Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Gareth Bale's great goal should silence the cynics

I have watched on YouTube Gareth Bale's goal scored in the 85th minute of the Copa del Rey match in Valencia at the Estadio Mestalla. That was some goal! The cynics wondered if he was worth the transfer fee.  Well one thing is for sure, they could never score a goal like that, and you can't put in what God has left out.  Sometimes quality comes at a high price, and that goal was sheer quality and amazing athleticism.  To run like that in the last few minutes of a high intensity game having played against one of the best teams on this planet and to score so skilfully, well see it and admire the spectacle.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Learning lessons on evangelism from the Acts of the Apostles

Recently I and a few other church members have been meeting in a small group on Wednesdays. We have been studying the Acts of the Apostles and specifically learning about evangelism and evangelistic methods in this book of the Bible, and looking at other related passages in the New Testament.

 In my preparation I found the attached link very helpful, challenging and edifying:


I agree with the author, Thom S Rainer, that Michael Green's book, Evangelism in the Early Church, is essential reading for those who are interested in learning about evangelism in the Acts of the Apostles.

I am grateful to all concerned for making Thom's work, Church Growth and Evangelism in the Book of Acts, available on the internet/web. May God continue to bless Thom's ministry and scholarship.

I hope to share my theological reflections on evangelistic methods in the Acts of the Apostles in due course, DV.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Lovely day away at Wakehurst Place, Kew at Wakehurst, East Sussex

It is delightful to be out in the countryside on a beautiful Spring day when the sun shines and the weather is clement. I enjoyed a lovely day at Wakehurst Place, the Royal Botanic Gardens, in East Sussex, known as Kew at Wakehurst.

                                The Millennium Seed Bank is a star attraction

 It is the most visited National Trust property in England. I thought that accolade would go to some of the historic houses, such as Chartwell or Waddesdon Manor, but Wakehurst Place, Kew at Wakehurst, is at the top of the league for visitors.  The changes in the car parking fees may well reduce some of the visits by deterring some visitors.

Like Kew Gardens in West London there is so much to see. Really it justifies more than one visit, and plenty of energy to cover the grounds.

I took some photographs and while I am quite pleased with the results, they do not adequately show the sheer beauty and splendour of the grounds.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Distant relatives in the Baptist "family"

Over the past few years I have noticed that certain people of influence in the Baptist Union refer to the Baptist family. It seems to be something of a buzzword or popular term of endearment.  It has that ring of cosy familiarity and intimacy, a close knit fellowship of blood brothers and sisters. We are, as Christians, purchased by the blood of Christ and members of his spiritual family.  That's good and true.

Now to some people the idea of family is not that good and wholesome. Not everything in the family is fine and friendly. There are feuds, fights and all sorts of falling out. There are painful partings, estrangements, deeply harboured grudges and resentments, irreconcilable differences, arguments over inheritance, money and material possessions. There can be abuse and cruelty.

Some families grow apart.  They move in different spheres, have different interests and have a completely different outlook on life.  Some worship wealth, others worship status and strive for more material things. Then there are those who wish to live a bourgeois lifestyle in a desirable area, "at the right address",  and wish to keep away for certain "types".

In some families there are love/hate relationships, and sometimes the line between love and hate becomes blurred.

Since 1968 I have been preaching in Baptist churches, particularly when I was a theological student in the 1970s.  Now and again I came across Baptist and evangelical churches where the culture was so very different from my own.  The people in these Baptist churches seemed to have completely different interests and lifestyles, ways of living that were and are unlike my own.  It seems strange and somewhat odd that these folk who perhaps appear bigoted and boring to me, yet we have a common faith and fellowship in Christ Jesus.  We do not choose our biological brothers and sisters, and we certainly do not choose our spiritual ones, those born again by God's Spirit.

Then there are those who have the Baptist label but they are so distant and disturbed that one wonders if they are relatives at all.  I am thinking about members of Westboro Baptist Church and other extremist Baptists who engage in campaigns of hate.

God has a great sense of humour.  He puts distant and diverse people together in Christ.  The early Christian church experienced tensions and ethnic disputes. See the beginning of Acts 6. God has many children, and some grow up to be a disappointment but some do amazing works of love and grace. I rejoice in Baptist missionary work. I rejoice in Baptist scholarship. I rejoice in great times of fellowship in Baptist churches. I rejoice in my relatives, distant and diverse in the Baptist family, and in all God's children who are heirs of the Kingdom of God.  For most of us, family matters and in families we experience deep love and affection. Long may it continue in the Church, whether close and comforting, or distant and diverse. Love covers a multitude of sins and shortcomings.

Friday, 11 April 2014

People trafficking in the UK: modern slavery in dark and dastardly places

People trafficking or human trafficking, the curse of modern slavery, is alive today in the UK.  The extent and the exact number of abused workers, who are denied their freedom, human rights and dignity by modern day slavery, are unknown, but we know that it is a grave problem and growth area.

Children, young women and vulnerable folk in their desperation have been drawn into a web of corruption and crime through evil exploitation. Promising poor and needy people the prospect of food, work and accommodation in the UK has led to this slavery that holds these sad souls in bleak conditions, where they are subjected to violence and intimidation. These 21st century slaves are forced to work in sordid situations which can include the sex industry, sweat shops, agricultural and farm labour, and domestic servitude in private residences, where these people are prisoners under brutal overseers.

According to Steve Chalke
Human trafficking is the fastest growing global crime and is now the second largest after the illegal arms trade. It involves the movement of people, against their will, through violence, deception or coercion for the purpose of sex, forced labour or even body parts. Men, women and children are all victims of trafficking; although approximately 80% are women and girls and up to 50% are children. 

While many in churches are unaware and uninformed about this issue, there are those who have become activists against this evil enterprise that is estimated to enslave thousands and thousands of people.  Some Christian activists are now seeking to set the captives free and to bring them a future and a hope where righteousness dwells.

Christians living a comfortable bourgeois life should consider what they can do to help such needy souls. Are we at ease in Zion? We should never be complacent, because this is happening in our capital city and in other towns, camp sites and settlements throughout the UK. The Lord requires us to do justice, to love mercy and grace, and to walk humbly with God.  Doing justice is not an optional enterprise, a choice that we can volunteer for and occasionally engage in; it is at the heart of the Christian message and Jesus's manifesto in Luke 4.18-19.

What are you doing in Jesus's name to release the oppressed?  

Monday, 7 April 2014

Justice for the Al Jazeera three: journalism is not a crime - free AJ staff

Thousands of journalists today have joined in protest against the detention of the Al Jazeera staff in Egypt.  They have been unjustly held for 100 days without a full and fair trial.  It is shameful; they have committed no crime.

Peter Greste
Mohamed Fahmy
Baher Mohamed

They should be released, or at least granted bail.

Outside the BBC headquarters by Langham Place, London W1, many journalists carried placards and wore face gags as part of their protest.  The Egyptian authorities will not listen; they are wilfully deaf to the cries for justice and the release of the four men still in detention and being refused bail.  The charges against them have  not come to trial in the Egyptian courts, even after 100 days. It is an outrage and a disgrace.

The freedom of the press is essential if democracy is to thrive and if justice is to flourish.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Hampstead Heath and Kenwood in the Spring - London's lovely lung

Some regard Hampstead Heath and the Kenwood estate as one of London's lungs.  Recently pollution has been a problem, but healthy joggers, ramblers, bird spotters, walkers and wayfarers have been enjoying the delights of this part of north London, NW11, N6 and N2.

Hampstead and Highgate have had for many years a great appeal to literary types, actors, artists, musicians and culture vultures, who have lived in this highly desirable area. It is not hard to understand why.

Recently I have been finding out about Eric Blair/George Orwell's association with Hampstead.
He worked in a bookshop, quite near to the one below.

In fact he worked in what is now a branch of Le Pain Quotidien, which is on the end and corner of the row of shops shown below.

 (Some vandal removed the part of the sign in Orwell's honour on the wall outside the shop.)

 John Keat's house is a place of pilgrimage for those who admire his poetry. But don't turn up on a Monday, when the house is closed along with the public library next door.

 Kenwood, part of the Iveagh bequest, is a magnificent Robert Adam mansion. And entry is free.

The Rembrant self portrait.  He looks worried, world weary and worn down by his advancing years.

 The paintings are wonderful. I'm so glad that they got the Vermeer back from the art thieves!

We can enjoy seeing the Vermeer again.
The grounds are beautiful at any time, but especially on a fine Spring day.

On reflection, it would be unwise to engage in strenuous outdoor activity, even around the Heath, in view of current pollution levels in the London area.  People with asthma and heart problems have been strongly advised to stay indoors until the south westerly winds blow the pollution away.

Very high levels of pollution have been recorded in central London, where visibility is reduced, and the air quality is causing difficulties for people wanting the stretched health and ambulance services.

The present warm weather conditions are drawing keen ramblers to the Heath and Kenwood estate.  This weekend should bring better air quality throughout the south east of England, and I expect many will flock to Hampstead Heath.  The end of school term will increase the number of families visiting the Heath.

And the controversial dredging project will be in full swing.


River Stour