Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Battle only we can win: The Deluded British

It was, to quote Churchill, our finest hour.

We are proud of our success (along with our allies) in defeating Nazism 70 years ago.  Winning the Second World War was a wonderful achievement.

It is still firmly in our collective memory and it makes us proud.  Hundreds of World War II films have been made since the 1950s and the War is taught about to all of our school children.

But we are quick to forget to what degree we called upon the Lord at that time.  During key moments in World War II, encouraged by King George, national days of prayer for our nation were held.  Here is an interesting article linking the nation in prayer with key successes in the war.

The fact that we still regard ourselves quite highly is illustrated by the attached clip.  One of our best political interviewers, Andrew Neill, had these tough words to say to the Jihadi fighters in our midst.




Andrew’s words are inspiring, and for sure there are wonderful, courageous people around in our armed services and police.  



Andrew Neil cites our victory over the German air force, the Luftwaffe, to illustrate how our bravery has enabled us to defeat a powerful enemy.  An extract from the above article gives an interesting angle on the Battle of Britain...

The second Day of Prayer was on Sunday, August 11th, 1940. This was a national youth call to prayer. The King had called all the young people to pray. I was walking past a large area of tennis courts on the way to church. The tennis courts were deserted except for a perplexed young man holding a tennis racket. He was completely alone.
'Where have they all gone?' he exclaimed.
'They're all in church praying for national deliverance,' I said. 'Why don't you go!'
'I can't believe this! My pals have never gone to church even once in their lives!'
The Answer
Britain could not know that within the week that followed, the overweight Nazi, Air Field Marshall Goering, commenced the first stage in the Battle of Britain. It failed. The relatively small British force of Spitfires and Hurricanes shot down 180 Nazi bombers over South-east England. The rate of interception excelled by far anything that could be expected or explained by radar, said our air commander.
The next national Day of Prayer was only a month later on September 8th, 1940. Calling for another Day of Prayer so soon showed how desperate Parliament knew the situation to be.
The answer again was immediate and it was during this period that people in the streets began to see angels in the sky. A more determined Nazi air attack was made by sending five fighter planes to accompany every single bomber during the week following. Yet against all odds, as many as 185 Nazi planes were shot down. It was sad for us padres to see the empty canteen tables of those who did not return, but they had shot down a far greater number than our own losses. In fact Air Chief Marshall Dowding said: 'I will say with absolute conviction that I can trace the intervention of God . . . Humanly speaking victory was impossible!'
And that was during the week following our third National Day of Prayer, and the newspapers were not afraid to print that statement by Dowding.
Goering, the Nazi commander, expected success and in anticipation Hitler had prepared invasion barges at Bremen. But I see in my notes taken at the time that a terrific storm in the channel and North Sea blew away those invasion barges. The result was that the invasion of Britain was postponed. This was vital, for it gave Britain more time to manufacture armaments to re-equip our depleted forces.

I put it to you that we are a shadow of what we once were, not least in the area of our spirituality.  The freedoms we have are hard won.  I believe that when we abuse those freedoms to indulge in immorality, we will soon lose them.  There are exceptions of course, but I see the UK as largely a nation of cowards.

We are proud, we are godless and we are deluded.  We are soon going to find this out.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The battle only we can win: The Gentle British

There's a battle going on in Europe, including the UK.  We're in a deep, deep crisis.  Some people are waking up to it, most have not.  Militant Islam has declared war on Europe.  We don't know how to fight it.  Culturally, politically and spiritually, I believe we have as good as lost the battle.  In the next few posts I will explain why I think this.

But there is good news.

The good news is, I believe that the church of Jesus Christ through his name, through the triumph of his shed blood on the cross and by the power of the Holy Spirit, will win the war.  To quote a song.

Yet O Lord, your glorious cross shall tower triumphant in this land
Evil confounding
Through the fire, your suffering church display the glories of her Christ
Praises resounding


It won't be won without much suffering, it won't be won by cowards or the faint hearted.  But I firmly believe that through Christ, his church will be triumphant in the end.

Years ago, one of my best friends went travelling abroad for a few months.  On returning, he told many tales of his adventures.  But his conclusion was to this effect.

You can’t beat England!  It’s just the best country in the world!  Peaceful, secure, orderly.  The people are polite, funny, civilised, kind.  I am so glad to be home!

We have enjoyed over 70 years of relative peace here.  World War II is only a very distant memory.  In fact we live on an island surrounded by a huge moat consisting of the North Sea, the Irish Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.  Nobody has successfully invaded our land for over 950 years.



Our country oozes with imposing historic buildings, quaint churches, village ponds and greens, country houses.  A galaxy of great inventors, engineers, thinkers, scientists, leaders, entertainers, writers, preachers, missionaries, soldiers, musicians and artists grew up here over that period.  Our health system is gloriously free, the benefits system at least keeps people out of the abject poverty we see in some countries.  The weather is mild, if a little rainy and the fields are green.  Our police are unarmed.  Nobody owns a gun apart from a few farmers and eccentric enthusiasts.  It’s a great place to live.

Over the years, we have also learned to basically trust our institutions.  So most of us, without really thinking very hard about it, carry the following assumptions:
  1. People generally tell you the truth.  Lies are ‘white’
  2. News coverage from the BBC, Sky and ITV can be trusted
  3. University education helps you to ‘get on’ in life
  4. Religious people are harmless, though a little odd
  5. School teachers, college and university lecturers, teach the truth
  6. ‘The system’, consisting of hospitals, police, the courts, parliament, banks, chemists, the benefits system, my local MP, social workers, the family doctor, will take care of me if things go wrong.

The people?   Polite, understated, humorous.  We like making fun of each other.  There is still a bit of a class system, which we take constant delight in laughing at.  ‘Posh’ people still talk differently from the ordinary folk.  Anyone who lives north of Peterborough or west of Oxford could speak one of an endless range of accents and dialects.  We are modest in manner.  We don’t like shouting and we will generally avoid getting into fights, especially over religion and politics.



Do we get passionate about anything?  Yes.  Sport!  It seems that we invented most of them.  Football (soccer) arouses the strongest emotions.  But we also love our cricket, rugby, tennis, motor racing and golf.  What else?  Some, a minority, are keen enough to have passionate political views.  What about our churches?  Our main established church, the Church of England, reformed in doctrine, but ‘Catholic’ in its procedures brings out a succession of pleasant, well-spoken, intellectual, mild-mannered leaders who rarely get heated about anything.  They are loved by some, passed over as irrelevant or weird by most except when we need christenings, weddings and burials.  Religious zealots, though disliked, are still quietly tolerated.

One thing the English are bad at is getting angry and speaking effectively.  The Scots, Welsh and Irish are a bit better at it.  We quietly seethe, complaining bitterly under our breath. 


So, what’s been happening lately in this mini-paradise?

Well, here’s is a sample of social trends.  Things going on ‘under the radar’, suggesting that not everything is rosy.

  • 185,000 unborn babies aborted every year.  68,000 of those were repeat abortions.  That’s a lot of lives.


The blood of the innocents cry out to God.  If he was to do nothing to Britain for this reason alone, he would have to apologise to Sodom.

  • Men and women don’t commit themselves to one another any more.  Now, over 50% of our children are born to unmarried mothers.
  • A million of our children are growing up without any contact with their father.
  • One in 11 adults on antidepressants
  • 9% of adults have no close friends at all
  • 13% of adults live alone

I could add some words about the culture of debt, especially among young people, the widespread occult inspired or sexually explicit song lyrics, TV dramas and addiction to pornography, the STDs among 18-24 year olds.  I could say something about how our elderly are being marginalised.  Do you get the picture?

As a parent, I can tell you that it’s extremely hard to find wholesome entertainment for our children (or for us), without looking like an oddball.  Many of our teenage children at school classes are made to feel ashamed if they are still virgins at 16 or 17.  The most popular shows on TV are either occultic or little short of pornographic.

I put it to you that we have abandoned the God who gave us our greatness, and we don’t care.  One of the most blessed nations on the face of the Earth.  And we have, on a massive scale, pushed him out of almost every area of public life.

We are destroying ourselves as a society, and much of the above issues do not hit the headlines.  We can safely sweep them under the carpet.  Are we just going to lay down and die, a once great country, without hope and without God?


What will jolt us out of our complacency?

Friday, 2 June 2017

Worship Restored: Turn the Volume down!


Jennifer was in her 70s. A strong, intelligent, lively personality who loved the Lord, loved worshipping, loved being with God's people and loved sharing her faith with anyone who would listen. She had served the Lord for most of her life. She welcomed anyone who visited her small house, shared many an anecdote of God's faithfulness in her own experience, prayed and gave faithfully to God's work. She had an extensive knowledge and appreciation of worship music, both modern and traditional.

Her church was the Town Mission, a small elder-run fellowship containing four main families, several students and single people and some children from the local estate. For years they used Mission Praise and a selection of modern(ish) worship songs on overhead slides accompanied by Jean, one of the church mums who played the electric keyboard. But this was all going to change.

There were four teenagers at the Mission, all of them musical and they decided to form a worship band. Keen to keep them integrated in the church, it was decided that they should lead the worship at the church on a regular basis. And anyway, it would hopefully attract other youngsters to church.

Out came the drum kit. Up went the volume on the amplifier. Away went the traditional hymns. In came the trendy songs..... and off went Jennifer. Never to enter the doors of the church again.

Was she being intolerant? Inflexible perhaps? Or simply an unfortunate casualty of the trend of churches obsessed with being trendy and loud to attract the kids? One thing is for sure. She was certainly a sensitive, genuine worshipper who loved good music. And she felt that the kids were not truly leading worship, simply being loud and self-indulgent. Is the Lord truly pleased when one of His faithful servants is driven from fellowship in this way? Does the worship truly bless His Holy Name?

Never mind. She went across town to Carmel Fellowship instead. She loved the people there. The music was certainly of good quality here, but.... LOUD again! Especially when Craig was on the sound board. She had to wear earplugs. Which meant that she couldn't really hear herself sing. And she felt disconnected from the people she was with. Shouldn't worship be a corporate, together thing? Well, it wasn't here for Jennifer. Driven from fellowship by loud music again.

There was a time when buildings were shook by the Holy Presence of the Lord (see Acts 4:31, Acts 16:25-26). The only things that are shaking our buildings now are those deafening amps. Let me quote a couple of scriptures.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to him; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5: 23-24

The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
1Corinthians 12:21-26

Isn't worship supposed to be a family, corporate event for old and young, rich and poor, men and women? Why does the church follow the world like this? The world segregates people by age, so does the church. The world marginalises the elderly, so does the church.

I want to ask you again, is the Lord truly pleased when one of His faithful servants is driven from fellowship in this way? Does the worship truly bless His Holy Name?

No! Surely not!! The above (true, but with details altered) story breaks my heart. I venture to say also that I believe the Lord is deeply grieved when a church uncompromisingly pursues the youth by using exclusively loud, trendy music and in doing so drives other saints away, such as older people, those who cannot stand noise and get frequent headaches, those who weren't brought up going to rock concerts and so on.

When we plan and practise our worship, our primary question should not be:

'Do the kids like it?' or even 'Do the people like it?'. But 'Does the Lord like it?' That in no way means that the music will be unpleasant! It's simply getting things in the right order. And if the Lord is honoured, we will be blessed.

Another few suggested rules of thumb:

  • Can I hear myself sing? If not, the music is too loud!
  • Does my singing add to the overall sound? If not, the music is too loud!
  • Can I bring my mum and dad to the service, or will they think the guitar is too loud? If they think it is, it is!
  • Is the worship noisy because people are singing enthusiastically or because the guy on the sound board is too enthusiastic? Make sure it's the former!
I'm not saying that the music shouldn't be contemporary in style or that we don't amplify or use drums. I'm not saying that youngsters shouldn't be involved in the music. I am simply saying that worship that costs us nothing is worship that is worth nothing. And if our singing only gives us a buzz and we are not blessing the Lord, it is not worth anything.

That is why the Lord did not accept Cain's sacrifice (Genesis 4:3-5). That is why David insisted on paying Araunah for his threshing floor (2Samuel 24:24). Being casual and careless, insensitive to others in our worship, I put it to you, grieves the Lord and does not bring glory to Him.

We need to repent and turn down the Amplifiers!


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Worship Restored: On innovation


Isaac Watts (the author of 'When I survey the Wondrous Cross' and 'I'm not ashamed to own my Lord') caused a stir when he began to write his hymns. It was a new innovation among the nonconformists, who would only sing metrical psalms, and he was opposed by many. To this day, some churches in rural Scotland stick to the Psalter, holding out against the innovation of hymns and musical instruments.
When Martin Luther began to put Christian lyrics to popular drinking songs, he was similarly challenged. In reply, he coined the oft quoted phrase, 'Why should the Devil have all the best Tunes?'.
The Salvation Army similarly not only took songs from the pub, but they accompanied them with the instruments of working people, such as tambourines, drums, trombones and cornets. When William Booth heard a beautiful rendition of 'Bless His Name, He sets me free', and found that it was set to the tune of 'Champagne Charlie, that's my name', a translated songs like 'Champagne Charlie, that's my Name' to 'Bless His Name, He sets me Free'. It's worth quoting the chorus more fully:
Bless his name, he sets me free,
Bless his name, he sets me free,
O the blood, the precious blood,
I am trusting in the cleansing flood.
Bless his name, he sets me free.
Bless his name, he sets me free,
I know my sins are washed away,
And now in Jesus I am free.

Booth once said,
You must sing good tunes. Let it be a good tune to begin with. I don't care much whether you call it secular or sacred. I rather enjoy robbing the devil of his choicest tunes and, after his subjects themselves, music is about the best commodity he possesses. It is like taking the enemy's guns and turning them against him.
Not long afterwards, the American singer Ira Sankey came on the scene. He traveled around the cities of the UK with the evangelist DL Moody with his range of popular hymns. His selection of hymns, published in the book 'Sacred Songs and Solos', had a simplicity to them, a lilting tone and greater emotion than the previous generation of church songs. Although some church leaders criticised his music, they were a hit with the common people. Singing along at the music hall was a popular pastime, and Sankey's hymns had a similar style, exemplified by 'Blessed Assurance', 'What a friend we have in Jesus', 'O Happy Day', and 'Trust and Obey'.
Fast forward to the late 20th century. As a babe in Christ, a friend lent me a tape of songs by someone called Larry Norman. I'm amused now when I think of the lyrics of one of the songs, "Why should the Devil have all the good Music". Here are some extracts:
Sometimes people can't understand
What's a good boy doing in a Rock 'n' Roll Band?
Jesus is the Rock and He Rolled my Blues Away
I ain't knocking the Hymns, just give me a song with a beat
I don't want any of those funeral marches... I ain't dead yet!
Inspired stuff! Hmmm ? Perhaps not! My tastes have moved on a little since then.
Cliff Richard later covered this song, leaving out the derogatory line about funeral marches.
The moral of the story so far. Worship styles have always followed the popular style of the age. There is nothing wrong with using popular music styles. In fact, I believe it makes a strong impact. I wanted to lay this principle down before making my next point.
For your music, I'm putting up one of Isaac Watt's radical hymns. The exquisite 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"



Sunday, 16 April 2017

Worship Restored: How it should be



This is a discussion about a subject close to my heart... and a shameless excuse to post some of the songs I like.
Worship music should be deep, truthful, glorifying to God, joyful, wide ranging in the themes and emotions it covers, corporate in its arrangement and language, easy to sing, centred on God and the Lord Jesus, memorable, understandable, deep.
Those who participate should know that they have been in the presence of God, have their faith increased, be cleansed of sin and be strengthened by the truth. Music is a huge part of our culture and it should be a huge part of our Christian culture. All revivals have featured many new songs being written and sung.
Why should the Devil have all the good music? It wasn't Larry Norman who first said that. It wasn't Cliff Richard. It wasn't William Booth. It was probably Martin Luther.
I like old hymns. I like contemporary worship. As long as it is doctrinally accurate, truthful and glorifying to God.
I believe that worship should be:-
  • About participation, not entertainment
  • Scriptural, not cliched
  • About how good God is, not how devoted we are
  • More "We' and 'us' than 'me' and 'I'
  • Strong, not soppy
  • To our Lord, not our best mate

Here's something to listen to to begin with - an oldie. Jesus the Very Thought of Thee, by Bernard of Clairvaux
1. Jesus, the very thought of thee with sweetness fills the breast; but sweeter far thy face to see, and in thy presence rest.
2. O hope of every contrite heart, O joy of all the meek, to those who fall, how kind thou art!  How good to those who seek!
3. But what to those who find? Ah, this nor tongue nor pen can show; the love of Jesus, what it is, none but his loved ones know.
4. Jesus, our only joy be thou, as thou our prize wilt be; Jesus, be thou our glory now, and through eternity.