Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Daily Devotional

Have Done With Fretful Fear

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."  1 Peter 5:7

Charles H. Spurgeon

It is a happy way of soothing sorrow when we can feel--"HE careth for me." Christian! do not dishonour religion by always wearing a brow of care; come, cast your burden upon your Lord. You are staggering beneath a weight which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance. Nothing is so sweet as to

"Lie passive in God's hands,
And know no will but his."

O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in his providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever.

Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and your opposition shall yet end your distresses. There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you, his heart beats with pity for your woe, and his hand omnipotent shall yet bring you the needed help. The darkest cloud shall scatter itself in showers of mercy. The blackest gloom shall give place to the morning. He, if thou art one of his family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not his grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that he loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness.

What a serene and quiet life might you lead if you would leave providing to the God of providence! With a little oil in the cruse, and a handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you, why need you care too? Can you trust him for your soul, and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens, he has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.

In Memoriam

John Wyclif 1320--1384

In his book on the history of England, Robert Tombs provides the following pen portrait of  the significance of John Wyclif.  
Wyclif was, among other things, a critic of Church corruption, which meant mainly its wealth.  His advocacy of Church disendowment won approval in elite political circles and support in Oxford.  His other ideas were even more far-reaching, including attacks in the 1370's on papal authority and on transubstantiation, the doctrine that the sacramental bread and wine really became the body and blood of Christ.  This caused horror among the orthodox and denunciation of Wyclif as "the great heresiarch," the first major English heretic and the most subversive thinker of the later Middle Ages, who influenced the Bohemian Hussite movement and indirectly Martin Luther.  Wyclif's writings were repeatedly condemned by the Pope, but he was sufficiently protected by his patrons to be allowed to retire unmolested to his benefice at Lutterworth, where he died in 1384.  In 1428 his remains were exhumed and burned on papal orders.  [Robert Tombs, The English and Their History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), p.133.]
Wyclif's person and work were protected by his court connection with John of Gaunt.  It is interesting with the benefit of hindsight to see that so many of the issues upon which he wrote and for which he advocated, preceded Martin Luther and the Reformation by 150 years.  Clearly he was a prophet born out of due time.
Consequently, it is not surprising that the Roman Catholic Church responded to the Reformation in much the same way that it responded to John Wyclif a century and a half before. But one of the most significant aspects of Wyclif's work was to translate the Bible into the common English language of the day.

Our Disease of Discontent

The Good Life

Where can wisdom, joy, and peace be found in the monotony of daily life?  The Book of Ecclesiastes has much to teach us about what is, in effect, the daily experience of  most of our lives: the dull drudgery of existence.  But it is teaching not understood by many in the West.  It represents our particular curse.

 For most Western cultures, drudgery is a calling to be pursued by machines, not souls.  Therefore, there is a subterranean discontent, a roiling of soul, because we cannot escape the tedium of life, its repetitiveness, nor its dullness.  For so many in the West, life is one long boring monotony interspersed by seasons of desperate excitement originating from the occasional spectacle of entertainment.  The Western soul is deeply discontented.

Here is the biblical perspective on dull monotonies:
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man. [Ecclesiastes 3:9-13]
What is God's gift to man?  It is that he should accept his limitations, as Clint Eastwood so sagely remarked in one of his movies,  and learn to live joyfully all his days, taking pleasure in his eating, his drinking and his toil.  All of these, our entire existence, is God's gift to man.  Seeing this, learning it, accepting it is the path of life--as we learn to worship God and His gifts in the (otherwise) mundane monotony.  When we do this, the mundane life becomes a glorious uplifting symphony of praise and worship to our Lord.

In his book, Recovering Eden, Zack Erswine takes up these themes. Speaking of our "lot" in life, he remarks:

Monday, 16 January 2017


Vatican Officially Recognizes Martin Luther 

A ‘Witness to the Gospel’


Thomas Williams
Breitbart News

A new Vatican document in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has officially recognized Martin Luther as a “witness to the gospel,” reversing a centuries-old tradition.
“And so after centuries of mutual condemnations and vilification, in 2017 Lutheran and Catholic Christians will for the first time commemorate together the beginning of the Reformation,” states the new text from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

While welcomed by many, the Vatican’s new attitude toward Luther has met with expected resistance. The real sticking point has not been Luther’s well-known animosity toward the papacy and the clergy (he said that popes and bishops are not bridegrooms of the Church, but of “brothel-keepers and devil’s daughters in hell”), but his hostility toward the Jews.

With Luther’s rabid anti-Semitism, in fact, it is difficult to see how the Vatican can ask Catholics to venerate him unconditionally as a “true witness” to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Luther expected the end of the world to be imminent, and believed that the pope would unite with Jews and Muslims (Turks) against true Christians in an unholy coalition among the enemies of God.

Daily Meditation

God’s Will Is That You Draw Near

Let us draw near with a true heart. (Hebrews 10:22)

John Piper

The command we are given in this passage is to draw near to God. The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God.

This drawing near is not a physical act. It’s not building a tower of Babel by your achievements to get to heaven. It’s not necessarily going to a church building. Or walking to an altar at the front. It is an invisible act of the heart. You can do it while standing absolutely still, or while lying in a hospital bed, or on the train as you commute to work.

This is the centre of the gospel — this is what the Garden of Gethsemane and Good Friday are all about — that God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near. He has sent his Son to suffer and to die so that through him we might draw near. It’s all so that we might draw near. And all of this is for our joy and for his glory.

He does not need us. If we stay away he is not impoverished. He does not need us in order to be happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. But he magnifies his mercy by giving us free access through his Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, himself. “In thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11).

That is God’s will for you, even as you read this — that you will draw near to God.

Where Do These Folk Come From?

Embarrassing Advocacy

The syndrome of the embarrassing advocate is well known.  It is manifest when a public advocate for a cause or principle is so embarrassing the issue ends up tainted by the follies and stupidities of the advocate.

Dr Darren Powell is a lecturer in health education at the faculty of education and social work at the University of Auckland.  He is a member of the "food police".  The very use of that term--which is now common coinage--indicates the way embarrassing advocates have damaged the cause.

When it comes to food and diet there are plenty of sane advocates.  They will talk about balance in diet, rather than removing foods.  They will reason with their audience to be self-disciplined and prudent when it comes to diet.  "Moderation in all things" is their mantra.  Such advocates do not get plastered with the "food police" label.

Dr Powell has written a piece in the NZ Herald which truly casts him as an embarrassing advocate.  Confusion, misdirection, and suppressed ideologies infuse his written opinions.  He risks defaming the cause of responsible dietitians.  He is all in a lather over advertising junk food which appeals to children.  Sadly, his language is confused, to say the least.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Happy Clappy Occidental Buddhism

The Dark Side Of Tibetan Buddhism

Rod Dreher
The American Conservative

The Dalai Lama (Darko Sikhman/Shutterstock)

Over the weekend, I ran across this 2010 essay in Reason by Brendan O’Neill, who wrote about his frustration with the way Tibetan Buddhism is whitewashed in Western culture. O’Neill, by the way, is an atheist and a libertarian. Excerpts:

Many Westerners before me have visited Tibet, popped into some monastery on a mountainside, and decided to stay there forever, won over by the brutally frugal existence eked out by Tibetan Buddhists.

I have exactly the opposite reaction. I couldn’t wait to leave the temples and monasteries I visited during my recent sojourn to Shangri-La, with their garish statues of dancing demons, fat golden Buddhas surrounded by wads of cash, walls and ceilings painted in super-lavish colours, and such a stench of incense that it’s like being in a hippy student’s dorm room.

I know I’m not supposed to say this, but Tibetan Buddhism really freaked me out.

Daily Meditation

The Unwilling Convert

Sometime in the spring (Trinity Sunday was May 22 that year, 1929) Lewis came to believe in God, though not yet in Christ:

C. S. Lewis

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him of whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation. (Surprised by Joy, Chapter 14)

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume I
Compiled in Yours, Jack The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume I: Family Letters 1905-1931. Copyright © 2004 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.

The Obamian Legacy

Codswallop Was The Major Achievement

Recent history is being rapidly re-written amongst the Democrats in the United States.  It's the old story--narratives about the past are merely tricks which the living play upon the dead.  And so Obamians are rapidly attempting to gloss the presidency of Barack Obama, re-writing history with the febrile intensity of a Gatling gun.  

What can be left to salvage after an anticipated four years of Democratic control?  Obama's signature "reform" (by his own declaration) was Obamacare.  It is looking likely that few of the 33,000 pages of the Affordable Care Act, with its rules, regulations, directives, and mushrooming bureaucracy will survive. Meanwhile,  Obama's foreign policy is in tatters.  It's hard to identify one triumph or success.  His incessant humanitarianism and progressivism has fallen on deaf ears.  The majority of his countrymen don't appear to want to march to the beat of that particular out-of-step drummer--nor does the rest of the world, it would seem..

What can revisionist historians seize upon to trumpet the significance of President Obama?  Here it is: the signature achievement of the Obamian era was there were no scandals during the time of President Obama's tenure in the Oval Office.  Presumably that includes achievements like Obama not committing adultery whilst in office.  Which is a small kind of achievement.  But it gets pretty desperate when adherence to fundamental ethical standards that bind most human beings must needs be trumpeted as a major success.  What a world we have come to.

Sadly, however, the claim that there were no scandals under Obama's watch is a pure fabrication.  It is make-believe codswallop.  The perpetrating of the codswallop is itself scandalous.  Columnist John Hayward has been keeping score and reckons there were at least 18 scandals attaching to the Obamian era.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Until the Bull Pukes

Douglas Wilson

There are two kinds of sorrow. One is a genuine sorrow over sin, and the other is a trap baited by sin. One turns away from displeasing the Lord while the other wallows in displeasing the Lord.
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10, ESV).

One sort of grief or sorrow is fruitful. It leads to salvation and no regrets. The other kind of grief just generates more grief. One kind of sorrow eliminates sorrow, while the other kind goes in for sorrow-farming. One plunges dirty hands into a sink full of hot soapy water, while the other uses the same sink to try bathe a tar baby with vegetable oil. One cleanses, and the other defiles.

But both go under the heading of “grief” or “sorrow.” One kind does the work of repenting while the other does the far more complicated work of not repenting.

And this brings us down to the most convoluted question of political correctness, which is a carnal form of false sorrow. The attempt to govern the masses by shaming them into feeling bad about an ever-increasing list of sins, micro-sins, and then nano-sins, has largely discredited itself. But it has only discredited itself in the eyes of those who have actually seen what has been going on over the last several years. That would not yet include those many millions whose politically correct project has been rejected. Many of them are still in denial. There are many who are still trying to run that play.

Moreover, there are many Christian leaders who are trying to run a faint echo of that same play.

Daily Devotional

In the Desert No Longer

"They did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year."  Joshua 5:12

Charles H. Spurgeon

Israel's weary wanderings were all over, and the promised rest was attained. No more moving tents, fiery serpents, fierce Amalekites, and howling wildernesses: they came to the land which flowed with milk and honey, and they ate the old corn of the land. Perhaps this year, beloved Christian reader, this may be thy case or mine. Joyful is the prospect, and if faith be in active exercise, it will yield unalloyed delight.

To be with Jesus in the rest which remaineth for the people of God, is a cheering hope indeed, and to expect this glory so soon is a double bliss. Unbelief shudders at the Jordan which still rolls between us and the goodly land, but let us rest assured that we have already experienced more ills than death at its worst can cause us. Let us banish every fearful thought, and rejoice with exceeding great joy, in the prospect that this year we shall begin to be "forever with the Lord."

A part of the host will this year tarry on earth, to do service for their Lord. If this should fall to our lot, there is no reason why the New Year's text should not still be true. "We who have believed do enter into rest." The Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance; he gives us "glory begun below." In heaven they are secure, and so are we preserved in Christ Jesus; there they triumph over their enemies, and we have victories too. Celestial spirits enjoy communion with their Lord, and this is not denied to us; they rest in his love, and we have perfect peace in him: they hymn his praise, and it is our privilege to bless him too.

We will this year gather celestial fruits on earthly ground, where faith and hope have made the desert like the garden of the Lord. Man did eat angels' food of old, and why not now? O for grace to feed on Jesus, and so to eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan this year!

Letter From New Zealand

Recovering Mana

There are some things about living in New Zealand for which we can be extremely grateful.  Sure, there are heaps of things with this country which are flat out wrong, even evil.  They call for relentless, determined exposure at every opportunity.  But there are also some things which are rather cool.

Here is one example.  The northern Maori tribe, Ngapuhi is dysfunctional at best.  Always at this time of the year there is controversy over the national holiday, Waitangi Day because, on the one hand, Ngapuhi hosts the memorial celebrations since it was in their territory that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Crown and Maori tribes in 1840.  But this national celebration has been captured as a platform for Ngapuhi radicals to voice their grievances against the government.

 Ngapuhi elder, Kingi Taurua at Waitangi last year. He's "embarrassed" by the way some of his iwi have treated the Prime ...

Recently, the controversy has narrowed down to whether the Prime Minister should be invited to attend, and, if invited, whether he should be granted speaking rights.  For the past two years, the PM has been invited, but forbidden to speak.  Last year the PM declined to attend.  Ngapuhi cut of their collective nose to spite their face. The same has fallen out this year.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Apologists for Socialism Approach Insanity

Socialism Has Shattered Venezuela

The Useful Idiots Applauded

 Jeff Jacoby
The Globe

When the Cold War ended 25 years ago, the Soviet Union vanished into the ash heap of history. That left the West’s “useful idiots” — Lenin’s term for the ideologues and toadies who could always be relied on to justify or praise whatever Moscow did — in search of other socialist thugs to fawn over. Many found a new heartthrob in Hugo Chavez, the anti-Yanqui rabble-rouser who was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and in short order had transformed the country from a successful social democracy into a grim and corrupt autocracy.

An avowed Marxist and protégé of Fidel Castro, Chavez gradually seized control of every lever of state power in Venezuela. The constitution was rewritten to strip the legislature and judiciary of their independence, authorize censorship of the press, and allow Chavez to legislate by decree. Before long, the government acquired a stranglehold over the economy, including the huge and profitable energy sector. (Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.)

Daily Devotional

What Jesus Did to Death

Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

John Piper

The death of Jesus bears sins. This is the very heart of Christianity and the heart of the gospel and the heart of God's great work of redemption in the world. When Christ died he bore sins. He took sins not his own. He suffered for sins that others had done, so that they could be free from sins.

This is the answer to the greatest problem in your life, whether you feel it as the main problem or not. There is an answer to how we can get right with God in spite of being sinners. The answer is that Christ’s death is “an offering to bear the sins of many.” He lifted our sins and carried them to the cross and died there the death that I deserved to die.

Now what does this mean for my dying? “It is appointed [to me] once to die.” It means that my death is no longer punitive. My death is no longer a punishment for sin. My sin has been borne away. My sin is “put away” by the death of Christ. Christ took the punishment.

Why then do I die at all? Because God wills that death remain in the world, even among his own children, as an abiding testimony to the extreme horror of sin. In our dying we still manifest the external effects of sin in the world.

But death for God’s children is no longer his wrath against them. It has become our entrance into salvation not condemnation.

Another Urban Myth

Eating All That God Has Given

For most of the period following World War II, the West--or at least the US, Australia, NZ--has been told that eating fat is a gross dietary sin, insofar as it makes the one who ingests obese.  Consequently we have been hectored without end to avoid fatty food.

The largest exporting dairy company in the world--Fonterra--recently sponsored a piece in the NZ Herald debunking this particular urban myth.
Myths are difficult to debunk - look how long the old saw that people must drink eight glasses of water a day to avoid dehydration has been around. Here's another one: fat makes you fat.  The eight-glasses-a-day mantra is still a thing. So are fears that fat will make you, well, fat - and will play havoc with your heart, weight and make it more likely you'll develop conditions like diabetes.

Now many scientists are beginning to re-draw the boundaries of nutritional knowledge, shifting away from the old thinking that saturated fats (as found in dairy) should be avoided and that the rush to 'low-fat everything' may have been misguided. In fact, in some instances, what we replaced saturated fats with may have been worse.
As is so often the case, the "advice" of the health police turns out to be bad actors.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Just Another Uncle Tom

Eleven Great Thomas Sowell Quotations

Breitbart News
Jerome Hudson

Legendary economist, author, and social theorist Dr. Thomas Sowell submitted his final column Tuesday after 25 years in syndication.

“Even the best things come to an end. After enjoying a quarter of a century of writing this column for Creators Syndicate, I have decided to stop. Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long,” Dr. Sowell wrote.

For more than fifty years, Dr. Sowell has published books and journals on race, economics, cultures around the world, and government policy. He has inspired generations of conservative activists with his humor and ability to condense complex matters into relatable lessons.

A self-proclaimed Marxist in his twenties, Sowell served in the United States Marine Corps. (during the Korean War). He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, his masters from Columbia University, and his Ph.D from the University of Chicago. It was at the University of Chicago, under the tutelage of Milton Friedman, and after his short stint as an economic analyst at the U.S. Department of Labor, where Dr. Sowell lost faith in government institutions’ ability to effectuate positive outcomes in society.

Dr. Sowell has taught economics at Cornell University and UCLA and has been a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University since 1980.  Dr. Sowell’s books, columns, and photography can be found at his website tsowell.com. Below are a handful of the most influential quotes from America’s great living philosopher.

1. The Welfare State:

The blacks in the West Indies had all sorts of experiences growing their own food, selling the surplus in the market, and, in fact, being responsible for budgeting what they had. Black [slaves] in the United States were deliberately kept from having that. Dependence was seen as the key to holding the slaves down. It’s ironic that that same principle comes up in the welfare state 100 years later.

The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state.

2. A Legacy of Liberalism:

Nearly a hundred years of the supposed “legacy of slavery” found most black children being raised in two-parent families in 1960.

Daily Meditation

Wanting More

C. S. Lewis

We want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

From The Weight of Glory
Compiled in Words to Live By The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses. Copyright © 1949, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1976, revised 1980 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.

Merkel's Well-Meant Folly

Two World Wars Are Quite Enough

One of the more insidious doctrines of humanitarianism and secularism is the belief that the State is the Great Redeemer.  This necessitates the duties, responsibilities, functions, and roles belonging to the Church being assumed and taken over by the State.

In Europe this particular defalcation has been long in the cooking.  But as secularism has advanced, this dangerous doctrine of the Redemptive State has become pretty much full-flowered.  Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has become the avatar of a theology which has the State as Saviour and the Great Redeemer.

In her New Year's address she assured the people that the German government would triumph as the Great Redeemer of mankind.  It would triumph over hatred and Islamism with compassion, not punishment.  In Merkel's world-view and twisted theology, the State has become the Church and assumed its functions.  Historically and biblically, the State is God's servant with a sworn duty to punish evildoers.  The Church is God's servant to extend compassion to the poor, the needy, the suffering.  But in Merkel-world, the State has assumed all of these responsibilities to itself.
In the federal chancellor’s New Year address to Germany, Merkel asserted that the terror attacks committed by Islamist migrants in Würzburg, Ansbach, and recently at a Christmas market in Berlin were not attacks on Western civilisation but an attack on ‘refugees’ and Germany’s willkommenskultur (‘welcome culture’).

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

John Kerry: A Sandwich Short of a Picnic

Kerry to Israel: A State Cannot Be Both Jewish and Democratic

National Review Online
Andrew McCarthy

Our ineffable secretary of state, John Kerry, delivered another parting shot at Israel today, offering the Obama administration’s “vision” for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. There are many things to be said about it — not least that Kerry’s speech, like last week’s venomous, Obama-orchestrated United Nations resolution on which it builds, is something “pro-Israel” Democrats make sure to do after Election Day.

For now, I just want to highlight one gem (noted by Michael Warren at The Weekly Standard).

Kerry did not mention that Jordan was never subjected to international pressure to grant the Palestinians their own state during the 19 years that Jordan occupied Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem; nor did he acknowledge that the Palestinians would long ago have had their own state if they had recognized Israel’s right to exist and abandoned jihadist terror. Leaving all that aside, Kerry accused the Israeli government of undermining any hope of a two-state solution. In this context of claiming that Israeli policy was “leading toward one state, or perpetual occupation,” Kerry admonished: “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. It cannot be both.”

Presumably, Kerry was referring to the fact that Israel has a significant Arab-Muslim population. He conveniently did not mention, since it must never be mentioned, the vow of Mahmoud Abbas (the Palestinian leader Kerry sees as Israel’s “peace partner”) that, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — soldier or civilian — on our lands.”

Daily Meditation

Motto For The New Year

"Continue in prayer."  Colossians 4:2

Charles H. Spurgeon

It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;" and just as we are about to close the volume, the "Amen" of an earnest supplication meets our ear.

Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob--there a Daniel who prayed three times a day--and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer?

We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord's mercy show thee thy misery!

A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father's face, and live in thy Father's love. Pray that this year thou mayst be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter oftener into the banqueting-house of his love. Pray that thou mayst be an example and a blessing unto others, and that thou mayst live more to the glory of thy Master.

The motto for this year must be, "Continue in prayer."

Longer Term Perspectives

Great Famines, Black Deaths, and Other Catastrophes

Below is an interesting note in a volume entitled, The English and Their History.  
. . . in the second half of the thirteenth century a disastrous fall in global temperature began, whether due to a series of volcanic eruptions or changing solar activity.  It caused extreme weather fluctuations and poorer harvests round the globe.  There was a succession of storms, frosts, droughts, and floods.  In 1250 wine production in England almost ceased for over 700 years.  A "great storm" in 1289 ruined the harvest.  In 1309-10 the Thames froze.  Catastrophe came in 1315-1316 when two years of continual rain and low temperatures ravaged successive harvests.

This became the "Great European Famine": seven years of suffering during which virulent sheep and cattle disease also appeared, destroying food sources and decimating the draught animals that made cultivation and transport possible.  It took twenty-five years to rebuild the herds.  The plight of the north of England was seriously aggravated by several years of destructive Scottish raids following their victory at Bannockburn in 1314.  These years saw by far the worst economic disaster in England's history: some half a million people died of hunger and associated diseases.  Law and order temporarily collapsed as people struggled for food, and resisted the taxation to pay for war on three fronts.  Yet despite being ruled by one of its most inept kings, Edward II (finally deposed in 1327), England survived.

A generation later, in 1349 came an even worse disaster: the "great pestilence," which later generations called the "Black Death," humanities greatest recorded catastrophe.  In a few months almost half the people of England were dead.  The plague attacked four times in thirty years and then became endemic for over three centuries.  [Robert Tombs, The English and Their History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), p. 104.]
Some observations and questions:

It took 700 years for the climate to warm sufficiently for wine to be produced again in England.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Movie Review

The Search for Sully's Enemy

Peter Hitchens
The Daily Mail Australia

CLINT Eastwood’s clever and engrossing film Sully, about the amazing landing of a passenger jet on the freezing Hudson River, needed a villain. Who could it be?

After all, pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger behaved like the well-trained and self-disciplined gentleman he is, keeping his head and using all his years of experience to land an Airbus on water without killing anyone, after geese destroyed his plane’s engines and turned it into an enormous glider. And the passengers, instead of scrambling over each other and clawing for their possessions as the plane sank (which must have been a temptation), behaved like grown-ups and made their way sensibly to the exits.

All the rescue services did as they should have done.

Who was left to be the bad guy? The government. To put it mildly, the movie plays up the investigations which concluded that Sullenberger might possibly have made it to an actual airport runway, if he’d acted inhumanly fast.

I found all this very believable. But actually the pilot had already become such a figure of admiration that in real life he was more or less above criticism. It tells you a lot about the modern USA, and the victory of Donald Trump, that the authorities are the ones who come out of it badly.

Daily Meditation

A Horrible Destiny

. . . Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

John Piper

Do you remember the time you were lost as a child, or slipping over a precipice, or about to drown? Then suddenly you were rescued. You held on for “dear life.” You trembled for what you almost lost. You were happy. O, so happy, and thankful. And you trembled with joy.

That’s the way I feel at the end of the year about my rescue from God’s wrath. All day Christmas we had a fire in the fireplace. Sometimes the coals were so hot that when I stoked it my hand really hurt. I pulled back and shuddered at the horrendous thought of the wrath of God against sin in hell. O how unspeakably horrible that will be!

Christmas afternoon I visited a woman who had been burned over 87 percent of her body. She has been in the hospital since August. My heart broke for her. How wonderful it was to hold out hope to her from God’s word! But I came away not only thinking about her pain in this life, but also about the everlasting pain I have been saved from through Jesus.

Test my experience with me. Is this trembling joy a fitting way to end the year? Paul was glad that the Lord from heaven is “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). He warned that “for those who do not obey the truth there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8). And “because of [fornication, impurity and covetousness] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).

Here at the end of the year, I am finishing my trek through the Bible and reading the last book, Revelation. It is a glorious prophecy of the triumph of God, and the everlasting joy of all who “take the water of life without price” (22:17). No more tears, no more pain, no more depression, no more sorrow, no more death (21:4).

But O, the horror of not repenting and holding fast to the testimony of Jesus! The description of the wrath of God by the “apostle of love” (John) is terrifying. Those who spurn God’s love will “drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and [they] shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night” (14:10–11). “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:15). Jesus will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (19:15). And “blood will flow from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle for two hundred miles” (14:20).

I tremble with joy that I am saved! O, the holy wrath of God is a horrible destiny. Flee this, brothers and sisters. Flee this with all your might. And let us save as many as we can! No wonder there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous! (Luke 15:7).

Shelob's Descendants

The Shamelessness of A Charlatan

It is a truism in most Western democracies.  Politicians are regarded as pretty much the scum of the earth.  Rarely do politicians manage to rise above the popular paradigm of being power-hungry, ambitious, and self-serving fools.  Every so often a politician does rise higher in the public's mind.  It is so exceptional that it is rated a remarkable achievement.

One reason for this is only indirectly the fault of politicians as a class.  The fact is that most folk in the West have a belief in the State (or government) as a demi-god.  In the secularist religion, the State is the entity or power which can solve all problems, set all things to right, and usher in the Millennium.  When government fails to meet expectations, the voter becomes cynical and angry.  He feels manipulated and lied to. Which is actually not far from the truth.  For politicians will constantly play upon the people's general belief that politicians are semi-divinised servants of the demi-god.  Politicians will overstate their abilities.  They exaggerate the powers of the State.  They promise what they can never deliver.  Their declarations of heaven about to break out on earth are willingly and gullibly received.

In New Zealand we have a populist politician who has been on the fringes of governments' powers for decades.  Winston Peters is the fools' politician.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Long May the Chattering Classes Dress in Mourning Garb

2016--the Best Year in Ages

Not since 1989 has there been such a brilliant political shake-up.

Brendan O'Neill

It is a testament to their cushioned, detached lives that so many in the political and media classes have described 2016 as the worst year ever. They’ve moaned about 2016. Memed about it. Written books about it. ‘Dark Age’, ‘populism’, ‘fascism’, ‘END TIMES’ – the keywords of the 2016 haters.

I guess none of these people lost their homes in 2008, eh? Or their jobs in the fallout from that crash. Or their feeling of political power over the past three decades of rising technocracy and shrinking democracy. Never mind their historical illiteracy. What does 2016 have on 1347 or 1914 in terms of awfulness? Nothing, of course. If you think 2016 was an unspeakably bad year, then all that tells us is you’ve led a cloistered, lovely life, blind to the economic deprivations and sense of political exclusion experienced by others these past years. Bully for you.

Sadly, these people’s narrative, their Brexit-bashing, Trump-fearing interpretation of 2016 as a most awful year, is becoming the narrative. Because they have the newspaper columns, the book contracts, the platforms. Everyone who disagrees with them is ‘post-truth’. Every vote that toppled their Third Way worldview was an act of hatred. Every revolt against the EU is racism, every criticism of Hillary misogyny, and every mention of ‘the elite’ evidence that people are beholden to a new fascism, because didn’t the Nazis also bash ‘the elites’? ‘Sixteen reasons why 2016 was the worst year ever’, their mad headlines declare.

Enough. We can’t let their tantrums, their petty fury that their political outlook has taken a pounding, come to define 2016. For this has been the most exciting political year since 1989. Here are five reasons why.

Daily Devotional

As It Has Been, So It Shall Be

"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."  1 Samuel 7:12

Charles H. Spurgeon

The word "hitherto" seems like a hand pointing in the direction of the past. Twenty years or seventy, and yet, "hitherto the Lord hath helped!" Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health, at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea, in honour, in dishonour, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation, "hitherto hath the Lord helped us!" We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves; even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys. Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely there must be many, and they all sing of mercy received "hitherto."

But the word also points forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes "hitherto," he is not yet at the end, there is still a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No! there is more yet-awakening in Jesus' likeness, thrones, harps, songs, psalms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fulness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. O be of good courage, believer, and with grateful confidence raise thy "Ebenezer," for--

He who hath helped thee hitherto

Will help thee all thy journey through.

When read in heaven's light how glorious and marvellous a prospect will thy "hitherto" unfold to thy grateful eye!

The Death of Life in Belgium

Too Heavy To Be Borne

In June 2015, The New Yorker published an article by Rachel Aviv, entitled "The Death Treatment:
When should people with a non-terminal illness be helped to die?"

It is a long article, but a very necessary read for anyone who wants an insight into the mindset of secular humanism.  While the article deals specifically with the death culture in Belgium, it implicitly confronts every secularist in the West.  It also exposes what happens when a culture makes death a matter of human wilfulness.

We encourage everyone to read the full piece.  But, below are some excerpts--with a brief commentary.
 In Belgium, euthanasia is embraced as an emblem of enlightenment and progress, a sign that the country has extricated itself from its Catholic, patriarchal roots. Distelmans, [a euthanizer] who was brought up as a Catholic and then rejected the Church, told me that his work is inspired by an aversion to all forms of paternalism. “Who am I to convince patients that they have to suffer longer than they want?” he said.
When a human being is made the final and absolute authority in all things--as secular humanism does--all must bow before the sovereign.

Friday, 6 January 2017

How Dare You . . . !

Pseudo-Self-Righteous Outrage Meets Its Match

Here is a piece of prime mockery.  It sends up the numerous primitives amongst us whose self-imposed offense-taking is driving them to an early grave of self-righteous apoplexy.  It must be a terrible thing to live in a bubble of self-imposed outrage over manufactured and artificial "causes".

Claus out for Cultural Appropriation

Karl Du Fresne

What right do we have to place Santa Claus at the centre of our Christmas celebrations?

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in a flagrant act of cultural appropriation. So did several thousand other people.  We watched a Christmas parade. Santa Claus was in it, complete with mock reindeer.
Most of the floats were decorated with Christmas symbols: fake snow, tinsel, stuff like that. A brass band played traditional English carols.

How did we get away with it? It could only be because the simple provincial folk in the town where I live are ignorant of, or callously indifferent to, sensitivities surrounding cultural ownership.   Santa Claus is a figure derived from northern European folklore. What right do we in the remote Southwest Pacific have to place him at the centre of our Christmas celebrations?  Sleighs? Ditto. Christmas trees and holly too.

These are the cultural property of people from distant lands.

Daily Meditation

Outfitted and Empowered

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20–21)

John Piper

Christ shed the blood of the eternal covenant. By this successful redemption, he obtained the blessing of resurrection from the dead. He is now our living Lord and Shepherd.

And because of all that, God does two things:

  • he equips us with everything good that we may do his will, and
  • he works in us that which is pleasing in his sight.

The “eternal covenant,” secured by the blood of Christ, is the new covenant. And the new covenant promise is this: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33–34). Therefore, the blood of this covenant not only secures God’s equipping us to do his will, but also secures God working in us to make that equipment successful.

The will of God is not just written on stone or paper as a means of grace. It is worked in us. And the effect is: We feel and think and act in ways more pleasing to God.

We are still commanded to use the equipment he gives: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” But more importantly we are told why: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

If we are able to please God — if we do his good pleasure — it is because the blood-bought grace of God has moved from mere equipping to omnipotent transforming.

"Those Who Hate Me, Love Death" [Proverbs 8:36]

Moral Clarity in a Murky World

We were encouraged by the following piece from LifeNews.com


American Psychiatric Association Takes Strong Stance Against Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

Michael Cook

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has taken a strong stand against euthanasia. In a formal position statement approved by its board of trustees this month, it says:

This implies that it is not ethical for a psychiatrist to help a non-terminally ill person to commit suicide, either by providing the means or by direct lethal injection, as is being currently practiced in The Netherlands and Belgium.  Although this binds only APA members, the APA is one of the world’s most influential professional bodies. The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) is considering a similar statement.

Dr Mark S. Komrad, of the APA ethics committee, says that the APA is now in a position to formally protest the involvement of Dutch and Belgian psychiatrists in euthanising patients with non-terminal psychiatric disorders.  He fears that Canada and several states in the US are headed in the same direction. Already psychiatric patients are being helped to commit suicide by activist organisations like Final Exit.