10. Living with Uncertainty

8 11 2017

And so months have passed, a general election come and gone and now Parliament seems to be  taken up with with sexual misbehavior scandals and claims. For a moment there is a pause while the media get taken up with the results of a computer hacking that yet again reveals questionable activities in respect of overseas money handling, but no doubt the pendulum of the news cycle will swing back again and the unsavory behaviour of those who have been voted to rule over us comes under the spotlight yet again – with yet again unpleasant revelations. And all the while the Brexit process continues or appears not to continue.  That is the thing about negotiations; it is like playing poker and a hand is not revealed until the end and until then, doubt, questions, and all the time the media piranhas circle and watch and then dart in with acrid words. It is not a pretty sight.

It seems to me that this whole process is designed to reveal the worst of mankind. Observe the politicians from all sides, squabbling, jeering, sneering, jousting among themselves, out to capitalize on every slow move, every unwise word, every foolish misbehaviour. The absence of statesmanship appears rife and the very ordinariness of these people shines out and we are left wishing for a Churchill or his like who will stand like a rock in critical times and give us hope, but we seem to look in vain.

And then the media. I watched the other day the Governor of the Bank of England give a press conference as he explained why he was going to raise the bank rate by a quarter of a percent.  It was a clear and comprehensive explanation. And then the floor was thrown open to the media to ask questions. The first came from a BBC representative and then a journalist from the Times. I have a friend in America who says they used to trust the BBC but no longer. I felt the same about the Times. Bias and criticism that is self-serving seems to be the name of the day so often.  Both these two men as they asked their questions left me thinking, “Were you not listening? He explained that just now – very clearly! Why are you asking such questions?” I am still a subscriber to the Times which I often enjoy for it is still, I believe, one of the most clear cut papers and yet it appears so often to allow that snide, edgy writing that looks for the worst.

I have been an observer for a number of decades, of the state of the nation as far as ‘moral outlook’ is concerned and have commented more than once  that I believe the decline in moral standards, the undermining of ethical standards, can be directly related to the decline in belief in God in our nation. I have watched it and I think it is virtually measurable. It is a fact. It is also, therefore, not surprising.

On a good day, each of us would subscribe to a society that goes with the second half of the Ten Commandments. You would be an idiot to say that you think stealing or murder or adultery are good things and indeed you could take the argument much further and suggest there are many more things that do NOT make for a good, just, and harmonious society, things which we wish were not part of our national community, and which I have tagged in the first three paragraphs above.  Most of us agree to these things but we simply don’t have the power not to do them. Self-help is the name of the game and it fails us, and so we are left with this cycle of revelation; the behaviour never changes just the revelation of what is happening. And yes, we are glad that the media are there, pouncing on these people higher in the pile of society from whom we expect better than we are getting, but then we become saddened and jaded by the whole thing.

Is there hope? Oh yes, there has to be otherwise we might as well take a trip to a Swiss euthanasia expert and end it all now.  Oh yes, there is hope, the hope that perhaps prayers will be heard, perhaps a voice of sanity will arise in the public consciousness and perhaps a spirit of honesty and integrity will sweep through the corridors of power, whether they be in Westminster or any other instrument of society.  But it is not enough simply to analyse; there must also be endeavors, little ones and big ones to bring goodness in the midst of the darkness – overcome evil with good as the famous apostle once said.





Three Levels of Christian Experience

31 10 2011

There is a song that goes with a mine that i have have seen a couple of times over the year called, “Sitting at the Window Praying” and is all about Ananias, a Christian  who lived in Damascus minding his own business until the Lord sent him to meet Saul.  I have the feeling that I’ve gone through a period of life when I’ve just been, “sitting at the window praying” and minding my own business and wondering what God was about. I’m probably still there but something has been seeping through to me.

We are at an ‘interesting’ time in our nation (rather like the Chinese curse – ‘may you live in interesting times’). We are in financial difficulties but I hear calls for rich people to become givers. It set me thinking. There are three levels of the Christian experience that we ought to be aware of – and you’ll see where this is going in a minute.

The first level is the foundational level – the basics of the Christian experience, founded in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Without that nothing else makes sense.

The second level of that which is our response to that level and what happens to us. This level is the level of testimony. The epitome of this  is the blind man of John 9 – “One thing I know – I was blind but now I can see.”  This doesn’t try to rationalise it, but simply state it. We’re often not very good at this – recognising the amazing changes that take place when a person is born again and becomes a new being (as Jesus put it in John 3).  The reality is my life has been dramatically changed and, if you’re a genuine Christian, so has yours been. We just to stop and give serious thought to the various ways they have changed so we can verbalise it when challenged.  There is an ocean of testimony out there that is of immense value.

The third level is the good life that I can now live and, again, we’re often not very clear about this or very good at working it out I may risk saying. The truth is that God has saved us to be salt and light and we are that when we express His love and goodness to the world around us. Now this is actions far more than words.

When I consider my Christian experience of the past forty years, I think we in the Christian world have  focussed on level 1 a great deal, level 2 of little bit and level 3 not much – there are notable exceptions –  but for the vast majority of us, we have been happy to tell about Jesus life, death and resurrection, but haven’t been  very good at articulating the changes that have come about within us, and therefore have had little confidence to be major players in bringing goodness to the world.

Briefly yesterday I heard Baroness Cox on an early morning radio programme and was struck by her brilliant clarity to speak some of what I have been saying here. Very often we Christians have focused the “Good News” on the historical events involving Jesus but it is staggeringly more than that – it is about life transformation and then even more of bringing God’s goodness into this world.

And that’s what bring me back to this whole question of giving or, for that matter, bring goodness and help in whatever we can into our ailing society. When Israel were carried into captivity into Babylon, God’s instructions to them were,  “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”  (Jer 29:7).   The call was to look for the good of this godless nation and through that God would work.

So what talents and abilities are we sitting on that God can take to bless this nation?  What resources do we have – money, possessions, talents, businesses etc. – that God can take and use to enable us to be salt and light. When the world sees our genuine goodness (not that done to impress) they will ask, what is it about you that has you doing this? Then we will testify about the life changes that we’ve experiences (WHEN we’ve genuinely thought through what they are) and then they will be open to believe the level 1 foundational information which will then start the process off in them.

Jesus did the good (healed and changed people) THEN taught (testified of his Father’s love) and THEN gave his life as a ransom for us all, and on which we now focus our faith. Let’s genuinely love and serve this world and then they might ask questions and then thing might change. Have a good week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Hedge Fund Betting?

16 09 2011

I have on this site at various times over the years found myself making two comments. The first is that sin is equated with stupidity. The second is that Hans Christian Anderson’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, is the best parable to summarise so much of what goes on in the modern world.

In the last few days the news has broken about a dealer for a Swiss bank who has accumulated a debt for the bank of two billion dollars. How did he do it? According to the press by ‘betting’ on the direction of share prices and other assets.  Once upon a time banks were the pillars of society and trust was the name of the game. Now banks are mere gamblers.  Excuse me but didn’t dodgy trading have something to do with the whole financial crisis of three years ago?

Hedge funds I am told have only been around a decade or so and were the canny idea of a bunch of financial smart characters sitting around (literally) one day reflecting on money management. But who at the top agreed to this practice of money laundering, because that is what it is.

Stop and think about the very basics of money economics. At any one time there is only a finite amount of money in existence. If you go into the bizarre world of money handling it can be infinite as long as it remains on paper or on a computer screen and as long as it doesn’t have to be called up.

So here we have ‘the emperors clothes’ that don’t actually exist except on computer screens. Banks tolerate or encourage  it because it means that at the end of the day their funds have gone up (if the dealer is clever and clever here means able to make other silly people believe there are clothes there). But here I find a problem, a very basic problem I referred to above. Money is finite so if your pot gets bigger someone else’s gets smaller, so if at the end of the trading suddenly your ‘clothes’ become real and you are in hock to the tune of 2billion, (not even millions!!!) that means your pot has a big hole in it while somewhere somebody else is smiling happily with a bonus of 2billion.

So where do these ‘pots’ come from to start with?  Well if you are an ordinary bank, from the assets they hold which may be money, stocks and shares or property – and that is where you, me, companies etc. etc. come in because much of that is ours. If you are are hedge fund trader you either accumulated large sums by some means or you conned others with large sums to believe in you with the believe that you are a great gambler and can increase their money for them – and it’s better than going to a casino – but it is gambling.

So a bank or whoever has this finite pot which goes, they hope, up most of the time by clever gambling – but Casino’s don’t lose money because the odds are always stacked in their favour – yet as re cent years have shown the system is not foolproof and sometimes the charade is shown for what it is – a means of a very limited number of people getting very rich and if the pot is finite, it means ultimately that a lot of others of us are not as well off as we could be because they used our money  and got it for free.

Isn’t it time somebody shouted stop? You see, it seems that again and again this charade is being brought to the public’s attention and again and again, we the mass of the public are thinking, “We’re being conned,  and these fat cats are ripping the  rest of us off – and it can’t go on,” and that may have far greater social consequences than most of us realise. Stop this world, I want to get off before it gets really nasty!