Showing posts with label Bible. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible. Show all posts

Friday, 5 April 2013

DON'T LOSE HOPE

by Colin Bloom

Earlier today I received a Tweet asking me how, in the face of such liberal totalitarianism, I don't lose hope. The Tweeter sent me the question after I posted this article on Religious Freedom. It's a good question, but one that can't be answered in just 140 characters. So this is might slightly more considered response.

There are three points I would make, although I'm sure there is a lot more to say on  the subject.

The first is that, most people, indeed most Christians don't seem to care about the rising tide of aggressive secularism. It totally passes them by, maybe because seeing beyond the busyness and priorities of their own lives would require too much effort. Even though we are all guilty of doing that; guilty of making our own momentary concerns seemingly of far greater importance than the bigger issues, I see many people who are rising to the challenge. From my vantage point I am optimistic that the number of people who are 'getting it' is growing.

The second point is one that I would be a bit stronger on; as Christians we need to get more comfortable wearing the full armour of God. That armour is to be used in both defense and offense, but the more we wear the armour, the more comfortable it becomes. Whilst never forgetting that we follow the Prince of Peace, we need to remember that He was also the Lion of Judah!  So long as we model ourselves on Jesus, remembering grace, mercy and love, we wont go too far wrong.

Finally, I don't lose hope because rightly or wrongly I take tremendous encouragement from the following scripture: 2 Chronicles 20: This is what the Lord says to you: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s."

So we won't lose hope, not now, not ever. We have it as an anchor for our souls, firm and secure.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

TRADING STANDARDS - I NOW HAVE TWO JOKES!

by Colin Bloom

For many years I was the political lead for Public Protection & Safety in a large Unitary Authority. Apart from trying to get the Council, Police, Fire and Ambulance Service and others to work together, I was also the lead on less well known but hugely important teams such as Trading Standards, Youth Offending and Drug & Alcohol. For the most part, all good people doing a difficult job in challenging circumstances.

During this period, my feelings for our Trading Standards Officers went from disinterest to huge respect and admiration. In particular was their dogged determination to hunt down and get convictions on what have been euphemistically called 'Rogue Traders'.

'Rogue Traders' are the sort of people who typically pick on an older person and pretend that they were 'just passing' and happened to notice a missing tile from their roof. The fact that they had just knocked it off with a stone propelled from a catapult only briefly explains the sort of people we are talking about. Once they have fixed the tile, they then 'notice' that the whole roof, needs 'repairing'. The modus-operandi then follows that they'll convince the frail and confused homeowner to allow them to fix it (they usually bodge it) before they march them down to their bank and force them to withdraw tens of thousands of pounds for these bogus repairs. So no, not 'Rogue Traders' but utterly rotten vile exploitative villainous hateful moral bankrupts. 

The tactics deployed by our teams were amazing, and yielded many convictions, none of which in my opinion got the sentences deserved; I would throw away the key... The area was affluent with an ageing population, so for us it was always a challenge to contain the problem. Moreover, I have to give praise to our local Police Commander and his team who all did a huge amount in partnership to make our area as safe as possible against this nasty kind of crime. 

I used to point out to the Trading Standards team that God was on their side too! Reminding them that the Bible says in the book of Proverbs, "The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favour with him." 

During my time in this role, I learned one joke about Trading Standards Officers from one of the best. It goes something like this:

A Trading Standards Officer goes to his local bakers; looking in the window he sees a lovely array of cakes and buns and a sign that says "EVERYTHING £1".

He goes inside and points to the delicious looking vanilla sponge, "I'll have that please."

The baker says, "That'll be £2 please." 

The Trading Standards Officer splutters, "But the sign says, EVERYTHING £1!"

"Ah," said the baker, "That's madeira cake!"

Boom boom. Nevertheless, with my allegiances nailed clearly to the mast; that I have deep affection for Trading Standards officers, I must point out something that I saw recently which now means I have two jokes about this honourable profession.

On a market stall somewhere in South London, a street trader is selling vinyl records. Remember those things we used to listen to before iTunes and Compact Discs. Box after box of singles, EP's and LP's - I was in heaven! Original Pink Floyd, complete with posters, Luther Vandross, even some early Bowie. It was a nostalgic trip back to the mid Seventies and to Our Price Records with a crisp £1 note in my hand!

However, the signs around the stall didn't say 7" or 12", what you and I know as the gold standard for vinyl record sizes, but 178mm and 305mm records! The stall holder claims that they were told by a Trading Standards officer (from a different Local Authority) that describing their second hand, ancient discs using Imperial Lengths meant they were liable to prosecution under the 'Weights and Measures Act of 1985'.

All I can say is I am glad this neither happened on my watch nor on my patch, but if you can find a more ludicrous example of jaw droppingly ridiculous pettifogging bureaucracy I would love to hear about it. 

Whilst where I live our Trading Standards teams are out hunting down villainous vermin, the rest of us can lean back, pour ourselves 568 ml of beer and listen to a 305mm remix of anything by Madness.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

EASTER PART II. FOR PETE'S SAKE

by Colin Bloom

For crying out loud, was the first part of the Easter trilogy I started yesterday. For Pete's sake, today I want to discuss Saint Peter.

Peter is one of the biblical characters that I find it very easy to identify with. A ready, fire, aim kind of guy. He wasn't the type to hesitate; he usually got his defence in early. If he was a football player, he would have been like Arsenal's greatest central defender Tony Adams, who famously said "you can get past me, or the ball can get past me, but both of you ain't doing it." Peter had a low centre of gravity, and was to use a modern idiom, a man's man.

So it is ironic that of all the "I'll follow you to the death, Jesus" disciples it was to Peter that Jesus said, "I tell you, this very night you will deny knowing me three times before the rooster crows."

This tragic betrayal came true, and Peter's denial left him fleeing his questioners distraught, weeping bitterly.

Peter was the Disciple that Jesus the Church would be built; and yet it was Peter, the tough guy, who ran away when questioned about his faith. Peter had just seen his best friend go through an unjust trial and was about to see him whipped, humiliated and nailed to death on a cross.

His whole world was falling apart, and the man he had given the past three years of his life to was going to die. Peter probably hadn't slept, he was exhausted, emotionally broken and confused. With this in our minds, it is perhaps easier to understand why Peter the Rock became Peter the Denier.

This episode reminds me that notwithstanding my failings, weaknesses and sin; there is always hope, always forgiveness and always a fresh start. The Church should be the representation of Christ on earth, the Church is a safe place, a sanctuary of God's love. A place where anyone and everyone should feel welcome, and encouraged to have a relationship with Jesus just like Peter did.


So for Pete's sake, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

EASTER PART I. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD

by Colin Bloom

The Cross is the centre-point of all history. This year is 2013, 2013 years after what? When King Tutankhamun died in 1323 BC, it was 1323 years before what?

The Cross, is centre point of history because it represents the end of God's old covenant with the world and the beginning of the new. If like me you believe in the Christian faith and you accept the story of Jesus, then you have to agree that His death and resurrection is the most important thing that as ever happened in the history of the universe. More personally, the realisation of the Cross, Jesus's willingness to die and be raised again for me and you, is by far the most important thing that ever happened in our lives. The Cross is not just the most important point in history, it is also the most personal one.

The phrase 'for crying out loud' is often used as an exclamation of frustration. I don't know if the etymology of this phrase goes back to Jesus on the Cross, but the Bible tells us in the Gospel of Matthew 27:46 that Jesus cried out loud, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

It was this substitutionary sacrifice; Jesus taking the punishment for others that is central to the Cross. The Cross is Jesus's gift of himself to us, it is a gift of Grace that just keeps on giving. Nothing in all history is strong enough to defeat the power of the Cross.

So if you aren't sure about any of this but want to know more, go to Church, read a bible or if you want to know more straight away I can do no better than to point you to the Alpha Course or to Christianity Explored

For crying out loud, it's Easter - you should find out more, and if you already know, who have you told?


Saturday, 23 March 2013

GRAND THEFT OF MORALITY


by Colin Bloom

"You are a stylish hooligan entering a new decade of grievous bodily harm, car- jacking and general thuggery. Drive, run and shoot your way into all sorts of trouble with the law, rival gangs and civilians. Thirty-two new missions, thirty new vehicles and unlimited criminal opportunity." 

This is Japanese technology giant Sony's own 'manufacturers' description' of their 'Grand Theft Auto: London Mission' software for their ubiquitous Play Station games console. During the summer of 2011 when we saw gratuitous violence, mugging, arson and looting across the country it was tragically ironic that it was a Sony distribution warehouse that was burned to the ground in Enfield. You can take to the bank that Sony executives won't be calling the people responsible 'stylish hooligans'.

So what can be done? David Cameron has been consistent on two key points: firstly that Britain is broken and secondly that to fix broken Britain, we need a 'Big Society'. For both he has been derided by the left, mocked by liberals and misunderstood by many in his own party. In the light of the masked cowards, cynically robbing and trashing their way through town centres and the post looting, broom wielding furious majority that reclaimed their streets, wasn't the Prime Minister proved right?

We saw the worst and best of Britain as the stark chasm between the mainstream decent majority and the feral and selfish few gets ever wider. Some will argue that we need to bring these two faces of the United Kingdom closer together, to somehow cathartically create a healing betwixt the two. Perhaps the decent majority should work harder to try and understand why people, who evidently can afford top-end smart phones, felt the need to steal trainers from a sports shop before  burning it down. It's a thought, but maybe the problem is that mainstream Britain has already been getting far too close to the dark satanic mills of things that we should have been running away from. Like Sony's Grand Theft Auto...

Along with trying to end slavery, my hero William Wilberforce wanted a reformation of manners. Simply put, he wanted goodness to be fashionable. It could be argued that despite the great work he did, he left the anti-slavery task unfinished and as for making goodness fashionable, well... look around. When decent households have misogynistic, barbaric and selfish music, films and video games under their roof, aren't they unwittingly legitimising the things we also condemn?

Speaking as a sinner, perhaps we should reintroduce the old fashioned and biblical term 'sin'. Yes it's absolutist in creating a clear divide between right and wrong, but there can be no shades of grey when it comes to setting fire to people's homes and businesses. 

It's time for the majority who care to shun the violent culture of the mob. That means an end to violent computer games, and the 'Get rich or die tryin'...' attitudes. It means that we do some moral DIY and repaint the boundaries between right and wrong and as a society be prepared to point them out, firstly in our own lives and homes and then elsewhere.

The solution is not a legal one, we already have enough laws. The solution is a moral and spiritual one. So it's time for us all to look again at our own lives and the lives of those we may be responsible for and clear out the junk and furnish our minds with beautiful things. In the same book that talks about sin, you will find in Philippians 4:8

'...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things'.

Just maybe we can start with ourselves and begin to create a new generation of people that aren't 'stylish hooligans'.