Lovers of Truth and the Rise of “Clickbaits”

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“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

So many people nowadays garner their understanding about world events primarily from sources such as Facebook and Google. What this means in practice is a heavy reliance on ‘clickbaits:’ reports that are designed to appeal to people’s emotions and to encourage them to click on further links to draw them deeper into that particular web site. Clickbaits can be used to very good purpose – or otherwise! As this thought-provoking article by Katherine Viner, the editor-in-chief of the The Guardian demonstrates, clickbaits have become one of the primary ways by which post-truth beliefs (if one can call them such) have become established, despite their lack of depth or impartial analysis.

Katherine warns that Continue reading

How reporting has changed on the Internet

I happened to tune in on Al Jazeera’s Listening Post last week, just as an interview with Hossein Derakhshan was beginning. Hossein became well known as the blogger who dared to speak out what others were to afraid to say about what was happening in Iran. After six years in prison, he emerged to find the Internet a very different place, one in which visual-social media platforms have, to a large extent, come to replaced the more substantive reporting he himself was renowned for.

Algorithms, of course, prioritise social media rather than serious writing, Continue reading

Easter Blessings to one and all: Join with the worship in the Cave Church in Cairo!

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God raised Jesus from the dead and set him free from the agony of death, because death could not hold him (Acts 2:24 EXB).

If there is one thing that so-called IS, Communism and consumerism have in common it is that they have no time for the claims of Jesus. The One who came to save the world remains unwanted by many in His own world. Many regimes consider Him a spent force, but whether conditions outwardly are favourable or not to the spread of the gospel, Jesus is at work in incredible power in so many people’s hearts.

It was during the Fire from the Isles conference that I first heard the extraordinary story of the Cave Church in Cairo, in which great glory falls as people seek the Lord. Behind any great move of God you will find human channels – and costly sacrificial decisions. When the Lord called Farahat Ibrahim to minister to the thousands of garbage collectors in Cairo, it took six months for him and his wife to reach a place of willingness to work in that most insalubrious of environments. Continue reading

Lovers of truth in a post-truth generation

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What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer. (Francis Bacon Essays: Of Truth). 

Jesus promised His disciples: I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him . . . When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come (John 14:16-17, 15:26, 16:13).

In the last edition we placed the emphasis on practising the presence of God and seeking to develop the rhythm of the so-called ‘Jesus prayer’ in our hearts. In this edition we will make a start at addressing an issue that is rarely out of the news in these days: where does truth lie in an era in which fake news is increasingly intrusive and wielded as a weapon of propaganda? Continue reading

Practising His Presence: The Jesus Prayer

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“Fashion this invocation into a sword, and put all the strength of your love into it, for it will pierce the cloud of unknowing that stands between us and God.” (The Cloud of Unknowing)

As I grow ‘fuller of years’ I am increasingly experiencing the blessing and the power of harnessing a practice beloved of millions: the so-called “Jesus Prayer”. Originally, this was just a continual repeating of the name “Jesus.”  Later it developed into, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”

If this appeal to Jesus to have mercy may sounds at first somewhat naïve, as we shall be seeing it is neither an insult to our intelligence, nor meaningless repetition. This simple yet profound prayer enables us to centre our hearts on Jesus, lean on His mercy and call on His power. Continue reading

The Singing Revolution – Pray for Estonia

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Recent tensions with Russia in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have propelled the name of Estonia to the fore many times over the past couple of years. Most of us probably don’t know much about this country, whose total population is little more than that of Birmingham, and which recent reports indicate is one of the least religious countries in Europe, if not the world. As far more reputedly believe in folk lore spirits and ‘life force concepts’ than in Christ, I thought this would be a good opportunity for us to feature Estonia in this edition.).

Estonians acknowledge that years of prosperity had led to a high degree of complacency, but that they are now feeling decidedly vulnerable to Russian aggression – and anything but reassured by the outrageous claim made by a veteran Republican, Newt Gingrich, that, so far as he is concerned, Estonia is ‘just a suburb of St Petersburg’.

Occupied in turn by the Soviets in 1939, then by the Nazis, and then by the Soviets again, Estonia experienced profound trauma and turmoil during the Second World War. By the end of it, a horrifying 25% of the population had either been sent to Siberia, fled the country or been killed.

Music has long played a special part in sustaining the spirts of the Estonian people, especially during the years of upheaval involved in seeking to become an independent nation, free from Soviet control.

I recently heard about an extraordinary event which played a particularly powerful part in this process bringing about this release. It has become known as the Singing Revolution, in which an unbroken chain of two million people held hands over 600 kilometres.

Until very recently this is a story that has not been told outside Estonia, but now a film has been made about it: “The Singing Revolution”  This is a story worth sharing!”

See also

Especially in the light of Russia’s apparent interest in regaining control of these countries, where a fair percentage speak Russia as their mother tongue. (We saw in a previous edition, in Revived Russian Imperialism how this has served in the past as an excuse for Putin to intervene militarily in a region.

Like Ukraine, the Baltic States have been on the receiving end of serious cyber attacks. They are very concerned at how incredibly swiftly military exercises could switch to full blown invasion. It is surely right for to keep this matter in prayer!

Years ago my book Praying Together was translated into Lithuanian, which gives me some highly tenuous second hand involvement in the region.

May the Lord touch the hearts of the Estonian people at this time, and bring about a spiritual awakening that breaks through the complacency – and may He use the power of spiritual music in this process!

I was struggling to find Estonian worship on the web, but you might find it helpful to join with this Estonian choir that was worshipping in Christ Church Jerusalem

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Draw near when the tide feels out

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Everyone is aware of the restless tides that current currents are stirring up throughout the world – so we wanted to share two items that will bring deep peace to the soul and stir us in godly ways. This first piece is a meditation (see words below) set to a hauntingly beautiful piece by Marcello with an oboe solo played by Thomas Herzog that sensitively draws you into the prayer. It draws us into a place of peace where we are reminded that He is the One who holds all times and seasons in His hands. Continue reading

Daily Appointments with God

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My child, pay attention to what I say.
Listen carefully to my words.
Don’t lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
for they bring life to those who find them,
and healing to their whole body.

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

Avoid all perverse talk;
stay away from corrupt speech.

Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.
Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. (Prov. 4:20-27 NLT)

Most of us keep some sort of to-do list on a daily basis, but in our high pressurised age perhaps we have not thought of making this a deliberate way of committing events to the Lord.

There is no reason why we cannot extend this thought to include the needs of friends and others as well as our actual plans and appointments and so on.

Kathleen Adams, who lectures widely on the therapeutic value of using journalling as a means of removing trauma rather delightfully calls this “Le Choix du Jour” – The Choice of the Day.

Making a feature out of these events in this way makes it easy for us to cover and to “sanctify” them in prayer. It is a useful way of making our faith more comprehensive, as well as providing a ready made way of looking back to see how these events worked out. Don’t forget to include the events you are not looking forward to so much !

I mentioned this in Vale of Tears: The Power of Writing to Heal, This includes the details of another simple but remarkably effective exercise that has helped many to be set free from the after effects of trauma. May we encourage you to visit or to revisit The Power of Writing to Heal!

Although this approach might appear somewhat formulaic, “Lord I give . . .  and . . . to You today,” we can readily find ways to make it infinitely variable. Neither does dedicating specific events or issues we will be facing each day in any way preclude focusing on longer term plans and strategies. These too we can scoop up and “wait to see what the Lord says” (Hab. 2:1).

There is value too in looking beyond specific events to explore any underlying feelings and emotions that the Lord would have us pick up on. What are we feeling anxious about for example? Anxiety is often the fruit of looking in the wrong direction – and indulging wrong emotions and unhelpful perspectives. It is entirely understandable we should want to be set free from it at all costs – but if part of the reason why we are feeling it is because of a subconscious attempt to escape from the cost of fulfilling our destiny, then it may actually be serving a purpose in highlighting the fear or defiance that needs to be flushed to the surface and brought into the light. Before we sympathise too much with ourselves for feeling the way that we do, therefore, it is worth checking ourselves over and handing our concerns to the Lord for Him to reach right down to the root causes.

It is much the same with other feelings and emotions, such as fear or indignation. These concerns too need harnessing and “sanctifying.”

Reread the verses above, so that we may “fix our eyes on what lies before you” whilst also taking care to “guard our heart above all else!”

Trends and Currents: Strong winds are blowing

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“You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? . . . Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come” (Luke 12:56, Dan. 10:14, cf 9:25).

True prophets are those who can discern the hand of God at work in the ebb and flow of trends and developments. They are able to take a longer and broader view than most of us, and have a strong sense that the history that is unfolding before their eyes is part of His story – though even the best of them are bound to misinterpret certain aspects of what is going on. Continue reading

Despise not the day of small beginnings

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Stepping out and Finishing Well continued.

The angel who walked with Zechariah brought him this message concerning Zerubbabel, the governor of the returned exiles ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6).

God sent this word to encourage ‘a man with a mission’ – someone who was working flat out to try to bring about the restoration of God’s temple, despite the economic depression that Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem had left seventy years previously.

Morale is everything when we are working for the Lord. One word of encouragement can give us just what we need to get started again, even if, like Zerubbabel, we are facing a huge clear-up operation in the aftermath of war. God was calling His people to work together – priests (as symbolised by the high priest Joshua), prophets (Zechariah and Haggai) and leaders (the governor Zerubbabel) – and to proceed one step at a time. Continue reading