Saturday, 31 December 2016

Peter Hitchens Letter From the UK

Amid the Bombs of Aleppo 

All you can hear are the lies

Peter Hitchens's
Mail on Sunday column

I AM the opposite of a war junkie. I loathe the sound of fireworks because they remind me of a bloody night in Lithuania in January 1991, where I lay down in dirty snow to save my skin from Soviet bullets. I was also frozen with fright in lawless, gang-ruled Mogadishu in December 1992, waiting for US marines to arrive.

In Bucharest at Christmas 1989, I crawled under the bed as tracer fire whizzed past my hotel-room window, and – because my long-delayed call home came through just then – I dictated my account of events to my wife. No heroics for me, thanks.

I was in all these dreadful places by accident. I never meant to be there. I take great care not to get caught in such things again.   But I learned a bit from it, mostly that the old cliche ‘the first casualty of war is truth’ is absolutely right, and should be displayed in letters of fire over every TV and newspaper report of conflict, for ever.

Almost nothing can be checked.

Daily Meditation

Screwtape Twists the Gift of Pleasure

C. S. Lewis

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return—that is what really gladdens Our Father’s heart. And the troughs are the time for beginning the process.

From The Screwtape Letters
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis 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

When Evidence Does Not "Fit", Shout Louder

Climate Zealots Cool-Shamed

As an icy winter spreads over the continental United States and Antarctic sea ice is growing, a deep chill has settled over the climate "scientists".  The only shred of credibility to which they still cling is "climate change".

Since global warming is far too tendentious to maintain in the face of data like this, the cognoscenti created a new term to describe global warming--a term deliberately intended to put the global warming theory beyond any possibility of being proven false.  Since every climate changes and varies all the time, any--we repeat, any climatic conditions now "prove" global warming.  They "prove" climate change, and climate change is aka global warming.  Ergo, the science is settled.  The world is definitely warming up.

There are at least two lines of argument that potentially falsify global warming ideology.  The first is to research temperatures one hundred or more years ago.  If these can be shown to be as warm, or higher, than today's temperatures, then the hypothesis that temperatures are rising (due to man's rape and pillage of the earth's environment) would be falsified, or proven wrong.

The second line of argument falsifying the man-caused global warming hypothesis is to prove or establish that the climate has not been warming in recent times when compared to older records.  Hence, record cold temperatures in the United States this year are a pain in the proverbial for global warming ideologues.  According to their pet theory, this should not be happening.

In this great debate, historical temperature records are significant and important data.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

A Diem That Needs Some Carping

Douglas Wilson

The current conflict between Israel and the United States is a really odd one. For the Israelis, the whole thing is a matter of life and death, a serious conflict. On the Obama/Kerry side of things, their behavior more closely resembles a one-sided junior high girls’ slap fight. But before getting into all that, a few disclaimers.

The disclaimers are necessary because the topic of Israel is one which when broached frequently causes a festival of sweet reason to break out. Or one assumed it was supposed to be a festival of sweet reason, said something sensible therefore, and found oneself vituperated soundly with accusations that one was of the Joooooss.

Since the bottom line is that I am pro-Israel, in a way that our president most assuredly is not, I must therefore begin with the disclaimers. Pro-Israel does not mean being in favor of everything Israel might be, say, or do. Since the very first thing that will happen in the comments section here is that someone will require me to defend something I do not wish to defend, I thought it best to get all that out of the way. I think I can do it in one paragraph.

I am a Christian first, and the Lordship of Jesus Christ extends over all nations, including Israel.

Advent Meditation

Christmas Solidarity

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

John Piper

The assembly line of Satan turns out millions of sins every day. He packs them into huge cargo planes and flies them to heaven and spreads them out before God and laughs and laughs and laughs.

Some people work full-time on the assembly line. Others have quit their jobs there and only now and then return.  Every minute of work on the assembly line makes God the laughing stock of Satan. Sin is Satan’s business because he hates the light and beauty and purity and glory of God. Nothing pleases him more than when creatures distrust and disobey their Maker.

Therefore, Christmas is good news for man and good news for God.

“The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). That’s good news for us.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). That’s good news for God.

Christmas is good news for God because Jesus has come to lead a strike at Satan’s assembly plant. He has walked right into the plant, called for the Solidarity of the faithful, and begun a massive walk-out. Christmas is a call to go on strike at the assembly plant of sin. No negotiations with the management. No bargaining. Just single-minded, unswerving opposition to the product.

Christmas Solidarity aims to ground the cargo planes. It will not use force or violence, but with relentless devotion to Truth it will expose the life-destroying conditions of the devil’s industry. Christmas Solidarity will not give up until a complete shutdown has been achieved.  When sin has been destroyed, God’s name will be wholly exonerated. No one will be laughing at him anymore.

If you want to give a gift to God this Christmas, walk off the assembly line and never go back. Take up your place in the picket line of love. Join Christmas Solidarity until the majestic name of God is cleared and he stands glorious amid the accolades of the righteous.

At the Cutting Edge

Cadre of Chaos

The New York Times is arguably the shippiest ship of the line when it comes to pushing transgenderism.  Firstly, it is out and proud, and has its very own transgender editor, one Jennifer Boylan, previously James Boylan.
Boylan, who teaches women’s studies at Barnard College, is the new transgender issue editor at the NYT, a publication which has covered transgender issues 1207 times in the last 12 months—eclipsing their coverage of North Korea. [The Federalist]
You know a cause has really hit the big time when it receives its very own editor at the Times.  We hazard a guess that North Korea, or dictatorships for that matter, don't have their very own flag bearers at the Times.  To be fair, North Korea is so last century and dictatorships have been with us forever.  But transgenderism is the new wave of revolution sweeping the West.  Novelty has a number of implications and associations, not the least of which is an opportunity to cast one's business as being at the cutting edge of social revolution.  To be a cadre of chaos is pretty cool.

Add to this the grief and mourning at the loss of the election by a transgenderist champion, one Hillary Rodham Clinton.  All one's hopes have come crashing down in a screaming heap of feathers.  These petals need to be cut some slack.  They not only need our indulgence and sympathy--they deserve it as a human right.  Meanwhile, the fruits of the transgender cause continue to ripen on the vine.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

More Idolatrous Civic Religion

Trump Chooses a Hard-line, Pro-Settler Ambassador to Israel

Trump has named David Friedman as his choice

The American Conservative
Daniel Larison

David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who represented the president-elect over his failing hotels in Atlantic City, served Trump’s advisory team on the Middle East. He has set out a number of hardline positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations, including fervent opposition to the two-state solution and strong support for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

He has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards.

Trump has made a very bad choice here, but unfortunately it is entirely in line with what we thought we knew about his positions on Israel and Palestine. He has made no secret of his pro-settler views, and he has adopted virtually every conventional hawkish “pro-Israel” position from his support for settlements to hostility to the nuclear deal with Iran. Choosing Friedman is consistent with the generally hard-line, pro-settler positions Trump has already taken, and so it may be the least surprising thing he’s done during the transition.

This is just the latest development in the ongoing transformation of the GOP into a radically hard-line “pro-Israel” party that goes beyond what it was during the Bush years.

Advent Meditation

Christmas Is for Freedom

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)

John Piper

Jesus became man because what was needed was the death of a man who was more than man. The incarnation was God’s locking himself into death row.

Christ did not risk death. He embraced it. That is precisely why he came: not to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  No wonder Satan tried to turn Jesus from the cross! The cross was Satan’s destruction. How did Jesus destroy him?

The “power of death” is the ability to make death fearful. The “power of death” is the power that holds men in bondage through fear of death. It is the power to keep men in sin so that death comes as a horrid thing.  But Jesus stripped Satan of this power. He disarmed him. He molded a breastplate of righteousness for us that makes us immune to the devil’s condemnation.

By his death, Jesus wiped away all our sins. And a person without sin puts Satan out of business. His treason is aborted. His cosmic treachery is foiled. “His rage we can endure, for, lo, his doom is sure.” The cross has run him through. And he will gasp his last before long.

Christmas is for freedom. Freedom from the fear of death.

Jesus took our nature in Bethlehem, to die our death in Jerusalem, that we might be fearless in our city. Yes, fearless. Because if the biggest threat to my joy is gone, then why should I fret over the little ones? How can you say (really!), “Well, I’m not afraid to die but I’m afraid to lose my job”? No. No. Think!

If death (I said, death!—no pulse, cold, gone!)—if death is no longer a fear, we’re free, really free. Free to take any risk under the sun for Christ and for love. No more bondage to anxiety.

If the Son has set you free, you shall be free, indeed!

Post-Modern Heat

Get Out of The Kitchen

Johnathan Freedland has written a provocative piece in The Guardian.  He laments the post-truth world in which he now finds himself living.  He shows himself to be a small-"p" post-modernist yearning after solid foundations for his opinions.  While he is most likely not aware of it, he is really yearning for a Christian world-and-life view.  

Like most of his cadre or cohort he is absolutely sure that the Christian faith is a mere myth.  The necessary implication of that rejection is that everything then becomes uncertain or relative.  Even hard sciences, like quantum mechanics, leave secularists with profound agnosticism.  Does matter act like waves or particles or both at the same time?  We are told "all of the above", and we are also told by those-who-tell that they have no idea how or why, and it is likely they never will.  It just does not make sense--at least to someone who has denies the all-creating, all-governing God.  If you are not a Christian, like it or not, you have Wittgenstein or Foucault or both as your father(s).  So, stop trying to make sense of things.

Consequently, Freedland's lament over the growing dominance of post-truth perspectives is a bit silly really.  It is a "wake up and smell the flowers" moment.  It's like plucking out ones eyes, then lamenting bitterly that one is blind.

When Freedland was in a latently christianised phase in earlier days, he was deeply troubled over being confronted with Holocaust Denial.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

On Not Fitting In at Their Missile Parade

Douglas Wilson

A few years back I wrote about the lawfulness of lying in certain circumstances. But it also goes without saying that the prohibition of false witness is in the Ten Commandments, and that unlawful lying is a big deal.

Yesterday I wrote about Airbnb’s mandatory confession of faith before they will allow you to do business through them. Is it lawful to click that you agree, when in fact you do not agree? Is that “going underground” or is that simply being a lame Christian? Is that lawful deception or is it something less noble? This is far from an academic issue, particularly for Christians who work for large fairy-friendly corporations. There are multiple opportunities for the diversity officer to show up at your cubicle, in order to help the company stamp out diversity. But the diversity officer does not just want you to not rock the boat—he wants you to agree. You must sign off. You have to applaud. “We here in the Acme Widget community want to do our part to make this whole movement a little bit more like a North Korean missile parade.”

So is clicking Airbnb’s inane and contradictory affirmation the equivalent of clicking that you have read all of Apple’s most recent terms and conditions? Or is something much bigger at stake?

If the Gestapo ask you if you have Jews hidden in a secret room in your basement, and you do, you do not have to thank them for the opportunity to come clean. But if that same officer tells you to blaspheme the name of Christ in front of him, you must absolutely refuse.

Daily Meditation

On Worry

C. S. Lewis

A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don’t think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds’ song and the frosty sunrise.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II
Compiled in Words to Live By The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume II: Family Letters 1905-1931. Copyright © 2004 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Post-Communist Russia

A Second Darkness

Few folk in the West know just how relentlessly the Soviet regime persecuted the Orthodox Church, in the attempt to obliterate Christianity off the face of the Russias.  It's worth remembering:
Lenin seemed to have taken in earnest Voltaire's jocular remark that the era of human happiness would begin when the last king was strangled in the entrails of the last priest.  And so Lenin and Stalin destroyed or diverted to the use of the Soviet state over 90 percent of Russia's 96,000 churches and killed over 90 percent of its 112,000 Russian priests.  The rest were thoroughly infiltrated by the Cheka and its follower, the KGB, and were forbidden to proselytize or even to preach.

And indeed, this remnant church did its best to function as a transmission belt for the regime, persecuting priests who took their jobs seriously.  The Bible and religious literature were banned.  Meetings for religious purposes or religious conversations were cause for one-way trips to Siberia.

. . . . the extent to which the regime succeeded in destroying the spiritual bases of family, faith, property and law is less interesting than the reasons why it did not succeed even more.  The short answer seems to be that the campaign quickly drove millions of Russians to nihilism and that nihilism is unendurable for very long.  Visitors to the Soviet Union in the era of glasnost encountered a cynicism so deep and widespread, misanthropy so bitter, that even the most ardent communists had become frightened of it.
. . . . The constant flow of priests beaten and jailed for trying to do their job and the very existence of churches that were obviously muzzled reminded the masses that there was an alternative to the regime's morality, more attractive because forbidden.  The regime said the Church was corrupt.  But the masses knew that the regime was.  [Angelo Codevilla, The Character of Nations: How Politics Makes and Breaks Prosperity, Family, and Civility (New York: Basic Books, 1997), p. 93f.]
Fast forward to modern times.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Top of the Pops

Some End of Year Good News

The Legatum Institute has rated New Zealand as the most prosperous country in the world.  NZ was ranked first out of 149 countries.   Not sure how significant it is, but there you go.

Here is the blurb:

This comes amidst the claim that global prosperity as a whole has risen significantly over the past eight years.
After a lacklustre performance during the 2008 and 2009 global financial crisis, global prosperity has risen to unprecedented levels.   Whether we look at the global average or weight countries' scores by their populations, the picture remains the same: global prosperity is now three percent higher than it was in 2007.

Driving this trend towards higher global prosperity are improvements in Personal Freedom, particularly in Western Europe and Central and Latin America; improvements in Health and Education in Asia; and a better Business Environment in the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe.
Doubtless this will drive the pessimists and the global warmists spare.  Global prosperity needs to decline substantially in order to reduce carbon emissions.  Not everything is rosy, though:

Daily Devotional

Let Christ Manage the Provision

"The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."  Proverbs 16:33

Charles H. Spurgeon

If the disposal of the lot is the Lord's whose is the arrangement of our whole life? If the simple casting of a lot is guided by him, how much more the events of our entire life--especially when we are told by our blessed Saviour: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered: not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father."

It would bring a holy calm over your mind, dear friend, if you were always to remember this. It would so relieve your mind from anxiety, that you would be the better able to walk in patience, quiet, and cheerfulness as a Christian should. When a man is anxious he cannot pray with faith; when he is troubled about the world, he cannot serve his Master, his thoughts are serving himself. If you would "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," all things would then be added unto you.

You are meddling with Christ's business, and neglecting your own when you fret about your lot and circumstances. You have been trying "providing" work and forgetting that it is yours to obey. Be wise and attend to the obeying, and let Christ manage the providing. Come and survey your Father's storehouse, and ask whether he will let you starve while he has laid up so great an abundance in his garner? Look at his heart of mercy; see if that can ever prove unkind! Look at his inscrutable wisdom; see if that will ever be at fault.

Above all, look up to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while he pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you? If he remembers even sparrows, will he forget one of the least of his poor children? "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved."

My soul, rest happy in thy low estate,
Nor hope nor wish to be esteem'd or great;
To take the impress of the Will Divine,
Be that thy glory, and those riches thine.


What Is It, and Where Can It Be Found?

In his book The Character of Nations, Angelo Codevilla asks an interesting question: exactly what is "prosperity"?  And, once it is defined properly, how can nations achieve and maintain prosperity?

Macro-economists and some politicians favour quantitative answers to the question.  Prosperity is a matter of Gross Domestic Product or some other quantitative measure of production.  Other politicians favour answers related to the quality of life and (these days) an egalitarian twist: wealth--and the quality of life which it enables--cannot be disparate.  There must be little or no gap between the wealthy and the poor.  To such folk, prosperity exists when everyone's socio-economic circumstances are pretty much the same.

Prosperity, then, largely is a matter of what lies between our two ears.  That is, prosperity is a matter of what people consider valuable, or of value.  John Kenneth Galbraith--the famous Harvard economist--considered the Soviet Union a truly prosperous society.  With his elitist set of values, Galbraith had walked the streets of Soviet cities and found there a vibrant, prosperous society.  Why?  Soviet towns were festooned with images, sculptures, and grand buildings--you know, the kind of things which impress those who think such things are of great value.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Confusion and Misdirection

A Lifestyle For A Life 

Abortion does not preserve a woman’s life — it preserves her lifestyle

Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh: Abortion does not preserve a woman’s life — it preserves her lifestyle

Abortion fans have been pretty outraged this week.

They’re always outraged about something, of course, but it seems their outrage has been manifesting itself in increasingly deranged ways. The derangement reached a crescendo these past few days when feminists across the state of Texas mailed their bloody tampons to the governor. For the record, it’s against the law to mail bodily fluids unless you’ve stored the sample safely (I’m assuming a used tampon does not qualify as safe storage), but aside from being illegal it’s also a fantastically stupid and unspeakably vile act. Even more so when you consider why, exactly, they’ve turned their feminine hygiene products into postcards: to protest a law requiring abortion clinics to bury or cremate the remains of aborted children.

One must truly despise human life to become outraged that dead bodies are being treated with some semblance of dignity. It’s one thing to throw the murdered children in the dumpster like soiled diapers after harvesting them for parts — it’s another thing to actually feel offended if they aren’t disposed of in this manner. To tolerate such an atrocity just makes you a narcissist and a moral coward, but to be personally and emotionally invested in the desecration of human remains makes you closer to a sociopath or a satanist.

Then again, what choice to pro-aborts have?

Advent Meditation

God’s Most Successful Setback

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9–11)

John Piper

Christmas was God’s most successful setback. He has always delighted to show his power through apparent defeat. He makes tactical retreats in order to win strategic victories.

Joseph was promised glory and power in his dream (Genesis 37:5–11). But to achieve that victory he had to become a slave in Egypt. And as if that were not enough, when his conditions improved because of his integrity, he was made worse than a slave — a prisoner.

But it was all planned. For there in prison he met Pharaoh’s butler, who eventually brought him to Pharaoh who put him over Egypt. What an unlikely route to glory!

But that is God’s way — even for his Son. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Worse than a slave — a prisoner — and was executed. But like Joseph, he kept his integrity. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:9–10).

And this is God’s way for us too. We are promised glory — if we will suffer with him (Romans 8:17). The way up is down. The way forward is backward. The way to success is through divinely appointed setbacks. They will always look and feel like failure.

But if Joseph and Jesus teach us anything this Christmas it is this: “God meant it for good!” (Genesis 50:20).

You fearful saints fresh courage take
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head.

Resurrecting The Courts Spiritual

Going Back to the Future

There is an old saying: what goes around comes around.  A second old saying is like unto it: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Trendy lefties in the UK think that Islamic sharia law is OK and that as long as all participants have voluntarily opted into sharia justice there is nothing wrong with it. Sharia courts and sharia justice is all about recognising a minority culture and its values.  It is about tolerance.  This sort of stuff sounds good over a chardonnay during a balmy summer evening on the pub veranda.

Having separate judicial systems is not new.  During the time of the First Christendom, a dual justice system operated.  There were the courts spiritual (or ecclesiastical), and the courts temporal  (or state courts).  The formal separation of the two legal systems goes back to William I.

So, we are re-entering that situation again in the West, but this time Islam is leading the way.  Moreover, this long established Islamic tradition has its secular supporters.  The Left are proposing and enthusiastically promoting sharia courts in the UK for Islamic people.  There's nothing wrong with it, we are told.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

In The Race to the Bottom NZ is Leading From the Front

Survey Results Prove Damning for NCEA

Warwick Ellis
NZ Herald

Qualification introduced to raise student achievement levels to world class has achieved just the opposite.  [Warwick Elley is an emeritus professor of education with experience in leading international surveys of school achievement.]

Some students were less motivated to study because they could sit again if they failed. Others stopped working when they had enough credits to pass NCEA.

At a time of political upheavals, earthquakes and boxing matches, the release of the OECD's latest Pisa survey results was barely noticed by media or the public.  Yet this three-yearly study of the achievement levels of 15-year-olds in more than 70 nations offers us the best independent evaluation of the quality of our education system.

Pisa (Programme of International Student Assessment) is not completely comprehensive but its questions involve a wide range of important thinking skills. They show how well students apply their knowledge in maths, science and reading, in solving novel and real-world problems, or show their critical thinking skills.

The tests are set by professionals, pre-tested for cultural bias, agreed to by participating nations, and administered to representative samples of 15-year-olds in each nation.  Moreover, the trends over time in average scores are directly comparable, each survey showing whether we are making progress.

So how well did our students do?

Advent Meditation

Life and Death at Christmas

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

John Piper

As I was about to begin this devotional, I received word that Marion Newstrum had just died. Marion and her husband Elmer have been part of Bethlehem longer than most of our members have been alive. She was 87. They had been married 64 years.

When I spoke to Elmer and told him I wanted him to be strong in the Lord and not give up on life, he said, “He has been a true friend.” I pray that all Christians will be able to say at the end of life, “Christ has been a true friend.”

Each Advent I mark the anniversary of my mother’s death. She was cut off in her 56th year in a bus accident in Israel. It was December 16, 1974. Those events are incredibly real to me even today. If I allow myself, I can easily come to tears — for example, thinking that my sons never knew her. We buried her the day after Christmas. What a precious Christmas it was!

Many of you will feel your loss this Christmas more pointedly than before. Don’t block it out. Let it come. Feel it. What is love for, if not to intensify our affections — both in life and death? But, O, do not be bitter. It is tragically self-destructive to be bitter.

Jesus came at Christmas that we might have eternal life. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Elmer and Marion had discussed where they would spend their final years. Elmer said, “Marion and I agreed that our final home would be with the Lord.”

Do you feel restless for home? I have family coming home for the holidays. It feels good. I think the bottom line reason for why it feels good is that they and I are destined in the depths of our being for an ultimate Homecoming. All other homecomings are foretastes. And foretastes are good.

Unless they become substitutes. O, don’t let all the sweet things of this season become substitutes of the final great, all-satisfying Sweetness. Let every loss and every delight send your hearts a-homing after heaven.

Christmas. What is it but this: I came that they might have life? Marion Newstrum, Ruth Piper, and you and I — that we might have Life, now and forever.

Make your Now the richer and deeper this Christmas by drinking at the fountain of Forever. It is so near.

Beyond Human Power

The Angel Song of Advent Sung in Charleston

When Adam and Eve decided that they had the power and the authority to decide for themselves what was true and untrue, good and evil, they set in train a curse that has fallen upon the entire human race.  All who, as the catechism says, descend from Adam by ordinary generation suffer accordingly. 
All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.  [Shorter Catechism, Q.19]
And so it was that on the 17 June, 2015 Dylann Roof (22) entered a church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot to death nine people gathered to read the Bible and pray.  Dylann Roof bears and is living out the curse of Adam.  He was born and raised in a family.  He has relatives.  [Parents: Franklin Bennett Roof, Amelia Cowles.  Siblings: Morgan Roof, Amber Roof.  Uncle: Carson Cowles.]  They, too, all bear Adam's curse.

Inside the church were people also bearing Adam's curse.  They were so much like Dylann Roof--same descent, same realities of cursedness.  They, however, although so much like Dylann Roof, were also different.  Profoundly so.  They had been born again, by the Spirit of God, into a new human race.  Their human head was no longer Adam, but Jesus Christ--the second Adam, his replacement.

These were plain, ordinary, straightforward, simple folk.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

How High Is the Water, Momma?

Ten Feet High and Risin'

Douglas Wilson

Lord willing, and if the crik don’t rise, I want to write a short series of posts to help Christians understand the nature of the bigotry-avalanche coming our way. Not only so, but I want to explain how the success of the bigotry depends upon us sharing certain key assumptions with our confused masters of bastinado. They wield the stick, but we hold our feet up for them.

Not to be coy, I am writing about the impossibility of genuine secularism. Secularism only works as a veneer on a Christian culture. In short, “secularism” is fully capable of taking credit for the magnanimity shown by a Christian people, but when those Christians and their root assumptions are successfully herded into their assigned ghetto, and the central altar in the high cathedral really is an altar to that trousered ape called man, it is then that we discover how mean and petty and nasty the jackbooted totalitolerant actually are.

First, so that we have a little grist for our mill, let us take a look at what Airbnb is now doing. Excuse me—I meant to say the Airbnb community. Suppose you want to go stay somewhere, and you log on to their most welcoming website in order to make some reservations somewhere. You will now run into this.

Advent Meditation

Making It Real for His People

Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)

John Piper

Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant, according to Hebrews 8:6. What does that mean? It means that his blood — the blood of the covenant (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 13:20) — purchased the fulfillment of God’s promises for us.

It means that God brings about our inner transformation by the Spirit of Christ.

And it means that God works all his transformation in us through faith in all that God is for us in Christ.

The new covenant is purchased by the blood of Christ, effected by the Spirit of Christ, and appropriated by faith in Christ.

The best place to see Christ working as the Mediator of the new covenant is in Hebrews 13:20–21:
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant [this is the purchase of the new covenant], even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The words “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” describe what happens when God writes the law on our hearts in the new covenant. And the words “through Jesus Christ” describe Jesus as the Mediator of this glorious work of sovereign grace.

So the meaning of Christmas is not only that God replaces shadows with Reality, but also that he takes the reality and makes it real to his people. He writes it on our hearts. He does not lay his Christmas gift of salvation and transformation down for you to pick up in your own strength. He picks it up and puts in your heart and in your mind, and seals to you that you are a child of God.

Unusual and Rare

A Believing, Professing Christian

Our view of politicians who profess to believe in Jesus is cynical to say the least.  The reason is that Messiah means many different things to different people.  All Unbelievers weave and construct a doctrine of Christ after their own lusts and prejudices.  Their Christ is made after their own image.  These comments are even more true of politicians and public figures than ordinary people. 

Nonetheless there is something different, we believe, at least thus far, with respect to the present UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.  It is sufficiently unusual to warrant The Guardian publishing an article on the subject.
As the only child of a vicar, Theresa May’s early Christmases inevitably revolved around the parish church. She attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and was back in church the following morning, with her mother playing the organ and her father preaching the sermon.  After church, her father often had pastoral visits to make to lonely or bereaved parishioners. Little Theresa – and her presents – had to wait.

Life in the rural Oxfordshire vicarage, and the religious devotion of her parents, Hugh and Zaidee Brasier, had a profound impact on the girl who would grow up to be prime minister.  May’s Christmas interview with the Radio Times marks the third time in just over a week that she has spoken publicly about her Christian faith, suggesting she may be more ready to acknowledge her personal beliefs than her immediate predecessors. . . . 
May clearly has a faith which has shaped her practice over many years.  She was a practising Christian before her political elevation.  That practice has continued, so that the latter builds upon and conforms with the former.  She has spoken three times recently about her personal commitment to Christ and His Church.  Not, please note, to an extrinsic ethic, or an ideal, or a tradition, but to her identity as a Christian.  She has been publicly professing her faith.  All Christians immediately grasp the significance of such an act.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Letter From America (About the Netherlands)

Geert Wilders Has Something to Say

The Editors
National Review Online

Image result for Wilders

A month ago, the Dutch politician Geert Wilders was considered likely to become the country’s next prime minister. On Friday, he was convicted on hate-speech charges — and became slightly more likely to become the president’s next prime minister.

Wilders is a longtime fixture in the European circles described in the American press with fear and loathing as “far right.” He and his party wish to reduce immigration, especially the immigration of Muslims from Morocco and the Middle East; they want the Netherlands to maintain its national character, which is secular and liberal, and lament the “Islamization” of their society; he is allied with Marine Le Pen in European affairs but also has worked to distance his Freedom party from what he calls “right-wing extremist and racist” parties, such as the anti-immigrant parties in Germany and Hungary that share some of his views.

He has adopted the slogan “Make the Netherlands Great Again,” for some indication of his substance and style.

Wilders was convicted of inciting discrimination and giving group offense, two “crimes” that are observed in much of Europe but that are not properly the stuff of criminal offenses in a country with free speech. While it is worth keeping in mind that Wilders isn’t a consistent defender of the free-speech rights he complains are being here violated — he has advocated banning both the Koran and the building of new mosques in the Netherlands — the laws he has been convicted of violating are absurd and have no place in a civilized, liberal society such as the Netherlands.

Advent Meditation

The Final Reality Is Here

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. (Hebrews 8:1–2)

John Piper

Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing.

Hebrews 8:1–2 is a kind of summary statement. The point is that the one priest who goes between us and God, and makes us right with God, and prays for us to God is not an ordinary, weak, sinful, dying, priest like in the Old Testament days. He is the Son of God — strong, sinless, with an indestructible life.

Not only that, he is not ministering in an earthly tabernacle with all its limitations of place and size and wearing out and being moth-eaten and being soaked and burned and torn and stolen. No, verse 2 says that Christ is ministering for us in a “true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” This is the real thing in heaven. This is what cast on Mount Sinai a shadow that Moses copied.

According to verse 1, another great thing about the reality which is greater than the shadow is that our High Priest is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. No Old Testament priest could ever say that.

Jesus deals directly with God the Father. He has a place of honor beside God. He is loved and respected infinitely by God. He is constantly with God. This is not shadow reality like curtains and bowls and tables and candles and robes and tassels and sheep and goats and pigeons. This is final, ultimate reality: God and his Son interacting in love and holiness for our eternal salvation.

Ultimate reality is the Persons of the Godhead in relationship, dealing with each other concerning how their majesty and holiness and love and justice and goodness and truth shall be manifest in a redeemed people.

Not A Bad Tribute . . .

A Hard Act to Follow

The former Prime Minister of New Zealand resigned this week--not because he had to, but because he chose to do so.  He left the recital on a very high note.

No doubt there will be many encomiums.  Here is one that helps explain why Key will go down as one of the greater Prime Minister's of this country--an ordinary, decent bloke.  It has been published on LinkedIn by Jake Millar:

It was C.S. Lewis who once said “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”  This is perhaps the greatest lesson I have learnt from our outgoing Prime Minister, John Key, a man who changed my life by doing just that.

When I was 15-years-old, on Saturday the 4th of September in 2010, my father, Rod Miller, died in a skydiving plane crash in Fox Glacier, which killed nine people.  It was the worst plane crash New Zealand had experienced in 17 years, and it tore many people apart.

It was a rough time for New Zealand. The very same day Christchurch experienced its first major earthquake, destroying the city. And just over one month later, the West Coast was hit with another tragedy, after 29 men died in the Pike River mine disaster.

It was how Prime Minister John Key reacted to these terrible tragedies, particularly the one closest to my heart, where I first began to truly respect him, and appreciate him as a remarkable leader.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

What Shouldn’t Oughter

Douglas Wilson

This is already a very cheerful time of the year, but the Lord apparently thought I needed to be cheered up even a little bit more, and so He very kindly arranged to have the Democrats start yelling at us over the startling news that the Russians hacked our sacred electoral processes.
Now I do need to emphasize at the outset that it is our electoral processes that are sacred. As in, America’s electoral processes. It is quite important not to make a mistake here. When it is other nation’s elections we are talking about—those very pedestrian kind of foreign elections—it is simply the case that the same kind of civic dignity and majesty are not exuded by them. It doesn’t waft off of them, the way it does off of ours. I say this merely out of a desire to use off of twice in one sentence. These are antinomian times.


This is why, for example, there is no problem with President Obama interfering with the British Brexit vote, popping up during their campaign in order to do his sanctimonious professor thing—which he admittedly does very well—so that he might inform the benighted British public that a yes vote on Brexit would have DIRE consequences.

Advent Meditation

Replacing the Shadows

John Piper

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. (Hebrews 8:1–2)

The point of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has not just come to fit into the earthly system of priestly ministry as the best and final human priest, but he has come to fulfill and put an end to that system and to orient all our attention on himself ministering for us in heaven.

The Old Testament tabernacle and priests and sacrifices were shadows. Now the reality has come, and the shadows pass away.

Here’s an Advent illustration for kids — and those of us who used to be kids and remember what it was like. Suppose you and your mom get separated in the grocery store, and you start to get scared and panic and don’t know which way to go, and you run to the end of an aisle, and just before you start to cry, you see a shadow on the floor at the end of the aisle that looks just like your mom. It makes you really happy and you feel hope. But which is better? The happiness of seeing the shadow, or having your mom step around the corner and it’s really her?

That’s the way it is when Jesus comes to be our High Priest. That’s what Christmas is. Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the real thing.

For Want of a Nail . . .

Where is a Decent Spam Filter When It is Needed

OK.  We confess.  We find ourselves chortling with amusement over the public discomfort of the Democratic Party in the United States.  With each news cycle, the discomfort seems to get worse.  

Eventually it will pass.  One can only mourn for so long.  Eventually emotional exhaustion sets in, the stages of grief are worked through, and things begin again.  But at the moment, the cognoscenti and nobility of the Democratic Party are in the "Grinch has Stolen Christmas" phase.  [We note, in passing, that Hillary Clinton is publicly framing and pushing the mourning, eeerr, complaining--which is a sure sign that she and Bill have not given up her aspirations to the presidency.  2020-21 beckons.]

We are surprised that the public discombobulation and mourning has continued this long, but there you go.  There have been a number of scapegoats offered up by Democratic opinionistas as to why the election and the presidency was stolen from she-to-whom-it belonged-by-divine-right.  First vote counting machines were alleged to be at fault.  Then, it was the Director of the FBI.  Then it was the alt-Right.  Now, it is the Russians and Machiavellian, Vlad the Impaler Putin who allegedly hacked into the US electoral process to defame Hillary.

Now, we have no doubt that Vlad the Impaler is not to be trusted.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A Just Killing

When Evil is Good and Good is Evil

In New Zealand we have a big problem with state sanctioned killing--unless the one killed is "euthanized" or is brutalized by his or her mother and her doctor.  In those two cases, euthanasia and abortion, state sanctioned killing is way cool and righteous, man.  

But executing murderers must never, ever be allowed again.  It belongs to an ignorant, primitive past.  An attorney in the United States, however, puts the matter in perspective:
Big Media is in a tizzy today about the possibility that an inhuman killer might have coughed once or twice as he faced justice for his callous crime. Articles about the execution of Ronald Bert Smith, Jr. in Alabama for the murder of convenience store clerk Casey Wilson tend to focus on whether Smith, the murderer, suffered during his execution. Here is a typical headline: "Alabama Death Row inmate Ronald Bert Smith heaved, coughed for 13 minutes during execution" [by lethal injection].

At an execution, the focus should not be on the murderer.

Advent Meditation

Why Jesus Came

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15)

John Piper

Hebrews 2:14–15 is worth more than two minutes in an Advent devotional. These verses connect the beginning and the end of Jesus’s earthly life. They make clear why he came. They would be great to use with an unbelieving friend or family member to take them step by step through your Christian view of Christmas. It might go something like this…

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood…”

The term “children” is taken from the previous verse and refers to the spiritual offspring of Christ, the Messiah (see Isaiah 8:18; 53:10). These are also the “children of God.” In other words, in sending Christ, God has the salvation of his “children” specially in view. It is true that “God so loved the world, that he sent [Jesus].” But it is also true that God was especially “gathering the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:52). God’s design was to offer Christ to the world, and to effect the salvation of his “children” (see 1 Timothy 4:10). You may experience adoption by receiving Christ (John 1:12).

“…he himself likewise partook of the same things [flesh and blood]…”

Christ existed before the incarnation. He was spirit. He was the eternal Word. He was with God and was God (John 1:1; Colossians 2:9). But he took on flesh and blood and clothed his deity with humanity. He became fully man and remained fully God. It is a great mystery in many ways. But it is at the heart of our faith and is what the Bible teaches.

“…that through death…”

The reason he became man was to die. As God, he could not die for sinners. But as man he could. His aim was to die. Therefore he had to be born human. He was born to die. Good Friday is the reason for Christmas. This is what needs to be said today about the meaning of Christmas.

“…he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…”

In dying, Christ de-fanged the devil. How? By covering all our sin. This means that Satan has no legitimate grounds to accuse us before God. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect, it is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33) — on what grounds does he justify? Through the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9).

Satan’s ultimate weapon against us is our own sin. If the death of Jesus takes it away, the chief weapon of the devil is taken out of his hand. He cannot make a case for our death penalty, because the Judge has acquitted us by the death of his Son!

“…and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

So we are free from the fear of death. God has justified us. Satan cannot overturn that decree. And God means for our ultimate safety to have an immediate effect on our lives. He means for the happy ending to take away the slavery and fear of the Now.

If we do not need to fear our last and greatest enemy, death, then we do not need to fear anything. We can be free. Free for joy. Free for others.

What a great Christmas present from God to us! And from us to the world!

The Extremist Fringe of the Left

No Evidence, Just Presumptive Prejudice

The leftist world view is a strange beast.  We acknowledge that all human beings have deeply (often inchoately) held beliefs that are to them so self-evident they are beyond debate and discussion.  Philosophers call such deeply held truth commitments presuppositions.  The Left (or anybody else) are not to be criticized for having such fundamental beliefs.

What is queer, however, is that it would appear one of the presuppositions of the Left is that their views are self-evident to every human soul.  Like many fundamental beliefs, the folk on the Left do not take this belief in the self-evident status of leftist ideology out of their mental satchells and take a good, long, hard look at it from time to time.  

Rather, they grandly assume that leftist views and commitments are self-evident to every human being--and that's all there is to it.  This is what critics are alluding to when they charge the Left with operating more and more in a self-constructed echo-chamber.

Understanding this helps explain a number of behavioural characteristics of the Left.

Monday, 19 December 2016

In Memoriam

. . . Of Whom The World Was Not Worthy

Justin Taylor
The Gospel Coalition

Dr. Helen Roseveare, a famous English missionary to the Congo, has passed away at the age of 91.

Helen Roseveare was born in 1925 at Haileybury College (Hertfordshire, England), where her father taught mathematics.

RoseveareRaised in a high Anglican church, Helen’s Sunday school teacher once told their class about India, and Helen resolved to herself that she would one day be a missionary.

Despite the Christian heritage of her family, and faithful attendance at church, Helen sensed a void in her life and distance from God.

She enrolled in Newnham College at Cambridge University to study medicine. There she joined the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (CICCU) through the invitation of a student named Dorothy. She became an active participant in the prayer meetings and Bible studies, reading the New Testament for the first time. But she later said that her understanding of Christianity was more head knowledge than heart engagement.

In the winter of 1945, the Lord seemed to meet her in a personal way during a student retreat. She gave her testimony on the final evening, and Bible teacher Graham Scroggie wrote Philippians 3:10 in her new Bible, and told her:

Advent Meditation

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10–11)

John Piper

God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). The gifts of the magi are not given by way of assistance or need-meeting. It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages.

Nor are these gifts meant to be bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God takes no bribe. Well, what then do they mean? How are they worship?

The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself in much the same way that fasting is. When you give a gift to Christ like this, it’s a way of saying, “The joy that I pursue (verse 10!) is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things, but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not things. By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, ‘You are my treasure, not these things.’”

I think that’s what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

May God take the truth of this text and waken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from the heart, “Lord Jesus, you are the Messiah, the King of Israel. All nations will come and bow down before you. God wields the world to see that you are worshiped. Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you, and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not these.”

Worse Than a James Bond Martini

Child Commissioner All Shaken Up

Well, it's child poverty time again.  We think we could make a good living from ghost writing the Child Poverty reports for the next ten years now.  It would save an awful lot of money, fuss and bother.  Newspapers and other media outlets would appreciate preparing their pieces reporting on child poverty well in advance.  And we all know now how those pieces will read.

Firstly, let's review the new Children's Commissioner, Judge Becroft's reaction to the latest Child Poverty Monitor:
Children's commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft says he was "shaken" by the 2016 child poverty monitor, the first to be issued since he took the advocacy role.  Produced by the University of Otago, the annual monitor, released today, shows child poverty rates are stable, with a slight decrease. [NZ Herald]
"Shaky" presumably indicates that Becroft  was giddy with success.  OK, so the decrease was slight, but a decrease nonetheless.  First time in a long time.  Wow.  That has to be the right interpretation of "shaken"--or, if not, one would be excused for thinking that the good Judge and the NZ Herald are merely salivating at the prospect of a sensational headline.

Secondly, child poverty measures in New Zealand are of little worth because they are relative.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

And I Will Take My Ultimate on the Side

Douglas Wilson

I want to write about religious liberty, and in order to do that I must first address the myth of neutrality. But I don’t really want to address the myth of neutrality, but rather the demented, off-the-chain, sociopathic, deranged, vacuous, and sure-to-let-you-down-later-today opium dream of neutrality.

Neutrality is, like, not a thing. It does not exist. It is a lie, pretending to exist. It is an incoherent rambling lie. It is a lie unshaven and with its shirt untucked, and is now gone downtown panhandling for spare change. If you can spare a quarter, he can get all of us into a secular paradise. Finally. The dream is so near, almost within our grasp. We just need to deal with these fundamentalists—we do not deign to call them theocrats. They are theocranks.  Okay, enough with that. I am having so much fun somebody might think I am a Calvinist.

Secularism, with its vaunted religious neutrality, from which they pretend to extract a robust doctrine of religious neutrality, has certain dogmatic concerns.

Advent Meditation

Two Kinds of Opposition to Jesus

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)

John Piper

Jesus is troubling to people who do not want to worship him, and he brings out opposition for those who do. This is probably not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is inescapable as the story goes on.

In this story, there are two kinds of people who do not want to worship Jesus, the Messiah.

The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented by the chief priests and scribes. Verse 4: “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Well, they told him, and that was that: back to business as usual. The sheer silence and inactivity of the leaders is overwhelming in view of the magnitude of what was happening.

And notice, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” In other words, the rumor was going around that someone thought the Messiah was born. The inactivity on the part of chief priests is staggering — why not go with the magi? They are not interested. They do not want to worship the true God.

The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus is the kind who is deeply threatened by him. That is Herod in this story. He is really afraid. So much so that he schemes and lies and then commits mass murder just to get rid of Jesus.

So today these two kinds of opposition will come against Christ and his worshipers. Indifference and hostility. Are you in one of those groups?

Let this Christmas be the time when you reconsider the Messiah and ponder what it is to worship him.

Penalties And Recidivist Offending

Implicitly Just

As we have mentioned before in these pages, New Zealand has a Three Strikes Law.  It is definitely better crafted than Three Strikes legislation in our countries--in our view.  One better aspect is that a list of offences has been stipulated which qualify as Three Strike offences.  The intent is to restrict Three Strikes risk and liability to serious criminal offences only.  

We have recently had our first Third Strike offence and judgement issued.  This has prompted discussion about how effective our Three Strikes legislation is, and how just it may be.  In fact it was an interesting test case, attracting some controversy.  As is so often the case in such matters, the media are busy parroting the views of judges who feel that their god-like discretion has been unduly removed.  What is not being reiterated by said opinionistas is that the public had grown progressively annoyed at judges handing down sentences way less than the maxima allowed for serial criminal offenders--leading to a demand for Three Strikes laws.

In the first place, the offence that brought this particular Three Strikes liability and its resultant sentence was one which seemed minor, at first glance.  A criminal in prison under his Second Strike offence thought it would be cute to grope the rear of a female prison guard, which in New Zealand law constitutes an indecent assault and which has a maximum jail term of seven years.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable

It’s Not the Church’s Job to Make Us Feel Comfortable

Matt Walsh

I received this message from a self-described pastor a few days ago:

Hi Matt, I’m a pastor and I have to say I’ve read your work for a while and I find it very troubling. There is no tolerance, inclusiveness, or love in your writings. It’s hateful towards the LGBTQ community and others who don’t share your views about gay rights, reproductive rights or many other issues. Matt churches should be focusing on how to welcome people in, whether they happen to be gay, trans, feminist or any other group you denigrate. “Christians” like you and all the rest on the far right have pushed these people away for so long. Matt no matter what you or your ilk say in your backwardness and bigotry, Christians in a committed same-sex relationship and others in the LGBTQ community are following God’s design for their lives. That’s the message the church needs to spread. God is love. Love is love! Your message of hatred and exclusion should be left in the dark ages where it belongs. You should be ashamed. I will pray for you.

Hi, pastor. Three things:

One: These aren’t “my views” about gay rights and “reproductive rights,” as you refer to them. I am merely agreeing with the One who has already made His position on these subjects known.

Two: It’s not the church’s job to make us comfortable, pastor.  Its job is to help to make us holy.

Yes, it should welcome all. In fact it should not only welcome but actively seek those who are lost. It should venture into the world, find the wandering sheep, and guide them back into the fold. But what it cannot do, pastor, is welcome our sin.

It should welcome the penitent thief, as Christ did, but it should not and cannot welcome his thievery. Remember, only one of the thieves crucified next to Christ was invited into paradise. The one who renounced his crimes was promised Heaven. The other, who clung to his wickedness even up until the moment of death, was not offered an invitation. I wonder, if you were there on Calvary that day, would you have lectured Christ for not being sufficiently inclusive?

Advent Meditation

Bethlehem’s Supernatural Star

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2)

John Piper

Over and over the Bible baffles our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this “star” get the magi from the east to Jerusalem?  It does not say that it led them or went before them. It only says they saw a star in the east (verse 2), and came to Jerusalem. And how did that star go before them in the little five-mile walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem as verse 9 says it did? And how did a star stand “over the place where the Child was”?

The answer is: We do not know. There are numerous efforts to explain it in terms of conjunctions of planets or comets or supernovas or miraculous lights. We just don’t know. And I want to exhort you not to become preoccupied with developing theories that are only tentative in the end and have very little spiritual significance.

I risk a generalization to warn you: People who are exercised and preoccupied with such things as how the star worked and how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood are generally people who have what I call a mentality for the marginal. You do not see in them a deep cherishing of the great central things of the gospel — the holiness of God, the ugliness of sin, the helplessness of man, the death of Christ, justification by faith alone, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the glory of Christ’s return and the final judgment. They always seem to be taking you down a sidetrack with a new article or book. There is little centered rejoicing.

But what is plain concerning this matter of the star is that it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding magi to the Son of God to worship him.  There is only one Person in biblical thinking that can be behind that intentionality in the stars — God himself.

So the lesson is plain: God is guiding foreigners to Christ to worship him. And he is doing it by exerting global — probably even universal — influence and power to get it done.

Luke shows God influencing the entire Roman Empire so that the census comes at the exact time to get a virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy with her delivery. Matthew shows God influencing the stars in the sky to get foreign magi to Bethlehem so that they can worship him.  This is God’s design. He did it then. He is still doing it now. His aim is that the nations — all the nations (Matthew 24:14) — worship his Son.

This is God’s will for everybody in your office at work, and in your neighborhood and in your home. As John 4:23 says, “Such the Father seeks to worship him.”

At the beginning of Matthew we still have a “come-see” pattern. But at the end the pattern is “go-tell.” The magi came and saw. We are to go and tell.  But what is not different is that the purpose of God is the ingathering of the nations to worship his Son. The magnifying of Christ in the white-hot worship of all nations is the reason the world exists.

"It Won't Happen Again"-- Really?

Breathtakingly Bad

For several years we have appreciated the George Gently crime series produced in the UK.  Set in the 60's in the north of England the attitudes of many police, as portrayed in successive series, seem to belong to a dim dark age.  It gives the viewer some comfort because the (soft) implication is that the attitudes reflected by some police characters in that series belong to the past.  Modern policing (it is implied) has moved way beyond such practices and attitudes.

It is a "comfort" that ought not be held.  Some recent instances and cases have come to light which paint a less soporific picture.  How much has changed for the better?  Really changed?.

The Guardian reports on a concluded review of  how West Yorkshire police and other social authorities "handled" the recent grooming and sexual exploitation of a child.  It is grim stuff.  
Police and social services in West Yorkshire were guilty of “a serious systematic failure” to safeguard a vulnerable girl who was groomed and raped by at least 13 men, an investigation has found.  A serious case review by the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board found insufficient steps were taken to protect the girl from exploitation.

Known by the pseudonym Autumn, the girl was 12 when she was assessed by the children’s charity Barnados as being at high risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE). At that point, in July 2010, she had gone missing twice from her home in Keighley, near Bradford, and had received texts and phone calls from much older, unknown men.  The review said West Yorkshire police held the belief that children such as Autumn were “actively consenting and choosing to become involved” with the men.

Although members of Autumn’s family suspected she was being exploited it was not until July 2012 that police began to actively investigate her abusers.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Militant Statism Takes Form in Ontario, Canada

Canadian Law Erases Moms And Dads From State Documents 

Reduces Children To Chattels

Stella Morabito
The Federalist

Nobody has a mother or a father, according to a certain Bill 28 recently passed in the legislature of Ontario, Canada. Got that? The law’s official title is: “An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act, the Vital Statistics Act and various other Acts respecting parentage and related registrations.”

Basically, the law scrubs the words “mother” and “father” from documents, and replaces them with the neutered term “parent.” The law also raises the number of legal parents to as many as four per child. In other words, the government of Ontario will cease to legally recognize the natural origins of any of its citizens.

If you live in Ontario, you now have no right for the state to recognize you as either a mother or a father to your child, biological or otherwise. Likewise, no child there has the right to a legally recognized biological mother or father. Recognizing the relationship is now the sole prerogative of the state.

As with all bad legislation that cannot survive any real scrutiny, proponents of Bill 28 pushed it through fast and furiously and with a good deal of subterfuge and manipulation.

Advent Meditation

Messiah for the Magi

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1–2)

John Piper

Unlike Luke, Matthew does not tell us about the shepherds coming to visit Jesus in the stable. His focus is immediately on foreigners coming from the east to worship Jesus.

So Matthew portrays Jesus at the beginning and ending of his Gospel as a universal Messiah for the nations, not just for Jews.

Here the first worshipers are court magicians or astrologers or wise men not from Israel but from the East — perhaps from Babylon. They were Gentiles. Unclean.

And at the end of Matthew, the last words of Jesus are, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”

This not only opened the door for us Gentiles to rejoice in the Messiah, it added proof that he was the Messiah. Because one of the repeated prophecies was that the nations and kings would, in fact, come to him as the ruler of the world. For example, Isaiah 60:3, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

So Matthew adds proof to the messiahship of Jesus and shows that he is messiah — a King, and Promise-Fulfiller — for all the nations, not just Israel.

Time For Righteous Outrage

Abused Children Used To Support Blighted Racist Narrative

Maori elites in New Zealand are sadly riven with perverse institutional racism.  For years now abused Maori children, at the insistence of the Maori Party, have been placed by the state into Maori "homes" when their current "home" is no longer suitable.  

The new proposal which would change the "Maori first" policy has been described as follows:
Cabinet papers released by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley last week revealed that the Government plans to axe a provision that gives priority to placing abused children with foster parents from the same [Maori] extended family or tribe.  A new law, which will create a new Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamakiri, would require that any child who was removed from its family and cannot be returned to immediate family "must be placed with a safe, stable and loving family at the earliest opportunity".

The change would remove a provision in the 1989 Children, Young Persons and their Families Act that gave priority to placing a child with "a person who is a member of the child's or young person's hapu or iwi [with preference being given to hapu members], or, if that is not possible, who has the same tribal, racial, ethnic, or cultural background as the child".  [NZ Herald]
To put it baldly, if an abused child has only one of two foster homes available--one a Maori "home" which is unstable, violent, riven with abuse, drug use, poverty, disease, indolence, and drunkenness, and the other a stable, loving, experienced, financially secure, happy Pacific Island home, the current law requires that the child be placed in the Maori home.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Code of the Salty Dog

Douglas Wilson


So you may consider this a quick round-up of my thoughts thus far in the aftermath of a very weird election, and my medium-warm hot take on how the presidential transition is going. But quite apart from how it might actually be going, I do have to say that I am enjoying the transition way more than I thought I would be enjoying it. And here are some of the reasons why, along with some free observations here and there.


In case there are some people just joining us, I did not vote for Donald Trump. After a long series of Republican contenders who seemed conservative and who promised to stay that way, but who usually didn’t stay that way—think Lucy and the football—it seemed to me that Trump, who didn’t seem conservative, and who wouldn’t promise to stay that way, the phrase “safe bet” was not the one that came to mind. He seems to me to be a carnal man through and through, and erratically conservative, if that. So I wanted both Trump and Hillary to lose, but only one of them managed to deliver on that prospect—and I have previously confessed that I was surprised at how delighted the Clinton loss made me. That is my disclaimer. But if you read to the end, you will find that my disclaimer has a disclaimer.

In all that you read, both here and elsewhere, remember that success does not alter the truth, and winning an election does not affect who owes an apology to whom.

Advent Meditation

Mary’s Magnificent God

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46–55)

John Piper

Mary sees clearly a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history; the most important three decades in all of time are about to begin.

And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women — one old and barren (Elizabeth), one young and virginal (Mary). And Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song — a song that has come to be known as “the Magnificat” (Luke 1:46–55).

Mary and Elizabeth are wonderful heroines in Luke’s account. He loves the faith of these women. The thing that impresses him most, it appears, and the thing he wants to impress on Theophilus, his noble reader, is the lowliness and cheerful humility of Elizabeth and Mary.

Elizabeth says (Luke 1:43), “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” And Mary says (Luke 1:48), “He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.”

The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary — people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.

Democratic Realities

Voters, Like Customers, are Always Right

One of the more interesting revelations to come out after Trump's election victory is the number of prominent Democrats taking extreme positions in vain attempts to prevent Tump's inauguration.  These folk are doing so against the backdrop of Trump's electoral victory.  

But sometimes the issue is just so big that radical action is called for.  Now this nativist rebellion is not coming from a bunch of far left, redneck Democrats.  This is not the Hollywood elites fantasizing about making the script of some C-Grade movie into a real-life documentary.  It is a reaction coming from what would normally be regarded as mainstream, responsible, constitutional, moderate Democrats.

Here is a tasting from the Democrats buffet table:

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Letter From America (About Corruption in the Pentagon)

The Pentagon: Part Of A Broken System

Rod Dreher
The American Conservative

Frontpage / Shutterstock

Whenever I hear a politician say he’s going to save money by tackling “waste, fraud, and abuse,” I think, “yeah, whatever,” assuming that he’s avoiding hard choices. But here is an example of spectacular waste, one that I hope Trump will lay into hard:
The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.  Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.

But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.

So the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website.

The Pentagon wanted to save money, allegedly. This report found great ways to save a gob of it. So the Pentagon killed it, because they were afraid that people would assume that they were wasting money. Which they are.  Why doesn’t Congress want to know how much money is being wasted by the military-industrial complex? From the story:
Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine general and former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, said lawmakers block even modest attempts to downsize the Pentagon’s workforce because they do not want to lose jobs in their districts.  Without backing from Congress, “you can’t even get rid of the guy serving butter in the chow hall in a local district, much less tens of thousands of jobs,” he said.

Read the whole thing. Notice how senior bureaucrats within the Pentagon worked to shoot it down. Note also that for that $125 billion in mere waste and inefficiency at the Pentagon, you could run HHS, the EPA, and the Justice Department for a year. The entire 2017 budget for Veterans Affairs is $70 billion. But heaven forbid that anybody ask the Pentagon pencil-pushers to tighten their belts.

Reading that report, I thought of Bret Stephens’ great column in the Wall Street Journal today. Stephens says that the huge political changes going on around the world have less to do with globalism and more to do with people being fed up with injustice. He writes:
In other words, the “system,” with its high-toned rationale and its high-handed maneuvers, struck millions of people as unaccountable and unjust. It might have been a good thing that the sky didn’t fall on everybody [in the financial crash of 2008], but shouldn’t it at least have fallen on somebody? Bernie Sanders got remarkably close to winning the Democratic nomination by calling Wall Street a fraud and demanding prosecutions. Hillary Clinton lost the White House by so perfectly typifying the system that supposedly worked so well. Donald Trump is what he is, and readers know what I think of that. But Mrs. Clinton’s unforgivable sin was her outsized—and unearned—sense of entitlement.

Look again at this year’s other big political surprises.

Colombians rejected the peace deal because they would not abide having terrorists lightly let off for their crimes. Filipinos elected Rodrigo Duterte because they wanted to exact moral justice against drug dealers, never mind the finer details of legal justice. Britons disregarded dire warnings about the consequences of leaving the EU because the powers of Brussels violated their sense of democratic sovereignty. Italians told Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to shove off because they weren’t sympathetic to plans they see as having been made in Berlin for the benefit of Germans.

The populist wave now cresting across much of the world is sometimes described as a revolt against globalization: immigrants failing to assimilate the values of their hosts, poorer countries drawing jobs from richer ones, and so on. But the root complaint is not about economics. It’s about justice. Why does the banker get the bailout while the merchant goes bankrupt? Why does the illegal immigrant get to jump the citizenship queue? What right does a foreign judge have to tell us what punishments our criminals deserve? Why do our soldiers risk their lives for the defense of wealthy allies?

Those of us who believe in the liberal international order (now derisively called “globalism”) ought to think about this. There are powerful academic arguments to be made for the superiority of free trade over mercantilism, or of Pax Americana over America First. But liberalism’s champions will continue to lose the argument until we learn to make our case not in the language of what works, but of what’s right.

A system that allows a bloated Pentagon bureaucracy to spend $125 million on things it doesn’t need, and suppress a report that suggests ways to cut that waste — in what sense does such a system work?

Advent Meditation

The Long-Awaited Visitation

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us...” (Luke 1:68–71)

John Piper

Notice two remarkable things from these words of Zechariah in Luke 1.

First, nine months earlier, Zechariah could not believe his wife would have a child. Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he is so confident of God’s redeeming work in the coming Messiah that he puts it in the past tense. For the mind of faith, a promised act of God is as good as done. Zechariah has learned to take God at his word and so has a remarkable assurance: “God has visited and redeemed!”

Second, the coming of Jesus the Messiah is a visitation of God to our world: “The God of Israel has visited and redeemed.” For centuries, the Jewish people had languished under the conviction that God had withdrawn: the spirit of prophecy had ceased, Israel had fallen into the hands of Rome. And all the godly in Israel were awaiting the visitation of God. Luke tells us in 2:25 that the devout Simeon was “looking for the consolation of Israel.” And in Luke 2:38 the prayerful Anna was “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

These were days of great expectation. Now the long awaited visitation of God was about to happen — indeed, he was about to come in a way no one expected.

Californication: A Thing to Behold

Purer Than The Driven Snow

There is an old saw to the effect that when the law becomes an ass, only donkeys comply.  And so it rolls.  In California, cow farts are now subject to law.
In California’s consistent quest to put the plug in global warming, the Smurf-blue state has turned its attention to dairy cow derrieres, and the gasses said bovine backsides issue forth.

According to Fox 5 in New York, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation into law that will limit the methane gas rising from farms created by the cows belching, farting, and manure. Methane is a much more unfriendly greenhouse gas than carbon-dioxide, and while some would celebrate this as another step toward curbing global warming, the law was signed in the face of much protest by California farmers.  [TheBlaze]
Just exactly how, we innocently inquire, will the great Wizard of Oz and his lawmakers limit the amount of bovine excrescence in California?