Sunday, 30 March 2014

Justice for the persecuted people of God - Christian Solidarity Worldwide national conference and related issues

Yesterday I attended the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) national conference at Marsham Street, Westminster, London SW1.  Worship was led by Dave Bilbrough and Helen Yousaf, both originally from Romford.

These events are a good antidote to my ecumenicoscepticism, and ecumenicophobic tendencies.  It was good to hear how Mervyn Thomas, CSW CEO, a Pentecostal Christian, is working in partnership with Dr Thomas Farr, a Roman Catholic, who is director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World affairs.

The situation in North Korea is alarming, as it has been for many years.  The visiting this prison state is said to be like entering the pages of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four.  Big Brother Kim is on giant posters all around the streets and buildings. His henchmen are like the thought police, watching all citizens and waiting for signs of defiance and divergence from the party line. It seems to be a nightmare land that is as oppressive as the old Papa Doc Duvalier regime with Les Tontons Macoutes terrorising the civilian population. North Korea is a country ruled by fear with diabolical oppression. There are ongoing investigations into crimes against humanity perpetrated by the North Korean state. Many violations are well documented by CSW and Amnesty International, and other well informed organizations and individuals. It has been brought to the attention of the United Nations.  UK Baptist Christians have been praying for a breakthrough and opportunities to work in North Korea.

Yesterday's conference was challenging. It gave delegates a deeper understanding of certain areas of severe persecution and oppression of religious minorities. A stand against religious intolerance in Pakistan cost Cecil Chaudhry his life. CSW seeks to be a voice for the voice, a means of working for justice in countries where religious freedom is denied and discouraged.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


The question that comes to me when I think about ecumenism is: how can we have fellowship and partnership in the Gospel with those who do not preach the authentic Gospel and have not received the wisdom taught by the Holy Spirit?  There is a danger in ecumenism of finding the lowest common denominator of belief, and then working with people devoid of the Holy Spirit who have no personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must resist those who wish to bring the spirit of the age into the church, rather than the Holy Spirit that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. (Please see 1 Corinthians 2: 12-13.)

There are those who wish to cast aside years of Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage to bring us into line with contemporary thinking and practice.

Please consider this warning.  Those who embrace the current zeitgeist and are wedded to the trendy ways of the world, find themselves bereaved, divorced and discredited in the next age, or even generation.  

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Not tired of London but loving life roaming the River Thames

Yesterday I had a wonderful day in London.  I visited one of my favourite churches, one with a most unusual name, St Andrew by the Wardrobe. It sounds like it is close to Narnia.

After a pleasant luncheon interval at the Salvation Army restaurant and cafe, a short walk across the road, near the Millennium Bridge, I bought a River Roamer ticket for the concessionary price of £7.50. What joy
awaited me on such a pleasant spring day, on the River Thames travelling between Greenwich and Putney.

A Stranger on the Shore

As you can see from the photographs it was low tide when I crossed the Millennium Bridge.  There were crowds of schoolchildren outside Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the south bank in Southwark.

The Shard seems to be nearly completed.  I understand that the views from the top restaurant are magnificent on a clear day. It was cloudy at times yesterday but the skies did clear later, as you will see.

Looking back, looking north, St Paul's Cathedral is a great tourist attraction.  Its resilience is symbolic of the fight against forces of darkness.  It withstood the Luftwaffe and the Blitz.  It is testimony today to the Lord's providence. The motto of the City of London, Domine dirige nos, Lord direct us, is a prayer for today.  This motto can be seen on the City of London crests on every street sign. Look very carefully at the street sign shown above and you can see it, but it's not very clear. Like the narrow way it is not easy to find.

Now sit comfortably and enjoy the River trip photographs.

Is James Bond in today?

I found time to visit Tate Britain.

Heaven?  It's even better that this!

Perhaps it has a bit of this?

Some may think this is heavenly.

But back to the River Thames.  Some of my time has been recorded on video and you will be able to see it shortly on my YouTube channel, Johlibaptist.

Time to go home.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Andre Marriner, a referee all at sea! Joy for Jose, the Special One, with a special win

Oh dear, it was a bad day for Arsenal going down 6-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It was a bad day on the pitch for the referee who made a truly horrendous error in sending off the wrong player.  Andre Marriner's performance was woefully poor throughout the game, so his services will not be required in Brazil.
The crowd, in fine voice, were telling him so.

Marriner was completely at sea when he hesitated to make a decision when Oxlade-Chamberlain handled the ball in his team's penalty area. When he did make a decision he allowed Gibbs, the Arsenal left full back, to be sent off. It was hard to believe that a Premiership referee, who was close to the incident, was capable of making such an incompetent decision.

It was clearly the wrong decision, seen by millions live on BT Sport.  Technology should be used as it is in tennis, cricket and rugby, so that we are spared these howlers. We are in the 21st century, but association football still fails to put in place what really needs to be done with available technologies.

It was a joyful day for Jose Mourinho, known as the Special One. His team had a very special win today. 

Ecumenicophilia and ecumenicophobia?

I am passionate about the Hornchurch Passion Play (HPP). I have been involved in every production since 1995. And I hope to have a part in next year's Hornchurch Passion Play.  I rejoice in what has become known as "the church of the Passion Play".  I love the fellowship, the prayer times, the rehearsals, the preparation meetings, the casual conversations and comradeship/camaraderie among local believers in Christ.  This is an event and expression of God's grace that crosses denominational backgrounds and barriers. Some would therefore see the Hornchurch Passion Play as an ecumenical enterprise, and certainly an evangelistic exercise. People have been converted to Christ through the HPP. And God willing, people will be converted to Christ in 2015 as a result, in some ways and various means blessed by the Lord, of the HPP and future HPPs. I pray that God will continue to use and to bless this ministry.

Now in calling the HPP an ecumenical enterprise raises various questions and concerns about ecumenism and evangelism.  My love for the HPP could be construed as ecumenicophilia, a love for ecumenism and ecumenical enterprise.  But in some respects I am, as a result of my past ministry in the Federation of Evangelical Churches and at an independent Baptist church (not in fellowship with the Baptist Union), ecumenicosceptic perhaps even ecumenicophobic. To many in the FIEC and among independent Baptist churches the word ecumenism is a pejorative term rather than a positive one.

The reason for my ecumenicoscepticism is due to my understanding of true faith, evangelism, and what preaching the Gospel really involves. We, Christians, are urged to contend for the faith that was once and for all given to the saints. To me, to contend earnestly for the faith means preaching the whole counsel of God and faithfully proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed. If we preach a false or another Gospel then it is a very serious error indeed. Please see Galatians 1: 8-9.

Some churches do not preach the authentic Gospel.  Their "gospel" is mixed with false teaching and vain hopes. There is compromise and concession to pseudo-evangelistic enterprises, such as the social gospel, the prosperity gospel, the gospel of cheap grace, the gospel of spirituality without repentance, the gospel of a meek and mild prophet who performed no miracles, sanctified good manners but no sacrificial discipleship, the gospel of religion and religiosity without a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Beware those who are "clouds without rain, blown along by the wind...wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame..wandering stars for whom blackest darkness has been reserved for ever."  The prosperity movement has produced plenty of "shepherds who feed only themselves." Jude gives us solemn yet sound advice in his epistle.

Some churches talk about being on spiritual journeys and on various religious paths, but they never seem to get to the point of repentance.  There cannot be any progress without repentance! We will face the wrath of God if we disobey the Gospel.  But then some churches seem to manage without the ministry of the Holy Spirit bringing conviction and guiding them in the truth. There are spiritual pilgrims who are seeking and searching, but they never come to the Truth, Jesus.

Some of these "gospels" are spiritually deadly and destructive because they contain poisonous teaching.  Like some powerful rat poisons they are coated with sweet and enticing flavours. And some poison is so effective when it is mixed with good food.  It may appear wholesome but it is fatal when consumed. It gives folk a false sense of eternal security, based on self righteousness and pseudo-spirituality.

Let us rejoice in the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, that calls us to repent as the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, to find forgiveness of sins and the precious promise of eternal life through grace.  For by grace are you saved through faith, not by ourselves as it is the gift of God, not by works lest anyone should boast. His workmanship are we, created in Christ Jesus to perform good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  That's really great news.  Good news from God, the Gospel. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Nigeria: neonatal concerns - Dr Hippolite Amadi

Readers of this blog may have read my concerns and comments about aspects of church ministries led by Nigerian preachers, both  in the UK and in Nigeria.  Dubious practices, dodgy dealings and downright dishonesty seem to be prevalent, though I am aware of some very sound and sincerely sanctified saints of God extending the Kingdom of God and teaching valuable truths from the Scriptures, here and abroad in West Africa.

It is, therefore, a privilege to know and to support Dr Hippolite Amadi, a research fellow at Imperial College, London, who travels frequently to Nigeria, his homeland, to develop neonatal clinics and best practice.

Hippolite initiated the ideas of recycled incubator techniques (RIT) in Nigeria, researched and developed the systems and procedures that presently apply, and conducts training of clinicians, nurses and technicians in the application of tropical neonatal thermoneutrality. He dedicates up to 50% of his professional endeavours as Visiting Consultant to over 15 Nigerian tertiary hospitals. A recent study of tertiary hospitals in Nigeria shows that Dr Hippolite Amadi’s RIT and consultancies have led to over 30% average neonatal survival in the hospitals as compared to the situations when there was no RIT in place. He has trained over 800 Nigerian doctors and nurses on the courses entitled ‘Paediatrics Incubation Technique’. He has designed, developed and commercialised over ten medical and laboratory systems for low income economies such as neonatal resuscitaires, incubators, photorad, laboratory centrifuges, blood mixers, waterbaths etc.
This paragraph comes from his Imperial College webpage.

Praise the Lord for this valuable work in Nigeria.  Give thanks to God that He has good and faithful servants who do not work for mammon, vain-glory and dishonest gain.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Christian creativity and middle class mediocrity

In some churches and associations there is a widely held view that Christians should not compete with the secular world in trying to produce videos, media presentations, films and other creative works.  So some churches and associations may have limited budgets and need to be good stewards of their resources, but it is my contention that as Christians we should be committed to excellence, beauty, creative enterprise and works that show eternal quality.   Now that may not mean glossy and flashy products and productions, but I'd like you to consider church history and what Christians have achieved when they have been inspired by God and motivated by prayer and worship.

In the past Christians have written, sung and shared wonderful music in choirs, churches, cathedrals, chapels, colleges and Christian communities. Consider the Gregorian chants, the religious music of Bach,  the poetry of John Milton, the preaching of the Puritans, Wesleyan hymns, spirituals among slave communities in the Deep South, cathedral choirs and Christmas carols.  Think of the wonderful architecture in ancient and some modern Cathedrals, abbeys, monasteries, seminaries, and colleges.  All of this was inspired and came out of Christian culture and enterprise.

Much of this Christian creative enterprise was produced as acts of worship, prayerful labour, and in service to a higher calling and purpose. Christian folk had a sense of working to the glory of God and in the service of His Kingdom.  They were inspired to do great things, great works for their Great God and Saviour.  It came out of gratitude and gracious giving.  Some of those Cathedrals cost a great deal in time, money, hard work and patient endeavour. And we can still enjoy the fruits of these labours of love today.

I really think we have lost in today's world this sense of worship as we work.  In some past communities work and prayer were linked together. They prayed as they worked and worked as they prayed.  Medieval master builders really did believe that their work was to the glory of God.  They did not tolerate the shoddy, superficial and shallow workmanship.  They wanted the best materials and the best craftsmen.

We now put up with middle class mediocrity and poor quality. We work without worshipping God and our efforts  lack Christian commitment, concern and careful consideration.  We rush and run around without a sense of sanctified service.  We are too busy to stand and stare, too busy to ask for God's help in prayer.
And perhaps too busy to glorify God and enjoy Him now and for ever.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Steve Chalke: contentiously controversial clergyman and contemporary career cause campaigner?

In many ways I admire Steve Chalke for his energy, enthusiasm and enterprise.  He has achieved a great deal in a number of spheres.  Steve is a preacher, writer, media presenter, entrepreneur, educationalist, social activist and church leader.  One could mention other areas of activity and expertise.  Steve has an impressive CV, and an MBE, gained in 2004 for "services to social inclusion". In fact Steve is now a UN special adviser.

The Oasis college programme has produced some trained and competent students who have used their talents in church and social spheres of service.  Having trained at Spurgeon's College and exercised a ministry within the Evangelical Baptist family and the wider Evangelical community, Steve has had success in youth leadership and Christian mission, particularly in urban areas. In recent years, however, Steve has engaged in various controversial positions, notably in regard to the atonement, specifically the doctrine of penal substitution, and support for established, some would say monogamous, same sex relationships. This has resulted in criticism, concern and contentious opposition. Steve has been labelled a heretic, and some Evangelical churches now regard him as persona non grata.

In this month's issue of Christianity, Steve has decided to wade into the biblical inerrancy controversy, which has been going on in theological colleges, seminaries and divinity faculties for years and years.  SC wishes churches and his fellow Christians to wise up to certain realities and to face the truth, as he sees it, about the Bible, interpretation and the canon of Scripture. Steve is brave to tackle this subject, but he may find that he has alienated even more conservative Evangelicals, those who support, prayerfully and financially, his Oasis ministry.

It seems that SC wishes to distance himself from Christian fundamentalists and conservative Christians who hold to the verbal inerrancy of the Bible, the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement, intolerance to homosexual marriage and homosexual lifestyles, scepticism and even opposition to the ecumenical movement, conservative views on chastity,  media worldliness and Vanity Fair values infiltrating the body of Christ.

SC has worked within the media, on television and radio, so that he enjoys a high profile as a contemporary Christian leader. But in developing his social, media and charitable status, certain concerns and criticisms have strengthened the opposition to his Christian appeal. Some churches and conservative evangelical Christians are considering withdrawing financial support and funds from Oasis projects.

To some SC is "the worst type of trendy vicar" and spokesman for a compromised and sub-Christian culture, as he, according to this view, has sold out to social forces and worldly values in order to advance his career and social influence.  These opponents would berate him for bringing liberal or post modern thinking into the church, contaminating the church with carnal views on homosexuality and erroneous interpretations of the Bible.

Others, however, welcome his higher profile and ability to get stuck into tough issues in order that the Christian community scratches where people are itching, in making a difference in a harsh world.

Life is fragile and it should be handled with prayer.  I pray that those who criticize Steve will be as diligent in their prayers for his ministry and influence for good.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

It really is more blessed to give than to receive

In England there is a reluctance to give and to be generous, especially to Christian enterprises, workers and clergy.  This is not the case in the USA and Canada where generosity abounds, and many Christian churches, causes, people and projects have benefited from the cheerful, open hearted giving of American folk. I know that I am generalizing and there are exceptions to what I have just stated. I know that Americans have had their generosity abused by prosperity preachers and greedy hirelings. But the evidence is there.  Through the tremendous generosity of North American Christians many churches and the mission fields have been able to advance the Kingdom of God and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ significantly. We should acknowledge and celebrate such generosity and commitment to the Lord's work.

In Britain we can be stifled by envy and jealousy.  Our stinginess does hamper our efforts. In Canada we have been called "cheap Brits", meaning stingy Brits.  God loves a cheerful giver. He blesses the widow's mite and honours those who honour Him (often by generosity and giving).  And I do not mean just financial giving. Time, effort, expertise, intercessory prayer and a caring commitment to carrying out what needs to be done are all aspects of giving and being generous.

My Father once told that me the difference between a American and a Brit is illustrated by the following tale.

When an American sees a guy with a really good car, an expensive one, he admires the car and says to himself, "Well that's a fine car, and I like it.  It would be good to own one like that.  I'll work hard, save up and get one.  Yes, I'll go out and get one, one day."

The Brit, on the other hand, sees the man with the fine car and says to himself, "That's a fine car, but why should he have it? What has he done to deserve it? Who does he think he is driving around in such a big and expensive car like that?"

I know this is a generalization and you don't think like that, do you? But this tale does touch on a very true aspect of British life, and church life.  We don't like it when others have more than we do, or have what we don't have and they do, perhaps in abundance.  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  Jealousy and envy eat into our souls and produce a mean-spirited attitude. There is great contentment in seeing others gain through our generosity.

Our North American cousins have learnt to invest in God's work and to see the joy that it brings. There is joy in generosity.  And I need to embrace it. I like to receive many blessings, but I am learning that it is better to be a blessing to others, and that involves generosity and giving. Jesus in His life, death and teaching demonstrated that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. God has given us so much.  We Christians have been given salvation by grace. And we have been given the great and gracious gift of the Holy Spirit.
Such generosity.  Thank God that He is not a mean-spirited Brit!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Dave Tomlinson, can you see the irony?

I have just read an article on Dave Tomlinson in the March issue of Christianity (pages 20-25)

 Justin Brierly says that Dave is "a liberal-leaning Anglican priest, with high church tastes (he wears vestments) and a low church manner (he sometimes swears)." Very interesting but stupid? Let's consider some points of interest. What has low church manner got to do with swearing ?  In my experience it was the High Church and Broad Church Anglicans who swore sometimes, not the Evangelicals or Low churchmen.

Dave was a key figure in the British charismatic renewal movement among the house churches. Those happy clappy folk (and I was a fellow traveller for a wee while) boasted about their freedom in Christ, especially on Sundays, and their liberation from the sin of denominations. Forgive us our denominations was one of their publications. (I knew about Dave when Dr. Andrew Walker was writing Restoring the Kingdom, to which I contributed. Dave certainly had long discussions with Andrew, now Professor Walker.)

I find it interesting that in the article there are two photographs of him sitting in a pub with a pint of beer, where he looks extremely comfortable. And to me, he looks like Clive James with a twist of Jeff Lucas. (My Mum and Dad had no time for Baptist bigots who objected to the parish priest having a pint in the Clissold Arms in Fortis Green, where the Kinks performed. Dad, brought up in Highgate, N6, would buy Father Allso a pint there.  I was brought up very liberal Anglican, among the chattering classes of North London, and went to a local CofE  primary school, Holy Trinity, then in East End Road, N2.)

Now Dave is busy shattering stereotypes and, here's the irony, dealing with baggage of conceptions and "something beyond paraphernalia that's become bound up with Christianity."

Well, well, if ever there was a group of Christians really bound up with paraphernalia then the High Church Anglicans take a place at the top of the league! I should know as I was christened, confirmed and sang in the choir at a very High Church of England parish church (All Saints, Durham Road, London N2).  They have very expensive vestments for all the times of the Christian year. Dave probably likes to wear them. Smells and bells, loads of images, stages of the Cross, an enormous crucifix with Mary and St. John at the side. Hassocks and cassocks, and so I could go on. You should go to Walsingham to see amazing paraphernalia.

If you really want to get away from paraphernalia then come on Dave, you're in the wrong "denomination". But now you can enjoy being part of the religious establishment as a trendy vicar.

Pax vobiscum.


River Stour