Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Daily Devotional

The Day Is at Hand

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. (Romans 13:12)

John Piper

This is a word of hope to suffering Christians. It’s a word of hope to Christians who hate their own sin and long to be done with sinning. It’s a word of hope to Christians who long for the last enemy death to be overcome and thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).

How is it a word of hope for all these?

“The night” stands for this age of darkness and all its sin and misery and death. And what does Paul say about it? “The night is far gone.” The age of sin and misery and death is almost spent.

You might say that 2,000 years after Paul seems like a long dawn. From one standpoint it is. And we cry, How long, O Lord, how long will you let it go on? But the biblical way to think is different.

The key way it is different is that the day has dawned in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the end of this fallen age. He defeated sin and pain and death and Satan. The decisive battle is over. The kingdom has come. Eternal life has come.

And when dawn happens — as it did in the coming of Jesus — no one should doubt the coming of day. Not even if the dawn draws out 2,000 years. It is certain. The day has arrived. Nothing can stop the rising sun.

The Bureaucratic Hive At Work

Political Correctness Can Cost Lives

A New Zealand court case is proceeding which is likely to make the average citizen mad.  It concerns how parole is granted to imprisoned offenders.  In this instance a probation officer's critical report about a prisoner was removed from documentation by the Department of Corrections.  It is alleged that the Department at the time had a policy to get young offenders back out into the community as soon as possible.  One size fits all bureaucratic bungling and ineptitude.  How so?  Well, the prisoner in question was subsequently paroled and quickly went on to commit further violent offences.  
A probation officer suing his bosses for secretly removing safety warnings from a report to the Parole Board was proved right when the inmate attacked a man with a bottle just months after being released from prison.

The prisoner was jailed for attacking a man with a hammer in 2012, causing life-threatening injuries and previously stuck a knife in someone's ear. His probation officer Stan Gilmour assessed Rere Pumipi to be a high risk to the safety of the public but the paragraphs detailing the risk factors were removed from his probation report by his bosses.  These included references to alcohol and drug use, anger management and "deliberate steps to obtain weapons and use them". [NZ Herald]
In a rare move, the probation officer is taking his employer to court over the matter.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

How Has It Come to This . . . ?

An Insider's View of the Rise of Donald Trump

Campbell Brown

. . .  I really would like to blame Trump. But everything he is doing is with TV news’ full acquiescence. Trump doesn’t force the networks to show his rallies live rather than do real reporting. Nor does he force anyone to accept his phone calls rather than demand that he do a face-to-face interview that would be a greater risk for him. TV news has largely given Trump editorial control. It is driven by a hunger for ratings—and the people who run the networks and the news channels are only too happy to make that Faustian bargain. Which is why you’ll see endless variations of this banner, one I saw all three cable networks put up in a single day: “Breaking news: Trump speaks for first time since Wisconsin loss.” In all these scenes, the TV reporter just stands there, off camera, essentially useless. The order doesn’t need to be stated. It’s understood in the newsroom: Air the Trump rallies live and uninterrupted. He may say something crazy; he often does, and it’s always great television.

This must be such a relief for the TV executives managing a business in decline, suffering from a thousand cuts from social media and other new platforms. Trump arrived on the scene as a kind of manna from hell. I admit I have been surprised by the public candor about this bounty. A “beaming” Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, told New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg, “These numbers are crazy—crazy.” But if their bosses are frank about the great ratings, some of my friends left at the cable networks are in various degrees of denial. “Give me a break,” one told me. “You can’t put this on us. Reality has changed because of technology. Look at the White House. They’re basically running their own news organization. They bypass us every day. We’re just trying to keep up.”

And then there’s this attempt to put the best face on things, which is the most universal comment I hear: “At least this shows how much we still matter.”  But do we really matter—except as a free-media platform for a presidential candidate who almost every journalist knows could destroy the country if he ever got into the White House?

It’s OK to admit it. The bosses are saying it out loud. Take CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves on the Trump phenomenon: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Daily Devotional

No Prosperity Gospel

"Thou art my hope in the day of evil."
Jeremiah 17:17

Charles H. Spurgeon

The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God's Word, "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;" and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be "As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," yet sometimes that light is eclipsed.

At certain periods clouds cover the believer's sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the "green pastures" by the side of the "still waters," but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, "Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen." Oh! say not so, thou who art walking in darkness.

The best of God's saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God's full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

Myths Which Dominate Our Culture

Living the Good Life

Scientism is the belief that the only existing reality is matter, time, space, and waves.  One can learn truths and make discoveries about matter by means of physical sciences.  There is no other way to truth and knowledge.  

All materialists are expositors of the philosophy of scientism, or when inconsistent with the hard, brute realities of scientism, they become mere sentimentalists.  Imagine the materialist scientist professing his devotion and love to a female who has caught his eye.  "Why do you want to shack up with me?", she inquires.  "Will your love be exclusive, permanent--the love of lifelong fidelity--or will it be the passing moment of a biological urge?"

"Ah, my dearest, I love you," he breaths fervently.  But as materialists both the breather and the one breathed upon know that he is lying and his words are mere vanity.

Monday, 2 May 2016

All's Well That Ends Well

Getting Them Out Alive

The rescue of an American mother and daughter from death by exposure over the weekend has been grabbing national attention.  The discovery and rescue of the missing trampers (hikers) occurred in the notorious Tararua Ranges, north of Wellington.  

The Tararuas are a beautiful, breathtaking range of hills.  They are home to some of the most magnificent red deer in the country.  They provide up in the tops some of the most breathtaking views in the lower North Island.  But they can be unforgiving if the weather turns unexpectedly, or if you wander off the track. Carolyn and Rachel Ward followed a set of markers away from the track (they turned out to be different coloured markers to assist possum exterminators).
The family of an American mother and daughter rescued after they spent four near-freezing nights in the New Zealand bush have thanked those involved in bringing them to safety.  Carolyn Lloyd carried her starving and exhausted daughter Rachel, 22, on her back as the pair tried to escape the Tararua Forest where they got lost during a hike on Tuesday.  The women strayed from the path on what was supposed to be a one-day hike.  [NZ Herald]
 While not particularly well equipped (beware the apparent safety of the "one day hike"), once lost they did most things right.  They kept their heads, stayed together, supported each other, rationed scarce food, and (most of all) used branches to spell out a large "Help" on the ground, which was eventually spotted by a searching helicopter.  For the search and rescue operators it was a textbook operation.

Daily Devotional

False Kindness

C. S. Lewis

Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. For about a hundred years we have so concentrated on one of the virtues—“kindness” or mercy—that most of us do not feel anything except kindness to be really good or anything but cruelty to be really bad. Such lopsided ethical developments are not uncommon, and other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities. And if one virtue must be cultivated at the expense of all the rest, none has a higher claim than mercy. . . . 

The real trouble is that “kindness” is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that “his heart’s in the right place” and “he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature. We think we are kind when we are only happy: it is not so easy, on the same grounds, to imagine oneself temperate, chaste, or humble. You cannot be kind unless you have all the other virtues. If, being cowardly, conceited and slothful, you have never yet done a fellow creature great mischief, that is only because your neighbour’s welfare has not yet happened to conflict with your safety, self-approval, or ease. Every vice leads to cruelty.

The Problem of Pain. Copyright © 1940, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Unlocking The Potential in the Creation

Change We Can Believe In

Sheik Yamani once cryptically said, "The age of oil will inevitably come to an end but not for lack of oil."  The Sheik was a smart man who had more than a basic understanding of economics and history.  On this point he was much wiser than most modern politicians, bureaucrats, and academics who show repeatedly that they have very little understanding of markets, economics, and the history of technological development.  Malthusianism remains alive and well.

The Sheik knew what should have been obvious to all adults.  The age of the horse came to an inglorious end, but not because of lack of fecundity in the species.  The age of sail ended, but not for lack of wind.  The age of steam came to an abrupt end, but not for lack of wood.  The age of coal began petering out decades ago, but not for lack of the hard black stuff.  Oil and gas took over.  But the age of both will come to an end as new, cheaper technologies emerge.

One apparently significant (and recent) technological development gives a clue to at least one technological advance that will help make oil redundant: batteries are changing.  Consider the following:

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Signs of the End of the Communist Dynasty

Resting But Not Retired

The Growing Burden of China’s Freeloading Officials

By Juliet Song,
Epoch Times

A recent article by a Chinese civil servant lamenting the employment policies that coddle the masses of officials and other state-sponsored personnel as a dead weight upon the national economy and a gross social wrong.

“I feel guilty to those hard-working taxpayers,” the confession says. “They toil from dawn to dusk; why on earth should they have to support us, people who hold the office without lifting a finger, with their hard-earned money?”

Chinese delegations sleep as they attend the opening session of the National People's Congress, or parliament, on March 5, 2007 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images)
The piece, first published in China’s Information Times on April 10, takes aim at the issue of civil servants who, having reached a certain degree of seniority, are reassigned to ornamental positions while continuing to receive full salary and benefits. This status is swallowed up in a Chinese phrase that means “resting but not retired.”

Daily Devotional

We Must Be Hatched

C. S. Lewis

The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, ‘Be perfect,’ He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Language and Number

Masters of Language

One of the strong positives of the Cambridge school curriculum is that it is focused upon core subjects.  The core represents subject areas which are the basis for all other learning and knowledge.

Modern, secular education in the government schools is being ruined by curriculum inflation.  Now there are endless choices, options, and multi-form subject areas.  Even the best students are left knowing a little about many subjects, but with little competence over any..  Modern education, as the proverb has it, risks leaving a student as "Jack of all trades, Master of none."

The subject core of the Cambridge curriculum is language, number, and science.  Every year builds upon this core, with all other subjects "tucked" around it.

Here is an example from one Christian school, using the Cambridge curriculum.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Au Contraire

Contrarian Peter Hitchens Confirms What The Wise Already Know

The United States Has Always Been Self-Interested

Now will we grasp that the United States is not our friend, but a foreign country whose interests are often different from ours?  President Obama’s blatant intervention in our internal affairs is not a sudden breach of a soppy ‘special relationship’. The USA’s only real special relationship is with Saudi Arabia, a 70-year-old hard pact of oil, money and power, welded together with such cynicism it ought to make us gasp.

Barack Obama’s open desire for us to stay inside the EU is by no means the first or worst example of White House meddling here in these islands. Bill Clinton forced us to cave in to the Provisional IRA in 1998 and his successor, George W. Bush, continued the policy by making us do Sinn Fein’s bidding afterwards.

Washington came close to scuppering our recapture of the Falklands in 1982. And with the current state of our Armed Forces, which can nowadays do nothing without American support, I often wonder how the White House and the Pentagon would behave if Argentina once again seized Port Stanley.  If anyone thinks Hillary Clinton is a great friend of Britain, they’re in for a big surprise.

But surely the Americans fought with us shoulder to shoulder against the Kaiser and Hitler? Not exactly.

Daily Devotional

The Greatest Guest

"If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him."
Revelation 3:20

Charles H. Spurgeon

What is your desire this day? Is it set upon heavenly things? Do you long to enjoy the high doctrine of eternal love? Do you desire liberty in very close communion with God? Do you aspire to know the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths? Then you must draw near to Jesus; you must get a clear sight of him in his preciousness and completeness; you must view him in his work, in his offices, in his person.

He who understands Christ, receives an anointing from the Holy One, by which he knows all things. Christ is the great master-key of all the chambers of God; there is no treasure-house of God which will not open and yield up all its wealth to the soul that lives near to Jesus. Are you saying, "O that he would dwell in my bosom"? "Would that he would make my heart his dwelling-place forever"? Open the door, beloved, and he will come into your souls. He has long been knocking, and all with this object, that he may sup with you, and you with him. He sups with you because you find the house or the heart, and you with him because he brings the provision. He could not sup with you if it were not in your heart, you finding the house; nor could you sup with him, for you have a bare cupboard, if he did not bring provision with him.

Fling wide, then, the portals of your soul. He will come with that love which you long to feel; he will come with that joy into which you cannot work your poor depressed spirit; he will bring the peace which now you have not; he will come with his flagons of wine and sweet apples of love, and cheer you till you have no other sickness but that of "love o'erpowering, love divine." Only open the door to him, drive out his enemies, give him the keys of your heart, and he will dwell there forever. Oh, wondrous love, that brings such a guest to dwell in such a heart!

Heady Times

Living Amidst a Kuhnian Scientific Revolution

Amongst scientists and the various scientific disciplines, evolutionism--as a cosmology--is collapsing.  The evolutionist paradigm is falling apart.  The more strident the secular evolutionists become on the matter, the more they betray their deepest doubts and uncertainties.  

Most scientific paradigms do not collapse due to a full scale frontal assault from a competing paradigm.  Usually they collapse from within.  Those who once held the reigning paradigm, who had been card carrying members of the Association of the Ruling Paradigm, begin to find data and results and research that just "does not make sense" in view of current received wisdom.  The disquiet grows gradually.  Usually, the stridency of the ruling paradigm is toned down.  Folk don't discuss it much in polite scientific society.  It becomes a bit of an ugly cousin no-one talks about much any more.  It takes on the characteristic of a myth, a just-so story which no-one really believes "nowadays".

The textbooks used in schools and colleges which teach the incumbent paradigm are the last to change.  They represent the "establishment", particularly the State establishment.  It is here that the incumbent paradigm becomes "official".  State schools use state approved textbooks.  State textbooks teach the dominant paradigm.  State schools and state textbooks are usually the last to hear about a scientific revolution overthrowing the existing paradigm because neither the State, nor State schools are engaged in real science.  Rather, they represent the propagandists for the incumbent view.  As a paradigm is being overthrown, real scientists distance themselves, grow quiet, and adopt a "yes, but" mien towards the ruling official view.

This is the state of the current evolutionist paradigm.  It is crumbling from within.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Jane Austen and Our Culture of Feeeeelings

Doug Wilson

As I noted in my brief review of Pride and Prejudice below, Jane Austen is amazing. A truly wise woman, she wrote a novel of two kinds of people — people who change and grow, and people who do not. This is simply another way of marking those who are capable of repentance and those who are beyond repentance, those who come to see themselves accurately and those who are utterly incapable of doing so.

The latter group is represented well by Lydia — “Lydia was Lydia still.” And of course, the same thing can be said about Mr. Collins, who doesn’t budge, and Lady Catherine, who continues to condescend from the mount, and Mrs. Bennett, who carefully cultivates her nursery of nerves, and Mary, who perseveres in delivering sententious bromides, and so on. Folly is a constant in this book. Aping the immutability of God, the folly here seeks to be without any variation or shadow due to change.Eliza Bennett

But Eliza Bennett comes to repent of her prejudice, and the folly of having been misled by appearances. Mr. Darcy repents of his pride, having been properly humbled by Eliza. They change. They repent. They come to terms with the world as it actually is, instead of the world as they thought it was.

But there is another layer to Austen’s wisdom.

Daily Devotional

Paul’s Salvation Was for You

But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16)

John Piper

Paul's conversion was for your sake.

I want you to take this very personally. God had you in view when he chose Paul and saved him by sovereign grace.  If you believe on Jesus for eternal life — or if you may yet believe on him for eternal life — Paul’s conversion is for your sake. It is to make Christ’s incredible patience vivid for you.

Paul’s pre-conversion life was a long, long trial to Jesus. “Why do you persecute me?” Jesus asked. “Your life of unbelief and rebellion is a persecution of me!” Paul had been set apart for God since before he was born. So all his life was one long abuse of God, and one long rejection and mockery of Jesus who loved him.

That is why Paul says his conversion is a brilliant demonstration of Jesus’ patience. And that is what he offers you today.

It was for our sake that Jesus did it the way he did it. To “display his perfect patience” to us. Lest we lose heart. Lest we think he could not really save us. Lest we think he is prone to anger. Lest we think we have gone too far away. Lest we think our dearest one cannot be converted— suddenly, unexpectedly, by the sovereign, overflowing grace of Jesus

Greenist Nonsense

Fighting Over the Water Bottle

We have long suspected that whenever a Greenie's skin is scratched, underneath one finds a luddite.  Greenists have a hatred of economic development and the useful exploitation of earth's rich resources.  Moreover, most Greenists are wedded to the neo-platonic idea that the real is the non-tangible, the ethereal, the realm of the Idea.  

In a word, Greenists are fundamentally uncomfortable with human beings and sentient animal life.  Take humans.  They drink pure clean water, and express it as toxic polluted water, urine.  They eat natural greens and express them as toxic malodorous waste.

Starting with this cluster of misanthropic ideas, the Greenists have very little to contribute to political discourse or social organisation that is helpful and positive.  Moreover add to this mess of pottage a hatred of other people's property and wealth, along with a deep loyalty to Marxist ideologies, and one reluctantly concludes that there is little positive contribution a Greenist can make to the body politic.  As one cynic observed, Greenists are so anti-human the best they could make to society would be to live out their ideology in a consistent way by breathing their last.  On their own terms they could "help save the planet" by suicide.

The latest brouhaha is over bottled water.  Actually, it's not a brouhaha over bottled water: its anger at some people making a profit out of selling water.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Fundamentals of Christian Social Ministry

The Priority of Adoption

An urgent meeting place for Christians

Russell Moore Interview
National Review Online

There was a wonderful Protestant gal who worked as the National Review Washington, D.C., manager a few years back who was adamant that if Christians took their duties seriously there would be no such thing as an orphan. Children would have loving homes. We would make sure that all children know they are loved by God Himself.

She had a point. It’s one that Focus on the Family devotes some focus to. It’s a subject that didn’t necessarily make headlines in Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on love and marriage and the family — Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) — last week, but it was an important piece of his message. He wrote, in part:

Daily Devotional

The Place of Power

"Who is even at the right hand of God."
Romans 8:34

Charles H. Spurgeon

He who was once despised and rejected of men, now occupies the honourable position of a beloved and honoured Son. The right hand of God is the place of majesty and favour. Our Lord Jesus is his people's representative. When he died for them, they had rest; he rose again for them, they had liberty; when he sat down at his Father's right hand, they had favour, and honour, and dignity. The raising and elevation of Christ is the elevation, the acceptance, and enshrinement, the glorifying of all his people, for he is their head and representative.

This sitting at the right hand of God, then, is to be viewed as the acceptance of the person of the Surety, the reception of the Representative, and therefore, the acceptance of our souls. O saint, see in this thy sure freedom from condemnation. "Who is he that condemneth?" Who shall condemn the men who are in Jesus at the right hand of God?

The right hand is the place of power. Christ at the right hand of God hath all power in heaven and in earth. Who shall fight against the people who have such power vested in their Captain? O my soul, what can destroy thee if Omnipotence be thy helper? If the aegis of the Almighty cover thee, what sword can smite thee? Rest thou secure. If Jesus is thine all-prevailing King, and hath trodden thine enemies beneath his feet; if sin, death, and hell are all vanquished by him, and thou art represented in him, by no possibility canst thou be destroyed.

"Jesu's tremendous name
Puts all our foes to flight:
Jesus, the meek, the angry Lamb,
A Lion is in fight.

"By all hell's host withstood;
We all hell's host o'erthrow;
And conquering them, through Jesu's blood
We still to conquer go."

The Enlightenment's Pretension

Shattered Dreams

Judd Owen has written a plaintive book trying to reconstruct the Enlightenment Mind after it has been ravaged by the acids of post-modernism.  It is a noble venture, doomed to failure.  But the author's effort is heroic, akin to the Charge of the Light Brigade into the valley of death.  It's hard not to feel sympathetic.

The fundamental problem is that the Enlightenment Mind asserted the objective authority of human reason.  Truth and Reason were roughly equivalent concepts.  If something were rational, it must be true.  Yet we now all know this is a nonsense.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

All Religions Are the Same--Or Not

Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Believe in the Same God?

Dennis Prager
National Review Online

Most Americans say they believe in God. And around the world, religious Jews, Christians, and Muslims all say they believe in God, as do many people who do not identify with any formal religion.

But this statement is actually meaningless. To cite but one example, the God in whose name Muslims cut innocent people’s throats and rape women cannot be the same God as the God of those who believe that God hates such actions.

Who, then, argues that all those who say they believe in God believe in the same God?

Two groups make this argument. The first consists of people who have an anti-religious agenda; in order to discredit God and religion, they say that all believers believe in the same God. The second group consists of people who have an “inclusion” agenda and wish to depict Muslims as believing in the same God that Jews and Christians do. (And some Muslims do indeed believe in the same God as Jews and Christians — see below.)

So, then, how are we to know whether any two people who say they believe in God in fact do?

Daily Devotional

The Key to Radical Love

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12)

John Piper

One of the questions I posed recently, while preaching on loving our enemies from Matthew 5:44, was, How do you love the people who kidnap you and then kill you?  How can we do this? Where does power to love like this come from? Just think how astonishing this is when it appears in the real world! Could anything show the truth and power and reality of Christ more than this?

I believe Jesus gives us the key to this radical, self-sacrificing love in the very same chapter.

In Matthew 5:11–12, he again talks about being persecuted. What is remarkable about these verses is that Jesus says that you are able not only to endure the mistreatment of the enemy, but rejoice in it. This seems even more beyond our reach. If I could do this — if I could rejoice in being persecuted — then it would be possible to love my persecutors. If the miracle of joy in the midst of the horror of injustice and pain and loss could happen, then the miracle of love for the perpetrators could happen too.

Jesus gives the key to joy in these verses. He says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” The key to joy is faith in God’s future grace — “your reward is great in heaven.” I believe this joy is the freeing power to love our enemies when they persecute us. If that is true, then the command to love is a command to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth (Colossians 3:2).

The command to love our enemy is a command to find our hope and our satisfaction in God and his great reward — his future grace. The key to radical love is faith in future grace. We must be persuaded in the midst of our agony that the love of God is “better than life” (Psalm 63:3). Loving your enemy doesn’t earn you the reward of heaven. Treasuring the reward of heaven empowers you to love your enemy.

One Brick At a Time

Here a Little; There a Little

There is an old adage that says the only way to change society is to change one life at a time.  This is why the family is such a powerful socialising institution: it brings concentrated, focused help to individuals (children growing into adults) over a long period of time.  The opposite is also true.  When families are dysfunctional the bad outcomes are as devastating to society as their opposites.  A child growing up in such an environment is normally transformed into an habitually bad citizen.  

No state programme can compensate or replace the family--for good or bad.  Once a bad citizen has become an adult, it's far better to focus upon small interventions over long periods.  Here is an example:

Literacy changing lives at Tongariro Prison

A student at Tongariro Prison believes his life has changed since learning to read.  For six months the student, who is being referred to as Sam for privacy reasons, has been participating in the Howard League Literacy Programme delivered by volunteers.

About 70 per cent of prisoners have low levels of reading and writing.  Volunteer Sandra works with Sam once a week.  "Before I started learning with Sandra, I would not even attempt to try and read, I used to push books and papers away," Sam said.  "I did not enjoy learning [but] I can now read words and I have even written a letter to my mother."

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Infamy That is in Norway

The Gestapo Redivivus 

To Think that the Allies Shed Blood and Lost Treasure To Defend This Country

By Jayme Metzgar
The Federalist

Scandinavia is in vogue on the American Left. Throughout this campaign season, Bernie Sanders and his disciples have pointed to the region as a shining example of their vision for “democratic socialism.” (After all, images of quaint Nordic streets are far more appealing than disaster zones like Venezuela.) While opinions vary on just how economically socialist Scandinavia really is, its nations undoubtedly offer a far more comprehensive social safety net than the United States.

But a recent child welfare controversy in Norway shows the dark side of this utopia. When government assumes a “nanny state” responsibility for its citizens, it also tends to assume a frightening degree of control over their daily lives. The results can be devastating—and decidedly undemocratic.

Sphere Sovereignty

The Bulwarks of Liberty

In order for civil freedom to flourish there has to be a widespread social consensus amongst the governed that the authority of governors is necessarily limited.  Democracy provides no such limitation.  In its brute form, democracy introduced the tyranny of the 51 percent.  The earliest democracies in Ancient Greece--in Athens--practised just such a democratic tyranny.  If more than 50 percent so voted, the victim could be exiled or executed at whim.  Justice had nothing to do with it.

The doctrine of political and government power being necessarily limited can only arise in human society when it is known and believed that God is the Judge of all men and human societies.  But this in itself, whilst necessary, is not sufficient.  It must also be known and believed that God has appointed a wide range of authorities within  the kingdoms of this world to serve Him and represent Him.  State power is always, thereby limited, because it "shares" power with a plurality of powers; the State is one such power, but only one.  There are many other divinely appointed powers.

In developing this truth, it was the Calvinistic Dutch theologians of the early twentieth century who introduced the concept of "sphere sovereignty".  God had established spheres of sovereignty in human society, each answerable to Him.  The Church, the civil state, the family, the individual soul, the market place, the school, the charitable/voluntary sector--each represented a God-ordained and protected sovereign sphere of social authority.  The state and the church may not intrude upon family life and family sovereignty--and so on.

Where God commands the family to live and act in a certain way, the State cannot prevent or outlaw the family thus acting.  To the extent that it does, the State is rebelling against God Himself.

In an organic society, the spheres of social action are always brushing up against each other, and interacting.  There is always tension between the respective rights of each sovereign sphere.  Each free society will work out its own particular dynamic tension between the spheres.  One free nation will differ from another at the margins.   But a free society cannot remain free without constitutionally enshrining the sovereignty of each respective sphere.  There is a separation of church and state; of state and family; of church and family--and so forth, while together they all make up the organic whole of society.

Without such truths and doctrines, power tends to aggregate towards the State.  Absolutism is the eventual consequence.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Savior of the World

Douglas Wilson


As we come to the conclusion of our study of kingdom optimism, the best summary would be to turn in order to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. When we think through these issues carefully, we must recognize that the basic issue is really the view we have of our Lord Jesus.

At the same time, we want to guard our hearts so that we don’t fall into the trap of covenantal presumption.

The Text:

“Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s Son. He will judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice . . . In his days shall the righteous flourish; And abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the river unto the ends of the earth . . . And blessed be his glorious name for ever: And let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen” (Ps. 72:1-20).

Jesus Christ is Lord of All:

Consider what Paul tells us in Philippians 2:9-11. At the name of Jesus, every knee is to bow, and not just those in heaven. In heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, let Jesus Christ be praised. We are seeking nothing less than to exalt Him in every place.

That at the Name of Jesus . . .

Jesus Christ is Savior of the world—“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). Jesus did not come in order to try to save the world, if the uncooperative world would only let Him. He came to save the world;

Daily Devotional

On God

C. S. Lewis

It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out!” we cry, “it’s alive.” And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back—I would have done so myself if I could—and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal God”—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless life- force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us!

From Miracles
Compiled in Words to Live By
Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Copyright 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Revised 1960, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Self-Destruction on a Grand Scale

Holding On to the Grenade Too Long

David Hume was (and is) the enfant terrible of modern philosophy.  His scepticism was (and is) like an acid which corroded much of what went before and came after.  By putting up a barrier between the mind (rational thought) and the senses, such that there is no necessary connection between the two, he scared Western philosophers so profoundly they all got a bad case of the heebie jeebies.  Empiricism devolved into scepticism.  

The way a good many of his successors dealt with his scepticism was to ignore it.  Actually, Hume ended up ignoring it for a large part of his output.  He could not help himself.  He retreated to the  more positive, safer realm of championing empiricism--the championing of knowledge through the application of our senses to the world around us.  But he had to assume there was a connection between rational thought and empirical observation.  He also had to assert there was a connection between cause and effect that held whether empirically observed or not.

He dismissed non-empirical philosophy in a grand manner:
. . . if we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity and number?  No.  Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of matter of fact and existence? No.  Commit it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. [An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.]
 Beware the universal acid--that acid so corrosive it cannot be contained and which in the end destroys all.  As Berlinski pointed out, with respect to Hume:
Analytical philosophers have been eager to commit books to the flames ever since [Hume], rather an odd vocational choice, all things considered.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Trump the Anomic Dope

Embarrassing Advocate

One wonders how Sarah Palin and Dr Ben Carson are feeling about now.  They have both endorsed Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.  Trump came out yesterday and supported the notion that public restrooms be open to whomever.  If men want to go to a women's toilet they can. No probs.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law that prohibits “cities from allowing transgender individuals to use public bathrooms for the sex they identify as.”

Here is Trump at his most lucid on the matter:

Daily Devotional

Our Great Dread

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On the hard task of learning to depend only on God and on nothing and no one else.  
6 December 1955

C. S. Lewis

I was most distressed by the news in your letter of Dec. 2nd. . . . And I can’t help you, because under the modern laws I’m not allowed to send money to America. (What a barbarous system we live under. I knew a man who had to risk prison in order to smuggle a little money to his own sister, widowed in the U.S.A.) By the way, we mustn’t be too sure there was any irony about your just having refused that other job. There may have been a snag about it which God knew and you didn’t.

I feel it almost impossible to say anything (in my comfort and security—apparent security, for real security is in Heaven and thus earth affords only imitations) which would not sound horribly false and facile. Also, you know it all better than I do. I should in your place be (I have in similar places been) far more panic-stricken and even perhaps rebellious.

For it is a dreadful truth that the state of (as you say) ‘having to depend solely on God’ is what we all dread most. And of course that just shows how very much, how almost exclusively, we have been depending on things. That trouble goes so far back in our lives and is now so deeply ingrained, we will not turn to Him as long as He leaves us anything else to turn to. I suppose all one can say is that it was bound to come. In the hour of death and the day of judgement, what else shall we have? Perhaps when those moments come, they will feel happiest who have been forced (however unwillingly) to begin practising it here on earth. It is good of Him to force us: but dear me, how hard to feel that it is good at the time....

All’s well—I’m half ashamed it should be—with me. God bless and keep you. You shall be constantly in my prayers by day and night.

The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.