Saturday, 30 December 2017

Poland's New Prime Minister

Return to Christian Roots Only Way to Stop Europe’s Decline

Natalia Dueholm

December 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Mateusz Morawiecki, the new Prime Minister of Poland, spoke about re-Christianizing Europe during the first interview after his nomination. His Law and Justice party has been under constant attack by the EU political elites.

Last Friday Morawiecki, 49, was appointed Prime Minister by President Andrzej Duda. He replaced Beata Szydło, who had served only half a term. Morawiecki had been Minister of Development, Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister in Szydło’s government. He was sworn into office last Monday, and gave his first interview the previous Friday.

The topics of the conversation with a Catholic media outlet Telewizja Trwam ranged from the economic and social development of Poland, international relations, and the EU. Throughout the interview, Morawiecki made several religious references.

Speaking about Polish mining and the problematic EU climate policy, he said, “we want to transform Europe.” He digressed that his dream is to “re-Christianize Europe”.  Morawiecki specified that, “unfortunately, in many places, not only are Christmas Carols not sung, but churches are empty, and some are even turned into museums.”

Daily Meditation

Credibility Through Illumination and Integration

C. S. Lewis

Let us suppose we possess parts of a novel or a symphony. Someone now brings us a newly discovered piece of manuscript and says, ‘This is the missing part of the work. This is the chapter on which the whole plot of the novel really turned. This is the main theme of the symphony’. Our business would be to see whether the new passage, if admitted to the central place which the discoverer claimed for it, did actually illuminate all the parts we had already seen and ‘pull them together’. Nor should we be likely to go very far wrong.

The new passage, if spurious, however attractive it looked at the first glance, would become harder and harder to reconcile with the rest of the work the longer we considered the matter. But if it were genuine then at every fresh hearing of the music or every fresh reading of the book, we should find it settling down, making itself more at home and eliciting significance from all sorts of details in the whole work which we had hitherto neglected. Even though the new central chapter or main theme contained great difficulties in itself, we should still think it genuine provided that it continually removed difficulties elsewhere.

Something like this we must do with the doctrine of the Incarnation. Here, instead of a symphony or a novel, we have the whole mass of our knowledge. The credibility will depend on the extent to which the doctrine, if accepted, can illuminate and integrate that whole mass. It is much less important that the doctrine itself should be fully comprehensible. We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because we can see everything else.

From Miracles
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis Miracles: A Preliminary Study. Copyright 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1947 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Revised 1960, restored 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. 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.

Feminist Justice an Oxymoron of Oxymorons

Lies, Damned Lies, and Police Policy

"Feminist justice" is an oxymoron.  In fact, whenever it has been applied the results have been profound miscarriages of justice.  Those who advocate for it should be thrown in the clink, or something similar.  

Here is an example of the injustice of feminism at work in the UK.
A national police policy, backed by the National College of Policing, says rape accusers should always be “believed”, echoing the language of far-left radical feminists who believe we all live in a “rape culture”.  [Breitbart London]
Because the far-left radical feminist doctrines have been adopted by the police and applied to policing in the UK, gross miscarriages of justice have resulted.  Now, given the manifest injustices that have come to light, the National Police Chiefs Council has called for this feminist horror to be rescinded and the national police policy in the UK to be changed accordingly.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Will the Empire Succeed in Striking Back?

Resistance Against the Empire Gathers Strength

Today and tomorrow we will be running a couple of articles on Poland and the rising animus of the EU against that nation state.  [JT]

EU Warns Poland Not To Pass Pro-life Legislation


December 5, 2017 (Population Research Institute) – The European Union (EU) has warned Poland not to pass any legislation banning abortion in cases where unborn children are living with severe congenital disabilities.

On November 15, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution initiating the formal process for rebuking an EU Member State found to be in “serious breach” of their obligations under the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

The EP alleges that Poland may be in violation of core EU principles with respect to human rights and democratic values. While the EP’s resolution primarily addresses the independence of the judiciary, it also condemns Poland for considering pro-life legislation that would protect the unborn children living with disabilities.

The resolution also calls on Poland to repeal a recent law signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda prohibiting the over-the-counter sale of the morning-after pill without a prescription. Previously, girls as young as 15 were able to obtain the morning-after pill over the counter. The EP’s resolution further calls on the Polish Government to provide free contraception to everyone at the taxpayer’s expense.

The EP further criticized the decision of the Polish Government to cut funding for liberal “women’s rights” organizations, such as the pro-abortion organization BABA Lubuskie Center for Women’s Rights. Left-wing observers have noted with alarm that funds that, under previous administrations, would have been given to pro-abortion groups have instead been awarded to Catholic organizations more in line with Polish traditional and family values.

Advent Meditation

The Son of God Appeared

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:7–8)

John Piper

When verse 8 says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil,” what are the “works of the devil” that he has in mind? The answer is clear from the context.

First, verse 5 is a clear parallel: “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins.” The phrase “he appeared to . . .” occurs in verse 5 and verse 8. So probably the “works of the devil” that Jesus came to destroy are sins. The first part of verse 8 makes this virtually certain: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”

The issue in this context is sinning, not sickness or broken cars or messed up schedules. Jesus came into the world to help us stop sinning.

Let me put it alongside the truth of 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” In other words, I am promoting the purpose of Christmas (3:8), the purpose of the incarnation. Then he adds (2:2), “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

But now look what this means: It means that Jesus appeared in the world for two reasons. He came that we might not go on sinning; and he came to die so that there would be a propitiation — a substitutionary sacrifice that takes away the wrath of God — for our sins, if we do sin.

Utilitarianism Versus Faithful Christians

The Sweet Sugar Trade a Bitter Poison

We are familiar with England in the eighteenth and nineteenth leading the charge against the slave trade.  William Wilberforce and the Clapham sect have been rightly celebrated for their lifelong labours in putting slavery to death.  

What we tend to overlook in these days, however, was how easily England got into the trade in the first place.  Benthamite utilitarianism was/is a godless philosophy.  It allowed calculation of principles and ethics on an abacus made up of human beings.  "The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number" was a convenient, soulless doctrine where the good of one's own always outweighed the good of "other" human beings.  It remains so to this day.

It was relatively easy, then, for England to accept the development of a slave trade--the evils of which reverberate to this day.  If utilitarianism provided the general moral justification, how did it all start?  What need drove it?   What led English ships to capture and enslave Africans and transport them elsewhere around the world into enforced labour?  Even as we write these words, the incredible  evil of such policies and practices strike us afresh.  We repeat, whilst nothing could justify it, what perceived need drove it?

Robert Tombs reminds us of how slavery came about on an industrial scale.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Taking Offence is a Volitional Act

Kindness Matters

I Turned My Coworker Into HR When She Gave Me A Christmas Card, And She Changed My Heart

Chad Felix Greene
The Federalist

For years I have been one of the only Jewish people at my places of employment. I am currently the only Jew who wears a kippah at my office every day. In my heavily Southern Baptist and rural town, one would think I would be quite familiar with the consequences of being such an outsider.

But, as any honest minority will tell you, that singular idea of what America must be like simply is not accurate. This image often lives exclusively in the minds of those intent on viewing the world as a hostile place, filled with bigotry

This reminds me of a woman who illustrates this disconnect perfectly. For a long time, in my early working years, I felt extremely uncomfortable around Christmas time. I was far more liberal then and far more suspicious of Christians around me.  I would walk around listening to Christmas music while attempting to block out all religious connotations. I would drive past Nativity scenes on public property and scowl at their imposition of Christian faith on everybody. I bitterly frowned at the lack of Chanukah-related decorations at the local stores. I felt completely outside of society, looking in from the cold at happy families eating their large Christmas dinners.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

An older woman who worked with me then gave everyone a personalized Christmas card each year. The card even had a small, hand-placed candy attached. The first time she gave me a card, I instantly frowned with disapproval, as the cover featured a glittery Nativity scene. I tossed the card aside and shook my head at her utter lack of respect for my religious beliefs.

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!

Glory and Beauty That Continues to Astound

Balaam's Ass and the Coming Glories

One of our favourite novels is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  The central character is an old, declining minister, John Ames.  Having married later in life, he is using his final days to write a long letter to his seven year old son.  He is attempting to put on paper what he would have liked to convey to his son as he grew up into manhood.

There are some beautiful and lyrical passages in the book.  Here is one of them:
This morning I have been trying to think about heaven, but without much success.  I don't know why I should expect to have any idea of heaven.  I could never have imagined this world if I hadn't spent almost eight decades walking around in it.  People talk about how wonderful the world seem to children, and that's true enough.  But children think they will grow into it and understand it, and I know very well that I will not, and would not if I had a dozen lives.  That's clearer to me every day. 

Every morning I'm like Adam waking up in Eden amazed at the cleverness of my hands and at the brilliance pouring into my mind through my eyes--old hands, old eyes, old mind, a very diminished Adam altogether, and still it is just remarkable.  What of me will I still have?  Well, this old body has been a pretty good companion.  Like Balaam's ass, it's seen the angel I haven't seen yet, and it's lying down in the path.   [Gilead, (New York: Picador, 2004),  p.66f.]
We find ourselves smiling at Ames's description of physical decline compared to Balaam's ass seeing the angel and lying down in the path.   We find ourselves challenged not to become a jaded eye, but to maintain that sense of wonder, joy, and delight in the glory of this world--which, though fallen--still astounds with its glory, and beauty, and complexity. 

For the Christian, growing old should never be an occasion for any loss of wonder and delight in God and His creation.  It should make us anticipate with great excitement the joy of seeing this glorious creation re-established, re-made--even better than Eden in its original and initial splendour.  And if we understand these things correctly, and embrace the glory of Christ's total re-creation of the universe, we will continue to be be delighted at the glories and wonders of this world as our bodies, like Balaam's ass, gradually lie down in the path. 

This, too, is part of the significance of Advent.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Letter From the UK (About Transgender Zealots)

Destroying Truth Itself

Peter Hitchens
The Mail On Sunday

Most of these politically correct fads are just designed to wind us up and provoke us. For example, I now regret having wasted so much time trying to argue rationally about same-sex marriage. All the sexual revolutionaries wanted was an excuse to call me a bigot. They could then ignore everything I said, or tell lies about me, or both.

It was a tiny issue. In 2014, for example, in England and Wales, there were 247,372 heterosexual weddings, and 4,850 same-sex marriages. Already there are several hundred same-sex divorces each year.  Once the novelty has worn off, I suspect the numbers of same-sex unions will decrease, just as heterosexual ones are doing. The point – that the old ways are dead and gone – will have been made, and the campaigners will move on to something else.

I once thought the same about the transgender issue. But the idea that people are whatever sex they think they are is a terrifying weapon in the hands of modern Thought Police. Whatever you say, you cannot possibly be right about this.  Express any opinion (apart from total submission), and within minutes you will be besieged by condemnation.

Daily Meditation

His Profession of Eternal, Covenantal Love for Us

Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.  Jeremiah 31:3

Charles H Spurgeon

Sometimes the Lord Jesus tells his Church his love thoughts. "He does not think it enough behind her back to tell it, but in her very presence he says, Thou art all fair, my love.' It is true, this is not his ordinary method; he is a wise lover, and knows when to keep back the intimation of love and when to let it out; but there are times when he will make no secret of it; times when he will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of his people" (R. Erskine's Sermons).

The Holy Spirit is often pleased, in a most gracious manner, to witness with our spirits of the love of Jesus. He takes of the things of Christ and reveals them unto us. No voice is heard from the clouds, and no vision is seen in the night, but we have a testimony more sure than either of these. If an angel should fly from heaven and inform the saint personally of the Saviour's love to him, the evidence would not be one whit more satisfactory than that which is borne in the heart by the Holy Ghost.

Ask those of the Lord's people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ towards them has been a fact so clear and sure, that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence. Yes, beloved believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has mounted to the topmost heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the bosom of our Lord, and we have no more questioned our Master's affection to us than John did when in that blessed posture; nay, nor so much: for the dark question, "Lord, is it I that shall betray thee?" has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of his mouth, and killed our doubts by the closeness of his embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

The Rise of the Totalitarian Mind

The Modern State Does Not Share Power

Creation abhors a vacuum.  When one exists, someone or something will rush to fill it.  If we ask, "Who or what is the ultimate authority in the world or in our respective countries?" most people would answer instantly, "the State".  The Christian would answer differently: for the Christian the ultimate authority in every place is King Jesus.

This fundamental divide means that in our world Christians are facing oppression in one form or another.  Christians, in seeking to obey the only ultimate authority, Jesus Christ are confronted head on by the rules, regulations, and oppressions of governments which neither acknowledge nor fear the King of kings.

We do not mean to suggest that the modern State has no regard for the Christian faith.  It does up to a point.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

The Dead and the Devastated Given Voice

In Memoriam of  More Than Half a Million

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, December 11, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Six hundred people from all over New Zealand joyfully walked the streets of Wellington on Saturday, marching in defence of human life from conception.  The National March for Life, the first in the nation’s Capital since 1974, was organised to mark the 40th anniversary of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act (1977), and remember the more than half a million babies whose lives have been lost by abortion.

The theme of the March for Life was love them both.


In a joy-filled atmosphere, families and individuals of all ages and religious backgrounds from the Far North to the Deep South gathered at the Civic Centre near Wellington’s waterfront.  Led by six teenage girls and accompanied by upbeat singing, the large group, holding pink and blue balloons, made their way to Parliament where they assembled on the grass for entertainment and speeches.

Ensuring the public watching the March were left with a message of hope and support, the newly launched Gianna’s Choice Mobile Centre followed the procession.  The rear of the van has a large advertisement, which informs abortion vulnerable women that they are not alone.

Speakers on the steps of Parliament included Gordon Copeland, former Minister of Parliament; David Light, silver Commonwealth Games boxing medallist; and Kate Cormack, Vice President of Voice for Life.

Hillary Kieft, a powerful pro-life voice and and an advocate for parental notification laws, spoke of her own abortion experience as a teenager.

Advent Meditation

The Christmas Model for Missions

“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18)

John Piper

Christmas is a model for missions. Missions is a mirror of Christmas. As I, so you.

For example, danger. Christ came to his own and his own received him not. So you. They plotted against him. So you. He had no permanent home. So you. They trumped up false charges against him. So you. They whipped and mocked him. So you. He died after three years of ministry. So you.

But there is a worse danger than any of these which Jesus escaped. So you!!

In the mid-16th century Francis Xavier (1506–1552), a Catholic missionary, wrote to Father Perez of Malacca (today part of Indonesia) about the perils of his mission to China. He said,
The danger of all dangers would be to lose trust and confidence in the mercy of God. . . To distrust him would be a far more terrible thing than any physical evil which all the enemies of God put together could inflict on us, for without God’s permission neither the devils nor their human ministers could hinder us in the slightest degree.
The greatest danger a missionary faces is to distrust the mercy of God. If that danger is avoided, then all other dangers lose their sting.

God makes every dagger a scepter in our hand. As J.W. Alexander says, “Each instant of present labor is to be graciously repaid with a million ages of glory.”  Christ escaped the danger of distrust. Therefore God has highly exalted him!

Remember this Advent that Christmas is a model for missions. As I, so you. And that mission means danger. And that the greatest danger is distrusting God’s mercy. Succumb to this and all is lost. Conquer here and nothing can harm you for a million ages.

Understanding The Times

Timing is Everything--They Say

Here is an excellent summary of a key aspect of English constitutional development.  
We like to think that liberty is fought for.  Judging by occasional comments in the media and by politicians, a widespread belief is that liberty was won during the [English] Civil War.  The reality is different: the war almost destroyed liberty.  Only when the country rejected fighting, and zealots had to abandon their visions of a compulsory New Jerusalem, was liberty possible.

To the Whigs we owe the principle--Magna Carta restated in modern form--that rulers must obey the law and that legitimate authority requires the consent of the people.  From the Tories came the principle--fundamental to any political order--that people have no right to rebel against a government because they disagree with it.  
Combining these seemingly conflicting principles produced characteristics of English political culture:
suspicion of Utopias and zealots; trust in common sense and experience; respect for tradition; preference for gradual change; and the view that "compromise" is victory, not betrayal.

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Curse of Curriculum Inflation

Get Back to Basics in Schools

Garth George
Rotorua Daily Post
8th March, 2013

I have argued for years that our education system is failing because it does not properly teach the fundamentals upon which all learning is based. Those fundamentals are spelling (reading and writing) and basic mathematics (arithmetic) - the "three Rs".  My argument has lately been validated by two expert educationists, who have pointed to serious failures in primary and secondary schooling - spelling and counting.

We have known for years that far too many young people are leaving secondary school unable to express themselves adequately orally and in writing and, conversely, unable to understand basic oral and written English.  Now we know why. Research reported in this newspaper has found that New Zealand teachers struggle to find time to teach spelling within the curriculum and lack professional knowledge about English language structure.

And, even worse, University of Canterbury senior education lecturer Brigid McNeill, who surveyed 405 primary school teachers from a variety of regions and schools of varying socio-economic status, discovered that "many teachers have reported that their initial teacher education programmes did not provide them with adequate training in this area".

I find this incredible.

Advent Meditation

The Greatest Salvation Imaginable

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah . . . ” (Jeremiah 31:31)

John Piper

God is just and holy and separated from sinners like us. This is our main problem at Christmas and every other season. How shall we get right with a just and holy God?

Nevertheless, God is merciful and has promised in Jeremiah 31 (five hundred years before Christ) that someday he would do something new. He would replace shadows with the Reality of the Messiah. And he would powerfully move into our lives and write his will on our hearts so that we are not constrained from outside but are willing from inside to love him and trust him and follow him.

That would be the greatest salvation imaginable — if God should offer us the greatest Reality in the universe to enjoy and then move in us to see to it that we could enjoy it with the greatest freedom and joy possible. That would be a Christmas gift worth singing about.

That is, in fact, what he promised. But there was a huge obstacle. Our sin. Our separation from God because of our unrighteousness.  How shall a holy and just God treat us sinners with so much kindness as to give us the greatest Reality in the universe (his Son) to enjoy with the greatest joy possible?

The answer is that God put our sins on his Son, and judged them there, so that he could put them out of his mind, and deal with us mercifully and remain just and holy at the same time. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.”

Christ bore our sins in his own body when he died. He took our judgment. He canceled our guilt. And that means the sins are gone. They do not remain in God’s mind as a basis for condemnation. In that sense, he “forgets” them. They are consumed in the death of Christ.

Which means that God is now free, in his justice, to lavish us with the new covenant. He gives us Christ, the greatest Reality in the universe, for our enjoyment. And he writes his own will — his own heart — on our hearts so that we can love Christ and trust Christ and follow Christ from the inside out, with freedom and joy.

Where It All Ended

Who Is Now Left To Condemn Us?

To all our readers around the world, we at ContraCelsum wish you a blessed Christmas.

As always, there are plenty of confusing messages about Advent circulating at this time of the year.

In light of the mixed messages, we want to mark Advent for ourselves and our readers by reproducing a passage of the Bible which details the significance of Advent for each one of us who believes in Jesus Christ as the Lord of all.  In a word, Advent means that "God is for us".
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  [Romans 8: 31-34]
As we celebrate and rejoice over His Advent, let us do so through the prism of where it "all ended".

He has justified us before God. He died in our place at Calvary.  He was punished and judged for our sins.  He is interceding for us, without ceasing.  As a result, God the eternal, infinite Judge has justified us.  That is, He has declared us to be without guilt, without sin, and innocent before Him.

If God is for us who, indeed, can be against us?

To Him be glory forever.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

"Rubbish Dump" Rescue Mission

Good News

Ohio bill preventing women from aborting babies with Down syndrome on its way to governor’s desk

Sarah Taylor
The Blaze

Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich has 10 days to sign House Bill 214, which would prevent women from knowingly aborting babies with Down syndrome, before it’s automatically vetoed.  The bill passed the Ohio state Senate on Wednesday with a vote of 20-12. It passed the House in November.

Kasich in November said that a bill of this type would be “appropriate,” and his press secretary, Jon Keeling, said that the governor would “take a good hard look at the bill.”  The bill prohibits abortionists from conducting abortions after a diagnosis of fetal Down syndrome has been made.

The physician or abortionist performing the abortion could face a fourth-degree felony charge if convicted. In addition to serving upward of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine, a medical professional could also be subject to losing his or her license to practice.

The mother of the unborn child would not be punished, according to the bill.

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)

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.

A Master of Irrelevance

A Faithful Representative of the State Education System

Folk who cannot think their way out of a wet paper bag find themselves resorting to ad hominem attacks when their "arguments" are disappearing like fog into the ether.  Given that New Zealand's Government Education system is systemically failing, it's not unexpected that this sort of thing will happen more and more.

It seems the most favoured rhetorical epithet is to hurl "racist" at one's opponent.  The word is used with such regularity it has become monotonous and has little meaning any longer.  Verbal combatants might as well deploy epithets like "martian" or "dopple bopple" as "racist", so meaningless the term has become.  Here is an example of the trope.  One Josh Beck, aroused by the spectre of a former politician [Don Brash] criticizing state radio for mixing English and Te Reo in its broadcasts.  Beck wanted to defend the state broadcaster.  Apparently Brash did not approve of Maori language interjections in the news, and was therefore an old white racist.  At least that is the charge levelled at him by his inadequate opponent.  And that's it then.  Beck believes he has "won" the argument.  He writes:

Friday, 22 December 2017

Letter From America (On the Fourth Estate Gone Rogue)

Journalism is Decomposing Dead Meat

Saritha Prabhu
The Federalist

I’m a liberal Democrat who didn’t realize for a long time that our mainstream media is biased. For years, I consumed news and commentary from my favorite media sites uncritically: CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times. From time to time, I watched Fox News to see what “the other side” was saying.

I lived in a kind of information bubble, but like most bubble-dwellers I didn’t know I was living in one. Ironically, the 2016 election opened my eyes to this “Truman Show”-like media universe we’ve all been inhabiting.  My awakening came accidentally when I realized in 2016 that I just couldn’t support Hillary Clinton (I ended up protest-voting for Gary Johnson). I thought Clinton was arrogant, entitled, corrupt, and dishonest. I couldn’t believe the Democratic Party would nominate someone who was the subject of an FBI investigation.

But as 2016 rolled on, I became quietly incensed. I couldn’t help noticing repeatedly that the mainstream media was shielding and enabling Clinton in her dissembling and media avoidance. I noticed that the commentators at CNN, MSNBC, and the NYT either ignored or made light of Clinton’s many problem areas: the private email server, compromising of state secrets, and the questionable multimillion-dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation. (Yes, the Times broke the story in 2015 about Clinton’s personal email account, but I’m talking here about its 2016 treatment of her candidacy.)

Ironically, had I been a Clinton supporter, I’d have likely been blind to the media bias.

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.

The Mess of Pottage That is Euthanasia

To Die Or Not to Die That is the Question

New Zealand is going through yet another debate on "euthanasia".  Another bill to institutionalise "euthanasia" is before the Parliament.  The usual suspects are hard at work pushing it mightily.  Given that New Zealand is a thoroughly pagan society--one where the predominant religion is atheistic secularism--it would appear to be only a matter of time before the death cult has its way.

Euthanasia is underpinned by a philosophical principle which espouses a particular human right.  It rests upon the doctrine that human beings have a right to determine their own deaths.  If human beings have no such right, then euthanasia is a great evil.  But let us assume for the present that they do have such a right.  Let us assume that the right to choose death is one more faux human right dreamed up by pagan philosophers and professional ethicists. Let us assume further that euthanasia is not just a freedom right (people have a right to kill themselves if they chosoe) but it is also a demand right (society must facilitate, assist and enable people to kill themselves).

At present the issue before the country is whether elderly or terminally ill people have a right to take their own lives (either by their own hand, or assisted by others).  Let us repeat: these people have a right to terminate their own lives, say the protagonists--so much so that if any body or institution interfere with their taking their own life, they are breaching the human rights of that person.  In its strongest demand right sense, people have a right to have their self-death funded and facilitated by the state.

The debate is also being framed at present by an appeal to pity.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

May We Be Spared . . .

The Aching Void

How My Parents’ Divorce Ruined Our Holidays And Family Life Forever

In the decades since my parents’ divorce and through the years of my marriage, I have learned no-fault divorce is one of the biggest lies of our culture.

December always reminds me how much I hate divorce. As the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle while we wrap presents, I am anxious about family gatherings and travel plans. Three decades ago, when my parents divorced, family Christmas gatherings became very complicated.

My parents’ divorce is the one that their generation was told to have. Like many others married in the 1970s, their marriage ended with a no-fault divorce. One of them wasn’t happy and felt the only way to solve that was not to be married anymore. In the name of fulfillment and contentment, our family broke apart.

Fast-forward 30 years, and you’ll find the children all thriving in adulthood and two parents who rebounded and eventually remarried. On the surface, it seems like we all lived happily ever after.  The media loves to feed these sort of lies to their audiences. For example, The New York Times runs terrible pro-divorce articles regularly; here’s a particularly disturbing one.

Pro-Divorce Arguments Are Built On Lies

The writers at The Times of London currently have a campaign trying to reform England’s divorce laws. They believe divorce should be easier to get than current legislation that requires “a married couple wishing to split up [to] show evidence of irretrievable breakdown in the form of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent or five years’ separation without consent.”

They propose instead: “Divorce, wherever possible, should simply be an acknowledgment that people have moved on. A marriage that lasts only ten years can still be deemed a success. It should be assumed that divorces are no one’s fault and that people need a simple, dignified, relatively fast way to split up, while also acknowledging that a partner who has sacrificed their career to look after children will need help to set up again.”

Pardon me while I roll my eyes. As our culture tries to negate the beautiful union of covenantal marriage, we look the other way from the hurts and hardships divorce creates.

In the decades since my parents’ divorce and through the years of my marriage, I have learned that no-fault divorce is one of the biggest lies our culture tries to get people to believe.

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.

Beware The Dangers of Hobby-Horsing

Full Disclosure Needed

Now that the dust has settled in the matter of Alabama's election of a US Senator a number of broader issues have bubbled up in the Christian community.  Hopefully, these matters will be confronted faithfully by the saints.  

Firstly, some background.  Roy Moore was put forward as the Republican candidate in a special election for the US Senate.  He was accused by a number of women of immoral, if not illegal sexual activity forty years ago.  Although he had held high public office in Alabama over a number of years, nothing like this had surfaced before.  It turns out he was narrowly defeated.  If he had won Christians would have been involved in sending him to represent them in the US Senate.

Thus a debate began amongst Christians, particularly leaders and mover-and-shakers.  On the one side were those who insisted that whatever breaches of morality occurred forty years ago on the part of candidate Roy Moore it was time to apply some kind of statute of limitations.  Others added that an allegation does not a conviction make nor proven guilt establish.

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is a group of evangelical Christian leaders who support each other both formally and informally and who work together on issues of mutual and shared interest in the United States.  A lot of their work has to do with promoting Jesus Christ and the Christian faith in the public square.  A number of the known leaders have spoken out strongly and publicly against Roy Moore and excoriated Christian for supporting him.

Let us grant them their case. Roy Moore, alleged sexual pervert, unfit to serve let alone honoured.  Let all Christians remove their hankies from their pockets and hold them firmly over their noses.  Not so fast.  Maybe, but maybe not.  Why?

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

More Climate Change Charlatans

The Ugly Truth About that Dying Polar Bear

James Delingpole

Dying Polar Bear

Have you seen the footage of that dying polar bear yet?  It’s sad. Very sad. You can see why it has gone viral and been all over the media from the Mail (“soul-crushing footage”) to CBC to the Washington Post (“we stood there crying”).

It’s the kind of sad thing you want to share it with your friends so they can wallow in the same pool of helpless misery you’re wallowing in.  For example, that bit where the emaciated bear reaches with his sad paw into that rusting trash can in search of something, anything, to eat. As you watch, you want so desperately to help him….

The footage was filmed on Baffin Island in Canada. Surely, if you or I had been there, we could have found something edible to push that stricken bear’s way: maybe a visiting delegation of performance poets, abstract artists and avant-garde musicians who arrived by antique sailing ship on a Rockefeller-Foundation-funded arts project to “raise awareness” of melting icecaps; or a group of Greenpeace activists(aren’t bears attracted by strong smells?) on a No To Arctic Drilling protest; or one of the plethora of explorers on another of those deep and meaningful eco-expeditions, sponsored by one of those big reinsurance companies whose business model largely depends on scaring potential clients into thinking global warming is a serious problem.

OK, perhaps I shouldn’t be so flippant. Watching a once-mighty beast in its death throes is never a pretty sight.  I’ll tell you what’s a lot uglier, though: the way that polar bear’s death has been completely misrepresented for political ends by the usual suspects in the climate alarmism lobby.

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.

Hapless Hipkins Returns to an Antediluvian Education System

Tiddlywink Education Roars Back Into Town

The New Zealand Labour Party has done what it promised in the recent election.  It has dumped "National Standards" within the Government Education system.  In so doing, it has reverted to the original intent of the Government Education system.  The object was to make "education" and "schooling" as broad as possible, so that every child could be educated in something.  

It is what we have called the "tiddlywinks" education system because it has no heuristic or professional framework to determine what ought to be taught.  It has no curriculum content! In any subject!  Moreover, one subject is as good as another.  Since everyone must succeed (by definition) in the State Education system, if a student graduates without being able to read or write or add 14 + 6, he or she will have the comfort of knowing that they qualified in competitive tiddlywinks, or some other irrelevance.  They will graduate affirmed as WINNERS.  There will be no LOSERS.  Success is universal. 

The previous government realised that this was rubbish.  Therefore, it had the temerity to prioritise certain subject areas.  Hardly controversial.  National Standards in reading, writing, and maths were introduced.  Each pupil in the Government Education system would be tested on a regular basis as to knowledge and competence in these core areas; reports on progress would be delivered to parents. 

But there is no doubt that the majority of teachers in the Government Education system hated National Standards.  Now that they have been dumped, they will be free to teach endless classes on the merits, skills, and enlightenment that results from playing competitive tiddlywinks.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Letter From America (About Faux Virtue)

Phony Virtue is Ruining Western Society

From Hollywood to our foreign policy, Rousseau's joke is on us

William S. Smith
The Federalist

What counts as virtue among Western elites? As Aristotle teaches, if you can identify what a society considers to be virtuous or good, you can understand the moral outlook of that society’s institutions, from its schools to its foreign policy. One needs only to study any gathering of American elite culture to see that virtue, traditionally centered in personal character, has become redefined as public sympathy for humanitarian causes. When watching any cultural awards program, for example, one is treated to a parade of “beautiful” souls voicing support for myriad progressive causes. This moral preening has become so commonplace that a term has developed to characterize it: “virtue signaling.”

The West’s moral outlook is now animated by the widespread belief that virtue is measured by one’s professed sympathy for causes such as combatting homelessness, extending civil rights for various protected groups, and decrying poverty in far-off places. The more publicly ostentatious one is in attaching oneself to these causes, the more virtue one is assigned by our elite culture.

Yet the continuing sex scandals of our elites are (pardon the phrase) laying bare the inadequacy of this definition of virtue. In Hollywood and other elite institutions, puffed-up paragons of “virtue” reign, but backstage are characters such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer, people wholly lacking self-control, decency, moderation, temperance, and civility. In short, many of “the beautiful souls” who have been telling us how to live are reprobates–or protecting them, either tacitly or directly.

Advent Meditation

Replacing the Shadows

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

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.

Just Like a World Cup Final

Literature, Balinese Cockfights, and Universal Truths

Here is a great piece on the value and importance of good literature which we came across the other day.  
But the poet [as opposed to the historian], Aristotle says, never makes any real statements at all, certainly no particular or specific ones.  The poet's job is not to tell you what happened, but what happens: not what did take place, but the kind of thing that always does take place.  He gives you the typical, recurring, or what Aristotle calls universal event.

You wouldn't go to Macbeth to learn about the history of Scotland--you go to it to learn what a man feels like after he's gained a kingdom and lost his soul.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Very Encouraging Statement from MP

Euthanasia Debate, New Zealand

Facebook Post by Simeon Brown
MP Pakuranga

Today, Parliament is debating the First Reading of David Seymour’s Euthanasia Bill. I will be voting against this Bill for the reasons I set out below.

I first want to acknowledge that there are well-meaning people on both sides of this issue. However, it is clear to me that no system of euthanasia, no matter how carefully designed, can ensure the protection of the most marginalised and vulnerable in our society. International precedents show that euthanasia regimes result in the involuntary death of innocent lives. I cannot support a law which allows the state to intentionally kill its citizens, particularly where innocent lives will be lost in the process. I do not consider that this is a reasonable or progressive reform in our modern democracy.

I join with the overwhelming majority of healthcare professionals in New Zealand – including end-of-life specialists – who oppose euthanasia. I find the New Zealand Medical Association's comments on coercion particularly concerning: "An absolute guarantee that those who choose assisted dying are doing it voluntarily would be extremely difficult to establish in legislation and ensure in practice. Doctors are often not in a position to detect subtle coercion – as is also the case when trying to identify signs of emotional or financial abuse of elders more generally. Coercion also extends to assumptions of being a burden, giving rise to a sense of an “obligation” to die."

In a country with dire statistics relating to elder abuse, youth suicide, and mental health, euthanasia is a major step backward and represents a threat to the vulnerable in our society. Instead of offering a legal avenue for suicide, we need to encourage and strengthen our families and communities to support those who are lonely and suffering in their final stages of life. By doing so, we truly offer compassion (which in the original latin, means supporting those who were experiencing suffering).

I am encouraged by the rapid developments in palliative care, which has only recently been recognised as a medical specialty, and hope that the new Government will continue to support the work of those working in end of life care.

I appreciate this is a very difficult issue and I know many people have many views on this issue and always welcome hearing from anyone who wishes to share their views with me.

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!

Government Handout To Further Impoverish Children

The Poor Are Going to Become Poorer

We are on the cusp of being driven to conclude that lefties are dumber than a sackful of hammers.  We mean really, really stupid.  Not just inchoately naive--but perversely stupid.

All week we have been lambasted by politicians telling us that 88,000 children will be lifted out of poverty in New Zealand by a brand new tax funded lollypop that will be winging its way to their respective households.
It is projected to lift 88,000 children out of poverty through a combination of higher Accommodation Supplement changes, more generous Working for Families scheme, a "Best Start" payment for parents of young babies, and a "Winter Warmer" grant for beneficiaries and superannuitants.  [NZ Herald]
Let's charitably grant that the Gummint is all full of naive genuineness when it makes such claims.  It really believes that its new grant will lift 88,000 children out of poverty.   Gummint politicans will go home for Christmas, stroking themselves in self adulation over the wonderful change it has wrought in thousands upon thousands of Kiwi families and households.  So simple, too.  Just spend an additional $5.3 billion over four years, and it's done and dusted.  The Finance Minister tells us how he and his colleagues are swollen with pride at the accomplishment.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said it would transform the lives of many and was a far better way to improve the lives of children than across the board tax cuts.  "This is one of the most significant packages to reduce child poverty in recent memory, We are very, very proud of this package." [Emphasis, ours]
This wonderful transformation of human nature that will allegedly lift 88,000 children out of poverty will deliver an extra $75 dollars per week to 384,000 families.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Holland's Integration Into the Void

Even the Pagans Are Objecting

Dutch euthanasia getting so out of hand that even assisted-death docs want to hit the brakes

Doug Mainwaring

July 5, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — An advertisement taken out in a major newspaper in the Netherlands by more than 200 Dutch doctors begins, “[Assisted suicide] for someone who cannot confirm he wants to die? No, we will not do that. Our moral reluctance to end the life of a defenseless man is too great. "

The doctors, many of whom currently serve as assisted-suicide providers, are objecting to the unchecked growth of euthanasia in their country, where people who have reduced mental capacity due to dementia are being euthanised.

Current law allows doctors to euthanize without verbal consent if a written declaration of will has been provided in advance. In addition, a doctor has to also first determine that the patient is undergoing unbearable suffering. But with reduced mental capacity, patients are often unable to confirm that their former request to be euthanized — executed perhaps years earlier — is still valid.

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.”

America's Love of Hagar

The Madness of Jerusalem

Much euphoria has been displayed in certain quarters with the announcement that the United States would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Some much-mistaken Christians in that country foolishly believe that somehow earthly Jerusalem is significant in the coming Kingdom of the Messiah. 

It is not significant at all--except in the same way that ancient Jericho or Sinai remains significant.  All three represent a place and time when God wrought marvellous deeds, whether of mercy or judgement.  But the Jerusalem below is now little more than a bitter reminder of human folly and rebellion against God and the Messiah. 

If there were one passage in Scripture which puts this reality most forcefully, it is Galatians 4: 21--5:1.  Jerusalem, says the Spirit, is of Mount Sinai.  It bears children for slavery.  She is Hagar.  But Jerusalem--the only Jerusalem that matters--is from above.  She is our mother.  Therefore we are commanded to "cast out the slave and her children".  Ever since God's judgement fell upon Jerusalem in AD 66-70, as Christ forewarned in Matthew 23 & 24, we are not to look for the fake Jerusalem upon this earth; we are to look for, love, and be part of the real Jerusalem that is above.

The reality of Jerusalem and what it represents in God's Kingdom is better described by historian, Simon Montefiori.  He speaks as one whose words coincide with the implications of Galatians 4--whether he is aware of it or not.  He says of Jerusalem:

Friday, 15 December 2017

Fundamentals of Christian Living

Don’t Take It from Me

Reasons You Should Not Marry an Unbeliever

Kathy Keller
The Gospel Coalition

Over the course of our ministry, the most common pastoral issue that Tim and I have confronted is probably marriages—either actual or proposed—between Christians and non-Christians. I have often thought how much simpler it would be if I could remove myself from the conversation and invite those already married to unbelievers do the talking to singles who are desperately trying to find a loophole that would allow them to marry someone who does not share their faith. That way, I could skip all the Bible passages that urge singles only to “marry in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) and not “be unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) and the Old Testament proscriptions against marrying the foreigner, a worshiper of a god other than the God of Israel (see Numbers 12 where Moses marries a woman of another race but the same faith).

You can find those passages in abundance, but when someone has already allowed his or her heart to become engaged with a person outside the faith, I find that the Bible has already been devalued as the non-negotiable rule of faith and practice. Instead, variants of the serpent's question to Eve—“Did God really say?” are floated, as if somehow this case might be eligible for an exemption, considering how much they love each other, how the unbeliever supports and understands the Christian's faith, how they are soul-mates despite the absence of a shared soul-faith. Having grown weary and impatient, I want to snap and say, “It won't work, not in the long run. Marriage is hard enough when you have two believers who are completely in harmony spiritually. Just spare yourself the heartache and get over it.” Yet such harshness is neither in line with the gentleness of Christ, nor convincing.


If only I could pair those sadder and wiser women—and men—who have found themselves in unequal marriages (either by their own foolishness or due to one person finding Christ after the marriage had already occurred) with the blithely optimistic singles who are convinced that their passion and commitment will overcome all obstacles. Even the obstacle of bald disobedience need not apply to them. Only ten minutes of conversation—one minute if the person is really succinct—would be necessary. In the words of one woman who was married to a perfectly nice man who did not share her faith: “If you think you are lonely before you get married, it's nothing compared to how lonely you can be AFTER you are married!”

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.

More on NZ's Abysmal Government Education System

When There Is No Queen in the Hive Bad Consequences Follow

In 2013, Dr Elizabeth Rata, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Auckland was quoted in the NZ Herald:
New Zealand's school curriculum has been hollowed out of knowledge as academic learning is increasingly abandoned for a misguided focus on skills and the process of learning, an academic claims.  University of Auckland education associate professor Elizabeth Rata has launched a blistering attack on the NZ Curriculum, calling it a social experiment that will deprive Kiwi kids of intelligence.

Her award-winning article, The Politics of Knowledge in Education, published in today's paper, has reignited debate about what children should be taught at school.  In it, she writes that "one of the great puzzles in education today is what has happened to knowledge".

"Why does our national curriculum not mention content knowledge? Why is it all about skills, competencies, and values? For the past few decades many in education have worried about how to teach, and rightly so, but in doing so, we have taken our eyes off what to teach."
Her ideological opponents sneered.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Voices Calling Us Out of the Wilderness

On Point

For years the mantra, "NZ has the world's best education" has been chanted by incompetent "educrats", bureaucrats and short-sighted teacher unions.  The truth, of course, is very different. 

Another recently released report, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study confirms the sorry state of NZ education.

Among all the rhetoric and blameshifting is one of the real culprits--the 2007 NZ National Curriculum.  It is a document that continues to sell children and teachers short.  Sparse on actual content it makes "experience" central to teaching and learning rather than knowledge and skills.  We are in desperate need of well-trained, highly qualified, intelligent teachers who teach a content-rich curriculum where knowledge and skills are paramount.  We do not need "facilitators" who masquerade as teachers and elevate "child's experience" to the supposed cornerstone of all learning.

It will take leadership of conviction and purpose to make inroads into a system that needs a complete makeover.  Unless this happens we will be destined to revisit another round of hand-wringing accompanies by a plethora of reasons and excuses for further failures, delivered by "the experts" several years from now. 

Shane Kennedy
Principal, Manukau Christian School

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.

Why Johnny Can't Read

Resolute Ignorance

New Zealand schools are failing.  The sad thing is that it is not going to change in a hurry.  In focus at the moment is reading and writing.  According to a NZ Herald Editorial,
The news that our children's reading abilities are slipping should be a wake-up call.  For the first time in 15 years, not only have we been overtaken by similar countries, but our literacy levels have actually regressed.  New Zealand dropped 10 places (to 32 out of 50 countries) in the latest international Pirls reading test for 10-year-olds — putting us below the global median.

Once again, we have a large gap between the results of the rich and poor — largely characterised by the shameful "tail" of Maori and Pacific children allowed to fall behind their Pakeha peers.  That is a trend we have known about for a long time, and done a limited amount to fix.  But the numbers also revealed something new — Pakeha children's reading skills are also falling. In fact, Pakeha literacy slid most steeply, down 13 points to an average score of 545.  [NZ Herald]
The government education system will not be able to correct this.  It is too hidebound.  It has set a course and it is not likely to backtrack.  There is too much ideological investment in the present direction.  Without humble pie being eaten in prodigious quantities, nothing will change.  Institutional inertia and vested interests will see to that.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Shouts of War

The sacramental host of God's elect is warring still on earth, Jesus Christ being the Captain of their salvation.  He has said, "Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." 

Hark to the shouts of war!  Now let the people of God stand fast in their ranks, and let no man's heart fail him.  It is true that just now in England the battle is turned against us, and unless the Lord Jesus shall lift his sword, we know not what may become of the church of God in this land; but let us be of good courage and play the man.

Charles H. Spurgeon (1866)

This warning and exhortation is as relevant today as when Spurgeon wrote it 150 years ago.  In fact the war of which Spurgeon speaks has not lessened; it has intensified.  Let us pray for our Lord of the hosts to lift his sword again, and again, and again.

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.

Free Speech Only For Those Approved

A Pot Calling a Kettle Black

One of the enduring characteristics of the modern liberal is his intolerance.  He demands free speech for himself and censorship for everyone else.  Particularly, those who have contrary views must be silenced.  

There are a variety of ways to silence opponents.  One is to rabble rouse and express paroxysms of anger.  Then, in a clever sleight of hand, one transfers the guilt and responsibility for one's anger to the one who made one angry.   "You make me so angry, the authorities must issue a silencing order, an indictment, a fine, a prison sentence. It matters not, but pay you must."

In a more educated age, such sleights of hand would have been mocked out of existence.

Another way to silence opponents is to ascend a soap box and issue a fatwa against the offensive speaker by presuming to pity those who have ostensibly taken offence.  "How dare you offend so many people!  You are an anti-social bigot.  You are doing great harm to others.  You must be silenced for your offensive speech."

A third variant is to trot out an ultimate mover and shaker: the spectre of "hate-speech".  The problem with "hate-speech" of course is that one's guilt is determined by the perceptions and  reactions of others.  One will claim to be "triggered" by your words.  In this context, "triggered" means jumping off the deep end and alleging that someone's speech had dredged up all kinds of bad memories, fears, and vulnerabilities.  Others will claim to be deeply hurt and offended by one's allegedly hateful speech.  Others will claim not to be offended on their own account, but on behalf of someone else.  And so it rolls.

In New Zealand we have a resident hater who writes opinion columns for the NZ Herald.  Clearly she hates big corporates.  She writes with invective laced passion against companies like Fonterra who, to her  mind, are responsible for most of what ails the human race.  Here's a sample:

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The God of the West

The Pervasive Influence of Humanism

Society is shaped by humanist concepts such as existentialism, a philosophy which emphasises individual existence, freedom and choice.  It expresses the view that human beings live in an irrational universe, that life has no essential purpose and that we must make our own meaning by exercising personal freedom and choice.  People with this worldview believe that they are not answerable to anyone but themselves.

In such societies people pursue experiences, pleasure and instant gratification.  It is all about the here and now, and looking and feeling good. 

Other terms can also be used to describe aspects of a humanist society: narcissism (to love oneself above all else); hedonism (the pursuit of sensual pleasure and avoidance of any discomfort); relativism (having no absolute truth); and postmodernism (living according to what you feel is right for you).  In societies which are influenced by these ways of thinking, where right and wrong are considered merely relatives, some injustices and sins are ignored or overlooked and some are even celebrated. 

The Church has not been immune from this and there are elements within the Church that have been influenced by this prevailing humanist culture.

[Patrick Sookhdeo, The New Civic Religion: Humanism and the Future of Christianity (MacLean, Virginia: Isaac Publishing, 2016),  p.94.]

Advent Meditation

Peace to Those With Whom He’s Pleased

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:12–14)

John Piper

Peace for whom? There is a somber note sounded in the angels’ praise. Peace among men on whom his favor rests. Peace among men with whom he is pleased. Without faith it is impossible to please God. So Christmas does not bring peace to all.

“This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil.” Or as the aged Simeon said when he saw the child Jesus, “Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that is spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” O, how many there are who look out on a bleak and chilly Christmas day and see no more than that.

“He came to his own and his own received him not, but to as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, to as many as believed on his name.” It was only to his disciples that Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The people who enjoy the peace of God that surpasses all understanding are those who in everything by prayer and supplication let their requests be made known to God.

The key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’s peace is faith in the promises of God. So Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” And when we do trust the promises of God and have joy and peace and love, then God is glorified.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men with whom he is pleased — men who would believe.

10-80 Poisoning in New Zealand

At Last Some Progress on an Interminable Argument

New Zealand is one of the last countries in the world to use 10-80 poison.  The government drops This poison in pellet form from helicopters throughout the bush and farmland to kill off possums--a destructive pest.  For years deer stalkers and others have complained that the poison is also consumed by deer--which then go on to die painful deaths.  Others have complained that birds also are vulnerable to 10-80.

This poison is used sparingly in a few countries of the world  (Australia, some states in the United States, the Galapagos Islands, Israel and Japan).  New Zealand is the biggest user of the poison.

Those opposing the use of 10-80 have never been in a position to prove that deer and birds are susceptible to aerially dropped 10-80.  It is all allegation, conjecture, or mistaken claims of causation.  Or, at least, that is how their "narrative" gets dismissed.

Now, for the first time we are aware of, some comprehensive (albeit, initial) research is being undertaken.

Monday, 11 December 2017


A Full Life

A Man Who Lived 52 Years Longer Than Doctors Expected

Scott Yeoman
NZ Herald

Christopher John Ranby: June 7, 1945 – November 20, 2017

Christopher Ranby was never expected to live longer than 20 years.  He was born in 1945 in Christchurch with an intellectual disability after having a brain haemorrhage due to a lack of oxygen at birth.

Against all odds, Christopher lived a long, inspiring life right up until less than two weeks ago when, aged 72, he died in his sleep.

"My mother was told to lock Christopher away and forget about him," Dr Allison Oosterman says of her older brother's start in life.  "Doctors told her that Christopher wouldn't live beyond 20 but he defied doctors and lived to 72."

It was a different time in the 1950s, Allison says, with no state provision of housing, training or assistance for children with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Advent Meditation

No Detour from Calvary

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6–7)

John Piper

Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, he surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.

Yes, he could have. And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to his aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved himself. The question is not what God could do, but what he willed to do.

God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. “For your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

God rules all things — even motel capacities — for the sake of his children. The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.

And we must not forget that he said, “He who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross.”  We join him on the Calvary road and hear him say, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20).

To the one who calls out enthusiastically, “I will follow you wherever you go!” Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth. But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.