Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Chinese Truculence.

No Advantage.  Only Losses.

China risks being cast as a "rogue state".  The occasion is the dispute over the Spratly Islands.  China is riding roughshod over its neighbours--taking on the mien of a bully.  It is demonstrating, either in ignorance or in deliberate intent, that it is not committed to the rule of (international) law.  

A UN international court has ruled in favour of the Philippines.
In the U.N. tribunal’s ruling, China’s claims to virtually the entirety of the South China Sea were dismissed by the 5-member tribunal as having no historical basis. It was also determined that the multiple artificial islands that have been built by and used as bases by the Chinese military do not constitute territory entitled to zones of economic exclusivity. Rather, they were found to be in violation of the sovereignty of the Philippines.  [Epoch Times]
China did not like the judgment, so it attacked the integrity of the court.  It said that the court was stacked against China; it was made up of judges hailing out of Europe.  Therefore, the decision was clearly part of a western plot.  This is the sort of thing one would have expected from Cuba (in former days) or more recently, from North Korea.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Putting Christians to Shame

Muslims Being Counted On Transgender Issues 

Christians Hide

For the church to be salt and light will require pastors who are prepared to contend with the brutal reality that salt stings wounds, and light blinds those who are committed to darkness.

By Kaeley Triller
The Federalist

By the time I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be fired, I had already cycled through all five stages of grief in rapid succession, the majority of my time being stuck in the bargaining phase: “Please, God. If you let me stay, I promise to conquer my apathy and start that office prayer group I’ve been avoiding” or “But, God, this place needs more Christians, and I’m a single mom. Surely you don’t want me to leave.”

Deep in my gut, my conscience was stirring, wrestling the ultimate bargain that seemed to somehow have become my life’s theme: Could I afford to speak up, knowing I would pay for it, or could I bite my tongue and keep my job? It should have been a relatively easy answer, but emotion and uncertainty plagued me.

I spent more than one night face-down on the bathroom floor, throwing my dramatic self before God and begging him for the direction he had already provided in spades. I just couldn’t still my anxiety long enough to hear it until one night while tucking my kids into bed and singing them to sleep. There, in the darkness, with chubby silhouetted arms stretched out toward heaven, their little voices sang out my marching orders with breathtaking clarity: “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

The choice was clear. I could live without my job, but not without a clean conscience. I was fired a few days later but quickly found myself employed as communications director for a statewide campaign to repeal the open locker room rule that had led to my termination in the first place. Having just lost my job of 17 years for defending females’ safety and privacy, it seemed fitting I’d win my new job for the very same reason.

Daily Devotional

As Straw For the Dunghill

"The daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee."  Isaiah 37:22

Charles H. Spurgeon

Reassured by the Word of the Lord, the poor trembling citizens of Zion grew bold, and shook their heads at Sennacherib's boastful threats. Strong faith enables the servants of God to look with calm contempt upon their most haughty foes. We know that our enemies are attempting impossibilities. They seek to destroy the eternal life, which cannot die while Jesus lives; to overthrow the citadel, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. They kick against the pricks to their own wounding, and rush upon the bosses of Jehovah's buckler to their own hurt.

We know their weakness. What are they but men? And what is man but a worm? They roar and swell like waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. When the Lord ariseth, they shall fly as chaff before the wind, and be consumed as crackling thorns. Their utter powerlessness to do damage to the cause of God and his truth, may make the weakest soldiers in Zion's ranks laugh them to scorn.

Above all, we know that the Most High is with us, and when he dresses himself in arms, where are his enemies? If he cometh forth from his place, the potsherds of the earth will not long contend with their Maker. His rod of iron shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel, and their very remembrance shall perish from the earth. Away, then, all fears, the kingdom is safe in the King's hands. Let us shout for joy, for the Lord reigneth, and his foes shall be as straw for the dunghill.

"As true as God's own word is true;
Nor earth, nor hell, with all their crew,
Against us shall prevail.
A jest, and by-word, are they grown;
God is with us, we are his own,
Our victory cannot fail."

Sweden Traverses the Arc

Devolution Before Our Eyes

We were reading a piece on Sweden recently that was entitled, "Sweden Lowers Intelligence Requirement For New Police Officers".  Hardly a promising outlook for Sweden, one would have thought.  However, the body of the article contained some information far more compelling--it offered an explanation as to why Sweden is needing more police officers and so has been considering lowering the entrance requirements..
In the forty years since the Swedish government decided to turn Sweden into a multicultural society, the rate of violent crime, and rape in particular, has soared to unprecedented levels. According to the Gatestone Institute, Sweden is now number two on the global list of rape by country, hitting 66.5 rapes per 100,000 people in 2012, second only to the tiny south African nation of Lesotho.

In 2014, some 6,620 rapes were reported in Sweden, up from 421 reported to the police in 1975, an increase of 1,472 per cent. Violent crime meanwhile has risen by 300 per cent in the same period. [Breitbart London]
If you are wondering which country sits at the top of the list of countries with a rape culture, to which Sweden has become a fast-following second, it is Lesotho, the land-locked state within South Africa.

The politically correct frame adorning most commentary upon Sweden is that it has achieved socialist paradise.  It is offered as a model of Progressivism, a blueprint for how gradualist, Fabian socialism can achieve the best outcomes possible for human society.   Socially liberal in almost all human lusts, wants, and desires, Sweden is also economically prosperous in the sense that one can live quite comfortably without working a day in one's life--so generous are the welfare transfer payments.  There appears to  be little lacking.

Yet, crime is rising.  Rape in particular.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Admiration For Ted Cruz Remains

In A Party Full Of Cowards, Cruz Stood Apart

If 2016 is a disaster, Cruz will be the only major Republican to emerge from the Trump fiasco with his principles intact.

David Harsanyi

Say what you will about Ted Cruz’s politics or personality, but it takes a special kind of badassery to stand up at a convention — in front of millions of viewers — and unfurl a comprehensive attack on the party’s nominee. It’s also unprecedented. Last night, Cruz gave a commanding and inclusive speech about conservative values. It was so good that the crowd forgot to boo until he was more than halfway finished.  
“Stand and speak and vote your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom.”
“Freedom matters, and I was part of something beautiful.”

All these words were broadsides against Donald Trump’s candidacy. By the end, the crowd tried to drown him out with boos and pro-Trump chants. Cruz’s wife had to be escorted out of the convention center because a mob of Trump fans was threatening her. A man in a donor suite had to be restrained when Cruz walked by. They don’t want something beautiful at the RNC, they want something angry.

Daily Devotional

Some "Rules" About Prayer

31 July 1954

C. S. Lewis

I am certainly unfit to advise anyone else on the devotional life. My own rules are (1) To make sure that, wherever else they may be placed, the main prayers should not be put ‘last thing at night’. (2) To avoid introspection in prayer—I mean not to watch one’s own mind to see if it is in the right frame, but al- ways to turn the attention outwards to God. (3) Never, never to try to generate an emotion by will power. (4) To pray without words when I am able, but to fall back on words when tired or otherwise below par. With renewed thanks. Perhaps you will sometimes pray for me?

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.

A Typical Profession of Faith of Our Age

An Apple Not Fallen Far From The Tree

In one of our local blogs, a contributor has taken it upon himself to profess his faith: he is an atheist and he wants all people to share his faith.  

Normally, we would pass this sort of thing by, but his contribution is worth thinking about if for no other reason than he represents the mindset, or we may say "blindset" that characterises so much Unbelief.  Here is a chap who confidently asserts what he believes, but without a skerrick self-awareness.

Here is his profession:
I’m a little worried about God.

Not only does God not exist, the reasons for needing him to exist are fast fading. The human race is approaching the end of its adolescent years and is heading for maturity. We have the ability to control our world. Only a couple of centuries ago, control was local, regional and for some European nations, pan continental. But now we all think in global terms.

Climate change is evidence of our race’s planet wide ability to get things wrong. But most of us believe we have the capacity to end global warming, though the willpower is still lacking. We aren’t waiting for God to step in, as once would have been the case.  [Your NZ]
The lack of self-awareness shows up in not realising that he has just made some statements that are thoroughly and profoundly religious.  This is not at all untypical. It is also getting close to the first signs of sociopathy.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Polar Trifecta

Ironies to the South and the North

A couple of years ago, we were treated to the ironic site of a bunch of climate change Chicken Littles heading off  to the Antarctic in a ship.  The intent was to demonstrate how much global warming had caused the ice in the south pole to attenuate away to, well, almost nothing.  Sadly, the ship became ice-locked.  With great embarrassment, the loonies returned to Australia having become the laughing stock of the world.  Not a bad achievement.

Now the feat is being matched at the North Pole.  Arctic ice we are relentlessly told is shrinking away to nothing due to global warming.  So, yet another "research" ship has set sail to see first hand the extent of ice degradation in the Arctic Sea.  You guessed it.  The ship is ice-bound.
A group of adventurers, sailors, pilots and climate scientists that recently started a journey around the North Pole in an effort to show the lack of ice, has been blocked from further travels by ice.  The Polar Ocean Challenge is taking a two month journey that will see them go from Bristol, Alaska, to Norway, then to Russia through the North East passage, back to Alaska through the North West passage, to Greenland and then ultimately back to Bristol. Their objective, as laid out by their website, was to demonstrate “that the Arctic sea ice coverage shrinks back so far now in the summer months that sea that was permanently locked up now can allow passage through.”

There has been one small hiccup thus-far though: they are currently stuck in Murmansk, Russia because there is too much ice blocking the North East passage the team said didn’t exist in summer months, according to Real Climate Science.  Real Climate Science also provides a graph showing that current Arctic temperatures — despite alarmist claims of the Arctic being hotter than ever — is actually below normal.

The Polar Ocean Challenge team is not the first global warming expedition to be faced with icy troubles. In 2013, an Antarctic research vessel named Akademik Shokalskiy became trapped in the ice, the problem was so severe that they actually had to rescue the 52 crew members.  In 2015 a Canadian ice breaking ship, the CCGS Amundsen, was forced to reroute and help a number of supply ships that had become trapped by ice.  [Daily Caller]

Daily Devotional

Models for Combating Discouragement

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

John Piper

Literally the verb is simply fail: “My flesh and my heart fail!” I am despondent! I am discouraged! But then immediately he fires a broadside against his despondency: “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

The psalmist does not yield. He battles unbelief with counterattack.

In essence, he says, “In myself I feel very weak and helpless and unable to cope. My body is shot and my heart is almost dead. But whatever the reason for this despondency, I will not yield. I will trust God and not myself. He is my strength and my portion.”

The Bible is replete with instances of saints struggling with sunken spirits. Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” This is a clear admission that the soul of the saint sometimes needs to be revived. And if it needs to be revived, in a sense it was “dead.”

David says the same thing in Psalm 23:2–3, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” The soul of the “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) needs to be restored. It was dying of thirst and ready to fall exhausted, but God led the soul to water and gave it life again.

God has put these testimonies in the Bible so that we might use them to fight the unbelief of despondency.

Soft-Despotism Hardening Up

When Sins are Criminalised

We were staggered to learn that at least one police force in the UK--Nottinghamshire Police--does not have enough to do.  The word is that Mr Plod in the 'shire is sitting in the station twiddling his thumbs, challenged with an acute case of boredom, and wondering if he should pursue another calling
But his inventive superiors, always looking for ways to keep the force busy, have come up with a doozy.  Whistling is about to be criminalised.  That will mean a whole new line of work for Mr Plod and his indolent colleagues.  Whistling in public, apparently, is one manifestation of misogyny.  And, let's be clear, misogyny is a haaaaate crime!
A police force has become the first in Britain to recognise misogyny as a hate crime, in an effort to make the county a safer place for women.  Nottinghamshire Police is recording incidents such as wolf-whistling, street harassment, verbal abuse and taking photographs without consent within the hate crime definition.  It also includes unwanted sexual advances, uninvited physical or verbal contact and using mobile phone to send unwanted messages.  [NZ Herald]
At this point we need to send out a warning to all the gypsy rovers in Nottinghamshire.  No whistling within the auditory orbit of any female--lest you be charged with a hate crime.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Letter From America (About Japan)

Japan Reverts to Fascism

Tsunami in Japanese politics.

By Josh Gelernter
National Review Online

This week, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party ("LDP") and its coalition partners won a two-thirds majority in the legislature’s upper house, to go along with their two-thirds majority in the lower house. A two-thirds majority is required in each house to begin the process of amending Japan’s constitution. And amending the constitution is one of the central planks in the LDP’s platform.

The constitution was imposed on Japan by the United States after the Second World War; it has never been amended. Why should it be amended now? As Bloomberg reports, the LDP has pointed out that “several of the current constitutional provisions are based on the Western European theory of natural human rights; such provisions therefore [need] to be changed.”

What has the LDP got against the “Western European theory of natural human rights”? you might ask. Well, dozens of LDP legislators and ministers — including Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe — are members of a radical nationalist organization called Nippon Kaigi, which believes (according to one of its members, Hakubun Shimomura, who until recently was Japan’s education minister) that Japan should abandon a “masochistic view of history” wherein it accepts that it committed crimes during the Second World War. In fact, in Nippon Kaigi’s view, Japan was the wronged party in the war.

Daily Devotional

The Rats Are Always There

C. S. Lewis

We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are.

This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.

Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.

In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

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.

So Much Simpler . . .

A Portrait of Courage

In early 1989, Myanmar was in turmoil.  The military government had cracked down hard on political dissent.  Aung San Suu Kyi, carrying her freedom by a slender thread, was touring the country speaking to groups of people, calling for basic human rights to be respected by the government and for free and fair elections.

On the 5th of April 1989 Aung San Suu Kyi was seconds away from being deliberately executed by soldiers.  She was touring the Irrawaddy District when a group of soldiers confronted Suu Kyi and her group.  Their commanding officer told his troops to train their rifles upon them.

Eyewitnesses recounted:
As she (Suu Kyi) was walking down the street with some followers during a campaign visit, six soldiers under the command of an Army captain jumped down from a jeep, assumed a kneeling position, and took aim at her.  She motioned her followers to wait on the sidewalk, and she herself walked down the centre of the road towards the soldiers.  "It seemed so much simpler to provide them with a single target than to bring everyone else in," she said.  [Recounted in Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom From Fear (New York: The Penguin Group, 1991), p. 340.]
It was at this point that a major arrived just before they fired and countermanded the order, doubtless sparing her life.  Small wonder she remains a living legend in her own country.  Travellers report that one can be sitting in cafes and restaurants, and locals will come up to converse, practising their English.  It is not long before they ask, "And have you heard of our Aung San Suu Kyi?"

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Obama and Obama Redux (Clinton) Cannot See What is Plainer Than Their Proboscises.

The Annals of Willful Blindness

By failing to take the jihadists’ ideology seriously, we refuse to understand the breadth of the threat we face.

Andrew McCarthy

Well into year eight of Obama, with the prospect of years nine through twelve hanging heavy in the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, it feels like I write the same column every few weeks now. How could it not? Fort Hood, Detroit, Times Square, Portland, Cairo, Benghazi, Boston, Garland, Paris, Chattanooga, Paris again, San Bernardino, Philadelphia, Brussels, Istanbul, Orlando, Istanbul again, Dhaka, and now, Nice. Even if we leave out the more overt war zones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Egypt, and Israel, the jihadist attacks targeting the West are coming in more rapid succession: iconic targets, dates of commemoration, diplomatic outposts, tourists, and citizens just going about their lives.

It is easy to grasp why this is the case. Willful blindness has metastasized from a dangerous dereliction of duty to a system of governance.

It was the wee hours of Friday morning, just after the Bastille Day jihadist mass-murder of at least 84 people. For Mrs. Clinton, that seemed the perfect time to take to Twitter and set the tone of the American response — the kind of resolve we can expect in a third Obama term. So as France retrieved the dead, dying, and maimed from the Promenade des Anglais, where Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had barreled over them in his truck, she unloaded with the concern foremost in her mind: 
Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.
I know, I know: you’re just relieved that she didn’t find a video to blame this time. Still, Clinton’s remarks are criminally stupid. So much so, they overwhelm even the criminal recklessness for which the FBI has just given her a pass on felony charges. She clearly mishandled mounds of classified information, but it appears doubtful that she read much of it. Or maybe she did read it but learned nothing from it, since politicizing intelligence and purging the Islam from Islamic terrorism is strict Obama-Clinton policy.

Even to one so superficial as Clinton, it should by now be perfectly obvious that that there is no “Islam,” at least not if we are talking about a monolithic belief system.

Daily Devotional

God’s Grace in Spiritual Gifts

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10)

John Piper

Future grace is “varied grace.” It comes in many colors and shapes and sizes. This is one of the reasons spiritual gifts in the body are so diverse. The prism of your life will refract one of the colors of grace that would never come through my prism.

There are as many future graces as there are needs in the body of Christ — and more. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to receive and dispense the future grace of God to those needs.

But someone may ask, “Why do you take Peter to refer to future grace? Doesn’t a steward manage a household store that is already on hand?”

The main reason I take Peter to refer to future grace is because the next verse illustrates how this works, and the reference there is ongoing supplies of future grace. He says, “Whoever serves . . . by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).

When you fulfill your spiritual gift to serve someone tomorrow, you will be serving “by the strength that God supplies” tomorrow. The word is supplies, not supplied.

God goes on, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, supplying the “strength” in which we minister.

Learning From the Chinese

Back to the Future

When we attended undergrad school we were told that Economics was the dismal science.  Nowadays, this place of notoriety has been taken by an even more dismal science--mathematics.  Thousands of school children are "graduating" from state schools unable to perform even the most basic calculations.  They are functionally innumerate.  

Could this have something to do with how maths is taught?  Well, yes.  Possibly.  The grandparents of our current generation of school pupils left (even rudimentary) schooling knowing how to add, subtract, divide, and multiply.  But now we are more clever than ever.  State schools in New Zealand have adopted an entirely different approach to teaching maths.  The current approach is attuned to the more enlightened age in which we live.  It has students being exposed to mathematical theory from the outset.

"Modern" maths pedagogy centres around problems drawn from real life (to prevent maths being abstract from the get go).
"Mother (er, sorry, the current female caregiver) called all the children to the table (er, correction, to sit on the floor with their electronic devices) and began to hand out the evening's food.  There are five children in the family.  Only three were sitting down with their i-pads, gaming furiously.  How many children were missing?"
But then it goes on to expose the pupils to various methods and ways to solve this problem, each employing different theoretical approaches to get the correct answer.  How sophisticated is that.  From day one, pupils are being prepared for algebraic abstractions.

In reality, most pupils are being prepared for a life condemned to mathematical ignorance.  In reaction to this high brow nonsense, we now hear of a schooling revolution taking place in the UK.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

What if Sydney Were New Zealand's Brussels

How Would We Like It?

Dr Mark Avis
Massey University
NZ Herald

As a UK citizen living in New Zealand, I have watched the media reaction since the vote for Brexit with bemusement. New Zealand is now my home, and because I have no plans to return to the United Kingdom, I did not vote in the EU referendum. But had I cast a vote, I would have voted for Brexit.

The notion that I would make such a choice baffles many people here, and it is no wonder; the media have continually portrayed Brexit as a malady of mind, and a position that is primarily founded on anti-immigration which, in turn, is founded on racism.

The fact the EU is an affront to any reasonable interpretation of democratic accountability is barely mentioned. Kiwis ought to consider how they would view a plan for a new organisation to be established in Sydney that would write laws binding on New Zealand and, once written, there would be no democratic mechanism for repeal.

In addition, a new court would be set up based on a system of civil law, not common law, and this court would be set above the New Zealand courts. The statutory law of this new court would be written by unelected bureaucrats, and they would not be accountable to any democratic institution. How many Kiwis would vote to join such an institution?

The people of the UK never voted to join such an institution.

Daily Devotional

Watching Over the Stragglers

"They shall go hindmost with their standards."  Numbers 2:31

Charles H. Spurgeon

The camp of Dan brought up the rear when the armies of Israel were on the march. The Danites occupied the hindmost place, but what mattered the position, since they were as truly part of the host as were the foremost tribes; they followed the same fiery cloudy pillar, they ate of the same manna, drank of the same spiritual rock, and journeyed to the same inheritance. Come, my heart, cheer up, though last and least; it is thy privilege to be in the army, and to fare as they fare who lead the van. Some one must be hindmost in honour and esteem, some one must do menial work for Jesus, and why should not I? In a poor village, among an ignorant peasantry; or in a back street, among degraded sinners, I will work on, and "go hindmost with my standard."

The Danites occupied a very useful place. Stragglers have to be picked up upon the march, and lost property has to be gathered from the field. Fiery spirits may dash forward over untrodden paths to learn fresh truth, and win more souls to Jesus; but some of a more conservative spirit may be well engaged in reminding the church of her ancient faith, and restoring her fainting sons. Every position has its duties, and the slowly moving children of God will find their peculiar state one in which they may be eminently a blessing to the whole host.

The rear guard is a place of danger. There are foes behind us as well as before us. Attacks may come from any quarter. We read that Amalek fell upon Israel, and slew some of the hindmost of them. The experienced Christian will find much work for his weapons in aiding those poor doubting, desponding, wavering, souls, who are hindmost in faith, knowledge, and joy. These must not be left unaided, and therefore be it the business of well-taught saints to bear their standards among the hindmost. My soul, do thou tenderly watch to help the hindmost this day.

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Racked With Malice and Envy

Consider the following news story:
An Idaho man dressed as a woman was arrested for allegedly taking video of a woman in the fitting room of an Idaho Falls Target store, police say.  Police arrested Sean Patrick Smith, 46, after a Target customer said she walked into the changing rooms and observed Smith using his cell phone to take images of a woman removing her clothing.

“The woman was begging for help as she chased the man out the door,” a witness told EastIdahoNews.com. “She kept saying she wanted those pictures deleted.”  Idaho Falls police reported that the suspect told them he “identifies” as a woman and would rather be addressed as “Shauna Patricia Smith.”  [Breitbart News]
Our reactions to this story--a story likely to be repeated over and over in various permutations and combinations--are several.  Firstly, we are angry that an innocent women was preyed upon and had her privacy violated.  She has suffered an egregious form of assault.  She deserves every care and consideration.

Our second reaction is to hope, for the sake of many future victims, that she gets sound legal advice, and funding to "sue the pants off" Target, figuratively speaking.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

America Black and Blue

Douglas Wilson

In the aftermath of this most recent series of tragic shootings — Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas — the spiritual disarray of our nation is manifest in how we tend immediately to cluster into two groups. One identifies with anger at injustice and the other identifies with the need for order and calls urgently for unity.

The unity our nation needs — and we do desperately need it — is not a “group hug” unity, and it is not that kind of unity with a Jesus shine put on it.

The message is not “Jesus could help us to like each other better,” although that would be a downstream consequence. The message we rather need to hear, and which the church needs to declare, is that “Jesus forgives our sins.”

Before we can have — black or white — unity in Christ the risen, we must have unity in Christ the crucified. But this means unity in sin. This is not going to happen unless we repent of our own sins. We need to repent of our white sins and repent of our black sins. To whatever extent you identify with any group, you must identify also with the sins of that group. This is not to the exclusion of identifying with their virtues or strengths, their culture or heritage. It is simply a shared gospel identification, and not a carnal identification.

We must find common ground in Adam. We must find common ground in our shared iniquity. That is the only way out. When we recognize that we are all one great mess in Adam, then we can by the grace of God shake hands in the second Adam — and only there.

The only true victim in all of this is Jesus Christ, and every color of fist drove the nails in. Let me be specific. What did Jesus die for?
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3, ESV).
I am marking that last phrase — hated by others, and hating one another. That is what we are doing, right this minute.

Daily Devotional

Ministry — More Important Than Life

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:24)

John Piper

According to the New Testament, “ministry” is what all Christians do. Pastors have the job of equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). But ordinary Christians are the ones who do the ministry.

What ministry looks like is as varied as Christians are varied. It’s not an office like elder or deacon; it’s a lifestyle devoted to making much of Christ.  It means that we “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Whether we are bankers or bricklayers, it means that we aim at advancing other people’s faith and holiness.

Fulfilling your ministry is more important than staying alive. This conviction is what makes the lives of radically devoted people so inspiring to watch. Most of them speak the way Paul did about his ministry here in Acts 20. Doing the ministry that God gives us to do is more important than life.

You may think you need to save your life in order to do your ministry. On the contrary, how you lose your life may be the capstone of your ministry. It certainly was for Jesus, only in his thirties.  We need not fret about keeping ourselves alive in order to finish our ministry. God alone knows the appointed time of our service.

Henry Martyn was right when he said, “If [God] has work for me to do, I cannot die.” In other words, I am immortal until my work is done. Therefore, ministry is more important than life.

Weighing Up the Evidence

Not a Jihadi, but A Narcissistic Murderer 

While the "fog" of war continues to blanket France, early indications are that the Nice truck murderer, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was a "lone wolf", angry, vengeful, and disturbed and not a jihadi.

There are superficial connections with Islam and terrorism: he lived in an Islamic area of Nice, he was Tunisian, therefore brought up within the Islamic fold.  But at this point the connections with jihadism become tenuous.

The Guardian provides an early, yet reasonable account:
Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old delivery driver and father, was shot dead by police after killing 84 people, including 10 children and teenagers, and injuring scores more in a deadly Bastille Day rampage .  Despite a criminal record which saw him convicted for the first time in March this year, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was not known by French or Tunisian officials to have links to terrorist organisations and was said by neighbours to have had little apparent interest in religion.

Echoing the remarks of French officials, security sources in Tunisia said he was not known by the Tunisian authorities to hold radical or Islamist views.
The perpetrator appears to have been a secularised Muslim, whose commitment to Muhammad was nominal only.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

More Brexit Ramifications

Secure and Safe after Brexit

Steve Hoadley
Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations
University of Auckland
NZ Herald

The potential economic damage caused by Brexit has been thoroughly deplored by policy analysts, but will Western security be equally threatened by this "seismic event"?  Will the British exit weaken Britain and Europe militarily and undermine regional security? Will European political and economic disunity embolden Russia to encroach further into Eastern Europe?  Will it make detection and prevention of Isis-promoted terrorist attacks more difficult? And will it prevent the orderly management of mass unregulated migration from Africa and the Middle East?

My answer to each of these is a qualified no.

The European Union does have its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) under the umbrella of the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. The policy obliges EU member states to earmark military assets for a Rapid Reaction Force and smaller, more agile Battle Groups.

When it exits from the EU, Britain will cease to work under the CSDP planning obligations and will terminate its financial contributions to the European Defence Agency and related institutions.

One could argue that EU defence posture will be weakened proportionately by the exit of its most potent contributor, but the CSDP is largely a political exercise; its assets are paper commitments and the EU has never deployed its flagged forces except for occasional, small-scale peacekeeping, training, and counter-piracy patrols in Africa and the Balkans.

Britain's departure should make little difference to this modest defence policy.

Daily Devotional

Unhewn Stones

If thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.   Exodus 20:25

Charles H. Spurgeon

God's altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labour might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all. All alterations and amendments of the Lord's own Word are defilements and pollutions.

The proud heart of man is very anxious to have a hand in the justification of the soul before God; preparations for Christ are dreamed of, humblings and repentings are trusted in, good works are cried up, natural ability is much vaunted, and by all means the attempt is made to lift up human tools upon the divine altar. It were well if sinners would remember that so far from perfecting the Saviour's work, their carnal confidences only pollute and dishonour it.

The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement, and not a single mark of man's chisel or hammer will be endured. There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction. Trembling sinner, away with thy tools, and fall upon thy knees in humble supplication; and accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of thine atonement, and rest in him alone.

Many professors may take warning from this text as to the doctrines which they believe. There is among Christians far too much inclination to square and reconcile the truths of revelation; this is a form of irreverence and unbelief, let us strive against it, and receive truth as we find it; rejoicing that the doctrines of the Word are unhewn stones, and so are all the more fit to build an altar for the Lord.

Another Asset Bubble Blowing Up

The "Free Lunch" of Endless Rising Debt

Behavioural economics is an interesting branch of the "dismal science".  It focuses upon how individual human beings make decisions about money, finance, assets, wealth, and so forth.  Oftentimes decision making is contrary to common sense--even verging on the irrational.

In New Zealand we are heading into a phase when irrational exuberance has taken over the financial decision making of many households.  It centres upon debt, household debt.  People are borrowing irrational amounts of money to fund house purchases and their lifestyles.  Debt can be like an increasing addiction to any recreational drug.  One gets away with it the first time--that is, one enjoys a reasonably pleasant experience with no long lasting damage.  The next time is easier, less resistance.  Before long, one cannot live without it.  Addiction sets in.  Decision making at that point become irrational.

New Zealand households are increasingly sitting on a mountain of debt.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Refining Fire: Judgment Begins with the Household of God

A Principled Decision

We will likely see more of this.

Carly Hoilman
The Blaze

A popular Southern California pastor resigned from his position on the state’s largest high school board after his peers voted in favor of a mandate that would require pro-LGBTQ sexual ethics education in public schools.  In an email published in a First Things article last Thursday, Pastor Chad Vegas noted that after 12 years of serving on the board he faced a potential lawsuit for his decision to vote against the policy.

Vegas wrote:
CA has mandated this [school transgender policy] for the whole state. I have served on the largest high school board in CA, and the nation, for 12 years. I basically lead that board. Our board voted to adopt the new law into policy. I voted against it. I was breaking the law for doing so. I could be personally sued and our attorney tells me the board insurance won’t cover me because I am breaking the law and I am a bigot.
The California law requires that the state’s middle and high schools offer instruction to students on how to have safe homosexual sex and how to get an abortion. It also requires schools to teach that gender does not correspond to biological sex.

Vegas announced last month in a letter to his Sovereign Grace Church congregation that he would not run for re-election, despite the community’s pleas for him to remain.

Daily Devotional

On Masculine and Feminine

C. S. Lewis

For a good wife contains so many persons in herself. What was H. not to me? She was my daughter and my mother, my pupil and my teacher, my subject and my sovereign; and always, holding all these in solution, my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier. My mistress; but at the same time all that any man friend (and I have good ones) has ever been to me. Perhaps more. If we had never fallen in love we should have none the less been always together, and created a scandal. That’s what I meant when I once praised her for her “masculine virtues.” But she soon put a stop to that by asking how I’d like to be praised for my feminine ones. It was a good riposte, dear. Yet there was something of the Amazon, something of Penthesileia and Camilla. And you, as well as I, were glad it should be there. You were glad I should recognize it.

Solomon calls his bride Sister. Could a woman be a complete wife unless, for a moment, in one particular mood, a man felt almost inclined to call her Brother? . . .

There is, hidden or flaunted, a sword between the sexes till an entire marriage reconciles them. It is arrogance in us to call frankness, fairness, and chivalry “masculine” when we see them in a woman; it is arrogance in them to describe a man’s sensitiveness or tact or tenderness as “feminine.” But also what poor, warped fragments of humanity most mere men and mere women must be to make the implications of that arrogance plausible. Marriage heals this. Jointly the two become fully human. “In the image of God created He them.” Thus, by a paradox, this carnival of sexuality leads us out beyond our sexes.

A Grief Observed. Copyright © 1961 by N. W. Clerk, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Preface by Douglas H. Gresham copyright © 1994 by Douglas H. Gresham. 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.

The Rise of Superstitions and the Demonic

East Meets West, and West Meets East

The Christian faith drives out demons.  It also drives out superstition.  During the public ministry of Jesus, demonic possession was commonplace.  Modern secularist scholars have asserted that what passes for demonic possession in the Gospels was actually mental illness.  Thus, they interpret the testimonies concerning the demonic in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts to be superstitious ignorance.

There is nothing new in this: it is precisely what one would expect secularists to claim.  Demons, according to the secularists and atheists, don't exist because we can't see, touch, taste, or empirically put them in a lab to experiment upon them.  The Bible, however, is emphatically clear on these matters: the Serpent in Genesis is the liar from the beginning.  Those who don't believe in the existence of the Satan are those most enthralled under his deceit.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Update on Venezuela

Riots Draw Nigh

Venezuelans are storming supermarkets and attacking trucks as food supplies dwindle

By Joshua Partlow and Mariana Zuñiga

CARACAS, Venezuela — In the darkness the warehouse looks like any other, a metal-roofed hangar next to a clattering overpass, with homeless people sleeping nearby in the shadows.

But inside, workers quietly unload black plastic crates filled with merchandise so valuable that mobs have looted delivery vehicles, shot up the windshields of trucks and hurled a rock into one driver’s eye. Soldiers and police milling around the loading depots give this neighborhood the feel of a military garrison.

“It’s just cheese,” said Juan Urrea, a 29-year-old driver, as workers unloaded thousands of pounds of white Venezuelan queso from his delivery truck. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The fight for food has begun in Venezuela.

Daily Devotional

A Manner Consistent With High Dignity

"Fellow citizens with the saints." Ephesians 2:19

Charles H. Spurgeon

What is meant by our being citizens in heaven? It means that we are under heaven's government. Christ the king of heaven reigns in our hearts; our daily prayer is, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The proclamations issued from the throne of glory are freely received by us: the decrees of the Great King we cheerfully obey. Then as citizens of the New Jerusalem, we share heaven's honours.

The glory which belongs to beatified saints belongs to us, for we are already sons of God, already princes of the blood imperial; already we wear the spotless robe of Jesus' righteousness; already we have angels for our servitors, saints for our companions, Christ for our Brother, God for our Father, and a crown of immortality for our reward. We share the honours of citizenship, for we have come to the general assembly and Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven. As citizens, we have common rights to all the property of heaven.

Ours are its gates of pearl and walls of chrysolite; ours the azure light of the city that needs no candle nor light of the sun; ours the river of the water of life, and the twelve manner of fruits which grow on the trees planted on the banks thereof; there is nought in heaven that belongeth not to us. "Things present, or things to come," all are ours.

Also as citizens of heaven we enjoy its delights. Do they there rejoice over sinners that repent--prodigals that have returned? So do we. Do they chant the glories of triumphant grace? We do the same. Do they cast their crowns at Jesus' feet? Such honours as we have we cast there too. Are they charmed with his smile? It is not less sweet to us who dwell below. Do they look forward, waiting for his second advent? We also look and long for his appearing. If, then, we are thus citizens of heaven, let our walk and actions be consistent with our high dignity.