Thursday, 27 December 2012

Lidija's hope

Father hunger

Following the appalling massacre in Conneticut, there's a debate in the media about the issues of gun ownership. And that's right. The murderer had a gun; a powerful one; should he? Should anyone? Discuss.

But I notice pretty much zero comment and debate on the fact that the murderer had no father in his life. That's the elephant in the room for the culture's gatekeepers.

Read this article and weep; it's full of staggering and shocking facts; here's just one - the majority of black children in America grow up with only one parent. Where's the shock and outrage from politicians, newspaper columnists, chat-show hosts etc. over that fact?

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Fake news

The top story on the Independent's website right now is a classic example of "fake news": Gay marriage: public say Church is wrong

The point of fake news is for campaigners masquerading as journalists to forward their campaigns.

Consider this alternative head-line: "Public is wrong, says church". That would be a bad of a "man bits dog" head-line, wouldn't it? A story not worth reading. But, of course, the two are entirely equivalent.

The Independent doesn't believe that the public is automatically right, of course; because it didn't bother writing "public say Stonewall is wrong" head-lines a few years ago, using such stories to try to ratchet up the pressure against the gay super-rights lobby. The Independent only selectively reports on who's not in the majority, when it suits their own preferences. That's why I call it "fake news". All newspapers do it; but do you spot when they're doing it to you?

Monday, 24 December 2012

O Holy Night

Somehow I remained entirely ignorant of this beautiful carol for at least the first 20 years of my life. Is my memory faulty, or was it Classic FM that popularised it?

It's a song that belongs with "Handel's Messiah"; it's part of the musical demonstration of the reality of God's being and glory. Last year I downloaded the rendition by "Il Divo". It's no coincedence that I just looked up the carol on YouTube and the first comment was "I don't believe in God. This video makes me reconsider."

There is no real beauty in the universe? Just nature red in tooth and claw, struggling to exist? Just illusions, tricks played on us by genes trying to perpetuate their existence? Nothing more, nothing to wonder at? If you can listen to this sung well and doubt the reality, then the location of the problem is not out there in the universe. The fact that the lyrics were written by a wine-seller, and that the version I brought was produced by a godless man as a money-making venture only goes to prove the truth of what is sung. Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, His power and glory ever more proclaim!
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Friday, 21 December 2012

The masters of nature

A very perceptive line by Theodore Dalrymple here:
We live in an age avid for scapegoats, perhaps because we want to believe that we have so mastered nature that we can control everything, and that therefore someone must be to blame if something goes wrong.
When man ceases to worship God, he starts to believe that he himself must be God.

That never turns out well, because man isn't God; he's not even man, in the fullest sense of what man was created to be.

The good news we remember and especially emphasise at Christmas is that God became man, in order to redeem man to the uttermost. There will come a time when we don't need to look for scapegoats; because behold, Jesus will have made all things new. He's the true master of nature, because he made it. Only the creator can redeem his creation; and he has, and will.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Evangelical blindness

The Bible clearly commands Christians to separate from the immoral and heretical.

That separation must take place in a proper manner, of course - which the Bible regulates. It's not the work of ten minutes, or based on the arbitrary declarations of private Christians. Sin must be brought to the church, and dealt with patiently and prayerfully there.

Sometimes the church refuses to deal with it, and then Christians must separate from the church. Or churches within a fellowship (denomination, organisation, etc.) must separate from that fellowship, if it refuses to deal seriously with sin.

For many years now it has been clear that certain denominations, including the Church of England and Church of Scotland, as a whole not only refuse to deal with certain obvious sins and false doctrines (such as sodomy and feminism), but that they actively promote them. The main ruling bodies of those denominations not only won't discipline anyone for promoting them; they actually approve of them. They have a few dissenters, but that's their settled position in the main, as shown by the decisions they hand down.

It's sad when evangelicals remain, to this day, so blind to this reality and manufacture endless excuses as to why their Biblical duty does not apply, or can be infinitely postponed. When they come out with preposterous nonsense about how the CoS or CoE each remain a "Reformed evangelical church", because there's some centuries-old paperwork that says so (or at least, it said so centuries ago). (Just like the Pharisees were all faithful Israelites because they sat in the seat of Moses... that's not how Paul or Jesus assessed them, is it? Is the Reformation Roman Catholic Church to be judged as basically Reformed or evangelical based upon the writings of Augustine etc.? Totally absurd, isn't it?). They come up with unending reasons why a body, such as the CoS, should still be considered a "faithful church" which they can remain joined with in good conscience, despite its refusal for generations to take a clear stand on that which actually defines a church - namely the gospel. Then they are surprised and wounded when the non-church actually behaves like one...

It's embarrassing when you end up with the unfaithful forcefully evicting the gospel believers who refused to face up to these unpalatable, awkward truths. When the non-church which took over the organisational structure so many moons ago finally evicts the remnants of the church who refused to face up to what was happening, the church acts as surprised, and cries foul. Oh dear! The "Tron" is full of people much better and much more fruitful than I. But if they invested millions of pounds in the CoS's building, whilst perpetually ignoring the Scriptural warnings, refusing to read the signs of the times and paying no attention to the implications of the red skies in the morning. At last the inevitable is arriving. Now that it is doing so, are they actually suffering for the faith, or just facing the very predictable consequences of their own refusal to practice Biblical separation and lack of wisdom? Should we honour their courageous stand, or shake our heads at their lack of Scriptural discernment and folly in investing so much time and effort in improving the facilities of a ship which was long holed below the water line and already tilted towards the ocean's bottom?

I note from that above link that the minister now fears being evicted from "their" manse. My dear brother, whose ministry has blessed thousands for every one that mine has blessed, wake up!

Monday, 10 December 2012

The right time

We heard some helpful words in the preaching yesterday. God is sovereign and does what he does always at the right time.

The preacher put us in the mind of Mary. Was it a good time to give birth?

Surely not, because she was not yet fully married. It would cause a scandal. She had not had the time to get to know her husband and settle down in a marriage. Moreover, she was far from home, in an unfamiliar town with a long journey to make to get there. She had just completed that journey when the time came. There was no room in the inn, and no kind person who would open their own to a heavily pregnant woman. There were no community mid-wives on hand or other friendly faces around to assist.

But it was the right time; the time that God had planned from ages past to bring his purposes to pass. Unexpected; troublesome for a godly labour; but part of the salvation of the world. Human wisdom will always get it wrong because it measures with human scales. God never does.

Fairness and greed

We hear a lot about "fairness" from politicians these days.

Often this seems to boil down to something not much more sophisticated than what parents often hear from their infants. "He's got more than me - not fair! Not fair!".

In other words, in these situations, what the world calls "fair" is what the Bible calls "selfishness", "greed" or "covetousness".

If someone has more than me, is that fair? If they or their ancestors earned it through legal enterprises then yes, perfectly. And it's none of my business. All the best to them. As Paul wrote, love wishes no ill to its neighbour.

If they gained it through illegal enterprises then the remedy is not for politicians to redistribute their wealth to me. I still haven't earned it, and it's still not mine. It's for policemen and judges to prosecute and confiscate and return to those who did earn it (still not me!) as the law demands.

But where the law contains no such demands, then all your or my whining about "fairness" is nothing more than an infant tantrum. In such cases, we need to grow up and mind our own business, as our mummies and daddies hopefully informed us.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Saving souls or redeeming society? Is this meant to be a choice?

I read this sentence on a mailing list I'm on:
I would argue that there is a case for accepting that western civilisation is post Christian and in terminal decline, and that rather than try
to redeem society we should instead concentrate on preaching the Gospel of repentance
That sentence seems to encapsulate a basic confusion amongst many believers today.

According to Jesus' plan and program, announced in the Great Commission, the nations are to become his disciples - through the preaching of the gospel and then the teaching of all things which he commanded. There will be much suffering and discouragement and disappointment; but fear not, because Jesus himself has promised to be with his people until the task is done.

Thus, the teaching of the gospel - the good news that Jesus himself is the living Lord who died on the cross and rose again to receive all authority in heaven and earth, the one who graciously offers us life in his new creation - is the basic tool for bringing about his purposes on earth. Not the labours of a sinless man; not the obedience of a hard-hearted people; but a Spirit-filled community who continually die and rise in union with Christ. As believers unpack the implications of the gospel, learning to obey all that Jesus taught, the world changes. That's actually what's been happening the last 2000 years. Through their faithful and patient sufferings as they take up the way of the cross, they (or rather Jesus in and through them) achieve what the first Adam never could, and which Israel under the law never could. They bring light to the nations, and bring the earth once again under the good rule of God, bringing joyful, heartfelt obedience to every place where they are led.

The above sentence which I've quoted seems to envisage something else. It seems to see the preaching of the gospel as a tool for something other than the putting-right-again of God's creation. Perhaps just the filling of the life-boats until something better comes along. Not creation renewed, but creation replaced. We give up on God's creation, and plan instead just to squirrel a remnant out of it before it is destroyed. Conversely, the quote seems to imply that "we" have been trying to redeem society, using some other tool other than the gospel preached and obeyed. I'm not sure what tool that is in the writer's mind, but it seems to be some kind of political action... but not a political action based firstly and foremostly upon the proclaimed fact that Jesus died and rose and now reigns from the throne-room of the universe. Politics played not according to Jesus' rules (patient, obedient suffering and proclamation of his Lordship), but according to the world's rules (the way of Machiavelli).

Too many believers have a basically Gnostic view of creation. Creation (in this view) is something lesser, something evil, something that we hope to escape from. It's just a waiting area until something other arrives. The second coming does not mean creation restored and renewed, but creation replaced. This leads to the above radical dichotomy between political action and gospel preaching. Two different things for different ends. But once you've grasped the Biblical view, the above phrase will strike you the same as if a man said "let's give up on trying to grow healthy fruit, and just concentrate instead on planting seeds". Huh?

The gospel does not dichotomise in this way. It is holistic. The lines of debate about the relationship between gospel preaching and social action often rather confuses me - not because I'm a liberal who thinks that the two are the same, but because I'm a Biblical Christian who thinks that Jesus owns everything, now, and that the saints are taking the rule through praying, obeying and suffering together with him.