Saturday, 30 July 2016

Turkey The Coming Flash Point For Militant Islam

Failed Coup Signals the End Turkish of Democracy

Paul Buchanan & Kate Nicholls
NZ Herald

As students of comparative civil-military relations, we were surprised to read the Herald's editorial, "Coup's failure hopeful sign for democracy." We see no positives resulting from the aborted coup. Instead we foresee the death throes of a painstakingly crafted secular, albeit imperfect, democracy, that has been under siege since the election of Recep Erdogan as Prime Minister in 2003 and President in 2014.

The cornerstones of Turkish democracy were an apolitical professional military, an independent secular judiciary, and a multiparty electoral system characterised by a separation of powers and a system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches.

Granted, Kemal Ataturk's nationalism, which bound the country together in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, often worked to stifle free speech and repress ethnic minorities, notably the Kurds. Turkish democracy has also always been "guarded", meaning that the military has on occasion acted as unelected veto-player. Yet since the rise of Erdogan to power 16 years ago, things have gotten incrementally but steadily worse.

Daily Devotional

Why We Don’t Lose Heart

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

John Piper

Paul can’t see the way he used to (and there were no glasses). He can’t hear the way he used to (and there were no hearing aids). He doesn’t recover from beatings the way he used to (and there were no antibiotics). His strength, walking from town to town, doesn’t hold up the way it used to. He sees the wrinkles in his face and neck. His memory is not as good. And he admits that this is a threat to his faith and joy and courage.

But he doesn’t lose heart. Why?

He doesn’t lose heart because his inner man is being renewed. How?

The renewing of his heart comes from something very strange: it comes from looking at what he can’t see.
We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
This is Paul’s way of not losing heart: looking at what you can’t see. What did he see?

A few verses later in 2 Corinthians 5:7, he says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” This doesn’t mean that he leaps into the dark without evidence of what’s there. It means that for now the most precious and important realities in the world are beyond our physical senses.

We “look” at these unseen things through the gospel. We strengthen our hearts — we renew our courage — by fixing our gaze on the invisible, objective truth that we see in the testimony of those who saw Christ face to face.

Regrets--I've Had a Few

The Silent Grief

The book of Malachi tells us that God hates divorce.  So, it seems, do many who have been through the divorce washing machine.  It has become a case of "divorce in haste, repent in leisure".  An article in the NZ Herald profiles the lingering post-divorce regret that many experience and suffer in New Zealand.  

For our overseas readers, New Zealand has a liberal divorce construct.  You can divorce with less discomfort than enduring a winter cold.  It is easier to break up a marriage than de-incorporate a company, or extract yourself from a business partnership.  In New Zealand, the bar is so low and such is the social and legal disrespect for marriage that the State has introduced a plethora of competing variants, so that everyone can slide down the snake to the bottom of the ladder with equal facility.

So, we have social relationships called "partnerships", "de-facto's", people "living together", homosexual marriage, serial monogamy, serial polygamy, and anything else that takes your fancy. Two lesbians living together with a budgie constitute a family in New Zealand.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Letter from Israel (About Persecution of Christians in Egypt)

Violence Against Egypt’s Christians Escalates

Breitbart Jerusalem

(AFP) – Violence against Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christian minority, one of the largest and oldest groups of Christians in the Middle East, has escalated at an alarming rate in the last several weeks, with little official response.

Since late May, Christians in Egypt have been the victims of at least a dozen sectarian attacks, and activists and politicians say the government has done little to stop it, despite Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s early overtures to the Coptic community and their staunch support of him.  “It is escalating in a very short time,” said Mina Thabet, programme director for minorities and vulnerable groups with the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms.

Among the assaults was one in late May on an elderly Coptic woman in Minya, who was stripped, beaten and paraded naked because of a rumour that her son was having a relationship with a Muslim woman. Seven homes in the town were set ablaze.  Victims said the police response was late and insufficient.

Sectarian tensions heated up even more on June 30, three years to the day after the beginning of the protests that led to the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, when a Coptic priest was gunned down in Al Arish, North Sinai in an attack claimed by the IS group. The group accused the priest of “waging a war against Islam”.  As gruesome as that attack was, the majority of the incidents have not taken place in the IS stronghold in northern Sinai, but in the Governorate of Minya, which is nestled along the Nile river about 250 kilometres south of Cairo.

Christian capital

Minya has the highest concentration of Christians in Egypt, with some estimates as high as 50 percent of the population there.

Daily Devotional

Screwtape on Marriage

C. S. Lewis

The Enemy’s [God's] demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s [Satan's] first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding.

This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy. The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’.

The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 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.

One-Legged Solutions

The Maori Sole-Parent Problem

Allow us to use racial and ethnic categories for a new minutes.  It is generally known that Maori have substantial problems and issues.  But we forget, or overlook the size and scale of the problem.  Then, every so often, it shows forth once again in startling, appalling relief.

Here is a vignette which we came across the other day: a breakdown by ethnicity of Sole Parents receiving taxpayer (government) welfare in New Zealand.

The first, expected, characteristic is that the Sole Parent category in the table is overwhelmingly female.  No surprises there.

But when broken down by ethnicity, we find a startling bit of data: there are nearly 60 percent more  Maori women on the Sole Parent benefit, than NZ European women.  In June 2016, there were 31,040 Maori women receiving the Sole Parent benefit, compared to 19,753 NZ Europeans.  Yet Maori represent only 15 percent of the entire NZ population.  Of the 60,000 women on Sole Parent benefits, half of them are Maori.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Beyond the Bounds of Rational Behaviour

Familiarity Breeding Contempt

We suppose it's time to moot the possibility that Donald Trump may be a sandwich short of a picnic.  Not all there, if you see where we are travelling.  If he is "all there" he may possibly rank as one of the most self-absorbed people on the planet.

One person "familiar with his thinking", at the end of the Republican Convention, said Trump was ruminating about how he would get revenge on Ted Cruz and John Kasich.  His reported ramblings savoured of bitterness.  Kasich and Cruz had apparently committed the unforgivable sin: they had refused to kiss the ring.
Donald Trump plans to create and fund super-PACs specifically aimed at ending the political careers of Ted Cruz and John Kasich should either run for office again, after both snubbed the Republican nominee during his party's convention this week, a person familiar with Trump’s thinking told Bloomberg Politics on Friday.

The plan would involve Trump investing millions of his own money --perhaps $20 million or more -- in one or two outside groups about six months before their respective election days if Texas Senator Cruz or Ohio Governor Kasich stand for office again. The person said Trump is willing to set up two separate super-PACs – one for Cruz and one for Kasich – and put millions into each.

The person also said that Trump would be willing to invest tens of millions more if necessary to ensure his former competitors didn't win another race.

Daily Devotional

Our Prayers are His Prayers

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On rejoicing over answered prayer; and on our prayers being God’s prayers.

C. S. Lewis

6 November 1953

Oh I am glad, I am glad. And here’s a thing worth recording. Of course I have been praying for you daily, as always, but latterly have found myself doing so with much more concern and especially about 2 nights ago, with such a strong feeling how very nice it would be, if God willed, to get a letter from you with good news. And then, as if by magic (indeed it is the whitest magic in the world) the letter comes to-day. Not (lest I should indulge in folly) that your relief had not in fact occurred before my prayer, but as if, in tenderness for my puny faith, God moved me to pray with especial earnestness just before He was going to give me the thing. How true that our prayers are really His prayers: He speaks to Himself through us.

I am also most moved at hearing how you were supported through the period of anxiety. For one is sometimes tempted to think that if He wanted us to be as un-anxious as the lilies of the field He really might have given us a constitution more like theirs! But then when the need comes He carries out in us His otherwise impossible instructions. In fact He always has to do all the things—all the prayers, all the virtues. No new doctrine, but newly come home to 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.

Much Ado About Very Little

Brexit Contagion

When the British people were considering how they might vote over Brexit, the hen house suddenly flew open and Chicken Littles ran squawking down every highway and street, past every hamlet.  If Britain voted to leave, calamity upon calamity would result.  The very sky would fall in.  

One such prophesied calamity was that a recession, if not depression, would descend upon the UK economy.  In matters economic, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney was one of the loudest doomsters, declaring that the UK economy would suffer greatly, were the UK to leave.

To be sure, once the vote to leave was successful, the UK sharemarket went south, along with most other bourses around the world.  But markets react to fear and greed.  In this case fear--heightened by the expectation that Brexit would be voted down--caused pension fund managers to hit the "sell" button.  Within days, however, the markets had returned to pre-Brexit levels.  What was that all about?  Much ado about very little.

And what are we hearing now?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Thatcher Redux?

Early Days And Easy Points

It's early days for Theresa May, the new British Prime Minister, but at times she appears to channel Margaret Thatcher. The following vid is an amusing riposte to the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.


The real question remains open and unanswered.  May is a reluctant Brexiteer.  The real risk is that she will lead and push Britain into the worst of all outcomes--independence from the EU, but with so many ties and obligations left in place that the UK will be as hamstrung as ever, a subject to EU suzerainty, with even less leverage than before.

The French PM has already thrown down a gauntlet: no free trade with the EU, without open borders for immigrants.  We have yet to see how much of an Iron Lady Theresa May turns out to be--and in particular, whether she has a real commitment to regaining British sovereignty, or whether she is a closet and committed internationalist.

Daily Devotional

Holy Flight

"He left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out."  Genesis 39:12

Charles H. Spurgeon

In contending with certain sins there remains no mode of victory but by flight. The ancient naturalists wrote much of basilisks, whose eyes fascinated their victims and rendered them easy victims; so the mere gaze of wickedness puts us in solemn danger. He who would be safe from acts of evil must haste away from occasions of it. A covenant must be made with our eyes not even to look upon the cause of temptation, for such sins only need a spark to begin with and a blaze follows in an instant. Who would wantonly enter the leper's prison and sleep amid its horrible corruption? He only who desires to be leprous himself would thus court contagion. If the mariner knew how to avoid a storm, he would do anything rather than run the risk of weathering it. Cautious pilots have no desire to try how near the quicksand they can sail, or how often they may touch a rock without springing a leak; their aim is to keep as nearly as possible in the midst of a safe channel.

This day I may be exposed to great peril, let me have the serpent's wisdom to keep out of it and avoid it. The wings of a dove may be of more use to me today than the jaws of a lion. It is true I may be an apparent loser by declining evil company, but I had better leave my cloak than lose my character; it is not needful that I should be rich, but it is imperative upon me to be pure. No ties of friendship, no chains of beauty, no flashings of talent, no shafts of ridicule must turn me from the wise resolve to flee from sin. The devil I am to resist and he will flee from me, but the lusts of the flesh, I must flee, or they will surely overcome me. O God of holiness preserve thy Josephs, that Madam Bubble bewitch them not with her vile suggestions. May the horrible trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil, never overcome us!

A Quiet Revolution

Good News Day

It's not very often you see press releases like the one below.  We suggest a good dose of savouring the moment might be in order.

5,000 More People Independent of Benefits

Thursday, 21 July 2016, 10:19 am
Press Release: New Zealand Government

Hon Jo Goodhew
Acting Minister for Social Development 21 July 2016

Acting Social Development Minister Jo Goodhew says the number of people receiving a main benefit has continued to fall year on year, with the latest figures the lowest for any June quarter since 2008. “The number of people receiving a main benefit has fallen by 5,172 (or 1.8 per cent) in the last 12 months, with those on Sole Parent Support continuing to drive the strong downward trend,” Mrs Goodhew says.  [Emphasis, ours]

“This is the first quarter since the $790 million Child Hardship Package came into effect, raising benefit rates by $25 a week after tax for those with dependent children, and increasing obligations for sole parents.  [Emphasis, ours]   “Sole Parents have shown they are willing and able to move into independence, with a reduction of 965 in the last quarter, or 3,818 in the last year in the numbers receiving Sole Parent Support.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow


Douglas Wilson

So Ted Cruz refrained from endorsing Donald Trump last night, and so my respect for him remains high. I appreciate it deeply. If he had endorsed Trump, then my support for Cruz would have gone the way of the woolly mammoth. The pressure on Cruz to cave must have been enormous, as can be ascertained from the outraged reactions to this failure to kiss the ring.

The issue is power versus principle. Trump has won the Republican nomination, and he is in a position to call a number of shots, particularly within the party apparatus. Cruz will definitely pay a price for this, but I think it will be acute and short term. Long term I think that Cruz is ahead of the game.

Daily Devotional

Jesus Keeps His Sheep

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)

John Piper

Though Peter failed miserably, the prayer of Jesus preserved him from utter ruin. He was brought to bitter weeping and restored to the joy and boldness of Pentecost. So Jesus is interceding for us today that our faith might not fail (Romans 8:34).

Jesus promised that his sheep would be preserved and never perish. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27–28).

The reason for this is that God will work to preserve the faith of the sheep. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

We are not left to ourselves to fight the fight of faith. “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

You have the assurance of God’s Word that, if you are his child, he will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21).

Our endurance in faith and joy is finally and decisively in the hands of God. Yes, we must fight. But this very fight is what God “works in us.” And he most certainly will do it, for “whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

He will lose none of those he has brought to faith and justified.

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 “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.

A Dismal Science

Deadly Precision

The accuracy of Carbon-14 (C-14) dating is breathtaking.
The validity of radiocarbon dating is thrown into some doubt by the dates it has yielded of artifacts whose history can be measured in some other way.  Instances of high inaccuracy have been carefully charted, such a new wood from actively growing trees has been dated at 10,000 years; mortar from Oxford Castle in England (built only 785 years ago) was dated by C-14 at 7,370 years, and freshly killed seals have been dated at 1,300 years.  Wysong [R. L. Wysong, The Creation-Evolution Controversy (Midland, Michigan: Inquiry Press, 1976), p. 151.] protests with good reason: ". . . why should we believe dates that have not had their assumptions validated when so many dates that can be checked for accuracy are wrong, sometimes ludicruously so."  [Douglas F. Kelly, Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1--2:4 In the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms (Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor/Christian Focus Publications, 1997), p.149f.]
If fresh wood from existing trees can be dated as being 10,000 years old, C-14 dating clearly serves an extremely useful purpose.  It serves to validate the old-earth paradigm.  But in the end its credibility is as solid and trustworthy as a Potemkin village or acres of wooden tanks built to pull the wool over the eyes of Nazi's in 1944.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Obamian Legacy

Non-PC Preaching

Do your church and pastor teach orthodox Christian doctrine about human sexuality? They'd better shut up about it, or Iowa's 'Civil Rights' Commission will fine and harass them.

By Joy Pullmann
The Federalist

Iowa churches and church-run daycares must let males and females pee, dress, and shower next to each other, and pastors and Christians could be brought before extrajudicial tribunals if they “directly or indirectly” make “persons of any particular…gender identity” feel “unwelcome,” according to new regulations from Iowa’s Orwellian-named “Civil Rights Commission.”

The commission’s new regulatory guidelines pertaining to a 2007 state “sexual orientation and gender identity,” or SOGI, law also require private businesses, schools, libraries, police departments, and any private organizations that receive government funds to let men and women shower, change clothes, urinate, and defecate inside whichever formerly sex-protected facilities they choose. No sex-change or birth-certificate is necessary for biological males, for example, to gain access to formerly women-only private facilities, the commission says. Declaring oneself a certain sex is all that’s needed.

On behalf of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, the Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed suit against the regulatory guidelines in federal court Monday, stating in a press release:

The speech ban could be used to gag churches from making any public comments—including from the pulpit—that could be viewed as unwelcome to persons who do not identify with their biological sex. This is because the commission says the law applies to churches during any activity that the commission deems to not have a ‘bona fide religious purpose.’ Examples the commission gave are ‘a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public,’ which encompasses most events that churches hold.

Daily Devotional

Proud Works vs. Humble Faith

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” (Matthew 7:22)

John Piper

Consider the difference between a heart of “faith” and a heart of “works.”

The heart of works gets satisfaction from the ego-boost of accomplishing something in its own power. It will attempt to scale a vertical rock face, or take on extra responsibilities at work, or risk life in a combat zone, or agonize through a marathon, or perform religious fasting for weeks — all for the satisfaction of conquering a challenge by the force of its own will and the stamina of its own body.

The heart with a works-orientation may also express its love of independence and self-direction and self-achievement by rebelling against courtesy and decency and morality (cf. Galatians 5:19–21). But it’s the same self-determining, self-exalting works-orientation that also gets disgusted with boorish behavior and sets out to prove its superiority through self-denial, courage, and personal greatness.

In all of this, the basic satisfaction of the works-orientation is the savor of being an assertive, autonomous and, if possible, triumphant self.

The heart of faith is radically different. Its desires are no less strong as it looks to the future. But what it desires is the fullest satisfaction of experiencing all that God is for us in Jesus.

If “works” wants the satisfaction of feeling itself overcome an obstacle, “faith” savors the satisfaction of feeling God overcome an obstacle. Works longs for the joy of being glorified as capable, strong, and smart. Faith longs for the joy of seeing God glorified for his capability, strength, and wisdom.

In its religious form, works accepts the challenge of morality, conquers its obstacles through great exertion, and offers the victory to God as a payment for his approval and recompense. Faith, too, accepts the challenge of morality, but only as an occasion to become the instrument of God’s power. And when the victory comes, faith rejoices that all the glory and thanks belong to God.

An Ideology of Envy

A Cancerous Carbuncle on the Soul

John Minto is a Scrooge-like character who has spoken out forever against any education which is not state controlled, state funded, and state prescribed.  We remember attending a public meeting on charter schools, when they were first being considered in New Zealand, which Minto also attended, He was adamant that charter schools were bad.

It's not that Minto had the view that charter schools could do no good.  Rather, any pedagogical achievement they may make could and would be achieved by regular state schools, provided the government showered more money upon them.  Thus, if public schools were properly financed, charter schools would be superfluous.  There very existence and success would "prove" that the regular state system was underfunded.

Thus, envy runs in Minto's heart like the river Styx.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Letter From America (About Being Above the Law)

Iovi et Bovi: The Teflon Hillary Standard

The Roman gods and overlords flew high above the people, committing crimes at will. Sound familiar?

By Michelle Malkin
National Review Online

There is a classic Latin epigram about double standards that resounds in the aftermath of the FBI’s surrender this week to the corruptocracy: Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.

Translation: “What is permissible for Jove is not permissible for an ox.”

Jove is the Roman god Jupiter, untouchable ruler of the skies, wielder of the lightning bolt. The ox is a servile beast, sacrificial animal for elites in power, bearer of the heavy yoke.

FBI director James Comey told us on Tuesday [last week] what many of us have already known or long suspected: Hillary Clinton serially lied about her homeland-security-jeopardizing homebrew e-mail server, and the Obama administration is letting her get away with it.

After Comey hammered the final nail in the classified-information coffin, the enabler-in-chief promptly whisked Clinton out of D.C. on his taxpayer-subsidized winged chariot for a joint campaign event in North Carolina and plopped her in front of a lectern carrying the presidential seal — where she stood and hurled her invective against GOP presidential rival Donald Trump, whom she called “unqualified and temperamentally unfit” to occupy the White House.

Unqualified pot, meet unfit kettle.

Daily Devotional

On the Present Moment

Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

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.

What Are the Authorities Refusing to Tell Us?

Is Cowardice The Problem?

In this country, as in all countries we suppose, horrible murders have been committed.  One of the most horrible in recent times has been the wilful murder of a three year old boy, Moko.  It was a murder perpetrated by his two "care-givers".  

Inexplicably it seems, the Crown allowed the accused to plea bargain down to a conviction of manslaughter.  

David Garrett, former politician and lawyer, has written a guest post in Kiwiblog, which we reproduce here.  Whilst it is slightly longer than a normal post, we believe the matters and arguments are of serious weight.

Abel's blood cried out to God from the ground.  We hear the cry of Moko's blood.  There are many people around the world who think that New Zealand is a paradise.  This euphoric view is largely based upon the natural beauty of the landscape--which is the work of God, not of man.  Man's work can be of another kind entirely--and in the case of Moko, it most certainly is.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Toddlers Out of Temper

Douglas Wilson

We have been addressing the theme of self-government, and considering that as the foundation of every other form of lawful and limited government. A nation of slaves to sin and vice can never be a free people. They are far too easily threatened, manipulated, seduced, and bribed. They will trade away the most precious liberties for the most contemptible baubles and trifles.Exhort

I have been speaking of various external vices in this regard—smoking dope, using porn, drunkenness, and so on. But we also need to reflect on the need for self-control where the lack of self-control first begins to manifest itself—in the realm of the emotions.

We live in a generation that measures truth by what the loudest and shrillest feel should be true. This is why our culture is now dominated by the offended, the hurt, and the aggrieved.

Daily Devotional

When Another Christian Hurts You

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

John Piper

What is the basis of our not holding grudges against Christian brothers and sisters who repent?

Our moral indignation at a terrible offense does not evaporate just because the offender is a Christian. In fact, we may feel even more betrayed. And a simple, “I’m sorry” will often seem utterly disproportionate to the painfulness and ugliness of the offense.

But in this case we are dealing with fellow Christians and the promise of God’s wrath does not apply because there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “God has not destined [Christians] for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Where shall we turn to assure ourselves that justice will be done — that Christianity is not a mockery of the seriousness of sin?

The answer is that we look to the cross of Christ. All the wrongs that have been done against us by believers were avenged in the death of Jesus. This is implied in the simple but staggering fact that all the sins of all God’s people were laid on Jesus (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Corinthians 15:3, etc.).

The suffering of Christ was the recompense of God on every hurt I have ever received from a fellow Christian. Therefore, Christianity does not make light of sin. It does not add insult to our injury.

On the contrary, it takes the sins against us so seriously that, to make them right, God gave his own Son to suffer more than we could ever make anyone suffer for what they have done to us.

Ineffectual Inability

Euro Rhubarb At Work

France has been enjoying the services of its vast, sclerotic bureaucracy, with all the deadly unintended  consequences, when it comes to fighting Islamic terrorism.  A French parliamentary investigation into the security and anti-terrorist services has concluded that successive terrorist attacks upon innocent French citizens could have been prevented, had not the multiple intelligence agencies failed miserably.

In the Guardian report, one paragraph paints the picture with startling clarity:
The report considered the fact that eight soldiers from Operation Sentinelle who had been present outside the Bataclan during the terrorist attack did not intervene because they had not been given orders to do so. Police officers arriving at the scene asked the soldiers to lend them their assault weapons but the soldiers, obeying army rules, refused to hand them over.
Take that one instance of defalcation, idiocy, and irresponsibility and multiply it a thousand times through countless agencies acting in concrete silos and steel bunkers, talking only to themselves, minding their own domains, playing bureaucratic games and you get the picture.  The terrorists appeared superhuman, like a diabolical Scarlet Pimpernel, to be sought here, and there, but able to slip through undetected until death was unleashed.  But they were allowed to be so "clever" because the French agencies were so impotent.

In a perverse kind of way, this should give us some comfort.