Thursday, 26 March 2009

John "Roaring Rogers " Puritan lecturer of Dedham

I have visited Dedham many times. I love the Constable Country. I enjoy prayerwalking along the footpaths by the River Stour. It is a designated area of natural beauty. The architecture of Dedham is delightful and "there is little that offends the eye". The parish church of St Mary deserves a lengthy visit. The view from the church tower is spectacular. Ask George, the verger, for details of tower tours etc.

During the 17th century St Mary's Church was the centre of a puritan revival under the ministry of a great preacher. The Reverend John Rogers was not the vicar, as some scholars have believed. He was the lecturer.

John Rogers preached powerfully from the pulpit, and on market days he proclaimed the Gospel from the small tower by the muniment room. Thousands listened to his sermons. On one occasion a bishop was unable to obtain any transport because so many people had arranged to go to Dedham to hear "Roaring Rogers".

JR loved God's Word and faithfully handled the wonderful truths until 16??. See if you can find out when. His son went to New England and exercised a preaching ministry in the 17th century.
JR's uncle was the lecturer of Wethersfield, Essex, which was place of Puritan theological education up to 1662.

John Rogers' grave is outside the church on the north side of the sanctuary wall. There is a bust in his honour to the left of the altar rail.  I intend to write much more about Roaring Rogers of Dedham.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

St Francis Hospice, Havering atte Bower

I am enormously impressed by St Francis Hospice. The staff and volunteers do such valuable work in a loving and caring environment. The buildings, gardens, facilities and fabric are beautiful, and so is the view to the south, when the conditions are right, across the Thames to the Kent countryside. On a clear day I can see for miles from the SFH gates.

I love the decor of the day room area. It is so good that folk with a very limited life expectancy can come to a lovely environment to spend their last days.

I am glad that more funds and support have come to this important place. It is a place that deserves investment of time, money, effort and wisdom. When folk there are so needy and ill, it is good to know that there are people who really care and provide a remarkable place for them to die with dignity and loving kindness. Life is fragile; handle it with prayer.

St Francis Hospice makes me proud to be a resident of the London Borough of Havering.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The joy, presence and peace of the Lord

When a person becomes a true Christian then God in Christ by a work of the Holy Spirit enters their life. It becomes, or it should become, an abundant life. It is a taste of eternity and a glorious experience of the living God. Hallelujah. Men, women, boys and girls can have a personal relationship with the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God leaves His mark on a person's life and there is evidence that God has touched them. He crown our lives. Surely goodness and mercy/loving kindness/grace will follow us all the days of our lives. There is, at the outset, true repentance, conversion, new life ushering in a new hope. Some doubt it and others are indifferent to the life of faith, but once truly experienced then there is joy, peace and the reality of God's presence. It may seem like wishful thinking to some sceptics and agnostics, but it is a wonderful adventure in faith.

In His presence there is fullness of joy, joy unspeakable. It is not shallow worldly happiness, but joy in wellbeing, joy in an intimate relationship with God, joy in the shalom of God.

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Sadly some never receive this glorious gift of God.
Grace is amazing. It touches body, mind/personality and inner spirit, the spiritual recesses of a person. Some lack assurance of salvation and God's love for them in Christ Jesus. Providence and the provision of faith are mysterious and hidden by God in His elective purposes. We cannot fully comprehend the way God's grace, salvation, sanctification and calling operate. His ways are not our ways. God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. What a privilege it is to know that He grants us good gifts and helps us to enjoy His presence and His peace, deep inner peace in our souls. It is the peace of God that passes understanding.

The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.


Saturday, 14 March 2009

Great Gospel verses - I Thessalonians 5:8-11

8ημεις δε ημερας οντες νηφωμεν ενδυσαμενοι θωρακα πιστεως και αγαπης και περικεφαλαιαν ελπιδα σωτηριας

But we who are of the day, let us be sober putting on the breastplate of faith and love with the hope of salvation as a helmet

9οτι ουκ εθετο ημας ο θεος εις οργην αλλα εις περιποιησιν σωτηριας δια του κυριου ημων ιησου [χριστου]

For God did not appoint us to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ

10του αποθανοντος περι ημων ινα ειτε γρηγορωμεν ειτε καθευδωμεν αμα συν αυτω ζησωμεν

who died for us in order that whether we are wide awake or fast asleep, we should live with Him

11διο παρακαλειτε αλληλους και οικοδομειτε εις τον ενα καθως και ποιειτε

Therefore encourage one another and build yourselves up, just as you are doing.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Zimbabwe - from bread basket to basket case

Zimbabwe's catastrophic collapse is accelatering. A twenty billion dollar bill from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will not buy you a loaf of bread. It is worth about as much as Monopoly money.
There are massive electricity power failures, a breakdown of water services, cholera outbreaks and
woeful shortages in medical supplies. When aid is sent into the country it is subject to demands for money and back-handers. Corruption is rife. As Mugabe's ZANU dictatorship continues to fail its people so spectacularly, Christian workers and missionary organizations are stepping in to help a needy population.

Let us pray for justice, wisdom and truth to prevail. The blood of many Zimbabeweans is on Mugabe's hands.

For further information about Christian missionary work in Zimbabwe, please see

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Beyond the Rat Race - further thoughts

Here is a tale based on an anecdote in Art Gish's book.

An American financial adviser on holiday, or should I say vacation, was on a beautiful island. There he met a local fisherman relaxing on the beach. They discussed the fine weather and lovely scenery. The American told the local man that he was working long hours and saving hard so that he could live in this sort of place. He loved fishing, spending time leisurely on the beach and swimming in the sea. He sold insurance policies and advised on various savings plans. He asked if the man was interested in insurance or savings plans. The man said he was not in the least interested.

"Is that wise? Surely you want to be able to plan for the future so that you can be like me and live leisurely on the beach, swim and fish," asked the American.

The local man scratched his head and declared, " But that's what I do now!"

Monday, 9 March 2009

Beyond the Rat Race - theological reflections on Art Gish's teaching

Art Gish's Beyond the Rat Race published in 1973 is a very challenging book. It still provides a tremendously powerful critique of our materialistic, spiritually bankrupt and increasingly secular society that serves mammon and actually enslaves people in debt, greed and the poverty of affluence. His book is really asking us the question posed by Amos, "What does the Lord require of you?" It is an invitation to take on simplicity as a lifestyle.

Gish gives us some great advice which is so very relevant to people living on reduced incomes in the times of the "credit crunch". Reading his book again in the 21st century brings new challenges and fresh insights. I am on a journey to live a simpler lifestyle. I can appreciate that the more we free ourselves from unnecessary clutter, the richer our lives become. There is an impoverishment in worldly affluence, self indulgence, greed and selfish consumerism. Embracing a simpler, more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible lifesyle brings many benefits.

Some of the comments in the first part of the book may seem a bit banal and silly, but this book is worth reading to the end. It has controversial teaching, pithy sayings and memorable anecdotes. He even argues that wealth is theft, which is not really biblical, but he has a heart for the poor and wishes to help the needy. Gish contends that "One cannot be wealthy without stealing from others." Is this true of Abraham, Joseph and Solomon? AG probably does not know of dear Christian people who use their income wisely, and manage to create wealth and well being through their generosity. Art Gish is a man of peace and integrity. He is well known for his pacifist convictions.

Gish advises us to spend less and enjoy more in life. He advocates that Christians should work towards a caring, sharing community. Community is a natural outworking of the Christian vision.
He maintains that bourgeois American lifestyle is incompatible with following Jesus; we should not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of our minds, as taught in Romans 12:2.

Since the days of Mrs Thatcher, we in the UK have taken on targets to achieve economy, efficiency and effectiveness but we have neglected ethics. It is more blessed to give than to receive, but our whole worldly wise society wants to grab rather than to give. People may have material riches but also spiritual impoverishment.

Applying Gish's teaching may be hard and almost impossible for some Christians caught up in the health and wealth, Word of Faith theology, but it would be a powerful witness in a needy and greedy world. We live in a society that is all at sea in times of economic uncertainty and spiritual turmoil. Will a simpler lifestyle help us to reach the lost? Art Gish certainly believes so.


River Stour