Unrealistic expectations challenged

Everyday we are told to expect things to get better, improve or progress. We measure achievement, share success and celebrate tiny steps. Humanity is tottering from one crisis point to the next.

With everything that is wrong with the world we are still told that this is the best time to have lived.

We treat those of the past as somehow inferior or intellectually ignorant, it isn’t true. Why did villages live by rivers and have a second source of water, digging wells into the water table all across the world? Because they knew that rivers carried disease. It was only when cities became unmanageable and the poor were forced to the live in inhuman conditions by the wealthy did we begin to see the development of modern poverty and deprivation.

Personally reading through the shared annuals of civilization it becomes clear that with the intellectual leadership the compassion for the individual has all but died.

SO as we grew up in an area of deprivation in the UK, where poverty was a real concern, some meals were just what could be added to the potato base or bread we learned that escape was down to us.

My brothers and I escaped the poverty, use education and hard work to our advantage and our children never experienced what we had. It wasn’t positive thinking that created a dream, it was hard graft. Positive thinking often leads to inaction or entropy so those cursed with it had to be brave.

We left them behind, we found ways to make our lives mean something to those who follow and where possible made a real difference through our compassion.

I met a couple of those early positive thinkers who had decided that by setting the goal and telling everyone around them somehow things would work out okay. To a degree they have but not the dreams or the outcomes they saw. Life is very different for them now, had they taken their positive thoughts and channeled the energy things may have been different.

I’m not against positive thinking but when it creates an unrealistic world it can only lead to personal and collective grief. So as I reach the age of the “grumpy old man” it is my goal to challenge unrealistic, blue skies or dream-based thinking.

The third law of thermodynamics reminds us that the entropy of a system approaches a constant value of zero. Humanity without a reality check is approaching our ZERO point.

It really doesn’t matter who we are or what we think to change the world is going to take far more power than we have at our disposal therefore we need some external help. Now is the time to look for hope and find our faith.

Fake News – who do you believe?

News has never had to be truth! That shocks a lot of people but governments rarely feed their own subjects and citizens the truth. Propaganda is the usual edifying material the masses are spoon fed.

In the UK we know that every year when the 30 year rule is followed, things we were told at that time turn out to be so untrue many are shocked by the revelation.

Trust the Media we’re told. But experience has taught those with inquisitive minds that there are always four sides to the story, the media, the victim, the perpetrator and then the truth is obscured in the corner.

So what is news? The definition should be altered to reflect that it is information that the masses will find acceptable. Something that placates them and offers very little in the way of substance.

Exceptions often occur when enquiring members of the public look for the reasons for specific actions, for example the Invasion of Iraq.

Is it acceptable for so many educated people to accept blindly what they are taught or told by those in power? Yes, history has shown us that in pursuit of freedom the masses follow the leaders, the questioning minds stand out as different and are attacked, decried as fools or gullible and potentially too stupid to be included.

I am critical and cynical but with excellent reason. Nothing heard from the mouth of another person should go unchallenged. Just because Isaac Newton put something forward it didn’t make it a fact. Science teaches us to test and challenge but scientists today now follow the sect of celebrity. Our lives and the future existence of the planet depend on the message finally getting through, the powerful and the intellectual are interested in only one thing – themselves!

Oh, couch things in good motivation but at the end of most actions it revolves around money.

I have little time for the modern NGO with the professional beggars fund raising for aid and higher salaries.

The “uneducated hoards” have found a voice recently and with the coming populist votes expected over the next few weeks it will be interesting to see how honest the media and the powerful really are.

As an amateur economist I did some number crunching after the announcement by the IFM yesterday and to balance the books globally the trading growth would need to see exponential rises for more than one generation, economies are now so in debt that if “the people” asked for their money back or value for money based on tax no government would stand, every bank would collapse. No truth is unpalatable.

So who will you believe? My suggestion is only those you know personally and those who have earned your trust.

A sad reflection on the reporting I have read this month. Nothing is as simple as it should be.

Christian Extremism In Russia

Yesterday the Russian Federations Supreme Court judged that non-combative, anti-violence and evangelical Christians could be banned as extremists.

Read the outcome of the case  The Russian Orthodox Church and the Government has decided that to claim that you have the true religion is incitement to civil unrest and discord. It is the same as membership of terrorist organisations and presents a real danger to the public.

The case presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses coherently demonstrated that the evidence was fabricated. However this judgement did not rely on evidence just the Ministry of Justice stating that this group and the 175,000 members should be criminalized.

Where was the support for religious freedom? “Well its only Jehovah’s Witnesses and they are annoying, so does it really matter?” That sentiment has been expressed by many religious people. Here in the UK some have welcomed the judgement and feel that religious freedoms should be curtailed.

This precedent enables the Russian Federation to label every religious group that fails the Ministry of Justice standard (a movable feast) to be banned. Even the Russian orthodox Church. When the President of Russia decides to step down the replacement could be even more draconian. We will wait to see.

The Political elements of this world are tiring of religious groups and their demands for representation when most countries have become democratic secular societies and as a consequence they are no longer a major voice in the country. Legislation like this exists to fight the war on terror but as Russia and Eritrea have already demonstrated it can be used to curtail religious freedom.

Think carefully about how much of a Christian you are prepared to be when it is a choice between freedom and loyalty to your faith. We know Jehovah’s Witnesses will remain loyal to their faith, their preaching will continue, they will go to prison and they will sacrifice their lives to remain loyal.

The price of true freedom can be your human rights. So Christians Jehovah’s Witnesses are now extremists in the Russian Federation so watch them grow, 200,000 dedicated witnesses is a small stride for this committed group of evangelists.

Watch out for the appeal it will be turned down and the ECHR rulings will be ignore but not one Jehovah’s Witness will fight the state, fail to pay taxes or fund terrorism.

 

Is Shunning Christian?

The primary question for many people is Why is shunning practiced? The social isolation of an individual who shares the same belief seems unkind, almost inhuman.

Is that really the case? This practice dates back to the first century Christians when the Apostle John made the point: (2 John 10, 11) 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. 11 For the one who says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.

The Apostle Paul described what things these ones could be engaged in at (1 Corinthians 5:11) 11 But now I am writing you to stop keeping company with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . .

So it was an approved practice in the Christian congregation.

Now Paul also explained what we are to look for when a fellow Christian is found to practice things listed above, he is recorded as saying: (Acts 26:20) 20 but to those in Damascus first and then to those in Jerusalem, and over all the country of Ju·deʹa, and also to the nations, I was bringing the message that they should repent and turn to God by doing works that befit repentance. . .

So shunning doesn’t apply to everyone who commits sin, it is a practice reserved for two types of sinner the one who fails to repent, repentance is evidenced by their course of action. Secondly those who fail to accept the word of god and preach an alternative doctrine.

In the congregation it is often described as having their ears tickled or hearing words that satisfy them.

The Bible clearly lists the practices that are offensive to God and separate individuals from God. There isn’t a sense of ambiguity but it cause offence in the early Christian congregation and continues to cause offence to liberal society.

Shunning is a consequence of saying on the one hand “I am a Christian and dedicate myself to keep God’s standards” but in practice have been found to be hypocritical and unrepentant; therefore the statement is no longer true.

If I volunteer for a project and I am giving a role with responsibilities, when I decide to stop volunteering or fail to accept the responsibility does the organisation I say I volunteer for have any reason for keeping me on as volunteer? Not at all. In reality when volunteers fail to turn or fail to behave in an appropriate manner they are often told they are surplus to requirements. If they try to come back it is a harder road because they let the project down previously. Society naturally shuns people. Christians who practice this openly are really being honest with the person.

We can’t profess to be a Christian and associate with Christians if we are leading a false life. Think of the Bible account of Ananias in Acts chapter , his sin wasn’t public but was known to God. Although others would never have been aware of the deception he was judged.

Where we are aware of sin Christians are required to reach out to help the sinner but if they don’t want the help, they continue to live a life outside of Gods standards then shunning has to be the consequence.

No Christian I know that accepts shunning does so with a sense of joy.

So in answer to the question – Yes shunning is Christian because the aim is to restore that person to a good relationship with God whilst protecting the congregation of Christ.

 

 

Struggling with mortality

It surprises many people who know me well that I have no struggle with my own mortality. The truth has always been that everyday is one more than I expected.

So where do the struggles lie for so many? Does anyone have a real sense of immortality?

The Bible teaches us that as humans we can have everlasting life, not immortality because that life is dependent on all the things around us. We are creation dependent – an organism in a giant eco-system.

Physical Decay

The body begins a slow decline in our mid thirties, we can’t recover from it but we can delay the impact cosmetically. How much we invest in cosmetic improvements annually could probably pay off the national Debt of Greece but vanity prevails.

Our minds struggle, partly because we try to cram too much in at a time, we haven’t grasped how to recall information from the greatest storage drive the computer world has seen.

So we have this contradiction, the mind and body move inexorably towards our inevitable death. Yet somewhere inside we crave to fight for every last breath of life.

Understanding the flaws

Only through a detailed study of the bible can we begin to unpick this tangle, sadly few have taken the time to do this.

We die because life is unsustainable without intervention. Someone made a choice to cut the human race off from that sustaining force. Like an unplugged electrical appliance we can’t just reach out and plug ourselves back in. We require an intervention, another living being has to plug us back in.

Understanding that we are not in control is the first step to isolating our collective flaws.

So no death isn’t something to fear because we just cease to exist. What we require is help and that will give us hope.

Therefore my message to all those who ridicule those with faith is “don’t ridicule something that you haven’t invested time in personally”. It is like saying I read a book about Winston Churchill and saying I know him, total rubbish. To know Churchill you had to have met him, interacted with him and formed a relationship. Those who dismiss God have read the book but never taken the time to get to know God.

So to struggle with mortality is to begin to understand just how dependent we are on the things unseen.

 

What is your personal worth?

Take time before you dive in and answer this. The reality is only the cost of the raw materials that make up your body.

Not much, a pile of dust that is thrown on the garden or the rubbish heap. We could say that it doesn’t end with because so many things grow from the ground, however, the you we are looking ceases to be you once it becomes a pile of dust.

There has to more value to me than that

There is! In simple economic terms the value is based on what others are prepared to sacrifice to have you in their lives.

Interesting that family and friends can only give a small amount because our lives overlap and we are fighting for our existence on a daily basis. Recently a study reflected that because of the levels of debt in society many people are three paychecks away from life on the streets.

So we focus our attention on the value of others in terms of how much time and the resources we are prepared to commit whilst protecting our own existence.

The greatest valuation

As we approach the 2000th anniversary of Jesus death we can calculate a value for every human based on his sacrifice.

What did he choose to do that establishes our individual value? His death was part of the cost but also his life, the things he denied himself, the choices he made and the stand he took for humankind.

As a father I know that if one of my sons decided to dedicate his life to supporting a group of people who were ungrateful, cruel and vindictive I would struggle to understand why he put up with it. However Jesus knew that once he presented himself to do God’s will at his baptism in the Jordan that would the daily routine.

His life and works are exemplary. His teaching is valued today by billions of people, even those without faith. Yet as the Apostle Paul explains Jesus understood the big picture and his live, his relationship with God and his future was the value he placed on each of us.

The Holy Spirit

At Pentecost the presentation of Jesus sacrifice was accepted by God on our behalf. A perfect life, the only begotten son of God, the spokes person (Logos) and freely sacrificed. So you have greater value because of a shared heritage. We did nothing to have it attributed to us.

It was described to me as someone coming across an old vintage car looking a wreck and the only thing the owner will take in exchange is a brand new version. So the someone decides that the vintage car has an intrinsic value that can be restored, the price is paid.

The sacrifice is a horrendous wrench but the value of the restoration is worth it. The difference here is a life has been sacrificed on our behalf. That life perfect and one with every opportunity is lost, Christ ceased to exist, however as soon as the resurrection occurs we have the guarantee that God will accept the value on our behalf.

So our lives are precious. What we do with them indicates whether we appreciate the gift or like the ruler of this world have contempt for God.

Our response to that choice indicates whether we really value our lives.

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Do you think he doesn’t see

This is all about our perception and understanding of God in the modern world. Many people don’t believe God exists and others who claim to believe live in a way that they think God doesn’t see. Why?

Lack of direct intervention

Natural disasters, human barbarity and extreme cruelty appear to be enough for those with a form of faith to say God just doesn’t see.

Well (1 John 5:19) 19 We know that we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.

The whole world, this gives us time to pause and think what this means. Jesus called Satan the Ruler of the World. It is clear that we live in a period where God has handed control to Satan and we are experiencing the impact of his rulership.

The lack of divine intervention isn’t evidence that God doesn’t see but evidence of his justice.

The choices we make affect others

More than 250 years ago my paternal ancestors decided to fight on the losing side in Scotland. Rather than fight a rear guard war they moved south into England. As a consequence of that choice my family are not considered exiled Scots but English.

The same happened when my mothers family migrated from North Wales to London following WW1. We’re not Welsh but defined as English.

Yet the real choice that made all the difference to the whole family comes from our religion. Both sides were social agitators, seeking welfare reform and looking for something much better.

Around the beginning of WW2 members of the family found out the real truth about who controlled the world and that has shaped the generations that follow.

My sons carry on with that knowledge and have faith that will stand the tests a head of them. Why?

God sees everything

Social conscience compels us to share the truth that God does see, God will call humanity to account and he has already judged the rule of this world.

We though have a chance to change things for ourselves note the words recorded here (James 4:7-10) 7 Therefore, subject yourselves to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones. 9 Give way to misery and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into despair. 10 Humble yourselves in the eyes of Jehovah, and he will exalt you.

The has come for us to act. So find out why God has waited so long.

Learning to be really honest

We all kid and con ourselves. We present our actions in terms of how other things or people caused us to respond in a certain way. Yes we deceive ourselves.

It isn’t done with any malicious intent, merely designed to make what we have done more acceptable.

However there is another side to this when we create unreasonable levels of self loathing.

Tragedy

Two news items today attracted my attention both highlighted the issues we have when it comes to being honest with ourselves. They both highlighted the extremes that unrealistic guilt can create self loathing.

Society has accepted for more than 50 years that those with genuine mental health issues are at times irrational. A consequence of the irrational thoughts can be self harm and the ultimate outcome suicide.

In both cases young men took their own lives because they couldn’t find balance.

Reactions of others

The reaction of other close friends and relations are critical. The last words one loved one said to another in one case were: “I hate you!” As a result of those words and the magnitude of the incident the young man was taken into hospital care for a few days.

He wasn’t able to reconcile this whole, so as soon as he was released he took his own life.

At the time those words of hate were truly meant. The sense of loathing was shared but the impact never calculated.

Hate the crime not the criminal

Incidents where we have been hurt by someone are often resolved by a few days and sensitivity. However where a serious accident or crime is committed and the unintended consequence is life changing our reactions take time to reconcile.

The common course is to see the individual as the crime. The woman who murders her husband in the heat of an emotional outburst is immediately branded a murderer, terrible person. There is a tendency to look for mitigating circumstances.

The roles reverse mitigation is difficult even when the wife proves to have been abusive.

What this highlights is we benchmark response by gender, scale and consequence. We enter a judgement based on our collective prejudice.

Let history explain

In the UK hundreds of former IRA members have been able to come to terms with their involvement in an armed struggle. The victims and their families have been forced to accept the adjustment. History will use its retrospective lens to evaluate the scale. In time individuals disappear and life goes on.

There was a case in the 20th Century for dividing Germany and Italy into smaller countries and preventing their rearmament. More would have supported that but Political Power struggles created the modern European state. 100,000,000 people lost their lives and when we are honest we have to say nothing has changed in the world. In fact many will say it is worse.

So Really Honest

As a society humanity is failing on many levels. Let’s not loath ourselves for our collective sins!

We condemn ourselves when the law of unintended consequences really applies.

We condemn others based on the scale of injury and hurt not on the presence of malice and cruelty (for example in the UK you can serve a longer prison sentence for fraud than murder).

Learning to be honest is a real challenge because it is an admission of inadequacy but only from that starting point can we really move forward. Here is where empathy, compassion, charity and love for others is nurtured.

Yes many days when depressed my mind focuses on the failures and shortcomings in my life. Leaves me feeling a level of self disgust but in the scheme of things this is my burden.

So when we understand that another may be adversely affected by our response to their failure be really honest, say what you feel and what you mean but remember hate the act not the person because more often than not – there but for the grace of god go I

Russian Freedom

Life throws everyone a curve-ball now and then. In the Russian Federation Freedom of religion became a right for citizens.

The interesting way of enforcing additional extremism laws has basically said you can have anyone of the approved religions.

If you don’t accept that basic rule and want to follow another belief system, make certain it doesn’t present any of criticism the approved churches, promotes the government and approves of things directly condemned in the Bible.

Following Christ

Jesus words to his disciples on being no part of the world emphasize the need to remain politically neutral. We also know that he didn’t  promote interfaith and never minced his words when condemning hypocrisy.

There are some very simple words from a 1st century academic that really apply here  (Acts 5:37-39) . . .. 38 So under the present circumstances, I say to you, do not meddle with these men, but let them alone. For if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. Otherwise, you may even be found fighters against God himself.”

Yes governments may not recognize God’s Kingdom and they are prepared to fight against it but we must remember our real freedom comes from God.

Joseph Stalin – Adolf Hitler, the Chinese regime plus all Islamic countries have attempted to stop the evangelical work of Jehovah’s Witnesses a simple ban will not affect their resolve. Remember their adage is: (Acts 5:28, 29) . . .” 29 In answer Peter and the other apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.

Also think on these things: (Jeremiah 1:18, 19) 18 For today I have made you a fortified city, An iron pillar, and copper walls against all the land, Toward the kings of Judah and her princes, Toward her priests and the people of the land. 19 And they will certainly fight against you, But they will not prevail against you, For ‘I am with you,’ declares Jehovah, ‘to save you.’”

Faith based on these assurances can’t be broken by the will of human governments. However if my faith were criminalized by the government would it stand the test? Millions of Russians, Chinese, Germans and Christians in Islamic countries prove how easy it is to break their resolve.

Tomorrow the case against the witnesses picks up again after today’s adjournment.

Using Extremism legislation has the potential to silence the Media and Religion across the world so watch the space it will be interesting.

 

 

When Did life become “All about me”?

Relationships are fraught with difficulties and business is exceptionally hard when we reverse the roles.

Having read a recent article on a study of relationships and why people felt insecure it became apparent that the first word use in every interview was “I”. “We” often came from a negative place which normally swept through an idea that the other person just wasn’t engaged.

Shallow relationships

A shallow relationship focuses on the needs of an individual rather than investment of both partners.

Having worked as a mediator one of the critical factors in recovering a relationship had to be establish the depth of the link. In many cases it was surface only or at best you scrape back the surface and find a shallow interest in the other party.

The first thing that is missing: Respect on two levels for the other person and their needs and secondly self respect. Sell out your own needs for immediate satisfaction is nothing short of prostitution; in life and business.

In Business

Many of the disputes I mediated in business were linked to just not listening and not communicating. Someone hadn’t heard this or that, and the other hadn’t read something. Demands became needs because emotions were engaged at the uncontrolled level as there was a perception that the other party had trampled on their rights.

A Simple Solution

Three stages in relationship development:

  1. Listen
  2. Engage
  3. Commit

Listening is more than hearing words it demands that we really get to know the needs and aspirations of the other person or business. For example a sales person contacts me through a cold call, his need is target driven but what he wants to do is jump to the second stage as quickly as possible.

We have to learn to stall the process, slow it down and get to the mutual benefits and then explore the cost (more than financial).

In life I am always confused by the people who jump into bed with each other and are driven by physical attraction and then expect to form a lasting bond. It was responding to their physical desire that drew them together, so unless you are the most beautiful person on the planet it is unlikely that the person will not be attracted to another person.

After all it was all about self and instant gratification.

Repeat contact

The key to relationship building is look beyond the first encounter and think in the long-term. Lay your foundation today for a lasting relationship.

Build it on respect, show that respect by first listening effectively and this informs the decisions you make.

A relationship is always “our relationship” if we individualise it we are promoting our interests over the other persons and that is a recipe for failure.

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