Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Peace of silence

One word spoken in season will do more good than a thousand out of season. But in some cases peace, through having our faith to ourselves before God (Rom. 14:22), is of more consequence than the open discovery of some things we take to be true, considering that the weakness of man's nature is such that there can hardly be a discovery of any difference in opinion without some estrangement of affection. So far as men are not of one mind, they will hardly be of one heart, except where grace and the peace of God bear great rule in the heart (Col. 3:15). Therefore open show of difference is only good when it is necessary, although some, from a desire to be somebody, turn into by ways and yield to a spirit of contradiction in themselves. Yet, if Paul may be judge, they `are yet carnal' (1 Cor. 3:3).
RICHARD SIBBES 
(Source : The Bruised Reed)

The point here being that sometimes it is better to remain silent over certain truths where the discovery of our views would only lead to unnecessary disunity with other Christians. This as he rightly notes is in those unnecessary areas which we may call speculative or open to general interpretations. For example, do people really need to know our opinion on the millennium? No. 

And yet too often we find that people are only eager to let us know their views on such non-essential matters. As Sibbes would say, the motivation in those instances is always to be a “somebody”.  It is therefore little surprise that the dawn of social media has spawned more disunity among true Christians with everyone graviting to their echo chamber over non-essentials. We would well to practise the discipline of silence more often. 

Live lightly!

"Build your nest upon no tree here; for you see God hath sold the forest to Death, and every tree whereon we would rest is ready to be cut down, to the end we may flee and mount up, and build upon the Rock, and dwell in the holes of the Rock”
SAMUEL RUTHERFORD

Monday, 15 January 2018

True face of pornography

The Daily Mail on how a growing number of women in Japan are stepping out of the shadows to say they were forced to work in Japan's multi-billion-dollar porn industry:
Young, pretty and hoping for stardom, Saki Kozai thought she had found her ticket to fame after an apparent model scout spotted her on a Tokyo street and offered her a job. Then just 24 years old, starstruck and excited, she quickly signed a deal with the agency he introduced her to, believing that she would soon star in promotion videos. In fact, it was not a modelling agency, and on her first day Kozai discovered the job required her to have sex on camera. "I couldn't take off my clothes. All I could do was cry...There were about 20 people around me, waiting. No woman could say 'no' when they're surrounded like that," she said.
It is good to see the Daily Mail report this story because this is not just a Japanese problem it is a global problem. In a world of the internet the supply of pornography in Japan has a ready market around the world. Many of the consumers are people who live in Western Europe. The pornography that people watch has real human stories behind them. These people are treated as nothing more than sex slaves for the benefit of pornography consumers world wide.

More than that the story highlights the true face of all pornography.  No one in any country goes into the industry willingly. The industry thrives on coercing people who have come to the end of the road in life or young women lured by a lavish lifestyle that never materialises. As one of the victims says, "[the women] are not necessarily all abused or locked up...It's more like they are tricked into it". And of course once they are in it that then becomes life. 

But the main reason I am flagging up this story is not simply to highlight the human tragedy.  Pornography is rampant. People, including many who claim to follow Jesu, think it’s normal and just an ugly part of human existence. As I have thought about this issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason why pornography is tolerated even by people who profess to have faith in Jesus is that as human beings we always try and insulate ourselces from the human side of stories.

We to fight the desire to look at pornography with a better look at the faces of people who supply pornography. Who are these women in the pornography industry? Who is Saki? She is a daughter of someone. She has dreams just like you. She have fears just like you; she desires to be valued and cared for just like you do. And yet all over the world, millions of women just like her are abused, raped, and exploited because men settle for base animal lusts over a redeemed human identity. 

God the Son put on our humanity in Jesus to be one of us. He cams not only to save us from sin, but to show us how the original design was meant to be. He taught us how to love a sinner and how to treat the sick and the poor. He showed how to work with integrity. He encouraged us to be incredible neighbors and above all to be people who love other people, as ourselves, especially those of the opposite sex. In short, Jesus challenged us not to look away from the computer screen, TV, billboard ad, or lovely woman walking down the street. He actually taught us to look more deeply at other human beings. To see God’s divine imprint on them alongside the stain of sin that has marred human nature. 

If you find yourself looking lustfully at a woman. What you need is to look a little longer. And while you look, pray for that girl and see if you don’t see her differently. You will see everyone differently and you will repent from your sin. You either look at the opposite sex as a father, son or brother … or you are a predator.  As followers of Jesus, there is only one way to see other people :  “from now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. (2 Corinthians 5: 16).

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Mysterious Ways

A clergyman many years ago was travelling by coach. He sat by the coachman’s side upon the box. The coachman was one of those unhappy men who fancy nothing is to be done without swearing. He was cursing, swearing, blaspheming, taking God’s name in vain, for many a long mile together. On he drove, now flying into a passion, now beating his horses, now cursing and swearing again. Such were the coachman’s ways. At last the clergy man said to him quietly, “Coachman, I am exceedingly afraid about you”. “Sir”, said the coachman, “what should you be afraid of? All is going on right, we are not likely to be upset”. “Coachman”, said the clergy man again, “I am exceedingly afraid about you; because I cannot think what you would do in heaven, if you got there. There will be no cursing in heaven; there will be no swearing in heaven; there will be no passion in heaven; there will be no horses to beat in heaven”. “Coachman”, said the minister once more, “I cannot think what you would do in heaven”. “Oh”, said the coachman, “that is your opinion!”, and no more was said. Years passed away. A day came when a person told this same clergyman that a sick man desired to see him. He was a stranger. He had come into the parish, he said, because he wanted to die there. The clergyman went to see him. He entered a room and found a dying man, whose face he did not know. “Sir”, said the dying man, “you do not remember me?”. “No”, said the clergyman, “I do not”. “Sir”, said the man, “I remember you. I am that coachman to whom, many years ago, you said, ‘Coachman, I am afraid about you, because I do not know what you would do if you got to heaven’. Sir, those words laid hold upon me. I saw I was not fit to die. Those words worked, and worked, and worked in my heart, and I never rested till I had repented of sin, and fled to Christ, and found peace in Him, and became a new man. And now”, said he, “by the grace of God I trust I am prepared to meet my Maker, and am meet for the inheritance of the saints in light”.

(Source : J C Ryle, Old Paths)

I have recently been preaching on the two judges of Israel - Tola and Jair. And I have been struck that God often works in ordinary ways and unexpected ways. The conversion between the clergyman and the coachman was ordinary. But the result was unexpected. It is a powerful reminder to trust God in all things even when it seems that which we are fervently praying for is not happening. God often works in ways that we cannot see! But he is working! 



Friday, 12 January 2018

Today I Learned

The martyr John Bradford used to often sign himself at the end of his letters, “That wretched sinner, that miserable sinner, John Bradford”. Whenever John Bradford saw a man going to be hanged, he would  “There goes John Bradford, but for the grace of God”.

(Source : J C Ryle, Old Paths)

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Illusion of free choices

An interesting BBC article notes that social media platforms like Facebook are not merely reflecting our preferences but also actively shaping them though "nudge like":
Platforms like Facebook are curating our news and information under catchall headings like “trending topics”, or criteria like “relevance” – but we only rarely get glimpses into how the filtering happens. This is important because subtle changes in the information we are exposed to can transform our behaviour. To understand why, consider an insight from behavioural science that has been widely adopted by governments and other authorities around the world: the policy “nudge”. This is where subtle tactics are used to encourage us to adopt a particular behaviour. One famous example is making organ donation opt-out rather than opt-in. Instead of requiring people to register themselves as organ donors, an opt-out system automatically assumes that anyone’s organs can be used for donation unless they have specified otherwise. Simply by switching the default assumption, more people end up donating.
This raises all sorts of interesting questions. Do news articles trend because they are popular or because they are shown to trend? It is the aged old question of whether the media really reports news or make it. The answer of course is both, which means that the medium is also the message. Technology like newspaper is not neutral. And our choices and preferences far from being completely exogenous are always endogenous.  

Why does all this matter? Because much of the cultural narrative around us is now about autonomous self and the desire to be truly independent. We are told to be "yourself". But we forget that to be yourself requires an objective definition of yourself. You cannot simply look to your preferences and choices as the basis of the true you because your choices and preferences are endogenous. They are influenced by the likes of Facebook. To really know our true self we need to look outside ourselves. We need to look to Him who made us. Only God revealed to us in the person of Jesus knows who we really are.

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2017

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Antidote of Sin

An affection to sin, which cost the Redeemer of the world so dear, would be inconsistent with a sound knowledge and serious study of a crucified Saviour. We should see no charms in sin, which may not be overcome by that ravishing love, which bubbles up in every drop of the Redeemer's blood. Can we with lively thoughts of this, sin against so much tenderness, compassion, grace, and the other perfections of God, which sound so loud in our ears from the cross of Jesus? Shall we consider him hanging there to deliver us from hell, and yet retain any spirit to walk in the way which leads thereto? Shall we consider him upon the cross, unlocking the gates of heaven, and yet turn our backs upon that place he was so desirous to purchase for ire, and give us the possession of? Shall we see him groaning in our place and stead, and dare to tell him, by our unworthy carriage, that we regard him not, and that he might have spared his pains? It must be a miserable soul, worse than brutish, that can walk on in ways of enmity, with a sense of a crucified Christ in his mind. Could we then affect that sin which appears so horrible in the doctrine of the cross? Can we take any pleasure in that which procured so much pain to our best Friend? Can we love that which hath brought a curse, better than him who bore the curse for us? For want of this study of Christ crucified we walk on in sin, as if he suffered to purchase a license for it, rather than the destruction of it. The due consideration of this death would incline our wills to new desires and resolutions. It would stifle that luxury, ambition, worldliness, which harass our souls. We should not dare to rush into any iniquity through the wounds of Christ. We should not, under a sense of his dying groans, cherish that for which he suffered. We should not do the works of darkness under the effusions of his blood, if we did, in a serious posture, set ourselves at the feet of his cross.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK
(Source: A Knowledge of Christ Crucified)