Wednesday, 30 September 2009
If so, order from this link here: http://freeagent.three.co.uk/stand/view/id/604
For this I get £5 for each SIM someone requests. You can read about Three's services at their website - http://www.three.co.uk. But to get the free £2 of credit, and for me to get the £5, you have to use the link above to order. You'll need a 3G-capable phone to use this SIM.
I came across this because I was wanting a SIM card and Internet when I next visit the UK. This looks a good deal. I e-mailed them to ask if it was allowed for me to promote to my wife and vice-versa or if they considered that unethical. They said it was no problem at all - they can definitely be my friends!
(Sorry to bring out the begging bowl. A recent burglary cost us a four-figure sum (UK pounds) even after we'd recovered much of the stolen stuff, so that's my excuse....)
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
By that, I don't mean you can't look round at your companions in the local den of drunkards or gossip club and work out that you should be somewhere else. What I mean is, unless your circumstance is one of sin, you cannot judge that God wishes you to be elsewhere simply from the events that happen to you. Bad stuff happening to you does not mean you're in the wrong place; things going well does not mean you're in the right place. These things are not revealed by God to you through events. Rather, you use the wisdom in the Bible, pray, and God will open and close doors according to his will. The reality will be revealed to you when it happens - not by secret signs beforehand.
How can we prove this? Easy. Job.
What happened to Job? Disaster. He lost his family, his home, his business and his health - everything except his life itself.
Why? Because he was wicked? Because he was outside the will of God and in the wrong place?
Nope. It all happened to him because he was the most righteous man on earth. Because he followed God with all his heart, he became a test case - to see if his faith was real, to prove to Satan that God's people love God not just for the earthly blessings, and ultimately to provide God's people through all succeeding ages with much deep teaching that hopefully we can learn without all having to face such extremities ourselves. It all happened to him because he was more within the will of God than anyone else on the planet.
Job ought to be the death-knell of all such secret-guidance theories whose proponents claim that you can read infallibly discern that you are in the right or wrong place through the events that come your way. Same lesson comes from the apostles (1 Corinthians 4). The Bible says that we must enter the kingdom through much tribulation (Acts 14:23). The untroubled, peaceful church is normally the Laodicean church of Revelation 3, not the church that found the heart of God's will. Or in large part the 21st century church of the Western world...
Monday, 28 September 2009
Roman Catholic apologists reply with, "Ah - but you Protestants, with your Bible alone, don't agree with each other! You need something more!" That something more is the supposedly-infallible Roman Catholic church.
In a clear and concise post here, James Swan shows that this shift in reality achieves nothing. The same Roman Catholic apologists then disagree with each other on how to interpret the pronouncements of that supposedly-infallible church.
The fact that people disagree over the Bible's meaning shows nothing. People disagree over everything, and when those people are sinners handling a book that strikes right at the heart of sin, it's hardly surprising. There's no mileage in scoring apologetic points from that observation on its own.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Pilgrim: To know the will of God, child, read the word of God.
Child: But Pilgrim, what about life's big issues? Who shall I marry, where shall I work?
Pilgrim: Did you hear me? Read the word of God, child!
Child: But the word of God does not tell me God's will for me.
Pilgrim: It does, and on every page. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification". "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you".
Child: I know that, Pilgrim. But does not God have "one best life now" for me? How can I make sure I don't miss out?
Pilgrim: You know nothing yet as you ought to know it, child. God's "best life" is the life of his kingdom, not of the world, and so he tells you to seek it first. If you would be happy, you must be holy. If you are first holy, you will then understand all these other questions you ask.
Child: But I still have to know where to live and work?
Pilgrim: I already told you. You have to know how to live and work. When you know how and do his will, God will take care of the rest.
Child: Does not the Holy Spirit lead us, then?
Pilgrim: Indeed he does, as I have told you. He leads us into holiness.
Child: And the will of God?
Child: But what about the details of life? Will I not get into trouble if I miss God's best?
Pilgrim: You will get into trouble if you find God's best.
Child: What do you mean?
Pilgrim: What the word of God says. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God", and "no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto" and "Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator."
Child: But does not God want good things for his children?
Pilgrim: He does, and that is why we suffer.
Child: How can suffering be good?
Pilgrim: Because suffering is the narrow road to glory, my child. "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ".
Child: But, Pilgrim, I think if we can find the way to know the will of God, we will never have cause to suffer.
Pilgrim: That is why you are still a child, child.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Here's a conversation I had at the registry office whilst registering my intention to marry my now-wife. Earlier conversation had established that the registrar was a church-goer... perhaps it had been a slow day...
Registrar: Are you related to your future wife?
Me: Only through Adam.
Registrar: Your son?
Me: Ha ha! No.
Monday, 21 September 2009
I don't think there's a British Christian who has not been dismayed to see the moral collapse and rise of anti-Christian sentiment in the UK under this present government. But this issue is very serious indeed...
Graham Badman (not a Bunyan character, but his real name), Kent County Council's Managing Director for the Children, Families and Education Directorate has submited to the government a review of elective home education, which recommends, "systems for keeping children safe and ensuring that they receive a suitable education". That sounds nice...
But it is precisely the education this government believes 'safe and suitable' that home educators are opting out of! And with good reason.
Dissatisfied with the amoral, godless, pluralist propaganda the government pumps into our kids in the state schools - they are now gunning for those who withdraw from that system to provide a Christian Education for their children.
The Badman recommendations aim to supplant parents altogether by making the government-run LEA responsible for determining what is 'a safe and suitable education'.The recommendations in this report are nothing short of totalitarian control.
Quite apart from the compulsory registration of home educators (perhaps with a gold star!), there's the recommendation for LEA inspectors to have 'right of access' to home educator's homes and the right to speak to children without their parents present.
Whether you are in favour of Christian home education or not: that's not the issue...
You are your child's parent, not the state.
You have the right to decide what education your child receives, not the state.
You are responsible, under God, to decide what is good, suitable, and right for your child, not the state.
Eph.6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Whatever your views on Christian vs State education - this is an issue of whether parents or the state have the right to choose what education our children receive. Signing this petition tells the government that you care about your rights as a parent, and that they should reject the sinister, intrusive and godless recommendations of the Badman Report.
Please read and consider signing the petition by clicking the link below:
Friday, 18 September 2009
There's something very wrong with a number of evangelical guides intended to help preachers interpret the Bible that I've come across lately. There's something important missing.
What's missing? Christ and the gospel. Whoops!
Hence, I read lots of sound advice about...
- Attention to principles of grammar
- Attention to the meanings and functions of the words in the original language - don't impose an impossible meaning based upon the English translation
- Attention to the context; context within the book, context within the paragraph, context within the world history of the author's day
- Comparing our conclusions with sound doctrine distilled from other parts of the Bible
- Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...
You can fulfil all of the above bullet points and more and miss this out. If you only include the above bullet points and their ilk, you could do a great deal of "preaching" whilst being a Muslim. None of the above kind of points require you to be converted - you can do it pretty well whilst remaining ignorant or unbelieving of God's overall story. It worries me a great deal that this kind of "how to use the Bible in preaching" guide seems to be not uncommon at all amongst conservative evangelicals. Exegesis and preaching not rooted consistently in Christ and his gospel are not exegesis or preaching at all, and Satan's territory won't be reduced a single inch by them. Any useful guide to preaching has to hammer that home again and again. What is the sina qua non of Biblical preaching? To reveal the glory of God in Christ. To tweak something Spurgeon said, all our tools of exegesis and techniques of communication are simply the flesh hooks, pans and shovels.... but Christ is the altar and the sacrifice smoking upon it.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
- It's a corporate prayer - not just me praying for my needs. We pray as part of the church, that God will take care of his people.
- The prayer reflects the fact that life repeats itself. God made us to experience years, months, weeks and days, full of routine and repetition. We should not grow weary in bringing the same prayers to God again and again.
- It also reflects the fact that prayer is to be continual - each day brings challenges, each day requires prayer for help.
- The assumption behind the petition is that it is not kings, parliaments or bankers who ultimately control the wheels of provision: it's God. Would that the world would remember that during its present economic crisis instead of continuing to put its trust in man and clever systems. We go out and work - but God sends or withholds blessing. One day you may wake up to find your business has collapsed, or you've been fired. We use the ordinary means, but God blesses or over-rules them as he pleases.
- We pray for today's bread, today. If we've been provided for more largely than that we can be thankful - but must not "trust in uncertain riches" or become arrogant. Those are spiritual dangers that anyone rich enough to afford the technology to read a blog is exposed to! Most of my hearers at the Bible study are in the other category - they must not despair as if God had abandoned them because they get up each day not knowing whether God will provide today or not: rather, the prayer presupposes that this is a normal situation.
- We pray for daily bread, not daily steak. Again, if we've been blessed with more we must be careful to give more thanks and praise or we've committed the sin of being ungrateful. But if we have just bread, we must still give thanks, because God has answered our prayer if we have but bread on our table. Blog-readers must be careful not to fall into the terrible sin of praying to God for daily bread and then complaining instead of giving thanks at what is provided if it doesn't meet their exact tastes!
This is the petition before "give us this day our daily bread". And that's a reflection of a profound theological truth. Only those who sincerely desire to obey God - as he is obeyed by the sinless angels - have the right to progress to seek his provision for their daily needs. One comes before the other. If pleasing God is not on our hearts, then to ask him to take care of us is not faith, but presumption - bold, defiant presumption. If we're not willing to put pleasing God before everything else, then we have no permission to pass further down the road to pleading our own needs and desires. We often get this the wrong way round - God help me, and then I'll serve you! That's not God's way; in his kingdom, he is the King, and our first duty - our first duty - is to bow before him.
Friday, 11 September 2009
"Kids' author says Jesus is not God: An atheist children's author is to use his latest book to say that Jesus was not God, instead claiming the Apostle Paul imagined the idea."
Read the story and you'll see that atheist campaigner Philip Pullman's idea is to argue that the idea of Jesus as God was a later encrustation on a primitive Christianity, dreamt up by the apostle Paul.
This was a popular idea in liberal academic scholarship in the 20th century up until the 1980s, but is now generally recognised, not just by evangelical scholars, as a huge mistake. It's a mistake that came from the presupposition that the New Testament documents should be read and interpreted against the background of Hellenistic philosophy. This mistake led to many of the Hebraic messages being filtered out - at least for those in the world of academic scholarship. Happily this enormous dead-end in Biblical studies bypassed the ordinary Bible-reading Christian!
The New Testament was written against a Hebraic background, and the above way of doing things is now widely recognised as completely untenable. The gospel writers and Paul and the other apostles alike approach the story of Jesus as a continuation of the Old Testament narrative. And in particular, his deity is clearly endorsed by all of them, because they all uniformally and continually attributes acts, achievements and attributes to Jesus which the Old Testament makes explicit belong exclusively to Jehovah. In both testaments, theological questions are not approach in the Greek manner - as matters of fine philosophical analysis (though of course such analysis is legitimate), but as being revealed progressively in history through God's saving interventions. And the interventions written about by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as well as Paul reveal with crystal clarity that they viewed Jesus of Nazareth as being one and the same in his being as Jehovah. Put simply, their message about the person of Christ is that he achieves everything for his people that Jehovah is meant to achieve. (And this observation eventually gives rise to the whole doctrine of the Trinity when all other Biblical considerations are factored in).
Mr. Pullman, though, is going to try to discredit Christianity with mouldy, rusted, defunct old bunk that has been debunked for decades. Good for pulling the wool over the eyes of the naive and the willingly ignorant, I suppose. But if the "New Atheist" crowd want to convince us that they're dispassionate investigators of facts, serious students of scholarship, coldly and impartially following hard evidence wherever it leads, this sort of thing won't help. Don't expect Pullman to be called out by his fellow "New Atheists" for this slip though, because the problem isn't intellectual - it's moral. They simply latch on to whatever argument seems to support their cause, whatever kind of argument it is, good, bad or ugly. The "New Atheists" have gained a reputation for being intellectually shallow and not widely read in their attempts to establish their position - and this kind of thing will only help that reputation roll on.
In the same field, I also found a pithy sentence in something blogged by James Jordan useful. (I'm not a fan of significant planks of JJ's theology, I suppose I'd better add for any newcomers...). Helpful for me because I've always found interruptions difficult - I like to get my teeth into something. But I can't... there's someone at the door. Then I have to remember that whatever "work" I was doing, actually the someone at the door is now "the work" that God wants me to do before anything else - to lovingly apply God's truth and encourage them with whatever difficulty they're bringing along. Along the way in the above article Jordan mentions that real pastors need to be available to their people at all times... "unless he’s a jerk who keeps his door locked and thinks he’s a great scholar and is not available all the time to his people." A dose of the ice-bucket of reality is good for us. "Unless he's a jerk". Thank you for those memorable few words!
I think this story gives many interesting insights into the contemporary UK. First, a few words about the way in which we look at the past.
To re-make the past in your own image, interpreting according to present (instead of past!) narratives is a universal trait. People with an agenda everywhere like to co-opt figures from the past to their cause. The convenient thing about doing so is that they're normally not around to contradict you. Thus, in the Prime Minister's "apology", above, Alan Turing is a proto-victim of "homophobia", a crime nobody knew existed until recent times. Gordon Brown writes that Turing was, "in effect", prosecuted for being gay. The record book, though, shows that Turing, a man about to turn 40, sodomised a teenager. An act which is morally reprehensible in any circumstances.
This then raises the question for me - who is Gordon Brown apologising on behalf of? Obviously not on behalf of himself, as he was only 1 year old at the time. Is it meant to be on behalf of the British people? Were the British people consulted on whether they agree that prosecuting a man for having sex with another man less than half his age is to be put in the same category as sending people to gas chambers, as Brown does? Or did we somehow license Mr. Brown to decide all such moral questions for us simply by the act of voting his party's MPs into a majority in the 2005 election? Was there something in the manifesto about a mandate to retro-apply trendy-new leftist-morals to previous generations and dish out this kind of thing?
No matter. A petition was presented to the PM asking for him to apologise, and as figures in power tend to do, he was happy to accept it as part of his legitimate domain. So, an apology it is. It's evident, though, that Mr. Brown's agenda in this apology is not really to apologise, but to suck up to the gay rights movement - or at least to persuade them he's on-side enough to keep the attack dogs off. (It's still a sore point for many that there's no homosexual marriage in the UK - the placing of "civil partnerships" for homosexuals only onto the statute books makes it clear that the law still views homosexual partnerships as inferior). Hence, the Prime Minister helpfully litters his arguments with an explanation of the acronym "LGBT" for unaware readers, uncritically re-gurgitates the story of Turing as a victim of "homophobia" (a recently invented word intended to intimidate people with legitimate and considered disagreements, tarring them with the brush of unthinking bigotry instead of giving a respectful hearing to them), flatly asserts that Turing committed suicide because of this "persecution" thus making him into some kind of martyr (though in fact Turing told nobody of any intention to commit suicide, left no note, and there is no actual proof that would stand up in court that he did commit suicide making it only a likelihood and not a certain truth), and then capping it off by including Turing in the same category as the victims of Nazi gas chambers.
Quite flattering to Turing, I'm sure - but a hideous insult to those who were involuntarily executed simply for being of the wrong race. That's the problem with seeking to boost someone's standing by analogy - it can drag down someone else's. If my grandma had been killed for her ancestry, I'd think I'd be quite miffed to have the PM spending his tax-payer funded time on writing about how she was no different to someone who (perhaps) decided to take his own life, which perhaps may have been related to failing to face up to the consequences of a conviction for brutalising a teenager.
It's part of a rhetorical strategy though, and this part of his speech was surely put together by someone with a fine-tuned ear to what the gay rights lobby wants to hear. In the UK today the people who really experience hatred and discrimination in this area are those who reject the position of the gay rights lobby - they're the ones likely to be losing their jobs especially in the public sector, or being pressurised to pipe down, or tarred as bigots ("homophobia!") if they don't. The gay rights people, though, want to forward their agenda by playing the victim card, a very powerful one in Western culture today regardless of how truthful the play is. If you can associate yourselves with those sent off to Belsen - well, then you surely deserve a whole barrel-load of new rights, regardless of the moral perversity of your cause!
Many voters in the UK would be quite interested in hearing Mr. Brown apologise for a few things he might be personally responsible for. But like his predecessor, who famously apologised for the Irish potato famine (!) , Mr. Brown has instead apologised for decisions made by someone else in a different generation. Cheap and easy work, nice if you can get it.
But apologising wasn't really the point - the point is to drag Mr. Turing into the politics of gay rights, tip some hats in the right direction, earn some easy Brownie points (oh, what a pun!) with the opinion-leaders in the secular press, and all this for no personal cost - when you apologise on behalf of the dead there's not even the loss of face of having to admit you were wrong. On that note I'd like to apologise for the decision by Tharg King of Oth for illegally invading the Anglo Saxon kingdoms in 843. Tut tut. Disgusting, and I'm glad you know I've distanced myself from it.
It's safe to say that Mr. Brown, who I should actually call Dr. Brown because he has a PhD in history, won't be winning any awards for historical scholarship for this effort. It's not so much history, as history remade in the contemporary image. I am glad that the verdict of our successors many generations later is not the final judgment; that is still to come, and historical revisionism won't come into play on that day. How much time do we spend trying to tip our hat to the shifting mores of contemporary thought, and how much time thinking about how we'll be seen when the day of reality arrives?
In this "Darwin year", we've been exposed to a glut of pro-evolution propaganda from a wide variety of sources. It's not unexpected that the "New Atheist" crowd should rely heavily on Darwin for their goals. What is grievously sad is to see the energetic efforts from groups within evangelical Christianity to promote a pro-Darwin agenda. The motivation and message seems to be that standing up for the Christian church's historic belief in a divine creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) that was accomplished by a supernatural divine word in the comparatively recent past is no longer credible. We don't want to look silly when Professor Dawkins pokes fun at us! These Christian apologists tell us that Darwinism has no theological implications, and can be reconciled with the book of Genesis easily.
On that particular matter, though, the "New Atheists" are right. The attempt to shoe-horn macro-evolution into the Bible, and the idea that where we came from has no meaning, is intellectual suicide. The methods of Bible interpretation used turn the Bible into a nose of wax that can be shaped to say anything you please. That really does make us look silly.
Neither is the effort to make peace with Darwin scientifically necessary. We live in times when Darwin's knowledge of biology has been vastly superceded. The fossil record and modern genetics falsify Darwin's theory again and again. Darwinism retains its place in the academy only because of the unthinkable nature of the alternative to the modern secular mind. To jump on this horse now, when the simplest analysis can show you that it's got three broken legs and has already been shot, is not a good move. And certainly not a necessary one!
And now for the good news. Here's the intellectual ammunition, Biblical, theological and scientific, to show you why you can answer the question "Should Christians Embrace Evolution" with a decisive "No!". Here's the book for the layman which explains the issues in a way that is careful easy to follow, and that covers all the bases.
Published by Intervarsity Press and edited by Professor Norman C. Nevin - an international expert in genetics - the editors include theologians and scientists; including on the scientific side leading experts and PhDs in genetics, immunology, thermodynamics, chemistry and geology (including four professors and a senior research fellow). The theological side is no less weighty, with chapters from writers who hold positions in UCCF, denominational apologetics committees, Bible colleges and very well known pastors. And (drum roll) your friend in the Rift Valley. Oh yes!
The preface says,
In the face of the new atheists’ claim that evolution has rendered faith utterly redundant there is a flood tide arising that demands that Christians must embrace evolution or acknowledge that they are opposed to science. This book believes that this is a false premise. It is written to set out a clear theological framework on the relevant issues and to confront the questions that this gives rise to. It is written with a compelling conviction that science and faith are not in opposition. It is written by theologians who are committed to the authority of Scripture and to the exercise of careful exegesis. It is written by scientists who are fully persuaded of the importance of rigorous scientific investigation but who are dissatisfied with the arbitrary exclusion of possible conclusions and the failure to follow the evidence wherever it leads. This is not written for a select readership that already has expert knowledge of the subjects. It is written for ordinary men and women, who have the capacity to weigh the information, seek further clarification and draw their own conclusions.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Saturday, 5 September 2009
"Religion is man searching for God; Christianity is God seeking man, manifesting Himself to him, drawing Himself unto him." - Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Friday, 4 September 2009
Take a look at this elevation profile of the run...
That's just over a mile of continuous and steep uphill in mile 3 (380 foot gain, so average about 1 in 14), and then 2.5 miles of non-stop uphill at the end.
That hurt! I was so dozy after a day's teaching I just assumed in the first couple of miles that I must be getting a lot fitter rather than attributing it to the continual downhill which I'd not registered.... if I've ever run a more painful mile than mile 3, I can't remember it. Wow. It was also the slowest mile I've ever run, taking the title by a whopping 21 seconds - but miles 6 took the crown not much later, and mile 7 joined it amongst slowest ever miles 1, 2 and 3! (Though I was running with my work bag slung over my shoulder and the terrain was terrible because it had bucketed it down). But the feeling of satisfaction when my watch told me I'd completed the 7 miles was immense! When I saw that hill coming at about 4.5 miles I thought it was without a doubt all over, but a most welcome rush of endorphins arrived and got me through! I hope the person on the matatu (Kenyan minibus taxi) didn't mind me too much... but if you can't tolerate smelly people you wouldn't be on matatus...