Serving – 1

A few years ago I undertook a study on Spiritual Gifts and found that my understanding of what they are had changed as a result.  First of all I noted that our understanding of some of the Gifts was different from what the Scriptures actually say.  And secondly, I don’t believe any more that we are given Gifts when we become a Christian, more we have to ask God for them in whatever situation we find ourselves.

A number of people mention gifts such as Administration and Music.  There does not appear to be any evidence for such gifting – instead we should see people who do well in these areas as being very talented, something God gave them when they were born, which needs developing as time goes by to be the best in that area.

For a description of the 19 spiritual gifts see the website (available by May 2017).

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Airports – 1

There has been much talk about the capacity issues of airports in London and the Southeast.  To me, both the airlines, business and airports are very blinkered in their whole approach.  I just do not see why London Heathrow is considered so important – concentrating so much on one airport can cause a number of security and operational issues should things go wrong for a start.  Then, one must not forget that, despite the small advances on changing one’s fuel use to other sources other than oil, that energy source will run out within the next thirty to forty years.  (Biomass is not a long-term solution due to the vast areas of land that is required (in most cases).

Whilst a believer in aviation as part of an integrated system of transport, also involving trains, trams and buses , I am also concerned upon its impact on the areas around the various airports.  With this in mind, I would like to suggest the following:

London Heathrow should be used solely as the hub for the One World Alliance, especially as it is the home of British Airways.  This could lead to a reduction in the number of terminals used; it becomes a lot easier to navigate from the point of view of the car driver; cargo can be greatly expanded in general.  Most businesses that use Heathrow are based in the east of London, with logistics firms in the west.

London Stansted should have an extra runway, built closer to where the current one is, so as to avoid demolishing a village.  Then this airport should be then used by the Star Alliance, being the largest alliance, especially as there is more room to grow within its boundaries.

London Southend has recently been updated and is due a small amount of further expansion.  Runways could be strengthened to cope with long-distance aircraft.  Then this could be used by the Sky Team Alliance.  Train travel to and from the airport can still be improved even though it is quite good now.

That leaves London Gatwick to focus on the other scheduled airlines, not in an alliance.  The Government must improve the line between Gatwick and the centre of London, including offering a new line to the east of London.

London Luton, London Oxford and Kent International could focus on the no-frills airlines like Ryanair.  Obviously, rail links to and from Kent International would have to be vastly improved.  Lydd is a possibility, but there are many environmental concerns.

The Thames Estuary Airport will still be needed, but not quite so big to cope with any future growth, but shouldn’t be needed for at least thirty years.  This is providing that planning applications, environmental impact, etc starts now.

The other issue is to encourage more foreign airlines to travel to airports in the north like Robin Hood, Newcastle and Glasgow, as well as businesses to relocate there, due to housing and infrastructure not being able to cope with much more growth in the southeast. This is where incentives should be used. Rail links would also need to be improved.

It is all a matter of culture that holds us in this funnel-like thinking that needs changing.  We should be co-operating with each other to maximise routes, even if that means working with Amsterdam or Brussels or Frankfurt or Dusseldorf or Luxembourg, for example.  Don’t forget, because of Air France/KLM, Amsterdam and Charles de Gaulle Airports are at least superficially working together because both airlines are their major tenants!  I expect to see similar links in other countries eg Milan and Zurich, or Vienna and Munich.

I shall be interested in other people’s thoughts on my proposals.

Worship – 1

There has been much written about modern worship music, saying much of it is bland.  The real issues are not the songs and hymns that we use, but more the individual church’s approach to worship.  In ‘charismatic’ churches, it can become like a ‘concert’, and in a ‘traditional’ church, the hymns can simply be part of a ‘fixed diet’. We not only need to go back to the Scriptures to discover God’s theology of worship, but also to discover the sheer richness of styles used!  Let us be creative and not get stuck in a rut.

The New Testament Greek word for worship basically means to prostrate oneself and crawl towards the King to kiss Him on the hand.  A picture of humility, honour, respect and reverence!

We need to identify those in the congregation/fellowship who are gifted/talented in helping others and themselves to worship God (for that is who it is for, if we have forgotten!!).  But, I don’t just mean from a musical point of view.  There are many different ways of bringing worship to God, For example, we could use the Scriptures in imaginative ways; we could create prayers that could be led by the children; then there are banners, silence and prayer stations – the list is endless! We don’t need to use music everytime. I now that is radical!  The more different forms we use, the more we can use everyone in the church to help lead worship. Worship should be the centre of the service and become part of our daily lives, 24/7.  What we learn at ‘church’ should be used in the small group and the home.

I look forward to the day when I hear people saying that after the ‘worship bit’ of a service, they are so in awe of God, that the service cannot continue, as everyone is totally immersed in worshipping God and the whole thing is transforming people that they are so changed that others will notice it in the coming weeks at work, in the pub and in the home!  They may even want some of that!

Do let me know of the different ways you worship which help you focus on God and not on how you feel.

May I suggest a book – ‘The 3 Colors of Spirituality’ by Christian Schwarz, available from Natural Church Development – http://www.ncd-uk.com/ as a starter to think through these issues and then to read ‘People in the Presence of God’ by Barry Liesch, available through CLC, a primer on the theology of worship.

Pakistan – 1

I believe that the situation in Pakistan is very critical to the security and peace in the area.  The politics of this country is very complicated.  For example, even within the Intelligence community, there are different groups, some of whom support the Taliban in and outside the country, and others vehemently opposed to them.  This makes the situation for minority faiths extremely dangerous, especially as the justice system is corrupt, and therefore it is difficult to know who to trust.

One of the key challenges for the country’s government is the amendment/annulment of the ‘Blasphemy Law’.  Many people, including  several government ministers have been murdered over the issue.  I have written a number of letters on the subject, one of which I include below.

‘I am appealing, once again, on behalf of my fellow Christians, who live in your country, for your government to amend sections of Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

As you know, there are four parts to the law, two of which cause problems for Christians. These are 295-B and 295-C, of which Section 295-C can be the most easily abused of all. The offence can be merely spoken, and there is no need to prove intent. I am aware that although there is a mandatory death sentence, there is no penalty for false accusation. So, unsurprisingly, numerous cases have been registered under this section, against Christians, Muslims and Ahmadiyyas. Almost all have turned out to be malicious accusations made by someone with a personal grudge against the accused (usually over land matters).

While both Christians and Muslims suffer from accusations under 295-C, Christians are much more vulnerable because there is a tendency for both police and judiciary (often out of fear of reprisals) to give greater weight to the testimony of Muslim witnesses than that of Christian witnesses. Cases under 295-C are often a matter of one person’s word against another concerning a purported conversation in the past. So if the accuser is a Muslim and the accused a Christian there tends to be a bias in favour of the accuser.

Other problems which face Christians accused under the “blasphemy law” include the fact that ‘extreme’ Muslims often feel they have a religious duty to make sure that the accused is killed, no matter what the legal authorities decide. Several Christians have been murdered in this way.  (A judge was also murdered, apparently for acquitting a Christian.) Even if officially found “not guilty”, a Christian who has been accused of blasphemy can never return home because their life will be in danger.

May I encourage your President, through your good offices, to take appropriate action, including education, to prevent such injustice against a section of the community of Pakistan?  If Muslims believe in a strong God, they should not fear the Christians.  Christians are good citizens of your country.

I would like to hear what progress has been made in this area.  Many thanks.’

May I encourage you to write letters like the above to the President of Pakistan, making sure that it is written in a spirit of loving concern.  Also, please pray for this country, which has suffered much over the years, with a major earthquake and two devasting floods, when many people died.  Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons, which either might use against each other, especially as there are often tensions between them, due to issues such as Kashmir and certain groups, based in Pakistan, setting off bombs in places like Mumbai and New Delhi.

Addendum

Since writing the above, I have made the following suggestions to the Pakistani authorities:

The main reason for writing is to implore you to take action urgently with regard to the following areas to decrease the amount of violence between communities:

 

  • Introduce non-biased education on all religions in the schools, madrassas, and other centres of education like mosques and churches, taking into account the Constitution of Pakistan recognising equality for all religions and peoples;
  • Increase the literacy levels of rural peoples and their understanding of the Qur’an’s teaching on working together for each person’s betterment and not just their own;
  • Encourage all mullahs and imams to preach peace and reconciliation to their people and to work with Christians and others for the betterment of their communities, through gathering them together to discuss such issues;
  • Amend the Blasphemy laws so they cannot be used as a grievance tool;
  • Educate all police officers to uphold the law in a non-biased way, including forbidding them participating in beatings of anyone and increase their numbers, especially in sensitive areas like in Baluchistan and the north-west tribal areas, to help with reconciliation and peacemaking work as well as protecting minorities, making sure those that break the law are dealt with appropriately;
  • Make sure all police and army officers uphold the law in a fair and unbiased way through proper vetting for security, better training in riot control, non-violent interrogation techniques, intelligence gathering and forensics;
  • Strengthen the security of magistrates, lawyers and judges who uphold the law and prosecute those who are involved in bribery;
  • Find better ways of getting aid to those who live in isolated areas after floods and earthquakes through increasing the number of helicopters available for such work as well providing suitable landing sites in every village, and improving roads so they are not washed away so easily.

Policing – 1

With the decrease in funding for the Police, I believe that a new approach should be taken towards the funding of the policing of football matches, especially those in the top two leagues.  My suggestion is that a dedicated ‘National Football Police Unit’ be set up, financed by the FA, the various footbal clubs and a certain proportion from the Home Office. This Unit would be composed of staff who are totally dedicated to this work and not to other crimes, though there will be occasions when co-operation is essential with other Forces.  The Football Intelligence Unit would become part of this team.  The staff would be Special Constables with limited arresting powers and who had a thorough understanding of the football culture. Each team would be led by fully-qualified and trained part-time police Inspectors.  The Unit itself would be headed up by a Chief Superintendant.  This would then release the current police forces to concentrate on local crime.  For I believe that criminals probably see the timing of football matches as ideal opportunities to commit criminal acts and get away with them.

Any thoughts?

The Gospel – 1

Matthew 24:14 – The Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom

Whenever Christians talk about the Good News, they basically talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus and its meaning for the non-believer.  But, as you read the the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), you will see that Jesus sees it in a wider context.  In fact all His teaching is the Good News!  From His first sermon in the synagogue until He ascends to Heaven, He talks about relationships between humans and God and between humans themselves.  He also lets know how to see transformation in our homes, workplaces and society in general, and then through the community of Jesus-followers, showing how it is done corporately, to the world.

In the sixties, there was the renewal movement within the church, when we began to learn about freedom in worship, personal and corporate prayer, as well as spiritual gifts.  Then came the seventies and the small group movement took off.  As the eighties started, we were taking on board evangelism and church growth.  And finally, evangelicals recognised that there was a world out there which was hurting.  Hence, the social justice movement grew.  Since then, we are struggling to bring them all together, with groups focusing on several of the above themes, but not all of them.  Of course, there are exceptions, but we still find it difficult.