Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Letter From America (About A Person with "One Big Idea")

Cometh The Hour, Cometh the Woman

Dan Currell
National Review Online

Betsy DeVos is the focused campaigner American schools need.

Big institutions aren’t easy to change, and American public education is big: over 3 million teachers were employed in American public schools in 2016. Walmart, the world’s largest employer, has 1.4 million U.S. employees; the American military has 1.3 million people on active duty.

Since American public education needs to change, as everyone seems to agree, what would it take to turn around an institution that’s bigger than Walmart and the U.S. military combined?

A technocrat who knows many things will never turn around a massive organization. Subtlety and complexity are quickly lost in a sea of 3 million people. The focused leader who knows one big thing at least stands a chance of turning around even the largest organization: One big message, driven home relentlessly, can get through.

Betsy DeVos’s one big idea is school choice, and that big idea brings a secondary effect, which is institutional competition. While her big idea is not guaranteed to fix America’s failing public schools, at least it has a chance — and that’s more than can be said for everything else that has been tried.

Daily Devotional

Soon to Come

"The things which are not seen."  2 Corinthians 4:18

Charles H. Spurgeon

In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith.

Looking into the future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made perfect, and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Looking further yet, the believer's enlightened eye can see death's river passed, the gloomy stream forded, and the hills of light attained on which standeth the celestial city; he seeth himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with him, and made to sit together with him on his throne, even as he has overcome and has sat down with the Father on his throne.

The thought of this future may well relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present. The joys of heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth. Hush, hush, my doubts! death is but a narrow stream, and thou shalt soon have forded it. Time, how short--eternity, how long! Death, how brief--immortality, how endless! Methinks I even now eat of Eshcol's clusters, and sip of the well which is within the gate. The road is so, so short! I shall soon be there.

"When the world my heart is rending
With its heaviest storm of care,
My glad thoughts to heaven ascending,
Find a refuge from despair.

Faith's bright vision shall sustain me
Till life's pilgrimage is past;
Fears may vex and troubles pain me,
I shall reach my home at last."

Gonna Be Entertaining

. . . He Drives Furiously  

[II Kings 9:20]

There is a memorable quotation in one of our favorite movies, A Few Good Men.  The Prosecutor is opening his case:
Now, Lt. Kaffee is gonna try to pull off a little magic act, he's gonna try a little misdirection. He's going to astonish you with stories of rituals and dazzle you with official sounding terms like Code Red. He might even cut into a few officers for you. He'll have no evidence, mind you, none. But it's gonna be entertaining. 
We find thus far that Donald Trump's presidency has been entertaining.  He can be a fact free bloviator.  He seems to relish being unmeasured, grandiose, and the Pontificator-in-Chief--particularly when it comes to speaking with the media.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Letter From the UK (About More Rotherham Convictions)

Another Rotherham Gang Sentenced 

Rape, Holding Hostage Young Girls

Breitbart London
Liam Deacon

Five mostly Muslim men from Rotherham, including three brothers, have been found guilty of subjecting two young girls to two years of violent sexual abuse, including rape and false imprisonment.  Matloob Hussain, Mohammed Sadiq, and brothers Basharat, Nasser, and Tayab Dad, were convicted of 21 historic sex offences at Sheffield Crown Court and are due to be sentenced on the 2nd of February.  Their offences date back to the late 1990s and early 2000s when the girls were given alcohol and cannabis and intimidated into performing sex acts.

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Martin Tate, who oversaw the inquiry, said in a statement: “The court heard harrowing evidence from two very brave women whose childhoods were robbed by these men.  “They were targeted, systematically groomed and subjected to horrific sexual abuse while they were young vulnerable girls, on the cusp of their teenage years.

“No child should ever have to experience what these women have had to endure and I hope that today’s result offers them both some resolution after so many years of anguish.

Daily Meditation

Caused to Return

Cause us to return, O Lord, that we may return! (Lamentations 5:21)

John Piper

There is no hope for God’s people unless God causes them to return from their sliding and leaping into sin and unbelief.  The book of Lamentations is the bleakest book in the Bible. God himself had decimated the apple of his eye (Israel).

“The Lord gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations.” (4:11)
“He has killed all who were delightful in our eyes.” (2:4)
“The Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions.” (1:5)
So how does the book end?  It ends with the only hope there is:  Cause us to return, O Lord, that we may return!  That is my only hope, and your only hope.

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

Not if you return. But when you return.  Christ Jesus is the one who . . . is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

He will cause us to return. Therefore, “to him who is able to keep you from falling . . . be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever” (Jude 1:24–25).

Presidential Power

Schmoozing Whilst Carrying a Big Stick

Way back in the late 1960's we were "forced" to read Richard Neustadt's, Presidential Power and the Modern President.  As we recall it was required reading in the freshman class of Political Studies at Auckland University, presided over by one memorable Prof Robert Chapman.

[For American readers, note that the title "Professor" in the English academic setting means not just "teacher"--and thus a title given to all teaching college or university personnel--but a senior department member, and most usually, the Head of a Department.  But we digress.  As memory comes flooding back, we recall the unforgettable image of Prof Chapman wandering into the lecture theatre puffing on his ubiquitous pipe, commencing his lecture by putting the pipe in his pocket, and ending his discourse, not with a peroration, but by taking his pipe out of his pocket, lighting it up, and wandering out of the lecture room.  Ah--the good old days.  But we digress again.]

Anyway, the point is that we have never forgotten Neustadt's thesis--that in the American political system of checks and balances, the essence of the power of the President viz a vis the other branches of government, is the power to persuade.  Doubtless, since that time, Neustadt's thesis has come under criticism, largely because the presidency has become more imperial with the growth of federal power.

For most of his presidency, Obama justly deserves the sobriquet, imperial.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Women Standing Up

Protesting The Women's March On Washington

Emily Knorr

Like many others, I have been closely following the news surrounding the Women’s March occurring in DC today. The conversation surrounding it has been interesting, yet largely unsurprising, and, for me, very frustrating.

I’ve found it frustrating because the March’s purpose and surrounding controversy not only touches on, but stems from two of my greatest passions - (1) infants, both inside and outside of the womb, and (2) womenhood/women’s health.

And to my disappointment, in the present conversation, I find both are being largely misunderstood.

I am a twenty-three year old woman who has led a blessed life in many ways.

Daily Meditation

On Maps And Getting to America

C. S. Lewis

I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, ‘I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!’

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper.

But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together.

In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

How Did It Come to This . . . ?

The Liberated Woman Shows What She Wants

We awoke the other morning to the completely unexpected news that Donald Trump is going to do something inconceivably horrible.  He was going to remove Federal money from funding the odium of abortion outside the boundaries of the United States.  The howls of protest have even reached far away New Zealand.  

Yet, some perspective is in order.  The prohibition on funding abortions offshore was first enacted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.  It was reversed by Billary, but was subsequently reinstated by every Republican president since.  Trump is merely following suit.  We say "merely", not because it is an unimportant or insignificant step but because it was an expected outcome.  Nevertheless the banshees and the dervishes protesting outrage at the restoration of the "Mexico City Policy" tell us that killing babies is regarded by some, if not many, as a mark of ideological purity and zealotry.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Trump Takes Jezreel

Douglas Wilson


If our family is anything to go by, a number of Christians are having trouble processing the difference between their feelings about the presidential election and the presidential transition. Before the election, I could scarcely bear to watch Trump for more than a few minutes. I understood the entertainment value that some found there, but was not myself capable of bearing it like a man. Since the election, watching the news has become fun again. What goeth on?


The closest thing to our situation I can find in Scripture is the rise of Jehu, and a little reflection there might help us understand how to process all this. Things were bad in Judah and worse in Israel. The Omride dynasty had brought Baal worship into Israel in a big way. A prophet was sent by Elisha to deliver a message to a young military man named Jehu. He was given the message that he was to be king, and the young prophet anointed him and ran. When Jehu’s companions found out about it, they were all in, instantly. This indicates that the political situation was ripe for change.


Jehu came in a like a man on fire.

Daily Meditation

Served in Serving Others

Jesus said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” (Mark 8:17)

John Piper

After Jesus had fed both the 5,000 and the 4,000 with only a few loaves and fish, the disciples got in a boat without enough bread for themselves.  When they began to discuss their plight, Jesus said, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand?” (Mark 8:17). What didn’t they understand?

They did not understand the meaning of the leftovers, namely, that Jesus will take care of them when they take care of others. Jesus says,
“When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Understand what? The leftovers.

The leftovers were for the servers. In fact, the first time there were twelve servers and twelve basketfuls left over (Mark 6:43). The second time there seven basketfuls left over — the number of abundant completeness.

What didn’t they understand? That Jesus would take care of them. You can’t outgive Jesus. When you spend your life for others, your needs will be met.

Abortion is only an Issue For Men--Apparently

Its Weird Down on the Funny-Farm

Last time we checked we confirmed a belief held over many years: abortion actually kills females.  Worse, because sex-selection is a powerful motive for securing and obtaining an abortion in countries such as China and India, an argument can be made that abortion actually targets female babies and that globally (since China and India are the most populous nations on earth) more females suffer abortifacient murder than males.

Now we are forced to conclude that secularists believe even worse things.  Not only does the average secularist happily embrace females being targeted for abortion--as part of an inchoate lust for killing babies--but also he or she believes that women are by far the deadlier of the species when it comes to such evils.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

500 Year Commemoration of The Door of The Castle Church at Wittenburg And All That

Germany Issues Luther Bible Stamps 

Evangelical Focus
17 January, 2017

luther, stamp, germany

Germans can now use postage stamps showing a Bible text with annotations of Martin Luther, the Reformer who translated the Bible into their own language. The new postage stamps are one of the many initiatives in the country to commemorate the 500 anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation, in 1517.

A representative of the German government Ministry of Finance introduced the stamp during its presentation on January 10. The stamp has been called “The Bible according to the translation of Martin Luther”. The image shows a short excerpt of Matthew 27 with hand-written annotations Luther made in a revised translation published in 1541. It will cost 2.60 Euro and can be used for so-called “maxi-briefs”. The stamp can be purchased in all post offices and online.

Daily Devotional

Main Things

"Martha was cumbered about much serving."  Luke 10:40 

Charles H. Spurgeon

Her fault was not that she served: the condition of a servant well becomes every Christian. "I serve," should be the motto of all the princes of the royal family of heaven. Nor was it her fault that she had "much serving." We cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can; let head, and heart, and hands, be engaged in the Master's service. It was no fault of hers that she was busy preparing a feast for the Master.

Happy Martha, to have an opportunity of entertaining so blessed a guest; and happy, too, to have the spirit to throw her whole soul so heartily into the engagement. Her fault was that she grew "cumbered with much serving," so that she forgot him, and only remembered the service. She allowed service to override communion, and so presented one duty stained with the blood of another.

We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune. Joshua never grew weary in fighting with the Amalekites; but Moses, on the top of the mountain in prayer, needed two helpers to sustain his hands. The more spiritual the exercise, the sooner we tire in it. The choicest fruits are the hardest to rear: the most heavenly graces are the most difficult to cultivate.

Beloved, while we do not neglect external things, which are good enough in themselves, we ought also to see to it that we enjoy living, personal fellowship with Jesus. See to it that sitting at the Saviour's feet is not neglected, even though it be under the specious pretext of doing him service. The first thing for our soul's health, the first thing for his glory, and the first thing for our own usefulness, is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus, and to see that the vital spirituality of our religion is maintained over and above everything else in the world.

Purblind Folly

An Entirely Unpredictable Outcome

Sometimes--more often than we would care to acknowledge--Western politicians prove themselves to be dumber than a sack of hammers.  We are left shaking our heads at the monumental foolishness of our leaders.  There has been one such example recently in Northern Ireland.  
A green energy scandal that is saw people heating empty buildings just to collect government grants could cost British taxpayers more than £1 billion.  The UK Treasury faces a huge bill after spending on Northern Ireland’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) went out of control, with businesses installing otherwise useless biomass heaters just to profit from the scheme.  [Nick Hallett, Breitbart News]
In basic macro-economics a universal axiom is that what you pay for, you are likely to get more of. When governments offer subsidies in the attempt to steer an electorate into a certain course of action--otherwise known as the Great Bribe--the end result is a bull market in the particular commodity or practice supposedly being expunged.  Human beings have a notorious tendency to maximise their utility.  If the government offers  ("free") money, let's have it big time.

None of this is rocket science.  Human beings are self-interested, and if some idiotic government is willing to pay a bounty on dead snakes, the unintended consequence is likely to be an explosion of the snake population.  Consumers and economic "actors" will maximise their utility by rearing and raising snakes to get the bounty.  Such motivation and human action rarely are factored in to the social equation by reckless politicians.  And so it has happened in Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Financial Costs of Unbelief

More Money Please

Breakdown of Traditional Families Costing Britain £32 Billion a Year

Breitbart London
Donna Rachel Edmunds

The dismantlement of family and community life by the state over recent decades is costing British taxpayers £32 billion a year in healthcare provision, policing, and loss of revenue through social disengagement, a new report has found.  The report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Capr), commissioned by The Eden Project’s neighbourhood initiative, The Big Lunch, which receives £1m-£2m a year from the public body the Big Lottery Fund, makes no recommendations. But the director of Cebr has called for more government funding to reverse the trend.

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the nuclear family has been under constant attack from the left, leading to a wider breakdown in community cohesion and a sharp rise in single occupancy households.

Daily Meditation

Church Amity and Future Prospects

TO BEDE GRIFFITHS: On fortitude and trust in God in the face of war; and on ecumenical differences.

29 April 1938

C. S. Lewis

I have been in considerable trouble over the present danger of war. Twice in one life—and then to find how little I have grown in fortitude despite my conversion. It has done me a lot of good by making me realise how much of my happiness secretly depended on the tacit assumption of at least tolerable conditions for the body: and I see more clearly, I think, the necessity (if one may so put it) which God is under of allowing us to be afflicted—so few of us will really rest all on Him if He leaves us any other support.

About our differences: I feel that whenever two members of different communions succeed in sharing the spiritual life so far as they can now share it, and are thus forced to regard each other as Christians, they are really helping on reunion by producing the conditions without which official reunion would be quite barren. I feel sure that this is the layman’s chief contribution to the task, and some of us here are being enabled to perform it. You, who are a priest and a theologian, are a different story: and on the purely natural and temperamental level there is, and always has been, a sort of tension between us two which prevents our doing much mutual good. We shall both be nicer, please God, in a better place. Meanwhile you have my daily prayer and good wishes.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II
Compiled in Yours, Jack 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. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

NZ Public Wiser Than Dumb Elites

Idiotic Revolutionaries and Overreaching Zealots

Just on ten years ago, New Zealand passed an anti-smacking law.  Parents were thereafter committing a criminal act if they used corporal correction upon a child.  This egregious piece of legislation has not just resulted in the state removing children from their parents without just cause.  It has produced a climate of fear amongst many parents.

The law was rammed down the throat of NZ parents by an elite who believe they understood better than parents how to raise their own children.  When it passed, the new law was wildly unpopular.  Time has not changed that view.  But the elites knew better than ordinary, dumb parents--or so they claimed.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Man Pleasers, Not God Pleasers

Bathroom Rules Must Protect, Not Enable

Bob McCoskrie's Blog

Billy Graham.org 16 January 2017
Family First Comment: This is a superb commentary, and should be read by anyone who has daughters.   “The world has convinced too many of us that truth is bigotry, real love is hate, silence is golden and if it feels good it is good.” Boom! 
I wish I could tell you that my story is unique, but it’s not. Studies indicate that sexual abuse survivors represent one out of every five females.

So when my boss at our local YMCA asked me to draft talking points to sell a new policy that would effectively open our organization’s numerous locker rooms and bathrooms on the basis of gender identity rather than biological sex, it was these girls that I thought of first.

I thought of the innocent little ones getting ready for swimming class who might find themselves exposed to a predatory male. I thought of the girls who had already been violated and had worked so hard to reclaim their personal boundaries—and how damaging it would be for them to know that, at any moment, a male could invade their privacy and claim his right to be there. I thought of the numerous predators I had personally caught in our facilities trying to gain access to our girls. I worried about the implications for women’s sports teams and homeless shelters. The slippery slope was seemingly endless and cluttered with deeply harmful consequences for women.

So I declined the assignment and appealed to the good Christian men around me to defend my cause, but no one would.

And I got fired.

I was soon employed by the statewide campaign to repeal the open locker room law in Washington state. When I realized that we were strongly opposed by heavyweight companies, I knew we would need the help of the local church in order to be successful.

However, I was devastated by what I discovered next.

The church, it seemed, was in the midst of its own identity crisis.

Daily Devotional

The Anchor of Joy

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:11)

John Piper

Jesus revealed a secret that protects our happiness from the threat of suffering and the threat of success. That secret is this: Great is your reward in heaven. And the sum of that reward is enjoying the fullness of the glory of Jesus Christ (John 17:24).

He protects our happiness from suffering when he says,
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. (Matthew 5:11–12)
Our great reward in heaven rescues our joy from the threat of persecution and reviling.  He also protects our joy from success when he says,
Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)
The disciples were tempted to put their joy in ministry success. “Even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17). But that would have severed their joy from its only sure anchor.

So Jesus protects their joy from the threat of success by promising the great reward of heaven. Rejoice in this: that your names are written in heaven. Your inheritance is infinite, eternal, sure.  Our joy is safe. Neither suffering nor success can destroy its anchor. Great is your reward in heaven. Your name is written there. It is secure.

Jesus anchored the happiness of suffering saints in the reward of heaven. And he anchored the happiness of successful saints in the same.

And thus he freed us from the tyranny of worldly pain and pleasure.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Civil Religion Exposed During Obama's Presidency

Refiner's Fire

Pew Report: Religion Plummeted in America During Obama Era

Thomas Williams
Breitbart News

In a new study of President Obama’s legacy, the Pew Research Center found that religious affiliation and practice dropped off dramatically during his two terms in the White House.  “When it comes to the nation’s religious identity, the biggest trend during Obama’s presidency is the rise of those who claim no religion at all,” Pew notes in a report released this week titled “How America Changed During Barack Obama’s Presidency.”

When Barack Obama took office, those who identified as atheists or agnostics along with those who said their religion was “nothing in particular” totalled only 16 percent of the U.S. adult population. On leaving office 8 years later, the non-religious in America now make up nearly a quarter of the population.

On the contrary, the percentage of Americans who say they believe in God, consider religion to be very important in their lives, pray daily and attend religious services at least monthly have all dropped during the Obama years, Pew found.

Daily Meditation

Response, Not Initiative

C. S. Lewis

If the world exists not chiefly that we may love God but that God may love us, yet that very fact, on a deeper level, is so for our sakes. If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed.

Before and behind all the relations of God to man, as we now learn them from Christianity, yawns the abyss of a Divine act of pure giving—the election of man, from nonentity, to be the beloved of God, and therefore (in some sense) the needed and desired of God, who but for that act needs and desires nothing, since He eternally has, and is, all goodness.

And that act is for our sakes. It is good for us to know love; and best for us to know the love of the best object, God. But to know it as a love in which we were primarily the wooers and God the wooed, in which we sought and He was found, in which His conformity to our needs, not ours to His, came first, would be to know it in a form false to the very nature of things. For we are only creatures: our role must always be that of patient to agent, female to male, mirror to light, echo to voice. Our highest activity must be response, not initiative.

To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire: to experience it in the opposite way is, as it were, a solecism against the grammar of being.

From The Problem of Pain
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain. Copyright © 1940, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 by 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.

Human "Ancestors" Talk Up a Storm

Raining Cats and Dogs

Evolutionism is in really desperate straits.  The longer it hangs around, the more preposterous its claims and portents.  Now, it is asserted, if you go study baboon grunts you can see primitive human speech patterns.  Well, it had to be said: the religion of evolutionism demands it so.

This ground breaking discovery was reviewed in an AP article.
PARIS (AP) — Baboon grunts and mating calls may hold secrets about human speech, according to a new study suggesting that the origins of human language could reach back as much as 25 million years.  The barks, yacks and wa-hoos of the Guinea baboons reveal distinct human-like vowel sounds, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Plos One by scientists from six universities in France and Alabama.
Who would thought that barks, yacks, and wa-hoos contain human-like vowel sounds.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Letter From America (About Obama's Messianic Pretensions)

Obama’s Unforced Errors on Foreign Policy

In Syria and Libya, human nature has proven to Obama that ‘history’ does not have a mind of its own.

By George Will
National Review Online

When Barack Obama moves two miles from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 2446 Belmont Road in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood, he will live half a mile from 2340 S Street, where Woodrow Wilson spent his three post-presidential years. Wilson’s embittering foreign policy failure was the Senate’s rejection of the U.S. participation in the embodiment of Wilsonian aspirations, the League of Nations. Obama leaves office serene because “almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago.”

Two seemingly unimpressed nations are Russia, which is dismembering a European nation (Ukraine) and China, which is shredding international law by turning the world’s most important waterway, the South China Sea, into militarized Chinese territory.

Obama’s policies that brought America to a pinnacle of admiration, as he sees it, were an amalgam of Wilsonian and anti-Wilsonian elements. Wilson’s grand ambition for America was to reorder the world in a way that would make it unnecessary for America to have grand ambitions. He thought America could lead a restful life after strenuous diplomacy had written rules for the game of nations.

Daily Devotional

Words for the Wind

Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind? (Job 6:26)

John Piper

In grief and pain and despair, people often say things they otherwise would not say. They paint reality with darker strokes than they will paint it tomorrow when the sun comes up. They sing in minor keys and talk as though that is the only music. They see clouds only and speak as if there were no sky.

They say, “Where is God?” Or: “There is no use to go on.” Or: “Nothing makes any sense.” Or: “There’s no hope for me.” Or: “If God were good, this couldn’t have happened.”

What shall we do with these words?

Job says that we do not need to reprove them. These words are wind, or literally “for the wind.” They will be quickly blown away. There will come a turn in circumstances, and the despairing person will waken from the dark night and regret hasty words.

Therefore, the point is, let us not spend our time and energy reproving such words. They will be blown away of themselves on the wind. One need not clip the leaves in autumn. It is a wasted effort. They will soon blow off of themselves.

O how quickly we are given to defending God, or sometimes the truth, from words that are only for the wind. If we had discernment, we could tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.

There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil. But not all grey words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by the pain, the despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within. There is something real within where they come from. But it is temporary — like a passing infection — real, painful, but not the true person.

Let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind — spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul, not reproving the sore, is the aim of our love.

What a Gift!

Propagating Perpetual Self-Awareness

The season of Christmas and New Year has come and gone.  Usually about this time, folk think of it as something that happened months ago.  It's all forgotten, expunged from the memory banks by normal, daily routines.  

We, at ContraCelsum are deeply concerned as to the state of your gift haul.  Was it good?  Did it satiate your covetousness, etc.?  We generally thought our collective experience of Christmas and its attendant worship and celebration was a great blessing this year--a true Holy Day, as it were, particularly since this year, Christmas Day fell on the Sabbath.

But then, alas and alack, we discovered we have missed out on the best, neatest gift ever.  We hesitate to share this with all our readers, since it risks an explosion of discontent, which would not be nice.

But, truth is truth--and must be faced, however unpalatable.  So, what was the missing, coolest gift ever?

‘Check Your Privilege’ Cards Are This Holiday Season’s Best Gift

By Dayna Evans
NY Magazine

If you haven’t bought gifts for your loved ones this holiday season, here’s an idea: Instead of throwing away cash on hoverboards and cashmere scarves, have a “Check Your Privilege” card at the ready whenever they need a small reminder.  Fabiola Lara, who was behind our favorite holiday gift last year (a pregnant/not pregnant calendar dedicated to a woman’s right to choose), put together handy packs of ten cards for only $5. All proceeds will be donated to Atlas: DIY, a center for immigrant youth in Brooklyn, and while a cashmere scarf might keep your family member warm for a while, the gift of self-awareness is forever.
A little bit of self-righteous hectoring, coupled with a dessert of censorious ad-hominem, is just what every Christmas needs.  What?  You didn't receive this "Best Gift".  Don't you have any friends who want to see you dolling out the perpetual "gift of self-awareness"?

No?  What a wonderful reason to be thankful all over again.

This little gem from New York goes a long way to explaining why Donald Trump was elected President.

Friday, 20 January 2017

History Always Repeats For Slow Learners

Davos Man Has Fallen Ill

The Masters of the Globe are facing a new reality.  Globalization and Globalism are under siege.  This should come as no surprise to any Christian who knows his or her Bible.  The Tower of Babel was an early attempt to unite humanity, and draw great strength and power from such unification.  The ultimate goal was to rule the world.  It was the first attempt at globalization.

The threat arose because mankind at that time all spoke the same language.
And the Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them."  [Genesis 11:6]

For some time now elites, the would-be masters of the world, have been meeting in gatherings such as at Davos, Switzerland. The plan has been to forge global policies the objective of which has been to override all nationalism, all local parochialisms.  The political leaders who gathered, together with the plutocrats, sought to forge policies which were not necessarily in the best interests of their constituents at all.  All local preferences and prejudices must progressively be laid aside so as to forge the new Babelesque reality.  One plan.  One united world.  One power.

Now, as happened in the Plain of Shinar long ago, the utopian dream is fracturing.

Globalism is Dying
Victoria Friedman
Breitbart London

The political and business elite, who attend the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, are beginning to admit their push for globalisation and open borders contributed to the worldwide populist backlash and the rejection of the mass integration project.

Harvard professor and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund Kenneth Rogoff told Bloomberg that following WEF 2016 he “started to grow concerned” then-candidate Donald J. Trump would become the next president of the U.S. because his fellow frequent attendees of the gathering in the Swiss town of Davos were certain that Mr. Trump would not win.  “A joke I’ve told 1,000 people in the months since leaving Davos is that the conventional wisdom of Davos is always wrong,” said the former IMF chief who is scheduled to attend Davos again this year along with some 3,000 other members of the political, business, media, and academic elite.  “No matter how improbable, the event most likely to happen is the opposite of whatever the Davos consensus is,” he added.

Davos also failed to predict the rise of populism in Europe, Italy’s rejection of constitutional change that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Mattheo Renzi, or the UK voting to leave the European Union (EU) which Forbes described as the “populist revolt against Davos Man”.

“Davos Man” was coined by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington who described “these transnationals” as “[having] little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations”.
Davos Man is dying . . . until another generation of utopians arise, attempting to drag the world back to the empty level dry plains of Shinar.

Daily Devotional

Let Gratitude Move Us to Full Consecration

"The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself."  Daniel 9:26

Charles H. Spurgeon

Blessed be his name, there was no cause of death in him. Neither original nor actual sin had defiled him, and therefore death had no claim upon him. No man could have taken his life from him justly, for he had done no man wrong, and no man could even have lain him by force unless he had been pleased to yield himself to die. But lo, one sins and another suffers. Justice was offended by us, but found its satisfaction in him. Rivers of tears, mountains of offerings, seas of the blood of bullocks, and hills of frankincense, could not have availed for the removal of sin; but Jesus was cut off for us, and the cause of wrath was cut off at once, for sin was put away forever. Herein is wisdom, whereby substitution, the sure and speedy way of atonement, was devised! Herein is condescension, which brought Messiah, the Prince, to wear a crown of thorns, and die upon the cross! Herein is love, which led the Redeemer to lay down his life for his enemies!

It is not enough, however, to admire the spectacle of the innocent bleeding for the guilty, we must make sure of our interest therein. The special object of the Messiah's death was the salvation of his church; have we a part and a lot among those for whom he gave his life a ransom? Did the Lord Jesus stand as our representative? Are we healed by his stripes? It will be a terrible thing indeed if we should come short of a portion in his sacrifice; it were better for us that we had never been born. Solemn as the question is, it is a joyful circumstance that it is one which may be answered clearly and without mistake. To all who believe on him the Lord Jesus is a present Saviour, and upon them all the blood of reconciliation has been sprinkled. Let all who trust in the merit of Messiah's death be joyful at every remembrance of him, and let their holy gratitude lead them to the fullest consecration to his cause.

Integrating Into the Void

The Madness of the Gentiles

When the Gospel first went to Gentiles, all barriers and impediments of a ceremonial religious nature were removed.  But this removal of barriers did not extend to the moral laws of God, reflecting His eternal holy Being. 

Consequently, the New Testament testimony about the Gentiles was that their abiding character was corrupt; in order to enter the Kingdom of God and be reconciled to God, they had to repent of their egregious sinfulness.  Thus, in Ephesians 4: 17-18, Paul writes:
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
And the Apostle Peter adds:
. . .  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you  [I Peter 4: 2-4]
No clearer illustration of the lawlessness and hardness of heart of the Gentiles can be given than the following report.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Falsehoods And Urban Legends

Friends of the Earth Slammed by Advertising Standards Twice

‘Misleading’ Fracking Claims

Donna Rachel Edmunds

Construction Begins At Lancashire Fracking Site

Friends of the Earth (FoE) has been twice rebuked by Britain’s advertising standards watchdog this week after it tried to deny that claims it made about fracking were false.

Earlier this week the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) ruled that FoE had failed to substantiate claims made in a leaflet that fracking could cause cancer, lower house prices, contaminate water, and increase asthma rates.  It said that FoE had agreed not to make the claims again, or claims to the same effect, allowing it to close the case without making a formal ruling, The Times has reported.

The case is listed on the ASA’s website as “informally resolved”, along with 50 other such cases to have come before the agency this week.  However, in an appearance on Channel 4 News on Wednesday night, Rose Dickinson, a spokesman for FoE, said: “All we have said to the ASA is that we will not continue to circulate an old leaflet about fracking. We stand by everything in the leaflet.”

On the same day, FoE published an article by fellow campaigner Tony Bosworth saying that the ASA had closed the case “without making a ruling”, before going on to repeat claims that fracking adversely effects heath and the environment.

But the advertising watchdog has insisted that the environmentalists have given a false account of proceedings. A spokesman said it had now written to FoE “to remind them of the agreement they signed up to and the consequences if we receive a complaint about these claims being made by them again”.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker, yesterday followed this up by publishing a statement on the agency’s website, writing: “[L]et me be clear. We told Friends of the Earth that, based on the evidence we’d seen, claims it made in its anti-fracking leaflet, or claims with the same meaning, cannot be repeated and asked for an assurance that they wouldn’t be. Friends of the Earth gave us an assurance to that effect.

“Friends of the Earth has said we ‘dropped the case’. That’s not an accurate reflection of what’s happened. We thoroughly investigated the complaints we received and closed the case on receipt of the above assurance. Because of that, we decided against publishing a formal ruling, but plainly that’s not the same thing as ‘dropping the case’. Crucially, the claims under the microscope mustn’t reappear in ads, unless the evidence changes. Dropped cases don’t have that outcome.”

In response, FoE has said it will be speaking again to ASA as it did not accept its account of what had taken place.

The row comes as fracking company Cuadrilla begins preparing a site in Lancashire for fracking to commence around September. Chief executive Francis Egan hailed the work as an “important milestone” as permission to drill was initially denied by Lancashire County Council, despite advice to the contrary from both their planning and legal departments, and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Daily Meditation

Gain What You Cannot Lose

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

John Piper

Here are two great incentives from Jesus to become a World Christian and to dedicate yourself to the cause of Frontier Missions.

  1. Every impossibility with men is possible with God (Mark 10:27). The conversion of hardened sinners will be the work of God and will accord with his sovereign plan. We need not fear or fret over our weakness. The battle is the Lord’s, and he will give the victory.

  2. Christ promises to work for us and to be for us so much that when our missionary life is over, we will not be able to say we’ve sacrificed anything (Mark 10:29–30).

When we follow his missionary prescription, we discover that even the painful side effects work to improve our condition. Our spiritual health, our joy, improves a hundredfold. And when we die, we do not die. We gain eternal life.

I do not appeal to you to screw up your courage and sacrifice for Christ. I appeal to you to renounce all you have to obtain life that satisfies your deepest longings. I appeal to you to count all things as rubbish for the surpassing value of standing in service of the King of kings. I appeal to you to take off your store bought rags and put on the garments of God’s ambassadors.

I promise you persecutions and privations — but “remember the joy”! “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

On January 8, 1956, five Auca Indians of Ecuador killed Jim Elliot and his four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the gospel to the Auca tribe of sixty people.

Four young wives lost husbands and nine children lost their fathers. Elisabeth Elliot wrote that the world called it a nightmare of tragedy. Then she added, “The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in Jim Elliot’s credo: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’”

Utopian Dreams Begin to Fade

When Big Money Stops Talking

It's ironic that the standard, classical Marxist indictment of capitalists is that money rigs the political system and political power in favour of the monied.  The classes are at war, and capitalists will always exploit their position at the expense of the working stiff.

We should remember that whilst ubiquitous class warfare is an ideological scam--a simplistic view of history's dynamics--that is not to say that capitalists are never perverse when it comes to their interests.  We need to remember Adam Smith's timely warning: put a dozen industrialists and capitalists in a room and within minutes they will be engaged in conspiring against the free market.  They will be looking to control supply and demand so as to maximise their own collective interests and profits as a group. Smith's answer to this problem of human self-centeredneess was to resist the desire (and conspiracy) to control the system to the advantage of their class by maintaining an open, free, competitive market.  Competition is the best regulator of capitalist greed and perversions.

It was always understood that in the matter of Brexit, there would be "winners and losers".  For some businesses, it would mean commercial hardship and the need for adjustments.  But for others there would be new commercial advantages to be exploited.  It seems now that some of the biggest monied donors (that is, owners and deployers of capital) to the Conservative UK government are pushing back against Brexit.  It does not accord with their own monied interests.

This boils down to a classic case of who ultimately controls the UK government and its actions: the crony capitalists, or the voters.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

It Pays To Take the Log Out of One's Own Eye First

Not All Bullies And Their Victims Are Equal 

. . . In Meryl Streep’s Eyes


Meryl Streep’s unloading on Donald Trump was pretty rich, on a number of levels. Was anyone surprised by her rant? If you were, then you haven’t been paying attention and shame on you. What else would you expect during a self-congratulatory show where a liberal icon has a captive audience full of fellow believers still collectively trying to figure out how the gods turned against them. Don’t they know who we are?!! To me, Streep’s tired tirade was about as surprising as Trump’s complete inability to resist taking the bait and keep his yap shut. Both utterly predictable. Both absurd.

I don’t really want to take too much time examining the stunningly insular arrogance of a multi-millionaire, but hey, she got on the soapbox, so just for kicks, let’s look at a few of her comments. Be careful not to step in the puddle of dripping condescension:
So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.
Oh boy, those Tinsel Town Saviors are ready to save you from suffering through a pedestrian sport where 70% of the players are black, and another one that has been described as the “most racially and internationally diverse sporting organization in the world.” Instead, Streep believes you prefer a steady diet from Tinsel Town’s visual buffet of glorified gun violence or objectification of women. You choose. It’s a rich irony, don’t you think, that a wealthy, lily-white Patrician beauty seems wholly oblivious to her condescending dismissal of a segment of the population who have, in large part, found their way out of generational poverty and gone on to great success through these chosen sports? Oh well, high-brow, low-brow…

Daily Meditation

A Great Achievement of Wishful Thinking

C. S. Lewis

One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children.

The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?

From Mere Christianity
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity. Copyright © 1952, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1980, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Take Nothing For Granted

The Basics of Life

Now, more than ever, it seems, Christian families need to take their life-compass readings from the Scriptures and not from society-at-large.  In former generations that may not have been such an urgent and pressing issue.  In days of a more Christian culture being evident, taking advice and getting instruction from society at large may have been less of a danger.  Not so now.

A venerable Christian family's statement of faith was often seen adorning the walls of many Christian homes:
Christ is the Head of this house
The unseen Guest at every meal
The silent Listener to every conversation.
 It reinforced the truth that for the Christian family, Christ is central.  He is the ultimate family head, its ruler, leader, counsellor, disciplinarian, guide, and shepherd.  The Christian home and family is a holy place.  Not a sinless place, mind.  But a holy place, where everything is dealt with according to the Scriptures.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  [Deuteronomy 6: 4-9]
The norm for a Christian home is that the children will grow up to say that they cannot recall a time when they did not believe in God, but that all their lives they have known and followed Christ.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Daily Devotional

Have Done With Fretful Fear

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

Charles H. Spurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

In Memoriam

John Wyclif 1320--1384

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

Our Disease of Discontent

The Good Life

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

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

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

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

Monday, 16 January 2017


Vatican Officially Recognizes Martin Luther 

A ‘Witness to the Gospel’


Thomas Williams
Breitbart News

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

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

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

Daily Meditation

God’s Will Is That You Draw Near

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

John Piper

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

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

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

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

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

Where Do These Folk Come From?

Embarrassing Advocacy

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Happy Clappy Occidental Buddhism

The Dark Side Of Tibetan Buddhism

Rod Dreher
The American Conservative

The Dalai Lama (Darko Sikhman/Shutterstock)

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

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

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

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

Daily Meditation

The Unwilling Convert

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

C. S. Lewis

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

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume I
Compiled in Yours, Jack The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume I: Family Letters 1905-1931. Copyright © 2004 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Obamian Legacy

Codswallop Was The Major Achievement

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

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

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

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

Friday, 13 January 2017

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Until the Bull Pukes

Douglas Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Devotional

In the Desert No Longer

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

Charles H. Spurgeon

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

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

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

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

Letter From New Zealand

Recovering Mana

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Apologists for Socialism Approach Insanity

Socialism Has Shattered Venezuela

The Useful Idiots Applauded

 Jeff Jacoby
The Globe

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

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

Daily Devotional

What Jesus Did to Death

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

John Piper

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

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

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

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

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

Another Urban Myth

Eating All That God Has Given

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

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

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

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Just Another Uncle Tom

Eleven Great Thomas Sowell Quotations

Breitbart News
Jerome Hudson

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

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

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

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

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

1. The Welfare State:

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

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

2. A Legacy of Liberalism:

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

Daily Meditation

Wanting More

C. S. Lewis

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

From The Weight of Glory
Compiled in Words to Live By The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses. Copyright © 1949, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1976, revised 1980 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Merkel's Well-Meant Folly

Two World Wars Are Quite Enough

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

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

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