Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Christianity is Not a Middle Class Religion

In the last twenty years or so, certainly in the UK, there has been a very downplayed but certainly very firm and purposeful disengaging politically, socially and economically from the majority working class, in the broadest sense of that term. The major political parties and the establishment, with the help of the mainstream media, have not only abandoned ordinary people, they have made them scapegoats for the economic downturn sparked off by the ‘banking crisis’ of 2008. The British Conservative government have also imposed austerity on the poorest people, whilst the wealthy, big businesses and global corporations enjoy huge tax breaks and the ‘offshoring’ of money in any number of tax havens around the world. From what I’ve heard, and from what I can see in the media, America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are also suffering similarly, too.

What is particularly noticeable, is that as the very wealthiest are getting wealthier and a relatively small subsection of the middle class, millions of people are struggling economically, even many in work, and the present government are cutting all kinds of funding for school meals, the NHS, wages for ordinary people are stagnant, housing is impossible to buy for many people on low wages, education is being priced out of the realms of many people, and there is a maliciousness towards the (white?) working class majority coming from a number of quarters, which is unfair and in some cases downright vile.

Now, there will be Christians, and no doubt non-Christians, who will say perhaps not without reason ‘surely this is political, should a Christian be involving themselves in such things?’  I would answer that I am not involving myself politically in anything, I am merely commenting on a number of social issues I see around me and in the nation at large.  I also see the greed of wealthy people and the middle class people who prop them up via institutions like the media, law, academia and others as MORAL ISSUES. When the wealthy decide to get wealthy at the great cost of the poor and working class, there is something particularly unjust, even amoral, about it.

‘13 The Lord stands up to [j]plead,
And stands to judge the people.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment
With the elders of His people
And His princes:
“For you have [
k]eaten up the vineyard;
The plunder of the poor is in your houses.
15 What do you mean by crushing My people
And grinding the faces of the poor?”
Says the Lord God of hosts.’ (Isaiah 3:13-15)

Now, what about this middle class church? Well, as the media, politics, law, charities and virtually every other institution and organisation has politely, carefully but very firmly pushed ordinary working class people out of them, I would say that the organised Church has done pretty much exactly the same, particularly the Church of England. Almost by default, we have at the moment a society that demeans the majority of us, that lionises the very wealthiest and makes the middle class the arbiters of good taste, respectability and those who are acceptable. And the rest of us? Well, we are either ignored, dismissed or downright attacked maliciously for being responsible for our own poverty, blamed as racists or fascists at the most extreme, or just seen as somehow surplus to requirements. Hardly a very Christian thing, is it? I do not see organised churches making any comment about this, in fact they seem more busy being ‘PC’ or incorporating worldly ideas into their belief system. There is more than a tendency in organised Christianity in the UK that unfortunately sees being middle class and perceived high social status as synonymous with being a Christian. I think this may have its roots in the Victorian era, that era of fake respectability, double standards and hypocrisy. I see a return to those times again, a time of fake respectability, double standards and hypocrisy... and all for what? For power, influence, political gain and money. Nothing changes.

Let me say this, quite clearly: CHRISTIANITY IS NOT A MIDDLE CLASS RELIGION!!! When everything else seems to belong to the wealthy and some of the middle class, faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t. Organised religion, perhaps even organised Christianity may have simply become another part of the social system, nice and cosy, challenging nothing, accepting everything worldly and staying quiet about social injustice and the growth in economic divisions, but Jesus IS NOT A PART OF THAT AT ALL. Religion is not relationship, and no matter how many wealthy and powerful people wish to use religion for their own selfish ends, God deeply frowns on them. Let me say quietly and politely, that there will be a price to pay for greed and selfishness, particularly when the accumulation of wealth for some creates poverty for many others, and that that poverty and hardship is justified through the media, governments and even organised churches.

Let My People Go!

I don’t particularly feel that churches of any kind need to become working class, whatever that would actually amount to anyway (rather posh out-of-touch middle England vicars talking about Ed Sheeran or rapping like Snoop Dogg??!) but all churches need to reach out into the community they are in, and focus on Jesus Christ and not worldly things or the current layers of worldly injustices justifying poverty for many and the growing wealth of a relative few. For many people at the moment, and this includes many Christians, society resembles ancient Egypt ...??!! Yes, you heard right. Bear with me. Ancient Egypt was a highly complex, well organised and well administrated society with a sophisticated social structure. Yet, for all that, it basically revolved around making the pharaoh and his family very wealthy, which was partly kept in check by the powerful priestly class. There was no absolute outright poverty to my knowledge in ancient Egypt but ultimately their gods were false and the pharaoh laboured for most of his life to fill a pyramid with often stolen wealth. In the end, utterly pointless, futile, selfish and blatantly narcissistic. Without checks and balances, capitalism descends into the same nonsense, a handful of very wealthy individuals hoarding vast amounts of wealth, whilst millions need food or work or help to get on in life, and that hoarding often doesn’t even bring real meaning or peace to people who already have wealth, only a fleeting sense of triumphalism and perhaps superiority and smugness. But happiness? That  seems to elude the very wealthiest, as it does many other people.

Moses’ cry of ‘let my people go!’ could be levelled at Western governments today, who create drudgery and enforced poverty for many people, and in some cases persecute disabled people and withhold welfare benefits from people who desperately need them, and as growing numbers of people are becoming Christians, particularly amongst the poor and working class, the governments of the day, as in Jesus’ times, are persecuting people who are God’s people. Now, I know that anyone with wealth and power and perchance someone from the government reading this will either laugh in disbelief, ignore without a second thought or dismiss as ranting nonsense all of the above, but God has a way of tackling wilful and malicious injustice and sometimes it can come from the most surprising quarters. Heed my words.

The Great Apostasy?

I’ve read and heard a few things about a great apostasy during the end times which means a great falling away from the church. Now, like most people interested in the ‘end times’ before Jesus returns, I’ve wondered what this great ‘falling away’ from the church might mean. I suppose we could ask which church, too. As a Christian of longstanding, I believe that there is a difference between the church most people think is the church, and what God considers the true church. For instance, there is the organised church, or churches, like the Church of England and the Catholic Church, and of course there are various other established organised denominations, which are supposed to pass for God’s ‘church’ on earth, but I’m convinced not one of them is. Then you have many the autonomous churches, which may come under looser connections like the Elim and Grapevine and other churches, some which may be ‘Charismatic’ or ‘Pentecostal’ and other things, but generally I’ve found such churches quite welcoming, open and not too fussy or snobby about who you are. Then many people get confused with the term church, thinking it means the building, rather than the people.

I believe the true church of Jesus Christ are merely the people all over the world, and throughout history, faced by many troubles and persecution, who have stayed true to the Gospel and their calling as Christians, despite and in spite of what persecutions, troubles, hardships and societal trends and passing beliefs have come.
Here’s a question for you: What do you think will cause, or is causing, the Great Apostasy?

Friday, 9 September 2016

Damn Right I Got the Blues...

Or has the Blues got me...?


David sure had the Blues... Just read some of those Psalms...


Jeremiah sure had the Blues... Just read some of his story...


Jonah sure had the Blues... Just read some of his story... Three days and nights in the belly of a big fish (it never says whale!)... Now that’s not something you hear every day, and if you ever go missing for three days and three nights I wouldn’t use that as an excuse. I certainly wouldn’t. Not after last time.

But it’s certainly true that some of God’s holy men (and no doubt some of the ladeez, too) had the Blues, some kind of depression and stress in their lives, trying to live for God, ironically enough within the tribes of Israel who knew they had a special calling on their lives from God, yet time and time again, they went massively and painfully astray and God had to send prophet after prophet to warn them of the dire consequences of not fulfilling their part of the covenant. Many of the prophets were killed or beaten or wondered deserts alone, wretched and no doubt miserable having to chide and speak against their own people. How difficult that would have been. Now if some religious types knock on the door, usually people shut the door in their face or someone in the back room tells them to bugger off (or words to that effect), but back then it would be getting stoned to death, sawn in two or some other equally horrible death. That would definitely put a downer on the whole day, I fear, especially if you’d made plans for the evening.


I am one of those people who have suffered with depression in the past and still occasionally suffer with it now and then. In the past it was very bad and a bout of it might last for months, now it comes and goes fairly quickly. But sometimes it can be a problem. Damn right I get the Blues, from my head down to my shoes. I get the Blues over poverty, I get the Blues over war, I get the Blues over unemployment, I get the Blues over many things... You get the picture. I even play the Blues on my many guitars, sometimes quite well, sometimes, well... hmmm. Anyway.

But suffering is a part and parcel of human life. In fact, how could we really see the good of our lives without understanding that there is bad, sickness and suffering? Of course, most of us in the West, like America, much of Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other advanced and wealthy countries have lots of things to be grateful for.


I have been suffering at times quite awfully with chronic fatigue syndrome, and sometimes it seems to get better and then it gets worse again. Most days I wake up, I don’t feel good at all. I usually ‘thaw out’, so to speak, after being up for an hour or so, but the biggest problem I have is fractured sleep. I don’t get really good unbroken sleep unless I take quite a powerful sleeping tablet, but the Dr only gives me five at any time. Also, I only take one if I have to be up, I don’t just take them because I can’t sleep. So, my sleep isn’t good at all and this exacerbates everything else. Syndrome just means an illness with a number of symptoms, and I do have a number of them, none of them pleasant. I truly wouldn’t wish CFS on my very worst enemy.


I’m beginning to try and understand what a long period of illness, or depression, or unemployment and/or just general struggle in life really means when you are a Christian. On the one hand you have hope unending, at least in your head, but on the other you are stricken with something not knowing when it will end. It is then we start to ask ourselves, perhaps before we even ask God, what is life all about? What is our life all about? Constant or ongoing suffering, particularly when it lasts for years can make people very philosophical. I have begun to think that such trials and tribulations are not only sent to test us, to see what we are made of, but also to bring us back wholeheartedly to God. And, not to bring things to a fine point, but if you are indulging in some kind of sin or sinful practise, and suddenly have found yourself suffering in different ways, I feel God may be asking you a question, and that question will very probably be: ‘do you want to keep living in sin, or do you want to follow me?’ That, in the end, is the question God will ask all of us throughout our lives. We all sin, we all have a tendency to be disobedient and do our own thing. Illness, or some kind of suffering, that we certainly would not choose given a choice, may be God trying to get our attention. But, it may be something else, too. For a Christian, I do not believe things just happen by chance.


It may be that right now you are going through the worst suffering or illness or some other painful and depressing ongoing experience. I know how you feel even though obviously I don’t know what you are going through. I’m not going to offer you platitudes, you’ve probably heard enough of them already, I’m not going to patronise you either, because you’ve probably had enough of that as well, but in my own experience of suffering, which I am going through right now even as I type this post late night watching the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, I can tell you I am pissed off with it all. I am either suffering physically because of my chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and then when that passes for a day or an afternoon, I am becoming depressed with the whole thing. I am angry at the illness, angry at myself and most of all angry with God, really f***ing angry with Him. I kid you not. It might be that you feel exactly the same as me. Well, at least you know you are not alone in that. I’m not a middle class middle England vicar, or one of those reverends from some nice, quaint affluent town on the Great American Plains somewhere, I’m just an ordinary person, and I am not going to pretend I am not really upset and fed up and be really nice and wise and measured about it all, because that’s not how I feel.


’12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.’ (1st Peter 4:12-16)


I need the scripture, I need the Bible and I need God to keep me on the straight and narrow path, but sometimes like everyone else I feel overwhelmed and have to vent my spleen. Anyway, I’m hanging in there, and I do advise you do the same, no matter what you are going through. Keep praying, keep asking God for help in every moment and even at the worst of times.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Was Margaret Thatcher an Anti Christ?

This is certainly something that all Christians will have to think about, sooner or later. I don’t really mean thinking about Mrs Thatcher, I mean all this stuff about the Beast and antichrists and all that malarkey. Partly because I think it is obvious that we are in the End Times, although some may disagree, and also partly because Revelations in the Bible seems to be a very misunderstood book, and also one that has been often completely misinterpreted throughout history and also in recent times, too. It seems that it is so easy to misinterpret, or so hard to understand that I sense many Christians really don’t want to read it or really be bothered with it, which is a shame. I think it is one of the key books of the whole Bible, and probably pulls the whole story from the very beginning right to the very end. Stark and brooding indeed.

Now, I have to admit something. I wasn’t the greatest fan of Mrs Thatcher if I am being perfectly honest. I’m not alone in that view. I don’t think she was a particularly loveable woman, even though she definitely had strength, charisma, drive and was very principled, though many of us felt that all her principles were wrong. Way out of kilter. You can hold very deeply held principles after all, but they can still be completely wrong very deeply held principles. Abroad she was seen as a very strong politician, just like Gorbachev was seen as a very strong politician the further he was from Russia. But in Britain Mrs Thatcher was seen as either divisive, vindictive, prejudiced against working class people and their solidarity, determined to push through neo liberal economic ‘free market’ policies and abandon any kinds of social checks and balances that kept British, but particularly English, democracy fairly balanced and reasonably equitable, or she was seen as progressive, forward thinking and a necessary catalyst for change in a backward and stagnant economy. I think of her in the same vein as Elizabeth the 1st, or Cecil Rhodes, or Oliver Cromwell and strong people like that, empire builders and great generals, people who are often seen more fondly or looked at a little more wistfully with the obvious hindsight of history and the sharp edges smoothed off. But, does that make her an anti Christ? And, just what exactly is an anti Christ when she or he’s at home anyway?

What does the Bible say?  15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  (1 John 2:15-19)

I believe that the key word firstly is antichrists and not some one individual antichrist. This is often where people who haven’t really read the Bible, nor studied or prayed about what they have read make mistakes and then make false assumptions thereon about what they have read, or what they think they have read, and then of course the utter confusion of so many different people claiming to know what this means or that means in the Bible, particularly when it comes to End Times theology. A veritable industry has grown up around this in America, and I have  heard about some of it, regarding the rapture, although admittedly I haven’t read any of the books doing the rounds. I do believe that if we as Christians want to understand Revelations and all the End Times theology, we need to read it without prejudices of what we may have heard outside the Bible, even if claiming to be biblical, and we need to pray about it and study it with an open but also focussed mind. God wants to reveal something to us.

Why do I think Margaret Thatcher was an antichrist? Because she presented herself in an almost quasi religious light when the Conservative party was voted in, in 1979 and quoted Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer, ‘Where there is discord may we bring harmony...’ etc. To many, she seemed to bring the exact opposite of what the prayer was. And, she was a ‘devout Methodist’ or certainly claimed to be. What exactly is an antichrist and what would an antichrist do, and/or represent? I think that an antichrist would be a counterfeit messiah, not necessarily someone pretending to be Jesus, although that has happened and may happen again, but someone who comes along promising complete solutions to all the problems at a particular time. In recent history, we saw this with Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Franco particularly, men who came along with a religious zeal promising either to change everything radically, or to uphold what they claimed was law and order, or a bit of both. What happened in those cases many of us know only too well. Their religious zeal, combined with dreadful Machiavellian political machinations caused more death and suffering and atrocities in such a short space than at any time in history. Hitler was actually believed by some to be a German messiah sent by God and was worshipped by some children as a god. I’m sure that many more didn’t believe he was literally a messiah, but millions of Germans believed that he was the answer to their woeful economic and social problems. This I feel is one of the major aspects of an antichrist, someone who seems to offer perfect or radical political solutions in desperate or extreme times, that some people feel uneasy about but many others find irresistible because of what they say or how they say it.

I am a Christian, as some of you may have noticed. I have no doubt that antichrists have been part and parcel of the world since Jesus came to earth and have been with us in the form of political leaders, ‘religious’ leaders, military leaders and many other powerful figures that hold sway over others. I think this means that whatever politics we hold, and whatever our views about current local, national and international events, we have to be careful about who we place our faith or solutions in that seem too good to be true. If they seem too good to be true, they almost certainly are too good to be true. I read in a Christian book recently that as Christians we should not actively partake in politics but remain spectators, which is something I really need to take on board. I do get too involved sometimes and I actively get angry at the injustice meted out to poor people and people who are already struggling whilst political and wealthy elites make more and more. As Christians, we know that the whole social, economic, political and religious system in the world is fallen and deeply flawed, and only works in a dysfunctional manner at best, and utterly chaotically at worst for the majority of people. There is enough money, resources and know how in the world to ensure everyone could work and eat, but the world system operates on a very selfish basis for a relative few, those small political, economic, political and even religious elites who claim to be acting in the interests of everyone else, but seem time and time again to make themselves wealthy and make laws, rules, regulations and political decisions that benefit the few over the many. This should come as no surprise to we who are Christians.  1 You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. 2 For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!  (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

We know, as Christians, that the world is in the power of ‘the enemy’ so we have to hold on to God and His promises and we have to be obedient to God, not the whims of the world or our passions or faulty ideals, nor fear the future or worry about whatever negative circumstances we presently live in. We have a mighty God that can deliver us from all evil and suffering and seeming inevitable harsh realities. Just have faith. I say again, just have faith.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Far Off the Beaten Track...

The United Kingdom is quite small. I think that, even including the Republic of Ireland, which is not part of the U.K., the British Isles as a whole is about 100,000 square miles, which compared to the U.S. and Australia and India, and many other countries, is quite small. Consider as well that there are over 60 million people in the British Isles, too, and that’s a lot of people in a relatively small place. You would think then that we would be very overcrowded, but that is not really true at all. London is by far the biggest city in the British Isles, by geographic size and population, and then Birmingham, probably followed by many other similar sized cities like Manchester, Dublin, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow and others, which though also varying in size and population with each other, tend to hold similar sway over the surrounding areas where they are. But once out of the cities and towns, there is a whole world that is very different. In England alone, about 88% of the population live on just over 12% of the land, which is incredible really. That means that there is a lot of land to explore, a lot of small towns and villages that even very few British people are really aware of, especially city dwellers like me. British cities definitely have a different feel from each other, and of course we all have different accents too, which seems to come as a bit of a surprise to many people around the world, even some Americans! But cities do have a tendency to start looking similar, the McDonalds, the Costa, the Caffe Nero, the expensive shopping area, the damn near impossible task to find a parking space, and so on pushing out any real regional identity in the process. But that’s another story.


I know that when I am stressed out or feeling under a lot of pressure, my default attitude is to want to disappear over the horizon to some lonely place far off the beaten track, and I suppose lots of people these days want to do the same with the stresses and strains of modern life, and the struggle with money and finding a job and settling down, and other things we all struggle with now and again. It’s more than a pipe dream, but always tinged with some kind of sadness or maybe more a sense of desperation. It may also be that I haven’t done a lot of exploring my own country and I have never actually gone camping in my life, either. But it is more than that, a whole lot more. We all get dissatisfied with our lives sometimes, and even when we have all we need and even all we want, it isn’t enough to satisfy. There is a sense of desperation in being two steps from real poverty, which I am not by the way, but there is also spiritual malaise in having everything in a material sense and still feeling empty inside. I have a dream of living in remote and sparsely populated North Wales, in a nice wooded area in a nice little caravan near hills and small mountains, where when it is night I can get to the highest point and see nothing but darkness with maybe the lights of a very small town or village dotted here and there far off on the horizon, but not too near. I realise that it is merely me wanting to run away from myself, and that will never happen. In some respects, I have been living in that mentality for many years. I felt a failure, everything I seemed to do either failed or didn’t seem to work out, and so for a long time I have dreaded every day and dreaded the future. I am also one of those people who need some kind of routine, but who also gets bored to some degree with routine and knowing where I will be on a particular day. For me, my Christian walk is and has to be on a daily basis. And, believe me, only the Lord can really deal with my moods. But what I like to do is take off for the day sometimes and walk somewhere like a lonely beach, or a country path, and I do take holidays in North Wales, which is very different from the city I live in. Beautiful small towns, often churches from the mediaeval period which have interiors from many eras, castles everywhere, nice pubs, loads of reasonably priced cafes, a great public transport system, lots of things to see and do, and you are never far from magnificent and isolated unspoilt countryside, where you can roam physically and also let your mind wander too. I could work for the North Welsh Tourist Board, I’m that passionate about North Wales, but they don’t need anyone really as they are very good at promoting North Wales anyway.

I need my space sometimes. I need to walk along empty and lonely beaches and see the rocks strewn here and there and the sound of birds looking for food among the shallow pools left behind when the tide has gone out. I need to walk along country lanes or lonely wooded areas surrounded by farmland and little villages with old churches complete with the classic spire far in the distance, set in gently rolling countryside, with birds singing gently and the odd insect buzzing here and there. It’s also that I can experience God alone and away from everything and everyone I know. It’s just me and Him. I believe that sometimes it is good to get away from all the things that are your normal routine, time and circumstances permitting of course, and being on your own, or just you and God. His Creation is magnificent and many of us certainly do not reflect on that anywhere near as much as we could or should. I love cities and all the amenities and shops and things we take for granted, but I thank God that even in the relatively small set of islands I find myself in there are thousands of square miles of beautiful, often remote and definitely unspoiled countryside filled with great things to see and do, and particularly long and interesting histories, with the odd dot of old blood here and there, and most of all places to walk for miles in tree laden hills, woods, little rivers, valleys and greenery at every turn.

I have been going ‘through the mill’ in the last couple of years with bouts of unemployment, bouts of depression here and there, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) for the last 15 years, which got really bad at the start of 2016 and has caused me so many physical and emotional problems. The only good thing that has come out of it is that I am focussing a lot more on God now, and I am in the process of asking for and being healed from the awful CFS I have. I wouldn’t wish CFS on any human being, as it is a raft of symptoms that includes muscle aches and pains, physical tiredness, headaches, stomach problems, neuralgic pain in various places, feeling distracted and agitated, ‘brain fog’ or memory problems and inability to concentrate and other things, with the icing on the cake for me being a problem with sleeping which can exacerbate everything else. In all of this, I have had to call on God in great despair and frustration at illness that comes and goes, and I have simply asked God, and I always speak to Him in the most normal and intimate way as if He is my ‘best mate’, because He is I suppose. At one point, a few days ago of this writing, I felt so physically and indescribably awful that all I could do was crawl to God on my knees and I sat before Him begging, pleading and just asking Him to heal me of this. I was there for 45 minutes or so, and I also asked Him what the illness was about, and even if He wouldn’t heal me, then why not. The worst of it lifted from me. I am not completely healed as of yet, and I understand that God is taking me through a healing process. I also know someone in my hometown who is a pastor who was healed over a period of 18 months from CFS, and he had it much worse than me. Before he was healed he was walking around, well hobbling, on a walking stick and was suffering other complications as I have. Now, he is completely cured and preaches the Gospel in our area and all over the world. God has the power to heal ALL ailments, physical and mental, but we have to dig into our faith, and that means making time for God. Got it? Good.  

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.’ (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Don’t be Afraid to Fail

What???!! Are YOU MaD, I hear you all shouting at the screen!!! Well, you there half reading, whilst watching some rubbish on daytime TV and the cat half arsedly chase a fly ....


No, I’m not mad. If you are afraid to fail, you will never really succeed after all. We put such emphasis on success and winning, competing and outdoing others, and little on the real chance of failure. But people fail every day. Do those people who fail just disappear in a cloud of embarrassment? I doubt it, not if they want to succeed in the end, they don’t. No, all people who move onward and upward have tasted the bitterness of failure. In fact, how can anyone really succeed if there wasn’t indeed the reality of failure itself?


Like many Europeans, and probably many other people throughout the world, I watched the recent Euro 2016 football (soccer) tournament and enjoyed it immensely, apart from England being knocked out by Iceland. Yeah, I know. Ahem. Anyway, for us Brits, we had four teams from these isles who qualified for the tournament (Scotland didn’t qualify): England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, so those not too nationalistic were spoilt for choice really. I have mostly Irish and some Welsh ancestry, but am also English born, so I could happily support all four teams, in a sliding scale. When England was knocked out, and the Irish teams weren’t doing so well, I decided to support the Wales national team, and fair play to them, they did really well. One of their secret weapons is the world’s most expensive footballer and one of the most talented and exciting to his credit, Gareth Bale, who plays for Real Madrid in Spain usually. He is a really exciting player, and helped push the Welsh national team to the semi finals, only getting stopped in their tracks by a 2-0 defeat to Portugal. But it was a great run whilst it lasted. When asked how they got so far, their manager Chris Coleman said he told his team “don’t be afraid to fail!” which I think was utter genius. It turns conventional wisdom on its head, because we are usually afraid to reach out for something simply because we think we will fail. I have spent times in my life being like that. Now, I am not afraid of failure or desperate for success either, because they are in some senses more a state of mind than a particular situation. No person a complete failure, and no person is a complete success either, we can just fail or succeed at something we do or something we want to achieve. I am of the firm belief that sticking it out, seeing something out to the end and seeing whatever we pursue as something to be pursued in the long term is where we find the best of life and the best of ourselves, too. The short term is where we all lose, in the end. Just look at our ultra capitalist globalised world economy to see what I mean. Do I really need to say more?

Being afraid to fail? Don’t be. In the world, the biggest failure was Jesus Christ, who went to a lonely death, deserted by His followers and He even asked God if it was possible not to face the painful, brutal and completely unjust death He faced, knowing it was not possible. In fact, He wasn’t an ignominious failure, but the greatest success story we have ever known. In the world, success is being cool, having money, being handsome or attractive, having everything going well for you. In God’s economy, success can be something completely different, and what the world sees as failure God may see as something else. All we do as individuals, whatever incredible things the most incredible and successful people in the world do and have ever done, whatever wealth the richest person has amassed, whatever amazing fame or success any individual or group of people have achieved, is just a drop in the ocean to God’s Creation. It is also, in the end, or often can be, an empty experience where the joy fades away and then the desire to find something else to fill the void that can appear.


Jesus was successful because He came to serve. Most of us do things for selfish reasons. Just ask yourself what is your idea of success, and then what is God’s idea of success?

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.’ (Thessalonians 5:18) 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Time To Make.... a ...... DECISION??

Are you double minded? Wavering between two opinions, or indeed wavering between two lifestyles?


5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.’ (James 1:5-8)


How many of us compartmentalise our Christian faith? How many of us are different with one group of people, as we were with another? How many of us change our personality, our accents, our whole persona depending on the person we are with? How many of us really live out our Christian faith everywhere we go, regardless of who is around us, and in an open and honest, even innocent way?


My friend told me recently that he read that most of us are only truly ourselves for 15 minutes a day, the rest of the time we hide behind carefully cultivated ‘masks’ that we present to the world, of how we wish to be seen and perceived by others. I understand this only too well. I struggled with being me, I would rather have been anyone else but me at one time. It’s probably why I am good at doing accents, and can play convincingly another kind of person when I need to. I’d make a good actor! Possibly. But what I see now is that hiding behind various masks, being different with different people, becomes wearisome, becomes tedious and ultimately just cannot be the abundant life God wants for us. It doesn’t make me happy anyway.


I find now, that what makes me happy is simply living out my faith in a practical and reasonable fashion, and just being me. Not trying to be cool, not trying to be smart, not trying to be ‘Mr Popular’ or anything like that, just me being me, no more no less. I’m beginning to like me, and I want other people to like me, too, because God evidently does. Isn’t that a kind of freedom, not having to put on airs and graces with other people, or with God either?


What Decision?

The decision to live completely for Jesus, right now, whatever you are doing, wherever you live, whatever circumstances God has placed you in. If you know God has a call on your life, then you need to get completely in step with His will so you can begin to find out the plan He has for your life. The closer I have got to God, the more I realise how sick, unjust, disturbed and deeply unbalanced this world is. You don’t think so? Still have illusions about how nice and fair, how balanced and generally good the world is?


15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him...’ (1 John 2:15)


We are in the world, brothers and sisters, but we are not to be a part of the world, but set apart from it, its practises, morality, passing fads and fancies and the horrendous double standards that exist everywhere. We are set apart from other people, not above them, not falsely humble and below them, set apart. Whatever those in the world do or don’t do, we are to live out God’s will for our lives. You don’t know God’s will for your life? Ah, we have a problem...

Friday, 17 June 2016

Interested in the PaRaNoRmAl?? Part 3

So, we’ve come so far in our quest. Our quest, that is, to debunk the paranormal, the occult, or whatever else it may be. I’ll start with a real earth shaker in this part. My view, and it may seem narrow minded, is that all mystery outside of God, be it ghosts, UFOs, yetis, unfeasible monsters in strange places, mysteries that defy any rational explanation, and indeed anything that is weird and, well, paranormal, is illusion. Or delusion, if you like.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (Ephesians 6:12)

Now, in some senses, the dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms almost sounds exciting, interesting and mysterious even. But if God warns us about this struggle against unseen foes, there is a reason. He is not doing it for His benefit, He is very much doing it for our benefit. What I can say as well, is that occasionally I read atmospheric ghost stories, not really bloody or extremely scary horror, just things that fire up my imagination, in the same way that someone might read Lord of the Rings, or Sherlock Holmes, knowing it is merely well written fiction. I can also say that I am a thoughtful and enquiring person, in fact I was extremely precocious as a kid in that respect, quite bright and I read a lot, too. Not bragging here, it was just the way it was. I had a lot of curiosity, in fact I still do. Now, I’m curious about nature, the universe, life, the nature of being and many many other things, but most of all I am curious about God. He created everything, so He has all the answers. He may not see fit to tell me everything I want to know, but when He reveals something to me, whether it is about the situation I might be going through, whether it is about human nature, just about me or just something in general, I know it is truth, plain and simple, or sometimes an amazing truth I could not have anticipated in a million years without His guidance.

So, I went, quite slowly and over some time, from being interested in the paranormal and wanting to mine the depths of all these mysterious, but ultimately unsatisfying and empty experiences, to turning my full focus and attention on to God. I ditched the interest in the paranormal many years ago. It was a good thing that I did. I have heard too many weird stories about all kinds of mystical experiences, and read many stories too, that just made me feel cold. I admit, I am biased, I am a Christian and I wish to serve God and seek His will and Him now before any other thing. I see this as being tribal, like many things. If you support a football team, you support them and want them to win and play well all the time. I’m on God’s team, He picked me, and I am going to spend the rest of my life playing as good as I can for Him. Above and beyond the football analogy, God is all about love, true relationships of all kind between all kinds of human beings, and there is nothing in Him that is false, or empty or weird. Oh, there’s plenty of mystery with God, a universe load in fact, but as He reveals His nature and who He is to us, we move towards truth and the true nature of who we are and to our true destiny, and not in to more empty mysteries that lead down rabbit holes of delusion.


If you are caught up in the paranormal, the occult, or something supernatural outside of God and His Kingdom, then however new you are to it or even if you have gone very far into it, get out. There is a way out. Get on your knees and start to pray to Jesus, the man who literally came down to earth to be a close and intimate friend, a mate in the British sense, to all who call on Him and will walk with Him. God will fulfil all your yearnings to understand the things you can’t understand, and as with me, He will surprise you with things you wouldn’t have dreamed of.


I now see the paranormal in this simple way: It’s like peeling an onion, very carefully and very precisely and very delicately, expecting to find something underneath your first perception of its mystery, or UFOs, ghosts, whatever, only to find another skin underneath which needs similar time and effort to peel. At the end, when the onion is peeled, there is nothing left but air and the sense that all that effort has been wasted and all you’re left with is a vain attempt to grasp air. Very frustrating and a complete waste of time, in essence.


There is truth in God. There is only unfulfilled mystery and delusion in the paranormal. I know, I’ve been there. I experienced enough of it to know it is empty. I’ve experienced enough of God to know He has set me on a straight course and is saving me for better things. I seek God and I find Him every day. I have no time or inclination to follow delusion anymore. Through Jesus, I know and I am known.
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." 22 Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, "Away with you!" (Isaiah 30:21-22)