Why hackers affect us all (and other matters!)

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From time to time I highlight the supreme importance of praying for cyber security in a world that has become so utterly dependent on internet connections functioning unimpeded.

Countries such as Russia, China, Israel, Iran and North Korea employ vast numbers of highly intelligent people in cyber espionage, otherwise known as hacking. Pretty well every aspect of contemporary economic and political life is affected and at risk from cyber damage. For a fresh and highly sophisticated example, see this article.

See too our previous post.

This article summarises the American response to such threats.

Update on President Putin

Putin once showed signs of being eager to get along with European leaders, but following a series of rebuffs as a consequence of his bloody incursions into neighbouring countries (to say nothing of oppressing and repressing political rivals of whatever kind), most western nations had already effectively rebuffed him well before the Salisbury poisonings sullied his reputation still further. I suspect that Putin’s character is such however that he was always going to take personally the insult of being excluded from G8 type gatherings. See this article.

It was always going to be a major test for western leaders to know how to respond someone as complex as Putin, narcissist by nature and nurtured in the closed and arcane world of the KGB. See this article.

Putin seems set now on revenging himself on the West, and is forging strong partnerships with like-minded and equally authoritarian leaders. ‘Birds of a feather flock together,’ as the saying goes, and Putin has met with the North Korean leader, as well as seeking to deepen his friendship and economic and military cooperation with President Xi of China, who describes him as a bosom friend. At the same time, Putin has become increasingly draconian in dealing with his political opponents in Russia.

Playing fast and loose with Parliamentary Norms

Having glanced around the world, let us return to the strange sight of the Palace of Westminster mired in controversy, and the British parliamentary system, so long held up as a model for other nations, being held up to ridicule. It is a sad reflection on the state of our nation that those who are elected to serve the people they represent, appear to be treating democracy with reckless contempt in order to achieve their own ends.

Thus Boris Johnson’s patently political attempts to ‘manoeuvre’ proroguing, Jo Swinson with her original intention to do away with the referendum vote of 2016 altogether, and to only heed the vote of any new one if it votes the ‘right’ way, and Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘constructive ambiguity’ – a policy that is itself undergirded by an iron fist towards his own detractors. And then there is the uniquely interventionist John Bercow, who has significantly shifted the parameters by which parliamentary business unfurls.

Father, in our nation, we have prided ourselves on our freedom, yet we bind ourselves to conformism, and fetter ourselves to rigid strictures and structures. Even without intervention from the increasingly secularised European Union we have done all that we can to put away all thought and talk of You and Your ways, and You are left with no option but to refine and discipline us, even as You did ancient Israel. Yet even as You humble us we pray that You will show us Your mercy and deliver us from chaos, confusion and from the evil of tyranny.

Purify our speech so that we may call upon Your name in Spirit and Truth, and serve You shoulder to shoulder. Lead us in Your better way of grace and truth, discipline and freedom. (cf Zeph. 3:9)  

Tyrannies and Freedom World Watch(i)

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I continue to grieve for the way the Kurds have been abandoned. They have been obliged to call in Syria to protect them, and their relatively rich region in Syria, together with its oil fields has come back under Syrian control, as it were without a shot being fired. From now, Kurdish children will be being taught in Arabic. The concern is that when things have settled, Assad will do what he always does, first arresting and then torturing leading Kurds.

The ‘policy’ of putting America first has effectively been to leave it increasingly isolated, creating a vacuum that other powers have been only too glad to occupy. The real winners of course are Assad and Putin – and, quite possibly ISIL itself.

President Putin has been playing as masterful a game of chess in the region as President Trump has been woeful and haphazard. Technically allied to both Syria and Turkey, Putin is speaking of reducing the amount of ground that Turkey is ‘allowed’ to possess. And whereas Erdogan might think little of defying the White House, he is far less likely to take such liberties with Putin’s red lines.

NBC reports that the Kurdish fighters who fought so bravely against ISIL and with American support are now to be part of the Syrian Army’s Fifth Corps, which itself is under Russian command. See this article.

Turkey, Russia and Iran: A dark alliance. Andrew Brunson’s dream

Do you remember Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was falsely charged with espionage and jailed in Turkey, and whose release President Trump helped secure? While he was in prison, he dreamed that Turkey, Russia and Iran would form a very dark alliance. It seemed highly improbable at the time, but now we see that it is indeed coming to pass. All the signs point toward Turkey becoming not only increasingly anti-American but also more anti-Christian too.

The murky and dangerous ramifications of this alliance are deeply concerning, but Pastor Brunson also believes that the Lord is preparing the way for a move of God in Turkey itself. Pray for Turkey at this time when it finds itself shamed and shunned by virtually every nation in the world for its incursion into northern Syria.

See CBN’s report.

Elsewhere in the Middle East

From here, let’s move on to pray for the whole Middle East scenario, including Syria and Israel, and also The Lebanon, which is struggling on many fronts.

Not only are its economic conditions deteriorating massively as it tries to assimilate huge numbers of Syrian refugees but it is also enduring its worst ever forest fires. (Reports suggest that over 3 million trees have been lost.) Alongside these major issues, it has a very strong pro-Hezbollah wing, which continues to direct its efforts against Israel.

A whiff of civil war in the air

If we look around the world today, region by region and country by country, and chalk up the number of nations currently convulsed in violent protests, the extent to which there is more than a whiff of civil war in the air becomes only too clear. I am not speaking primarily here, mercifully, of overt warfare, as in Syria, but rather in a sharp clash of ideologies that is leaving nations bitterly divided, and political systems all but paralysed, including Ecuador, Chile, Hong Kong, Catalonia and the Lebanon – to say nothing of les gilets jaunes in France, and the political deadlock in Spain Italy, Israel and now the UK too. There have always been ‘seasons’ when such social conflict escalates. 1848 was such a year, as indeed was 1968, which some of us are old enough to remember.

As always when unrest overflows onto the streets, the local police forces find themselves the butt of people’s anger – victims themselves and yet guilty of being victim makers.

Give Glory to the Lord our God

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As things continue to unfurl with great intensity in the House of Commons, we would like rerelease a precious Soundcloud that Ros and I recorded some time ago based on words from the prophet Jeremiah. Considering the weight of the subject matter here, you may be surprised by the exuberant and glorious music we have chosen to accompany it. No matter how dark circumstances may feel around us, we are called and appointed to give God glory. Even when judgement comes, it is primarily because the lord in his mercy desires to realign us to His ways and purposes. Our Lord is glorious, and we long to give Him glory. And as we do so, may He extend His hand of mercy over the land.

Amid this spiral of political uncertainty, therefore, Rosalind and I invite you to join us in this prayer we recorded with the great help of anointed musicians, including the trumpeters Anthony Thompson and Kevin Ashman as they play this stunning music from Monteverdi’s Vespers.

A Cry for the Nation

Prayer for the nation Based on words from the prophet Jeremiah with music by Monteverdi

Give glory to the LORD your God before He brings the darkness,
before your feet stumble on the darkening hills.

But if you will not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride;
my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears.

Because Your law is not obeyed, our eyes will flow unceasingly with tears until You look down from heaven. We will sit alone in silence, for You have laid this on us. We will humble ourselves and pray and seek Your face — that there may yet be hope (Jer. 13:6-7; Lam 3:28-29,49-50, Ps. 119:136).

Raise up much that will speak of You in music song and dance, in word and film and mime and rhyme. For You who set the whole of created universe on its sacred way watch us on our way, and long to draw us close as the climax of this age draw near.

“If anyone is in Christ they become a brand new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Therefore our repentance is no wasted effort, for it leads us straight to Your feet, Lord Jesus. The very memory of all Your mercies gives us confidence to plead Your pardon for our hardened state.

It is Your kindness that sets us free the blindness and helps us recognise Your leading throughout our history. And still You are attentive to the cry of those who mourn before You for our sins and deep indifference.

These longings that burn within the hearts of those prepared to face such things are but the foretaste of great riches beyond, when we will behold the King in His beauty and delight in Him who delights in us.

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for You.
Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.
“Now will I arise,” says the LORD. “Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up.

Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, and refuse entry to even the thought of evil deeds – they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them. Their eyes will see the king in His beauty and view a land that stretches afar (Is. 33:1, 10-11, 14-17).

Lord of the nations, as Your Name is proclaimed throughout these islands and right across this continent, may we fulfil our redemptive callings and send forth many teachers of Your Word.

Extend and prolong Your mercy, that many who are not yet reconciled to You may be empowered to name the Name the politically correct would seek to shun.

Direct the flow of Your mercy to all realms and regions of our life today.

Defuse the powers that are at work in and behind many layers of danger.

Choose to keep watching over our lands. Father God, renew Your wonders in our day and bring about the greatest harvest we have yet seen. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Turn this situation around

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I wrote this prayer a few mornings ago in the light of a couple of tricky situations in mind that we are facing. May the Lord turn many situations round as we pray – both on a personal and a wider front.

Lord, there is a contest going on – and it is steep, sharp and very intense.
A well drilled enemy has set himself up to impede the path ahead,
to thwart and stall each step along the way.
O Lord of Heaven’s armies do not abandon us now!

You who have given us the tools to tussle
in the cross hairs of this struggle with unseen foes,
wrest the initiative and unseam all unseemly blockages.
Prescribe the limits of the one who balks and blocks,
Proscribe his wicked working,
as we stand in faith to turn this situation round.

Blessed indeed are those who place their trust in You:
they will be successful in their quest.

Once more the rocket launcher failed to fire . . .

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With so called ‘Super Saturday’ in Parliament (19-10-19) proving to be more like a ‘Damp Squib’ I am reminded of the vision an elder’s wife in Malvern had the best part of a year ago. She saw a rocket launcher all primed and ready to fire its salvos of missiles – but when the time came for action, every single rocket jammed. A damp squib indeed!

That image has come back to mind on several occasions in the course of this past year as attempt after attempt fails to get various deals past a decidedly Brexit-shy Parliament.

We might well ask therefore, is it the Lord who is preventing the rockets from launching – or just MPs? There are at least three possible answers to that question:

  • Brexit is simply an unhelpful distraction which the Lord is taking good care to ensure will never happen. (Cheers and Hurrah say virtually every Remainer in the country!)
  • The possibility that we are looking here at these things being more God’s delays than His denials.
  • The current exit plan is actually nowhere near as radical as it would need to be to consitute a genuine break from the EU. By this reckoning, Boris’ efforts in this latest round of negotiating might more nearly reflect the ‘Esau spirit’ that Veronika West has been warning of (trying to ‘sell the birth right of the nation’ for too little). In other words, hemmed in by his own times deadlines Boris has become so desperate to fulfil his own commitment to get things done promptly, that he did not actually achieve the basis for a proper Brexit.

I would like to explore this latter possibility a bit more. Those who are concerned about the emergence of a centralist European super-state, will find their concerns confirmed in this article from the Bruges group, which offers an important analysis of certain vital aspects that are inherent in the new deal.

If you then link those concerns to Keir Starmer’s equally valid concerns about the effects this deal would have on just-in-time manufacturing outfits, (notwithstanding that Keir is coming at this matters from an entirely different standpoint from either Boris Johnson or the Bruges group) then we might very well find other layers of reasons to be grateful for the delay – and for celebrating that the Lord is ‘jamming the rocket launcher.’

Outright Brexiteers would presumably be grateful that the Lord is not permitting quick, easy or ‘half way only’ solutions. In her very direct way, the popular journalist Melanie Phillips endorses this point of view: See this article and this article too.

What then of the many prophetic voices raised on this issue? We have no first hand experience of the accuracy or otherwise of prophetesses Emma Stark or Veronika West, who are two of the foremost voices being heard on this subject. All we can do here, therefore, is to invite everyone to test for themselves before the throne of God these words that Veronika believed she received some months ago.

“There will be those who will relentlessly oppose [Boris] both to the right and to the left.  Many will work tirelessly to cause great embarrassment for Prime Minister Boris Johnson both in front of Her Majesty the Queen and the nation.

But watch! There will come a sudden and severe shift once again in the nation and the government where we will see the hand of God’s divine intervention moving on behalf of our nation and for Boris Johnson and his government.”

Veronika also stated some time ago that there will be delays in the Brexit process, and that these are more a question of God overruling rather than a sign that it should never happen.

Time and prayer will tell whether this is nothing more than ‘wish fulfilment’ on Veronika’s part or whether she is indeed seeing straight to the heart of something that the Lord very much wants and intends to do.

It is worth bearing this in mind, however, that end times matters are going to happen whether Britain is in or out of the EU. Turbulence is not going to cease for the forseeable future. The following is a useful update from the Institute for Government to help us make sense of where we are up to (or where we were when I wrote this anyway!) and to stress the troubled course that Boris’ deal is looking set to travel in this coming week.

To give thanks and to trust the Lord now is therefore essential whatever stance we may hold personally on these matters.

Give glory to God

The outcome of Damp Squib Saturday alternately shocked, shamed or delighted multitudes depending on their perspective. It was, in fact, entirely predictable once Oliver Letwin had tabled his amendment – as was John Bercow’s refusal to let Boris vote again on the proposal, given his long stated commitment to do his utmost to prevent Brexit from every becoming a reality.

In the aftermath, we would like rerelease a precious Soundcloud that Ros and I recorded some time ago based on some words from Jeremiah. Considering the weight of the subject matter here, you may be surprised by the exuberant and glorious music by Montiverdi that accompanies it, but, no matter how dark circumstances may feel around us, we are called and appointed to give God glory. Where there is judgement, it is because He desires to realign us to His righteousness and mercy. Our Lord is glorious, and we desire to give Him glory. And as we do so, may He extend His hand of mercy over the land.

Is God still in the House?

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Is God still in the House?

**Since publishing this article we have had a substantial amount of feedback – mainly very positive, but some as the result of people reading their own understanding into it. For the avoidance of doubt, please note that I am not making a comparison between Boris Johnston and Winston Churchill, and neither did I set out to unambiguously support either Remain or Leave parties in this article: I am simply attempting to provide some overviews, as well as sharing a few examples of what others have felt or sensed.


There are times in scripture when by our actions and indifference to Him we can ‘drive the Lord far from His sanctuary,’ (Ezek. 8:6) – a process which, in Ezekiel’s day led to the tragic example of the glory of the Lord actually leaving the temple. (Ezek. 9:3ff)  So far as proceedings in the House of Commons are concerned at the moment, is it perhaps fair to ask if we at some such point ourselves?

A young intercessor from Taunton who went to pray in the public chamber in the House of Commons became increasingly disturbed by what he was seeing and asked the Lord, ‘What are you doing in this chamber, Lord?’ The answer he believed he received was a sombre one. ‘I have removed my Glory from this place.’ Ouch!

No one is doubting the sincerity of the many who are praying for our nation and its government, and even within it. Or to deny the efficacy of this daily prayer that has been offered to Heaven in the Chambers since at least 1567:

“Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals but laying aside all private interests and prejudices, keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed. Amen.” Continue reading

From the depths of my cowl

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The more we know about the needs and the evils in the world, the more we need to pray. But to do this effectively we don’t necessarily need to know every detail. So I wrote this prayer-poem especially to encourage  those who are eager to to pray about Brexit, and other ‘wider’ matters, but who hold back because they feel they are not very clear about all the details.

One of the sources I had in mind when I came to write this prayer-poem was an episode from Sister Kirsty’s book, ‘The Choice,’ (p134-5) in which she tells of the effect it had on her when she spoke with a saintly old monk about the agony of spirit she so often felt in prayer, especially when she heard tales of cruelty to children.

The monk surprised her greatly by withdrawing deep into his cowl and remaining silent for a long time. The advice he gave her wasn’t in the least what she had been expecting: Continue reading

Raise up a holy nation – A Hymn for our Times

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Many today remember GK Chesterton primarily for his Father Brown detective stories, but he was a great apologist for the faith, and in many ways a forerunner and inspiration for CS Lewis. The words of O God of earth and altar date from a different epoch to our own and may therefore sound somewhat antiquated, but their sentiment and passion are timeless: utterly relevant for a nation when so many of our earthly rulers are faltering badly. May the Lord indeed raise up a living nation aflame with faith and free in Christ!

Bless Megan Topper (nee Mellamphy) and David Booth who played this beautiful version for us!

You can follow Chesterton’s original words on the left below, with my slightly updated version on the right. Continue reading

Brexit Matters (2)

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A prayer for our times

Father, in both Parliament and our national outlook, we have reached new depths of self-absorption and unhealthy insularity.

Forgive us that we are trading insults between political Parties and even within the same Party instead of nurturing goodwill between brothers and sisters and cooperation between nations.

Lord have mercy and send Your power. Thank You that You are still hearing the prayers and heart cry of many people who work within the Houses of Parliament, as well as the combined voices of many who are concerned all around the world. May issues and concerns that matter greatly to You not to be left to one side as a result of over emphasis on the Brexit process. Continue reading

Brexit Matters (1) A people who will ‘serve His purpose in this generation’

The Parliamentary Easter recess that followed many weeks of intense debate about Brexit seems a long time ago now. I remember writing then that it was a far from comforting thought that there were doubtless many more rounds to come in the Brexit saga. It called for little prophetic prescience to  highlight the growing rise of intolerance – and how urgent it is to pray for people to be able to see things from each other’s perspectives and to respect each other, rather than allowing ever increasing prejudice and partisan polarisation to develop. Continue reading