Sunday, 30 May 2010

Immigration: when you're a guest you should behave yourself

When in Rome, you do as the Romans.  When in England you can behave badly.  And sadly HM prisons have accommodated plenty of guests that have really misbehaved themselves. And I should know because I once worked for the Ministry of Justice.  Researching for my dissertation on Alpha in Prisons and when leading services in a local prison, I certainly met plenty of guests from beyond these shores!  On one occasion a group of non-Christians from another religion took pleasure in disrupting the morning service.  It would have been better for them to be elsewhere.  Perhaps back in their own country.

Update 1 June 2010

I understand that the number of foreign nationals in our prisons is approaching 12,000 inmates. On the watch of Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, was the reported failure to deport many of these guests.  Her annual salary is said to be, mentioned in today's The Independent, £209,999.  Now that may not be good value for money,  or a good example of efficiency, economy and effectiveness. I wonder if this high figure of nearly 12,000 inmates will be reduced significantly over the next financial year.  Will Lin be getting a well earned productivity payment based on meeting objectives to reduce this woeful figure?

James Hall apparently earns the same amount for his work as chief executive of the Passport and Identity Service.  The expensive cancellation of the proposed launch of the national identity card scheme now falls on his watch.   How much will the dismantling of this much hyped scheme cost the UK tax payer?

English football hooligans will probably disgrace themselves during the FIFA World Cups finals in South Africa.  It has been said that these thugs behave worse than animals.  That's just not true at all?  Police dogs and horses are really well behaved and don't disgrace themselves, although some horses do leave good manure at the scene.  Their mess can do a lot more good than the mess left by our vandals, louts and yobs wearing England shirts and clothing.  Shame on them!  They should be forced to clean up their mess and clear up the horse dung.

Update 6 June 2010

It will be interesting to know how much will be spent on sending police officers to South Africa in order to monitor and assist in the policing of our violent football hooligans, the unacceptable side of the beautiful game and a dreadful UK export. Are these modern day vandals, as they are called, lumpenproles or victims of our spiritually bankrupt society?  Discuss this disgusting situation.

Race Relations

I have often thought long and hard about race relations and immigration.  With my name and working in the Home Office for many years, race relations have been an important topic.  Obviously I am firmly against race hatred.  Some have said that RACE is an enigma.  To some it is a problem that will always be with us, like poverty, crime and injustice. Others rejoice in racial diversity and do not see it as important at all. It's a fact of life that different people from many cultures, creeds, colours and communities will move across national boundaries and settle all over the world.  There is one race, the human race.  Christians are all one in Christ Jesus, irrespective of their class, clan, colour, community origin, and culture.

Not all cultures and creeds are of equal value and worth.  You may wish to challenge that statement. But would you say then that a Nazi culture and creed is of equal value to the Christian faith, culture and way of life?  Would you say that a person who follows black magic and practises witchcraft is on the same footing as a holy man of God?  Would you esteem a greedy, dishonest, power hungry and unscrupulous follower of Machiavelli in the same light as a humble follower of Jesus?  Of course not.

Sometimes people are racist and do not realize it.  I remember reading an interview of an Afro Caribbean civil servant in a Home Office news magazine.  This young man, working in an area of race relations, said that if he did not work for the Home Office then he would work only for an organization for black people and them alone.  Imagine the outcry if someone said that if they did not work for the Home Office then they would work only for an organization exclusively for white people.

Once in a Christian fellowship meeting one Afro Caribbean lady prayed that the time would come when the majority of the Home Office senior management board would be black.  Is not that a form of racism?  Some would argue that racism only counts when the black people are disadvantaged or grieved.

We all have blind spots and we must endeavour to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our minds so that we do not conform to worldly and godless thinking.  Our minds need to be renewed in Christ Jesus, for we Christians have the mind of Christ.
τις γαρ εγνω νουν κυριου ος συμβιβασει αυτον ημεις δε νουν χριστου εχομεν  1 Cor 2:16.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

North Korea, a prison state that persecutes pastors and preachers

There is currently grave concern about North Korea.  We have read about its belligerence.  Governments know about its bad track record with regard to human rights.  Christian organizations are aware of North Korea's woeful treatment of Church leaders and active believers, who have been imprisoned and denied justice. There is considerable evidence of persecution and harsh punishment of Christians, God's servants who minister grace, love and truth through Jesus Christ.  The North Korean state sees these fine people as criminals and a threat.
The real crime comes from the spiritually bankrupt government.  Government leaders have acted like political gangsters; it is criminal how they have treated their own people.  They have kept them in a prison state where freedom and dignity are set aside.  What a sad, depressing place to live.  I wonder how many want to leave and defect to democratic countries. How many will quit North Korea after the World Cup football finals, in South Africa, when they realize that a better life lies beyond their motherland?

Update Thursday 27 May 2010

A leader comment in The Times make a very good but sad point today: ... a brutal and bellicose regime keeps a populace in permanent, paranoid, xenophobic, famished, diseased and terrified ignorance.

Let's pray for the persecuted Church leaders, who desperately need our help in their struggle to survive and live peacefully and freely in such a miserable country.

Saturday 29 May

Christian Solidarity Worldwide is working hard to support and assist needy Christians in lands where they are persecuted and imprisoned.  Please see

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Pentecost Celebration in Romford Market, London Borough of Havering

This afternoon Christians in Havering celebrated the birthday of the Church universal, the global Christian fellowship.  On the day of Pentecost, after the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit came in power and majesty upon the disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem.  The event is clearly described by Luke in the book of The Acts of the Apostles, chapter two.

I have attached some photographs of this joyful celebration of the Day of Pentecost, on this very warm May afternoon.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

NATO in Afghanistan?

Yes, NATO (OTAN en francais) is active in Afghanistan. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Organisation du Traite de l'Atlantique de Nord) is helping forces fight against the Taliban threat and counter insurgency.  Now my knowledge of geography is good. And the North Atlantic is a long, long way from Afghanistan!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Love, the most excellent way

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, even being able to translate Russian at meetings, but don't have love, then I have become a noisy gong and clattering cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, even getting a Cambridge PhD; and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains and those who oppose me and challenge my inflated ego so that I act like a great dementor, but don't have love, then I'm nothing.

And if I give away all my possessions to the poor and if I give up my body through hard work and much effort to be burned, and if I reach high levels of senior management, and if I win tennis tournaments,  but don't have love, it gains me nothing.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love does not brag or boast and is not arrogant.
Love does not act rudely.
Love is not self seeking.
Love is not easily angered.
Love does not keep a record of wrongs; it does not store them in a black book or secret file.
Love does not take delight in evil or when bad things happen to enemies. Love shows mercy and kindness to  foes.
Love rejoices in what is right.
Love bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things.

Love never fails.

Love covers a multitude of sins.

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A Leisurely Luncheon in Lovely Lavenham

Yesterday I enjoyed a very long luncheon in Lavenham at the Swan Hotel Restaurant, which has two AA rosettes and serves excellent food. Delicious! The Swan is steeped in history, as is the town of Lavenham, Suffolk.  Some of you may know it from the Lovejoy television series (starring Ian McShane, Dudley Sutton, Phyllis Logan, et al.) or perhaps the film Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General (starring Vincent Price, Rupert Davies, Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer, and Nicky Henson). Others may know it for its quaint buildings and the magnificent Guildhall now in the care of the National Trust.  If you love medieval timber framed buildings then Lavenham is the place to visit.  Then there is the wonderful "Wool Church" of St Peter and St Paul.  Great architecture. It was originally built with funds raised by the prosperous local merchants, whose fine houses still survive today in various forms and guises.

Sadly there is no longer a railway station nearby and parked cars spoil the central square. But Lavenham continues to charm the many visitors that come again and again. I'm one of them.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Well done England, worthy winners of the World Cricket Twenty 20 title in Barbados

Playing at a consistently high standard, the England Cricket team won the final of the Twenty 20 World competition by beating Australia by seven wickets.  The Aussies were restricted to 147 for six wickets against an on form English attack, which was aided by disciplined teamwork and first rate application by the England XI.

Delightful day out in Dedham Vale: Constable Country Prayerwalk

Yesterday three men and a dog went to Dedham Vale.  It was a lovely May day, despite some chilly winds, passing dark clouds and a much slower than usual pace.  I took too much with me.  I was burdened as Bunyan's Pilgrim in the early part of his journey. My fellow intercessors helped me from time to time.  I hope they enjoyed the Bible readings, the flute music (Tic, the dog, didn't judging by his barks),

the many photographic adventures and above all the fellowship with the Lord and with one another in prayer, pilgrimage and pleasant paths through pastoral places.  Yes, I like a bit of alliteration.

Friday, 14 May 2010

What's with the asparagus?

The other day (early May) she who must be obeyed, her indoors etc. was reading about asparagus in a magazine published by Sainsbury's supermarket.  It said how great our British asparagus was, arguably the best in the world. And now it's the English asparagus season.

So we went down to the local Sainsbury's and bought a lot of asparagus.  We like it. And where did it come from?  Lincolnshire? No. Northamptonshire? No. Somewhere in the East Midlands? No. Somewhere in Eastern England? No.  The Vales of Evesham? No. Somewhere in England? No.  Britain? No. Great Britain? No.  Europe? No.

It came from PERU!  Well Paddington Bear should be pleased.

Rejoice Roy, Premiership Manager of the Year!

Well done Roy! You have done such a great job at Fulham, taking them to the final of the Europa Cup.  With a limited budget and some very good but not brillant players, you have performed wonders. Some would say miracles. Fulham played so well to be denied in the final moments of extra time, which was heart breaking for you.

I was touched to see you at the post match interview.  You have graced the game with your humility and heart felt love for the beautiful game. Fulham played crisp, clean football.  I sincerely hope you see some silverware soon, and I'm a Tottenham supporter who thought Harry would win the award for top manager.

Roy, you deserve to be knighted!  Arise, Sir Roy?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A game too far for brave Fulham

Roy Hodgson's boys should be proud of their fine performances in the Europa League, which sadly ended in tears tonight for the valiant team from the banks of the Thames, south west London.  London's oldest top flight club played very well and were defeated in the last moments of extra time.  Tired legs and minds fought magnificently.  The game was finally won for Athletico Madrid by Diego Forlan, a Manchester United reject who has plagued both Liverpool and now Fulham in this football competition.   Visions of Forlan removing his shirt to celebrate his killer goals will haunt English fans for years. He has been able to pop up at the crucial moment and win key games.  Forlan was not a prolific goal scorer for Manchester United, but he now enjoys hero status among Athletico's supporters; they have been so long in the shadow of the mightly Real Madrid.  Let's give Athletico credit for the success they achieved in Hamburg today. Bravo Athletico!

Theology must always precede mission, never vice versa

At the Baptist Assembly in Plymouth, earlier this month, one of the "top table" leaders said that mission precedes theology; mission is messy. We can work out our theology later!???  This seems to me to be a dangerous teaching. It may lead to serious communication problems, especially later down the line.

In the New Testament, the early church Christians preached the Gospel.  Their theology was established  by the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ and then expressed as a result of the Apostles' teaching.  It is clear that this infant faith community spent time learning from the Apostles who had been given the responsibility of proclaiming the authentic message of Christ Jesus the Lord.  The Apostles had been with Jesus, lived in His presence, seen His miracles, worked with Him in mission and had been given the greatest theological education possible.

When the early Christian church moved forward in mission and saw mighty works of the Holy Spirit and many finding salvation in their Risen Lord, they were able to communicate the Gospel clearly and effectively.  Yes, it may have been messy at times.  Some of them may have been unclear about certain theological positions, but nevertheless they shared a message that was grounded in sound theology, sound teaching, sound words about the Kingdom of God and life eternal in Christ Jesus.  If they had proceeded with a faulty theology and false teaching then heresy would have happened.

When Peter called the Jewish people to repent and be baptized, his message made sense because the people understood what he was saying based on certain doctrine or sound theology.  They could respond to what was taught and explained.  It has an Old Testament theological basis with a New Testament meaning by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter revealed truth in the Truth.

Sound theology must always precede mission.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Hung Parliament hangs in balances and is found wanting?

In the UK today we see new ground being ploughed.  We are a divided country and not of one mind and heart to face the economic hardships ahead.  People and political parties are pulling in different directions.  In Scotland there is hardly a Conservative seat in the House of Commons.  In the Home Counties there is a complete lack of confidence in New Labour.  The Liberals are only strong in various pockets, such as the West Country and the Scottish Highlands but not the Hebridean Islands.

We must pray that in the days ahead the British people will unite against dark social forces (terrorism and violence) and hostile economic times of uncertainty.  The electorate has spoken against the greedy politicians who scandalized the nation over expenses and bogus claims for second homes/mortgages etc.

We must pray for greater transparency, accountability and integrity.  By their fruits we shall know them.  Discernment by Christian leaders is now crucial.  We have to step up, raise our game and speak out against false prophets and false profits.

Prayerwalking again

It's great to be in England now that Spring is here.  Longer and warmer days are at hand.  This Saturday I'm involved with the annual prayerwalk in the Constable Country.  It is always (D.V.) on the third Saturday of May, even if there is a key football match then.  It starts at 10.30 a.m. (BST) and finishes at around 5 p.m. (17.00 hours BST).  We meet at the war memorial in Royal Square, Dedham and end by Dedham bridge, having walked to Langham, Stratford St. Mary, East Bergholt (sometimes by Flatford Mill) and then along the River Stour back to Dedham.  We generally park our cars in the large Dedham car park or the car park just by Dedham bridge.  (I used to park by the war memorial but parking restrictions and the volume of cars now make it difficult.)

This year Tic, an Old English sheepdog, may be making an appearance.  I understand that he has been recently shorn.

16/5/10 Apologies to Tic for misspelling his name in earlier versions of this post.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Come on you Spurs!

When I heard that Tottenham were two nil up at Burnley, I thought that another victory by the original and true North London team was imminent.  It was a shock for me to discover that my beloved Spurs were defeated by relegation and Championship bound Burnley. Were Spurs tired?  Was it fixed? Did complacency set in?  These questions came rapidly into my mind. Somebody no doubt made some money at the bookmakers. Did it look like a thrown game? Well, you may think that, but, I don't believe it.

Harry's boys will have to play with greater consistency and remove the defensive frailties if Tottenham are to progress in the Champions League.  It's a pity that Ledley King or Ledley, King of defenders, will not be available on a much more regular basis.  He has a serious knee problem and Spurs need King Ledley to tighten the defence.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Plymouth pleasures at the Baptist Assembly 2010

I've just returned from a long weekend in Plymouth where I attended the Baptist Assembly.

I kept a journal of my experiences, took many photographs and camcorder videos, which I may upload on YouTube.  I need to check the copyright and permission issues for some of the filmed performances.

It was good to meet old friends again, like Doug and Debbie Benn, Joel Edwards, Dr and Mrs Tidball, Helen Dare (nee Reynolds), Dr Pat Took and Paul Merton (no, not the comedian!) to name just a few.  The LBC/LST Baptist fellowship meeting was memorable.

The seminars were stimulating and thought provoking.  We had some outstanding speakers who managed to connect with the audience.

We were spoilt for choice and the various locations meant that we had plenty of exercise moving from place to place, rather than sitting for hours in one place.  This helped me to discover more places in Plymouth.  I'm fitter as a result of the walking around from seminar to seminar, plus attending two college reunion meetings.

I did enjoy my time at the Assembly and visiting Plymouth City Centre, which has changed a lot since I first saw it in the 1960s.

The final service is always special.  It is a time to draw closer to the Lord in holy communion. The last message was, on reflection, disappointing as it seemed to me to be toned down prosperity preaching  (preaching about success and glory but without calling for true repentance), but I don't want to appear negative.  There were so many uplifting moments and challenging messages, evidence of great creativity and divinely inspired spiritual enterprise.  Jesus was glorified.  Praise Him.

Please watch this space for more reflections on the Baptist Assembly 2010.  You may find my YouTube channel interesting.


River Stour