Blogroll Category: Friends
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 35 posts from the category 'Friends.'
Disclaimer: Reproducing an article here need not necessarily imply agreement or endorsement!
Our A&E groans like a gangrenous laugh,
satisfaction now far from both patients and staff.
An NHS ward makes up the next bed,
as suffering souls become targets instead.
Consultants are drawn by satisfaction and pay, the
and the mind stretching challenge of curing Miss Hay.
Our nurses demob and chase agency stash,
a fraction of trouble for double the cash.
The budget expands with nowhere to turn,
As government cuts continue to burn.
The system is broken, the money is tight,
people are stressed, just turn off the light.
Our schools are no better, it has to be said,
results are what count if you want to stay Head.
The government calls for results to improve,
our children need grades if the country’s to move.
So Ofsted investigates every small crack,
and anyone lagging will soon face the sack.
The teachers are stressed and seek to implore,
our children to progress, just a few stages more.
Our children are pawns in political chess,
their results are required to keep voters impressed.
But the voters have children who need to see CAMHS,
They are under the pressure of endless exams.
So which will break first? The schools or the kids?
Something must change as our lives hit the skids.
Our debt grows each day by millions of pounds,
It’s 1.8 trillion and we’re still losing ground.
Our economy falters and refuses to grow,
we’re told to work harder with nothing to show.
The deficit shrinks, but not by enough,
and one more recession will finish it off.
The state will default or something much worse,
the banks will foreclose on our poor public purse.
Then what shall we do, with no money to pay,
for our schools and our hospitals on that very dark day?
Our lawmakers tinker with national policy,
unfettered by norms not matching their honesty.
The economy’s god, and has to be served,
adopt monetary law or face hardship deserved.
Competition is fierce and all must comply,
from banker to bin man to sly private eye.
And cameras stare into all open space,
There’s nowhere to hide from their all seeing gaze.
The state becomes nanny, policeman and judge,
with laws to control all those who won’t budge.
Dare anyone protest about all of this pain?
Any who differ face Twitter campaigns.
It’s an animal farm behind this ol’ barn door,
how did we all drift to Orwellian ‘4?
Our housing costs spiral up out of control,
As landlords benefit from those on the dole.
The rich quickly swoon at the value of property,
as the gap in our wealth lands millions in poverty.
It’s location, location, location, they say,
undesirable places soon urban decay.
The rich separate and the poor must then cluster,
As the sad urban landscape loses its lustre.
The people who gather in middle class cliques,
have no real idea about life on our streets.
Grandparents swim in the wealth they have gained,
Whilst grandchildren muse about their future sustained.
The cool Western nations suppose order’s a given,
human nature, they say, is the root of true livin’.
We pity poor countries where corruption is rife,
we can’t fathom out their bent way of life.
“British values” are best and they need to be taught,
or the nations which move here will bring us to naught.
Society believes that we Brits know what’s best,
Rule of law and good justice will make you all blessed.
But to live by which laws? And who did create,
the sad way of life which now we all hate?
These laws did not grow, as if from the soil,
But we must live in Great Britain, in a way not to spoil.
The threat from abroad is now threat from within,
an evil idea gains a following thin.
But then in our streets, and across many lands,
this trickle of followers slowly expands.
Their message is clear, their methods intense,
submit to our way or lose your defence.
We rely on our spies and then on the Met,
as GCHQ trawls the vast internet.
But these systems are creaking, there’s barely a plan,
our intelligence systems are dependent on man.
Our confidence wanes as we wake from the dream,
this world is in melt down, or so it would seem.
The United Kingdom has been rent asunder
By a Brexit debate which continues to thunder
In corridors powerful still held in check
By democratically fierce public debate
Our proud sovereign nation gave up the goose
As EU structures tightened the noose
The historical voice of the once great Great Britain
Now left like a sad and whimpering kitten
We beg and we plead as deal breakers rise
And the threat of collapse reaches the skies
So what will result from the daft referendum
A poor vassal state or complete isolation?
We just need to wait as the future unravels
And poor UK folk find new directions of travel
And where is the church in all of this mess,
The body of Christ, who came down to bless.
Her life is now hidden, tucked safely away,
by media moguls on vast corporate pay.
But the church has gone quiet, embarrassed to speak
the words of our Saviour, who honours the meek.
The voice of the prophets becomes a mere mumble,
as the servants of Christ continue to stumble.
Through internal wars, designed to divide,
the house of Jehovah, the Lord’s precious bride.
And so as predicted, the branch of Christ withers
The faithless are blown like snow in a blizzard.
The church has lost heart and sight of her Lord,
Congregations now age whilst the young are dead bored.
There needs to be change, a new way and direction,
The work of the Spirit, a complete reformation.
The system is broken, and so then are we,
we collectively groan whilst longing to flee.
But to what shall we run and to where shall we go?
We can’t close Great Britain and move the whole show.
There’s one thing to alter, our god we must change.
Out with the targets and cold stock exchange.
We must usher in God, three persons in one,
Eternally loving, the bright morning Sun.
Creation gives value and true dignity,
To each human being, made by bless’d Trinity.
Our fall is complete, as we each went astray,
vast temples of Mammon trade on our Lord’s day.
What we desp’ratly need is a dose of real grace,
our sins washed away as to God we must face.
His laws they do bless and by wisdom he guides,
our burdens he carries, he heals our divides.
God refused to stay distant but came down instead,
to be born with his creatures in a poor cattle shed.
His words bring us life and his light he does shine,
in pits of our darkness, he says “you are mine.”
From the pain of the cross he calls “it is done!”
As God our great Father gave us his Son.
Christ’s life and his death were true sacrifice,
and he turns on it’s head, our fools’ paradise.
As our life finds meaning in the love of the Lord,
our reason for living now strikes a new chord.
God’s kingdom of love is a kingdom of peace,
our rest is then found and our battles will cease.
And so goals need to change from the bank to the Lord,
our desire is to please him, no longer to hoard.
The Lord is not stupid, he’s no crazy fool,
he let’s us chase others, till we go through his school.
His lessons are hard, his love can be tough,
we go our own way till we cry “that’s enough!”
“Have mercy on us, please turn the way back,
we were fools to chase targets, as one thing we lack.”
“We lack a real sense of what life is for,
the stress and the chaos shout, there has to be more!”
So when we will turn from the cruel god “economy”,
who drives us like slaves through lies of autonomy?
Let’s abandon this god, and his ways which bring strife,
and collectively turn to the God who brings life.
To lose our life now, in the King’s saving grace,
is to find our real self in the Lord’s resting place.
by Neil Robbie
(First published December 2015. Updated to include comment on Brexit and the state of the Western church)
Thank you dear Stephen for such a thoughtful, well argued, kindly and considerate post. For any of you who missed them here is my original post http://jsjmarshall.blogspot.com/2018/12/brexit-time-for-parliament-to-take-back.html
and Stephen's reply https://stephenkneale.com/2018/12/11/unsurprising-headling-of-the-week-a-banker-from-the-south-east-and-a-socialist-from-the-north-west-disagree-on-the-eu/
We all need to try and bridge the gap between leavers and remainder and promote peace and mutual understanding. Your post exactly does that and you come across as very "couthy" as we say in West Kent.
We have to find a way to avoid Brexit poisoning relations between “Oldham” and “Sevenoaks” for evermore. Incidentally they might appear to be representatives - but in fact I am very sorry to say Sevenoaks voted 55%/45% to Leave! Shock horror. Obviously fewer plutocratic bankers than one might think! The picture shows a typical Oldham house (above) and a typical Sevenoaks house below (albeit in fairness one on the smaller side - times are hard)
You make a lot of very valid and well argued points especially about the contempt that elites have for “the plebs” being so stupid as to vote for something they didn’t really understand. I accept that leavers understood what they voted for and are now rightly concerned that the democratic vote will be overturned
In summary therefore in the same friendly and peaceable spirit as your comments I do understand the leave anger that the people have to keep voting until they give the right answer. This is profoundly undemocratic.
Let’s now come in a friendly spirit to the points you raise in which we disagree.
Firstly I think Cameron was wrong to have a referendum for the reasons I explained: you think he was right for the reasons you explain. It’s academic anyway as he had one and we have to stick by the result. Agreed.
Secondly it wasn’t so much that the terms of the referendum weren’t clear but rather that there was no detail in the vote on the terms under which we would leave. Just to remind everyone the question said
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
This was the question. There was no mention of “out means out of the single market, out of the customs union, out of ECJ jurisdiction. This was affirmed by the leave campaign”
In fact the leave campaign promised exactly the opposite of the above - which i detail below
Now I can see what’s likely to be coming back which is that Remain also didn't tell the truth (project fear etc) . That’s certainly true but as leave won it’s the leave promises that are coming home to roost
Therefore it to me is crystal clear that the vote was purely to leave the EU (the result sadly I accept) but that no terms were specified and in fact on the single market we were repeatedly promised by leave that we could stay in the single market. You make various statements such as “it is evident that leave necessarily meant leaving the EU and it’s mechanisms”. Obviously not so evident to me anyway as leave seem to have promised the exact opposite !
“Our trade will almost certainly continue with the EU on similar to current circumstances…The reality is that the hard-headed, pragmatic businessmen on the continent will do everything to ensure that trade with Britain continues uninterrupted.” David Davis, speech, 26 May 2016“The EU’s supporters say ‘we must have access to the Single Market’. Britain will have access to the Single Market after we vote leave”. Vote Leave, What Happens When We Vote Leave?“there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market”, Boris Johnson, The Telegraph, 26 June 2016A prominent leave campaigner Owen Patterson even said “only a madman would leave the single market”. :)“There is a European free trade zone from Iceland to the Russian border and we will be part of it… Britain will have access to the Single Market after we vote leave… The idea that our trade will suffer because we stop imposing terrible rules such as the Clinical Trial Directive is silly.” Vote Leave
Ireland is I’m afraid another area we need to look at promises made by Vote Leave
“Nor is there any prospect of security checks returning to the border. The common travel area between the UK and Ireland predates our EU membership and will outlast it. The unique status Irish citizens are accorded in the UK predates EU membership and will outlast it. There is no reason why the UK’s only land border should be any less open after Brexit than it is today.” Theresa Villiers, Vote Leave press releases, 14 April 2016
“There will be no change to the border between Northern Ireland and the republic” (Gove Johnson and Patel)
The simple truth is that these promises were made before the referendum by Vote Leave which reflects the fact that they dismissed or ignored valid concerns from the republic of Ireland. The peace process has ensured a normalisation of relations on both sides of the border based on dismantling of border controls. To quote David Trimble in support of leave is not terribly convincing - it is like quoting Boris Johnson ! Surely the democratically elected Irish government (which actually has an official role in Northern Ireland post the Good Friday agreement) is entitled to govern its own affairs? And any agreement has to be accepted by both sides?
For example how do leave propose to deal with free movement of people? There is free movement within the EU so if there is no border if I am from Eastern Europe I can just fly to Dublin and walk across the border to the North?
VAT? Every day millions and millions of items arrive in the U.K. some from within the EU with no VAT to pay but those coming from outside the EU have to pay VAT There is a huge infrastructure to administer this. How is that going to work in an Irish context ? The result of there being a hard Brexit will either be some kind of border controls or a smugglers paradise.
Product standards? Once we start having trade agreements with different product standards to EU (I think of Trumps beloved chlorinated chicken) how will the Republic police this? Or the U.K. the other way round?
I am afraid that the British public including many very sincere Vote leave supporters have again been misled by 'Vote Leave'.
They also ignore the reality that every single border between the EU and non EU has customs controls of some types eg Switzerland with its neighbours, Norway with Sweden. Bulgaria with Turkey and so on. All of this was raised pre referendum but pooh poohed as alarmism. Now chickens are coming home to roost
The reason I say there it’s important that there is no majority for a hard brexit is that parliament must now decide the terms of leaving as none were specified
I am not arguing that economics trumps everything: I believe the reverse. in fact that’s why I think we should leave even though it’s economically foolish. I also fully accept Stephen's well argued point that some (even most?) people did precisely vote to be poorer to achieve greater sovereignty. We should respect that even though many of us think that’s wrong.
My point is this
We voted to leave and so we should. I do not agree with the people’s vote campaign.
Remainers should then find a Farage type leader to lead a a long term campaign to get us back into the EU.
How we leave us entirely up to parliament as the terms of leaving were not on the ballot and vote leave in fact made a whole series of promises about Ireland and the single market which it seems to have forgotten!
Parliament needs to decide. Or should every time we want to negotiate with the EU we have another referendum?
Economics indicate that the best option is to go for a “Norway for now” deal
I accept and understand that your view is different to mine and you prefer a hard Brexit. If parliament decides that so be it. (And if it can’t decide anything that’s where we are going by default).
Thanks again Stephen for being so thoughtful and reasonable and constructive in your reply and I hope I have tried to do the same. If at any point i got your views wrong please forgive me.
Someone commented on this thread
“More good observations on Brexit. In the current atmosphere of disrespect, ridicule & hatred which the Brexit debate has generated, it's a joy to read the calm, respectful, well-reasoned & loving comments of @BergdahlJB @jeremysmarshall & @steve_kneale Thank you!”I hope and pray to God that we can as a country find a way of discussing in this friendly vein and find a solution (which will mean some give and take in both sides) which both respects the decision to leave and creates a future relationship with the EU which both works and respects the promises made by Leave.
PS I am delighted to hear that Oldham is relatively (unlike of course Sevenoaks) untainted by the love of mammon!
It’s time once again to set sail on the stormy seas of Brexit
I was and remain a keen Remainer.
I think the decision to leave was a colossal mistake.
No point though crying over spilled milk
A few thoughts on where we are now and what should be done.
The decision to have referendum in the first place was a catastrophe for which David Cameron remains responsible. We are a parliamentary democracy. There is nothing wrong per se with using referenda but this one was not thought through, to pit it mildly. It risks now driving us from greater to greater constitutional crises. We lived for many years in Switzerland where they have a long and proud history of referenda. This is not however the case in the UK. Parliament in our particular, long evolved through almost countless ages, democratic system is sovereign and must remain so.
We can trace the history of parliament back to the Witenagemots of the Anglo Saxons (pictured above) which were a type of advisory council to the King, through the long evolution of our democratic history via the Magna Carta, the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, the Great Reform Act of 1832, the achievement of universal suffrage for men and women after WW1, to what we have today. This democracy and respect for the rule of law and the popular will expressed through a parliamentary democracy was what many people gave their lives for and it’s absolutely worth defending.
Now is therefore the time for Parliament to take back control of the whole process having so foolishly and carelessly set the whole process in motion in the first place. I am so grateful for one of the few responsible MPs Dominic Grieve whose amendment which was passed thanks to 25 Tory rebel’s ensures that Parliament itself must approve the eventual deal. Thank God for Grieve! This is an absolutely vital amendment and ensures that the parliamentary control over the brexit outcomes is untouched. We do not live in a Presidential system like the US or France but a cherished and long fought for parliamentary democracy. "Take back control" parliament! Stop your petty squabbling and posturing.
As my friend Stephen Clark has written
“One of the great claims made before the EU referendum vote was that if we came out, we would regain our parliamentary sovereignty. Parliament certainly flexed its muscles yesterday and is asserting its sovereignty. Yet news reports are that the European Research Group - with which Jacob Rees-Mogg and other 'hard Brexiteers' are identified - is angry at what Parliament did yesterday. But this was a clear assertion that HM's government is answerable and accountable to Parliament. And since it is axiomatic to the UK constitutional law that a referendum is only ever advisory and not mandatory - and, therefore, David Cameron had no authority whatsoever to say that the government would abide by the referendum result... it follows that it would be a perfectly appropriate thing for Parliament to throw out the PM's deal, no deal, and even to keep us in EU. I think that would not he politically sensible, nor do I believe that another referendum would be sensible, politically. But either course of action would be perfectly in accord with our constitutional.law.”
We are now in a total mess entirely of our own making. We as an electorate are being lied to - but I wonder if this is partly our own fault because we are not willing to face the consequences of our own actions. Politicians are lying but we are unwilling to face the nasty truth.
We have it seems to me five choices
- No deal/A hard Brexit
- Theresa May's deal
- Norway for now or something similar like customs union "Soft Brexit"
- A second vote
- Remain in the EU
Parliament now must take control and decide. Dominic Grieves amendment is thus extremely important.
I don’t think we should have a second vote or that Parliament should simply decide to remain as this to me is anti democratic. Rightly or wrongly we had this stupid and ill thought through referendum and for the sake of democracy (which transcends other arguments) we should (even with gritted teeth) abide by it. It’s entirely valid to seek another vote - after all that’s what people like Nigel Farage did after the previous vote which ratified our decision in 1975. The time of the Remainers like me will come again when people finally see through the mendacity of the Leave campaign promises (and yes Remain lied too) and realise what a stupid idea this was in the first place. But in the meantime we must abide by a democratic vote. Otherwise we risk undermining the vary basis of our democratic system. .
However on what basis we should leave the EU was not voted on and that’s up to Parliament. The idea that a soft Brexit is a betrayal of the vote is a laughable nonsense. The vote was to leave but on what terms was not specified in the least and thus not decided. "Leave means leave means leave" - but on terms decided by Parliament. If you dont like the terms approved by Parliament then come a General Election vote for candidates who do reflect your view. Thats how democracy works. Are we supposed to keep having referanda indefinitely?
The EU had been nothing but clear and consistent in its negotiating position from day one. The issue has been that embarrassingly the UK can’t get its act together and decide what it wants. This is till the case, but thanks to May's poor judgement in invoking Article 50, we re now nearly out of time. The EU is not going to renegotiate its stated position and why should it? The idea (step forward that unholy trio Jeremy Corbyn Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg) that there is some better deal available is an utter delusion. There isn’t. These three are not telling us the truth ! They have form here - for example the Irish border which Leavers assured us over and over again was no issue and could be easily solved, Which was simply not true. Both Johnson and Corbyn in different ways misled us that we could have our cake and eat it too -no we cant. Corbyn is as bad as Johnson as he is a closet leaver who cant say what he thinks for fear of upsetting his party
Let’s inject some economic facts here
The EU accounted in 2017 for 45% of UK exports and 53% of our imports - we run a near £70bn deficit
The UK is the biggest trading partner of the rest of the EU with about 16% of their exports going to the UK
About 20% of UK trade in manufacturing goes through Dover/ Calais . One company for example alone - Honda - has 350 trucks per day leaving or arriving to keep its UK car production in Oxford going.
Therefore even a small child can see that a complete breakdown in negotiations which is what hard brexit / WTO terms means, with border controls at Calais would have serious implications for the EU and catastrophic consequences for the UK. Leaving aside the whole question of Ireland.
What’s even more important is there is absolutely no majority in parliament for a hard Brexit.
Therefore I argue that we have a choice of Theresa May's deal or the "Norway for now" proposal. This set out by the Tory MP Nick Boles and in essence is that we join the EEA (Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein) for three years including a temporary customs union. During this period we would seek to negotiate a permanent deal
The option is not without its problems. The EEA members and the EU would have to agree. The vexed issue of the Irish backstop would still arise. The free movement of labour would continue. It postpones some hard to make decisions (thats the "for now" bit.)
Time is running out and a postponement of the Article 50 announcement may be required.
But so severe are the many defects of Theresa Mays deal and so
low the probability of it passing Parliament that it seems to me the best available option.
Parliament must take back control and stop this petty squabbling and act in the best interest of the country and (at the 11th hour) take back control of what has become a national disgrace.
Readings from Richard Bach, A Bride Across Forever and 1 Corinthians 13.
M and F, my research leave meant that I got to know you less well than I would have liked. Please accept my apologies in advance if I’ve got the wrong impression of you.F – I think of you as in charge of the picture-perfect wedding. I relate to that. Not because I made sure that ours was a picture-perfect wedding. I didn’t. I won’t say more about that. It’s been over 25 years ago and I have been forgiven. But I am a perfectionist. I want things to be just right. Being a perfectionist has its good uses but it can be a real threat to any relationship. Love is patient, love is kind... it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.M – I see you as a man of patience and peace. I suspect that you don’t get easily upset; you’re prepared to give way. I can relate to that. People often see me as a man of patience and peace. But in my case the appearance does not always match the reality. And I sometimes forget that peace is an active thing. It’s not sitting back, avoiding confrontation. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. It is an active force.True, patient, persevering love is what makes a marriage perfect. How do you find true love? Now, you may well think that is an odd question to ask on a wedding day. You have found your true love!On the first of December my true love gave to meseven bridesmaids, six usherers, five flower girls – two page boys,two best men each with a ring to bringand a still and a rolling camera.If that’s not true love...Seriously. Our first reading gave us a glimpse of what true love should give us:keys to fill our locks.When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be.This is the enchanting part of the story that Dick Bach tells. The Bridge Across Forever: (subtitled:A Love Story) was published in 1984 and is based on his real-life relationship with actor Leslie Parrish whom he had married a few years before that. The couple were also the main characters of his next book, One: A Novel, published in 88. In the late 90s they divorced. Fans were devastated to discover that this match made in heaven didn't manage to stick. But maybe they should not have been surprised. In 1970 Bach had divorced from his firstwife – with whom he had six children which he abandoned along with his wife – on the grounds that he did not believe in marriage.After his break-up with Leslie Parrish, he explained that lovers don't have to stay married forever in order to be lifetime soul mates. I don’t know whether Bach thought of his third wife as another soul mate or whether it was a case of “Look, you’re not my soul mate – that’s wife number two – but you’re the one with whom I want to spend my old age.” Bach didn’t just have a wrong idea about marriage. He also had the wrong idea about soul mates. So let me tell you the truth – as my wedding present to you. In a nutshell: You don’t find a soul mate. You become a soul mate. If you fall for that lie that soul mates is about finding the perfect fit for you, there is a very high risk that further down the road you end up discovering that you have married the wrong person and that your real soul mate is this new colleague at work or this old school friend with whom you have reconnected. And of course that won’t be true either.You don’t find a soul mate. You become a soul mate. It is a vocation; it is a commitment; it is something you need to work on day after day and year after year.Love ... does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. Love is becoming a safe space for someone else:When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be.This is about who we are at the core of our being. Such love will overspill in hospitality. Friends outside your marriage will also be able to be more honestly themselves in your presence if you have love with integrity of the sort that creates that safe space within your marriage. If you try to create your own little paradise just for yourselves, you’re walking away from love. Love ... is not self-seeking.But the marriage is a unique, exclusive relationship, the place where a man and a woman are fully naked with each other. Shedding your clothes is the easy bit, baring your soul can be a lot harder. Naked in body and soul we are vulnerable. This is why God tells us that fullest intimacy belongs inside marriage. What difference does marriage make? Marriage is meant to help define that safe space in which you can be truly who you are without getting hurt. How is marriage meant to do that? Through the vows you make to each other in public. In effect, you commit to being a soul mate. This is the critical point. Being soul mates is not about perfect chemistry between two people, it is not about always being on the same wavelength, about feeling and thinking the same, pursuing the same goals. Being a soul mate is about commitment. · I am there for you – whatever life will throw up. · I am for you – whoever you truly are.I wish someone had told me more clearly when I got married that in ten years time I would be married to a different person.I am now more than twice the age I was when I got married. The man to whom my wife is married today is not the same who looked at her adoringly in 1992. And it’s not just the grey hairs...My wife, too, has changed – a great deal. The thing is, if you believe that today you marry the perfect person, any change in that person is going to be a threat. And if you were to believe that being soul mates is about being perfect for each other, then you may well no longer think of your spouse as a soul mate when they change.Then the critical question for true love will not be “Is my partner still my soul mate?” but “Am I still a soul mate, a safe space? Do I live by the promises I have made? Will I actively pursue peace, even when things are not perfect?Love never fails. This is both a challenge and a promise.We are not called to be perfectionists, we are called to be perfect. Perfectionists try to make things perfect. But it is not the wedding day that has to be perfect or the time when you have children, it is you who have to be perfect.Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, says Jesus in his famous Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5:48).What he means is this: that our love must not be limited to those with whom we get on, those who are on our wavelength. Our love, that is our practical action in seeking the good of others, must embrace those from whom we are estranged and those who are hostile to us.And I’m afraid there are likely occasions in a married life, when this becomes relevant – when your spouse feels like a stranger or even when you perceive them, rightly or wrongly, as hostile towards you. Then you must love. Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect who makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).How do you find true love? Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Or, as we find it in the Gospel according to Luke (6:36), Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.God alone always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres - his Love never fails. This is why he came to us in Jesus Christ who is ‘The bridge across forever’.He is the one who loved those who are his so much that he laid down his life for them. He loved us when we were still estranged from him, he loved us after we had messed up He loved us with a love that made us right again and ready to come into God’s presence, the presence of love.As you grow to maturity in love for another, may you also come to know God’s love for you in ever deeper ways. Amen.
Look away now if you are planning on coming to my Christingle services this year!
ORANGE – world
Oranges are not the only fruit! (FRUIT SLIDE)
The Bible actually has quite a lot to say about fruit
READINGSGalatians 5:22-26 Matthew 7:15-23
What if you tried to re-tell the gospel / Christmas story through fruit?
Topical and tropical!
* * *
ORANGE – God made the world
And he made the first human PEAR / PAIR – Adam and Eve
Everything was PEACHY – it was a perfect world
Men and women were the APPLE of God’s eye – he loved them
But MANGOS – Man goes – wrong
DRAGON FRUIT – Devil / serpent / snake / dragon deceived Adam and Eve
Human being acted like LEMONS
They went BANANAS – crazy to sin!
Everything went PEAR shaped
God would send his son to put the world right
It would be a MIRACLE birth
Born in Bethlehem – a real SQUASH
A STAR would guide the wise men to him
Eventually Jesus would die on his cross – his PASSION / suffering
Jesus PLUMed the depths of human sin on the cross
Died and was BERRIED / BURRIED
This good news of the Lord Jesus isn’t a FIGment of the imagination
Jesus is alive today – his love is always CURRANT
We can trust in him KUMQUAT may
* * *
Ones that didn't quite make the cut:
JAMBUL / JumbleMarc Lloyd
Research review: "Trends in Christian Philanthropy in UK" by Jonas and Nina Kurlberg (Nov 2018, Bible Society)
The topic of Christian philanthropy is vital biblical yet is little understood let alone researched. This new and comprehensive research report written by Jonas and Nina Kurlberg (Jonas, pictured above left works at the CODEC centre at Durham University) and published for the Bible Society is based on systematic interviewing and analysis across a wide range of donors in the UK, mainly evangelical. I am one of them and if you know me you can probably identify some of my comments :)
The full report I have in PDF form so if you would like the whole thing, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and i will send you a copy. I let the report speak for itself but add a few comments of my own marked as such. Anyone interested in promoting or participating in Christian giving should profitably read this and learn a lot. It ties in with other recent helpful reports covering this area such as one produced by Theos.
One of the most burning issues covered is whether there has been a shift away from giving to gospel and evangelistic causes towards more social ones. The report notes a wide range of views on this including quite a few who openly said that they had shifted in precisely this direction or others who said they had come to see their giving more holistically and didn’t see a particular distinction between spiritual and social causes. “Looking after the economic and social needs of others is a more effective means of achieving spiritual transformation” or “when Jesus have water to the Samaritan women it wasn’t just physical or humanitarian act it was a spiritual act also” for example commented two evangelical philanthropists. On the other hand some individuals have reacted to this shift by altering their giving in precisely the other direction to try and make up for the overall picture.
A number noted the lack of supply of good projects in the evangelistic area. They can “think of many (new) successful Christian charities tackling societal issues but could not think of a single ( successful or not!) scripture based teaching organisation in the same period”. Thus the donors may well be leading not following the church. One noted that “church leaders do not speak enough about evangelism”. Others commented on the pressure from society - Christians want legitimacy “as opposed to being comfortable that evangelism in and of itself is good”
JM: that last quote is spot on to me. The overall picture I believe is a definite shift over the last twenty years within the evangelical community towards social projects from evangelistic ones. This is magnified when you think this is a report looking at individuals not trusts - which tend to be even more reluctant to fund “proselytism”. We as church leaders and donors tend to care I am afraid to say more about what people think of us than what God thinks about us. Of course God calls us to be generous in different ways, we all have different callings but when there is such a noticeable shift away from evangelism and proclamation that is worrying, i feel.
The report doesn’t stop there. It notes that “for many Christians evangelism is seen to be the task of the church and less so the responsibility of individual lay persons”. This theme of the “professionalisation” of the church runs through the report. Many philanthropists are from an entrepreneurial background and the comments in the report tend to suggest that they feel sometimes excluded by a church which “ just wants their money”. It is also noted that donors feel that quite a number of larger churches seem to focus a lot on hiring more staff - something that entrepreneurs don’t tend to relate to (you have to make some money to spend some money ?). There are also somewhat related issues about the lack of innovation across the board and limited use of technology in many Christian charities. To be fair some recipients comment that donors have a lot of power (much more than they realise) and this can lead to interference at times.
JM: there is a biblical balance here. 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is particularly helpful as to how a partnership can work. Donors should let church and charities decide what to do with their money once given as far as possible and not interfere or micro manage. Recipients though should seek to engage and embrace donors and unleash more entrepreneurial ideas. Personally I find we conservative evangelicals can be highly risk averse- much more so on average than our charismatic brothers and sisters.With a few noticeable exceptions eg prayer mate we seem to be weak at using technology, good point.
This brings us to perhaps the single most important finding - that “relationships emerged as by far the most significant factor influencing where Christian philanthropists choose to direct their giving”. This can be relationships both with the cause and with the individuals involved in the cause. In fact the importance of people almost overrides the cause - donors will give to people they trust and know even if the cause is not exactly in their area of interest. In turn this tends to leave, so the report argues, to larger donations to fewer organisations or churches. It can also lead to supporting smaller charities where it is a lot easier to have that relationship and there isn’t such a huge raft of corporate staff to deal with
JM: this is really important for recipients. Philanthropists get a huge number of requests and a cold approach from someone you don’t know is unlikely to lead to results. Networking and building relationships is key. This is especially challenging for churches in deprived areas who don’t have access to such networks and can feel left out in the cold. Initiatives such as 20 schemes, Medhurst ministries and “the gospel and class” conference sponsored by acts 29 are important and helpful. As is clear communication about the lack of investment in deprived areas which builds awareness such as Steve Kneale’s blog.
Finally the report looks at the thinking behind giving. It notes a difference between baby boomers (born up to 1964) who have strong biblical grounding in giving and subsequent generations who view things quite differently (and apparently are much less biblically driven).
More encouragingly, one concept though that seems to be gaining ground across generations is that of stewardship, which is of course deeply grounded in scripture. One “millennial” says “for me it’s stewardship.. and moneys only part of that..for me it’s about stewardship and it’s your whole life- what do you do with it?”.
This whole life approach to generosity is of course one where the aptly named large Christian charity “Stewardship” (of which I am a trustee) focuses its efforts. Stewardship https://www.stewardship.org.uk is a great source of know how and ideas and practical support and is the "go to" resource for all Christians interested in generosity and giving. Its been around for over a 100 years and is one of the largest evangelical charities in the UK.
To me we need to
Talk more about money and generosity - the Bible has a huge amount to say about this but we relatively rarely hear bible teaching on it. The issues around millennials show what happens if we "drop the biblical ball". a group of friends and I have been working on a major new initiative in this area and are hopeful of being able to launch something major DV in the second half of next year
Build closer relationships between givers and recipients. Both seem to want that but how to actually do it?
Think about how to help "non networked" churches in deprived areas
The role of the local church is covered and emerges quite strongly as something that’s important to many donors. Local churches perhaps need to think together with their neighbours to avoid the problem - mentioned in the report - that their ideas and projects are perhaps sometimes too small and too risk averse. Again worth reflecting on 2 Corinthians which shows a group of churches collaborating together to help each other.
So plenty of really good food for thought from what Is an excellent and thoughtful piece of work.
Is Advent a preparatory fast in preparation for the liturgical commemoration of the historical birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, or is Advent a season unto itself, a sacrament of the end of time begun in the incarnation and still waiting on its final consummation at the close of the present age?
"A Sacred Time in Tension" in Liturgy vol. 13, no. 3, quoted in Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once & Future Coming of Jesus Christ (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 2018) p. xiMarc Lloyd
Luke 15:1-10 (page 1048)
Where are you?
Where will you see yourself in this passage?
Where do you see God / Jesus / yourself in relation to them?!
V1? Eager to hear Jesus? Tax collectors and sinners?
V2? The muttering religious?
Cf. Luke 5:27-32
V7? The righteous person who does not need to repent?
Will you admit that left to yourself you would be lost, and lost eternally?
Cf. Genesis 3:6-13
Has God found you and brought you home? Thank him!
Have you wandered off from God? Do you need to be brought back home?
Will we join God’s search party?
How would the priority of evangelism change your life and our church life?
Will we join God’s party party over every sinner who repents?
Sinner, will you listen to Jesus and come and eat and drink with him rejoicing?Marc Lloyd
When were you most happy during the past week? Did your moments of joy include times of celebrating what God has done for us? Last week we spoke about the command to rejoice (Zephaniah 3:14-17).
Here is the reason for our joy in a nutshell: The king of Israel, the LORD, is in our midst. The church year tells us how this happened:
- we long for God’s coming in Advent;
- at Christmas we marvel at God taking on human flesh and being born a baby
- we continue the celebration during Epiphany as God is revealed to us in Christ
- we follow the journey of his earthly life and suffering through Lent and then Passion Week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday: the king is crowned on the cross but dead.
- but on the third day, Easter Day, he rose again, having conquered death.
- Christ’s ascension is the glorious climax of this journey: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," says Christ
- and on Pentecost he pours out God’s Holy Spirit on his people to equip them for this time of implementing God’s rule in Christ.
- Trinity Sunday reminds us that the three are one: God’s kingly rule is in the hands of Christ and implemented by the Holy Spirit.
- We call the Sundays following Trinity Sunday “ordinary time” – our time of growth...
- ...and we conclude the church year reflecting on what has been accomplished already through All the Saints
- and on how it will end: all will bow down and acknowledge Christ as king.
we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." (Romans 14:10c-11)God ... gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)Christ is the way in which The LORD, our God, is in our midst, a warrior who gives victory. This is why he is called Jesus – Saviour, the one who gives victory to his people, Immanuel – God with us, and Christ – the anointed one, i.e. God’s priest-king. We must find moments in our week during which we consciously dwell in that joy and somehow express it.
Now we come to the final three verses of the book. Verse 18 is extremely difficult to translate. In the NRSV footnotes you read “meaning of Hebrew uncertain” for the first line for which the NRSV follows the ancient Greek and Syriac translations rather than the Hebrew text. The next line has a footnote with the abbreviation “Cn” which means “Correction.” In other words, the translators think that the text we have in ancient and medieval manuscripts does not make sense at all and so, assuming that when the text was written it did make sense, they have followed a best guess as to what might have stood in the text originally. Because I am so bold – or foolish – as to try and make sense of the Hebrew text which we have, my translation ends up very different from the one in our NRSV Bibles. But let us ignore this for the moment. If the NRSV is right, we will not thereby lose much because in the NRSV the verse merely amplifies the basic ideas found elsewhere in the text. If I am right, the verse amplifies things said elsewhere in the book - see below.
So let’s go to verse 19. Note 3x “I will” – God is in charge. This is one thing it means to celebrate Christ the King. Right through suffering and death and then resurrection life: God is in charge. It is very much at the heart of the message conveyed in the book of Zephaniah.
- God is in charge of dealing with the present, bringing liberation from oppressors.
- God is in charge of dealing with the past, bringing healing and restoration for the hurts of the past.
- God is in charge of the future: he does more than a repair job, more than bringing things back to how they used to be; he brings glory.
If there is no healing and restoration, God is not yet king.
If there is only repair, God is not yet king.
Now, there is a sense in which God’s kingship will indeed be fully implemented only in the future when
- all enemies are completely disarmed,
- we see God face to face, fully healed, and
- his and our reputation is unsullied.
So what does it look like when God is in charge?
(1) We have enemies but they are no longer allowed to oppress us.Are we mindful of having enemies? At each baptism service we address those to be baptised with the words: Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the devil, and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life. The church here on earth is involved in a struggle against forces within us (sin), pressures around us (world) and non-material personal forces (devil). But none of these are allowed to dominate us.
[Christ] disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:15) We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6) I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:14c)We are no longer in bondage to sin, the world and the devil; we can no longer be accused before God. We owe no loyalty to forces that stand against God. All those who are loyal to Christ are in a battle but there is an end to oppression; we cannot be dominated by anti-God forces.
(2) Is there healing and restoration?
The prophecy speaks metaphorically about the lame and the outcast - those who have been injured by evil and driven away from God's presence in Jerusalem.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13) He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)Not fully healed, to be sure, but "free from sins" and no longer separated from God we are in the process of being put right again.
(3) Are we on the road from shame to fame, renown and praise?
NB: verse 20 reads literally “I will make you fame and praise” and leaves it open whether this means “make you famous and praised” (cf. NRSV) or maybe “make you my fame and praise” because God is of course the actor here - He restores. Cf.Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. (Luke 18:43) When this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised. (Acts 19:17)As we are transformed from shame to praiseworthy, God gets the praise! There are several reasons why this may be less obvious. We may be prevented from seeing or hearing about it because God knows that it would destroy our humility and thus us. Or it may not as readily obvious because we are good at hiding our shame and so our transformation. Nevertheless, someone who lives under the rule of Christ cannot but be transformed for the better and this will not remain altogether hidden, as we become people on fire with love for God and neighbour.
How might all this happen? It is of course God’s work, not something we can do. Verse 18 – in my translation – my offer some hints and in any case allows me to sum up Zephaniah.
Those afflicted on account of the appointment I have removed from you,
they were an offering, upon her a reproach.Zephaniah's main message is to announce an appointment God has with the whole world (region), with Jerusalem in particular and specifically with the ruling elites - they are those afflicted on account of the appointment. Three things are being said about them here.
(1) God has removed them from his people. God’s judgement is a gathering up and removing of evil from us. Note the use of the same Hebrew verb in 1:2 and 3:8.God's judgement is about separating good and evil.
(2) They were an offering to God, or a tribute gift or, in the language of 1:7, a sacrifice. Everything belongs to God and so the separation is between those who in humility give themselves as a willing, lively sacrifice to God's service in response to his loving call (cf. Romans 12:1) and those whose proud defiance cannot negate that they too are God's property and claimed by him - however unsuitable as a sacrifice or tribute.
(3) They have brought disgrace upon the entity God has chosen. The “her” refers to Jerusalem as an inter-generational entity. God will remove any stain or blemish from the church, the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:27).
Dare we pray for God’s purifying judgement? Dare we pray that he removes from us “disaster” (NRSV) – namely everything that hinders God’s rule and our relationship with him, our pride? And do we ask for the joy which will inspire us and help us implement Christ’s rule?
The Bible Reading Fellowship has begun to publish a series of what they hope will be compact accessible guides to books of the Bible. The books are about the size of my palm and small finger and at just over 100 pages suitable also for people who are not in the habit of devouring books.
The volume on the Psalms is the first Old Testament title in the ‘Really Useful Guides’ series and written by the OT series editor, Simon Stocks, Tutor for Biblical Studies and Director of Reader Training at St Augustine's College of Theology. It opens with the author’s admission that he was less than excited about the Psalms when he first started reading the Bible systematically.
The personal reflection on Why read the psalms? reveals that the breakthrough came when he realised that the psalms are not meant to be read like other parts of the Bible. They need to be savoured like an espresso rather than drunk like an Americano. This is followed by an overview (What is the Book of Psalms?) which assumes next to no prior knowledge. Stocks even briefly explains who King David was. After that we come to a longer chapter: What do the psalms say? Here it is in a nutshell:(1) The Lord God created everything and therefore rules over it with good will...(2) choosing Israel as a particular sign of that rule and good will...(3) using human kings as a manifestation of that rule and good will...(4) and bringing about justice in human affairs by the defeat of evil. Different psalms emphasise one aspect more than the other but together they help keep memory alive (the Lord has ruled in righteousness), keep faith alive (the Lord rules in faithfulness), and keep hope alive (the Lord will ever rule in triumph).The identification of God’s faithful, good rule over his people as the core motif of the Psalms is not very controversial and offers a good backbone, holding together the flesh of the individual psalms.The psalms are songs and poems that follow the literary conventions of another culture. Chapter 4 (How do they say it?) explores poetic style, focusing on aspects which translate into English, imagery and idiom. It also teases out the importance of force and feelings as the currency in which the psalms deal more than brute facts. Chapter 5 (What was going on at the time?) gives a bit of history and information about people and places. Again, the author is careful not to assume biblical literacy but to promote it and to do so without overloading readers. The psalms, like the songs in our hymn book, were not written to be used once only, even if some of them were originally tailor-made for a specific situation. Chapter 6, Reading the Psalms today, offers good suggestions. Stocks is sensitive to our Christian context but I would have liked to see a greater focus on Christ as the one to whom many of the psalms apply before they apply to us.The five specific examples discussed in chapter 7 are Psalms 13, 30, 48, 58, and 67. There are wise words on some of the difficult aspects of these psalms. More could have been said about praying the psalms as intercession for others but the symbolic reading of ‘Jerusalem’ (Psalm 48) goes some way towards addressing my concern about reading the Psalms in relation to Christ (including his body, the church).A few pages on famous openings of psalms (22, 122, 130) is an unexpected way by which to open a window to the use of the psalms across millennia. It is followed by a final page of questions for reflection and discussion.This is a very accessible book, laid out in an easy-to-read format. The author manages to pack in a lot of information in a short space and to teach the nuts and bolts without being patronising and without shying away from the difficult bits. I commend it to you as a genuinely useful guide to the Psalms. You should find plenty to learn.‘Psalms’ is available now from BRF, priced £6.99
We can almost always say that this in not what we would have written.
Certainly there will be things the author does not say.
Maybe he gets X, Y and Z wrong.
Arguably the whole thing is fatally flawed.
But try, first, to read as sympathetically as you can. What is he trying to say and why?
Even if his solutions are wrong, is he perhaps asking a good question?
What is there to learn here, or to admire?
Is there anything in this?
Then, by all means, lay into it.Marc Lloyd
Is there any good research on this?
Openness / Curiosity / Asking good questions / Creativity
Positivity / Hope
Perseverance / Resilience / Determination
Diligence / Perseverance / Not giving up / Trying hard / Hard work / Effort
Excellence / Doing our best / Celebrating effort and achievement
Inclusion / Inclusivity / Hospitality / Welcome / Friendship / Friendliness
Unity in diversity
Mutual Respect / Treat others right / Do to others what you would want them to do to you
Working together / Helping one another / Asking for and giving help / Learning in partnership
Enjoying learning / fun / happiness / joy
Rule of law
Make smart decisions
Truthfulness / Honesty
Sense of right and wrong / moral compass / purpose
I don't find these in the Bible.
And they aren't normal in newspapers or magazines or radio talks, are they?Marc Lloyd
If you had a harmony of the gospels and you wanted to read out Our Lord's teaching, I wonder how long it would take. I might Google that.
Given that, it is remarkable that in Luke 15 we have three rather similar parables, each making essentially the same main point: v7, v10, v32.
Jesus rightly welcomes sinners and eats with them. He has come to seek and save the lost. You should get on board with that mission and rejoice over every sinner who repents.Marc Lloyd
Pig and hen discussing breakfast
The hen only has to make a contribution
The pig has to be totally committed
You may have heard the famous advertisement which, as the story goes, the explorer Ernest Shackleton ran in the newspaper to try to recruit men for his Endurance expedition to Antarctica in 1914:
Men wanted for hazardous journey.
Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness.
Safe return doubtful.
Honour and recognition in event of success.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran Pastor who plotted to kill Hitler – hanged by the Nazis 9 April 1945, just weeks before the end of the war
“When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die”
Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George once said:
"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.
His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."Marc Lloyd
Luke 14:25-35 (p1048)
If you are interested in Jesus
or you want to do what God wants,
listen to this! (v25, v35b)
If you are thinking about following Jesus:
(1) You must put Jesus first, even above your family and your own life (vv25-26)
(2) You must be willing for the shame and death of following Jesus (v27)
(3) You must count the cost of following Jesus to the end before you begin
Compare it to a building project… (vv28-30)
Or to a war… (vv31-32)
(4) You must (in principle) give up everything you have to be Jesus’ disciple (v33)
(5) You must be a real disciple, not a useless one (vv34-35)Marc Lloyd