Thursday, 31 March 2011

Modelling Bad Behaviour

Tonight, as I drove one of our children to a youth group we came upon cars parked both sides of the road. I started to drive between them when a car approaching decided he could get past them before I closed the gap. He could not make it and we ended up with him having to stop. Having my dog-collar on I looked the driver in the eyes and was about to smile when he went off into a torrent of abuse.

What was sad was that the originator of the abuse was not one of those young people but was a relatively old bloke. What is sadder still is that I often find the source of foul language and disgraceful attitudes lies not in the younger generation (and boy, they can be pretty foul), but in the generation who should know better.

Is it any wonder that the kids today are as they are when we find their grandparents exercising such awful behaviour and displaying such terrible traits as they do.

Recently I was involved in a situation where a five year old had told their teacher to go away (using a more robust Anglo-Saxon version). When the parent was asked about the child's behaviour they responded with, "WTF do you want me to do about it, you're the teachers!"

Tune the hearts of the fathers to the children . . . .

I remember when the older generation were a model for much of what was right, sadly this is no longer the case it seems.


Nominate your unhelpful Christian

Following on from the blog yesterday I have had quite an interesting mail bag and so I thought I'd ask you for your opinions.

Here are the categories and nominees thus far (feel free to add more and keep coming back as this is a dynamic page in that it will grow to reflect the nominations):

The issue :

1. The Rapture

2. Pathetic Prophets and wicked utterance brigade

3. Marginalised Christians

4. Young Earth

5. Prosperity Ministries

6. Burn a Koran Day

7. The Toronto Blessing

The Message:

1. Jesus returns on 21st May

2. Japan is God's enemy because . . . .

3. Look at us, we're being acted against because . . .

4. You're not a Christian if you don't believe in literal days of creation

5. Name it, claim it, feel it, heal it!

6. Intolerance is a Christian virtue

The Person:

1. Harold Camping

2. Fred Phelps

3. George Carey

4. Ken Ham

5. Benny Hinn

6. Terry Jones

7. Todd Bentley

Loads of room for more here - what do you think about the way we portray ourselves and 'preach' our subjective, skewed and sometimes contrary 'truths' to others?

I have to say that I was amazed at the response to this issue which I assumed was one of those 'just me' things. Once we're done with this (if it flies) I will post a poll and we can see who wins the awards and hopefully I'll have a better understanding of what's going on outside my own space as well.


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Resolution 1973 Conundrum

The UN resolution 1973 permits the use of proportionate action to prevent attack upon, or the endangering of, the lives of civilians. Now call me a silly sausage it you wish, but surely providing the civilian populations with arms and ammunition will mean that they are no longer civilians because they have become combatants!

This would mean that they lose all of their protected status under the terms of the Geneva conventions and not only that, but by the potential for them targeting civilians loyal to Gaddafi would mean that they become a legitimate target under resolution 1973 themselves.

Simple or what?

And then we have the problem in that just as the US armed certain groups in Afghanistan which now are biting us on the behindside, which group can anyone speak for such that the arms won't be turned on the friendly nations that are overflying them now?

What a tricky game this diplomacy is - no wonder they keep getting it wrong!

Christians! Who needs enemies?

The main focus of attention this week has been the fact that Christians have no need of enemies or people seeking to pull them down when they have enough people willing to do that from within.

If I had a pound for every mention I have had from people about the end of the world happening in May I'd have enough money for a case of Jaffa Cakes (no need to shoplift like the TV 'Rev'). "Ho, Ho, Vicar," They cry, "It's bad enough that your Jesus geezer isn't ever coming back without you having people making things worse by announcing his appearing! Won't come then, won't come ever - a permanent 'no show' your bloke and the prophesies fron nutters will only make more people see that!"

The sad thing is that I can see that they are right about that.

That said, He will come back (at a time no one will predict) and those who sneer, the naysayers and mockers will be wondering what has hits them (and worse still, what will be coming to hit them). Just like the Jehovah's Witnesses and their abortive expected due date, of which there have been sixteen thus far (if I have counted correctly) we're going to look like a bunch of lunatics and sad types if the 'prophets' keep it up!

Moving on. Those amazingly sad types who have prophesied that Japan was God's vengeance because of [insert blinking ridiculous reason here] bring the whole of Christendom into disrepute and also demonstrate that they have no understanding of who God is, or how He acts. To criticise a blatantly flawed, secular nation, because of their wrong actions is not to raise a hand against the Lord's anointed but is to uphold what God calls us to be and to do! To condone evil because of a name is to (once again) subject YHWH and His Son and the Holy Spirit to ridicule.

Staggering forward, we come to those who seek to bleat about the world not being Christian and, as proof of this, look for ways in which we can challenge the ungodly. The problem is that whilst the identification of things contrary to God might be right the manner in which they engage damages the argument and weakens our position as Christians even further. Acting in ways that deny God is something we are called no to do, but why let that stop a good campaign?

So, seems that those opposed to us need do nothing but let those outlined above keep on doing the work for them - after all, they're doing such a good job without any help from those who wish to see us ridiculed, mocked, marginalised and render ineffective.

To indulgine in a modification of the words of St Thumper of Bambi:

"If you can't say anything sensible (and biblical), keep your mouth closed!"

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Rapture - Camping Equipment

For those of you wondering what you can do to keep your members from leaving on the 21st may, here's a nifty little design that might just help:

All you need is a handyman in the congregation to knock these up and hopefully, when the 21st comes, you'll have enough member left to pay the parish share.

Mind you, Having read some of the Happy Camper's literature now, I realise that this might be an unnecessary step for those who remain in Church will probably be left behind as they haven't left.

Now I subscribe to the parousia (the rapture) being an event that will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. It is coming at an unknown time and not even Jesus himself knows the time:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." Matt 24: 36.

So, I don't hold out much hope that May 21st is the date, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared - how are we living our life?


ps. As I was writing this, my Homer Simpson Alarm clock went off with this:

Donuts of the world beware - it's judgement day!

Speak Lord, your servant listens (gulp)

Monday, 28 March 2011

Education - Declining Standards

I'm not sure whether the place we inhabit appears to be in educational turmoil and decline because of the imminent coming together of schools to form academies or whether we are seeing something that is even more worrying.

Actually, as far as I am concerned, and regardless of the reasons, I don't think it can be any more worrying as we have children at varying stages of education, primary and secondary, and they appear to be suffering.

When you get letters from teachers that are spelt wrongly, hear of lessons where the teacher has to be searched for by the kids, bored of waiting, because they haven't turned up and teachers who appear to lack even a rudimentary knowledge of the subject they are supposed to be teaching, one gets just a little concerned!

We live in a place which had five secondary schools serving the educational needs of those living here. Then came the spectre of BSF (Building Schools for the Future) which decided that one failing secondary would become an academy and the sixth forms from the other four schools would be closed to form another (sixth form) academy. Buildings were knocked down and things started to happen with the sixth form provision and then things changed and it transpired that the money was gone. No replacements for the demolished buildings and educational bedlam!

Then things moved a pace and suddenly the secondary school where the sixth form is to be is also to be an academy and the remaining three schools are to become a multi-campus academy too! Five become three and five sixth forms become one in the name of giving us more choice! Seems the mathematics is as poor as what the speling is!

Teacher I've spoken to are looking at their options regarding jobs, after all one of the big benefits of the academies (for those who run them) is the fact that teachers don't have to be registered teachers, anyone can be a teacher at an academy! The upshot of this is that you can bring in the best from industry and commerce, but as you have to pay for what you get and there are no national pay scales from non-registered teachers, I am assuming that financial expediency rather than academic prowess will dictate here. Pay peanuts and get monkeys appears to the potential here.

Each member of staff negotiates their own salary and they apparently sign a non-disclosure agreement, which means collective bargaining and parity goes out of the window - ingredients for a happy and content ship or one containing mistrust and dissatisfaction?

Not only that but the government have now changed the academy programme such that whilst, initially, those companies and groups looking to run an academy had to bring in money, this has progressed via a mere promise of money to the situation now where we just hand over our schools and pay them!

The schools are outside the freedom of information act and are effectively a law unto themselves. The governors, as they once were, vanish and there is potential for one parent on the board, but this is not a requirement and so it will be a 'done to', rather than 'done with' situation.

All in all, what we appear to have before us is a most unsatisfactory removal of our schools from the LEA (Local Education Authority) state school system into an independent and potentially unsatisfactory general school system. Students are cherry-picked to get the grades that win prizes and for the lower level students the path they will follow will set them on the way to blue-collar, drone-like, futures that the comprehensive education system removed.

All in all, the recipe for a decline in education and a destruction of the state school system which has served us well and once made us the envy of many nations. Not any more I fear!

Still, they're looking at the NHS next, plaster anyone?


Sunday, 27 March 2011

May 21st Rapture - Keeping your congregation

Here, in readiness for the 21st of May, we have purchased specially engineered 'anti-rapture' seating for our church building. Here's a  picture of one of the congregation trying one of the seats out for size:

Don't delay, buy them now before the need (and the congregation) disappears!

Come in a variety of colours and sizes to suit all of your congregation. Just click the seatbelt on and you're ready to keep on being church when the others have gone.

Making being left behind fun!

May 21st Rapture - Be prepared

Looks like the preparations for keeping believers when the rapture comes in May are taking shape. With this clever little modification to the church it should be possible to catch the members in the nets (being also biblical in that we will be 'fishers of men').

Be ready - it's coming!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

HS2 - Should the Church be involved?

Moving on from the London march today I am prompted to continue on a different vein. Office said (Harriet Monsell) and desk looking clear (it's all on the floor!), fresh tea on desk and a collection of tits, sparrows and dunnocks hanging from the feeders I am drawn to a letter which tells me that, "Churches and Christians have no place in protesting."

The focus of the protest to which the letter relates is that of 'HS2' (High Speed Two), a rail service which will provide a second high speed link from London to Scotland and one which threatens to cuts communities and houses in two.

* Leaders of industry in the region are saying that the cutting down of the journey to London by forty minutes will bring investment and business to the area.

* Ecologists and nature lovers tell us that the trains increase the carbon economy figures rather than reduce it as the trains consume three times the power of the slower existing stock.

* People can work in London and will be effectively working on the trains whilst they travel and so this is a win-win (unless you count the cost of those commuting into London leaving local workforces).

* Air travel from London to Scotland will be cut, reducing the carbon economy.

These are but a few of the issues and the question is, should the churches be getting involved in this issue. As chairman of the local churches together group I have asked this and the jury is out with many of the leaders. "we shouldn't be getting into stuff like this, it's not our business!" said one minister.

well I think they are wrong, for we are called to serve and support the communities in which we find ourselves, and this is a need which needs to be addressed.

Where I am I am finding ministers who have the attitude that we shouldn't engage in areas where there is difference of opinion and should avoid confrontational issues such as Palestine, Abortion, Homosexuality and the like. The problem with this is that if the minister's are so unsure of what they believe (or too cowardly to dialogue) how can we expect those to whom we minister to have any integrity, rational thought processes and ability to dialogue and debate.

1 Peter 3 tells us that we should be able to answer any who ask, telling them of the hope we have in Jesus.

Now if the ministers cannot do this, then what hope is there for the members?

Anyone fancy coming to a public meeting - details soon?

I love this blog, enables me to dialogue with the voices inside my head, the people outside it and the God who is everywhere.


March against the cuts

Today is promised to be the day we get the biggest demonstration London has ever seen. It will dwarf the march against the Iraq war and will be even bigger than the Poll Tax march (and riots?) as people flock to the city to protest against the cuts.

Grannies from cosy little Gloucestershire villages with their blue rinses and placards calling for library cuts will be rubbing shoulders with scruffy squatters, political activists, trade unionists and of course politicians.

The problem is that whilst there was an issue of morality and legality surrounding the Iraq march and a sense of injustice behind the Poll Tax, this march has little in terms of moral ground to support it. The very fact that Ed Milliband will be the speaker when the party arrives at Hyde Park seem to me to proclaim the absurdity and the lack of integrity and morality that this march demonstrates and I'm not doing a 'disgusted of Sutton' here but have some concrete reasons.

The first is that the hypocrisy that exists in having the leader of the very party whose mismanagement of the economy, assisted by their lack of control of the banking fraternity, and under whose reign the distance between rich and poor grew markedly, who brought in such abominations as Academies (where our children's futures are given to others as a money-making exercise) and engaged in the PFI, sacked nurses and porters and established more quangos and more scandals beside, do the main speech. If he's going to say he's sorry for the government of which he was a member having brought us to this place then all is well, but he (and those present I'm sure) will forget how we got here. All many want is for the cuts to hit someone (and something) else - there is little moral ground, only self being exercised by many here.

We do need to make our voices heard and indeed we do need to be campaigning is for things like libraries, social care, education, health and the like. There are many cuts that I feel aggrieved about but I am also aware that those who come to London today are also being conned into being something political that perhaps they don't want to be. My fear is that some will be caught up in stuff that isn't what they are or why they are there, and this is a sadness and a shame.

My last concern is that whilst many moderate people will be present today, behind them will be the same wallies who turned the student loan protests into the chaos that they became are seeing in today the potential for more than a 'carnival like' gathering of people engaged in being what democracy is.

All sides of the house of commons recognise that we need cuts. Everyone has a different idea about where and what and how but the reality is that we were (and actually if you listen to some economists, still are) on the edge of financial disaster. Unlike Greece, Ireland, Portugal (and Spain close by) we are making moves which are painful but necessary. Where I disagree I canvas and harry, perhaps rather than march in London we need to be active where we are as individuals and church groups - being the noise locally and continuously rather than one big bang!


Friday, 25 March 2011

Politics - haven't a clue? Ask the electorate!

I am stunned that so many of the moronic voting public appear to hold the following views:

1. That there is a economic problem and that there needs to be a solution.

2. That the problem with any solution is that 'they' shouldn't have to suffer.

3. That the present government are the source of all the financial problems we are facing.

How on earth we can write off the, "There will never be a boom and bust' Labour mismanagement of the past few years and forget the PFI, 'help a friend (or friend's company)', 'New labour' minimal investment - maximum wasting of money and all the other excesses that were and lump it on the coalition government - leaves me breathless at just how stupid the electorate are.

That they can see that at the election, despite the old tosh being bandied by whichever Milliband it was that stuffed the other one and now runs the labour Party, this country was on the brink of financial meltdown and we faced something similar to Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and yet expect everyone else to have to endure hardship speaks volumes of the selfish (and stupid) nation that we have become.

That people can ring in and demand for areas that don't affect them to be cut so they can continue, and moan about the prospects of higher interest rates for their mortgages and loans that enable them to live, in a world where house prices continue to rise and they can have more, just provides the final straw for the camel. One 'nice' lady (i'm sure she is) was saying that she shouldn't have to see her living standards suffer and that there was plenty of slack in the social services, health and the like to avoid her having to pay the price for others!

Yes, of course there is!!!!

Let's get rid of [insert area that doesn't affect you], now!


"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Psalm 82:3-4

The Blasted Trinity

Trinity Sunday (June 19th this year) was once described to me as one of the 'most difficult ' Sundays in the church calendar. To be honest, I was a bit surprised at this because, after all, the Trinity was, well, the Trinity!

As I started studying I found that the Trinity was often viewed by people as something complex and difficult and that this was often compounded by the 'Holy Ghost' (God in a sheet?) understanding of same. Time went on and I found my self listening to sermons where God was green and had three leave (the Shamrock being the representation of the Trinity). In one place I found that the trinity was like the lady preaching in that she was a daughter, wife and teacher - three different people in the one body! Another place taught me that God was like three people who had decided to always agree and the three of them were so inseparable it was as if they were one (blimey - had they really been ordained for thirty years?). One of the stars of the Trinity parade told the assembled congregation that God was like a person with multiple personalities - each had their own character but resided in the one physical body. Now in my book MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) is a pretty serious and severe condition (and not necessarily schizoid - I remember the lectures well as they pulled down many assumptions) and this sermon resides as one of the many cherries on the trinity Sunday cake.

The Trinity is a simple concept in that God (the Father) is the author of life and of our reconciliation (salvation) to Him. God (the Son) is the means by which that reconciliation with God is effected by the freewill submission to death on the Cross for each of us. God (the Holy Spirit) lives in us and guides us to maintain that relationship and live within the salvation reality that is open to us. Simples isn't is? You don't need to be a Meerkat to understand it!

One of the clever devices that comes from the early church is the little drawing that puts it simply and graphically so we lame brains can grasp it:

Of course we can get more into this and head for Nicea (325AD) and get to grips with the 'substance' (ousia) and we find that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one ousios (homoousious), not similar (homoiousious), not different (heteroousios). One subtance, three distinct and separate wills - all in accord.

Simples or what?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The prodigal's Mum!

A few years back I sat in on a service where the sermon was all about the prodigal Son's Mum. It was about how she felt when he took his inheritance and left for the big city. It talked of her concern as the communications from the sons slowed and then ceased and how she feared for her boy. The sermon outlined the pressures on the family over a son that Mum couldn't mention without sneering from the other brother and anger from the Dad. "He's dead, and that's the way it's going to be," cried the Father. It was a real Eastenders episode of a sermon.

Then suddenly the prodigal appears on the horizon and the Father rushes out to greet him. The Mother is overjoyed and although she wants to rush out too, is constrained by the fact that she's a woman. She can't rush out and show her joy at the boy she bore returning from the dead. All she can do is stay in the kitchen and cook the fatted calf - chained by her gender (and role) to the kitchen.

For me there were many problems with this sermon. The first was that those who didn't actually know the story left thinking that this was a story from the Bible rather than a party-political broadcast on behalf of the terminally confused and hurting party! There was nothing of the Bible in this story other than the mention of a few characters from the story. Just as mentioning Jesus and God doesn't make Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons Christian, neither did it confer any degree of rightness to the words that had been spoken.

The story told the listeners nothing of what the prodigal story is all about but enabled the speaker to air their pain and bring wrongly-placed offences against women into the consciousness of the listeners and somehow link the two into what appeared to be a biblical story and yet was indeed a very secular and skewed story.

Discussing the prodigal recently, one of those gathered asked what the mother must have felt and extrapolated this into something about the mother having deeper feelings for her boy and the like. The closing shot being a foray into the world of skewed etymology to accompany the skewed theology in that they could see why it was called 'history' as it was all about men!

Well of course history has nothing to do with the sex of the historical consideration and the reason that neither the mother, nor the sister and especially not the aunt (who I understand was visiting from Seleucia Pereira where she ran a boarding house for sailors!) ;) are mentioned is because Jesus didn't include them in the story. They just aren't there and just as we might wonder what would have happened to the atomic bomb and Paulo Alto if Oppenheimer's tap dance teacher had been more successful, it isn't part of the story!

That said, why is there no story about the man with an issue of blood? Perhaps it was because they didn't blog in them days ;)


Libya - arming the rebels

Calls from Misrata late last night asking for,"Medicine, food and weapons," need to be responded to with great caution. For every person I hear who is positive and supportive of the action to stem the attacks against civillians there is another voice bemoaning the fact that we're in another war and there are some who believe Gaddafi's words about injuries to civillians elsewhere. The task is as sensitive in terms of publicity as it is militarily.

We have engaged in 'no fly' zones on a number of occasions over the recent past and this has been the precursor to us having boots on the ground, something that cannot (by resolution) and must not (by design) occur with Libya.

We do need to take a look at providing the people with the means by which they can live and treat their ill and injured but of course supplying arms would, in my opinion, not only be wrong but would also be illegal because it would be actively bringing about a regime change. Mind you, I have a sneaky feeling that there might well be some nations who would not have problems with supplying cash and arms to the rebels through the back door (read Col. Tim Collin's 'Rules of engagement' and you'll get a better picture of what happens behind closed door and in the dark in places like Libya !).

I have heard no talk of the ceasefire and dialogue in the same breath or calls to Gaddafi to engage in dialogue with those who oppose his regime and I wonder why? I have heard people muttering about 'targeting Gaddafi' and wonder why? Are those who are ruling the air hoping to see the man overthrown by military means? Are they hoping Hilary Clinton's half-arsed hope that Gaddafi is going to leave in the middle of the night and become an exile at Butlins, Bognor Regis is true and consider this to be little more than a waiting game?

The first objective has been achieved - command and control has been greatly limited, the air defence systems and the air force have effectively been silenced and the ground forces are aware that big brother is watching them and able, should they continue with the murderous intent, to slap them about a bit. There are still some tanks, troops and snipers who need to be dealt with and whilst the former are a fairly easy target, the task of fighting in built-up areas (FIBUA) is difficult and not one that is easily dealt with from the air (unless one is willing to accept colateral damage, which of course we are not).

So now, as I see it, phase two consists of FIBUA and diplomacy. We do need to see the tanks shelling the hospital in Misrata silenced and the snipers need to stop their work. The first is potentially possible for the air and the second, if reports that some of the SF troops are on the rebel side are true, should be a relatively simple task if they can move them in from Bengazi.

The diplomacy side is less visible but is, I am sure, going on in the background and we can only wait (and pray) until something is unveiled. What we mustn't do is provide those who wish tom undermine the action with the capital that comes from the naysaying and negative attitudes that some are succumbing to - this is a monumental action on the part of the UN and it needs to be made to work to set the Un on a better direction that that of past years.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

'Gay Cure'

The development of a 'Gay Cure' is something that I find myself reflecting on from time to time.

The reason for this is that if someone finds a genetic reason for being homosexual then you can bet your bottom-dollar that someone else will work out how to correct that 'genetic difficulty'. This is true for any physiological cause of homosexuality, for if there is found to be a 'cause' then there is also sure to be someone who will effect a 'cure' and this has to be wrong. Mind you, finding psychological causes doesn't do too much for the situation either, does it?

It appears that a work of fiction by writer, Marion Heath, has been the focus of a 'bit of bother' in that some are portraying it as a 'gay cure' book because it tells the tale of two men whose relationship breaks up after one has a 'religious experience'.

I think I might be more concerned by the response of an Outrage spokesman who issued what is, in my view contradictory and not only unhelpful, but likely to add support to those who want it to be a genetic aberation (a small group which deviates from the main population is considered to be abnormal and this will be neither popular with some or helpful for others).

So the assessment that the book was written, "By people who can’t get it into their thick skulls that being gay is not an illness, an ailment or something to cure. Christians in particular are worried as science moves towards seeing being gay as a genetic thing – they are running out of ammunition. If science says this, Christians cannot say ‘you are evil’ because it’s something you’re born with, like your skin colour," is a bit of a foot shooting exercise as I see it!

Exactly right, but many others will say that it is a genetic condition. The best path would have been to just ignore it and let it vanish into the ether and then, as the spokesman for Outrage said, "The book will have its moment of fame and then disappear into the remainder shelves in the bookshop." But now of course it's become an issue and the publisher will sell many more books - bet they love Outrage!

Bit of a sad story this and one which is not going to help either side of the situation at the end of the day.

It's sad because Jesus can change lives and that is a reality, but describing the life-changing work of God's Holy Spirit in this context as a 'cure' is as sure a path to conflict as the way that some of those who are homosexual (or merely support their lifestyle) posture and misrepresent the mainstream (by which I mean 'central') Christian view.

I am not bothered with who a person is but I am bothered with how a person lives their life. Why? Because so too does God who applies the rules equally to all without exception or favour - a good way to live as I see it.

So, let's all try to play nicely in the play pen and if we demand the right to live as we choose then perhaps we should afford that same right to others. We might not like what they say, but to do other than this only makes one side more right than the other and this is of course wrong (unless it's your side that benefits from the bias of course)!

Also, living as God commands appears to bring a number of benefits to our lives, relationships and community. That these are not popular has more to do with us than God, that these commandments are used as a stick to beat others speaks poorly of us and does God no favours (Galatians six applies here . . .).


Sport - Bringing Back the Arena!

I have been quite taken with the idea of making Formula One (F1) more interesting by equipping the tracks with sprinkler systems which come on at random times within the course of a race. The idea of having an F1 race with everyone on slicks when suddenly the water appears is excellent, it will make racing much more exciting and the potential for shunts and even deaths will only raise the standing of F1 in terms of bloodlust and the increased potential for peril.

As one who (many years ago) used to frequent the race tracks I was always appalled at those who thought the race day had been poor because there had been no spectacular crashes and where a shunt did happen, all walked away unscathed!

But why should we stop there, in the film, Micmacs, there is a sequence where an anti-personnel device is planted somewhere on the football pitch. As the game progresses, one of the players 'finds' the device, and is blow to pieces. This would, like Ecclestone's F1 idea, make the sport much more exciting and think of the betting potential (more generated income?) that naming the dead of injured correctly might bring to the further enjoyment of the game. After all, my complaint to the ASA over football betting advert's fell because 'It showed betting as bringing excitement and joy to the couple in the advert', think of the potential here.

What else? How about every now and then the umpire passing the bowler a grenade?

Putting loose boards on the ramp of the ski jump and waiting to see who finds it?

There must be so many opportunities to spice up our sports and increase the excitement and betting potential. Not only that, think of the new opportunities for sponsorship . . .

Libya - Invitation to a holy war?

Having watched Gaddafi's broadcast to the world and his invitation to the Muslim world to come and join a 'holy war' against the 'Crusaders' and his denouncement of those who are acting against his unlawful acts against Libya's populace in the words, "This assault ... is by a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history," make for interesting news indeed.

Gaddafi's words were accompanied by his firing rounds into the air and a firework display . . meanwhile in Misrata medical facilities are stretched to breaking point and the city is pinned down by tanks and snipers. Talk about fiddling whilst Rome burns, the man's obviously lost the plot.

Meanwhile some of those who supported the resolution that seek to impose a no fly zone are losing the taste for the thing because of the bombing raids. What they don't seem to realise is that the making of a cake requires the breaking of a few eggs and unless the air is made safe, coalition aircraft cannot fly and unless the ability to control ground forces is much restricted, then the inhabitants will remain at risk. The key here is the taking out of legitimate targets and an eye to protecting the civilians and the maintenance of proportionality.

It is the move of a desperate man to seek to bring others to his defence in the name of Islam and hopefully the intelligence and resolve of the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference will hold fast - they have acted wisely with compassion and intelligence to the fore and I pray this will continue.

This is not a holy war but a moral battle and we must ensure that we do not cross the line as we seek to bring safety to the people of Libya and the opportunity for them to have a voice in the future of their nation.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Religious - A dying breed

I am expecting to see panic stricken Christians and jubilant secularists running around in circles screaming about the impending demise of 'religion'. The reason for this is a study based on census data from nine different countries which predicts that 'religion' is set to be a thing of the past before too long.

Over the past hundred years of the census results that were used there has been an increase in those who claim to have no religious affiliation and this, extrapolated would result in a demise of religion. But of course this is merely a 'suggestive result' and is, as I understand it, a likely as Jesus returning on the 21st of May!

Still, the reality is not as exciting as the headlines and of course 'non religious' is a rather large catch all which says nothing, for it seems to me that the 'non religious' are often more 'religious' than people of faith. Not only that but they are generally more superstitious too!

So let's not panic,we're just letting the sand settle before we get down to the business of being Church and don't believe what you read, the rumours of our death have been greatly exaggerated!

Funny that, same thing happened to Jesus!


Christians and Military Service

I often find myself engaged in discussions surrounding the issue of Christians and military services and like the well-worn 'you only works Sundays, Christmas and Easter must be your busy times' and the like what usually gets trotted out is the, "How can someone be a soldier and be a Christian?" This is usually supported by the words, "Doesn't the Bible say you mustn't kill>"

Well actually the Bible doesn't! What it says is, "You shall not commit murder," and that's very different for killing is the taking of life whereas murder is the felonious (i.e. unlawful) taking of life. Walk down a road and shoot a passer-by, you have committed murder but take the life of a combatant in a war and this is not murder. Shoot a civilian in the same war and you have committed murder!

Soldiers do not commit murder and in fact soldiers are given extensive training to ensure that they never unlawfully take a life, we call this rules of engagement (RoE) and RoE is a comprehensive and detailed set of rules, changing from conflict to conflict to ensure that no local conditions cause civilian life to be taken, that set out how engagement with enemy forces is to be handled.

Watch the films and you will see combatants surrendering, weapons dropped, hands held high and the oncoming troops shoot them. War Crime - this is murder and is unlawful!

Watch the films and you'll see many examples of what is wrong and this is something that our forces are taught, unlawful killing is likely to see you in the dock! Now some see this as punishing the innocent but in fact it is protecting the innocent. That said, there are times when mistakes will happen, that's a problem with war when things are happening everywhere and confusion is only ever a fingertip away, but this is a rare occurrence and should not be assumed as being the norm. When the confusion of battle comes in, the rule is to return fire to, and target ony, those who are shooting at you. Targets are identified and because of this the accidents are few and far between.

For a soldier, the best battle to have been is is one where the field of combat is left with your army victorious and not a shot has been fired. Doesn't happen that often, but this is the goal - victory with the minimum loss of life on both sides.

There is no conflict with being Christian and serving in the Armed Forces. In fact over the coming days, I hope to demonstrate the very opposite.


Libya - 'All necessary Measures'

These are the essential words of UN Resolution 1973.

Yesterday the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) speaking on whether the targeting of Col. Gaddafi was something to be considered, said:

"No, absolutely not. It's is not allowed under the UN resolution and it's not something I want to discuss any further."

That's pretty unequivocal and also, apparently, pretty unpopular with some of those in government here. BUT, it is what makes the British armed forces the force that it is. Whilst some forces have 'all the gear but no idea' the British forces find themselves sometimes poorly equipped but always head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to rules of engagement (RoE) and values and standards. What we have here is yet another example of that.

What is most important now is that as the coalition stop Gaddafi's forces from advancing, which is protecting civilian life, they must also ensure that this does not permit opposition forces to form-up and engage. Although this would be regarded as two combatant forces, thus rendering it outside resolution 1973, it would also mean that by the actions of the intervention a regime change by force had been supported.

A niggling point perhaps, but we have to stand in the middle and keep to the protection of non-combatants, for they are afforded full status under the Geneva Conventions, not facilitate a militia.


Monday, 21 March 2011

Libya - Maintaining the resolution

The object of the UN resolution regarding Libya was to prevent the loss of of civilian life, not to effect or support regime change. Sadly today Defence Secretary Liam Fox proved that he just might not have the nous or experience to be occupying the job.

The reason for this, in my view, is that the silly person responded to his interviewer (who must have been overjoyed at the easy prize afforded him) regarding Gaddafi being targeted:

"Well, that would potentially be a possibility but you mention immediately one of the problems we would have, which is that you would have to take into account any civilian casualties that might result from that."

The aim has to be to get a ceasefire in place and to have the two sides engage in dialogue. Killing Gaddafi would quickly see any support from Arab nations vanish and the people of Libya harden their stance against the Western aggressors and make Gaddafi's 'masters of colonial conquest' claims take on a reality that is at present unfounded!

The Command and Control, Communications and Intelligence part of the mission has gone well and resulted in a weakened air defence and command structure. The stopping tanks in their tracks (literally) has posted a warning note to those forces acting under Gaddafi's control that they should cease. That some forces are advancing and progressing is something that needs to be dealt with but caution is the key here.

It would be foolish to see the coalition forces become little more than air cover for the rebel forces and it would be wrong to arm or permit these forces from grouping and forming up to engage the government forces. What we need is to effect a ceasefire and to encourage both sides to engage in dialogue. And should there be, as part of the democratic will of the Libyan people, a change of leadership, then it should come from within and be free from manipulation and political/military subversion on the part of any alien government.

Foreign Secretary, William Hague, needs to be a little more circumspect as well! His ill-measured words this morning supported what Liam Fox has said and this is obviously not the aim of the Un resolution and solidifies the thinking that Gaddafi is, and perhaps will be, viewed as a legitimate target.

Look at the resolution chaps and bring about the outcomes dictated by it. Neither add nor fall short of the required outcomes and we will see this as a shining page on the part of the UN. Fail and we will see a hardening of the Arab/Western world divide.

And speaking of integrity and rules of engagement (RoE) - I see that British aircraft pulled off from a bombing mission because there were civilians present. This is the integrity that needs to be maintained and displayed.

Keep praying people

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Lent 2

Some thoughts from today's lectionary readings:

Genesis 12:1-4a
“ Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran”

Romans 4: 1 - 5, 13 - 17
“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring - not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” - in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

John 3:1 - 17
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

God’s instruction to Abram, the father of none and the husband of a barren wife, was to leave what he had. To put aside the security of a place he knew and the safety of being surrounded by friends and family and leave for a strange, alien, place. Do that, says God and I will bless you and make you a blessing. And so Abram, at the age of seventy-five does what God tells him.

What lessons do we have to learn from this?

That ‘calling’ is costly? That it will take you from a place of comfort, safety, security, familiarity and family and take you to . . .Seems to put paid to most of our excuses for not going or doing!

That if Abram was seventy-five and could be called and could be sent, that perhaps our reasons for not doing it because of age goes out of the window too!.

Paul asks what Abram got in the light of things that matter in the world?

Could he boast about them? Well, he could if he’d done the stuff but since he went and God did it all, I guess not. But we can boast about what God has done and what blessing God gave Him I guess!

Paul makes a good point here regarding the areas of work and faith – if we work, we get paid, it’s not a gift!

If Abram’s faith was placed in God, it was about believing (and going) not doing stuff. There were Jews in Jesus time who considered what Abraham did was basically good works and that was why God blessed him. But work has its own reward! But, Paul points out – Abram had only faith, not works, he didn’t do, he was and God counted this as righteousness.
It is not what you do, but why you do it – loving God is enough, but from that love comes actions. And it’s not just for the Jews – father of many nations is important, because nations were religious groups not just nationalities.

Just as Abram embarked on a new beginning, so to must we if we are to have a relationship with the living God!

Jesus talks to Nicodemus, a teacher of the law, and we come to the famous passage in 3:4 “How can a man be born again. can he re-enter his mother’s womb?” He knew the answer, but had to ask.
Physical life requires a physical presence, which is birth a spiritual life requires as spiritual presence. One comes through the delivery suite and the other by water and the Spirit.
Just as some Jews were looking for physical signs to gain blessing (i.e. Work) so too were they expecting physical sign of the Messiah’s presence (ie. Conquest and freedom from occupation and oppression). But in both cases it is not the physical that has the importance but the spiritual.
Both the Pharisees and Sadducees were taken up with the physical act of worship and the thing of worship being visible, after all what power is there if it can’t be seen? What reward is there if the effect isn’t tangible?

Jesus speaks of the winds, unseen and yet its force and effect can be seen, its power tangible and it might and ability to move things (even houses – seen a tornado?) immense.
And so we have the amazing words of 3:16-17.

God sent Him into the world to save it, not condemn it, not to oppose those who sin but to heal them. God opposes the author of sin but seeks to bring freedom and healing to sinners! Not to condemn and write off but to save and redeem (literally to pay the price to set us free – the price tag being death. Christ’s death on a cross).

Are we ready to be people of faith, trusting in God rather than seeking to take up, or as it is Lent, put down?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Porn? Wouldn't give a XXX for it!

I see that ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)have approved a porn domain. It has been a long time since we had .com and suffixes and now added to the pile we are about to have .xxx as a domain for porn.

The battle by some groups to prevent what might be seen as a legitimisation of porn has been lost and yet many of those who publish the stuff are not that happy about the move either as they see in it the potential for their material to be 'ghettoised'.

Personally I would be happy to see this move as it has the potential for me to filter all .xxx content from our servers and browsers and it was also (hopefully) remove some of the material already out there from the mainstream domains. After all, those who seek porn will always find it and other than removing or restricting content, there's no way to limit it and so this is nor a bad outcome.

I meet people who are addicted to pornography and what they see begins to shape what they do (or want to do) and colours their attitudes to their partner (or partners) to the extent that it has destroyed marriages. The reality is that regardless of domain, nothing other than engagement, pastoral intervention and some firm talking is going to restrict the effect of porn. The fact that it is so easily found on the internet is not good or helpful, but is a mirror to the casual sex ridden, almost abusive society, we inhabit and this should motivate Christians to get involved in the area of relationships (how many do marriage courses for those before marriage and once they're married?).

So before people start throwing up their hands and moan that all is lost, let's ask ourselves (honestly) what we are doing to be engaged, to work in the area of educating people over the problems of porn and to (I know, I keep saying it) be the difference.

Too many people merely campaign and do nothing on the ground where the needs are - but that's not us, is it?


Friday, 18 March 2011

Harold Camping - Prophet or Prune?

Following on from one of the comments regarding the prophetic utterances of Harold Camping I thought I'd take a look at the man and see whether he's a force to be taken seriously or a foll who needs to be taken away and locked up.

Well, having read about him, I think he's well qualified to tell us when the rapture is going to happen, after all in 1992 he spake forth, saying:

“The results of this study indicate that the month of September of the year 1994 is to be the time for the end of history” (1994, New York: Vantage Press, p. 531).

He's appears to consider that “The work of the church is finished and that those who remain in the church, during the time of the on-coming “tribulation will be destroyed!" A further word of advice from the chap is that if you find a church where “It appears that each and every doctrine they hold is faithful to the Word of God, it should be avoided!" I find this odd as Jesus speaks of believers being one as He and the Father are one. This being one is called 'Church' and it seems to me that Harold is trying to pull this unity down by the application of a skewed mixture of OT Bible and eschatalogical witterings.

The more I read of the man, his words, and his predictions of the rapture the more I get the feeling that there is something awry with him and his teaching. He's into numerology (nothing wrong with that, it's cleaner and tidier than tea leaves), an inexact and pretty flawed practice when used to discern one's future.

He's also an annihilationist, which does away with the concept of hell (and so eternal separation from God for eternity goes out of the window) and therefore makes him just a little more suspect.

So, when all things are added together, my overall assessment is that he's a:

Mind you, if the Rapture does happens on the twenty-first of May, then I will of course be happy to reconsider that view!


Rapture Coming - Better cancel the holiday!

What a pain! I've been out and booked tickets for the theatre in August only to find that according to one person obviously in the know, Harold Camping, the rapture has been booked for Saturday, May 21st.

Now, not only does this mean that I'm not going to se the show but it also means holiday plans are scuppered too! Of course the reality is that we are called to live each day as if it were our last, something that few, even those for whom today is likely to be their last, seem to do.

So ignoring this wonderful prophetic prediction, I think we'd all be best employed sharing God's word and populating heaven, the stuff we're called to do.

Back to our fridge magnet, "Jesus is coming - look busy!"

Take your pick

He shall come like a thief in the night at a time unknown - or is this now defunct theology?


Going mad with the Colonel

No, not an invite to rush down to your local KFC but a reflection on the situation in Libya as morning breaks here in the UK.

Gaddafi has spoken of the amazingly quick (for them) and united (no veto from China, Russia and others who abstained) resolution to engage in 'no fly zones' and other involvement stopping short of boots on the ground. His assessment?
"The world has gone mad and we will go mad with them!"

France has said they will be involved 'in hours' and as measures are put in place to protect the people of Libya, we need to pray for this land and its inhabitants, for a balanced and measured intervention and when it's all done ask why the previous government of this land aided Gaddafi in financial, military and other ways.

I don't think the words used by a member of the previous government that spoke of "having to deal with people we would rather not," cut the ice. Libya were probably the greatest supplier of arms, ammunition and explosives to the IRA and the blood of British civilians and military personnel is on their hands.

Integrity and government - strange bedfellows indeed.


Ps. Looks like we can add Bahrain to the prayer list (along with Japan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria . . . Just pray for the world!)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Student Visas - babies and Bathwater

The ongoing debate about the government's intentions to tighten the regulations relating to student visas is a sad and sorry tale of knee-jerk versus commercial interests of academic institutions.

It wasn't that long ago that I would find myself visiting Lunar House, Wellesley Road, Croydon, home of the Immigration and Nationalisation department (IMD) to help students gain visas. This task also took me to a detention centre in Harmondsworth and various other sad places as those who had entered illegally or used bogus places of learning were caught up with and dealt with. As a minister in a place where many of them had become members I found that this was a sad and shady area of life.

The problem is that there are a number of places that support student visa applications and do ensure that the student attends for the required hours each week, but there are many where this is not the case. The problem is that whilst there is the opportunity for those who have studied here to take up post-qualification work experience there is also a sizeable number of people who come and vanish into the shady world of illegal employment and life as an illegal immigrant.

We operated a Bible school and as such were sponsors for many of those who came in. Sometimes those who were already in the country were required to leave for another nearby place (ie. France) where the visa application was made and usually permission was granted.

The problem is that I have met many who were illegally in the country and many more who had come in as students at places which neither intended to see their students do the minimum study hours or were even equipped or able to teach even if the people were there.

I understand the £40bn that the education trade is reported to bring in is an important part of our economy and the the £1.5bn that ESOL/EFL courses generate, along with the jobs in teaching and support, are also of great importance, but . . .

We need to ensure that those who come are indeed bona fide students and that those who offer courses are equipped to do so. Tightening up of regulations and monitoring the places and people who put on courses and attend them would be a good starting place.

there is a great danger that we will lose out in terms of money, technological and other advances (after all, many of those who will be targeted by the state are research students) and jobs.

Caution is always a good attribute. Caution and intelligence are even better - let's hope we see this issue sorted.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Wars, earthquakes and Famines

"Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come." Matthew 24: 4 - 8

Having read around I find people 'prophetically' (I'm sure this should be 'pathetically') telling us that God has revealed to them that the earthquake that has stricken Japan is God's revenge for:

1. Pearl Harbour,

2. Supporting the Palestinians,

3. Standing against, and criticising the israelis. And,

4. Being the most godless place on earth*

I have to say that I was surprised that Karaoke wasn't on the list, but perhaps other people enjoy talentless, tuneless renditions of popular songs (I know Vicars who sing them on Sundays too!).

In this, the first quarter of 2011 we have had

Earthquakes 8
6.9 Argentina (January 1)
5.2 - China (January 1)
7.1 - Chile (January 2)
7.0 - Argentina (January 3)
7.1 - Iran (January 3)
4.5 - California (January 12)
6.3 - New Zealand (February 21)
8.9 - Japan (March 11)

Floods 4
Australia (January 3)
Brazil (January 6)
Indonesia (January 12)
Japan (March 11)

Conflicts (loads)
Egypt - Yemen - Bahrain - Libya - Saudi (and many others, plus of course wars too!)

And then we have scores of stories about dead fish, birds falling to the ground, dead and other weird 'natural' ecological disasters.

Seem to me that rather than point the finger at God's wrath and judgment it might be more profitable to warn people that the sell by date on this planet is nearing its time!


* Japan-Israel Connection? Is Japan also still the most Godless Nation on earth? By Chris Moore:

Last Night before I slept, I asked myself was there some connection with Israel-anything we had missed-which might have triggered this earthquake at this time? I Wasn't Expecting the Lord to reply-I was just Curious - so what Came to me I presumed was my own Impression - Because Immediately on asking-I Felt a strong Impression coming to me.." Financial and Political" All I Knew was the next day I had to do a search..On waking I did this and found it Immediately - do and believe as you will with what I found -I thought it was Interesting! It might still have been my Impression? but what isn't or wasn't my Impression was the report below(below the first Link) which happened about 48 hours before the Earthquake.. (there is no doubt also that Japan has been called recently the most Godless Nation on earth according to A RECENT Readers digest Poll-the most Materialistic-UK was second on that list If You've Got Nothing Worth Dying For, You've Got Nothing ...

Japan - Judgement for opposing Israel?

I have just received an email which appears to state that the Earthquake in Japan is a direct result of that nation's support of Palestine. It's taken from something called the 'Daily Jot' and emantes from the pen of a chap by the name of 'Bill Wilson', A Christian journalist, professional writer, and commentator on current events relating to the relationship between the United States, Israel and Islam. Apparently he's available for bookings as a speaker (think I'll save my money and protect my sheep!

The item is entitled "more on the prophetic nature of Japan's earthquake" and it despite my misgivings shared in 'accentuate the positive', I offer this to you for your assessment (I might just be reading it wrong!):

"The full statement that Japan made on March 11, 2010--one year to the day before the earthquake--was: "The Government of Japan deplores the decisions of the Government of Israel to give per...mission for the construction of 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem in addition to 112 units in West Bank just after the Israeli and Palestinian leadership's acceptance of the start of indirect talks. The Government of Japan does not recognize any act that prejudges the final status of Jerusalem and the territories in the pre-1967 borders. Japan demands that the plans should not be implemented." The Daily Jot incorrectly stated previously that Japan had done this Friday, but there is much more.

On March 1 of this year the Palestinian National Authority announced that it had signed an agreement with Japan to provide $32.5 million for a project of treating waste water in the Palestinian-occupied town of Jericho. It was reported as one of the biggest projects aided by Japan in the Palestinian territories to supply industrial areas with water. The PNA noted in the announcement that since 1993, Japan had given the PNA more than a billion dollars, including $40 million in developing the Jordan Valley area in the West Bank. The PNA said that the agreement is "vita, strategic and important to help the PNA finalize building the institutions of the future Palestinian state."

Japan is instrumental in helping build out a Palestinian state on the West Bank (traditional lands of Judea and Samaria), yet is critical and demanding of Israel for building housing units for its own citizens. On January 11 this year, Japan's Foreign Ministry said it "condemns the demolishing of a part of the Shepherd's Hotel in East Jerusalem with a view to constructing new housing units for Jewish people." A month later on February 10, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Israel's plan to build housing unites for "Jewish people in Sheih Jarrah of East Jerusalem" is against efforts of the international community to resume peace negotiations. A month later, Japan is hit with a historic earthquake.

Daily Jot sources point out that the earthquake in Japan caused tsunami flooding in industrial areas, and the money Japan gave to the Palestinians was for wastewater treatment to supply water to industrial areas of a new Palestinian State. The United States also is guilty of giving billions of dollars to the Palestinians over the years. And the current US president is condemning the Israeli homebuilding as well. Keep in mind that Japan's fault-line is part of the infamous "ring of fire" where about 90% of the world's earthquakes occur. This includes the entire Pacific coast of America. Zechariah 2:8 says of Zion, "for he that touches you touches the apple of Lord's eye." Japan and America share the same "Fault" line. What is next?"

So, if I read this right, God has acted against the people of Japan because they have acted against Israel, the apple of 'God's eye'.

Sorry Bill, but you and I appear to have a very different God.

Europe - 'a pathetic and impotent' force

This is how Europe has been portrayed this morning.

Fearing that they might be drawn into a conflict in North Africa, many of the European nations are content to stand by and watch Gaddafi's forces use air power to suppress an uprising of the general populace against forty-one years of oppression. Talk of 'human shields' (a contravention of Article 51.7 which states that the presence of civilians "shall not be used to... shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations" require someone to act, but the weak and cowardly European forces fear another Iraq and so refrain from doing the right thing.

The bombing of civillians is prohibited (see articles 22 - 25 1923 draft rules on aerial warfare) and yet we see this taking place. Where there are combatants in places where non-engaged civilian populace is to be found, then the rule is that you don't bomb! But we stand by and watch, tutting and shaking our heads, yet do nothing in response.

I am all too aware that Gaddafi would make capital out of any incursion by Western forces, but with the call from the Arab League for a no fly zone we have had the opportunity to support the forces of nations surrounding Libya in imposing such a zone. Mind you, I recall that the same thing was in place for about a dozen years and that ended up with an invasion. But we are looking at minimising civilian casualties and not effecting regime change (another contravention of the conventions).

Obviously Russia and China will veto anything that sees people acting against the right of nations to do pretty much as they wish under the terms of local politics. Understandable perhaps given their amazing histories of human rights breaches themselves, after all they would want people to come a knocking either! But whilst we stand around, taking moral high ground and yet stopping short of doing anything about the situation.

To quote German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle: "We do not want to get sucked into a war in North Africa and we would not like to step on a slippery slope where we all are, at the end, in a war." Again, if action is carried out by the very member nations of the same Arab League Libya is a member of, the potential for escalation and claims of a Western invasion in search of Libya's oil would be hollow.

It is obvious that there is no political pressure that can be brought to bear on Libya, after all Gaddafi has stuck two fingers up against many of the Western world, funding, training and equipping terrorists and acting as it wants and the world has done nothing (except perhaps sell them arms!!). If these people are meant to be politicians, then they should exercise the abilities they have and if they can't then other means must be employed. The fear of being 'sucked into another war' is surely fallacious if the right means are engaged.

We don't want a war, and shouldn't engage in one, but how can we have any integrity when we (the world at large) shake our heads and yet do nothing?

And if we see Gaddafi quell the uprising against him and see him retain power, how many of those whose hands are stayed will be dealing (albeit perhaps secretly) because he has oil. Are we not in danger of (once more) rewarding evil?

All Member Ministry - 'free range'

One of the most interesting all member ministry models I come across is the 'free range' congregation model!

The members of the church, fellowship or gathering are encouraged to take up, and act upon, any project or activity that God lays on their hearts. All the members need to do is identify the need and full support is given.

At first hearing this sounds like the ultimate in laid back, facilitative leadership. Not a hint of top-down, Father knows best, leadership here. In fact there is in a 'worst case' model, sadly, little or no leadership present and what we really have is a form of anarchy. But it is popular anarchy in that it attracts people who have been subject to strong, firm or directive leadership in the past.

Where I encountered the worst example of this, the attitude was that if it was of God, it would fly, and if not then it would fall. The problem was that some fell because aside from good intentions there was little in the way of training, equipping or management from the dog-collar.

The church had a buzz to it and the people were all active and engaged and there were many success stories, but just as many failures (mainly untold) too! A great model if you have people who can withstand the pain of failing (although failing wasn't a problem here) and you can pay the parish share and afford the many projects.

A good model if there is lots of prayer, support for those engaging and a leadership with the mindset of venture capitalists. A dangerous model if you don't have a church full of professional or mildly able 'go getters' - can quickly turn into anarchy and it looks a lot like 'dangerous play' - but here we have always encouraged that as parents (with us safely waiting in the background).

With a good support structure and a balanced approach, this is a great model. Of course without management there is the danger of being subject to whims and knee-jerk responses and seeing the membership so stretched that in the end they achieve nothing and Implode (or melt away). Not permission for a dog-collar to do less but a challenge to be more engaged and active in a diverse manner.


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Accentuate the positive

Why is it that so many Christians spend all of their time going on about correcting the errors of others rather than accentuating and talking about the positive theology, lifestyles and attitudes that are out there?

I'm fed up to the my eye-teeth with reports of tattooed ex-biker's spouting tosh and 'big names' being berated for books and videos advertising same. I asked various people in our church what they though about Rob Bell and all of them remembered him don his white suit and embark on his clean-up campaign. Needless to say that this was martin Bell they were thinking of!

I was stopped by someone in town last week, they asked me what I thought of the dis-fellowshipping by Mike Bickle of someone or other (whom I'd never heard of) and had I heard about Paul Cain (a man I have met and know) and something or other.

I had to say that:

a. I hadn't,

b. I didn't want to,

c. It had no relevance to the work I am engaged in.

Odd that those in the church I belong to would have no idea about it either and that they would probably also answer a, b and c as I had.

A plea to those who are interested in the stuff, why not stop blogging the negatives and find positive stuff to blog? There must be so many sound people and the best way to publicise the Rob Bells of this world is to write about them endlessly, encouraging people to buy the books and watch the films so that they too can be appalled and take umbrage (others to take umbrage (or any other brown colouring) and mount their high horse to ride,cavalry-like, alongside them.

A little less cavalry and a little more calvary might be in order.

Now, who's writing good stuff, putting out some edifying videos and seeking to blees people with Biblical stuff?

All Member Ministry - Part the first

Following on from the 'Father knows best' model we are now residing in a period of glasnost whereby we enjoy the privilege and benefits of 'All Member Ministry' (AMM). This is the means by which the members of a fellowship, congregation or church are equipped, enabled and released to do the work of the Church.

Well, that's the theory anyway, but as is often the case, the reality is not always the same as what it says on the packet! Recently I have come across a few variations on the theme and thought I'd ponder them in this safe (ie. away from public gaze) place:

The Stage Manager

This appears to be the most common performance model in that the dog-collar has an idea about something that 'the church' could be engaged in and having investigated the needs, found a way to meet them and established a time and place to do the meeting of the needs takes it to the church council.

The church council, applaud loudly and approve the idea as sound and it is taken to the church with a communal sense of 'here we are, send them!'- a quote from Isaiah 6:8, Not Committed Version (NCV).

The church listens, rapt with concern and inspired to respond, as the needs of 'the lost' are paraded before them. They gasp with amazement at the ways the newly exposed needs might be met and praise God that the church will be making a difference where they are. Oddly, though, few come forward to volunteer their time and energies and those who do turn out to be the same people who are doing everything else. Still, the task is passed over to those who have volunteered and a few people are 'invited' to join in (this is a special dog-collar trick whereby people are given the job but the victim somehow feels they've invited!).

A first meeting is held and ideas (usually from the dog-collar or one of the over-committed) are batted around for a bit and the project is underway. A second meeting is held and ideas are batted around, people apologise for not having done the preparatory work, others apologise for the fact that they will be visiting family on the date set for the first iteration of the project and they agree to meet again. At a third meeting the dog-collar suggests a few things and tells the gathered group that the venue is set, the programme is set and all is in place for the first attempt at meeting whatever the need was when they first started planning.

On the day, the dog-collar and a few of the over-committed turn up and the first event takes place. It is a success (in the same way that there is no such thing as a bad parish weekend away) and the following Sunday the dog-collar parades 'the leader' (or even the team) and the assembled gathering applaud at what 'All Member Ministry' has achieved.

Content that the members now believe they have discovered, planned and executed a wonderful piece of work, the dog-collar applauds with the congregation, content that yet another piece of stage management has proved successful.

Those who get the applaud feel pleased and yet slightly confused that they are being recognised.

Those who were already over-committed realise that the applause signals even less time for themselves or their family (is it any wonder some kids rebel against the very same church that committed their parents energies away from them as kids?).

Those who are applauding really think that the church is 'active' and that the members are running the show.

Only the dog-collar, the gardener and the little house know the truth*


* If this sentence confuses you, it's a reference to Bill and Ben (the flowerpot Men!)

Monday, 14 March 2011

Japan - Making capital from disaster

I have been amazed at the way that various groups have sought to make capital out of the growing disaster that is the Japanese earthquake situation.

The prize today is awarded to the crass nuclear supporter who telephoned Radio Five to try and counter the equally naff green energy bloke. One was putting forward ideas about green 'safe' energy in the form of wind turbines, wave machines, hydro-electric dams and solar power whilst the other was asking silly-arse questions about the number of people who had died in pursuit of coal in the Chines coalfields each year. When the green protester couldn't answer, the "I design safe nuclear power stations' wally answered his own question! (What a plankton)

In return, Mr 'Green Energy' argued that nuclear energy wasn't safe and pointed to Chernobyl (1986), Three Mile Island (1979) and the like. Of course, having an earthquake wasn't the cause of either of these but why not expand the topic to cover the area we want to talk about?

Meanwhile, two thousand bodies have been washed up in the Myagi and the expectation is that there will be some ten thousand deaths from that area alone and the earthquake has caused around half a million displaced people. All this tragedy and then we find people using it to promote their often-well word arguments for and against nuclear power and more incredibly we find CBNC's financial pundit, Larry Kudlow, telling people that, "The human toll caused by the widespread death and destruction of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami was worse than the toll on the economy 'and we can be grateful for that!" Obviously he doesn't have an Japanese relatives!

Turn on the TV and you'll find the same pictures of exploding reactors, office workers rushing from a shaking building and a bloke sitting on the roof of his house as it floats away from Japanese shores. Not only that but there's the promise of being able to watch footage of the world crumbling for those who have survived if we stay tuned to their channel. Be the first to witness the destructive force of an aftershock which is expected by be around an eight on the Richter scale.

I tuned on to a Christian radio station to hear a woman switching her views about the earthquake being God's judgement on a fallen world and the birth pangs of the end-times.

What ever would we do if we couldn't have the odd tragedies to give us the ability to demonstrate the paucity of human nature, we'd have to go out and start a war somewhere!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Re Re-motivating Church

Following on from my post yesterday, and answering some of the points made regarding it, I thought I'd continue with it for a bit longer.

It has been pointed out that the church was active in this land when money was forthcoming from the endowments and the (not always popular) system of tithes, and this is true. Not only that, but the parishes were generally stable entities which meant that the people within were known.

This is a fair observation, but it was also a time when the church was acting out of a legacy of pastoral care too and this was more often than not funded by the 'ordinary' people even if the initial idea, funding and motivation came from the nobs or the clergy. When there was nothing else, the Church was generally all there was and reading on this area I find that some embrace their legacy cheerfully and looked for ways to be involved and engaged, some however discharged their duties legalistically and grudging. Obviously it is the former group I would like to see being revived. Wonderfully, I can see places where this is true.

The next consideration was that the clergy were part of the Oxbridge, ruling class which rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy and the gentry.

Not only that but it was a time when, "The church acted paternalistically, assuming that everyone should be grateful for their (sometimes grudging) favours, and when it acted triumphalistically, assuming an easy right to be involved in everything."

As Revsimmy words so rightly point out, the old days of 'first son inherits title, second son joins the army, third son goes into the church' have long gone. He also points out that the old system was such that many of those ordained in the recent past would never have been under the old 'ruling class' system. Which reminds me of an encounter when I was Potty training.

Our POT group was visiting and establishment when the Chief Executive brought an old chap in to meet us. It transpired that the old gentleman was a retired bishop. After a few niceties and introduction he said something along the lines of, "Well done for getting ordained. So and so has just taken over my old diocese, the son of N you know. People think that we're letting anyone in you know, but the CofE is still one of the greatest gentlemen's clubs in the world!"

Appalled? We were!!!

I am glad we have opened the doors to those who seek ministry and am glad we have lost the 'Conservative party at prayer' label, but do fear that we are perhaps heading towards being the "Trendy, New Labour Party at prayer," instead. Still, back to the topic in hand.

RevSimmy continues, "I'm afraid I don't share the rose-tinted view of the past that some seem to have. The church squandered its opportunities because it spent too much effort cosying up to those in power at the time and has still not properly adjusted to our late/post-modern times. I for one am thankful for the welfare state .. and do we want to return to the attitudes of Father/Parson knows best?"

I also meet many who long for the good old days when we were all and everything, when the Vicar was also a member of the ruling or gentrified classes and the people knew their place. But I am not one of those, thankfully, but one who sees that the heritage we have walked away from (for it was just taken, the church volunteered it) perhaps all but gone. Yet the 'Big Society' and the chaos caused by the greed of those looking to make a quick and easy profit, the naivety of the bankers (who thought it could just keep on going upwards) and the ineptitude of the government (Labour as incumbents and Tories because they helped set the condition for the banking crisis) give us one last chance to regain some of the ground.

Where I am, I see Christians responding to need through a variety of works and we come alongside those with addictions , pregnancy issues and soon to come, a foodbank too! The Church needs to be doing the same, and the time has never been better - we just need to get people out of the church buildings and into the community!

Like UKViewer, I don't see the church can become what it once was in some places like the East End in the last century, but this is more about demographics and the people groups who now populace those parts rather than the effectiveness or opportunities. We have the opportunity, and are taking it,to be the voice of concern and care in our inner-city areas. The 'Big Society' will only increase the potential.

The welfare state, although coming from altruistic motives, has in many ways begun to mirror what happened when the Church was the welfare state and this is perhaps another benefit of the current cash crisis in that it will see itself de-institutionalised and the opportunities for Multi Agency Groups (MAGs) with Church leadership (or involvement) will be the turning point of a sound and financially effective response to this nation's needs.

When UKV says, "In these days of less stipendiary ministers and falling incomes, I don't see the church doing that much more than it is managing now. I would love to see it differently, but I sense that I would have to a wild optimist to believe that this situation will improve in the short or medium term."

Where I am, I am seeing those who have retired taking the lead and the ministers, whilst active (well, some of them!) the lead is the members. This is what gives me such hope for the future.

So, what are the needs where we are? What is being lost due to cuts and how can the Church (that means churches) respond and meet those needs?


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Re-motivating the Church

Many years back I was very taken by the words of O. Hobart Mowrer who, speaking of the rise in the practice of psychiatry and the resultant diminishing of pastoral ministry within a Church setting said that. "The Church has sold its pastoral birthright for a mess of psychological potage!"

well, here in the UK the Church has, over the years, handed over its pastoral birthright for a mess of social state potage.

Where once the Church was found in the area of health care provision it has permitted itself to be handed a diminishing role. Gone are the days when an Almoner would collate the names of those within their hospital walls and contact the relevant ministers to tell them which members of their flock were residing within or, as retold by an ageing cleric, communion would be taken from ward to ward in procession of student nurse, Matron and Vicar.

Where once clergy, in consort with the local GP, were the primary care source for all ills, mental, marital, familial and beyond, now we have overworked social workers with heavy caseloads, targets, performance indicators and a terminal fear of being found wanting. The privilege of 'A Parson in every parish' meant that the god-collar knew the people in their patch and provided a system of care based on knowledge and the history of both sufferer and their families.

These are but two of the many symptoms that defines a Church which, having entered into a terminal illness, has been content to see surrogates come and perform the necessary tasks around them. It marks the passage of a time when being a dog-collar was all about being in and around the parish, visiting and drinking tea, riding a bicycle around your patch and doing little paperwork. Halcyon days indeed when targets, quotas, parish share and the like were nowhere to be seen and the only gauge of performance was the esteem and well-being present in those who inhabited your patch.

Money is tight and budgets are increasing being cut, or even removed completely, and the many organisations and charities that once lived through the generosity of the collecting tin have found that the selling out of their original (Christian) aims and going for project funding is perhaps going to be the very thing that signals their demise. Of course, the fact is that they are now secular organisations and there is no way back into their Christian origins either organisationally or in the members of staff that they employ.

This week a radio new item featured a man who had told the project workers on the various social projects that they were funded to provide that they were not having their project-funding renewed. Not only were they going, but the tasks that they have been employed to do were going to be dropped as there was no money to buy-in and no staff to transfer into the work.

A course I did last year, alongside a number of project workers from one of the charities, led to me realising that the organisation went from project to project as the funding was available. There was no consistency and to be honest the degree of cynicism and the extent to which money was wasted left me saddened and frustrated. From laudable Christian origins I saw an organisation which was about continuing to receive funding and keep staff in work rather than the original ideals. Now, the money has gone and I see the organisation effectively prostituting itself, doing anything to keep the organisation going, regardless of the role or the morality!

It is time to re-motivate the Church. To bring about another Evangelical revival and get Church fully active in the social, welfare and health arenas.

Come on guys, there's a world to be won and saved out there, come and join us and be Christ to our nation!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Church of Dreams - If you build it, they will . . .


Just had an interesting conversation with someone regarding Church growth and building church. They started developing areas of ministry which brought together both church and community assuming that as they did people would get excited about the engagement and come rushing in to be part. In fact what happened was people stood on the sidelines and applauded loudly while pointing out further areas with potential for engagement.

Leaning heavily upon 'Field of Dreams' (neatly summed up on the Japanese DVD cover as 'man builds baseball field and meets dead father') this person assumed that if they built the ministry areas then people would indeed come, just like the film. Of course they forgot that the people did indeed come, but they came as spectators, not players - the players were the dead guys!

So, perhaps a good piece of advice from a missioner perspective here - perhaps the key is to get them to build it?

This is an area I will have to go away and think about a bit = but thought I'd let you share the experience with me.

Perhaps we need to change it to, "If you build it, they will come . . . and watch!"


Should Christians be treated differently?

BBC Radio Four started a stimulating discussion regarding whether Christians should be treated differently. As Christians are being marginalised and even 'acted against' it would perhaps be sensible to engage in some form of positive discrimination.

So should Christians be treated differently?

Simply, the answer has to be a resounding 'No' for a number of reasons:

+ Christians shouldn't be treated prejudicially (positively or negatively) but should be treated exactly the same way as everyone else. In fact the real issue is that, within a secular setting, all are (and should be) recipients of the same rights and privileges and are also bound by the same responsibilities. To argue that any group is a special case is to argue that it is acceptable for others to be less than equal. This contravenes the Christian message and destroys democracy rather than enhance it!

+ It is hypocrisy on the part of any group who cry out to be afforded special treatment for that same group to then discriminate, or act against others, because of this special consideration. Read some of the Christian websites and blogs and you will find people screaming at the treatment of Christians at the hands of certain minority groups. The reality is that these groups have been afforded special rights and protection societally and in law, and use this position to erode the land upon which those who oppose their lifestyles, attitudes or philosophies, stand. To claim 'equal rights' means that all have equal rights. What many of these groups seek, and are given, is in fact 'unequal rights!'

+ To quote that great source of philosophical consideration, 'The Incredibles', "When everyone is super, no one will be super!" If all are granted equal status in our society, then what makes any group special, worthy or valid is not the rights they enjoy but the responsibilities that they exhibit.

Those people who want Christianity and Christians to have a special place in the life and working of our society have to get out of their pathetically closed little groups and get out there and 'be the difference'. The many people I meet who hide behind their church doors and complain that no one comes in need to get of their bottoms and get out into the community their church is meant to serve and started serving it! Those who cry that they are under siege from the naughty people, the atheists, the liberals, humanists and any other group who might be the bogyman for you, need to get out more and take the Gospel with them.

We will be treated differently as Christians because we are called to be counter-cultural. That is that we continue upholding truth, good and God even though the asylum that is our society picks up more and more excesses and thinks up even more ways to damage itself morally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

We should be treated differently from the rest of the world, because we are different but this doesn't mean that we should be afforded any less rights or have a diminished voice or be acted against because of it. Whatever next, they'll be wanting to crucify us!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Premiership - Final Table?

Not sure whether this will confirm status as a prophet for the originator, but I loved this thought of what the last day of the Premiership might look like:

Amazing what a computer-driven form generator can do, isn't it?