Sunday, 29 July 2012

Endgame for the House of Assad

Despite heavy weaponry and powerful friends, the House of Assad is making a brutal last stand.  The repressive regime is in its death throes.  The current edition of The Economist proclaims that it is the endgame for Bashar al Assad.  Evidence of his crimes against the Syrian people are being documented at this  terrible time in the history of Syria. Some opposition activists are calling for his removal, for criminal charges to be brought against him and for Bashar al Assad to be tried for crimes against humanity.  He is held responsible for so much bloodshed, brutality and bad leadership. Such iniquity has been carried out by his supporters.

 I expect him to come up with various lame excuses when he is eventually removed, if he manages to survive the wrath of so many opponents. Assad may, one day, complain about being badly advised. He might believe that he misunderstood the situation and did what he considered was the best way forward for the country. But there seems to be a real chance that Bashar al Assad could go the way of Mussolini and Gaddafy, dying at the hands of an angry mob. Perhaps he will go the way of Saddam Hussein, but whatever eventually happens Assad's day are numbered.  He has been weighed in the balances and found wanting.  He is a wanted man and may shortly be on the run.  His rule will come to an end, and he will face the wrath of God and the Syrian people for his evil ways.

I pray for peace for Syria, and that means that Bashar al Assad must be removed from power.  He and fellow leaders should be put on trial, to be held accountable for their heinous crimes.

Terrible times are ahead for the suffering Syrian people. The future looks very bleak indeed.  It will takes years to rebuilt and restore the devastated areas of conflict.  The grief and the bitterness will linger on.
Damascus, a great and beautiful historic city, has become a war zone experiencing dreadful destruction and chaos.  Other parts of Syria have fared much worse.  May the Lord God help them in these critical days.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

What a woefully poor performance by the referee in the GB v Senegal game

Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan made some very poor decisions during the Olympic football match between Great Britain and Senegal.  He allowed some really cynical play to go unpunished and failed to award a penalty when Craig Bellamy was fouled in the penalty box.  Alan Hansen said that it was a "stonewall penalty".  Ryan Giggs and other players were clearly indignant and justly so!  The referee's performance was evidently most unsatisfactory and incompetent.  I wonder if Mr Irmatov will continue to referee at this level again during the Olympics. He seemed to be out of his depth.

I understand that Mr Irmatov has been highly rated and has received good reports as a top class referee in the past, especially during 2009.  Today he had a very bad day on the pitch.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

St Francis Hospice birthday celebrations

Last Monday the Saint Francis Hospice celebrated its birthday at the Parish Church of St John in Havering atte Bower. Afterwards there were refreshments at the SFH Day Centre.

As is my custom, I took a few photographs.  I even had my photograph taken next to an Olympic Torch.  I hope that you like the photographs.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Church Growth Reflections

In churches that have embraced Rick Warren's purpose driven methods and outlook, there seems to be a man centred, bottom up approach to church growth and ministry. Some would dismiss Warrenism as a market driven approach, which is far too consumer oriented and not God centred enough. Rick Warren clearly wishes to make his church user friendly, but in doing so does he make serious errors and doctrinal disasters?  He wants to scratch where the people are itching, which some churches have completely failed to do. Undoubtedly his methods have put backsides on seats and have increased church membership and financial commitment, but at what cost?

While it is important to be aware of the needs of seekers and those who need to hear the message of salvation, grace and truth, I would argue that we must start with what God wants to build rather than want man desires and demands. While consumer surveys can help us determine policies and practices, the most important thing is to consult the Lord and find out how He wishes us to proceed. Unless the Lord is at the centre of the process, we are operating in vain.  Psalm 127:1 comes to my mind.

Rick Warren believes, according to the Purpose Driven Church, that anyone can be brought into the church if you find what really matters to them. It would seem that Warrenites believe that conversion comes through understanding and offering what the person deeply desires, and then once the bait has been taken the  seeker is ready to be reeled in. (When I find the exact passage then I will insert it here.)  My problem with this approach is that it in no way takes the sovereignty of God in the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit in conversion into account. Conversion is not something that we can manipulate, control or manufacture, no matter how good our marketing, methods and ministry. Conversion is a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to true repentance, faith and salvation.  It is not of our own doing. Through the gracious gift of God do we receive faith, and by God's workmanship we come to salvation so that we produce good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Church growth in the USA: some reflections

In the USA there is one crucial matter that pastors, planners and preachers all need to take into account if they wish to see church growth and good attendance at meetings.  You may think it is good Bible teaching and powerful preaching.  You may think it is moving music, good musicians and worship leaders. You may think it is a good infrastructure and church facilities, which offer wholesome fellowship and pastoral care.

Now all these elements are important and commendable if a church manifests them.  But Pastor Rick Warren   of the Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, says "It all starts with parking." Rick Warren believes that if folks can't park then they won't come to your church, however compelling your ministry and your message are."

In an American context, Rick Warren has made a very perceptive observation.  It is a car society.  The land is full of cars, and churches need to take good care of their members' parking and the provision of transport arrangements to and from services.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Further reflections on the Syrian situation

Diplomatic solutions have failed to bring peace and security to the Syrian people.  Talk and rhetoric do not solve the problems when the evil dictatorship remains in place and in power to oppress and murder opposition activists. Men of blood and violence have done evil deeds in the name of security and order, but they are responsible for murder, mayhem and malpractice. Lawlessness is rife. Some people are suffering a hell on earth in the cities of Syria today.

The Syrian people do not need words and talk; they need protection, provisions and peace.  The economy is in a dreadful mess. Death stalks the streets daily, even the streets of Damascus. The people are crying out for justice, peace and righteous government.

Pray for justice to flow in Syria.  May the flow of blood and bullets come to an end. May peace return so that the people can enjoy freedom and a decent way of life, rather than death and destruction.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sad Syrian situation is shamefully supported by super powers

The situation in Syria today is shamefully supported by super powers who are motivated by power politics and vested interests.  It is clear that they have no real concern for the vast majority of Syrian people who desire freedom and democratic ways.  These super powers have played fast and loose with human rights and  genuine social harmony. The freedom of the press is not taken seriously by them at all.  Dissent and freedom of speech, access to alternative opinions and other democratic practices are often disregarded. They ignore the massacres and murders, which are carried out in the name of security. Their mendacity is truly disgraceful.

There is a revolution in Syria today and the blood of martyrs will sow the seeds of the destruction for the House of Assad and his followers. Ideas of keeping Assad in place and building a new Syria with Alawite hegemony still in place are vain and futile.  The future will ultimately belong to a government with a much more representative political and social leadership.  The people of Syria are crying out for justice and freedom from oppression and evil dictatorship. May the Lord God hear them and grant them peace and a better future. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A tribute to Ernest Borgnine, a cinema great, 1917-2011, R.I.P.

Ernest Borgnine (EB) was a great actor, who won an Oscar in 1955 for the lead role in Marty.   EB died in Los Angeles. He was better known for his tough guy parts. Ernest looked like a Bronx butcher and he delivered some meaty performances on screen.  I particularly liked his menacing tough guy persona in Bad Day at Black Rock, when he was beaten up by the one armed ex-soldier played by Spencer Tracy (one of the greatest actors of all time).  EB was memorable in Ice Station Zebra with Rock Hudson, and others will remember Ernest in The Wild Bunch, From Here to Eternity, The Dirty Dozen and The Poseidon  Adventure.  

EB loved being in front of the camera and being on set with a film crew.  It was an invigorating experience for him to continue his film career into his nineties. EB was a man of integrity who refused to take on roles that required swearing and explicit sex.  He even turned down, for moral reasons, an opportunity to earn a lucrative fee to play the role of Al Capone, for which as a chubby tough looking American, with Italian immigrant parents, EB was ideally suited. He was a truly Hollywood legend.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Big O

What is heaven like?  Will we ever know?  What is there for us after death?   Will the Lord let us go?  To heavenly mansions?  Will He show ... your place with Him?

For those who love the Lord, who are ransomed, restored and redeemed by the precious blood of Christ Jesus, He will share His loving kindness.   We have the blessed hope of a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells.  This is no vain hope for the Lord Jesus will rule and reign supreme over all as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Sometimes Christians can taste in this life that heavenly life, and know the blessings of the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  There can be times of spiritual bliss, peace and joy that no human or worldly enterprise can bring about.  Only Zion's children can know that intimate relationship which brings this wonderful life, abundant and spiritually rich.  It is not related or achieved through wealth, worldly wisdom, prestige, privilege or personal power.  It is a gracious gift of God to give eternal life, abundant life which can be, in some small measure, tasted and experienced in this age. But it will be fully manifested and known in the life to come, in the time when Jesus comes again to rule and reign. Hallelujah!

I thank God that He reveals His loving kindness and the riches of His grace now and in eternity.

Eye has not seen,
Ear has not heard,
No mind has conceived
 what God has prepared for those who love Him.

We have glimpses.  We see through a glass darkly.

Yet one day we shall see Him face to face..

And that will be amazing.  Orgasmic. Overwhelming.   The Big O.  O it will taste so good and take You completely (if you are His).  

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Beware of bankers bearing burdens

Some have believed that the Soviet Union and satellite states were eventually beaten by banks and not tanks.  At one time Mrs Thatcher had real fears that Soviet tanks could crush us and that there were reds under the beds in waiting to topple and take over this country.  Mrs Thatcher feared Russian tanks.

The reality was that the Russian economy was in a mess and  that Russian tanks posed no real threat to the UK.  It was unlikely that the Russian forces had the resources and support structure to cross France and enter the UK, and then maintain their army so far away from the Soviet Union. NATO would have stopped them and the internal Russian  leadership could not have coped with the costs, deployment and supply chain  arrangements.

The Russian economy was in dire straits, and money was not available to spend on the army, particularly after the Afghan and Chechen wars.

Left wing activists had advocated the nationalization of the banks.  Today we have a partial nationalization of banks in that the tax payers have, in effect, bailed out and kept certain banks solvent.    Blame has been attached to bankers for many of our economic woes.  Recently unethical activity has been exposed. Bankers are now bearing the brunt of much criticism. Greed and dishonesty have been evident to all of us.  Dirty and dark secrets are coming to light.  Bankers burdened us with debts and destructive high interest rates.  Old people who suffered from lapses of memory and had missed a credit card deadline were charged a harsh and extortionate late payment fee, which sometimes doubled the cost of just one transaction. (My very elderly mother paid, by credit card, for a family which cost her about £18, some years ago. She missed the payment deadline by a day or two, certainly less than a week.  The bank charged her a late payment fee of £20, so the meal cost her £38. Daylight robbery?)

We were told that these bankers needed to be paid huge bonuses because we needed their expertise, and if we did not pay them these large salaries then they were likely to leave the country and damage our economy.

Now please correct me if I am wrong, but was it not some of these high earning bankers who were in many ways primarily responsible for our economic problems? Yes, I have heard that profligate politicians and high spending Government officials, following instructions from their ministers, were culpable of serious overspending and causing enormous debts.  The national debt is a heavy burden on us, and on our children and on future generations.  The bankers have burdened us with a costly catastrophe, or something seriously close to one.  It is a catastrophe for those without work, without money, without the prospect of a decent future or a well earned retirement.  Pension funds have been robbed by bad bankers and financial gangsters.  We are still paying for their failures.  They are still laughing all the way to the bank; they are still receiving large salaries and sums.  They are managing to maintain and make marvellous money, and then manipulate the market so they get massive pay-outs and pay-offs, sometimes for failure, fiascos and fraud.

Woe to these greedy and morally bankrupt bankers.
Woe to those who rob to get richer and richer.
Woe to those who grab and gain dishonestly.
Woe to those who serve mammon and devour the poor, the weak and the needy.
They will incur the righteous judgement of God; in this life and in the life to come will they be punished.
They will have no peace or joy eternal, unless they repent and show the fruits of repentance.

Woe to those who are at ease in the City and trust in their own ill gotten gains.

 There is a famine in the City, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Superior Spain are worthy Euro 2012 winners

Yesterday evening in Kiev, Spain won the final of the Euro 2012 Football championship match.  They beat Italy 4-0 and convincingly.  The beautiful game was played as it should be played by a Spanish team that showed outstanding skill, virtuosity and technical ability.  This team are arguably the greatest since the Brazil team which won the World Cup Final in 1970 (in Mexico when Italy were sounded trounced).  Some would say that they are the greatest squad ever.  Their midfield players are magnificent; at times they managed without a specialist striker.

 Yesterday Fernando Torres, the Spanish super sub and specialist striker, came on to score, make an impressive assist and ultimately win the golden boot award. 2012 has turned out to be a good year for him, although FT had confidence and form problems earlier in the year.

It was a feast of football and Spanish streets are enjoying a summer fiesta.  With the economy in poor shape and high levels of unemployment, such national celebrations will be truly welcome.


River Stour