Sunday, November 27, 2005

I "Swear"?

A news story caught my eye this afternoon. A Christian charity... The Breakout Trust, is on the verge of releasing a film to schools, regarding the Nativity. The author - Steve Legg, was motivated to create it when he heard a boy in a school ask why Mary and Joseph named their child after a swear word.

I share his concerns.

When people utter the name of Jesus in the street, nine times out of ten it is used as a curse. When you link that with the watering down of Christian teaching in schools... it's hardly surprising. I don't necessarily blame the teachers, quite often they get given directives from education authorities to minimise coverage of Christianity so as not to offend minority religions. This is NOT what the minority religions want though. Time after time I have heard their leaders say that they recognise the importance of the State faith being taught in class. They know the importance belief plays in society. From their perspective, it provides a sense of identity and cuts the amount of angry young white boys on the streets. From my perspective it provides much more.

Jesus said:

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Furthermore, Paul prayed:

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

These things I believe... that Jesus is not just a mere cuss word, He is the gateway... the bridge through whom I can experience the fullness of God in my mere humanity.

I could go on and say at length, how inappropriate it is to use Jesus as a swear word. How I would not use the name of another persons so called gods as profanity... out of respect, or for those of you who have no religion... how I would not use your mother or your father's name as a swear word. Jesus is not some far and distant thing. To the Christian, He is alive... dwelling in our hearts. When I hear people curse with Jesus' name, I have adopted the practice of my friends - adding "Saved us!!!!" to the end of it... turning their darkness into God's light. Using their negative words as an opportunity to bring God's positive Gospel into a conversation.

If you want to know how close Christ is to the Christian, why we treasure his name so much... look at these words by the band Delirious?:

What A Friend I've Found
What a friend I've found
Closer than a brother
I have felt your touch
More intimate than lovers
Jesus, Jesus
Jesus, friend forever
What a hope I've found
More faithful than a mother
It would break my heart
To ever lose each other
Written by Martin Smith ©1996 Curious? Music UK

Saturday, November 26, 2005


A couple of days ago I left a couple of comments on Gerry's space. I was responding to what somebody else was saying with regard to Gerry's posting on the subject of forgiveness.

Despite apparently being an American pastor... which would give him some authority, Gerry's visitor had displayed a distinctly unchristian attitude on the subject. He had suggested that Christians only need to forgive other Christians for sinning against them and that it was perfectly ok to withhold forgiveness from non-Christians, that righteous anger is always paramount.

This is so out of touch with the Gospel message. Righteous anger has it's place, but Christ himself whithheld his anger at a time when it was most deserved. No, God's word compels us to love the sinner but hate the sin. You only need look at the Sermon on the Mount to understand this. Lets look at The Lord's Prayer first (Matthew 6:9-15):
"This, then, is how you should pray:

" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Just before he said that, he also gave this teaching: (Matthew 5:43-48)

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Now, you could argue that these scriptures seem to be contradicting what we are taught in church; namely that we are under grace through Jesus sacrifice on the cross, that our forgiveness is not dependent on anything on our part... but is a divine gift of God. If God has forgiven us eternally... then surely we won't be condemned if we don't forgive our enemies?

Now look at this parable of Jesus from Matthew 18:21-35:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

When we become Christians we turn away from the world's way of doing things, and we adopt heavenly clothing. We take on Christ's attitudes towards things. We are called to become more like Jesus in our daily lives, for Ephesians 5 teaches:

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

When he died, Jesus had many enemies... he didn't deserve them. The Sanhedrin, under the influence of Annas and Caiaphas... conspired to have him killed. Pilate ordered his crucifixion, the romans beat him to a pulp, flogged him to within an inch of his life... then frog-marched him with the cross to Golgotha. There they crucified him. ALL of these people wronged Jesus, ALL of them sinned against him. NONE of them apologised. At the time, none of them were Christians.

And what did Jesus do...? What did he say to them for this injustice?

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

You see, if we have fellowship with God... we eventually become like him. However if we refuse to forgive others... to love our enemies... then we are not living by Godly principles... we are living by the world's standards and not Christ's. If this is the case, then God's grace has no meaning in ourlives and we are not genuine.

The conclusion of the matter then; is that God's grace through Christ is not dependent on us forgiving others... but if we truly love God and have really accepted Christ's forgiveness, then the Spirit of forgiveness will be at work in us... if it is not then we are not in Christ.

I'm not saying any of us is perfect... certainly not me... and we all needs God's grace, not just for our own forgiveness - but for us also to be able to carry out what God asks of us.

If however, you know that you have a problem forgiving others... you need to go and pray through it with someone.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Monday, November 21, 2005

A Little Older... A Little W... Never Mind

If you come here regularly, the more observant of you will have noticed a slight difference in my profile.

Yes today is my birthday... (collect £10 from every player). At the moment, 31 doesn't feel any older than 30... but no doubt that'll change in a month or so.... but it's all relative really. Most people put me in my mid to late 20's... including the local barber.

The only really noticeable difference is that I keep singing the theme tune to the old cartoon Ulysses 31, purely because of the numerical value in the title. Sad or what?

Today is also the 31st anniversary of the IRA Birmingham Pub Bombings... I was born just 50 minutes before the explosions... 30 odd miles away in the Monroe Davis Maternity Home in Stratford.

And it seems I'll be off to Narnia! I didn't think I was going to be able to watch the new film of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I'm due to get my car serviced at the end of the month and I suspect it will leave me pretty short in the run up to Christmas.

Then... tonight, I opened a birthday card from my sister (who is hard up herself at the moment having upped her roots and headed for London... quitting her job while still having a mortgage on her home in Redditch). I'm really grateful to her because inside was an amount of cash with the words:
Please Spend on:

1. One large coke
2. One medium popcorn
3. Ticket to see Aslan

Have a nice time!

Heh heh, God moves in mysterious ways. It's always nice to get a present that fits you like a glove, I love the Narnia books. Now I shall have to rally a few troops... so we can go further up an further in (oops sorry that's later in "The Last Battle").

Right... well, come December the 8th I will be off to experience the Deeper Magic that comes from before the Dawn of Time (providing it hasn't been edited into secular dust).

Coincidentally I did a couple of Narnia personality tests... my top two results were:

As Tirian, you are valiant, brave and loyal. While you may have a silly name, you help others in the face of adversity and always uphold what is right.

As Prince Rilian, you are brave, noble and intelligent, but easily misguided! Just make sure you don't go after any green women.

LOL ain't that the truth?????????

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I want to draw your attention to a story in my local press, it is about a drop in church funding at the Anglican church I was raised in:

Rector's Story

I look at the situation described here, from a completely different angle. I think potentially it is a good thing.

I disagree with the rector on the last point he makes:

"If they cut the number of full-time priests then services will have to be cut, and eventually buildings would have to be shut."


Christianity isn’t a spectator sport and we have forgotten that the Church was not originally led by priests and bishops; it was led by fishermen, tax collectors, doctors etc. In other words the leadership of the Church was inclusive of the man on the street.

If we stopped living by false ideology that only priests have a ministry, recognised that in the early Church communion was originally practiced in the homes of believers… none of whom were priests... and that God calls all his people into service… the above statement would be seen for the nonsense it is. We don’t need to live our faith through one man at the front of the church… that’s idleness at best, idolatry at worst. Yes we need a leader… but they need to be someone who empowers others to lead services and realise the potential in their ministries… and to make sure that false teaching and corruption do not slip into the leadership team.

I believe God is trying to break the “them and us” culture that exists within the Church of England, all this nonsense of clergy and laity. One of the great problems with the Anglican church is that too much focus is put on the role of the priest or the bishop… etc. We are the body of Christ we are supposed to work together. When there are sick people in a town… it shouldn’t just fall to a priest, there should be a whole prayer ministry team. Furthermore, the church needs to address the woeful lack of understanding about spirituality. Many years ago, a worship band attended the church I grew up in. When the service had ended, they started singing in tongues (in a low key manner… they were singing to one another and God… not to an audience); a lady overheard them and was convinced they were possessed by the devil. The people of God need to be educated about the power and the presence of God… he isn’t just some distant man on a cloud… he is an ever-present companion around and within us. However, clergy tend to treat the gifts of the Spirit as arcane knowledge… and something only done in the ancient past.

Do not bottleneck God, do not resist Him… he longs to pour out his forgiveness, blessing and power out on his people.

The one thing the CofE has got going for it is accountability within its leadership structure, but as the previous Archbishop of York said (and I believe his assessment), when God brings revival… it won’t come from the clergy… it will come from the congregations.

I could speak more of issues I have with the clergy… but now is not the time.

God’s grace and peace to you… wherever, whoever you are…


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

To Date or to Wait

In the time that I have been alone, I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned that I am not suited to high maintenance romantic relationships. That sounds really harsh doesn't it? But I'm not saying it coldly or lightly. Experience has taught me that I'm the kind of person who likes to administer to the needs of the many. In the past I have been in relationships (both romantic and friendly), where my capacity to do that, has been greatly diminished because the person I have been around has demanded almost exclusive attention to their problems and needs... so much so that I tended to lose my sense of identity, self awareness and my attention to the needs of others.

At the same time, I have learned that my ability to reach out to people is hindered by my lack of emotional support.

I think before I would have said that in a relationship God would have used me to create opportunities and open doors for the person I loved to go through... but it is slowly dawning on me that actually, it is the other way around.

It will soon be my 31st birthday... and it is always around birthdays that we tend to examine ourselves and evaluate our performance... particularly in areas we feel we are missing out.

Earlier this year and again recently, I felt that God spoke to me through Genesis 24. It's the passage where Abraham sends his servant off to get a wife for his son Isaac. Several things jump out at me from that. Firstly Abraham didn't want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman because he knew their culture was offensive to God. Secondly, Abraham didn't want Isaac to be involved and go off with his servant to look for a bride, presumably because he'd pick the wrong kind of person. Abraham's servant relied on God's wisdom for a sign; God rewarded the trust the servant was showing in him by fulfilling that sign through Rebekah. Finally, when Rebekah arrived at Abraham's household, Isaac was meditating... he was focusing his attention on his relationship with God.

So I think God is working this out for me. I believe he has someone in mind and he doesn't want me to jump ahead of him... or foul things up by hunting down someone inappropriate. The wisdom of the world would tell you that I should be putting effort into catching the eyes of the opposite sex. The wisdom of God says wait... do nothing, risk being left on the shelf, just spend time with him. So which should I trust? Well, the Bible says:

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." - 1 Corinthians 1:25

Furthermore, in the Old Testament the ungodly priests of Baal put a lot of effort into dancing and singing and cutting themselves with knives to secure the favour of their god at the showdown at Mount Carmel... but it was the patient and long suffering Elijah's God who answered by fire and won the day.

So I wait for God to deliver. The funny thing is that now, I feel more patient than I have ever been with regard to this area of my life. Four months ago I was in anguish because I was tearing myself apart; I could have asked somebody out... but in the circumstances, I would have dishonoured God and used his work for my own selfish ends. You have to stay true to your principles... and if you are going to do something, you do it for it's own sake and not for what you can get out of it. Anyway, I think my response to the situation was the Rosetta Stone. It is where everything changed... I was tested, I put my opportunity on the altar and left it there... though it hurt me terribly. Since that time I've been much more at peace.

So instead of chasing after the wind I'm going to wait and see who or what God brings. The really strange thing is I was praying about it last night and when I left church, there was a really strong sense that he had gone on ahead of me, that he was already at work.

You know one of these days he's going to pull a fast one and there'll be a girl at the end of the church drive... just saying God told her to show up and she didn't know why!

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Today was one of those rare occasions where I attended my hometown church instead of my regular place of worship. I went to the outdoor section of the Remembrance Sunday service. It was quite moving because the Two minute silence conveniently began on the 1st chime of the clock at 11am, usually it's just a little bit out.

I know that some people have hang ups about Remembrance Sunday because in some places, God is cut out of the picture. However, I feel as Christians we already have insight into the culture of sacrifice... and it is important to give thanks for the spiritual freedom we enjoy eternally and the physical freedoms we enjoy... while they yet endure.

This morning I was watching a clip from "The Last Tommy", where one of the last surviving servicemen from World War I remembered the passing of three of his comrades. For him, Remembrance Day is on September 12th... because that is when his friends were taken and he escaped with an injury. He asked forlornly why they had to die. Some callous minded people might think that after living a long and fruitful life... he might have an answer to that question; but I couldn't help wondering whether he was asking that while reflecting on our world today? Have we let our forefathers down? Have we betrayed the standards that they swore to protect... even unto death?

A part of me sadly would have to answer yes. We as a nation do not treat the freedoms they preserved for us responsibly. Either we abuse them and do things that they would have regarded as abominable, or in the case of our leaders we seek to curb those freedoms.

As a Christian... I do not just believe these men and women lay down their lives for me... I also believe my God lay his life down for me.

Churchill once famously said with regard to the pilots of the Battle of Britain:

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

I say this of Jesus Christ:

"Never in the field of human HISTORY was so much owed by so many to one man."

So I remember the sacrifices of my forefathers and I try to live my life responsibly out of respect for the price they paid for a free Britain. More than this out of remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, I long to live my life in a manner that pleases him... and only in his living strength can I do that.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning... we will remember them...

...but we will also remember HIM!

Remember the dead... but don't forget the Living One... in whom all have hope of new life and resurrection.

Kate Silverton

I think the BBC News presenter Kate Silverton is much underused. You normally only get to see her on News 24... and as we don't properly have Freeview (we have a digibox but the signal isn't great), she only appears when covering someone on the breakfast slot. Yesterday was a rare treat for me, I was up early enough to see BBC News 24 on BBC 1 and she was presenting it. Bliss.

She comes across with genuine warmth and a pleasant nature when presenting, although there was a recent story in the press over a co-presenter quitting within a week of working with her. She's pretty smart too as she has a degree in psychology and has studied Arabic and middle eastern politics. Interesting CV. I personally much prefer her to Natasha Kaplinsky.
Below are two clips of Ms Silverton (one from a humorous moment on BBC Breakfast and the other featuring her role as Moneypenny in the BBC Newsreaders 007 Children in Need

Update as of 17th November:

It seems I am not alone in this. Ms Silverton presented BBC Breakfast this morning and since then, by what I'm sure is no coincidence, I have had about half a dozen hits from Google searches... simply with her name in the title. The BBC must have read my blog and surrendered to my will! Such is my influence.

Update as of 9th January:

OK fellas, this is crazy. This is by far the most visited entry on my blog. As attractive as the fair Ms Silverton may be... I'd sure appreciate it if you'd be kind enough to browse the other stuff. Do you know I'm still getting about 10 hits a day purely on the search term "Kate Silverton" alone? This is two months from when I originally posted this, I wonder how much longer it will carry on?

In all seriousness though, you are welcome to browse by to this page as often as you wish. Have a flick through while you are here though.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dressed to Kill

Below are some pictures of me and Harry, suited up in the full armour of God... as provided by members of the youth group we help run (who have recently christened themselves as the "Army of God")

We were covering Ephesians 6:10-18 which says:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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.

We covered the relevance of each armour and it's position. It's important to remind yourself of the knowledge of your salvation in your mind... hence the helmet of salvation. To maintain a righteous attitude within your heart, hence the breastplate of righteousness. In armour, everything h weight-wise was suspended on the hips and the shoulders... this is why the belt... truth, is important. everything hangs on the truth. It's also important not to get caught with your pants down living in a world of lies. Shields can be moved around to give protection wherever a threat comes from... and to cover other people, God is with us in every situation... so we should not be ashamed to call on him in difficulty.. Footwear enables you to stand firm and ready against whatever you may face... which is why it is important to have peace in your heart. Finally the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. By reading up on it, you gain insight into God's will.. and you become aclimatised to his plan for your life. It's not about brains either.... so what if you can't remember it off by heart... God is so much more powerful than that! He can refamiliarise you with something you have read a long time ago... so trust in him... rely on his strength... not worrying about your weakness.

One other thing I felt inspired to do was to write some words from Genesis 15:1 down on the back of a small cardboard shield... and get the young people to write down their name instead of Abram's. The idea was that if it was small enough to fit inside a wallet or pocket or diary... that if they felt overwhelmed they could remind themselves that they are not to be afraid... that God is their shield and their very great reward.

Anyway... here are the piccies... don't laugh!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Oh Happy Day

And so the terror bill is defeated convincingly. My MP actually represented me on this occasion. If you want to know how your MP voted... follow this link:

I could never support a law that would hold any person without charge for 90 days (or as it should correctly be stated... a quarter of a year).

I cannot believe for one minute if the security services have been monitoring a terrorist network for so long... that once having gained warrant for an arrest, they would need that much extra time to gather enough evidence for a conviction.

I believe the law in total would be used for political rather than security reasons. If an innocent man were held that long they would probably lose their job, reputation and any semblance of a normal life... and they would not get compensation because the police could argue they had sufficient reason to hold them that long at the time of suspicion.

I think 28 days is a sensible compromise for now.

I maintain my insistence that the "War on Terror" is as much about laying the groundwork for an authoritarian ideology... as it is about any genuine threat. The political rhetoric is very similar to that of the Cold War.

If people think this is merely about stopping islamic fundamentalists and eliminating their ability to attack the ideology of the "free" world, then I suggest you look again at the whole mandate of the bill. If you think the ball would stop rolling there.... think again, historically this has never been the case. Did Cromwell stop when the parliamentarians had crushed the royalists in England? No, he went on to wage war in Ireland. Did Hitler stop with Poland? Did he restrict his racial and ideological hatred to jews... no.

When extreme power is given over to a select few people with a specific mandate (however noble), it is normally the case that those individuals expand their mandate so as not to relinquish that power when the need for it is estinguished.

For those thinking this law would have been restricted to a certain group... I offer you this quote which is attributed to Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Love your neighbour as yourself. Do unto others as you would have it done unto you. These are the principles by which the Christian world is called to live by, in relation to the rest of humanity... and we should live by them and if necessary... die by them.

What are people's thoughts on the whole subject?

Yet Another Strange Dream

Everyone at my office agrees that when it comes to intense dreams... I top the lot! Take Saturday night's unconscious episode for example:

I am walking alongside a man, on the way to a petrol station. He tells me that he will have to die... otherwise he will not be able to help me. We continue walking.

As we arrive at the petrol station, he tells me it's very important I focus on what is important to me if he is to be any help to me at all. I ask what he means. He tells me that i am going to be executed and I will not be able to survive if he does not help me. I ask him if that means he is going to "join up with my mind in order to sustain my life force" and he says yes.

I start picturing things in my mind... but being a dream they aren't really sensible at all. The chap next to me disappears.

A lady is standing across the forecourt. She presses a button and red lightning shoots into the ground behind me. I tell her she has missed, but she says there is always a second chance. Two heavies come and put me into position and she presses the button again. I feel terrible and intense pain in my brain and I start blacking out... I really feel like i am dying.

I come round and I am being carried down a flight of stairs by another man. He sympathetically says the words "Poor soul... good soul!" He carries me into a room where some children are playing with board games. He tells them to watch over and look after me, he tells them that I will probably not be able to respond much because I have been through a very nasty experience and the powers that kept me alive are still at work inside me.

He lays me on a bed and leaves, the kids chat to me for a while. At first I have to fight the urge to close my eyes... as I can feel myself slipping away... but eventually the nausea and blacking out begin to stop and I feel confident enough to rest without any fear of death. I turn over in bed and look at the wall, there are bible references from the synoptic gospels on the wall.

Then I woke up.

Again it's a heavy dream with a strong narrative structure, and it has stayed with me all this time. Rob thinks it might be an idea for me to read up on the synoptic gospels... that maybe God is trying to remind me of something important. Although it is a lot of reading ... I am strongly considering doing it. Heck it always pays to know your Bible better.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Alcester, A Spiritual History

On Monday night, I travelled around my town with Harry, his mother Suzi and Pat Newbold. Our intention was to pray for the town, as most people accept that it is a "stronghold" ( a fortress for spiritual powers that oppose God).

I know that other places that are strong in darkness often turn that way because of some terrible wrong done in the distant past. I decided to map out the spiritual geographical history of Alcester... taking into account both history and legend.

The town was founded in Roman times - Alcester means encampment on the Alne (river). The modern day church sits at the centre of the (then) walled section of the Roman town. I believe it is highly likely that the church sits on top of an old temple. During the civil war, the church was desecrated and used as a stables for parliamentarian warhorses. There were claims that a church vicar fraternised with and protected highwaymen many years ago as well. Not far from the church is the town hall. In the middle ages, this is where the town's preaching cross was situated (before a strong church presence was established). According to legend, the town was cursed by St. Egwin. The townsfolk would not listen to him and tried to drown him out with their own clamour. It is said that an earthquake split the ground and swallowed up the blacksmiths who jeered at Egwin. The town lost it's prosperity at that time.

The town hall is also a place of meeting for verious masonic lodges in the town. For reasons I don't want to get sidetracked into talking about here... Freemasonry is dodgy... VERY dodgy.

So already, without having walked 100 metres from the town centre... there is already a lot going on historically that could carry spiritual consequences.

Moving on down the town and we come to Bleachfield Street. Recent excavations discovered some kind of ritualistic infant burial... and in latter days, the towns ancient Roman fort has been found. Bleachfield Street has been the site of two murders. In my father's and grandfather's days, the road was known as "Blood and Thunder Street" on account of the number of fights that broke out up that road.

Finally on the outskirts of town, there used to be an abbey. It was commissioned in the time of King Stephen (not one of England's finest rulers it has to be said). At the time of it's construction, a monk named Anselm spoke out against the king. Naturally kings don't tend to be fond of this kind of behaviour... and Anselm was set upon by assassins. With his dying breath Anselm cursed the town and pronounced judgement on the king. Stating that England would one day lose authority over the prinicpality of France.

As you can see, Alcester has a colourful past.

This was the motivation of the prayer walk. There was very little peace as we prayed, but that did not diminish our resolve.

While we were in Bleachfield Street, Harry was asking in prayer something like for Alcester to be something like Jerusalem in the time of King David; this made me think of how David captured Jerusalem's fortress in the first place (2 Samuel 5:5-9). We also prayed over the location of the Roman fort at the far end of bleachfield street. At that time I saw a picture of a large white limestone block. It was a new stone. At this time I'm not quite sure what that is about. I can only think of a couple of scriptures that relate to it. Isaiah speaks of it it in chapter 28... and Peter quotes him when talking of Christ. There is also the promise of a new stone as a gift from God to his people in Revelation.

This needs prayer and discernment. I am encoraged however, because it wasn't just an outward praying experience. This time, I believe God said something too. Now it is merely a matter of understanding it.

No easy task.

For an alternate account of the prayer walk... please check out Harry's blog, where he briefly touches upon it. you can reach it by following this link:!1pYIiTbd6GVC7t8ZtDiiM1kg!728.entry

Christian Persecution: The International Hall of Shame

You may have noticed a link to the Open Doors Foundation on the right hand side of my blog. Open Doors seeks to assist and encourage Christians who are persecuted in the world. It seems hard to believe it happens from way over here in the nice comfy West... doesn't it? For your information.... I am posting a "naming and shaming" list, of countries who carry out or allow wide scale persecution to take place. If by chance you are reading this and you come from one of them... please do not think I am getting at you personally. The list was compiled using a rating based on a set of questions, it is updated annually and some of the nations on the list (e.g. Turkey), have improved and are continuing to do so. So without further ado:

1. North Korea
2. Saudi Arabia
3. Vietnam
4. Laos
5. Iran
6. Maldives
7. Somalia
8. Bhutan
9. China
10. Afghanistan
11. Yemen
12. Turkmenistan
13. Pakistan
14. Comoros
15. Uzbekistan
16. Eritrea
17. Myanmar
18. Egypt
19. Sudan
20. Libya
21. Iraq
22. Azerbaijan
23. Morocco
24. Brunei
25. Nigeria (North)
26. Cuba
27. Russian Federation [1]
28. Tajikistan
29. Sri Lanka
30. Djibouti
31. Mexico (South) [2]
32. Tunisia
33. Qatar
34. India
35. Nepal
36. Colombia (Conflict areas)[3]
37. Indonesia
38. Algeria
39. Turkey
40. Mauritania
41. Kuwait
42. Belarus
43. United Arab Emirates
44. Oman
45. Syria
46. Bangladesh
47. Jordan
48. Kenya (North east)
49. Ethiopia
50. Bahrain
Copyright (c) 2005 Open Doors International
[1] Muslim republics of the Russian Federation: Chechnya, Kabardino Balkarya, Dagestan
[2] Southern Mexican state of Chiapas

Focus on the Top Ten

1. North Korea ►
The Stalinist country of North Korea is characterized by a complete lack of religious freedom and of many other human rights. For the third year in a row, North Korea heads the ranking as the worst violator of religious rights. Christianity is observed as one of the greatest threats to the regime’s power. The government will arrest not only the suspected dissident but also three generations of his family to root out the bad influence. Our local co-worker reports that at least 20 Christians were arrested for their faith in 2004. It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps, where they are faced with cruel abuses. North Korea is suspected to detain more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world. Though no exact figures can be given, our staff discovered that more than 20 Christians were killed by open air shootings or by beatings in the prison camps during the past year.

2. Saudi Arabia ►
Also this year, Saudi Arabia is high in the top ten of the World Watch List. Religious freedom does not exist in the Wahhabist kingdom. Its citizens are not allowed to adhere to any other religion than Islam. The legal system is based on Islamic law (sharia). Apostasy -- conversion to another religion -- is punishable by death. Christians and other non-Muslims are prohibited from gathering for public worship. Christians spreading their religion are likely to be imprisoned, as was Indian citizen Brian O’Connor who was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment and 300 lashes during the past year. While in prison, he discovered other Christians in prison for their faith in Saudi Arabia. O’Connor was physically mistreated and pressed to convert to Islam, then released unconditionally from prison after seven months and deported.

3. Vietnam ►
New to third place is Vietnam, rising one position. One of the few communist nations in the world, Vietnam considers Christians to be a hidden enemy. Authorities fear that Evangelical Christianity, suspected to be connected to the United States, is being used in a peaceful revolution against the communist system. Although the constitution provides for religious freedom, the government considerably restricts unrecognized religious activities. A new law on religion was introduced during the past year and bans any religious activity deemed to threaten national security, public order or national unity. The new ordinance was also used to prohibit unregistered church services in private houses. More than 100 Christians -- mainly from a tribal background -- were imprisoned. Many were forced to renounce their faith. During Easter, hundreds of ethnic minority Montagnards were arrested or injured and an unknown number killed in demonstrations against religious oppression and confiscation of tribal lands in Dak Lak province. Though the demonstrations resulted from a larger Montagnard issue and cannot be attributed solely to Christian repression, they probably brought additional repression to minority Christians.

4. Laos ►
Laos’ constitution provides for religious freedom in this Southeast Asian country. However, the absence of rule of law and specific regulation on religious matters allows local officials to interpret and implement the constitutional provisions as they choose. Article 9, for instance, discourages all acts that create divisions among religions and persons, and officials use it to prohibit evangelizing and to discourage religious conversions. Decree 92 on religious practice requires that almost all aspects of religious practice be approved by the authorities. During the past few years, religious conditions have improved slightly for Protestant Christians, although intolerance continued in some areas. Several Christians were arrested and accused of engaging in illegal church activities outside of their church premises because they didn’t have an official permit to travel outside of their villages. They were also accused of speaking negatively about the government. Some local officers have threatened to kill believers if they do not renounce their faith.

5. Iran ►
Islam is the official religion in Iran, and all laws and regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of sharia law. Because conservative parties were victorious in the elections (at the beginning of 2004), religious freedom further deteriorated. Although Christians belong to one of the recognized religious minorities who are guaranteed religious freedom, they have reported imprisonment, harassment and discrimination because of their faith. Iranian authorities have banned the Bible and closed down Protestant churches that accept worshippers from an Islamic background. Hundreds of Christian converts were arrested throughout the year. Iranian Christians considered the detention of 85 Christian pastors in September to be the biggest crisis in 10 years. Most of the prisoners have been released, but many reported they received severe beatings and threats in jail. A former army colonel was sentenced to three years in prison for hiding his Christian faith, despite documented proof that the army knew he had become a Christian before he was ever given officer rank. There is a risk that he will be charged before a sharia court. In sharia legislation, apostasy is punishable by death.

6. Maldives ►
In the archipelago of the Maldives, Islam is the official state religion and all citizens must be Muslims. Sharia law is observed, which prohibits the conversion from Islam to another religion. A convert could lose citizenship as a result. It is prohibited to practice any other religion than Islam, which is considered to be an important tool in stimulating national unity and maintenance of the government’s power. Hence it is impossible to open any churches, though foreigners are allowed to practice their religion in private if they don’t encourage citizens to participate. The Bible and other Christian materials cannot be imported apart from a copy for personal use. In the country -- one of the least evangelized countries on earth, -- there are only a handful indigenous believers who live their faith in complete secrecy. The lack of respect for religious freedom in the Maldives remained the same during 2004.

7. Somalia ►
The eastern African country of Somalia is new in the top ten. Less than one percent of ethnic Somalis are Christian, practicing their faith in secret. Having no central government, the country lacks a constitution or other national laws to protect religious freedom. Islam is the official religion and social pressure is strong to respect Islamic tradition, especially in certain rural parts of the country. Somali Christians indicated that they face heavy pressure to join Islam. During 2004, several Christian converts from Islam reported physical assaults due to their new faith, and some had to escape to other villages. In those regions, even the possession of a Bible can lead to a dangerous situation. Three converts were killed by fundamentalist Muslims because of their beliefs. There is a saying that a Christian Somali is a dead Somali -- when discovered, they risk immediate death.

8. Bhutan ►
Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Officially, the Christian faith does not exist and Christians are not allowed to pray or celebrate in public. Priests are denied visas to enter the country. Christians are being deprived of their rights, such as children’s education, government jobs and setting up private businesses. Society exerts strong pressure to comply with Buddhist norms. During Easter, three house churches were raided by the police. The church members were warned not to gather for worship and told that the government considered their meetings to be “terrorist activities.” The import of printed religious matter is restricted, and only Buddhist religious texts are allowed in the country. The lack of respect for religious freedom did not change during 2004.

9. China ►
During 2004, China’s government increased control of religious activities, further restricting them. Three internal directives were issued, aimed at the suppression of conversion of Communist Party members, the growth of religion and religious organizations across the country and the increase of religious activity on university campuses. The government wants Marxist atheism research propaganda and education to be further strengthened. Local Christians reported intimidation, harassment and detention of believers. Several mass arrests took place in which hundreds of unregistered Christians were detained. A Christian woman was beaten to death in custody for handing out Christian tracts. However, the number of believers in both registered and unregistered churches continued to grow.

10. Afghanistan ►
Afghanistan is back in the top ten. Religious freedom for Christians deteriorated mostly because of the influence of Islamic extremists. During 2004, five Afghan Christian converts were killed for abandoning Islam and spreading their new faith. Some parts of the country, mainly in the south and east, are still under the influence of the Taliban. Afghanistan’s new provisional constitution does not provide sufficiently for religious freedom. The document stipulates that the country is an Islamic republic. Followers of other religions are free to practice their religion provided that these practices are within the limits of the provisions of the law and that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” This clause basically gives the official and unofficial religious leaders the right to question every action that they might consider contrary to their beliefs. Blasphemy and apostasy still fall under sharia law and are officially punishable by death. Christian converts face social discrimination and threats.

Countries Where the Situation Deteriorated ►
Apart from Somalia and Afghanistan, the status of religious freedom deteriorated in Iraq, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Whereas Christians enjoy more political liberties than before in Iraq, they are experiencing considerable pressure from fundamentalist groups. Written threats, kidnappings, bombings and murder by Muslim extremists continued to drive tens of thousands of the minority Christian population out of the country. Several churches were bombed in 2004 and many were injured or killed. In some parts of the country, Christian women are forced to cover their heads. The general insecurity allows crimes such as killings, rapes and property confiscations to remain unpunished. Religious minorities are the main victims of this lawlessness and unrest. At the beginning of 2004, the draft constitution was agreed upon. It recognizes Islam as a source of legislation and specified “no law can contradict the universally agreed tenets of Islam.” The vague wording of this provision could lead to clerics holding veto power over the legislative body in determining what is Islamically correct.

The year 2004 saw a wave of arrests of evangelical believers in Eritrea. More than 400 Protestant Christians are currently imprisoned for their beliefs, a clear increase compared to the previous year. The believers suffered severe punishment and were locked in metal shipping containers. Many were put under pressure to renounce their faith. The only authorized religions recognized by the state are Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran and Islam. A new phenomenon last year was the arrest of Catholics, who are officially recognized.

Although the constitution of Ethiopia provides for freedom of religion, local Christians feel the government controls this freedom. Evangelical believers are not recognized and they report their churches are monitored. Christians experience the most opposition from local authorities and radical Muslims in majority Islamic regions. A number of believers have been imprisoned or have remained in hiding throughout the year because of their faith. Christians from an Islamic background are often fiercely persecuted by family members. Not only are they ostracized from the community, but they also face threats and attacks.

Countries Where the Situation Improved ►

The situation for Christians improved to different extents in Sudan, Colombia, Myanmar, Algeria, Turkey and Qatar.

After 21 years of devastating civil war, which claimed the lives of two million people, Christians in Sudan are cautiously hopeful for the new peace deal. Under the accords, the mostly Christian and animist South will remain autonomous for six years. Subsequently, there will be a referendum on independence from the largely Muslim North. Local church leaders expect the agreement will mean a lot to the Christians in Sudan. They expect to begin to enjoy access to food, water, shelter, medicines and clothing, which they were denied before. Also, as far as we could verify, fewer Christians were killed or physically harmed during 2004 than in the previous year.

Whereas the status of religious freedom did not change significantly in the conflict areas of Colombia, the ranking dropped because fewer Christians were reportedly killed or physically harmed compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, believers in rebel-occupied areas continue to live under pressure and amidst violence, partly because of their faith, although this is not easy to discern. The national army and guerrilla factions accuse believers of being allied with the rival group, although the church holds strong to its non-violence convictions. Guerrilla groups are also blaming the church for discouraging local youth from joining the insurgency. Pastors are kidnapped for money, and many live under threats of kidnapping. Evangelical families are among the thousands of persons displaced by fighting, and believers are killed in bomb explosions.

During 2004, we were able to collect more information on Myanmar during field trips. This information disclosed that religious freedom is less fierce than previously estimated. However, Christian believers still face church closures, major difficulties in registration, prohibition of construction of church buildings, and discrimination in the workplace.

There is an indication of slight improvement in the situation of Christians in Algeria. Threats against churches by Islamists continued, but they remained without repercussions. According to our staff, Algerians are increasingly getting used to the presence of Christians -- even indigenous believers -- and are tolerating them more and more. The indigenous church is growing, and they are able to gather openly with little interference from the authorities. Generally, the government does not interfere in the activities of non-Islamic religions. However, by law it is still prohibited to gather to practice a faith other than Islam, and non-Islamic evangelizing is illegal. Converts from Muslim backgrounds often face strong social pressure, especially from family and neighbors.

The status of religious freedom for Christians in Turkey improved to some extent. Legislation for religious freedom was somewhat accommodated to European Union laws. A Turkish pastor was acquitted of criminal charges for opening an “illegal” church due to the recent reforms. At the end of the year, formal approval was granted for his church -- the first new Protestant church to be built since the founding of the Turkish republic. Small Protestant congregations have often struggled against police and court harassment during the past 10 years. A Turkish TV producer was even sentenced to almost two years in jail for airing false provocations against Turkish Protestants. According to our local contact, the improvement is not really defined in most formal laws or accepted in the minds of the people.

The Gulf state of Qatar enacted its first constitution in 2004, guaranteeing freedom of expression, assembly and religion. Also, five Christian communities were allowed to begin construction of new churches. The Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Anglican and Protestant churches will be the first Christian churches in the country since the seventh century. Before the new constitution was adopted, the Christian communities in the country were illegal but tolerated.

So what do you make of it all. Do you have any personal experiences of persecution? Please list them if you do. This is your place to let the people of the free world know that people still suffer for the name of Jesus.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Infernal Advertisers

Author's Note 07/01/07, this blog has been migrated from MSN Spaces... as I am intending to deactivate that account (it takes ages to load, there are comment restrictions and recently I've noticed some of my older posts have been "disappeared").
It's highly ironic that one day after writing about blog etiquette, and a month since I blogged about advertisers spamming blogs... it has happened to me.

I must apologise to anyone reading my blog who has clicked on a trackback recently. There are adverts for pharmaceutical agencies crawling all over my space. I'm not sure who is responsible... but I'm having to delete all dodgy trackbacks manually... this may take some doing as it appears to be... every entry!

I advise all of you reading this to check your own registers... you might have been spammed as well.

I sincerely hope you haven't

In the meantime, this has been reported to MSN.


After something crazy like 30 deletions, I managed to remove all the advertising. You can read more on my opinions about this in both the post below and the one on viral marketeers that I made last month.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Blog Etiquette

I decided to write a few rules and guidelines for people wanting to comment on my space. I've modified a November 2005 blog entry on blog etiquette so that you have the rules in brief, followed by a brief summary of my personal blogging code of ethics:

  • Speak you mind, be funny or serious... disagree with me if you like, I want to hear from you.
  • Show respect. No swearing or abuse of other comments please.
  • Do not advertise a commercial product in my comments or trackbacks without my permission.

I've recently been involved in a couple of incidents regarding blog behaviour... and I thought I'd clarify my position.

Firstly I believe we need to respect one another's spaces. I've seen people jumping onto other people's sites and coldly advertising their own space, or opinion on a totally off-topic subject. I don't believe it is right to behave in this manner. Blogs are unique in the sense that they are personal diaries/forums on a public domain; a visitor might argue that they can say what the heck they like... free speech and all that. Similarly a blogger might say they can delete indiscriminately any comments they don't agree with.

I would say that we have freedoms... but each of those freedoms carries a responsibility. If you are going to comment on someone else's space, you have to recognise and respect it as their territory; on the other hand if you are going to open up a subject on your space that will be open to the public domain, you have to recognise people's right to publicly disagree, otherwise what's the point?

My advice when we are visitors would be to (where sensible) keep comments relevant to the topic at hand, or just introduce yourself/chat generally. You should never really start a new debate on someone else's space, it's rude... especially if your topic is not related to the general theme of the space you are commenting on. I'd also say that it is of absolute importance to not use offensive language or insults when visiting someone's space. Again, you are on their turf... so you should treat them peaceably. You don't walk into a strangers house and start mouthing off!

My advice to bloggers managing their own sites is to allow/encourage sensible conversation and debate. If you have put your handiwork up for public scrutiny, you should expect it. If you don't agree with a comment made on your space... it is equally bad manners to delete it. If it is personally insulting or offensive... or it has abusive language... then fine, delete it; but for pities sake, don't just delete someones opinion just because it's not in line with your own... if you are going to do that, select PRIVATE or PERSONAL on your blog settings... because frankly you waste everyone else's time if you dictate your opinion without giving a chance for democratic response.

I hope everyone visiting here and reading this believes I live by this simple code. My hope is that it might give you food for thought as you visit other blogs, as well as policing your own.

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