Monday, 31 March 2014

How well should pastors be paid?

I am very blessed to be ministering in a denomination that cares well for her clergy (in terms of how much it pays and the numerous generous provisions it accords such as a big vicarage which is maintained and repaired at hardly any cost to me, the paying of council tax, paying for moving costs, mileage allowance, etc, etc). That said, I found R CSproul Jr's article on how well ministers should be paid, a very helpful piece (and it would become even more relevant if ever I embarked on church planting!), Here is a taster:
I'd encourage a church to aspire to these goals, in this order. First, give freely and joyfully. The pastor is not spending the church's money when he is paid. Tithers are not buying stock in the man and do not become a board of directors managing his household budget. Don't determine where and how he should give by paying him little. Second, aspire to free your pastor from financial pressure. A shepherd should not be spending his time and energy worrying about how he will pay the electric bill. Third, give the man some dignity. He has studied long. He works hard. "Worthy of double honour" (I Timothy 5:17) may be difficult to define precisely but it should at least mean that the pastor is paid well enough that he can pick up a check from time to time, and is not always dependent, like a servant, on the occasional, unexpected generosity of his friends. Fourth, pay him well enough that he is able to give with great generosity.
Read the full thing here

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Tolkien on Sundays being special

From his poem The Prancing Pony:
And O! the rows of silver dishes
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there's a special pair,
And these they polish up with care
on Saturday afternoons.
There's a lot I like about that, not least of which is the intimation that Sundays are different given that this Day has it's own special cutlery. In addition to different cutlery + crockery, our household also allows the children special drinks, we usually have a special meal (as it's Mothering Sunday today, I'm cooking the family some lamb J) and the children are allowed extra chocolate. All that in addition to meeting with the Lord in His people earlier in the day. What's not to like about Sunday?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

God is easily pleased

“Every human activity, except sin, can be done for God’s pleasure if you do it with an attitude of praise. You can wash dishes, repair a machine, sell a product, write a computer program, grow a crop, and raise a family for the glory of God.” – Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, page 79

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Why Muslims are not satisfied with Islam & why the counter-offensive won't work?

Irony of all ironies that in a video (see below) trying to campaign against Muslims converting to Christianity, the video actually acts a big plug for the Christian faith! The reason why this sort of thing is bound to fail is because the Muslims haven't addressed the questions raised in the video e.g. the dense/incomprehensible teaching of Islam, the rampant animosity/hostility present in Islamic culture, the widespread lack of charity (despite that being one the pillars of it's faith). The Save Maryam campaign says that their strategy to redress these issues is to launch the first Islamic youth channel:
The problem lies in a lack of Islamic knowledge resulting in poor faith. So we want to launch [Indonesia's] first Islamic youth TV channel which will share the message of Islam in a way the youth of today can understand and will want to understand [...] We want to preach less and listen more.
All I can say to that is HA! If someone thinks that by simply starting a TV station focussed on the youth that the tide against Christianity will be stemmed then... how can I put this, they're stuffed!

Ultimately, such campaigns are futile because of a Man you know who changed the course of history - he was born in an obscure village, the child of peasant woman, for 3 years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book, never had a family and never owned a home. He didn't go to college, never travelled 200 miles from the place he was born. He did none of the things we usually associates with greatness and yet compared to all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that have ever sat, all the kings that have ever reigned, NONE, have not affected human civilisation like the life, death and resurrection of that One Man. Until Islam can find such a One - their only hope and the right response is to surrender. As St Paul writes:
Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

UK, knocking at the gates of Mordor

  Content warning

Archbishop Cranmer with a very tragic post of not just our awful intellectual schizophrenia, but also the dreadful place we as a civilisation have descended to: 
Apparently the bodies of 15,500 aborted and miscarried babies have been incinerated over the past couple of years as clinical waste, and this bonfire of foetal flesh was used by some NHS trusts to heat hospitals as part of their 'waste-to-energy' policy. 
It seems that the Department of Health was so appalled by this that they issued an instant ban on the practice, which Conservative Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said was "totally unacceptable.'
Why, exactly? 
If, as we consistently and incessantly told, a fertilised embryo becomes a foetus but it is not a human baby until 24 weeks (or 40 weeks if it happens to be disabled), why not treat it simply as refuse and incinerate it along with the rest of the waste? If it is nothing but as "bunch of cells" to be sliced and diced and the mush sucked out with vacuum device, why not recycle it to derive a modicum of human benefit?
This is beyond tragic - we're clearly at the gates of Mordor!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The more you know Him...

...the better you will trust Him; the more you trust Him, the better you will love Him; the more you love Him, the better you will serve Him. This is God's way: you are not called to buy, but to beg; not to be strong in yourself, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus... Remember the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom, but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed, but surely.

From one of John Newton's letters. Read the full thing here

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Where did the idea of families eating together come from?

John Barach observes that even though today, families eating together is seen as the ideal, something to be aspired to, it wasn't always thus. Citing various sources, he notes how in the ancient world, the idea of a family meal and especially of children being present at the table, is largely absent. Here is a sample quote:
The overriding impression … which the sources leave — the prevailing ideology one might say — is that no matter whether modest or elaborate, dinner was a meal about which the individual male made an individual decision — to entertain, to eat alone, to respond to an invitation — in a world in which ties of amicitia and hospitium were paramount.  Other household members, wives for example, responded to such decisions as appropriate.  Dinner was not a meal at which the company of family members was automatically and invariably assumed essential or even desirable.  Within innumerable elite households, therefore, many wives and children must have eaten completely apart, in time and place, from their husbands and fathers, and from one another … and when husbands, wives and children did dine together, they did so in ways that continually reinscribed the subordination of the two latter to the former (“The Roman Family at Dinner,” in Inge Nielsen and Hanne Sigismund Nielsen, Meals in a Social Context: Aspects of the Communal Meal in the Hellenistic and Roman World [Aarhus University Press, 1998], 49).
So what caused the change? Read the answer here

Monday, 10 March 2014

Is Martin Luther to blame for the creation of the NHS?

Apparently on this day in 1528, Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, published a book entitled Liber Vagatorum (The Book of Vagabonds and Beggars). In it, he argued for the abolition of begging and vagrancy by the establishment of a social welfare system coordinated by the civil magistrates. Interestingly, before this treatise, no one would have (or could have) imagined that the State could match the efficiency of the church in caring for the poor. And why is that? Well the church's system of care was so comprehensive and effective, having been honed over centuries of charitable work practiced the local level (hence fitted to various contexts + ensuring accountable charity contra today's welfare system). So my question is what on earth was Luther thinking? Why the slip in biblical reasoning? I suspect that the newly formed Reformed church was struggling financially but is that a good reason to embrace pragmatism while promoting faux compassion? To riff off Mr Knightly in Emma: Badly done Luther. Badly done.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Why showing pictures of dismembered babies is not exciting to abortionists

The Guardian recently published a story about the archaeological discovery of incontrovertible evidence that the Carthaginians sacrificed infants to the gods. Although everyone in antiquity knew that the Carthaginians were baby-killers, this was not enough for modern researchers: the establishment dismissed the stories as "black propaganda" by ancient rivals. And although archaeological evidence to support ancient tales had been found during the 20th century, this still was not enough to satisfy academia. Here are the key paragraphs of the article:

Argument has raged on the subject since cemeteries known as tophets – after the biblical account of a place of sacrifice – were excavated in the early 20th century on the outskirts of Carthage in modern Tunisia, and then at other Carthaginian sites in Sicily and Sardinia. The graves held tiny cremated bones carefully packed into urns, buried under tombstones giving thanks to the gods. One has a carving which has been interpreted as a priest carrying the body of a small child. Some archaeologists and historians saw the finds as proving ancient accounts of child sacrifice; others insisted they showed tender respect for cherished children who died before or soon after birth.

A tophet outside Carthage

"The inscriptions are unequivocal: time and again we find the explanation that the gods 'heard my voice and blessed me'. It cannot be that so many children conveniently happened to die at just the right time to become an offering – and in any case a poorly or dead child would make a pretty feeble offering if you're already worried about the gods rejecting it." 

"Then there is the fact that the animals from the sites, which were beyond question sacrificial offerings, are buried in exactly the same way, sometimes in the same urns with the bones of the children." Although hundreds of remains were found, there were far too few to represent all the stillbirth and infant deaths of Carthage. According to Quinn, there were perhaps 25 such burials a year, for a city of perhaps 500,000 people. 

The Roman historian Diodorus and other ancient historians gave graphic accounts of Carthaginian child sacrifice: "There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus, extending its hands, palms up and sloping towards the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire."

That last detail is particularly striking. It echoes the abominable practices of the Canaanites, who killed babies and built foundations on the bodies of sacrificed humans (Could the Canaanites be related to the Carthaginians?). Apparently their god - Moloch - was in the form of a humanoid oven with a fire-pit for a belly and arms upon which you placed the baby so that it would roll into the fire.

Now here is the interesting part dear reader. We Westerners would have no hesitation condemning the Carthaginians for their barbaric and wicked practices. In fact part of the reason that the debate in the academy has been so intense is because many do not want to believe that people were that wicked. Nevertheless, and this is very interesting dear reader... how can we - we the 'civilised' people of the West - consider the Carthaginians awful, when we routinely offer up hapless infants to the god Abortion. This really is about us. You and me. How twisted and demented have we become that we can scoff at the Ancients whilst condoning the travesty of little infants being decapitated daily in our midst? Where is the straight thinking in that? Is that why showing pictures of dismembered baby parts is not that exciting to abortionists? Does it make their terribly incoherent logic crumble when the awfulness of their evil is made apparent?

Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy.