days’.

During Holy Week 2011, I have been sharing with you excerpts of sermons by the Reformed (Calvinist) pastor, the Revd P G Mathew of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California.  Today, let us see what he says about Christ’s disciples, particularly the women who had the boldness to go in search of His tomb.  The sermon is called ‘Beware of Easter!’ and takes as its text Matthew 28:1-20. Emphases mine below.

Joseph of Arimathea provided a tomb for Jesus, which Roman soldiers guarded.  Shortly after His burial, the sky around Jerusalem turned black and the Earth shook.  What must it have been like to be in the city or surrounding area that weekend?  Terrifying, no doubt.  A trumped-up trial, the Crucifixion, an earthquake.  People must have been wondering if they were suffering a judgment from God.  In a way, they were.

We always hear about the disciples — with justification — but where were they after Jesus was buried?  Note who went to the tomb with oils to anoint His body:

All these horrible events were observed by Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had driven out many devils, and some other women from Galilee who had ministered to the needs of Jesus. These women loved Jesus dearly and would not leave him. They stayed near him while he suffered on the cross, they watched Nicodemus and Joseph bury him in the tomb, and they made plans to come again Easter morning to anoint his body. They did all this out of love for Jesus. Where were the male disciples? Only John is mentioned being near the cross, and then we see him disappearing. All the others had gone away, just as Jesus had predicted: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Matt. 26:31).

Meanwhile, the Jews felt victorious.  They had rid themselves of the troublemaker Jesus. Nothing more could happen now, even if they had heard Him say that He would rise again on the third day:

The tomb was closed with a huge circular stone and sealed with the authority of the Roman empire. The Jewish leaders then went home to celebrate. Their nation was at peace.

But, at the time of the earthquake:

According to the Father’s command, the angel arrived in Jerusalem and made his way to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. He broke the seal of the Roman empire, lifted the huge stone, threw it on the ground and sat on it. Oh, hear the laughter of God! Did the angel do this to let Jesus out of the tomb? No. Jesus had already risen from the dead. His resurrection body is glorious, immortal, imperishable, honorable, full of power, and able to go through material obstacles like stones and closed doors. So the angel was not letting Jesus out of the tomb. Instead, he opened the tomb as a mockery of man’s stupid attempt to thwart the work of God, and also to enable Christ’s loyal friends see that for the first time in history, a tomb had become empty. Christ had been resurrected from the dead as decreed by God from all eternity and as Christ himself predicted again and again.

What happened to the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb? We read that they trembled with fear and fell down like dead men.

The angel is there to speak to Mary Magdalene and her companions when they arrive:

In the Greek it says, “You, don’t be afraid,” and the word “you” is emphasized. The angel understood why the women were there, and he wanted to reassure them

Then the angel made this great proclamation: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” Now, if you go to any cemetery, you will not find these words written anywhere. You will only read “Here lies so-and-so” on every headstone and tomb. But here is one tomb where it is stated, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

Imagine hearing that.  Even the faithful women at the tomb didn’t quite believe Christ would rise from the dead.  After all, that is why they carried anointing oils.  And, still no sign of the apostles!

But in spite of their unbelief, the angel told the women, “Come and see the place where he lay.” What did they see? An open tomb. Strips of linen placed in an orderly fashion. But something was missing. Jesus was not there. Why? He had been raised, just as he said. So the angel instructed the women, “Go quickly and tell his disciples.”

The men were in hiding, afraid for their lives but also feeling dejected.

The angel proclaimed the gospel to the women, told them to come and see, and then go and tell the disciples that Jesus was going ahead of them to Galilee, just as he said. You see, Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), and what he promises, he fulfills. Jesus Christ predicted that he would die, be buried, and be raised from the dead on the third day. We have all confidence that every word he said is true, which includes the promise of his coming again and judging everyone who does not believe in him.

The women left the tomb with fear and great joy. It was not great fear and joy, but fear and great joy. They still had some lingering fear, but it was not great. What gave them such great joy? I am sure they were thinking about what the angel had said, and were saying to themselves,”It is true. Christ lives! He was right. Remember, he said he would rise from the dead on the third day? This is the third day, and the tomb is empty. Jesus is risen! He has conquered death forever.” That was the cause for their great joy …

In verse 8 we read an interesting statement: the women ran to tell the disciples, in obedience to the angel’s words.

And as they were running, Matthew says, Idou -meaning, “Behold, look!” What did the women see? Jesus. Oh, if you are fearful, meeting an angel will not be sufficient. You will still have fear. But if you want to deal with all of your fears, you must finally meet Jesus himself. Behold, there was Jesus!

In the Greek we read that Jesus greeted them with the word Kairete . Now, some people would translate this as a more casual greeting like “Hello” or “Hi.” Judas Iscariot used the same word in Matthew 26:49, greeting Jesus as he was in the act of betraying him. But I do not translate Christ’s word kairete as “Hi!” I am going to give its full meaning, which is what? Rejoice! Rejoice! Be not afraid, Jesus is saying. And I am sure at that moment all the residual, lingering fears of the women evaporated. They received strength from the living Christ.

Note that the women did not hug Him or clasp His hand.  No, they fell down and clasped His feet, recognising Him as Lord:

In the ancient Near East, vassals sometimes kissed the feet of the suzerain (the great king) to express their worship and submission. King Cyrus stated that people came with tribute and kissed his feet. But here was the King of kings and Lord of lords! The women were worshiping Jesus, the risen King, God. They believed the gospel.

The saddest aspect for me about Easter is that so few people see the Resurrection as the fulfilment of Jesus’s words of truth and of God’s sovereignty.  You might feel similarly. Some of us must celebrate this wonderful feast day alone, surrounded by unbelievers or deniers. Mr Mathew explains:

Just as the authorities tried to seal the tomb and stop people from believing in Christ, people today are still trying to cover up the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Why? Sin manifests itself in unbelief. Haven’t you heard the lies of sinful man? Some say that Jesus was stolen by his disciples; or that he just swooned on the cross, and in the cool air of the tomb he revived, forced open the stone, came out, and disappeared–no one knows where. Others say that the women, misty-eyed from weeping, came to the wrong tomb where a young man told them, “He is not here,” meaning it was not his tomb. Others say that those who saw Jesus after his resurrection were hallucinating. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 St. Paul says that the living Jesus met with five hundred people in Galilee but unbelievers would say that all five hundred were hallucinating at the same time. And the most modern theory of those who would cover up truth is that the resurrected Christ was just a vision–that all the reports of his resurrection were self-induced visions, based on no objective reality. But if any of these stories were true, I wonder why the authorities did not produce the body of Christ. If they had done so, they could have stopped the rise of Christianity right then and there.

Like the chief priests and elders, people today continue to suppress the greatest truth ever told and the greatest event that ever happened in time and space–the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why? Why will a person believe in everything but the resurrection? The reason, Paul says, is that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God.” Such a person does not compute God’s truth. There is a deliberate rejection of truth–“for [it is] foolishness to him, and he cannot understand [it] because [it is] spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 1:14).

In Romans 1 we are told that sinful man is ever engaged in the suppression and cover-up of truth by his or her own wickedness. We also read in Romans 1 that man is exchanging truth for a lie continually. In Romans 8 Paul says the sinful mind is hostile to God and does not submit to God’s law, nor can it. Sinful man is totally unable to receive, embrace, and believe the gospel because Satan has blinded his understanding.

If you do not believe the gospel, please do not blame women with misty eyes. The problem is the mist in the depth of your heart. Paul says you are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). In Luke 16 Jesus himself told of a rich man who wanted someone to rise from the dead and declare to his brothers that there is a hell. What did Jesus say? “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,” meaning the Scriptures, “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31)

Even when Jesus was on the cross, some said that if he came down, they would believe. But when the soldiers reported that the tomb was empty and Jesus had come out, did the authorities believe? No. They gave the soldiers a large amount of money and told them to say that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body. And I presume that the rulers also had to give money to Pilate to silence him.

For unbelievers, Christ and His fulfilment of His prophecy is threatening. Just think of all the news items over the past decade which deny Christian feasts, Christian worship and Christian witness.

There is a day coming–a day of judgment–when everyone will believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as every word of the Scripture. Those who have denied God’s word will believe in the virgin birth, in miracles, in creation–in everything they have denied from God’s word.

When Paul spoke of the resurrection of Christ to the Athenians, they sneered at him. They were the scientists of their day, and they mocked his message, saying that after a man died, he could never rise from the dead physically. The Athenians did believe in the immortality of souls, but they laughed, sneered, and mocked as Paul spoke about physical resurrection.

But Paul told the Athenians … “He has given proof of this [coming judgment] to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

Jesus never lied to His disciples.  There is not one word or deed of His which was ambiguous or left to rationalisation.  He fulfilled His promises to us.  If He said He would rise from the dead and did, we can be sure that He will come again in glory — and in judgment.  But waiting until Judgment Day to believe will be too late for some.  So, for those curious about Jesus and His divine love for sinners, why not open a Bible and read online resources to help better acquaint you with Him?  What could be a more glorious time than now?

Let us pray that the risen Christ remains with us every moment of each day. Jesus Christ is not only our only Mediator and Advocate but also our only Way to eternal life.  May we keep Him foremost in our thoughts and in our hearts, today and always.

Wow, a double feast of St George’s Day and Holy Saturday — the end of Holy Week — in 2011?  Well, not officially, as the Church Times reports:

MOST of the country’s St George’s Day celebrations will take place on Holy Saturday this year, ignoring the fact that the date has been transferred to 2 May in the church calendar.

Because 23 April falls in Holy Week, the Church of England keeps St George’s Day after Easter Week.

The move has not been widely noticed, however. The official Enjoy England website lists the top ten St George’s Day celebrations, among them London, Birmingham, Wrest Park, Skipton, and Swindon. All are on 23 April.

The Stone Cross parade in West Bromwich, billed as the largest in the country, takes place on Easter Day. Most of the other main celebrations take place over the weekend, apart from the St George’s Festival in the centre of Manchester, which has moved forward to the weekend of 15-17 April.

There is more variety within the Church itself. St George’s, Grave­send, in Kent, will be celebrating its patronal festival on Thursday 28 April (Easter Thursday), and this will coincide with the town’s annual St George’s Day parade.

The Rector of St George’s, Canon Chris Stone, said that the date was appropriate. The parade will also serve as an early celebration for the royal wedding the next day.

To avoid disappointment, please note your city or town’s celebrations and see the rest of the Church Times article for other news about St George’s Day celebrations in England, including moves to make it a national holiday.

My past posts for April 23 are ‘St George’s Day is April 23’, where you can read all about this great saint, and ‘Happy St George’s Day’ from 2009.  For those wishing to read about Holy Saturday, please see ‘What happens on Holy Saturday?’ (2009) and  ‘Holy Saturday and food traditions’ (2010).

Today’s picture comes courtesy of Paradox Place.  The painting is by Paolo Uccello (1397 – 1475 or 1478) and currently hangs in the Musee André Jacquemart in Paris.  It depicts St George slaying the famous dragon, to which the young princess in the painting was to be sacrificed as food to keep the beast quiet.  The Royal Society of St George explains (emphases mine):

The legends about St George spread far and wide and it was claimed that near the town of Silene in Libya, a dragon dwelt, keeping the population in terror. To satiate him the population tethered an animal, until they had no more. They then provided human sacrifices and in ultimate desperation, a young princess was selected, the king’s daughter named Cleolinda. The story then relates how St. George rode up on his white charger, dismounted and fought the monster on foot; until it eventually succumbed. He then dragged the dying monster into the city, using the girdle of the Princess and slew the dragon in front of the people. St. George was greeted as their saviour and the King offered him a bag of gold as a reward for saving his daughter. This he refused and asked that it be given to the poor.

The story is a powerful allegory, emblematic of the triumph of good over evil; but it also teaches of enduring Christian faith in the extreme and the trust that at all times should be placed in the Almighty by the invocation of the name of St. George, Soldier, Saint and Martyr.

And, why exactly, do we see such a rebarbative reaction to St George from so-called Englishmen year on year?  Witness Martin Bright from The Spectator in 2009:

The ersatz English pride expressed by the entirely bogus St George’s Day celebrations is deeply creepy. I hate it. Wandering through London this week and bumping into people wrapped in red and white flags or dressed as knights has made me feel deeply embarrassed to be English.

I do wonder if Mr Bright attends St Patrick’s Day pub crawls on March 17 or St Andrew’s day dinners on November 30?  Readers enquired, but he did not respond.

Why are St George’s Day celebrations ‘entirely bogus’ and ‘creepy’?  Why are they any more so than other patron saints’ feasts, pray tell us, Mr Bright?  Would you dare mention that in any of these European countries or cities: Bulgaria, Canada, Gozo, Greece, Freiburg (Germany), Genoa (Italy), Beirut (Lebanon), Lithuania, Malta, Palestine, Portugal, Moscow (Russia), Spain or — Istanbul (Turkey)?  I very much doubt it.  So, please, climb off your high horse.  What exactly is your objection?

If St George is so objected to in England, he must be a very good saint indeed.  And, for those celebrating his feast day today (preferably after Holy Week ends in the evening), let us raise a moderate glass and say:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry, God for Harry, England, and Saint George!  – Shakespeare, Henry V

Recently, I posted a comment on an atheist’s blog asking for his thoughts on Jesus Christ.  One reads so much about their disbelief in God, but never anything about His Son.  As we remember His one, holy and perfect sacrifice, this is the response I received from another atheist. I hope they do not mind my borrowing this comment from reader maryhelena. What she says puts things into perspective for me from their point of view, and I hope it will for you, too:

churchmouse: But, what do you make of Jesus Christ — true God and true man?

Or delusion?

Step one for the atheist – ditch theism – the great ‘god delusion’

Step two for the atheist – ditch JC – the great ‘historical delusion’ …

Seriously, though, there cannot be any forward movement towards humanism while that figure on the cross is believed to be the very epitome of what it means to be human – the seat and the wellspring of Christian morality. This final roadblock to a humanist world needs to be bulldozed to the only place where it can have any rational expression – as a symbol of intellectual evolution. Mind and Matter – the two elements of our humanity – function according to two very different codes – one moral and the other amoral.

Meanwhile, today, many of us will spend time in prayer, at church or at home reading the scriptural account of the Crucifixion.

Recently, I came across an apposite sermon from the Revd P. G. Mathew of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California.  In ‘The Wondrous Cross’, Mr Mathew explains the significance of the Cross and of Jesus’s perfect obedience to His Father.  Please find a few minutes to read it in full.  Meanwhile, here are a few excerpts (emphases mine), which considers Romans 8:32:

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

The wondrous cross of Christ is the theme of Romans 8:32. Paul declared that the preaching of the cross is “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). When he was in Corinth, he says he “resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). To the Galatians he says, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Gal. 3:1).

Without the gospel of the cross, there is no forgiveness of sins. Paul tells us, “May I never glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world is crucified to me and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). Jesus himself foretold, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me,” that is, “I will save them from all their sins” (John 12:32). May we get out of the mud of gloom, misery, depression, and self-justification, and be freed as we look to the wondrous cross …

In Romans 8:32 Paul puts forward a second unanswerable question to assure us that God’s infinite love toward his elect shall never diminish. It remains constant, from eternity past to eternity future. The apostle provides the most powerful argument he can for this assurance. We must therefore know this argument from the wondrous cross and meditate on it. Then we too can live and die for the glory of God in triumph …

This argument is the ground of all our confidence in life and in death. Before he died [by beheading], Paul said, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6–8) …

We must understand the significance of Paul’s usage of “his own Son.” Paul used this phrase earlier: “For what the law was powerless to do, God did by sending his own Son” (Rom. 8:3). We are adopted sons by grace, but God did not spare his own Son, his one and only Son by nature, the second person of the holy Trinity. He is the beloved Son, with whom the Father was well pleased.

Theological liberals do not believe Jesus is God’s own Son. For them, Jesus was a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary by natural generation, a sinner who thought he was God. They would say, “Jesus was a moral teacher, a reformer, a revolutionary, the first Marxist, a friend of the poor and the downtrodden, and a community organizer. He was a good man, though somewhat deluded. And he died and never rose again”

But Jesus is not a mere man; he is God incarnate. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:1, 14, 18). Thomas finally confessed and said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28) …

The Father did not spare the only Son of his bosom. Paul is reflecting on Gen. 22:12-13, which speaks of the sacrifice of Isaac when God tested Abraham’s love. It is not enough for us to profess love for God; that love must be tested, and God himself does it. So God demanded that Abraham prove his love by sacrificing his son, his only son, his beloved son Isaac—not Ishmael, but Isaac, the son of promise through whom nations and kings were to come, and through whom the Messiah was eventually to come. And in reality, Abraham did not spare his son. It was God who intervened and spared Isaac from instant execution …

Perfect justice will come only when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead. But to satisfy the justice of God, the Father did not spare his own Son. No other substitute could make atonement for the sins of the whole world. Isaac was spared because his death could not atone his own sin, let alone the sins of the world. No rams or bulls or any other animals can atone our sins. The Hebrews writer declares, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). Yet he then states, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin” (Heb. 10:4). Not even the holy angel Gabriel can atone for our sins. Whose blood, then, can atone our sins?

We needed the incarnate Son of God to atone our sins. His blood alone avails. So the Father loved us so much that he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us on the cross …

On the cross, Jesus experienced the hell of our death, which is the wages of sin. God the Father so loved us that he gave up his own Son to such a death to save us. Love gives the best, the most precious. The Father’s best was his one and only Son. He gave him up to save us through his substitutionary death. The cross of Christ preaches God’s eternal, undying, never-failing love to us. Our love for God may fail, but the Father’s love never fails …

The cross reveals the wisdom of God. By wisdom, God uses the best means to achieve his best goal. The best means to achieve our redemption was the death of his Son on the cross. This brings greater glory to God. The cross is foolishness, a stumbling block, and an offense to those who are perishing. But to us who are being saved, it reveals the power, wisdom, and surpassing love of God. So we glory in the wondrous cross! It is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to us it is life eternal …

Christ, who obeyed the Father perfectly in life and death, prayed three times that the Father would remove the cup of his wrath from him. But finally he said, “Yet not my will but thine be done.” It was God’s will to spare us by crucifying his own Son. This purpose of God was unchangeable. Yet Christ’s death was not the death of a martyr, for not only is Jesus true man, but he is also very God. Christ was without sin, but he died for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we sinners might become nothing less than the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). The Father did not count our sins against us; he counted them against his Son …

The cup of God’s wrath is empty; no more wrath can be poured out against us. All our sins have been forgiven, and Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. Oh, the glory of this double transaction! All our sin is imputed to God’s own Son, and all his righteousness is imputed to us. Now we are given a different cup. It is the cup of salvation (Ps. 116:13), the cup of blessing (1 Cor. 10:16), and the cup that runs over (Ps. 23:5). Jesus said, “I give them eternal life. I have come that they may have life and that more abundantly and overflowing” …

God freely gives us all things; everything we have, we receive by grace, not by our merit. Even God’s enemies live because of his common grace. They are given daily bread through their work. God’s sun shines upon them, the rain comes upon them, and the earth produces food for them.

But in Jesus Christ we are given also special grace, which flows to us from the cross of Christ—the blessings of regeneration, repentance, saving faith, righteousness, the Holy Spirit, the knowledge of God, adoption as sons, and glorification

May God help all of us to trust in Jesus Christ today, that we may be saved and enjoy this glorious freedom from the wrath of God. Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” May we live in obedience to God and enjoy eternally … his love. Amen.

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