Wednesday, 3 February 2016

European men are soft and irresponsible...

...says the Danish journalist below, following the tepid response that German men had to the recent sexual abuse many of their women received at the hands of Muslim men. The sad thing is the interviewer doesn't really want to consider this painful reality and instead pretends there isn't any problem. When is Europe going to wake up?

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Luther's recommendations for your devotions

“You should diligently learn the Word of God and by no means imagine that you know it. 

Let him who is able to read take a psalm in the morning, or some other chapter of Scripture, and study it for a while. This is what I do. When I get up in the morning, I pray and recite the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer with the children, adding any one of the psalms. I do this only to keep myself well acquainted with these matters, and I do not want to let the mildew of the notion grow that I know them well enough. The devil is a greater rascal than you think he is. You do as yet not know what sort of fellow he is and what a desperate rogue you are. His definite design is to get you tired of the Word and in this way to draw you away from it. This is his aim.

Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scriptures.”

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Another one bites the dust - Reflections on Bowie's death

One of the striking things about paintings of public executions in earlier times is the contrast between the French and the English approach. French artists typically ignored the gathered crowd and focused in detail on the face of the one about to be executed (there is, indeed, one picture of a woman about to be executed where her face has one of the most haunting expressions I’ve ever seen).  By contrast, English artists focused on the crowd, whether jubilant, mocking, or distraught, and left the victim a somewhat shadowy figure.  Public execution was after all, in part, public entertainment; and English artists had the courage (or lack of good taste) to represent it as precisely the kind of popular entertainment that it was.

I was reminded of this recently, when I switched on the news and on every channel/website the focus was on David Bowie’s death.  His death is very sad -- whatever his problems or faults or sins, two children have lost their father, siblings a brother and, if his parents are still alive, mum and dad have lost a son.  What is interesting (though hardly unpredictable) is the way in which the media have focused on the grief of the wider public, on people who never knew him and many cases presented a person’s death as entertainment.

I didn’t always enjoy Bowie's music but he was clearly a popular and talented entertainer. And he continues to entertain in death -- not just because his records will get some major airtime (including the just released album Blackstar) but because the media are able to play his death as one more showbiz event, burying the tragedy of real death, real bereavement, and terminated relationships. Of course, apart from grief, a good response to Bowie’s death (as with any other death) is to reflect on our own death and to ask how prepared we are to meet our Maker. As the poet John Donne movingly puts it:

“Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore, never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Wonderfully in Jesus Christ and by believing in Him, the Bible assures us that we receive forgiveness of sins and are made ready to stand before a Holy God (John 3:16). It is in taking this simple yet life-changing step that we can be made ready for that day, when the bell shall toll for thee.

Parish magazine article for the Second Sunday of Epiphany 2015 AD (with thanks to an article by Rev Dr Carl Trueman)

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

How to avoid disappointment this Christmas Day

Holidays are frequently times when people get trapped by the expectations game. Because everyone around you assumes that the day is going to be “really good”, “special” or “fantastic” and is constantly telling you to have a “merry Christmas”, it is easy to assume that having a good Christmas is something that happens easily. Consequently, there is a tendency to expect that it will be a good Christmas only to be disappointed when the day arrives. Boxing Day comes and it feels like you got socks instead of the iPhone or cookware instead of the pearls. This is one of the main reasons why Christmas can be such an emotional roller coaster ride for many. So, how are we to avoid the disappointment of failed expectations? It is by preparing ourselves spiritually for the coming celebrations. Here are some helpful words from the Apostle Paul:

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[f]has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15).

One of the best ways to prepare for the Christmas holidays is by cultivating thankfulness in your heart to receive with gratefulness whatever this season will bring. As Christians, we have so much to thank God for – for life, health, family, friends, for the lovely part of the world we live in. Most of all we have the Lord Jesus Christ; the one who came, lived and died that we might be forgiven. If God has given us all this, not least His precious and beloved Son, why do we then grumble at not getting the latest gadget or getting costly jewellery? Start preparing your heart now/today for Christmas (and beyond that the New Year) by being thankful for the many gifts God has given you (and will give you) and you will find this Christmas (and beyond) a more joyful time.  May you have a merry Christmas and a happy new year 2016.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Why does God bring suffering?

"Our faith is tried because God is a goldsmith. When the goldsmith plunges gold into the fire, it is not because he hates the gold, but because he loves the gold enough to want to purify it of its dross. When the goldsmith beats the gold, it is not because he has contempt for the gold. He has a crown in mind" 

— Douglas Wilson, God Rest Ye Merry, p. 98.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

True community at Christmas time

One of the things that helps make up a Christian community are the misfits, the people who don’t quite fit in community. If everyone fit perfectly, we would have a jigsaw puzzle of a twee painting much like a picturesque National Trust postcard and not a gathering of real people. Real community has real problems.

But there is a difference between Christians who are kind of angular, on the one hand, and those who live in such a way to destroy community on the other. The former sort of problem is the kind of thing that love is designed to cover a multitude of, and can frequently do so without even thinking. But the latter is the sort of thing that every healthy community must view with a divinely-given hostility.

What sorts of things are found in the latter category? The Apostle Paul gives us these examples: “sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness and orgies.” He then adds this warning: “Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:20-21.

Of course this is not saying that such sins cannot be forgiven. Christ came to die for our sin – all sin. However to indulge in the evils listed above is one sure way to destroy good fellowship and could eventually result in you missing out on eternal life. What then is the solution? It is to be totally honest with regard to our sin. Dishonesty is in fact one of the key ways that community and fellowship is destroyed and which also leads to our being cut off from God. One important way then to be preparing for Christmas is by being truly honest with yourself and if there is anything evil in your life to seek the LORD in repentance and turn to Him in faith so that you’re in true fellowship with Him and consequently in good fellowship with each other.

I began by saying that misfits must be present for true community to exist. But let us also never forget that, in various ways, and in various settings, all of us are misfits. True community lets love cover it, but all of us must do the covering, and all of us have things that must be covered. Christ, remember came for misfits and heaven, after all, will be filled with people who used to be misfits. As Jesus puts it: “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:23). That indeed is the reason for the season.

Parish magazine article for the 3rd week in Advent 2015