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Yesterday’s post discussed Frenchmen who converted from Christianity to Islam.

Today’s entry looks at the much smaller numbers of Muslims who convert to Christianity in France, thanks to a September 25, 2015 article in the newsweekly Marianne, the online versions of which can be read here and here.

The number of Muslims finding new life in Christ is infinitesimal. Conversion is seen by many Muslim communities as apostasy punishable by death. Where death is not involved, persecution — vandalism and shunning — is not unknown. The experience of the Hussain family in Bradford is a sadly enduring example of this. It’s a dangerous and lonely undertaking.

Marianne was able to interview two converts.

‘Meet God in joy’

Ali, whose baptismal name is Jean-Marc, works as a security guard in Paris’s La Defense business district to the west of the city. He is a retired policeman.

Ali-Jean-Marc is married to a Muslim who is aware that their children will be baptised in the near future. However, she is aware of the religious journey her husband has been taking over the past three years. Of this journey, Ali-Jean-Marc says:

It’s been a long road.

He knows that his Muslim colleagues talk behind his back. His younger brother has fallen out with him. But Ali-Jean-Marc doesn’t care:

By baptism I am saved. I am saved, cleansed of my sins. I want to meet God in joy, to die in peace. This is my new life.

He said that, in recent years, he’d become troubled by the lack of a ‘Creator who controlled the universe’, so he started searching the Internet for information on Christianity and the Gospels. What he found surprised him:

‘Love your enemies!’ He shakes his head: ‘It’s good, it’s strong, it’s the opposite of Islam.’ Then he adds, ‘I do not wish to insult Muslims. If they believe in [the power of] stones, I respect that, as long as they don’t throw them at me.’

Another aspect of Islam that bothers him is the inequality between the sexes.

So as not to trouble his wife, he does not discuss religion with her.

After reading the Gospels on the Internet, Ali-Jean-Marc sought more information from a Christian association for Muslim converts, Notre Dame de Kabylie, led by a fellow convert, Moh-Christophe Bilek. (Kabylie is a region in Algeria.)

The organisation’s home page asks for prayers for Moh-Christophe, who had surgery on a heart valve during the summer and is in a special rehabilitation clinic at this time.

Early morning Christian radio programmes

Fortunately, Marianne was able to interview Moh-Christophe well before he had to be rushed to intensive care in June 2015. In the early 1960s, he began listening with fascination to early morning radio programmes on Christianity. He made sure not to turn on the radio before his father left the house at 5:30 a.m. to work in a factory. By 1962, at the tender age of 13, he had fallen ‘in love with Jesus’.

Today, he works not only with Muslims converting to Christianity but also with Christians whose children are fascinated by Islam — and jihad.

He told Marianne of the appeal of Islam for young Christians or those without religion: anti-materialism, utopia through the ummah (Muslim world), dreams of saintliness and finding a point of reference in life.

Moh-Christophe emphasised that, whereas conversion to Islam is done by taking a simple vow in front of two witnesses anywhere, conversion to Christianity — particularly the Catholic Church — involves a good grounding in the Gospels and a long, deep spiritual journey.

Fearful clergy, robust laity

Moh-Christophe deplores the fact that Catholic priests dissuade Muslims from converting:

Priests, more interested in inter-religious dialogue, discourage our conversions. They don’t want to get Muslims’ backs up.

It is estimated by people like Moh-Christophe, sociologists and other researchers into these new converts that 90% lie below the radar for survival. Some move to another community to begin a new life, sometimes changing their names. Others outwardly appear to be Muslim and keep their Christian practice private. Above all, they ensure their relatives abroad never find out about their conversion.

Marianne concluded their investigation by saying that Catholic laity and clergy are at odds about how to handle conversion.

Lay people want an organised programme of open evangelisation: dedicated stalls at local markets (ubiquitous in France) complete with volunteers on hand for discussions, pamphlets and copies of the Catholic catechism.

However, French bishops are very reluctant to go down this route — even though French Protestants are evangelising! As, of course, are Muslims.

Let us pray that Catholic clergy in France wake up soon and find some bottle. (‘Courage’, for my American readers).

After all, Jesus did give us the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We can also pray that Mo-Christophe recovers soon. His people need him.

The French newsweekly Marianne had a good article on religious conversion in its September 25, 2015 issue.

‘Ceux qui se convertissent’ — ‘Those who convert’ — is on their website in two parts here and here.

Whilst this concerns France’s converts to Islam, my American readers might find this of interest. It can only be a matter of time before this phenomenon — also present in the UK — becomes more widespread in the United States.

Highlights follow.

The figures

Dalil Boubakeur, a well-known imam who also serves as president of the French Council of Muslims (CFCM), says that 4,000 French men and women convert to Islam every year.

A national survey conducted by demographics service Ined-Insee in 2011 revealed that among France’s 2.1 million Muslims (some say 5 – 6 million), between 70,000 and 100,000 are French converts.

It should be kept in mind that, despite national councils for Muslims, there is no centralised record-keeping. The lack of reliability of the statistics is made more so by the fact that conversions can be done anywhere — the vow made by converts is simply recited three times before two witnesses. This can take place in a private home or a prison cell without the aid of an imam.

Whatever the case, imams around the country are reporting a steady increase in conversions.

Oddly — alarmingly — imam Abdelmalek of the Paris Mosque says:

Conversions doubled in the months following the events of Charlie

referring to the Charlie Hebdo / Kosher supermarket killings of January 2015.

It’s a worrying development, but Marianne discovered through their interviews that many young men are attracted to becoming warriors and dying in battle!


As Catholicism is the main Christian denomination in France, Marianne focussed on lapsed Catholics for their article.

When I was young — so last century! — 90% of the French identified themselves as Catholics.

Today, that percentage has dropped considerably.

Marianne tells us that more and more French say they have ‘no religion’. Only 66% call themselves Catholic. Of those, only 10% are considered ‘practising’ — attending Mass once a month. Furthermore, for the most part, professed Catholics are older people.

By contrast, Islam is statistically a young person’s faith. Converts to Islam seek to convert their Catholic friends.

Who converts?

Having read about converts to Islam elsewhere in the French press, they share the following characteristics: poor religious instruction, a dysfunctional home, a penchant for crime and the search for structure (Islam) to set everything right. They also view the loving God of Christianity as weak!

More generally, young French people perceive Islam as being trendy, cool and robust.

It’s important to note those because more of us will be encountering such types in future, wherever we live. We should know how to counter these perceptions in a patient, biblical manner — and nip them in the bud.

Charles gave an interview to Marianne. He has taken the name Yunuss for personal and religious purposes. He grew up with an aunt in a council flat and was an active member of the JMJ (Jesus-Mary-Joseph) youth club.

However, as a young adult he left the Church and gravitated to satanism. He drifted into crime and served a prison sentence for robbery; he was part of a gang. He also engaged in gambling, alcoholism and adultery. He converted to Islam in prison because, for him, something was missing from Christianity, in his words:

The fear of God.

He likes that Islam

asks for the avoidance of certain things.

Charles admits that he backslid after his conversion once he left prison. Surviving a fist-fight brought him back to Allah. He now wears a beard, is married to a Muslim who wears a veil and has his own start-up. He enjoys the company of his fellow Muslims and looks forward to their ‘support’ for his business venture.

Another French convert, Régis Fayette, attended Catholic school in his childhood. He drifted into crime in his adolescence and became a Muslim at the age of 16. The two events were concurrent. He then began following a Sufi master and turned his life around. He became a rapper under his new name Abd al Malik. Later, he wrote books about his Muslim experience as a Frenchman. Last autumn, his film Allah bénisse la France (‘Allah blesses France’) appeared in cinemas around the country.

Marianne says that many European converts to Islam find Sufism attractive. A sociologist, Franck Fregosi, says that they are searching for ‘transcendence’ — what traditional Catholics and Anglicans term ‘mysterium tremendum’. Fregosi calls this type of conversion, largely seen among middle-class adults, ‘rational’.

Another of his conversion classifications is ‘proximity’, whereby working class youth without religion are recruited to Islam by the friends on their housing estate in metropolitan suburbs. M’Hammed Henniche, head of the Union of Muslim Associations in Paris’s Seine-Saint-Denis, explains that, often, such young people are struck by a life-changing event: a broken relationship, friend’s suicide, losing a job. Henniche says that Islamic tenets help them to make sense of the event and to move forward (emphasis mine):

We tell them that the right thing to do is to work, even at minimum wage, and to set up their own household rather than to look for the ideal woman or Prince Charming, which is pure telly, not real life. They need a community with regular meetings, prayers five times a day. There are loads of people at the mosque. We help them to find work, a spouse. We don’t leave them alone. Many come to get married.

It sounds rather cult-like, however, what this does say is that social misfits find friends in their spiritual home. In some ways Christianity was like that not so long ago when local churches were not only a place of worship but provided a social-employment network.

Twenty-three-year-old Alexandre-Ali gave his conversion story — one of proximity — to Marianne. His father left the marital home before he was born. The boy grew up in Alfortville, outside Paris. At school, he was intrigued by children who refused to eat pork for lunch. He left school at 14 and started working odd jobs. When he saw his work going nowhere, he attended a local mosque. At the age of 18, he converted, by saying the vow of confession before a friend of his. He said they had to redo it later in front of another witness. It took a few years before Islam had a personal effect on him:

I was very vulgar. I’m now polite. I used to argue with my mother. Now I’m calmer.

He is now married and taking graphic design courses. What he says about his personal associations echoes what M’Hammed Henniche described:

When I slip up, one of my ‘brothers’ helps me get back on the right track. We help each other. We support each other. We call on each other. Before, I knew a lot of people. Today, my circle of friends is smaller, but they are people I trust. I’ve cut bad company out of my life.


I do not have many remedies here other than the usual ones:

  • Make sure your children know and understand the Bible;
  • Teach them how to pray from early childhood, including memorising the Lord’s Prayer, later the Apostle’s Creed;
  • Ensure they understand the beliefs of their denomination;
  • Study the appropriate confessions of faith and short catechisms, where applicable — and encourage young children to memorise important tenets;
  • Be able to explain the Trinity.

Islam is very sure of itself with answers for everything. Denouncing the Trinity as polytheism is one principal way they encourage lax Christians to convert!

May we know the Bible and Christianity sufficiently to encourage and support those in the one, true faith.

Tomorrow: Muslim converts to Christianity my posts discussing Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 10 (here and here), one of his observations deserves to stand alone, specifically that on Matthew 10:25:

It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign[f] those of his household.

Jesus was referring to His healing the man made deaf by demons, documented in Matthew 9:32-34.

As is often the case, Henry explains the immediate context then gives us a practical application for the present day (emphases mine):

They must expect, in the midst of these sufferings, to be branded with the most odious and ignominious names and characters that could be. Persecutors would be ashamed in this world, if they did not first dress up those in bear-skins whom they thus bait, and represent them in such colours as may serve to justify such cruelties. The blackest of all the ill characters they give them is here stated they call them Beelzebub, the name of the prince of the devils, Matthew 10:25. They represent them as ringleaders of the interest of the kingdom of darkness, and since every one thinks he hates the devil, thus they endeavour to make them odious to all mankind. See, and be amazed to see, how this world is imposed upon: [1.] Satan’s sworn enemies are represented as his friends the apostles, who pulled down the devil’s kingdom, were called devils. Thus men laid to their charge, not only things which they knew not, but things which they abhorred, and were directly contrary to, and the reverse of. [2.] Satan’s sworn servants would be thought to be his enemies, and they never more effectually do his work, than when they pretend to be fighting against him. Many times they who themselves are nearest akin to the devil, are most apt to father others upon him and those that paint him on others’ clothes have him reigning in their own hearts. It is well there is a day coming, when (as it follows here, Matthew 10:26) that which is hid will be brought to light.

His words are truisms to remember for believers, especially clergy and those in public life, who suffer false accusations.

Church and state averypoliticalwomancom

Our Lord’s words on persecution in Matthew 10 were at the forefront of my mind at the weekend.

On October 2, 2015, an article appeared in the Daily Mail about the Hussain family from Bradford who converted to Christianity from Islam 15 years ago.

Since 2003, the persecution — broken windscreens and harassment — from Muslim neighbours has not stopped. The police largely refuse to intervene. To date, only one investigated incident has resulted in a successful prosecution. The Mail states:

Mr Hussain said he feels so let down by police he has lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

He also criticised the Anglican Church for failing to provide any meaningful support.

In fact (emphases mine):

Mr Hussain had worked as a hospital nurse but was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work. He owns several properties and now lives off rental income.

Although their faith remains strong, Mr and Mrs Hussain no longer attend church. ‘We have given up on the Church of England, they have done nothing for us,’ said Mr Hussain.

A meeting, arranged by a friend, with a local imam – who ‘listened and promised to help’ – also led to nothing, said Mr Hussain.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation. All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.’

Poor reaction

The younger Hussain children attended a local Church of England primary school. Most of the students are Muslim. The Hussains arranged a car sharing arrangement with Muslim neighbours whose children attended the school. When the neighbours found out the Hussains were Christian, the ride-sharing stopped. This escalated as word circulated among the other students at school. The Hussains’ youngest daughter was bullied:

Leena, now 14, was told by her friends ‘our parents say we mustn’t mix with you because you are a convert.’ Mr Hussain said: ‘She was heartbroken and made to feel like a second class citizen.’

England’s foremost Anglican blogger, who writes under the pseudonym of Archbishop Cranmer, finds the school episode:

frankly, quite literally incredible. Teachers and headteachers bend over backwards to ensure that Every Child Matters: when it comes to children’s well-being, Church of England schools have rigorous anti-bullying policies, in accordance with statutory requirements on child protection and safeguarding. And they implement them.

I’m not so sure about it being ‘frankly, quite literally incredible’ under the circumstances. It is quite possible that teachers would not want to intervene in an interfaith conflict, especially if any disciplinary action brought out angry older brothers, fathers and uncles en masse. Has Cranmer thought this through?

He added:

Bradford’s churches and schools are now under new management: the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. The new Bishop of Bradford is the Rt Rev’d Dr Toby Howarth, and his boss is the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev’d Nick Baines, who had been Bishop of Bradford for the preceding three years.

He concluded:

If it be the case (and it may well be) that no ministry team in Bradford has provided “any meaningful support” to the Hussain family, might we have a few more details? If it be true (and it may well be) that the Church of England has “done nothing for us”, could we please know a few specifics and particulars, so that Bishop Toby and Bishop Nick might learn from the Church’s past errors, shortcomings and pastoral deficiencies? Instead of just trashing the entire institution (though it may well deserve it) in the Daily Mail, might someone who knows something please get in touch and explain why a brave family of Bradford ex-Muslims has been so terrorised and persecuted by gangs of devout Bradford Muslims that they had no choice but to depart the Church of England?

Why didn’t Cranmer look for more information himself? A simple search would have uncovered InfidelsAreUs, the website of Anniesa Hussain, age 21. Anniesa has documented everything.

Anniesa’s story

Before exploring Anniesa’s story, it is worth mentioning that Mr Hussain was one of the converts featured in a 2008 Dispatches documentary on Channel 4. I saw the programme and was deeply concerned for the safety of all the ex-Muslim families involved. They were incredibly bold to appear on television. Although most of the filming was done discreetly, someone who wanted to harm these people could probably identify them. And so it was in the case of the Hussain family.

However, their persecution did not start then.

Anniesa tells us that it started in 2000. (Incidentally, the family converted to Christianity through a mostly Jamaican Pentecostal church.)

From the time I was 6 years of age, my siblings and I endured daily verbal abuse, physical altercations, car and house window smashing. School playground hostility and school-mate deprivation. Death threats. Mob rule. Initial prevention of riding our bicycles in the neighbour common ground to then prevention of us playing on the street directly outside our property. I watched my father’s effort in erecting a 6ft fence in his backyard to protect his children become effectively decimated. I can’t ever imagine his pain, his helplessness when his fence still never stopped the glass bottles and bricks being hurled at his children as they played in their own back garden.

After the Dispatches programme aired, the Hussains’ neighbours accused Mr Hussain of making hateful statements about Islam, which he never did. Family A spread the rumours. As for school:

Life at school for my youngest sister became increasingly unbearable. She’d come home in tears, weeping that her Pakistani classmates had turned on her and weren’t allowed to associate themselves with a Christian – something I knew all too well. Dad could never comprehend the hostility in he found himself in the school playground as he collected my sister, nor why he would receive glares and jostles as he walked by certain parents. Until one day when he was approached by one parent to say ‘you haven’t said anything offensive about Islam! I’ve researched you on Youtube’. Seeing Dad’s baffled expression he explained that one of the brothers of family A had many of the school parents convinced that Dad was anti-Islamic and was preaching hatred on Youtube. However, upon his own research and refusal to rely on this ‘information’ of Dad, this parent – Muslim himself- proved to be a loyal supporter, berating any school parent who treated Dad with contempt. The school situation deteriorated to the point where the brother of Family A stormed up to Dad provocatively, threatening to kill him in order to goad him into a fight. That incident marked official police involvement in our lives yet again. Numerous meetings have been set up with school leaders, police officers and religious leading figures in the community, to achieve the most politically correct of outcomes: nothing.

Anniesa’s posts are well worth reading in full for the rest of the family’s story. She writes beautifully. I hope she becomes a journalist.

More on the family’s trials

Cranmer might also want to look at the articles about the Hussain family on the Barnabas Fund site.

After Britain’s May 2015 elections, Mr Hussain wrote to his MP. The Barnabas Fund includes the full text of the letter. Part of their preface to it reads as follows:

Nissar Hussain, a British man who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1996, has written a letter to his local MP recounting some of the long catalogue of violence, abuse and other attacks that he has suffered at the hands of some Muslims in the area of Bradford where he lives. Recently Nissar and his wife, Kubra, who have six children, have each had false allegations against them brought to the police for separate “offences” resulting in each of them being held at the police station for hours. Their car has been maliciously damaged four times, making it almost impossible for the family to meet the repair and insurance costs. Yet despite appealing to local authorities and organisations for support, Mr Hussain has struggled to find support and help.

In August 2015, the Barnabas Fund reported:

a mob of around 40 Muslim young men of Pakistani descent gathered outside his home in Bradford on 18 August in a patent display of intimidation.

In response to the Daily Mail article from October, the Fund issued this statement:

Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, says, “Barnabas Fund has supported Nissar Hussain throughout the violence and persecution he faced after his conversion to faith in Christ. We work with converts and with Muslim and Christian leaders to bring about a day when no one will be penalised and persecuted for accepting the claims of Jesus.”

Premier Christian Radio interviewed Mr Hussain after the Mail article appeared. They contacted the police and local clergy for a response:

West Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation.

“All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth (in the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales), said: “I am aware of considerable attention and support which has been offered and indeed provided to Mr Hussain by his local Anglican vicar, supported by myself and my predecessor.

“Mr Hussain’s vicar has met with him on many occasions and has worked with the local police, the local council and other bodies including representatives of the local Muslim communities  in trying to resolve this difficult matter.

“I fully support the ongoing work of  the Multi Agency Hate Crime Conference, of which the local vicar is a member, which continues to try to bring a resolution to this situation.”

It would appear that Mr Hussain is not wrong. Indeed, what he has said about lack of real help appears to be accurate.

In 2014, Christian Concern reported that he was planning on starting a series of safe houses in the UK for ex-Muslim converts:

It is hoped that the network, provisionally named “Converts to Jesus”, will launch in the Autumn and be chaired by Nissar Hussain, a convert from Islam, who lives in Bradford. 

Nissar, his wife and children, have all suffered as a result of following Jesus. He has been shunned by his family and labelled a “Christian Jew dog” while his wife has been sworn at and spat upon and his children have been ostracised by school friends.

In a related story from 2014, Rob James for Christian Today said that Jesus is weeping for His Church:

Hussain talked about how he was also upset by the reception he got from Christians. “We are broken people” he said, “I have given up on the Anglican church and independent churches. We are in a no man’s land; we are completely and utterly isolated”.

Is this the kind of Church Jesus envisaged when he said “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”?

We need to remember that Jesus views this sort of love as a key to mission too for just before he died he prayed “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”.

Jesus will build His church, of course. And He will take care of Nissar Hussain and his family. But I do wonder how He feels when he sees a Muslim convert admit that his experience of church has left him feeling “broken” and “utterly isolated”.

Too right! However, how to accomplish this is not easy in a school context when most of the pupils are Muslim. Rightly or wrongly, teachers may well fear reprisals.


The more I read about the Hussains’ plight, the more I pray for them.

However, it is difficult to understand why they have not moved to a safe majority-Christian area after all these years. That is the story which interests me.

Matthew 10:23 says:

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Let us pray that the Hussains find a new home in a new community soon. If I see an update, I’ll be sure to report on it.’s post introduced Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 10.

Henry’s exposition is well worth reading in full. It will certainly prove useful to those teaching Bible or youth classes to those who are new to the Gospel. And this will be useful for parents and other family members teaching youngsters in their household about the Apostles. Henry’s words bring the Twelve and their ministry to life. As I have not heard much deep preaching in church or anywhere else on Matthew 10, Henry offers excellent — and concise — explanations of the alternating stark and comforting way Christ taught the Twelve about the consequences of proclaiming the Gospel message.

Yesterday’s post covered the first 15 verses. This entry looks at the rest of the chapter. Excerpts from Henry follow, emphases in bold mine. I have also included a few personal observations.

Matthew 10:16-25 document Christ’s warning about the persecution to come. It is helpful to keep in mind that as the Apostles understood the Messiah was to be a temporal king — in keeping with Jewish teaching of the era — the last thought on their minds was persecution. It is unlikely they grasped the full import of our Lord’s prophetic message. His words hold true for millions around the world — including in the West. I shall write more about this shocking phenomenon tomorrow.

Our Lord was speaking here of the Apostles’ ministries post-Resurrection, when they would be on their own with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. At this point, the Twelve were unaware of His imminent death, resurrection and the first Pentecost.

Persecution — sheep and serpents

Our Lord said (Matthew 10:16, parallel in Luke 10:3):

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

The Apostles were to be gentle and civilised in ministering to those who hated Christ and His followers. However, they were also to act with discernment. In any case, our Lord would ensure that no matter what they suffered they would be with Him for eternity. As to this verse:

… it is rather to be taken as a precept, recommending to us that wisdom of the prudent, which is to understand his way, as useful at all times, but especially in suffering times. “Therefore, because you are exposed, as sheep among wolves be ye wise as serpents not wise as foxes, whose cunning is to deceive others but as serpents, whose policy is only to defend themselves, and to shift for their own safety.” The disciples of Christ are hated and persecuted as serpents, and their ruin is sought, and, therefore, they need the serpent’s wisdom. Note, It is the will of Christ that his people and ministers, being so much exposed to troubles in this world, as they usually are, should not needlessly expose themselves, but use all fair and lawful means for their own preservation

It is the wisdom of the serpent to secure his head, that it may not be broken, to stop his ear to the voice of the charmer (Psalm 58:4,5), and to take shelter in the clefts of the rocks and herein we may be wise as serpents. We must be wise, not to pull trouble upon our own heads wise to keep silence in an evil time, and not to give offence, if we can help it.

Jesus warned that the Apostles would incur the wrath of the Jews and the Romans. The Jews would scourge them then hand them over to the Romans to be put to death. That was the limit the Jews could do in prosecution and persecution:

The Jews did not only scourge them, which was the utmost their remaining power extended to, but when they could go no further themselves, they delivered them up to the Roman powers, as they did Christ, John 18:30.

The shocking irony is that the Bible tells us that the Lord has ordained authority in those governing us to provide social order, yet:

Ye shall be brought before governors and kings (Matthew 10:18), who, having more power, are in a capacity of doing the more mischief. Governors and kings receive their power from Christ (Proverbs 8:15), and should be his servants, and his church’s protectors and nursing-fathers, but they often use their power against him, and are rebels to Christ, and oppressors of his church. The kings of the earth set themselves against his kingdom, Psalm 2:1,2; Acts 4:25,26. Note, It has often been the lot of good men to have great men for their enemies.

When this happens, the Holy Spirit will provide the right words through the persecuted (Matthew 10:20):

For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Even worse than the authorities, however, were family members who would soon be turning new Christians over to the authorities as apostates to be killed. This still happens today:

the enmity of such is commonly most implacable[:] a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, Proverbs 18:19. The martyrologies, both ancient and modern, are full of instances of this. Upon the whole matter, it appears, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution and through many tribulations we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God.

Whatever we endure, our Lord tells us to keep our faith (Matthew 10:22):

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Henry explains:

Note, A believing prospect of the period of our troubles, will be of great use to support us under them. The weary will be at rest, when the wicked cease from troubling, Job 3:17. God will give an expected end, Jeremiah 29:11. The troubles may seem tedious, like the days of a hireling, but, blessed be God, they are not everlasting. Secondly, That while they continue, they may be endured as they are not eternal, so they are not intolerable they may be borne, and borne to the end, because the sufferers shall be borne up under them, in everlasting arms: The strength shall be according to the day, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Thirdly, Salvation will be the eternal recompence of all those that endure to the end. The weather stormy, and the way foul, but the pleasure of home will make amends for all. A believing regard to the crown of glory has been in all ages the cordial and support of suffering saints, 2 Corinthians 4:16,17,18; Hebrews 10:34. This is not only an encouragement to us to endure, but an engagement to endure to the end. They who endure but awhile, and in time of temptation fall away, have run in vain, and lose all that they have attained but they who persevere, are sure of the prize, and they only. Be faithful unto death, and then thou shalt have the crown of life.

When necessary, we should seek shelter elsewhere — as does the serpent — for survival:

In case of imminent peril, the disciples of Christ may and must secure themselves by flight, when God, in his providence, opens to them a door of escape. He that flies may fight again. It is no inglorious thing for Christ’s soldiers to quit their ground, provided they do not quit their colours: they may go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. Observe Christ’s care of his disciples, in providing places of retreat and shelter for them ordering it so, that persecution rages not in all places at the same time but when one city is made too hot for them, another is reserved for a cooler shade, and a little sanctuary a favour to be used and not to be slighted yet always with this proviso, that no sinful, unlawful means be used to make the escape for then it is not a door of God’s opening.

Our Lord told the Apostles not to try to be His equal but to imitate His example (Matthew 10:24-25). He also made allusion to the Jewish hierarchy putting him in league with Beelzebub — the devil. My readers will remember this from the verses I looked at a few weeks ago — Matthew 9:32-34 — when He healed the man made deaf by demons.

Our Lord said that whatever His enemies accused Him of would also mark His followers — ‘household’ — even more.

‘Fear not’

Despite the perils incurred in following Him, our Lord tells us that He will acknowledge us before His Father in heaven. Therefore, we are not to fear evil men, despite their ability to inflict pain and death.

On this point, Jesus said (Matthew 10:26-27):

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[g]

Verse 26 has its parallel in Luke 12:2, about which I wrote in May 2014. (That post also contains the significance of rooftops in Jesus’s time.) On one level, these verses concern the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. However, they also refer to our sins which will be revealed, if not in this world, then on the Last Day.

As to what Jesus was teaching the Apostles when they were alone, He told them to proclaim from the rooftops:

Those ambassadors received their instructions in private, in darkness, in the ear, in corners, in parables. Many things Christ spake openly, and nothing in secret varying from what he preached in public, John 18:20. But the particular instructions which he gave his disciples after his resurrection, concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, were whispered in the ear (Acts 1:3), for then he never showed himself openly. But they must deliver their embassy publicly, in the light, and upon the house-tops for the doctrine of the gospel is what all are concerned in (Proverbs 1:20,21,8:2,3), therefore he that hath ears to hear, let him hear. The first indication of the reception of the Gentiles into the church, was upon a house-top, Acts 10:9. Note, There is no part of Christ’s gospel that needs, upon any account, to be concealed the whole counsel of God must be revealed, Acts 20:27. In never so mixed a multitude let it be plainly and fully delivered.

Further words of comfort came when He told them that God the Father knows our trials, just as He knows when a sparrow dies or the number of hairs on our heads. He created us in His image. Furthermore, we are more valuable than sparrows.

Henry tells us:

Now this God, who has such an eye to the sparrows, because they are his creatures, much more will have an eye to you, who are his children. If a sparrow die not without your Father, surely a man does not,–a Christian,–a minister,–my friend, my child.


If God numbers their hairs, much more does he number their heads, and take care of their lives, their comforts, their souls. It intimates, that God takes more care of them, than they do of themselves.

Love our Lord first

Jesus warned the Apostles — and us — about Christianity dividing a household and about Christian teachings dividing us from the world. Note that He said nothing about earthly peace here (Matthew 10:34):

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

He said that our enemies would come from our own household (Matthew 10:26). Furthermore, we are not to love our own families more than we love Him (Matthew 10:37-38). Ultimately, if we die professing His name, we might lose our temporal life but we will find eternal life (Matthew 10:39).

Henry explains:

First, Before our nearest and dearest relations father or mother, son or daughter. Between these relations, because there is little room left for envy, there is commonly more room for love, and, therefore, these are instanced, as relations which are most likely to affect us. Children must love their parents, and parents must love their children but if they love them better than Christ, they are unworthy of him. As we must not be deterred from Christ by the hatred of our relations which he spoke of (Matthew 10:21,35,36), so we must not be drawn from him, by their love. Christians must be as Levi, who said to his father, I have not seen him, Deuteronomy 33:9.

Secondly, Before our ease and safety. We must take up our cross and follow him, else we are not worthy of him. Here observe, 1. They who would follow Christ, must expect their cross and take it up. 2. In taking up the cross, we must follow Christ’s example, and bear it as he did. 3. It is a great encouragement to us, when we meet with crosses, that in bearing them we follow Christ, who has showed us the way and that if we follow him faithfully, he will lead us through sufferings like him, to glory with him.

Thirdly, Before life itself, Matthew 10:39. He that findeth his life shall lose it he that thinks he had found it when he has saved it, and kept it, by denying Christ, shall lose it in an eternal death but he that loseth his life for Christ’s sake, that will part with it rather than deny Christ, shall find it, to his unspeakable advantage, an eternal life. They are best prepared for the life to come, that sit most loose to this present life.

Rewards for honouring His people

Finally, Jesus said that whoever honours His followers honours Him. Henry observes:

That though the kindness done to Christ’s disciples be never so small, yet if there be occasion for it, and ability to do no more, it shall be accepted, though it be but a cup of cold water given to one of these little ones, Matthew 10:42. They are little ones, poor and weak, and often stand in need of refreshment, and glad of the least. The extremity may be such, that a cup of cold water may be a great favour. Note, Kindnesses shown to Christ’s disciples are valued in Christ’s books, not according to the cost of the gift, but according to the love and affection of the giver. On that score the widow’s mite not only passed current, but was stamped high, Luke 21:3,4. Thus they who are truly rich in graces may be rich in good works, though poor in the world.


There are many lessons to absorb in Matthew 10, one of the most powerful chapters in the Gospels.

We — and our children — are likely to run into resistance to Christ, even those of us who live in the West.

In addition to considering this as historical prophecy from our Lord to the Apostles, we would do well to also apply it to our own lives. Matthew Henry’s commentary goes a long way in unpacking these verses for our benefit. the three-year Lectionary for public worship includes readings from Matthew 10, I will not be covering this chapter in my series Forbidden Bible Verses.

That said, Matthew 10 has some of the most memorable Gospel verses. Matthew Henry’s commentary on our Lord’s preparation of the Twelve Apostles helps to illuminate His teaching and purpose for them. Excerpts follow, emphases in bold mine.

Henry’s commentary will certainly prove useful to those teaching Bible or youth classes to those who are new to the Gospel. And this will be useful for parents and other family members teaching youngsters in their household about the Apostles. Henry’s words bring the Twelve and their ministry to life. Personally, I have not heard much deep preaching in church or anywhere else on Matthew 10.

St Matthew used the end of the preceding chapter to set the readers’ expectations for the selection and training of the Apostles — Matthew 9:35-38:

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Authority and the Apostles

Then we read Matthew 10:1:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

Henry explains:

Note, All rightful authority is derived from Jesus Christ. All power is given to him without limitation, and the subordinate powers that be are ordained of him … He gave them power over unclean spirits, and over all manner of sickness. Note, The design of the gospel was to conquer the devil and to cure the world. These preachers were sent out destitute of all external advantages to recommend them they had no wealth, nor learning, nor titles of honour, and they made a very mean figure it was therefore requisite that they should have some extraordinary power to advance them above the scribes.

Matthew gives us the names of the Twelve:

2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[a] Simon the Zealot,[b] and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Henry explains the word ‘apostle’:

apostles, that is, messengers. An angel, and an apostle, both signify the same thing–one sent on an errand, an ambassador. All faithful ministers are sent of Christ, but they that were first, and immediately, sent by him, are eminently called apostles, the prime ministers of state in his kingdom.

They are named in twos because that is how they were sent out:

at first they were sent forth two and two, because two are better than one they would be serviceable to each other, and the more serviceable jointly to Christ and souls[;] what one forgot the other would remember, and out of the mouth of two witnesses every word would be established. Three couple of them were brethren Peter and Andrew, James and John, and the other James and Lebbeus. Note, Friendship and fellowship ought to be kept up among relations, and to be made serviceable to religion. It is an excellent thing, when brethren by nature are brethren by grace, and those two bonds strengthen each other.

Henry discusses the order of their names:

(3.) Peter is named first, because he was first called or because he was the most forward among them, and upon all occasions made himself the mouth of the rest, and because he was to be the apostle of the circumcision but that gave him no power over the rest of the apostles, nor is there the least mark of any supremacy that was given to him, or ever claimed by him, in this sacred college.

(4.) Matthew, the penman of this gospel, is here joined with Thomas (Matthew 10:3), but in two things there is a variation from the accounts of Mark and Luke, Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15. There, Matthew is put first in that order it appears he was ordained before Thomas but here, in his own catalogue, Thomas is put first. Note, It well becomes the disciples of Christ in honour to prefer one another. There, he is only called Matthew, here Matthew the publican, the toll-gatherer or collector of the customs, who was called from that infamous employment to be an apostle. Note, It is good for those who are advanced to honour with Christ, to look unto the rock whence they were hewn often to remember what they were before Christ called them, that thereby they may be kept humble, and divine grace may be the more glorified. Matthew the apostle was Matthew the publican.

(5.) Simon is called the Canaanite, or rather the Canite, from Cana of Galilee, where probably he was born or Simon the Zealot, which some make to be the signification of Kananites.

As for Judas, his presence as one of the Twelve shows us that we should not be surprised if vile, evil leaders turn up in the Church:

(6.) Judas Iscariot is always named last, and with that black brand upon his name, who also betrayed him which intimates that from the first, Christ knew what a wretch he was, that he had a devil, and would prove a traitor yet Christ took him among the apostles, that it might not be a surprise and discouragement to his church, if, at any time, the vilest scandals should break out in the best societies.

Some we know more about than others:

Note, all the good ministers of Christ are not alike famous, nor their actions alike celebrated.

Why twelve?

Henry explains that the number twelve occurs several times in the Bible:

Their number was twelve, referring to the number of the tribes of Israel, and the sons of Jacob that were the patriarchs of those tribes. The gospel church must be the Israel of God the Jews must be first invited into it the apostles must be spiritual fathers, to beget a seed to Christ. Israel after the flesh is to be rejected for their infidelity these twelve, therefore, are appointed to be the fathers of another Israel. These twelve, by their doctrine, were to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 22:30. These were the twelve stars that made up the church’s crown (Revelation 12:1): the twelve foundations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12,14), typified by the twelve precious stones in Aaron’s breast-plate, the twelve loaves on the table of show-bread, the twelve wells of water at Elim. This was that famous jury (and to make it a grand jury, Paul was added to it) that was impanelled to enquire between the King of kings, and the body of mankind and, in this chapter, they have their charge given them, by him to whom all judgment was committed.

Our Lord’s instructions

Matthew 10:5-15 has the detail of what Jesus told the Apostles to do. Parallel accounts are in Luke 9:1-6, which I wrote about in 2013, and Mark 6:7-13. I find it useful to list parallel verses found in the other Synoptic Gospels as this helps to establish the veracity of the New Testament. Too many mockers and detractors say that accounts in one Gospel are not corroborated by the others. In most cases, this is simply not true.

Henry breaks down these verses in Matthew 10 and calls our attention to the following:

They must not go into the way of the Gentiles, nor into any road out of the land of Israel, whatever temptations they might have. The Gentiles must not have the gospel brought them, till the Jews have first refused it … If the gospel be hid from any place, Christ thereby hides himself from that place. This restraint was upon them only in their first mission, afterwards they were appointed to go into all the world, and teach all nations.


The first offer of salvation must be made to the Jews, Acts 3:26. Note, Christ had a particular and very tender concern for the house of Israel they were beloved for the fathers’ sakes, Romans 11:28. He looked with compassion upon them as lost sheep, whom he, as a shepherd, was to gather out of the by-paths of sin and error, into which they were gone astray, and in which, if not brought back, they would wander endlessly see Jeremiah 2:6.

From this we get the term ‘Wandering Jew‘, which I haven’t heard in years. The last time was in the 1980s with regard to the plant, a lovely variegated vine which grows quickly and easily.

The nature of the Apostles’ preaching was to proclaim a spiritual kingdom, not a temporal one:

the kingdom of heaven at hand: not so much the personal presence of the king that must not be doated upon but a spiritual kingdom which is to be set up, when his bodily presence is removed, in the hearts of men.

Today, the message is still the same, despite the divine institution of the Church:

when the Spirit was poured out, and the Christian church was formed, this kingdom of heaven came, which was now spoken of as at hand but the kingdom of heaven must still be the subject of our preaching: now it is come, we must tell people it is come to them, and must lay before them the precepts and privileges of it and there is a kingdom of glory yet to come, which we must speak of as at hand, and quicken people to diligence from the consideration of that.

I’m trying to think of the last time I heard an Anglican priest preach about the kingdom of Heaven. Hmm. I could be some time…

Henry explains that the extraordinary gifts the Apostles were given served as the foundation of the Church. They were to be temporary:

to call for miracles now is to lay again the foundation when the building is reared. The point being settled, and the doctrine of Christ sufficiently attested, by the miracles which Christ and his apostles wrought, it is tempting God to ask for more signs.

On this subject, an atheist told me ten years ago that Jesus was nothing more than a gifted magician! Henry makes it clear that Jesus did not work frivolous miracles and nor did He authorise His Apostles to perform them:

not “Go and remove mountains,” or “fetch fire from heaven,” but, Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers. They are sent abroad as public blessings, to intimate to the world, that love and goodness were the spirit and genius of that gospel which they came to preach, and of that kingdom which they were employed to set up the intention of the doctrine they preached, was to heal sick souls, and to raise those that were dead in sin and therefore, perhaps, that of raising the dead is mentioned for though we read not of their raising any to life before the resurrection of Christ, yet they were instrumental to raise many to spiritual life.

The Apostles were not to accept money because Christ freely embued them with powers that were not of their own making or learning. Therefore, it would be wrong to accept payment for something they were not personally responsible for in terms of knowledge or their own ability:

Their power to heal the sick cost them nothing, and, therefore, they must not make any secular advantage to themselves of it.

There is another aspect to this. Henry draws on the dire example of Simon Magus, the magician in Acts who wanted to pay the Apostles to teach him how to work miracles:

Simon Magus would not have offered money for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, if he had not hoped to get money by them Acts 8:18. Note, The consideration of Christ’s freeness in doing good to us, should make us free in doing good to others.

Henry explains the instruction to enquire in every town who the worthy people were:

In the worst of times and places, we may charitably hope that there are some who distinguish themselves, and are better than their neighbours some who swim against the stream, and are as wheat among the chaff. There were saints in Nero’s household. Enquire who is worthy, who there are that have some fear of God before their eyes, and have made a good improvement of the light and knowledge they have. The best are far from meriting the favour of a gospel offer but some would be more likely than others to give the apostles and their message a favourable entertainment, and would not trample these pearls under their feet.

The Apostles had to stay in one house during their stay because:

They are justly suspected, as having no good design, that are often changing their quarters. Note, It becomes the disciples of Christ to make the best of that which is, to abide by it, and not be for shifting upon every dislike or inconvenience.

Where they were not well received, the Apostles were to leave, shaking the dust from that house or city from their feet, an ancient Jewish custom which has its origins in the Old Testament:

The apostles must have no fellowship nor communion with them must not so much as carry away the dust of their city with them. The work of them that turn aside shall not cleave to me, Psalm 101:3. The prophet was not to eat or drink in Bethel, 1 Kings 13:9. [2.] As a denunciation of wrath against them. It was to signify, that they were base and vile as dust, and that God would shake them off. The dust of the apostles’ feet, which they left behind them, would witness against them, and be brought in as evidence, that the gospel had been preached to them, Compare Jam. v. 3. See this practised, Acts 13:51,18:6.

Jesus told the Twelve that judgement would surely come to the places that rejected them:

The condemnation of those that reject the gospel, will in that day be severer and heavier than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom is said to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 1:7. But that vengeance will come with an aggravation upon those that despise the great salvation. Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked (Genesis 13:13), and that which filled up the measure of their iniquity was, that they received not the angels that were sent to them, but abused them (Genesis 19:4,5), and hearkened not to their words, Matthew 10:14. And yet it will be more tolerable for them than for those who receive not Christ’s ministers and hearken not to their words. God’s wrath against them will be more flaming, and their own reflections upon themselves more cutting.

Any universalist reading this thinking all are saved would do well to brush up on the New Testament. One reading does not suffice. People who reject Christ will not be saved in the world to come. It may sound unsophisticated to the armchair intellectual, nonetheless it is the unvarnished truth as Jesus told it.

More to come on Matthew 10 from Matthew Henry.

Tomorrow: Jesus on persecution

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 11:1

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.


The intervening verses between our Lord’s healing of the deaf men, covered in last week’s post, and the beginning of Matthew 11 recount His appointment and training of the Twelve Apostles.

All of those verses are included in the three-year Lectionary. I’ll look at Matthew 10 tomorrow apart from this series.

Matthew prepares us for Chapter 10 at the end of Chapter 9 (Matthew 9:35-38):

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

At the beginning of Matthew 11, we find that as the Twelve go to preach, teach and heal, Jesus goes ‘to teach and preach in their cities’.

John MacArthur says (emphases mine):

that means the cities of the disciples, which were the cities of Galilee. Eleven of the twelve of them, with the exception of Judas, were from Galilee. So He continued His Galilean ministry.

He adds that Christ’s ministry was two-fold:

teaching and preaching, and they are different. The synagogue was a place where the Scripture was read and exposited. Philo, the historian, says the synagogue’s main feature was to read and give a detailed exposition of Scripture. So the Lord would go into the synagogue, and since any resident expert who happened to be there could speak, He would take the occasion to speak, and He would take the Old Testament and give them the meaning of the Old Testament and apply it to Himself. He was an expository teacher.

He was also a preacher. The word means ‘to proclaim,’ and He would go from the synagogue to the streets and the hillsides, and the highways and byways, and the corners, and anywhere. He would preach and proclaim His Kingdom. So He continued doing this. We may also assume, based on verse 5, that He continued the miracles of healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, and forgiving sin. So the Lord goes on about His work.

So, Jesus did not take a break whilst the Twelve were invested with the same divinely-bestowed gifts. He continued His ministry.

Matthew Henry says the Apostles were performing miracles while Jesus was preaching and teaching. Which was more important?

Observe, When Christ empowered them to work miracles, he employed himself in teaching and preaching, as if that were the more honourable of the two … Healing the sick was the saving of bodies, but preaching the gospel was to the saving of souls.

Church leaders and clergy can draw upon His example by keeping just as busy as His Apostles. Serving Christ does not allow for directing from the top and remaining idle. All should be equally occupied in spreading the Gospel message:

Note, the increase and multitude of labourers in the Lord’s work should be made not an excuse for our negligence, but an encouragement to our diligence. The more busy others are, the more busy we should be, and all little enough, so much work is there to be done.

Matthew’s message through Chapter 9 establishes Jesus as the Messiah and the Anointed One. Then he changes tack. In Chapters 11 and 12 he tells us about people’s reactions to Jesus. MacArthur explains:

In fact, he lists for us the various kinds of reactions to the claims of Christ. Through giving us brief narrative events in these chapters, he gives us categories of response to Jesus Christ. These chapters are filled with very common reactions to the claims of Christ, which were true then and are true today as much as they were then.

For example, in Matthew 11:1-15 is the response of doubt. From verses 16-19, we see the response of criticism. From verses 20-24, there is the response of indifference. Going to chapter 12, the first 21 verses deal with the response of rejection. Verses 22-23 are the response of amazement, and verses 24-37, the response of blasphemy. Verses 38-45 show the response of fascination.

Those are all the negative responses: doubt, criticism, indifference, amazement, rejection, blasphemy, and fascination. Each of them, in a sense, is kind of a unique response all its own, although there is some overlapping as well. But you’ll notice that I said nothing about the last section of chapter 11 and the last section of chapter 12, because both of those deal with positive responses; the response of faith, the right response.

So by the time you have covered these two chapters, you have run the gamut of possible reactions to the claims of Christ and crystallized the categories. That is very helpful, because you’ll find out as we move through these two chapters, we’ll be able to see the varying responses that are just as true today as they were then, and understand, perhaps a little better, where people are coming from when they react to Jesus Christ.

More to follow next week.

Next time: Matthew 11:12-14


Churchmouse Altarmousefinal copyThis stuffed squid recipe is perfect for those on low carb high fat (LCHF) eating plans.

It goes very well with my prawn truffle sauce spooned on top.

My better half told me this was a ‘restaurant quality’ dinner. I hope you have a similar experience.

British readers can buy one of the seasonings, Old Bay, here.


1/ Ask your fishmonger to prep the squid for you.

2/ Make half a recipe of prawn truffle sauce and reserve the rest of the stock as well as any squid juice (not ink) for poaching the squid.

3/ You can have two squid courses. Start with the tentacles and any flat pieces then serve the stuffed squid as a main course.

4/ If you want to serve the tentacles and odd pieces pan-fried, dunk everything in beaten egg white (or coat thinly with mayonnaise) then dredge in a few teaspoons of well seasoned flour. Let the squid pieces sit in the dredge for 45 minutes to 1 hour so that the coating sticks. In a small frying pan (slightly larger than an omelette pan), heat 2 – 3 tbsp of duck, goose or pork fat until hot (the fat should be bubbly on the bottom). Carefully place the squid pieces in the pan, working away from yourself to avoid grease splashes. Make sure there is adequate space between the pieces so that they fry evenly. Turn them over after 2 or 3 minutes to fry on the other side. Drain well and serve.

Churchmouse’s stuffed squid

(prep time: 15-20 minutes; cooking time: 10 minutes; serves 4)


4 squid for stuffing

1/2 a recipe of prawn truffle sauce

1/2 pint (0.25 l) of prawn stock and any squid juices (not ink)

2 red bell peppers, finely diced

8 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced

1 tsp garlic paste or 1 clove crushed garlic

2 level tbsp flour

2 level tbsp butter

Salt, cayenne and Old Bay to season

1 – 2 tbsp double (heavy) cream

2 – 3 tsp baked panko-style breadcrumbs (optional, but they add crunch)

8 toothpicks


1/ In a small omelette pan, cook the butter and flour over medium heat. Stir it so it becomes a roux.

2/ Add the spring onion pieces to the roux. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.

3/ Add the garlic and diced red pepper to the onion roux. Stir well and cook for 4 – 5 minutes until al dente.

4/ Season the vegetable mix with salt, cayenne and Old Bay to taste and stir well. Add the cream and stir again. If the mix is too solid, add a teaspoon or two of the seafood stock and stir.

5/ Remove the vegetable mix from the heat and let cool for 15 – 20 minutes.

6/ Once the vegetable mix has reached room temperature, take a dessert spoon (larger than a teaspoon but smaller than a tablespoon), open the squid and carefully spoon in the mix. Using clean fingers, gently press the mix as far down the squid as possible.

7/ Take care not to tear the squid pockets when filling them. Also, do not overstuff, just ensure there is a decent amount from top to bottom so they are slightly rounded. Secure each squid at the top with two toothpicks. Set each aside on a plate or cutting board.

8/ Start heating the prawn truffle sauce in a separate saucepan.

9/ Put the prawn stock and any squid juice in a large, frying pan preheated over medium heat. Carefully place the squid in the pan. The liquid level should reach halfway up the squid.

10/ Poach the squid for 4 – 5 minutes on each side. Carefully turn the squid over with a large serving spoon to cook the other side.  In both cases, check after three minutes to make sure the squid have not split. (My first few squid split when I started stuffing them several years ago, but I keep a closer eye on them now and they are perfect.) In case of any splits, turn down the heat, either turn over to cook or quickly remove to a plate, split side up. A small split sometimes closes by itself.

11/ During the last few minutes of cooking the squid, make any seasoning adjustments to the prawn truffle sauce, if necessary.

12/ Carefully lift the squid out of the pan, allowing any excess liquid to drip off. Place the squid on the plates — one per person — and remove the toothpicks. Spoon the sauce over the squid. Top each one with a teaspoonful of warm, baked breadcrumbs for a bit of crunch.

13/ Long green beans drenched in garlic butter make an elegant accompaniment served on the other side of the plate.

(Graphics credit: Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod)

Churchmouse Altarmousefinal copyThis sauce is a great accompaniment to sautéed scallops, red snapper and stuffed squid (recipe appearing October 2, 2015).

I devised this last weekend and received several compliments.

You can buy truffle paste online here and here in the US and here in the UK. An 80g jar will last for three or four weeks provided you refrigerate it after opening. A little goes a long way. The only things it doesn’t go well with are pork and lamb.

British readers can buy one of the seasonings, Old Bay, here.


1/ For best results, start the stock several hours ahead of time for a more intense flavour.

2/ Start the sauce with 2 tbsp each of flour and butter. If you need the 3rd tbsp, mix or rub the two together well to make a beurre manié which can be incorporated into the sauce without making it lumpy.

Churchmouse’s seafood truffle sauce

(prep time: 15 minutes; serves 6 to 8)


Stock —

Shells and heads of six jumbo prawns (7″ — 18 cm — in length, head to tail); raw prawns are preferable

Water to cover


Sauce —

1 pint (approx. 1/2 l) stock

2 – 3 level tbsp flour

2 – 3 level tbsp butter

3 – 4 level tsp truffle paste

1 tsp garlic paste or 1 clove crushed garlic

Salt, cayenne pepper and Old Bay to season


1/ Remove the shells and heads from the prawns. Place everything in a saucepan that can hold  1 1/2 – 2 pints (.70 l to 1 l).

2/ Fill saucepan with water to just cover the shells and heads.

3/ Cook over medium to medium-high heat until liquid is reduced by 1″ (3 cm). This takes around 45 minutes.

4/ Salt the stock well. It should be flavoursome enough to enjoy on its own.

5/ Turn the heat off and let the stock sit for five hours. Leave the shells and heads in the pot.

6/ After five hours, strain the stock into a measuring jug. You should have nearly a pint (approx. 1/2 l) of liquid. Discard the shells and heads.

7/ Place 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp flour in the saucepan to make a roux. Stir and mix over medium heat until the flour is cooked. The roux will be slightly brown and bubbly when it’s done.

8/ Season the roux with garlic, salt, cayenne and Old Bay and stir well.

9/ Slowly, add the stock little by little. Stir continuously until the sauce is smooth.

10/ Leave the sauce to thicken, stirring occasionally so that it does not stick to the bottom. This takes approximately 5 minutes. The sauce should not be too thick nor should it be too runny; it should have body and look like something you would find in a restaurant. If it is too thin, add the 3rd tbsp of butter and flour in the form of beurre manié (see Note 2 above). Stir well and let the sauce cook for a few minutes more.

11/ When the sauce is ready you can take it off the heat and cover it to warm up later. Alternatively, turn the heat down very low and add the truffle paste by the teaspoon, stirring well after each addition. Start with 3 tsp and taste. The sauce should not have an overpowering truffle taste but one that is half truffle, half prawn. If you need more, add the 4th tsp of truffle paste.

12/ Depending on what you are serving, spoon the sauce onto the plate or over the fish or seafood. For scallops and red snapper, I spoon the sauce on the plate then place the protein on top. When I’m serving stuffed squid, I pour the sauce over it for more colour.

13/ Any leftover sauce can be stored in a container (with lid) and refrigerated. Let it warm up to room temperature before reheating. After reheating, taste it before deciding to add another tsp of truffle paste.

(Graphics credit: Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod)

Yesterday’s post introduced the low carb high fat (LCHF) way of eating.

It is preferable to consider LCHF not as a short-term fix ‘diet’ but rather as a nutrition plan that you and your family can adopt — just as you might have adopted a high carb low fat one!

If you missed my previous posts over the past several days, it might be worth your time reading them to better understand the science behind it: debunking popular breakfast myths, why overweight individuals not to adopt an athlete’s diet, why we should not graze and a case against grazing.

The primer below is not exhaustive. Information comes from my own 18-month experience as well as insights from other LCHF followers and medical practitioners.

N.B.: In order to avoid fatigue or light-headedness from Day 1, you will need to consume around a litre of water a day and use good quality salt (e.g. sea salt) on your food. A potassium supplement, e.g. Lo Salt, is also highly recommended. I season everything with sea salt and Lo Salt.

Also, avoid falling into the trap of ‘gluten-free’ and soy-based foods (e.g. tofu). Most of these have large amounts of carbohydrate and are not on the LCHF plan.

1/ I’m afraid of fat, especially getting fatter by eating more of it.

Over the past few years, the medical establishment — which had previously advised against fat — now recognises it has a beneficial part to play in a healthful diet.

The problem Westerners have is eating a lot of carbohydrates which make us hungry a few hours later. This has made us fatter, not thinner, especially as more of us are obese and running the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

By turning the tables — eating more fat and far fewer carbs — we are actually helping to regulate insulin. Dr Mercola says (emphases mine):

Sugar (and foods that convert into sugar, such as grain carbohydrates) is the main culprit in causing you to become leptin-resistant and should clearly be avoided, especially if you’re struggling with excessive hunger.

Dr Lyle Macdonald explains:

insulin is a storage hormone released in response to eating with carbohydrates having the largest impact on insulin secretion, protein having the second greatest and fat having little to no impact on insulin secretion. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well or poorly the body responds to the hormone insulin. Individuals who are insulin resistant tend to have higher baseline insulin levels because the body is releasing more in response to try and overcome the resistance.

Note that fat has little to no impact on insulin secretion. This is why overweight people may well benefit from the LCHF.

On another practical level, fat increases satiety. Many LCHF followers find they consume fewer calories by increasing fat when compared with their former high carb low fat diets.

2/ How much weight can one lose on LCHF? Can you give me a real-life example?

The heavier one is, the more weight one will lose. The heaviest will also lose weight quicker than those who are in a normal weight range.

There are many examples that can be found by looking for LCHF successes in a search engine. A specific case is that of Tommy, a Scandinavian who has lost an incredible amount of weight — nearly 200 pounds in the first two years. The before and after pictures are amazing! His website, Eat Low Carb High Fat has many helpful posts on physiological markers and what he eats.

3/ How can I get a variety of fats?

Many LCHF followers rely a lot on butter. To it, one can add garlic, herbs and different kitchen seasonings (Old Bay, poultry seasoning). You can do this as you cook or make a compound butter in advance. Take a slightly softened stick or brick of butter, put it in a bowl and mix whatever you like into it so that you have it over the course of a few days. You can put it into a smaller container (with lid) or roll the butter into a sausage shape which you can then wrap in cling film (plastic wrap).

Clarified butter — known as ghee in the Subcontinent — is also an excellent cooking fat.

Cream is useful, especially in sauces or in a shot of coffee, known as ‘bullet-proof’. If you’re buying milk, make sure it is full-fat. Milk has a fair amount of carbs, so use it only in hot beverages and when thinning cream sauces.

Olive oil is great for salad dressings and light sautéing. It cannot withstand high temperatures, however.

Animal fats are highly recommended. I keep a variety of them in the refrigerator from our roasts and pan fried meats, e.g. duck. After cooking, I drain the fat into a glass jar (with lid) by type of fat. At any one time I have jars of the following fat: chicken, duck, goose, beef and pork. Chicken and duck fats are flavoursome to mix with butter when sautéing vegetables. Goose, beef and pork are for on the occasions when I make Yorkshire pudding, which needs fat that can withstand very high heat. To make light gravies to go with the roasts, keep a tablespoon of the fat in the roasting tin to make a roux (add a tablespoon of flour to mix and cook with the fat as a sauce base). Then add meat stock and seasoning gradually to the roux to make the sauce — a slightly thicker form of jus.

Pork crackling makes an excellent accompaniment to roast pork loin and a nice snack before dinner. I save chicken skin, salt it, flatten it and heat it in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp it. Served on the side with hot chicken, it melts in the mouth and is surprisingly filling! If I’m running low on chicken, I eat the skin with a small amount of meat and give the lion’s share of protein to my better half.

Full-fat mayonnaise is a must. Use it generously with tuna, chicken, egg or coleslaw.

Peanut and almond butters are great with vegetable sticks at lunch or as a daytime snack.

4/ How can I be sure I’m getting the right proportions of fat, protein and carbs?

Martina from the UK, author of The KetoDiet Blog, has a helpful calculator for macros — macronutrients — that are scaled to individual requirements. This determines the proportions you should be eating each day. The calculator page also has useful examples to illustrate how they work.

Most people with experience of this and similar calculators say to select ‘sedentary’ unless one has a daily workout regime.

You might have to rerun the calculator as you lose weight and reach a subsequent stall or plateau.

Initially, I was successful on a 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% vegetable with some flour (sauce) carb for the first few weeks. After my first month, I then had to recalculate my fat and protein amounts, so that I now eat 55% fat and 40% protein with 5% carb.

Weighing portions in the beginning will help to ensure that they are accurate. After 18 months, I no longer do this.

5/ It sounds as if you don’t count calories, then.

No. I weighed everything instead. Now I judge by eye. After a few months, you’ll see and feel (fullness) exactly what you need to eat to achieve satiety. Again, because of the dominance of fat, you’ll consume fewer calories.

6/ Did you throw out all the carbs in your house in the beginning?

No. I only threw our remaining pasta, rice and couscous a few weeks ago!

I went cold turkey whilst my better half continued to eat bread and potatoes for a few more months. We have both been on LCHF (ketogenic diet for us) for over a year, so it seemed a waste of space to keep these carbs around. As much as I dislike throwing food away, the opened packets were only taking up space. None of it appeals to us anymore!

I still make bread, but primarily for bread crumbs, used sparingly just to give crunch to soft vegetables. My better half needs a few more carbs than I do, so I make bread once every fortnight now on average. We have Yorkshire pudding much less often. For our birthdays, Christmas and Easter I make a fruit crumble or ground nut-based daquoise (e.g. Opéra, Yule Log).

7/ What sort of foods will provide both protein and fat?

Always buy fatty meats and eat the fat after cooking. When pan frying duck breasts, render the skin before flipping the breast over to cook on the lean side. Delicious.

Bacon and good quality sausages (85% meat minimum) are excellent sources of protein and fat. Premium hot dogs are perfectly keto.

Fatty fish — salmon, mackerel, sardines — provide a lot of Omega 3 and satiety.

Cheese is outstanding. Not only does it give you the excuse to eat different varieties but it is also very filling. A thin wedge of brie after dinner often suffices.

Don’t forget the versatile egg. Enjoy it scrambled, poached, hard boiled, devilled or in an omelette.

8/ What should I avoid?

Beware of eating too much dark (70%+) chocolate. It has carbohydrates, so only have a square or two now and then unless you are fully in maintenance.

Nuts are another potential downfall. Too many almonds or peanuts can cause a stall or weight gain. A handful — 15 whole nuts — really is the maximum one should have per day if one is not in maintenance. Nuts have a fair amount of carbohydrate. It is easy to underestimate how many we eat.

9/ Can I have a carb cheat day? If so, how soon?

If you’re really into carbs, cut down dramatically to begin with as you increase fat. If you can’t do without toast or breakfast cereal, have one or the other — and only a small portion. Give up every other carb.

If you’re not losing weight within the first fortnight, give up carbs altogether.

Most LCHF followers will experience a taste bud change once they go cold turkey. Carbs and sugars lose their appeal within a few weeks.

If you’re entering the LCHF plan anticipating your first cheat day, you’re unlikely to succeed long term. One way around this is to think of something fatty and appetising every time you want something carby. If you’re really hungry, have a fatty snack. Otherwise, imagine you’ve just eaten a fatty snack and you now feel full. Mind over matter.

10/ What are my chances of reaching a stall? What do I do?

Nearly everyone, reaches a stall — plateau — at some point on LCHF. This is especially common for those with the least to lose. However, this is common to every diet plan, which is why so many of us fail.

Considering LCHF as a long term way of eating helps to give us patience and endurance in reaching our goal.

LCHF is a gradual plan for those of normal weight. The heaviest have the most dramatic results. For everyone nearing their goal weight, the last several pounds take the most time to shift.

In general, it is essential to remember that after decades of an excess of carbs, the liver, pancreas, gall bladder and thyroid need time to readjust. This might take months or a few years.

Speaking personally, it was normal for us to have plateaus every few weeks. Sometimes we lost nothing. Sometimes we lost inches instead of pounds. Some pound loss came easier than others. There seems to be a step-change, including stall, every several weeks with progress at the end. Whilst my better half is now in maintenance thanks to a historically better metabolism and insulin sensitivity, I still have several more pounds to lose.

Those who are concerned can re-evaluate their macros, keep a food diary, weigh portions to guard against underestimating and increase gentle exercise. Some people find it helpful to reduce consumption of cream and milk.

Martina has an excellent précis of LCHF which serves as a useful reminder of what we should be doing. She also has an encouraging follow-up post. The readers’ comments and Martina’s responses are also enlightening.

Don’t give up! The benefits will come sooner or later! Internal clean-up is a big part of LCHF. Often, that stage has to be completed before the rest follows.

11/ You said ‘gentle exercise’.

LCHF does not work well for sedentary types who suddenly engage in intensive exercise to break a stall. Some actually gain water weight.

It is much better to get one’s exercise from moderate walking, cycling, housework, DIY or gardening.

That said, fitness enthusiasts who have already adopted their regime can do well if they choose to embark on LCHF.

12/ In what other ways can LCHF benefit us?

Diet Doctor has over 100 articles with case studies on the ways LCHF can benefit us. These cover a variety of health issues from acne to cancer to Parkinson’s.

I got interested in keto because it seemed that there should be a diet which can help with low moods and irritability. What I found amazed me. Related posts are on my Recipes/Health/History page under ‘Low-fat, high-carb diets increase depression‘:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

High carb, low fat diets bad for brain health — and moods? (more testimonials for the ketogenic diet)

In closing, best wishes to all those who are undertaking LCHF or are embarking on such a journey.

Final words from me before exploring recipes in future posts: low carb high fat eating is the most fun you’ll ever have with food!

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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