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Dr. David  Allen

JIHAD – THEN AND NOW

Jihad is a word which only recently has entered our regular vocabulary; but it is almost never absent from newspapers and news broadcasts on radio and TV. Most people believe it refers to a so-called holy war, particularly promoted by radical Islamist against Christian or secularists, indeed all those they regard as infidels. However, in strict Islamic theology, its primary meaning is a personal spiritual conflict against sin or Satanic temptations. Serious Christians can easily testify with this personal warfare, for it is a day-to-day process as we resist the Enemy.

The wicked of Islamist terrorists in Paris and plots foiled in Belgium have made Western countries on a high state of alert and troops are on the streets in major cities and vulnerable locations. We, the British, believe that we are the next in line. The security services have been recently breeched in that hoax callers have spoken to the Prime Minister and the services themselves, thus underlining the recent assertion that not every plug can be blocked. Most alarming is the fact that the enemies are not from without but rather those who are young British citizens, some from well-educated and middle England backgrounds.

This latter fact tends to believe that all Muslims are potential terrorists, whereas the vast of them are moderate and model citizens; and I would go so far as to say that the average Muslim is, morally speaking, more respectable than the average Brit. But having said that, taking a wider view – theologically and historically – we have to say that Islam has a tendency towards militancy. Whereas early Christianity was spread by the preaching of the Gospel, in the power of the Spirit, Islam was a religion planted by the scimitar. That meant in fact that jihad became a question of force and not of spiritual triumph over Satan.

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Dr. David Allen
CHRISTMAS ONCE AGAIN

Now I am no longer regularly preaching I am glad that I do not have to think of something new to say about Christmas. Sometimes I used to feel like the JWs, those doorstep pests, who do not celebrate Christmas at all!

Happily, when I hear one of those old carols being played or sung, I am brought back to the essentials of the season: nothing to do with Santa Claus, reindeers, fairies and the like but rather the incarnation of God’s eternal Son, descended from heaven to remove our sin and lift us up to where he now belongs. And that profound thought never tarnishes or fades despite two thousand years of celebrations.

The first Christians did not celebrate what we call Christmas as there is no mention of it in the Scriptures even though the details of Christ’s birth are in the Synoptics. The celebration came in as part of Constantine’s promotion of Christianity in the early fourth century. Although some traditions regard that Emperor, the first Christian ruler, as a saint, many Protestants believe his patronage and promotion of the Church changed its character: what was an organism became an organisation and an arm of the Roman state. Christmas was celebrated at the time of a pagan festival. Nowadays its character is also a rather secular and pagan matter.

But, looking at what Christmas has now become, one thing stands out. That there was no place in the inn is all too typical of the modern celebrations. In some shops it is difficult to find a Christmas card representing the birth of Jesus yet Father Christmas and the pudding are prominent. Thousands pack into the shops and shopping malls, but though churches are a bit better attended at the festive season, congregations soon tend to slump to their normal level of about 10%.

Having said all that we have to careful not to blame the unchurched and unbelievers . After all, they know no better. However, the Christian, realising what the season means, should not only avoid being sucked into the prevalent commercialism and secularism but demonstrate the authentic Christian spirit and take the opportunity to preach the Gospel in congregations swelled by the festive period and open its doors to the homeless and rough sleepers. That of course should be a continuing work, not only at Christmas.

Happy Christmas to all and may you find the Saviour.

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Dr. David Allen
JESUS, MUHAMMAD AND FRANCIS

The founder of Islam, his name variously spelt, led a camel-train throughout Arabia and beyond. During his travels he met Christians of sorts: however, by that period, the seventh century of our era, they had become almost indistinguishable from authentic New Testament religion. Once a faith-based fellowship had become a “bells and smells” and a sacramental organisation. What troubled Muhammad was that most of all was that Christians seemed to worship many gods and, indeed, devotion to supposed saints confirmed this suspicion.
Unable to understand the doctrine of the Trinity – certainly a conundrum- made him became a rigid monolithic monotheist. Even today, some Muslims believe Christians worship three gods; and although the idea of jihad meant one should conquest the one’s personal sinfulness first of all, it has been forgotten in the pursuit of military conquest for the new religion. The prophet’s devotees, during the late seventh century onwards, spread the creed of Islam far and wide: North Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Palestine and Syria all fell under their scimitar. Many of these lands and territories once were Christian ones.

Please note that Jesus made it quite clear, in his conversation with Pilate, that his disciples would not take up arms and that his kingdom was very different from all others – a kingdom of peaceful conquest. Despite that, in the mediaeval period, the nations of Christendom took arms in order to wrest the Holy Places of Palestine from Islamic occupiers, the Turks. Several so-called Crusades were organised and king Richard of England took a major role in the Third Crusade though these campaigns eventually petered out through sheer exhaustion.

However, during these expensive and futile forays in Palestine, a very different campaign took place. Francis of Assisi, heeding the words of Jesus, visited Egypt and preached the Gospel to the Sultan. We are unsure what the impact was. However, in later centuries, the Franciscans were in the forefront of missionary work amongst the Muslims, their preaching backed by charitable work among the poor and lepers. Majorcan Ramon Lull preached the Gospel in North Africa and was stoned to death near Tunis.

Jesus and his notable follower Francis reminds us that our campaign is one waged by word and Spirit and not by the sword. At the present time this message is surely needed once again. We may be tempted to begin a new Crusade against the forces of the Caliphate in Iraq, but long as it takes, His way is the best and the only way!
One final word, in the middle of yet another war over Palestine, we can only pray for a speedy return of the Lord into His land where final peace shall ensue. Amen, come, Lord Jesus!
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A BRITISH HOLOCAUST

During one of my sojourns in various hospitals, I experienced what may have been a vision or dream; I am not certain which and I only shared it with two brethren at my bedside at the time. They perhaps forgot it, but it left a profound impression on me and it has not gone away almost five years later. I am ready to share it more widely even though some will feel it being too stark and even horrific. However, Christian spokesmen should not deal in platitudes! New Testament religion is radical and feeble sermonising is an insult to God and the people!

The vision or dream originated in a brief article I happened to see in one of the popular papers which claimed that about two hundred abortions are performed every single year. What sickened me was that the vast majority of such operations were done for convenience, simply as a post eventual contraceptive. Make an appointment, produce your Visa and it will be all over in a deft movement of the scalpel! That well may be the attitude of many people nowadays, but what really matters surely is God’s view! Our Prime Minister claims we are a Christian country; but what you matters not what your name is but how you live your life!

Theologically speaking, new life begins at the very moment of conception and God creates a unique and pure soul at that very same instant: the couple generate the physical entity, but the Holy Spirit creates the soul. That dies is mortal, but the soul never dies. And, this being the case, despite the abortion, the soul remains and, because unsullied by sin, rests in the presence of the Lord’s tender care until the close of time.

My dream or vision climaxed in a moment of unmitigated horror: those we shall call the parents, at the end of time, had to face those they have aborted and murdered, in the presence of the Judge of All at the White Throne where all secrets are made known.

terrible vision may seem to have come from Dante, a scene from Revelation, or some may believe the vision or dream was “over the top” – the result of my medicaments in the hospital – however, as a Pentecostal believer, I do believe that dreams and visions are part of our spiritual equipment and so I make no apology! The British Holocaust cannot be ignored by the Father of Spirits; only repentance and turning to God in Christ can make a reunion in eternity a happy one!

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A CAPTAIN’S INNINGS (2014)

A Poem for Remembrance Day

The nets are down, the scoreboard blank,
Persistent is the rain;
November’s fallen leaves
Stir memories again

Of keen-fought contests that were played
Upon this well-kept green;
But Cecil, Fred and Tom were picked
To play a distant team.

In khaki clad, in fields of mud,
They played their finest game
And “slogged it out” till “close of play”
-Immortal is their name!

But when I think of men who died
In frenzied, costly strife,
It never fails to bring to mind
The Christ who gave his life

Not for a nation’s flag or cause
-Mere transitory gains-
But in the rout of Satan’s hosts
Who held us all in chains.

Mons, Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge,
Blood-drench’d Gallipoli;
But never was a triumph won
Greater than Calvary!

So, Captain of our Salvation,
As we in tribute pause,
Inspire in us such bravery,
Yet for your highest cause.

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Dr. David Allen

THE  BIBLE- ANCIENT HISTORY  OR  WORD OF GOD?

Some Christians believe that the Old Testament is either too difficult or even irrelevant.  However, neglect of it is foolish as Jesus said of the Hebrew Bible, “These books speak of me.” Many of its heroes are types of him, Joseph being a prime example: rejected by his brethren but eventually saving them. In addition, Jesus fulfils all the promises and types in the venerable pages; and running all through it is the paramount message that God’s   word is both true, reliable and also indelible.

An incident from the book of Jeremiah(chapter 36) neatly illustrates this fundamental  truth.  The prophet asks his scribe Baruch to write down the instructions that God has   told him concerning the destiny of faithless Judah. Because of idolatry they will be a prey to Babylon but when the king hears of this he tears the offending parchment and consigns it to the brazier. Later on the scribe rewrites the same message and Jeremiah knows full well that the destruction of the parchment will not alter the divine purpose: defeat and   exile alone will teach them God’s lesson, though there would eventually be a return and a revival.

This took place in the seventh century BC but its truth remains: God’s word came to pass  as given through the prophet and, if so, that surely means that the words conveyed  through Jesus, the supreme prophet, God’s Son, certainly will come to pass in due time.  As promised by prophets like Isaiah, Micah and Zechariah, the Messiah (the Christ) appeared in God’s time and eventually he will return again!

In modern times, a number of attacks have been made on the Bible. It has been burned, banned, mistranslated and misused by various cults; and it is often said that one cannot  rely upon  an ancient  book  emanating  from  a small  province of  the Roman empire and  produced by an insignificant people. My response to that is that its origin is not merely a history of the fortunes of a minor nation, crushed between major powers and empires,  but    rather  the  record of God’s dealing with a people God chose to bring His saving message to the whole world and culminating  in the coming of  His  son  to be its Saviour. Passing   through a number of writers over many centuries, the message derives from God himself via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And so, if you reject the Bible’s  message, you  reject God Himself!    

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A  GREATER LOVE

Soren  Kierkegaard  (1813- 1855) did not   have a happy  childhood. His   father  believed  that he and the family   were under a curse because he had, in his youth, blamed God for his wretched  life  tending   goats  in windy, barren Jutland. Despite  the “curse”, he prospered in the hosiery trade and the family were quite affluent living in  the capital, Copenhagen.

The lad’s time at school was the butt of  jokes, largely    because  of his outlandish clothing  which earned him the nickname of Soren Sock. He, however, replied in kind, through  his quick   and biting wit  which became a distinctive  feature of his  later  theological and philosophical  writings.

He   began preparation   for   pastoral  ministry, though he never took on a regular placement as he   felt himself unsuited  for such a task    and he  became uneasily  with the idea  of ministry as  a professional  career rather than a divine, prophetic calling. This perception  brought  about   about  a serious crisis.  In  1837  he met  Regine Olsen   and  felt  in deeply love  with her, he a mature theological student   and she  a   beautiful teenager. Playing   on her name, he   spoke of her   as “my sovereign queen”. Their   brief engagement  ended and  its  ending  is not fully understood,  though he probably felt  she would not  have   been  able  to withstand the pressure of his inevitable contretemps with  the  Church establishment  of the day.

Kierkegard’s  position was radically   different   from that of the  established  Church in  Denmark at the time. For him, true Christianity  was  a profound  comitment  to  God based on  total faith in Christ, regardless  of it  consequences,   happy or ill; and an established  or state Church was a detriment  to  personal faith  and its development. He argued  that   many  of  its   leaders  had no    grasp of  New Testament  religion  and  the average  churchgoer  had no   personal relationship  with God!  One of his  typical   sayings encapulates his  position: “The master  of hounds  rejects the Gospel for sure it will  unhorse him!”

When dying  at only the age of  forty-two,  he refused  the ministrations of a pastor as he was  a paid  servant of the Danish state! Among his papers was a small poem professing  his continued love for Regine and yet,of course, relinquished  for a greater one.

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Dr. David Allen

THE CHURCH: PERSECUTION, PATRONAGE AND PROGRESS

For three centuries the early Christians were severely persecuted by the Roman state; but in the first years of the fourth century there was a dramatic and fundamental change: no longer persecuted, they became Constantine’s favourite as he claimed that the Christian god had enabled him to beat his rival   for the imperial throne. Emperor Constantine’s reign – he claimed to be a Christian – marked a   dangerous transformation. Christianity effectively became the official religion of the Empire. Persecution was over, but the Emperor’s patronage and favour meant that the whole nature of the Church changed and many became mere nominal believers. Put bluntly, an organism became an organisation and an arm of the state. It is no exaggeration to claim that, although persecution did not destroy the new faith, patronage did so by destroying its transforming power. Lively charismatic assemblies were replaced by formal, liturgical services presided over by costumed clergy and, even worse, natural ability replaced spiritual power. Sometimes civic functionaries slipped into  office as priests and even bishops.

Even when Roman rule collapsed in the West, in the late fifth century, the name changed but rule passed  to the Papacy, effectively still an empire, and  Rome’s control  lasted for a thousand years until the early  sixteenth century with the dawn of the Reformation and subsequently the establishment of more   democratic, egalitarian and biblical churches.  Happily, in our own age, from  the nineteen  sixties and the accession of  the  avuncular John  XXIII, the Roman Church has undergone profound changes: it now regards other churches as separated brethren and not heretics;  the name  chosen by the  new pontiff, Francis, surely  epitomises a new spirit and a return to the kind of fellowship desired by the founder  Jesus of Nazareth. Pope Francis, as I write, has urged his new cardinals to be champions of the people, very much in the pattern of his hero Francis of Assisi.

Surely it is the time and signal for all who are disciples of Jesus to work and pray together to resist secularism and militant atheism and promote the kingdom of God – true ecumenism – rather than competing churches. That is my prayer for 2014.

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A GREAT SCOT

Edward Irving (1792-1834) is not well known even though at his height he was something of a celebrity in London’s society during the Regency period. Called to the Scottish kirk in HattonGarden, he soon made a name for himself for his dazzling pulpit oratory which attracted the capital’s famous and fashionable. The chapel was soon so packed out that a larger building was planned. It opened in 1827 in Regent Square, quite near to King’s Cross and regularly had a congregation of many hundreds of worshippers. Jeremy Bentham and Robert Peel were sometimes seen there.

Irving bravely attacked all the foibles and fashions of the age, including the evils of the new industrial age and Byron’s poetry. However, he was more than a ranting demagogue: as a pastor he regularly preached on biblical subjects, especially the person of Christ and the relationship between his divinity and humanity. His members so profited from those studies that they urged him to publish them. But in that lurked a problem: a visiting clergyman took great exception to Irving’s claiming that Jesus could have sinned, though he never actually did. This caused a furore amongst the ultra orthodox and he had to appear before his Presbytery. He was censured but his congregation allowed him to continue his ministry.

A more serious problem arose: Irving began to believe that the Holy Spirit manifested by Jesus could be enjoyed by all believers and this was the only way that the Church could be successful; and that also involved spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophetic utterances and gifts of healings. This was too much for the more staid members of the congregation when tongues and prophecies broke out in the services at Regent Square about 1830. Irving was accused of disturbing the services as set by the Kirk authorities. Summoned to Annan, where he had been ordained, he was accused of heresy and subsequently thrust out from pastoral ministry. Exhausted by ceaseless controversy, he fell seriously ill and died at the age of only forty-two. As he was slipping away he never conceded that he had been wrong and his last words were, “In life and in death we are the Lord’s.”

The dramatic success of the global charismatic movement and modern emphasis on Christ’s authentic and complete manhood have surely vindicated this noble and much -maligned Scottish preacher and theologian. Praised by Karl Barth, and more latterly by Colin Gunton, it is certainly time to remove his name from the list of heretics and place it in the roll of honour.

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A  HAPPY  ROYAL OCCASION

Most people are happy when there are pleasant occasions reported in among the usual  grim headlines  from the Syrian civil war or mass murders by terrorists. However, such news about events like the  christening of Prince George are serious in their own way, particularly in terms of  the Church and Faith ,  the only hope for our  largely secular, post-Christian nation.

 It may seems overly hard and puritanical, but the publicity given to the royal christening emphasises the wide difference there is between biblical faith and mere nominal religion. There is no evidence in the New Testament of infant baptism and, even more than that, the very word baptism denotes immersion and not sprinkling. If the Bible is our standard, then only those who have received Christ by faith are  proper candidates for baptism by immersion in the name of the Trinity. The baptismal rite practised by many traditions has no place in biblical, New Testament Christianity. We have to thank our Baptist friends for their re-introduce to a more correct and authentic practice.

The biblical pattern of baptism, often dismissed as a mere sectarian fad, is central to authentic faith. However, Karl Barth, arguably the greatest theologian of the last century, went so far as to say that infant baptism was not only confusing but profoundly misguided because it gives the idea that someone is a Christian when they are  certainly not.

My personal and quite amusing experience underlines this important point. When my baby brother was very  poorly the minister was summoned to christen him, based on the superstition that were he to die  unbaptised then he would not go to heaven. Watching on the proceedings, though then not knowing its supposed significant, I wanted to get in on the action. So, reaching over to the bowl containing the baptismal water, I quaffed its  “sacred”  contents!  The sacramental beverage did nothing for me and nor had my own previous baptism.

I only became a Christian much later – at  the age of nineteen – when I responded  to the prompting of  a godly Methodist minister who told me that, despite my strong religious background, I needed to open my heart’s door  to Christ.  A christening may often be a happy family occasion but it has no significance in terms of personal salvation and was introduced into the Church much later after the apostolic era. Thankfully a number of traditional fellowships and churches are now embracing the primitive practice and  theology.

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