We Are At War IV

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

After telling us to have the belt of truth fastened around us,the apostle Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness. Now this is the righteousness that comes when we are in God’s will,not self-righteousness. Self-righteousness will do no good as a protection, but God’s righteousness is excellent protection when we face up to our enemies. It is a breastplate. It does not give great protection to the back, but when we know that Jesus rose from the grave,we need have no fear and we need not turn and run. This is righteousness that is credited to us through our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

In Roman times, a soldier wore a breastplate when he was going into battle. Because we are in a state of constant spiritual battle, we need to keep it firmly in place. In someways we are like sentries,always needing to be alert but uncertain of when a threat will arise, and in other ways we are like soldiers in a battle, needing to keep our wits about us all the time to prevent an opportunist strike that could disable us.

The breastplate does not protect when the soldier is running away. It does not protect from a fifth columnist who is in the same ranks and who strikes from behind. There are two implications from this: firstly that one needs to be sure of one’s companions, and secondly that there is no protection when one turns and runs. The answer to both is to immerse oneself in prayer,and the study of Scripture, so that we know the One on whom we rely. And that,of course,as the student of the catechism knows is the chief end of man, to know God and to enjoy Him forever. I pray that each and every one of my readers will do just that.

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We Are At War III

The apostle Paul understood what was happening in his day and it is still happening. We are in the midst of a war in which our opponents are spiritual forces. This is not a war we win by killing our enemies but rather by retaining our own integrity and our faith in Jesus who died so that we would be able to live.

When Paul tells his friends in Ephesus to put on the whole armour of God,he starts with the belt of truth. Paul’s correspondents would have been familiar with the Roman legionary,whose belt was the foundation upon which all of the other parts of the armour were attached, and this is the metaphor he uses for spiritual armour.

First of all, it means having no falsehood in our speech or our actions. Ever since the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples at Pentecost, they had emphasised the need for absolute truth in all of their dealings with people both within and outside the Fellowship. Such conduct is the basis upon which every other aspect of life has to be built.

Secondly, we need to keep in mind that Jesus declared himself to be The Way, The Truth and The Life. Jesus is the truth, the foundation upon which all of the other spiritual armour is built. We all understand that no superstructure is better or stronger than the foundation upon which it is built. We have the strongest foundation upon which to build, the God who became man,and the man that death could not hold.

One of the situations we face in a post-modern society is that the common view is that each has their own truth and there is no absolute truth. We Christians, on the other hand, claim that there are absolute values,including absolute and objective truth. That truth is Jesus. If He could be sufficient for the Christians who were burned as
torches in the time of Nero, or who were put into the circuses of the Roman empire to be eaten by wild animals, then we in the 21st Century West have more than sufficient for our situation.

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We Are At War II

This is no military war but rather a spiritual war. The spirit of the age is raging against the Church and here in the West the Christians have become soft and unfit. In New Testament times it was clear that Christians were under physical attack, put in prison and killed. Paul makes clear that he himself was involved in this, acting as a witness to the stoning of Stephen – possibly even being the one who signaled when to start the stoning, and obtaining letters from the chief priests to go to Damascus to arrest other Christians who lived away from Jerusalem.

This same Paul, after his conversion, writes to the Church at Ephesus, where Demetrius the silversmith had started a riot because Paul preached Christ while Demetrius’ whole livelihood was tied up in the worship of Artemis, in words that are relevant to the Church today,

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

You may ask why does Paul write these words. Bear in mind that Paul was beaten,imprisoned,wrongfully accused of all sorts of crimesand had gone from a situation of a pharisee, student of Gamaliel, a highly respected teacher,and persecutor of Christians to outspoken advocate for ‘The Way’. I contend that the reason is that too many of us are in the same position that the Sadducees who attempted to trip up Jesus were in. Unlike Paul, after his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, we know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

We need to know the Scriptures. We need to study them constantly and consistently, so that we can understand what God is saying to us and can understand them in context. The Scriptures are given us for our good and that we might come to faith in Jesus as our personal saviour as well as the saviour of the world. They were written with divine inspiration. Godis not full of contradictions so we can expect any leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives to be consistent with Scripture. We can follow the exhortation of verses 18 and 19 for each other, that we may be given the words so that we will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel and declare it as we each should.

In the coming days, I hope to look at the various pieces ofspiritual armour.

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Church Leadership – Do I Measure Up 2

the second piece of Scripture that addresses the qualification for church leadership is Acts Chapter 6 verses 1 to 6.

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

First a little background. There were in Judea at the time both native Jews whose mother tongue was Aramaic, but who were probably able to also speak Greek and or Latin. The Hellenistic Jews were not likely to be natives of Judea, but rather from other parts of the Roman empire, whose mother tongue was usually Greek. There was in Judaism of the time a certain amount of snobbery displayed by Hebrew Jews who felt that they were more devout and better at keeping the Law than the Hellenists. In Judaism there was tension between the two groups and little intermingling. To some extent this was carried over into the church, and to some extent the lack of social contact meant that the members of one group did not know or understand the problems being faced by individuals in the other group. And so the complaint arose.

A similar situation can arise in the church in modern times. What would the typical Sunday morning congregation think if a Goth or a Punk came to the service? I am certain some would feel uneasy because the newcomer was so different in terms of clothing and make up (for the ladies) so consider how much worse it was for the early church were there was a difficulty with language as well. I would not be surprised if some Roman Catholic congregations had had to face this with the influx of Poles seeking employment in Britain only a few years ago.

Leadership, though, is not just for those with a ministry of preaching the Word. It also includes those whose jobs are in the background, but whose work is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of the church. In my youth in the Church of Scotland, in the ceremonial entry of the minister, he was preceded by the beadle, or church officer whose main role was to ensure that the church was clean and fit for use, but he did have a public role in the service of worship. Similarly, members of a choir or music group lead the congregation in sung worship, and in the case in Acts 6, there is a leadership role in distributing material goods, in this case food, to the people in need.

Those whose ministry is the preaching of the Word ought to concentrate on that role and to delegate much of the other work they have to other people so that they can better perform what they have been called to do. I am not so certain about churches in the US, who seem to have understood this and are quicker to hire administrative help in the church, but certainly in the UK too often people who have been given an extensive theological education end up moving chairs around and writing up minutes of meetings.

Those who are to be chosen for leadership positions in the church, Acts 6 tells us, should be men who are full of the Spirit and of wisdom. They should be chosen by the general body of believers from the general body of believers and commissioned in their position by the apostles. It is worthy of note that the apostles chose the framework but the people chose the men to fill the positions and then the apostles commissioned the men, confirming the choice of the church.

This would almost certainly put a church with an attached school into direct confrontation with the UK laws on equal opportunities. “S/he only got the job because of their religious views. It’s not fair! I’m a better teacher of whatever than s/he is! I should have gotten that job!”

But if the person who complains is not a Christian, then the church school would be failing in its biblical duty if it did not appoint Christians to all teaching and management positions in the school. Are Christians in the UK willing to confront the authorities on this issue? If they are not, are they worthy of the name Christian?

There was a case recently reported on the BBC Radio news about a woman who was cohabiting with, but not married to, a man. She was dismissed from her role as a Sunday School teacher and she went to the media. Some media channels took the approach that a Sunday School teacher had to live the life she professed to believe in and some took the view that this was bigotry against cohabitees by the church. Thankfully the clergyman involved was willing to put up a robust defence of the church’s action, and the ‘news’ soon become forgotten.

If any of us are asked to fill a leadership position, that person needs to ascertain that they have necessary calling, gifting and heart for the position. The technical skills can be taught but you cannot teach calling, gifting and heart. The leadership of a church or any other Christian organisation is going to become more fraught with battles against the state apparatus as time goes by, unless there is a significant change in society. We need to remember that leadership is not solely about the church but also about society and we need to be praying for revival in our land as much as we pray for our leaders.

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We Are At War

I am writing this on the first day when same-sex ‘marriages’ become legal in the UK.  I have been involved to some extent in the debate which has been taking place on the blogs of the Telegraph newspaper (www.telegraph.co.uk) and I would like to quote a couple of people.

Poster Robertheenan said

“This is a disgusting episode in history of civilisation. Marriage has been hijacked by sodomites. I got nothing against homosexuals and whatever they do behind closed doors but they seem adamant in thrusting their stuff on the rest of society.

“There is an evil cultural marxist agenda going on in the west. Why on earth would the leaders of France, UK and USA just around the same time call for legalising homosexual marriages?

“Notice how there is also a cultural imperialism going on in thrusting homosexuality as something cool and something to be proud off to other countries whether its in Africa, Russia or elsewhere.

“The MSM are very much in promoting this agenda. When Putin banned the promotion of homosexuality to under 18′s in Russia, notice how much the celebs, media, politcians etc within the West made such a uproar regarding it.

“Unfortunately there is absolutely no interest in promoting traditional marriage (man and wife) and traditional families (man and woman as husband and wife and children).

“Children at a young age being bombarded with message of homosexuality being cool and fun would probably end up experimenting in it. Its social engineering and cultural imperialism that is going on and its dangerous”

And SpeedofDark responded by putting these changes into poilitical context with

“It is part of the Frankfurt School agenda which was created to aid communism spread. It was originally based in Germany but fled to the USA when Hitler came to power. From then to the early 60′s it embedded itself in the US college and University system. It was, in fact, responsible for the counter culture revoluton of the 60′s( which most of the youth at that time saw as liberating from the admittedly authoritarian, and moral governance that existed. This is not the stuff of conspiracy theories but stark fact. Marcuse was one of the leading lights of this operation and his frank and open confessions are all on the youtubel The aim was to change forever the long establshed judao-christian heritage. To give you further insight (assuming like most people you are now aware of all this) I show below the key points of the Frankfurt School agenda. Please, then, if you wish compare those leading points with the actions of the labour governments of 1997 – 2010…..a close match, indeed. But this agenda is shared by the 3 parties – we live in a 3 party, 0ne party state of cultural marxists.

“The final aim of the Frankfurt School was to make the West so corrupt it “will stink”

“The School included among its members the 1960s guru of the New Left Herbert Marcuse (denounced by Pope Paul VI for his theory of liberation which ‘opens the way for licence cloaked as liberty’), Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, the popular writer Erich Fromm, Leo Lowenthal, and Jurgen Habermas – possibly the School’s most influential representative.

“Basically, the Frankfurt School believed that as long as an individual had the belief – or even the hope of belief – that his divine gift of reason could solve the problems facing society, then that society would never reach the state of hopelessness and alienation that they considered necessary to provoke socialist revolution. Their task, therefore, was as swiftly as possible to undermine the Judaeo-Christian legacy. To do this they called for the most negative destructive criticism possible of every sphere of life which would be designed to de-stabilize society and bring down what they saw as the oppressive’ order. Their policies, they hoped, would spread like a virus—‘continuing the work of the Western Marxists by other means’ as one of their members noted.

“To further the advance of their ‘quiet’ cultural revolution – but giving us no ideas about their plans for the future – the School recommended (among other things):

1. The creation of racism offences.
2. Continual change to create confusion
3. The teaching of sex and homosexuality to children
4. The undermining of schools’ and teachers’ authority
5. Huge immigration to destroy identity.
6. The promotion of excessive drinking
7. Emptying of churches
8. An unreliable legal system with bias against victims of crime
9. Dependency on the state or state benefits
10. Control and dumbing down of media
11. Encouraging the breakdown of the family

“One of the main ideas of the Frankfurt School was to exploit Freud’s idea of ‘pansexualism’ – the search for pleasure, the exploitation of the differences between the sexes, the overthrowing of traditional relationships between men and women. To further their aims they would:

• attack the authority of the father, deny the specific roles of father and mother, and wrest away from families their rights as primary educators of their children.
• abolish differences in the education of boys and girls
• abolish all forms of male dominance – hence the presence of women in the armed forces
• declare women to be an ‘oppressed class’ and men as ‘oppressors’

“Munzenberg summed up the Frankfurt School’s long-term operation thus: ‘We will make the West so corrupt that it stinks.’

“The School believed there were two types of revolution: (a) political and (b) cultural. Cultural revolution demolishes from within. ‘Modern forms of subjection are marked by mildness’. They saw it as a long-term project and kept their sights clearly focused on the family, education, media, sex and popular culture.”

Normally, I use this blog to discuss matters of predominantly Christian concern, This is a matter where the political establishment are acting in such a way as to cause a weakening of the church, either deliberately or as, Marx described them, by ‘useful idiots’.

I put it to all who read this that the Christians need to learn how to fight spiritual warfare,  We need to learn fast. 

The first thing we all need to remember is that an army marches on its stomach.  You need feeding.  If your church does not have bible study group, then start one.  With this spiritual environment, I would recommend starting with the Book of  Acts, and alongside it a good book for helping the studies is “Opening Up Acts” by John Michael Wong, published by Day One Publications of Leominster.  If you watch the You Tube videos about selection for the SAS, you will hear time and again that the applicant needs energy and the best way to get it isto eat as big a breakfast as he can.  Use Acts as your spiritual breakfast.  Eat Well!

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Leadership in the Church II

I apologise to those who follow this blog because my health has again not been terribly good during the moth of December 2013. I feel I am starting to get my energy and strength back and I hope to return to a more frequent posting service than of late. May I begin by wishing everyone who reads this a happy and prosperous 2014.

The second area of leadership qualifications we need to look at is the area of reputation of the individual who is to act as a leader. This person must have reputation for being upright and honest. This is more than simply “never been caught with his hand in the cookie jar” but rather a reputation for honest dealing in all aspects of his life. This more a case of being the person others turn to in cases of a moral dilemma for guidance and counsel. It is also a case of a person who practices what he preaches. No room for double-mindedness here. This would be the pastor who resigns his charge rather than officiate at some ceremony he is asked to by his church on the grounds that it is traditional but that he finds contradictory to Christian faith.

This does not necessarily mean that this is someone who has never been found wanting in any area, but someone who keeps short accounts with God and with his fellow men, like the Old Testament King David. It is someone who is honest with himself above all else, because failure in that area of one’s life leads to cognitive dissonance in all sorts of other areas.

It does mean that such a leader will serve his area faithfully to the best of his ability, but that those he serves will never be his master, because he has one Master, Jesus.

It also means that he is aware of the words of James, who tells us that what he does is the outpouring of his faith, the translation from thought to action.

To be called to be a leader in the church is both an honour and a responsibility. Are those of us who are called by our fellow men to take up such positions willing to spend time prayerfully reflecting on whether we are up to the task?

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The Methodist Church and Rev Paul Flowers

I must start with a declaration of interest. I worship in a Methodist church in Britain. This is why I have been so interested in the Rev Flowers since he hit the headlines last weekend.

There is an interesting interview on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Sunday, on 24th November 2013, starting at 31:48 into the programme. Please listen to the clip on BBC.co.uk or on the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03j8ksr/Sunday_St_Peters_bones_Father_Alec_Reid_Slavery/

Jesus told his followers to be innocent as doves and wily as snakes. Frequently we have been told, from the Old Testament prophets through to the New Testament Epistles, that we should not have hard hearts. If anyone can show me where we are told to have soft heads, please, please, please, answer with the Scriptural reference and I will ensure that it is posted in full. I keep trying, but I cannot find such a reference anywhere in Scripture.

But back to the Methodist Church. The church requires its ministers to self-reflect with colleagues on their work. Its spokesman did not say anything about other areas of their life.

Paul Flowers had a conviction in 1981 for committing a homosexual act with another man in a public toilet. According the the press, the Methodist church statement was to the effect that he was very contrite and enthusiastic about his work so he was allowed to continue in ministry. What is Biblical about that, I wonder. What checks, if any, were made to ensure that he was committed to fidelity within marriage and chastity outside of marriage?

In 1990, celebrating his fortieth birthday, he was convicted of drunk driving. A spokeswoman for the Methodist Church said they were aware of the drink-driving conviction and a disciplinary hearing was held but he had been allowed to continue his role in the church. Again, I ask what checks have been made to ensure that he was not abusing alcohol or any other substance?

Nobody brought to the Methodist church’s attention the fact that he left Lifeline after his expenses were questioned, and the chief executive of that charity has stated that he had wrongfully claimed £75,000 over five years ending in 2004, a problem that cost another £75,000 to sort out. So the Methodist church had as a trustee of the trust that controls its property a man who resigned as a trustee of a charity when his expenses were subject to a check. The charity commission received a report on this but one wonders what it did with the report. Given that a Labour Party place(wo)man was appointed to chair the Charity Commission under the Labour Government, it must be expected that a Labour supporter, and former Labour councillor being subject to such a report during a Labour administration, would cause the report to be buried. The resignation is a matter of public record. why does the Methodist Church not ask all charities where Ministers have been trustees and have resigned for a statement from the charity about the circumstanes of the resignation?

He was a trustee of the Terence Higgins Trust, in connection with which it was written that he was an ‘out gay man’. The biblical requirement for leadership in the church is that one is a man married to one wife? The fact that he was a trustee of the Terence Higgins Trust is surely grounds for a referral to the appropriate disciplinary authority in the church.

He was elected to Bradford Council as a Labour councillor, from which he resigned in 2011. The message for public consumption was that the resination was due to pressue of work as chairman of the Co-operative Bank, but it only happened when ‘inappropriate but not illegal adult content’ material was found on his Bradford City Council computer during a service by the IT department. Unless the true reason for his resignation had been made public, it is difficult to see how this could have been a trigger point for anything by the church.

But it is clear that this man had ‘previous’, to use the vernacular. But how and where does this leave the Methodist Church?

The Connexional Secretary, Mr. Doug Swanney, has told Edward Stourton on the BBC programme linked above that in relation to the conduct of ministers of the Methodist Church “We can only deal with evidence that is presented to us. … The process we ask our ministers to engage in are around self disclosure as we ask them to reflect on their ministry, accompanied as they reflect on their ministry”, and then later, “We don’t think there is any more we could have done”…”We have one instance here and I don’t think that means our system is morally bankrupt” … “We believe that the systems we have are robust” … “I don’t think that the kind of root and branch review that would insinuate there was something rotten everywhere..”

I beg to disagree, strongly disagree, with Mr. Swanney. Let’s start with the principles of self disclosure and self-refection. In the case of someone who uses a position as a minister of the church to get access to people and places he otherwise would not get, can we be assured of their honesty?

There is no suggestion that Mr. Flowers was a paedophile, but paedophiles are generally considered to be cunning schemers and manipulators of people. given that other denominations’ clergy contain paedophiles in their ranks, what is the probability there that there are no paedophiles within the ranks of Methodist clergy? Have the Methodist Church put procedures in place to try to proactively prevent paedophile clergy from causing any harm to any children before the matter reaches the stage of criminal charges? Would a self-reflecting paedophile tell his superintendant minister about his desires or would he reflect that if he simply keeps quiet he is more likely to get away with his little schemes?

When I was employed, I was responsible for managing my employer’s car fleet. My first argument when I was given the responsibility was to insist that every person who was allowed to drive a company car had to give their licence every quarter to their divisional director who would photocopy it and send a copy to me so that I had proof that they did in fact have a licence. This happened because of a report I had seen about someone being given a company car even though he had been disqualified from driving. The driver had had an accident and the employer had been fined for letting him have a company car when he was not qualified to drive it. The only person who objected was a divisional director who had previously failed to disclose an endorsement to the company so that the company could inform the insurers. To me it was quite clear that I had to protect the company from people who might not want to lose their job if they had lost their licence. We had something like 40 cars on the fleet and something like 70 possible drivers. There may only be one or two bad apples in the Methodist barrel, but they need removing before they infect the rest of the crop.

Every public company has to have an audit. 99%+ of all Finance directors are honest, but the company has to have an audit to reassure the shareholders, who are the owners of the company. The finance directors do not take the need for an audit as a personal slight, but as a means of proving that they and the other directors have faithfully fulfilled their stewardship role for the owners. This is the same. If this is how they view keeping evil out of positions of leadership in the church, what is a Methodist audit going to be like. “Are your figures OK and do you have any problems? OK, see you next year.”

How many times do the Connexional Leadership Team want to see promotions like the one this week from a florist which said “It’s been a bad week for Flowers. But if you quote the promotional code “Crystal Methodist” we will give you 10% off”. Let’s be real. Florists aren’t exactly the best known trade for macho and “in your face” advertising.

I had a conversation this week with a non-Christian friend who told me that men wearing dog-collars were more likely to be dishonest and perverts than, in his words, normal people. I do not want to have conversations like that again.

Only by following the Word, in terms of the requirements for a leader, and taking proactive steps to avoid retaining bad apples can any church or denomination possibly be certain of its clergy all doing what God requires.

I wonder whether the Methodist church would care to comment? I will post in full any comment or response they care to make.

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