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

Monday, 30 November 2015

You snooze, you lose

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wish God would show up, snap his fingers and work miracles? The people of Israel had about 500 years worth of days like that, groaning under the oppression of one tyrant after another. The book of Isaiah gives voice to their sentiments like this: “O that you would rip open the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you!” (Is 63:19).

The problem is that he answered their prayer. He showed up, in person, working miracles beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. But they failed to recognize him. In fact, they crucified him.

How could this have happened? The analysis of Jesus is that they were asleep on the job (Mark 13:33-37). Sure, they busied themselves with a variety of activities, including pious practices. But constant movement can lull you to sleep, like a baby on a long car ride. Asleep means unconscious. Unaware. Lethargic. For us as Christians, this means lip service is not enough. Making God a manageable part of one’s life is not enough. He demands to be worshiped, which is to say that He must take centre stage, be at the top of the priority list. We are not just to believe He exists, but to avidly pursue Him and his will for our lives.

And why is this important? Because Jesus promises to come again and this time it won’t be in a hidden way. He won’t be wearing swaddling clothes, but judge’s robes when He will judge the living and the dead. Advent first and foremost is a time to remember that he’s coming back and that we must be a bit better prepared for the second coming than the Israelites were for the first one.

Jesus puts it like this in Matthew’s Gospel:

‘As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 
For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, 
marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;
and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them away. 
That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man...
Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 

Amidst our celebrations and festivities, the question that should not be avoided during Advent is this – are you ready to stand judgement before God? If you are like most of us and not ready, then Advent is a great time to ‘wake up’ and start preparing as you seek the Lord in His Word, confess your sins, sing his praises and trust and believe in His Son Jesus Christ – the Word made flesh. Happy Advent.

Parish magazine article for the start of Advent 2015

Friday, 30 October 2015

Celebrating Halloween like a Christian

What does God think of Halloween? How are Christians to respond to all the spooky outfits, scary masks, witches hats that dominate the scene at this time of year? Should we simply retreat, batten down the hatches, avoid all shops and hope no one knocks on Wednesday night? Before answering that question allow me, to share with you my top tip, that I think is guaranteed to ruin any good party (never say that I am not a generous person)! So imagine the scene; you’ve arrived at a party – the venue is lovely, the music is playing, the food is fantastic, conversations are flowing, everyone you want is there and at this point in the party, no one has done anything silly or embarrassing. No one has been on the dance floor and made a fool of themselves, no has attempted to sing along to the music in a tone deaf way, no one has had too much to drink and started acting a bit silly. All told, everything is going well so far. Well here is how to ruin the party. Just wait until there is a bit of a pause, perhaps, after someone has cracked a really good joke and then raise your voice a little and say “I tell you what, this seems like a good time to speak about death!”

That would be it wouldn’t it? To wait until everyone is having fun, the party is in full flow and people are enjoying themselves and then mention the dreaded d-word: death.

Now here is the link with that anecdote[1] and Halloween. When you see the sorts of outfits that are sold in the shops and supermarkets at this time, isn’t it as if our society says ‘let’s have a party, a celebration, a festival, and use it, to talk about death’ – isn’t that what it’s like when you come across the scary, horrible-looking, death-imitating costumes in the shop aisles? Don’t they just scream “death” and remind us of this horrible enemy in our midst?

Well here is a first surprise as we return to our opening question of how are Christians to respond to Halloween. The first surprise is this – Christians (unlike the world/non-believers) have a good reason to celebrate Halloween by putting on scary costumes and joking about death etc because unlike the world we have a King, Jesus Christ, who has conquered, triumphed and overcome death. We Christians have a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who has experienced this horrible enemy death, but who thankfully has defeated it (Hebrews 2:14-15). As Paul asks provocatively in 1 Corinthians 15:55

Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?

His answer: thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are united to this Jesus Christ have every reason not to fear death. Christians can look death in the eye and say “horrible though you are O death, one day... one day we will have the last laugh on you”. We Christians can mock death because even though we know that it is horrible and painful and sad, yet we can still laugh at it because we have a Saviour who has completely triumphed and defeated death. Christians need not therefore fear these scary costumes that appear at this time of year, and we should be free to mock death by wearing ghoulish outfits as a mock on this defeated enemy – death.

If you’ve seen the film Crocodile Dundee, you’ll know that there’s a scene where the main character, Dundee is walking home late one evening when he gets accosted by 3 kids wanting to mug him. The lead member pulls out a penknife and shouts “give us your wallet” and Dundee’s girlfriend in a bit of panic, urges him to respond quickly by giving the thugs his wallet. Dundee retorts by asking “Why?” to which she replies “because they’ve got a knife” And Dundee’s comical response is to say “That’s not a knife... here’s a knife” as he draws out a machete! And it’s a little like that with the victory accomplished by our risen, reigning Lord. You can imagine him looking at all the scary outfits which people don at this time of year and saying “You think that is scary? Wait until you see the fierce dragon that I had to fight. He is horrible and cruel and everyone he attacks loses. Everyone that is, except Me”.

Halloween then can and should be for the Christian a time to laugh. Not a fake, shallow, pretend laughter, but the kind of laughter which is filled with a certain hope that even though the present may be painful, even though the present may be full of tears and sadness, yet in Christ we are confident that our sorrows will be turned to joy.

Here is the second surprise related to Halloween. Modern day Christians should reclaim the celebration of Halloween, given that it was our forbears who encouraged people to wear scary outfits as a parody of death. Halloween as you may know was originally known as All Hallows Eve. It is the day before All Hallows/All Saints Day, when the Church remembers those who have died in the faith and give thanks for their faithful witness. All Hallows Eve therefore was (and is) an occasion to tease death by reminding ourselves of the wonderful hope of the final resurrection as we give thanks for those who’ve fallen asleep in Christ. The medieval Church thus encouraged Christians to wear frightening and death-imitating costumes not because they were morbid or because they didn’t have access to GAP or Calvin Klein but rather because they were confident that death had been defeated. Christians therefore wore horrible outfits not because of a lack of fashion sense but to satirize death and say to it, ‘you’re a loser!’ or more positively ‘we will win!’ This by the way is the reason that many old churches and some grand buildings have gargoyles. Have you ever wondered why someone would build a beautiful church with intricately designed mosaics, pretty stained glass windows, ornate looking furniture and then include unappealing and oftentimes scary looking gargoyles? Well the reason was simply to say to the congregation (and to the world) that though death may still be present among us (which is what these gargoyles pictured) yet in Christ, we shall overcome. In other words, gargoyles were a visual way of saying that the medieval Christians were not afraid of death.

It is reported that Woody Allen when once asked about death responded “I’m not afraid of death I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” How different for the Christian! This Halloween then, let us not fear... let us not fear the frightening costumes, let us not fear the knock on the door, let us not fear the future and crucially let us not fear death. And why not think of a tangible way (including perhaps wearing a scary costume?) to teach and share with your family and friends, that in-Christ, death is not the end!

[1] Taken from Lee McMunn’s Identity course, Session 4 “The God who comforts us” 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Does baptism make you a Christian? C.S Lewis replies...

“It is only the usual trouble about words being used in more than one sense. Thus we might say a man ‘became a soldier’ the moment that he joined the army. But his instructors might say six months later ‘I think we have made a soldier of him’. Both usages are quite definable, only one wants to know which is being used in a given sentence.”
— C. S. Lewis to Genia Goelz (March 18, 1952), Collected Letters, 3:172. Quoted by Justin Taylor in C S Lewis on Theology and Worship

In other words, Scripture teaches that baptism converts the sinner (see e.g. herehere and here) while at the same time saying that conversion is a pre-requisite for baptism (see e.g. herehere and here). Nevertheless,  I think Scripture's emphasis is clearly on the former given that it speaks unambiguously and in the majority of baptism making people Christians.

Friday, 18 September 2015

The pastor's most besetting temptations

The pastor’s most besetting temptations are anxiety and pride Anxiety determines the lives of many pastors. A family blows up over here; another member is terminally ill; the finances are looking weak: Every moment has its crisis, and the anxiety-driven pastor spends his time and energies responding to the crises. It’s draining because every encounter is a painful one; it induces cynicism, because pastors end up spending much of their time with the 15% of members whose lives are chaotic and very little time with the 85% who live healthy, harmonious, fruitful lives.

Pride is the other temptation, and is linked to anxiety. Pastors feel anxiety over the various challenges of ministry because they think they need to fix the church. If there’s a problem, the pastor is the all-purpose saviour.

So what's the solution? Find out here

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Bible is not a book for the faint-hearted

The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart -- it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that benefits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice -- it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.

- Rich Mullins

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Why abortion is the worst kind of murder

the fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being... If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light. 
— John Calvin (Commentary on Exodus 21:22)

Monday, 3 August 2015

Why Obama was wrong, Uhuru too soft and Ruto right (on this occasion)

Obama inspects a guard of honour while the 'beast'
lurks in the background
So now the dust has kind’a settled and as a Kenyan in the diaspora, it has been fascinating observing how Obama’s visit to his ‘motherland’ was perceived. In Kenya, the excitement and frenzy was tremendous and even now over a week after the visit, newspaper editorials continue to reminisce on the significance of the first sitting American president to visit Kenya – and one of our own to boot! Obama’s Kenyan family have shared publicly that the president promised them he will visit the country again soon while TV programmes continue to be dazzled by the paraphernalia that accompanied the president, like his supersized car, also known as the ‘beast’. Here in the UK, it was noticeable that the visit made lead news for 2 days running on the BBC. It was featured in most newspapers and online newsfeeds and even made the front page for an important UK broadsheet - The Observer. Unsurprisingly for the UK (western?) press the item that got the most coverage was Obama’s championing of gay rights. Part of the reason for this were the following remarks made by Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, prior to Obama’s visit:

“Homosexuality is against the plan of God. God did not create man and woman so that men would marry men and women marry women. We have heard that in [the] US they have allowed gay relations and other dirty things I want to say as a Christian leader that we will defend our country Kenya, we will stand for our faith and our country.”
In a special interview by the BBC where Obama was asked about Ruto’s comments, he responded:

“Yeah. Well, I disagree with him on that, don’t I? And I’ve had this experience before when we’ve visited Senegal in my last trip to Africa. I think that the president there, President Sall, is doing a wonderful job in moving the country forward – a strong democrat. But in a press conference, I was very blunt about my belief that everybody deserves fair treatment, equal treatment in the eyes of the law and the state.”
There had been talk that Obama would not shake Ruto's hand
but he was all smiles when he met Ruto at State House.
Given the entrenched views on both sides and the antipathy with which homosexuality is viewed in Kenya (and Africa more widely) there had been speculation that, when in Kenya, Obama would duck the gay issue and focus instead on security and trade. This however did not happen. Perhaps emboldened by his actions and statements in the US and the recent Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage, Obama ventured to speak up for so called “gay rights,” albeit in a more muted form than in his native land. A key strand in Obama’s answer was his personalising of the issue by comparing homophobia to the racial discrimination that he had encountered in the US. Here is what he said:

I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this. I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law, and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.  And I say that, recognizing that there may be people who have different religious or cultural beliefs. But the issue is how does the state operate relative to people.
Moments before that interview and both men are smiling but it was Uhuru
that would have the last laugh when he gave
Obama's 'gay rights' agenda the short shrift
If you look at the history of countries around the world, when you start treating people differently -- not because of any harm they’re doing anybody, but because they’re different -- that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen.  And when a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread.  
And as an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently, under the law, and there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery, and they were wrong.  
So I’m unequivocal on this.  If somebody is a law-abiding citizen who is going about their business, and working in a job, an obeying the traffic signs -- (laughter) -- and doing all the other things that good citizens are supposed to do, and not harming anybody -- the idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong.  Full stop.  
And the state does not need to weigh in on religious doctrine.  The state just has to say we’re going to treat everybody equally under the law.  And then everybody else can have their own opinions.  All right?

Notice how Obama repeatedly frames the issue in terms of pursuing equality and in particular, a desire that people be not treated differently – by the State – because of ‘who they love’. As a parallel to the experiences of homosexuals when they are treated differently (as is the case in Kenya where homosexuality is punishable with up to 14 years imprisonment), Obama pointed to the painful history of segregation experienced by African-Americans in the US.

As a black Christian, I am getting increasingly tired and offended at this persistent comparison between race and gender to promote homosexuality. Why do people perpetuate this comparison to justify the sin of homosexuality? Can anyone show me where in Scripture one’s sin colour is described as wicked or evil? Yet I can think of numerous texts that explicitly condemn homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. More and more I’m becoming convinced that those who trot out this comparison have not actually read the Scriptures carefully but are attempting to deploy an emotive argument to defend a wicked and sinful act. If I had 5 minutes with Obama, I would urge him to start by considering Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (especially chapter 5 v 27-32) as well as his comments on divorce, all of which make clear that sex/marriage only exists between a man and woman in the context of marriage. Added to this are St Paul’s clear denunciations (e.g. Romans 1:18-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) which leave no wiggle room for the biblical view that homosexuality (among other sexual sins) are things to be repented of and which only Christ can redeem. A failure to do so (as with all other sin) will lead in the end – Scripture warns us – to eternal judgement.

None of this though was mentioned by the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta in his response to Obama. Instead Uhuru completely sidestepped Obama’s equality message and focussed instead on the prevalent view in African society that homosexuality is un-African. This is what Uhuru said:

“…the fact of the matter is that Kenya and the United States, we share so many values -- our common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families.  These are things that we share.  But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share -- our culture, our societies don’t accept.  It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept.  
This is why I repeatedly say that, for Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue.  We want to focus on other areas that are day-to-day living for our people:  The health issues that we have discussed with President Obama.  These are critical.  Issues of ensuring inclusivity of women, a huge section of society that is normally left out of the mainstream of economic development.  What we can do in terms of infrastructure; what we can do in terms of education; in terms of our roads; in terms of giving our people power, encouraging entrepreneurship.  These are the key focuses.  
Maybe once, like you have overcome some of these challenges, we can begin to look at new ones.  But as of now, the fact remains that this issue is not really an issue that is on the foremost mind of Kenyans, and that is the fact. 
Notice that unlike Obama, Uhuru never explicitly states what his views on the subject of homosexuality are. Instead his response comes across as a mere respecting of the will of the people and a desire not to impose on the citizenry what they do not accept. Uhuru’s answer therefore never addresses the morality of homosexuality. Is it wrong or is it right? Is it evil or is it good? Is it beneficial or harmful? Uhuru’s answer never makes this plain and for this reason is actually open to the charge of homophobia. If the principle reason why Uhuru is not keen on gay rights is because it is the majority view currently, what happens when it ceases to be? Furthermore, isn’t it the responsibility of good leaders to make decisions that they believe are right irrespective of what public thinks because ultimately such decisions will be for the good of the people? Because Uhuru’s answer gave no moral framework apart from his concern to respect the wanainchi[i], the question arises: what if they are wrong, what if their antipathy for homosexuals is because they think they are easy targets? Let’s change the subject for a moment. Consider Nazi Germany. By all accounts Fascism was hugely popular in 1930’s Germany and accepted by the majority of the German people. If one were to employ the same lines of argument Uhuru deployed in response to Obama, it is difficult to see how he could condemn Nazism given its popularity then. If one were to rely simply on what is prevalent in a society, one would be on shaky ground indeed. The solution then – especially for those who claim to be followers of Christ – is to frame our responses in moral categories. It is never good enough to depend on the populace when justifying a viewpoint, action or policy. As a former dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London once put it: Whoever marries the spirit of the age will find himself a widower in the next. To avoid such a fate, our call as Christians is to state clearly when called upon why certain actions are wrong (e.g. homosexuality, adultery and polygamy to name but a few) and to do so by referring to the God of Holy Scripture who has kindly revealed clearly His good and perfect will for humanity. I therefore find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with the Deputy President – William Ruto when he described Homosexuality as dirty and as being against the plan of God. Or as Jehovah the LORD succinctly puts it: thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is an abomination. Indeed.

[i] Wanainchi is Swahili for the locals

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Calvin the charismatic, champions hand-raising

“Lifting up pure hands As if he had said, “Provided that it be accompanied by a good conscience, there will be nothing to prevent all the nations from calling upon God everywhere. But he has employed the sign instead of the reality, for “pure hands” are the expressions of a pure heart; just as, on the contrary, Isaiah rebukes the Jews for lifting up “bloody hands,” when he attacks their cruelty. Besides, this attitude has been generally used in worship during all ages; for it is a feeling which nature has implanted in us, when we ask God, to look upwards, and has always been so strong, that even idolaters themselves, although in other respects they make a god of images of wood and stone, still retained the custom of lifting up their hands to heaven. Let us therefore learn that the attitude is in accordance with true godliness, provided that it be attended by the corresponding truth which is represented by it, namely, that, having been informed that we ought to seek God in heaven, first, we should form no conception of Him that is earthly or carnal; and, secondly, that we should lay aside carnal affections, so that nothing may prevent our hearts from rising above the world. But idolaters and hypocrites, when they lift up their hands in prayer, are apes; for while they profess, by the outward symbol, that their minds are raised upwards, the former are fixed on wood and stone, as if God were shut up in them, and the latter, wrapped up either in useless anxieties, or in wicked thoughts, cleave to the earth; and therefore, by a gesture of an opposite meaning, they bear testimony against themselves”.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

An example of how the state is aspiring to be God

...free speech is not an absolute. When we are standing before the throne of Christ, giving an account of all that we have ever said, we will not be able to defend our verbal cruelties, lies, slanders with a lame appeal to “free speech.” God is Lord of the tongue, and He evaluates the jar of our hearts by the droplets around the upper lip of it. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matt. 12:34). And on the basis of that evaluation, He will judge our lives at the Last Day.
“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37).
So setting the boundaries and limits of free speech is a prerogative of Deity. This is yet another testimony that the secular state is aspiring to that position, and wants to stand in the position of God to us. Christians, among all people, must be singularly uncooperative with this vain enterprise of theirs.

More of this sharp thinking and witty jabs here

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Why Sunday school / Children's church should be scrapped?

I've touched on this before herehere and here. But the guys at Lutheran satire do a much better job (in 5 minutes) in the video below.

Monday, 29 June 2015

How to be a revolutionary

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

― George Orwell (1903-1950)

Wise advice for the times we're in.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Suffering is never for nothing

Elisabeth Elliott (who died Monday) here reflects on the major suffering she experienced in her life.

Friday, 5 June 2015

We like the word authentic yet we hate the reality

I've said it before I wish I wish I wish I could write like this man. If I could plug into the creative well that flourishes his voluminous output, I would be there in a jiffy. As it is, I have to content myself with endlessly quoting him and here is commenting insightfully on the sad story that is the Bruce Jenner saga
We like the word authentic, but we detest the reality. A fading beauty in Beverly Hills walks into an upscale bistro, her skin stretched out with botox, her breasts as fine a pair as DuPont could make them, her hair the colour of nothing found on earth, and yet she double checks with the waiter (twice) to be sure that her salad will have hormone-free chicken. Why? Either because she is committed to going all natural, which would not seem to be the case, or because her table is only big enough for one hormone queen. She is insisting that the chicken be the authentic one.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

The great cleavage

The great cleavage throughout the world lies between what is with, and what is against the faith.

― Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The hypocrisy of pro-abortionists

I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.

- Ronald Reagan (former US President)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

God has His own version of Google

This from Tim Challies:
Google has become such a part of our lives that we tend to forget its newness and its historical uniqueness. Just a generation ago parents and spouses had to find answers in an entirely different way. And I wonder what we’ve lost along the way.

God has got his own version of Google and, until recently, it was the one Christians relied on. God’s version of Google is called the local church. When we have questions about life and marriage and parenting and so much else, there is rarely a better place to go than the local church. When we want to see marriage and parenting modeled for us, there is no more natural place to turn. “I want kids like your kids, so let me spend time with you. I want a marriage like your marriage, so let me observe and ask you questions.”

More of that here

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Why Christians burned people at the stake

Here is Queen Mary's reasoning as to why she thought it appropriate to burn heretics:
As the souls of heretics are hereafter to be eternally burning in hell, there can be nothing more proper than for me to imitate divine vengeance by burning them on earth.
In other words, we might as well start now what will soon be reality. I don't think you can fault her logic but somehow I can't see it persuading many today. Thoughts?

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Everything in the world is about sex except...

...sex. Sex is about power.

So wrote Oscar Wilde. I think he was on to something especially given what we read in Genesis 1 and 2. What about you? What do you think dear reader?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Tackling Dawkins' bad logic

With the help of Donall and Conall. Their genius kicks in at about the 50 sec. mark. Enjoy...

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

If you want to achieve great things for God...

...start by doing little things well now. So says Jesus Christ when describing the 'reward system' that will be operative on Judgement day:
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness (Matthew 25:21)
Notice that the servant is not commended for having undertaken a prominent or distinguished role or for even having done lots of things for Christ. The praise comes for being faithful/truthful/reliable with a few things. So if you want to achieve great things for God, first get your to do list and shorten it then do the few things well - turn up when you say you will, following through on the things you commit to doing, pray and read your Bible regularly, speak about Jesus often, forgive those who have hurt and wronged you, walk the dog with joy, change the nappies with cheerfulness, eat your food with thanksgiving. There are probably one or two other things you could add but that's a good start. Faithfulness in the small things will guarantee being praised by the King of Kings.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A good reason to be a better Christian

C.S. Lewis channelling James 5:16 says:
One of the many reasons for wishing to be a better Christian is that if one were, one's prayers for others might be more effectual.

– C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady (26th April 1956), p. 51

Monday, 20 April 2015

The most offensive verse in the Bible...

...is Genesis 1:1, and all that it implies namely, that we have an all-powerful Creator who owns everything in the universe. 

This planet is His, all galaxies, the laws of physics, the rules of ethics, you and me. Everything was made by Him, designed by Him and given its value and meaning by Him. The Triune God of the Bible is the Ultimate One and we are therefore dependent subjects on Him for everything. This means that (at a minimum) we are not free to create meaning or value. Or to put it another way, God is Lord and we are not.

For more from where that came from, see this

Monday, 13 April 2015

How do we prepare for death, and die, as Christians?

In the end, the whole Christian life may be seen as an extensive preparation for death. We trust Christ to forgive our sins; likewise, we trust him to bring us through the doorway of death safely. We trust Christ with a million things everyday of our lives as we move through this danger-filled world; likewise, we trust him to bring us through the passageway that leads from this world to the next. The way to die as a Christian is to live as Christian: We entrust ourselves into the loving embrace of our Savior, confident that he is with us and will protect us in life and in death, in history and in eternity, in this world and in the world to come. He is our comfort, our joy, our salvation. He is the Resurrection and the Life. His death does not exempt us from the burden of having to die, but it does transform our death. Because he died for us, we shall live in him. Because he died for us, even in the moment of our death we are victorious.

Via Rich Lusk on a post covering death and resurrection before the fall, 'death' and resurrection in the Trinity, how Christians can view death as an friend and the place of anointing the sick in evangelical piety. There is material here to meditate on for a lifetime!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Is this why there are few men as missionaries?

Hudson Taylor, the founder of Overseas Mission Fellowship (formerly of China Inland Mission) once described missionary work as follows:
The work of a true missionary is work indeed, often very monotonous, apparently not very successful, and carried on through great and varied but unceasing difficulties

Is this why there are very few men as missionaries? The 2 mission agencies (British) that I am familiar with have a ratio of about 3 women for each man. I am sure there are many other reasons for that but I wonder if one of the major ones is the male aversion to hard work? Speaking as a man (and from my experience as a pastor) I can say that men sadly are often more willing to let someone else fulfil their spiritual responsibilities, whether it be their wives, their mothers, their children (!) or their government. How very different to the Real and True Man who never shirked back from hard work

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

How to improve your mind

Acquaint yourself with your own ignorance. Impress your mind with a deep and painful sense of the low and imperfect degrees of your present knowledge that you may be incited to labour and activity to pursue after greater measures.

— Isaac Watts, Improvement of the Mind (published 1741)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Spare me from strange sins

A good penitential prayer (prayer of confession) from St Augustine:

O Lord,
The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it!
It displeases Your sight.
I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it,
to whom shall I cry but to You?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
and spare Your servant from strange sins.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Lloyd Jones' key evangelistic strategy

Image result for martyn lloyd jonesThe glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.

—D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 28.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Most disagreements do not require division, they require vision

Praise the Lord for Toby Sumpter who repeatedly comes up with such wonderful insights as this one:

Of course there are disagreements that sometimes require division, but most disagreements do not require division, they require vision. They require a renewed vision of the big picture, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, the Church triumphant marching gloriously through history – when you step back and catch a glimpse of this vision, joy wells up inside you and when you glance back at your differences, those differences seem small and insignificant.

Praise the Lord indeed.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Can't believe it - Russell Brand is right

I know I'm a bit a late to the 'party' but this rant by Russell Brand - despite his being a raging pagan - is brilliant + profound for it's honesty and simplicity. His main point: pornography is evil - you don't say? Indeed! I can't believe I am about to say this of Russell Brand: Preach it 'brother'!

Friday, 27 February 2015

If Christianity is not true, let's be pagans, atheists, or TV executives

Lopez: Is theology ever practical, really?

Kreeft: Theology is always practical because nothing is more practical than living in reality, living in the real world, and God is the origin, center, end, and meaning of reality. If that’s not true, let’s be pagans, atheists, or TV executives.

That from an interesting and wide ranging interview with Peter Kreeft here

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Bill Murray on the No. 1 cause of failed relationships

Statistics show the number one cause of failed relationships is opening your mouth and letting words come out.

Via: Bill Murray on Twitter

That's basically a rehashing of what the Bible says here, here, and here

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Karl Barth the postmillenialist?

Writing on this day in 1962, theologian Karl Barth concluded in a letter:
The day will come one day when we shall no longer speak of Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians but simply of Evangelical Christians forming one body and one people. Karl Barth Letters: 1961-1968,  #25 (p. 34-35)
Such fantastic hope makes sense of the postmil (and biblical) view that not only will the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (and this before the LORD returns) but also that when that times comes, it will be seen in the tremendous unity that our LORD prayed for so beautifully expresses by Karl Barth. As Jesus put it elsewhere:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.
Do you believe this?

Monday, 9 February 2015

How Capitalism helped the State embrace the pomosexuality agenda

Up until [recently] the Church, in hunting down [the sin of lust], has had the active alliance of Caesar, who has been concerned to maintain family solidarity and the orderly devolution of property in the interest of the state. Now that contract and not status is held to be the basis of society, Caesar need no longer rely on the family to maintain social solidarity; and now that so much property is held anonymously by trusts and joint stock companies, the laws of inheritance lose a great deal of their importance. Consequently, Caesar is now much less interested than he was in the sleeping arrangements of his citizens, and has in this manner cynically denounced his alliance with the Church. This is a warning against putting one’s trust in any child of man – particularly in Caesar. If the Church is to continue her campaign against lust, she must do so on her own – that is, on sacramental – grounds; and she will have to do it, if not in defiance of Caesar, at least without his assistance.
– Dorothy Sayers, from The Other Six Deadly Sins

Now I know that is not the full story. I'm aware that with any such seismic shift in culture as we have seen with the widespread embrace of so called 'gay marriage' there is more than one factor that has lead to this point. As someone has said, a tall tower requires a deep foundation whose bricks were laid long before the visible ones at the top. I've actually written elsewhere about how the Church is largely responsible for the tragic car crash that is the decline of Christian morality in the West. However, I think Sayers is onto something here in that the State has been encouraged to care less about the traditional family with the depersonalization of property. As Matthew Jepsen says:

The rise of the legal contract (versus inheritance by blood), the stock market, and public corporations, set the foundation for people to act as free agents apart from their money and land and families in a way unprecedented in civilization before. During the sexual revolution, Caesar (the government) woke up one day and realized that IT no longer cared who slept with who and so the champions of traditional morality lost a powerful (though incidental) ally. The irony is that this new foundation was often laid by conservative capitalists – sometimes very religious ones – who never dreamed of it’s far-reaching consequences.

Wow. Yikes. Let me give you a moment to recover...and then having recovered we need to think quickly how as Christians who are committed to Capitalism (is there another sort?) need to respond biblically and faithfully. Answers on a postcard please.

Friday, 6 February 2015

How to see death as both a friend and deliverer

Stunning words of comfort from C.S. Lewis, written a few months before he died:

Image result for death“What in Heaven’s name is ‘distressing’ about an old man saying to an old woman that they haven’t much more to do here? I wasn’t in the least expressing resentment or despondency. I was referring to an obvious fact and one which I don’t find either distressing or embarrassing. Do You? . . .             Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well? Can you not see death as both friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a hairshirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life. Your sins are confessed and absolved. Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. . .         Remember, tho’ we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you “Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little? Of course this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.”

Not only a good writer but an excellent pastor.