Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Secret Ingredient to Glastonbury

Glastonbury is cooking today! At 30 degrees C the 170,000 rock festival goers are sweltering. More used to acres of mud and constant rain they must find these conditions trying. Yet, still they come, pouring into the ancient Somerset town and its surrounding countryside like moths drawn to a flame. Let's hope they don't get too burnt!

I've never been a fan of big crowds and wonder what it that draws them. Maybe for many it's the music. For others, especially the young, the thrill of being away from parental oversight and school & college rules. 'Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll' you might argue.

But I think it has got a lot to do with an ingredient you don't often associate with such events - fellowship. We get a buzz from being with others who share our interests and enjoy similar things to ourselves. Belonging to a tribe or family group satisfies us in a way that other things don't. Festivals offer the opportunity to spend a long weekend with like-minded people and 'hang out' in atmosphere of celebration and freedom.

There are some Christian festivals too. Spring Harvest and the Keswick convention are among the oldest, where tens of thousands of believers gather to encourage one another and celebrate their faith. But I feel that our local church should also offer more of the stuff that draws people to festivals, whatever the weather. We should be giving and receiving a real sense of belonging in our local congregations, perhaps much more than we do. Celebration should be real and emotionally empowering, glorifying God and drawing us to one another at his feet.

None of that can happen if we stay away, of course. Too many Christians have cut themselves off from fellowship, or treat it as a lifestyle choice to be indulged in occasionally. We need each other, and being together in celebration, reflection, mutual encouragement, fun, laughter and occasional tears, are the stuff fellowship is made of. And no need for drugs to get high either!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

What we are in the Dark

Watching the leadership hustings from Birmingham today I was struck by a question that was booed by the audience. The chairman asked Prime-ministerial candidate Boris Johnson if what goes on in a person's private life is of any relevance to their suitability for high office. He refused to answer and was cheered by the audience of Conservative Party members. That got me thinking.

Surely integrity and trustworthiness in private life does matter when it comes to selecting who should lead a nation? Integrity means completeness or wholeness. We might use it to describe a building that is well put together so that it can withstand bad weather. When applied to people, it speaks about consistency between each facet of our lives, private and public, family and front-line - when the light is on us and when it is not. It's what we are when no-one is watching!

So, the driving instructor needs to be morally trustworthy when spending long hours with students. The policeman that attends vulnerable people caught up as victims of crime must not view them as fair game to be used. And if a Prime minister or President expects to be believed when they make promises then they must be promise keepers in their private lives too.

Integrity is not perfection, as if it was, none of us could ever stand or lead. We all fall short of God's standard - which is Christ - in so many ways. God loves us as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way. The whole point of redemption is that we can repent and start again. But as Konrad Adenaur, onetime Chancellor of West Germany said, 'To fall is neither dangerous or disgraceful. But to remain prostrate is both'.

Friday, June 07, 2019

I was taught as a child to yell a loud "thank you" to the driver as I jumped down from the bus. Expressing our gratitude was expected of us as part of our growing up. It was simply regarded as good manners but I have come to see that there is much more to gratitude than this. Saying "thanks" is an important part of our humanity and offers dignity to the recipient as well as humility to the giver. Being unable to be grateful leads to a shrinking of our soul, a diminishing of our humanity, and a trip wire in our approach to relationships.

During the 75th anniversary commemorations of D-Day here in Britain and across the sea in Normandy we have heard several expressions of gratitude. Her Majesty the Queen ended her speech by saying thank you, as did President Trump, Monsieur Macron and Mrs Theresa May. In the presence of the veterans, most of them now in their 90s and perhaps there for the last time, it just seemed so appropriate to be grateful. These world leaders set the standard for us and spoke on our behalf, but they also gave a pointer to something that can really oil the wheels of our society and make a change for the better.

Diane and I will travel to Newcastle tomorrow. On Monday and Tuesday of next week I will be in two different hospitals there - the Freeman one day and the Royal Victoria the next. It is the second anniversary of the amazing space-age surgery that changed my life and set me free from 22 years of some of the worst physical pain known to humanity. I am really looking forward to seeing the Professor and other members of the team, looking them in the eyes and saying "thank you".

Gilbert K Chesterton said "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder". Yet, maybe gratitude needs to be shown in more than words. Acts of kindness, enquiries about the well-being of others, even generous tipping can all be further expressions of such grace.

Respect has many outfits to wear and gratitude is one of them. So - let gratitude be your attitude!

Saturday, June 01, 2019

 I have many questions about prayer. I suspect that everybody prays at some point in their lives, but I have been intentional about prayer for over 50 years since I became a committed follower of Christ. But it is far from easy. How does God answer conflicting prayers from different individuals? Does praying make a difference to our lives and the experience of others? It may be true that we are changed by our praying, but does prayer change things? How can I be better at this thing called 'prayer'?

I want to recommend a new book. I bought this book and am not being paid for reviewing or recommending it! But - like a beggar who has found a great source of bread - I don't want to keep it to myself. How To Pray by Pete Greig: a simple guide for normal people is the best book on prayer that I have read since E M Bound's 19th Century classic Power Through Prayer. Pete Greig's handbook on prayer is described by Nicky Gumbel from HTB and Alpha as 'The book I've been waiting for'. Well you're not alone Nicky - me too!

Basing his teaching on the Lord's Prayer Pete shares his vast experience as the founder of a 24-7 prayer movement with his readers. He has helped me to see again the importance of daily prayer, and offered me practical ways to make that experience happen and be more fruitful. His examples of the power of intercession and the difference prayer can make in our troubled world are thrilling and inspiring. His wisdom about how to cope when prayer is not answered is honest and instructive. This guy speaks my language, plain down-to-earth advice with a smile and a self-effacing chuckle. I love this book and recommend it heartily. You can get a copy by clicking the link above, or searching for it at www.eden.co.uk or if overseas, through international pages of Amazon.

I pray that you will 😇

Saturday, May 25, 2019

It has recently been Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and hopefully it will have gone some way to enlighten the fear and lessen the stigma that surround conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, stress and other similar disorders. The support provided by the Royal princes William and Harry recently has highlighted the issue of mental health across Britain. Personalities from sport, stage and screen have also been lining up to add their own unique insights into a much-misunderstood part of our human nature. It must be helpful to shine light onto this shadowy area and dispel some of the myths and mistakes that we may hold on to.

Diane and I know too much about this whole area from past experience. Both our mothers needed lots of support and help as they battled with long term mental health conditions. Diane suffered really badly from anxiety and depression for the first 13 years of our marriage, and at various times in my 22 years of serious ill health I have known bouts of depression, paranoia, mental confusion and great fear. Yet, I know that God has been with us through all this and that he understands the unfathomable depths of the human psyche. He made us so he can mend us.

There is a lot of helpful insight in the Bible on this subject, telling us in picturesque language to “strengthen those who have tired hands and encourage those who have weak knees”. In the New Testament St Paul writes about his own battle with depression (2 Cor. 1). Jesus also healed the sick, changing lives, and giving a new start to people who had been tortured by years of chronic ill health, urging his followers to receive his love and make it known to others. And he calls his church to be a community of care, understanding and grace that will offer safety, acceptance and patient support to all in need. When that need is invisible or at least non-physical, as in mental illness, then the cost of that care and understanding may be high, but it is a vital part of our calling and mission.

Research shows that during any single week an average 1 in 6 of us will experience some mental health incident. Families, friends and work colleagues will all be affected by this. If we are not suffering ourselves just now, we still owe it to others to show respect, love and understanding when they are overtaken by these marks of our frail humanity.

Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest”. Those of us who follow him should also be a means of support to all who stagger under the weight of modern living and its many pressures.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Liberation Day memories in the Channel Islands

May 9th is Guernsey's Liberation Day and all around the island the people are hanging out their flags to mark 74 years since the end of the Nazi Occupation of the Channel Islands took place.

We went to a country church this morning to give thanks for our freedom with hundreds of islanders. Bright sunshine greeted us as we came out of the ancient building at St Peters in the Wood, grateful for being able sing and worship freely due to the sacrifice of so many. We sang our anthem "Sarnia Cherie" with great joy, despite the tears, and remembered our parents for whom this day was ever one of thanksgiving and memories. Winston Churchill said on the radio on May 9th 1945 "...and our dear Channel Islands are to be freed today!"

Among the many unsung heroes of the Occupation was Rev Gilbert Dunk, seen here with his wife Irene and family. He looked after three Elim churches on the island throughout those dark days, riding everywhere on an old bike with hosepipes for tyres. He cared for the flock of God despite great hardship and deprivation, fulfilling his calling in the most challenging of circumstances. After the war, the Dunk family were asked to go to New Zealand in response to an invitation from a group of Pentecostal Christians there who wanted to set up an Elim church. From his work then the congregation grew till it numbers today many thousands and planted out a further 40 or so churches. A truly remarkable family, they exhibited the quiet and humble faith that helped so many to persevere in appalling circumstances and to keep trusting God when it seemed so hard to simply do that.

Maybe we could learn a few things from their courage and determination to make the best of a tough situation and invest themselves in hope and encouraging others through adverse times.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Filled with Hope and Gratefulness - Watoto Children's Choir

This amazing choir of Ugandan children are in Guernsey this weekend. If you're in the Island - don't miss them! The Watoto Children's Choir has sung in the past in the US White House and this choir has performed before the Welsh Assembly and even Her Majesty the Queen! Just listening to them on BBC Radio Guernsey it was so moving to hear their stories:

  • Precious, who was abandoned as a baby outside a hospital and taken in by the 'Baby Watoto' programme
  • Eric, who wants to be a pastor when he grows up (Yay!!)
  • Kim, whose parents have disappeared after their house was destroyed
and many more! Watoto offers hope and a future to so many young children and single women too through their neighbourhood projects.

When the small group of children on the radio interview sang 'I am Grateful' I was moved to tears. They have so little compared to children in our community and yet they are so thankful for their lot. Their music and dance is powerful and inspiring. Plan on catching them while they're here, or go to their website.

See them at: Eldad Elim Church, Union Street, St Peter Port, Guernsey Sat. April 27th 6pm
Vazon Elim Church, La Mare road, Vazon, Guernsey, Sun 28th April, 10.45am & 5pm.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Is there any Hope? A Glimpse beyond the Grave.

"Hope is vital - it's not a question of what you hope for, but who you hope in." These words spoken this Easter Day on BBC Radio 4's Sunday Worship challenged me. We all hope for things - whether for relief from pain or distress, a great holiday, or a home that is our own, and these are all legitimate. But hope for life beyond the grave is a huge ask. Nobody knows what waits for us there because no-one has come back to tell us.

But hang on a moment - somebody has! This Easter Day we celebrate the greatest day in history. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins on the first Good Friday and then rose again from the dead on the following Sunday. More than 500 eye witnesses confirmed sightings of him with some them touching his body and others speaking with him - that's five times as many people who saw the Christmas drones at Gatwick airport! Only this time, instead of 140,000 people having their journeys disrupted, millions have had their lives transformed!

This week I said farewell to a really good friend who died of cancer. He was irrepressible in his love of life during his last two years, fulfilling his 'bucket list' with enthusiasm and boundless courage. It was hard to let him go for all his family and hundreds of friends who packed the funeral. But Trev's hope in Christ came over so clearly in the service. He loved to worship and sing in the music group at his church. His last words to his worship leader were 'shine Jesus shine'. He had hope for beyond the grave.

In the words of the Old Testament writer of the Psalms "Put your hope in God". The message of this great resurrection day is that hope in Him will see you through this life's struggles and even into eternity. Christ is risen indeed!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

To Cross or not to Cross?

I suppose that one of the most iconic items produced in historically Christian countries in celebration of Easter is the traditional hot cross bun. Very early on Good Friday morning in our island community there will be a long queue at the door of a small independent bakers to collect their freshly made buns.

Tradition says that early Greek Christians marked cakes with a cross, but of course, the Bible does not say anything about followers of Jesus Christ needing confectionery to aid their faith or express their worship! In less enlightened times people began using these hot cross buns as a kind of good luck token, claiming that if a ship sailed with them on board it would be protected against shipwreck and other such phoney baloney.

So don't get me wrong - I am not an advocate for the hot cross bun - but my blood was stirred to see in our local supermarket that under the 'hot cross bun' display there was a pile without the crosses!! I suppose that this is in an effort to avoid offending religious minorities - political correctness gone religious - but it just kind of illustrated to me a bit of a challenge this Easter.  Is my life marked by the cross the Christ or is it just fruit and flavouring? Is the cross central to the story of my faith or is it disposable when mentioning it might offend someone? The Bible does say that the cross will appear foolish to people who don't want to believe and it also foretold that the cross would one day become an offence to many, not just a religious minority.

So I want to come back to the cross of Christ this Easter, and thank Jesus for giving His all for me there. To cross your buns?  Well- that's up to you - I don't find they taste any different anyway!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Donkey speaks out!

Some years ago on a Palm Sunday I interviewed the donkey of the story! Guernsey people are known colloquially as donkeys due to our historic stubbornness (I'm not sure if that is being entirely fair - to donkeys!). There is even a statue of a kicking donkey in the island, supposed to reflect how the islanders kicked out the German occupying forces at the end of World War II but I think that probably had to do with outside forces rather than the islanders' own actions. Anyhow, the epithet has stuck and so the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey has local appeal!

But what was it that led Jesus to choose a donkey rather than a white charger? Well, a couple of things really, but predominantly it was a sign of humility. In selecting this kind of mount the King of Kings was harking back to his birth in a stable. See our conquering hero now - humble and riding on a donkey! I doubt that any invading monarch or attacking general ever arrived in such a manner. So it is all the more surprising that the crowds lining the path into the city cried 'Hosanna' - literally 'rule now!' and laid palm branches in his path.

The palm branch is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life originating in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world. So the folk watching the donkey riding Christ must have been impressed with something about him, despite his humble mount. Another aspect of the choice Jesus made was the fulfilment of Bible prophecy - the Old Testament had suggested this day would come in Zechariah 9:9.

But for me the most significant part of that famous donkey-ride is that the very same people who applauded his arrival were to chant a different slogan just 5 days later. "Crucify him!" they yelled, when the implications of supporting him had been laid bare. Perhaps this Holy Week we would do well to ask ourselves which cry really reflects our attitude to the donkey-riding Lord.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

"Is there any word from the Lord?"

I am reading Andrew Robert's great book Churchill: Walking with Destiny and am amazed at how his warning voice was so loud and clear during the wilderness years of 1935-39. Churchill spoke again and again of the coming conflagration that would consume the youth of the world between 1939 and 1945 in World War II. His speeches were so rousing and stirring that members of the House of Commons, where he was a back-bench MP, often stamped and cheered him afterwards, but did nothing in response to his pleadings. He was a virtually lone figure during that period as Hitler's Nazi Germany re-armed and prepared for war on a massive scale. The voice of the prophet was being sounded in the wilderness but just about nobody was listening, at least not those in power. The result was that Britain was so unprepared for war when it came that it is only by the grace of God - and the leadership of Winston Churchill in the crisis - that the total disaster of a Nazi occupation of the UK was averted.

We need a prophetic voice today in the corridors of power or the front pages of our media. An Old Testament king once asked the pertinent question "Is there any word from the Lord?" and that query rings loud and clear at this time in our land. There is a national crisis of violence, of corruption in huge corporations, of extremism in political views, of racism, of knife crime, of bullying and disrespect for authority, and political impasse that threatens the future well-being of our great democracy. What would Winston Churchill be saying if he was an MP today?

And where are the Christian prophets? I know that Mrs May, the British Prime Minister, has had at least one audience with the Archbishop of Canterbury over the Brexit issue and that's good. But let's pray that God will raise up a person, or a people, of such prophetic lives and words, that in this wilderness of human need, those in power, and those around us, will have to admit that there has been a word from the Lord'!

And, when it comes, let's hope that our leaders will be more responsive to that word than were the government of Great Britain in the 1930's!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

A Different Slant to Mothers' Day

Millions of Britons will be dashing around petrol forecourts and supermarkets today scrabbling to snap up blooms for their Mums! And don't they deserve them? And more! Parents are some of the unsung heroes of our society today and Mothering Sunday is just one of those occasions when we can say thank you.

Mind you, I read that the sales of gin have doubled in the last two years in the UK, and that there is usually a surge in gin purchases during the run up to this weekend. That is amazing when you consider that in the 18th Century it was called 'Mother's Ruin' due to the huge social problems being caused by alcoholism and over indulgence in the spirit at that time.

The origins of Mothering Sunday, though, are far from the way we celebrate the day today. Centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or 'mother' church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit their 'mother' church - the main church or cathedral of the area. Most historians think that it was the return to the 'Mother' church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their mother and family.

 Maybe this Mothering Sunday we might spare a thought - and perhaps a prayer - for another 'mother church', the mother of Parliaments at Westminster. It certainly does need prayer, and although Teresa May does not have children of her own, she could really do with a bit of Divine help too this Mothering Sunday.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Crisis? Now that's what I call a crisis.

Rescue workers are continuing the search for survivors of Cyclone Idai, which swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe last week, destroying towns and villages in its path. My good friend Pastor Pious Munembe, General Superintendent of the Elim Churches of Zimbabwe, reports that the area of Chimanimani, just south of Mutare where we used to live, has been cut off from rescuers by roads and bridges being swept away. Around 300 people are missing in Zimbabwe, along with around 100 dead, and many more are reported to be unaccounted for in Mozambique and Malawi. This is what the UN says could be "one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere".

Dr Munembe tells me that a town called Ngaone the Elim Church together with the pastor's house was damaged. I know that other townships and villages nearby where there were very basic facilities anyway prior to this catastrophe have been even more heavily affected. In Mozambique there is a desperate need for more helicopters, food aid, shelter and clean water. In Malawi, a good friend of ours Jackie Griffiths has said: “82,725 people have been displaced with many camping out in schools or one of the 187 camps that have been set up in all 14 of the affected districts… Many of our Elim members have been affected as well as church buildings damaged or destroyed.  As well as loss of life or injury due to falling buildings and damage or destruction of buildings, crops which were just a few weeks away from harvest, have been totally destroyed.  This is going to have a long lasting effect.”

In addition to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal in the UK (www.dec.org.uk) the Elim Churches are organising a financial appeal which will coordinate the spending of funds through our own contacts, missionaries, church leaders and workers on the ground. If you would like to give to that Elim Relief Association appeal you can do so now by clicking here. Let's give them a hand to get out of this time of deep trouble.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Prayer that provokes hatred - a spiritual phenomenon

The desperately sad events in Christchurch this week where 50 people have been brutally murdered as they prayed in a Mosque have shaken the whole nation of New Zealand. Like Guernsey, it appears to be a gentle, if somewhat perhaps a little out of date, enclave of old fashioned values. It was a haven of refuge for refugees from civil war in places like Syria and Afghanistan and it is tragic that those escapees should perish in the land of their refuge. I am praying that there will be no retaliatory attacks on churches in places like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Northern Nigeria where tensions are already running high.

That people should be attacked as they pray is no surprise. Apart from the obvious cowardice of the thug involved - after all it takes no courage at all to slaughter innocents who cannot fire back - there is a demonic hatred in the world towards people who pray. Extremists regard such actions as repugnant, as if the prayers of ordinary people are invested with something that scares them. Of Christian prayer, the Bible says that the "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:14). And that is scary to those whose life consists of conspiracy theories and hatred. St Paul teaches that our spiritual weapons, including prayer, "have divine power to demolish strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4). There is an old bit of poetry which says:
"The devil trembles when he sees
the weakest saint upon his knees."

I hope that Christians will take this opportunity to express love and grace to Muslims they may know or meet. But I also hope that this spotlight on Islam may provoke more fervent prayer for the Muslim world. Muslim immigration in the West is a real opportunity for the church to reach out and bless them with the good news of God's love. Maybe that's one reason why the devil filled one man's heart with hatred and the desire to slaughter them. But he will not win.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

"God is generous beyond all measure or comparison. God's inexpressible generosity, however, does not stop at saving us: it provides for all our needs and blessings throughout our entire lives". (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, 55). In preparing my Sunday talk about "A Journey into Generosity" I have been struck by the awesome giving of God to us. No wonder St Paul wrote "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!". In the same chapter he also urges followers of Jesus to be generous in their lifestyle as a reflection of the heart of God. Such generosity is a real advertisement for the faith - and the flip-side of that is that there is probably no worse advert for Christianity than mean, greedy, self-seeking disciples.

How Much is Enough?

Our expenses can be roughly divided into two camps: needs and wants. Needs seem fixed and non-negotiable, while wants can fluctuate. Though even in meeting our needs there are daily choices - named brands or standard, luxury or basic? It’s logical that if our income can cover our necessities, everything else becomes a choice. Enough is not a number – it’s a state of mind or heart – an attitude. Needs and wants will fluctuate, income will rise and fall – God calls us to a commitment that does not depend on plenty but is consistent whether in want or in abundance. (Luke 21:1-4 – the widow’s mite).

C. S. Lewis said "I'm afraid that biblical generosity is more than merely giving away that which we could afford to do without anyway". It's an issue of the heart - after all, the bible says that God loves a cheerful giver and that each of us should determine in our hearts what to give (2 Cor. 9:7). And we can only really be generous when in our hearts we are trusting him - leaning on God to be true to his promises. Jesus said that our heavenly Father knows our needs and that if we seek His kingdom first of all, then he will make sure that our genuine needs are met (Matt.6:32-33).

"Give and it shall be given to you" is also a bible challenge and a promise. Let's choose generosity in every aspect of our lives and see what a difference we could make as we pass through this world.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Father Deficit

Amanda Platell, in the Daily Mail (Sat. 23rd Feb 2019), commented on the reasons why so many young girls - and some boys - are being admitted to hospitals across the UK with self-harm. Alongside the usual suspects of social media bullying she dares to mention an almost taboo subject - the absence of a father figure in their lives. She says "Take it from me, the relationship between a dad and a daughter is both sacred and empowering". She goes on to say that fathers need to affirm and admire their daughters to prepare them for a world of hostility and potential harm.

This is up-to-date but not new. A research project by the University of Birmingham in 2011 found that "father deficit" is a huge problem in our society. The research shows that young people subjected to "father deficit"are often isolated, unsupported and much more likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour, crime and substance abuse. They also found that such young people fight a daily battle with their emotions and negative feelings. Fathers have a great responsibility.

This morning I preached on the Father Heart of God from Luke 15. If you would like to hear it, you can see the video here https://youtu.be/V71DlR7m4Sk and the talk begins at about 25 minutes in and lasts around 30 mins. You see, there is a "Father deficit" in many Christians minds and hearts also and it leads to similar problems with low self-worth and negative emotions. I recommend you take the time to watch the video and consider this vital topic. Thanks.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Was Winston Churchill a Hero or a Villain?

Was Winston Churchill a villain or a hero? At first glance this question is ridiculous, especially to members of an older generation in Britain. I can only remember my father shedding tears once in all his life but he did so watching the televised broadcast of Winston Churchill's funeral on the BBC. Dad had lived through the Blitz in London as an evacuee from Guernsey and for him there was no greater symbol of victory against Nazi fascism than the bulldog features of the great man himself.

John McDonald, the shadow Chancellor and member of the UK Labour Party's frontbench, caused uproar this week responding to the question during an interview. He was pushed to a one-word answer and came down on the side of villain. Nicholas Soames, Churchill's grandson, said that he believed his grandfather's war record spoke for itself and was not in danger of being tarnished by the comments of a "Poundland Marxist!". McDonald defended his position in the press subsequently by pointing to Winston Churchill's record of sending in the military to the Welsh mining village of Tonypandy to suppress a strike, but he also acknowledged Winston's heroic stand against the evils of fascism.

So the question may be a stupid one, as the answer is complicated. My view is that at different times in his life he could have been described as both. Churchill himself was deeply embarrassed about his role in the First World War's Gallipoli campaign which went so badly wrong and in which hundreds of thousands of young men died. He might also have been viewed as a villain by the French because of his destruction of the French fleet after the surrender of France to the Nazis. He was certainly a very difficult man to work for, as many a tear-stained secretary has pointed out. But he was a human being, capable of great glory and yet making enemies and mistakes. He was as flawed as any of us who are marked by human frailty and sin.

The vicious ire stoked by John MacDonald's comment is not helpful in overcoming the terrible divisions that there are in British politics today. And we must avoid the temptation to either idolise prominent people from the past or demonise potential leaders in the present. We are all a mixture of villain and hero, and capable of great heights and profound depths in our behaviour. Thank God for a divine mercy revealed in the lives of flawed leaders like Moses, King David, Samson and Simon Peter that was able to take the clay of human frailty and create the fabulous tableware of redeemed lives.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Was Emiliano Sala Worth £15 Million?

The tragic and sudden death of Emiliano Sala, together with pilot David Ibbotson, is causing huge sadness around the footballing world. In Cardiff, Nantes in France, but particularly in his homeland of Argentina, his loss is felt so keenly by so many. Here in Guernsey we are uniquely linked to the tragedy due to the fact that the light aircraft in which he was a passenger ditched some 25 miles north of our island. Locals have followed the intense search both for survivors and then latterly for wreckage and bodies with bated breath. Our prayers are with the families of both men, and for their friends, team-mates and supporters.

One sad aspect of the disaster is the report that now Nantes are instigating legal action to recover the £15 million that they are due in respect of the transfer. There must be confusion over who is liable for this loss and whose insurers should cover it, and it appears somewhat insensitive and premature to be jumping straight into litigation even before the body was recovered and confirmed as Sala's, as it was on Thursday.

Some might claim that nobody should be worth such a sum, certainly not such a young person, but I want to say that the loss of the money might actually focus minds on the true value of any individual. My answer to the question of whether he was worth £15 million is "No - he was worth infinitely more than that!". It's a reflection of modern thinking that we would perhaps lament the loss of a footballer more keenly than another in similar circumstances but that would be wrong. This young man was precious in the eyes of his family, his loved ones and friends, but ultimately, in the heart of God. God gave his only son Jesus to redeem men and women who bear his image and share his spirit and the loss of any of us is a cause for immense sorrow. And David Ibbotson was of equal value too, whether or not his flying skills were in any way to blame - which nobody is yet suggesting.

Forget the £15 million - it's only money! Disregard the fact that a major team might get relegated from the Premier League - it' only a game! Focus on the families of both men in prayer and support, praying that David's body will also be found soon. And let's not kid ourselves that life is a given, or a guarantee, for any of us - we need to be ready and face our eternal future with hope - hope in Christ.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Now that's what I call a crisis!

Please pray for the people of Zimbabwe. While we in Britain feel the effects of political uncertainty and deadlock over Brexit, we should be grateful that we are not oppressed by a militaristic regime intent on suppressing dialogue and protest. The dear people of Zimbabwe are suffering 90% unemployment, the doubling of fuel prices overnight, runaway inflation and food shortages. According to BBC news this morning, hundreds of people have been arrested arbitrarily and people with guns are roaming the city streets. Police reportedly stand by and watch looting, whilst roads and shops are closed, along with banks and government departments.

Also, like in North Korea and other totalitarian regimes, the authorities have blocked the Internet and prevented WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook from being used in order to control news to the outside world as well as to prevent citizens from communicating with one another. Meanwhile the President is reported to be away in Russia seeking assistance in building up his military and other such aid. What a tragedy for a once proud nation that used to be known as the bread basket of southern Africa and now looks more like a basket case.

What can the outside world do? It is unclear. Sanctions usually only hurt suffering populations even more. But maybe pressure can be put by international investors and governments to force change. Until then, I hope that the world will pray and ask God to be merciful to that nation once again and send the rain of His Spirit on the church there, giving wisdom and great grace to the leaders and people who are enduring this situation. The God of the Bible says: "If my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health". (2 Chron 7:14 The Message). Let's pray that will happen today.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Do We Belong in Europe?

I just enjoyed breakfast with four amazing people from Madrid, the capital of Spain They were passing through Guernsey airport after visiting the tiny northern Channel Island of Alderney. They are evangelical Christians and pastors in a large church in the Spanish capital. Prior to meeting with them I had read a report that said that 12 evangelical churches are being opened in Spain per month - yes monthly!✻ Now this group feel a missionary concern for little old Alderney and already have a member of their church working there and sharing her faith. What was clear from my friends is that they don't want us to leave! They feel a great affinity with us and thank God for what our involvement with them has brought about.

Speaking as a retired missionary I just want to say how much I thank God for the decades during which there has been freedom of movement between Britain and the nations that make up mainland Europe. Here in Guernsey we are only 30 miles from France with its only 2% of Protestants and can see it clearly (we are 90+ miles from the UK). If that freedom ends I know that God will continue to bless and prosper his work in the UK and in Europe, but I can't help thinking that an effective door of opportunity may have been closed.

I blogged recently about fear as I think that both sides of the Brexit debate seem vulnerable to this at the moment. We need to recognise when fear is becoming debilitating and deal with it early before it eats away at our peace. God's love, and trusting in his loving care for us, in the antidote to fear, and the words of the Bible can help us to overcome. 'Don't be afraid' is said 366 times in the scriptures - one for every day of the year and one for a leap year!

But as I pray for the UK parliament and for its government when they come to the critical vote on Tuesday (15th Jan 2019) I am also praying that the door of opportunity for cross-cultural mission and cross-border friendship will not close. After all, the UK may be going to leave the EU but there is no way that it can leave Europe!

✻http://evangelicalfocus.com/europe/2225/In_Spain_12_evangelical_churches_are_opened_every_month


Saturday, January 05, 2019

How's your temperature?



Mike Pilavachi, the well-known British youth speaker and leader of Soul survivor, tweeted this last week: “Never be cool. Never try and be cool. Never worry what the cool people think. Head for the warm people. Life is warmth. You'll be cool when you're dead.” Well that is a relief!!"

I know why people might want to be "cool" - I suppose I do too really - but hey, is cool what God wants for His church? "Head for warm people" is really sound advice I think. Maybe being cool is great but warmth always wins hearts and influences people.

Part of my worries about coolness is that I remember too well the cold-hearted Christianity of the past. Too many sincere believers made the mistake of imagining that holiness had to be cold, scowling and judgemental. They were cooled right down to the extreme!

Jerry Bridges says this: "Godliness is never austere and cold. Such an idea comes from a false sense of legalistic morality erroneously called godliness. The person who spends time with God radiates his glory in a manner that is always warm and inviting, never cold and forbidding."✱

Should church be cool?  I'll leave that to you to decide. But should Christians be warm? Yes - a thousand times yes. Sometimes I can be so project oriented, or task driven that I fail to spot the needs of those around me. I learned in African culture that they always had time to chat, time for friendship, for mutual support. Warm hearted people in a hot climate! Maybe it would be better to do the job just a little less perfectly but be warm and attentive to the people around us?

Come on - smile a bit!🤣😁 Give me warm Christians rather than cool church any day!


✱ Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day by Day (NavPress, colorado Springs, 2008) 11