Friday, 25 January 2013

Sermon application

Preachers: If somebody knew nothing about the people which you preach to, except that he was given 10 of your sermons...

... then would he have a good picture of the particular struggles of your flock, living in the specific situation of your culture and sub-cultures, after listening to them? After listening, would he be able to say, "Well, the particular pressures for someone living there are this, this and this, and examples of what kind of temptation comes along commonly is that one and that one, because in their society the world is pressuring with this and the other..."

I submit that that's basically a litmus test of whether the preacher is applying his preaching.

One-way traffic

One of the world's present ploys to undermine Christianity is, to brandish everything that they disagree with as mean, bigotted, narrow.

Not many people like being called nasty names, so there's the temptation to soft-pedal, down-play, compromise.

However, this traffic is one-way. When Christians critique contemporary society, the world feels little to no pressure to conform in the other direction. That's to be expected - it's the power of the Spirit of God bringing new life which brings true positive change, not words only. Unaccompanied words without the Spirit's blessing won't have a long-term effect in being salt and light in a corrupt society, much less in winning over the slaves of sin.

The long-term upshot of that is that Christians need to know where they stand, and hold the line. The rise of feminism has caused many evangelicals to be mealy-mouthed about the Bible's teaching on the role relationships of men and women, and especially male leadership. What did they get in return for their soft-pedalling? The world rewarded them by stepping up the ante to a new level - demanding that, since (allegedly) there are no differences between men and women, we must now be called nasty names unless we down-play the iniquity and unnaturalness of homosexuality. Many have trimmed their sails to this new wind, and speak only in terms of "not God's best" or using the language of psychological condition instead of human rebellion against God's holy law. Many no longer speak at all, in order to appear more winsome.

The compromise started much further back, when the world demanded that the speculations based on philosophical assumptions of naturalism should be received as "science", and that Christians should abandon their doctrine of creation. If we didn't, then they'd call us those rude names again (fundamentalist! Anti-science!). Very many agreed to do this, in order to keep up the general level of nice-ness. Didn't work; won't work; will never work. Well, it's apparently working for the world, because many churches which previously gave a clear voice now don't. It's working for them, not for us. When will we realise the rules of the game, and play with understanding? You can't win authentic disciples by equivocating the truth, because the content of authentic discipleship is necessarily and unalterably fixed by the word of God. You can't build the temple of God with the perishing materials of the present age's whims, because God has promised to bless the things the world calls foolishness.

So, which is it to be? Be mealy-mouthed so that the world gives you some empty praise for a few minutes before moving on to the next doctrine on which it demands you cave in? Or be faithful to Christ so that one day you will hear him say "Well done, good and faithful servant" and enter into the enjoyment of his everlasting glory?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Creation road trip

An interesting account of the dishonesty of secularist journalists and pro-evolution campaigners. Open, fair debate is one thing... what they get up to much of the time is something else.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Why free societies must ultimately be Christ-worshipping societies

I'm not making any particular comment either way on the rest of this article; though let me say that whilst the world has many reasons to be grateful for God's work in America, I also think the idea of "American exceptionalism" is both idolatrous and has been harmful to the world at times when Americans have gone to the mission field and been insensitive to cultural issues... but this quote is so spot-on that it deserves repeating again and again:
"Not having imbibed the Enlightenment foolishness that people are basically good, the founders understood that in order for a society to prosper without big government, its citizens have to hold themselves accountable to something other than — higher than — the brute force of the state."

Population drivel

David Attenborough is a very educated and travelled man ...

... so why is he spreading the myth that the world keeps being invited to solve the problem of famine in East Africa because of something inherently problematic about human population growth?

The hard truth is that the world keeps being invited to solve the problem of famine in East Africa, because the world keeps being willing to do so. The governments of Eastern Africa could easily solve those problems themselves. However, if they devoted their own budget and resources to doing so, then they'd reduce their own budgets and resources. It's simple economics. Since someone else (whether the World Food Programme or other UN branch, or private charity like Oxfam etc.) is already paying for this part of their budget, via the mechanism of disaster relief when the crisis comes, what would be the point in planning ahead. Other than some compassion for their own suffering peoples, that is... ? Sadly such compassion is not present in sufficient quantity to overturn the economic calculation being made.

If you bail me out every time I do X, then I have no incentive to invest my own resources in avoiding X. Follow the money and the thought-lines of selfish hearts.

It's a tricky problem now that we are in this situation, to work out how to extricate ourselves from it. I propose no easy answers. But I'm sure that picking on a convenient scape-goat as Attenborough does is not the answer.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Bad news for works-based religion

It appears that practically everyone who has been eating beef in the UK in recent times has also been eating pork; and a fair bit of horse, too.

As the article points out, that's very bad news indeed for devout Muslims. Diligently avoiding pork, they've been ... eating pork. Pork is unclean. That uncleanness is real, not symbolic. Coming into contact with it - regardless of your intention - defiles you before God.

That kind of problem is inevitable in any kind of religion in which you try to establish your own righteousness before God. You follow all the rules, try your best - but get caught out anyway. It's unavoidable; God never designed "the rules" for that purpose. True religion does not consist in behaving like unthinking trick ponies, following arbitrary rules to get the carrot instead of the stick.

The Old Testament banned pork for Old Testament Israel, for strategic and symbolic, didactic reasons. Such reasons all found their conclusion and end in Jesus Christ, the gracious Saviour. Our salvation is entirely gracious, not based upon our rigid adherence to laws which we'll inevitably break. The law of Christ is to rejoice in every good gift of God, as he freely and generously gives us all things to rejoice in and deploy for his glory in his creation, including bacon sandwiches. And horse burger.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

It was his love for us

Seen on a poster: "It was not the nails which held Christ to the cross - it was his love for us".

Friday, 11 January 2013

Re-educating society

BBC report: Kids need to see more gay people on TV
Children should be introduced to homosexuality from an early age on TV, according to a BBC report.
The BBC is free to conclude that children need to see more depravity on television. Parents are - and we are genuinely grateful for this - still equally free to conclude that their children don't need to watch any of the BBC. The gatekeepers of modern society want to put out the idea that "watching little or no television is weird". On the contrary, getting excessively interested in the story-lines of the lives of non-existent people in TV's endless dramas is weird. What's weird is to be deeply acquainted with the plot-lines of fictional stories, whilst not knowing the names of even a quarter of the people who live in the nearest 8 houses to yours.

Christian parents remain totally responsible for everything and everyone they welcome into their houses - whether actually, or virtually. If you let the BBC re-educate your children, then that's your responsibility before God. Saying "it's just what was on the box" is no excuse; the box is there because you bought it, licensed it, and set the rules about when it could or could not be watched. If evil people knocked on your door and said "please can we re-educate your children with our own humanist, secularist world-view?", would you say, "yeah, that's fine, as long as it keeps the children quiet and out of mischief?" What's the difference if the BBC request permission from you to do the same through the TV? (The only difference I can think of is that you're paying them for the privilege...)

TV itself is not evil; every technology, discovered through the study of the properties and potentials of God's world, can only be good in itself. It is sinful man who turns what is good to evil. And it is to be the task of Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus to act with wisdom and discernment, to separate between the good and the evil as it presents itself to us in daily life; and to re-orient the world towards righteousness, repentance and new life through the cross.

Form letters from Africa

Have you received a letter like the one below? (At the bottom) Or perhaps even the very same one?

Lovely, isn't it? Do you feel moved to respond?

Before you respond, pause and have a think...

  • He's a man with a professional occupation and a regular job. Yet he can't afford to buy a Bible - really?
  • He maintains a wife and six children, and has leisure time which he can afford to spend browsing the Internet for your website. Yet he can't afford to buy a Bible - really?
  • He's a man, allegedly, of such industry and effort that he can single-handedly build up a prospering church from nothing; but apparently that church can't afford to buy him a Bible. Or doesn't want to. Does that strike you as odd?
  • Oh - it's a one-man ministry; like so many of those in his part of the world; does that concern you?
  • He does not just want a Bible. He wants the most expensive ones he could find. Does that surprise you? Those needy believers with no Bibles... they know exactly how to specify the deluxe model, and the best shipping methods? Is that interesting to you?
  • What do you expect he's planning to do with them? If you said "I expect he wanted the copious study notes", then can I presume that you've not spent much time in African churches?
  • I also removed the address. Nigeria. Nigeria and Kenya are the two epi-centres (though it's across all Africa now, from what I hear) of health-wealth charlatanism; for every honest and misguided man who sends an email like this, there are scores of charlatans who are simply "farming" from the cyber-cafes, to gain money dishonestly. The odds are that if you send something, you're funding and encouraging the growth of charlatanism. Do you want to do that?
Many of us in the West have been raised upon Live Aid. We are drilled by the present UK government with the idea that the more aid we give, the kinder we are. It's easier, after all, to just give than to discern.

Of course, there's only so much damage you can do with a Bible. I have given out Bibles reasonably freely in Kenya (normally a token contribution to prevent simple taking-for-resale) - but not the expensive study Bibles, which would certainly raise wrong expectations. But you should be aware that the man below has likely spent an afternoon or morning farming the web, copying-and-pasting this totally impersonal email to a hundred people. Two may respond. Those contacts will be carefully cultivated; Bibles will just be the beginning. That's the hook. If you're caught, you may spend even a few years believing that you're performing a great ministry. When the bitter truth hits you, you'll be really sorry you didn't pay more attention to what I'm saying now.

The African church does not need your quick-and-easy donations and quick visits. It needs your best men to be sent to give their strength on the ground over a sustained period of time.

Dear friend in Christ,

Greetings in Jesus lovely name. I read about you online in your web and  thank God for meeting you and knowing about you. I pray my message finds  you doing well in Christ.

By His grace I’m a pastor in God’s vineyard. I was born-again in July  of 1985 at the age of twenty-three and married the same year and have  been blessed to see God work in many different ways for the last 27  years by the grace of God. My wife Helen and I are blessed with six  children. I have a certificate in College of Education and I teach as an  occupation in a primary school. My wife works at home for the children.  We are not rich in the things of this world but blessed in Christ. I was  called into the ministry in 2007 while still in another State. We moved  into Oredo Community December 2010. When we came in here there was no  single church in my quarters. My family and I would move 20 kilometers  to fellowship in another church. Because it was raining season most  times we would be unable to go to fellowship then we resulted to having  a fellowship in my sitting room. After three weeks of fellowship three  neighbours joined and then more and more people came in. We had about 12  persons in six weeks, it was then I had the calling to start a church  and we moved into a rented car park. In another three months the  fellowship grew to 20 and above. Today there are between 45 and fifty  members in the church. The name of the church is Believers Bible Church.

I have dedicated this ministry to reach unbelievers with the gospel of  Jesus Christ, teach people to become fully committed followers of Jesus  Christ through discipleship, and to help people build healthy and healed  families based on biblical values and principles. Most people here are  from disjointed polygamous family background and hence the need to teach  and focus on Christ based families. Matthew 6:33 is a powerful scripture  in my life. When I trust God enough to pursue His will for my life  first, everything else follows!

My major purpose of writing is to seek your help in the area of God’s  word the bible. We have many in our church mostly the elderly ones who  do not have bibles and cannot afford them. I am seeking your help for  5 Giant Print Bibles King James in English for such ones, even if they are  used bibles. I seek also for my personal use a good Study Bible  preferably Dake or Thompson Chain Reference Bible or any other study  Bible you know can be of blessing to me. This is our need and nothing  else. You can send this to us through the post office. Express Mail  International or Insured mail would be better and safer. My postal  address is (snip),  Nigeria.

We would be delighted to have you come to visit us, as much would be  accomplished for the Lord in our working together. Write soon and God  bless you.

Yours in Christ,

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Is the earth running out of resources?

"As much as half of all the food produced in the world - two billion tonnes worth - ends up being thrown away, a new report claims."

If trying to imagine how many people the present world food supply could supply, remember too all the food wasted through over-eating; 69.2% of Americans are overweight or obese.

Does this matter, or have any relevance on a Christian blog? First, Christians are called to responsible stewardship. Mankind is not the owner of the earth, but its steward. Moreover, he is a steward with a defined task - to fill the earth, order it, beautify it, and display God's glory in it - a task that now takes place through new, Spirit-filled lives as Jesus brings sinners to repentance and through sufferings to holiness. Secondly, Christianity has rivals; one of which is a false, pagan religion of creation-worship, a.k.a. Gaia worship. This does not see mankind as the earth's stewards, but as its inevitable pillagers and rapists. Man is the enemy, because he has allowed his population to grow beyond manageable and sustainable proportions. Facts are useful things to disprove that particular myth. Thirdly, facts like these can bring us to sorrow and godly repentance. How much of all our time, effort and resources are simply wasted? How much waste has foolishness and sin caused? An immense amount. How much more blessing would God's special creation, mankind, be enjoying if it acted with wisdom? Why do so very many go to sleep hungry, whilst others gorge themselves and throw much in the bin? Because of sin (and usually not just on one side). I spent a few hours today working on insurance - why is that needed? Mostly, because sin is in the world; and in my heart. But Jesus is a great Saviour.

A speaker heard earlier this week encouraged us to both fast and feast with Jesus. We mourn and fast because we're not yet at that consummation feast. We feast and rejoice because he's with us by his Spirit, and the day is fast approaching. The wisdom lies in knowing what occasion is suitable for each.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Christianity and the future

Christianity teaches believers to think about the long term. God has long - very long - range plans for the world. And they must succeed, because Jesus the Saviour is reigning.

Secularism, on the other hand, teaches you to think about ooh, this week and possibly the one after it. There's no grand force in overall control, so you'd better... panic! Do something, quick!!!

Case in point, just chosen as one example out of many:

Problem: some families don't take enough responsibility for their children
Solution: let's make it easier for families to not take responsibility for their children

What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Shepherds led by sheep

" It's the peoples' will, I am their leader, I must follow them." - Jim Hacker (

The above was penned by a writer as humour ...

... yesterday I saw a clip of a clergyman, speaking on the issue of "homosexual marriage". He said the same... but was deadly serious.

Rebuilding amidst the rubble

On a mailing list I'm on, some folk were saying that since the West is doomed, we should retreat from society and just try to teach individuals about salvation. To which I replied:
Let me say this: If you think a post-Christian society looks bad, you should see a pre-Christian one. The difference that Christianity still makes on British society today is colossal. If you don't       believe me, move to East Africa. We should certainly not give up on teaching Christians about what a Christian society would look like, and arguing in the public square for one, because Jesus still has all authority in heaven and on earth, and once the present form of Western civilisation collapses we will want our descendants to know what they are trying to rebuild amidst the rubble, rather than having them clueless because we only taught them about individual salvation.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

On Cranmer's cognitive dissonance

In this post, blogger "Cranmer" pays tribute to Rowan Williams' leadership of the Anglican communion. In his very next post, explains that "One must begin with the gospel; the all-sufficiency of Christ's mercy for salvation", going on to expound the truth of justification by faith alone, then lamenting that "it's a message that's been somewhat missing from the Church of England over the past decade."

Well, quite.

Even in 2013, you still can't have your cake and eat it. Either Christ is all, or Christianity is false. No Christian service is rendered to anyone by equivocating here. The very raison d'etre for "Christian leaders" is to hold up Christ so that all may know about who he is, what he has done, and what he now demands of humanity. Their purpose is to sound out a clear word about the glory of God's Son, and thus be either the savour of life bringing life, or the stench of death bringing death, depending on the heart of the hearer. Otherwise, they are (at best) just empty noises, however astute their reading of the political winds and ability to trim their sails accordingly may have been.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The year of our Lord, 2013

Each new year should begin with the remembrance that Jesus is Lord. He's not just the reason for "the season"; he's the reason for everything. Lots of churches again put the former on their posters and banners this year... and once more forgot the latter. A better start to the year would be to read Douglas Wilson, here.