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Showing posts from July, 2012

What I learnt on Sunday

This last Sunday I had a tremendous opportunity to preach on one Sunday two sermons to two different churches on two separate passages which essentially relates to the same theme : suffering.  In one I dealt with the question 'How Do We Respond to Suffering?' (Psalm 44). In another I asked "How Does God Comfort Us in Suffering?'. (Nahum 1:12-13)

As it so often happens when I preach - I get a new clarity over an issue as I share it - a new 'revelation' so to speak that God wants me to grasp. Usually a truth that has skirted around my mind, but now gets new clarity. On Sunday two particular points really struck me.

1. The sharp difference between Christian and non-Christian suffering. The purpose of Christian suffering stands in sharp contrast to non-Christian suffering. The non-Christian suffering is an outworking of God's wrath on our world and man as told in the Genesis account and Romans. The Christian suffer in Christ and all our suffering is service t…

Torture Porn

As we close the first decade of the twenty-first century, we are now deluged with movies that have become so graphic and gruesome that they are often referred to as “torture porn” or “gorenography. gorenography.” Every conceivable way to violate the human body on the screen has been explored and presented in visceral minutia. I do not watch these movies. What possible value could they have? What would be the point? Grant Horner (from Meaning at the Movies, 2010). I couldn't agree more. Horror movies with Certificate 18 is "torture porn". Gruesome violence that adds little value. I recently tried to watch Mirrors 2 - and couldn't get past 20 minutes. Shocking violence on the human body. It's not real, but the effect on the mind surely is!

Maintaining perspective

"Why doesn’t God smite this dictator dead?” is a question a little remote from us. Why, madam, did he not strike you dumb and imbecile before you uttered that baseless and unkind slander the day before yesterday? Or me, before I behaved with such a cruel lack of consideration to that well-meaning friend? And why sir, did he not cause your hand to rot off at the wrist before you signed your name to that dirty bit of financial trickery? You did not quite mean that? But why not? Your misdeeds and mine are none the less repellent because our opportunities for doing damage are less spectacular than those of some other people. Do you suggest that your doings and mine are too trivial for God to bother about? That cuts both ways; for in that case, it would make precious little difference to his creation if he wiped us both out tomorrow. - Dorothy Sayers (1895 - 1957)

Louis Zamperini : Unbroken by Pain, Broken by God

Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken tells the extraordinary odyssey of Louis Zamperini who on a May afternoon in 1943, at the height of the 2nd World War, crashed into the Pacific Ocean - after returning from a bombing raid. After an agonising delay, he struggled aboard a life raft – and so begun extraordinary tale of survival, starvation and life in some of the worst prison war camps of the 2nd World War. It is a truly a break taking story of tragedy and triumph.

As part of his experience Louis had come to be severely abused by some of Japan’s most notorious prisoner war camp officers. He experienced such shocking brutality! I have frankly never read of man who was so abused at the hands of another. But many years later – Louis wrote his abuser an extraordinary letter, after he heard the abuser who had been on the run was still alive: To Matsuhiro Watanabe,
As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightma…

What did Adam Smith achieve?

Smith did manage to do in the Wealth of Nations, and for the first time, was to examine in a systematic way what much of the earlier literature of political economy had approached in a piecemeal manner-as a set of individual, largely disparate or unconnected economic phenomena and problems. From After Adam Smith: A Century of Transformation in Politics and Political Economy(Princeton Univerity Press, 2009)by Murray Milgate and Shannon C. Stimson.

Paycheck (2003)

I recently watched Paycheck. An interesting movie that explores time, determinism and free will. There also some fascinating aspects about memory and it's role in human relationships. Equally interesting is the view of man. Man is naturally greedy and precisely due to that greediness, less able to handle the gravity of knowing or seeing a glimpse of the future. But the other issue appears to that man is assumed to be inherently a prisoner of his own knowledge. Determinism is assumed to flow from the vicious circularity of man's knowledge (right or wrongly) shaping human choices which in turn self-fulfils the prophecy. As far as man and future knowledge are concerned, it appears ignorance is not only bliss, it is safer, according to this movie. Naturally, for future "movie corner" musings, we shall say a lot more than stated in this introductory piece!

A triumph of perseverence

Aung San Suu Kyi. One woman's perseverance on behalf of a nation begins to pay off!
After years of house arrest and persecution, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi made history by taking her seat in Burma's parliament for the first time this month.

Let us pray!

I recently spoke on these simple words from St Paul: Brothers, pray for us. (1 Thess 5:25 ESV) There are three things that immediately struck me when I looked at this seemingly simple request.
First, this is Paul the Apostle requesting spiritual help from young new believers at Thessalonica. We must emulate Paul's humility.
Second, this is Paul the great Apostle acknowledging that he needs God to do all things. We must emulate Paul's helplessness.
Third, Paul recognises that all all believers have high level security clearance to enter the Holy of Holies, including young believers at Thessalonica. We are all in form and substance the new High Priests before our God. Quite extraordinary that a struggling believer is heard by God. What mystery!
There's a lot more in that simple verse. We can speak about the basis of the request ("brothers"); the direction of the prayer ("us"); the nature of the request itself ("pray" - what is that? is it a com…

That is who God is!

No one can have an adequate view of the heart and purposes of the God of the universe who does not understand that he permitted his son to die on the cross to reach out to all people, even people who hated him. That is who God is. But that is not just a “right answer” to a theological question. It is God looking at ME from the cross with compassion and providing for me, with never-failing readiness to take my hand to walk on through life from wherever I may find myself at the time. Dallas Willard (from Divine Conspirancy : Discovering our Hidden Life in God, Harper 1998)

Christians and Culture

My view on Christians and culture is fairly straightforward. Christians should not deliberately set out to change their society. Christians should deliberately set out to live out Christ in any place, discipline, vocation or society he has placed them.

I believe if this is done, it would please the Holy Spirit to transform society. He is already working restraining the ushering in of the man of lawlessness on our behalf. He is already giving gifts to men as the gospel spreads. He is willing and more than able to do more for His children that we can ask for, if we humble ourselves and come to him afresh.

It baffles me that there are few Christians thinking through the global economic crisis from a Christian perspective, but we have 20000 posts on Obama and his agendas. It baffles me that Christians are not writing about Syria, but many writing on youth programmes! Same with the arts, music, technology and other pressing issues.

There are forces reshaping our world and many evangelica…

Currently reading...

John Lennox's fairly recent book - Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science(2011). A review is forthcoming, but here is snippet from the book : The Galileo incident teaches us that we should be humble enough to distinguish between what the Bible says and our interpretations of it. The biblical text might just be more sophisticated than we first imagined, and we might therefore be in danger of using it to support ideas that it never intended to teach.

Jesus in Heaven

Right now, there is a man, a full flesh-and-body man still marked with the wounds of his crucifixion, sitting at the right hand of the Father as LORD and King over all the earth. Jesus does not shuck off his human nature but ascends as both God and man into the very presence of the Father as a representative of humanity. Can this be explained fully? Not in full, certainly. Christ’s dwelling in heaven with a physical body is a glorious mystery that should cause us to worship and marvel. Robert A Peterson (from Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ, Crossway 2011)

Moral bankruptcy of democracy

Louis René Beres has written a powerful article here on the moral bankruptcy of democracy. He observes :
"Democratic institutions are always reflections of a far deeper truth. This still-hidden truth lies in the society’s accumulating inventory of private agonies and collective discontents. No institutionalized pattern of democracy can ever rise above the severely limited ambitions, insights, and capacities of its citizens. In short, it is not for elections to cast light in dark places. Let us be candid. We the people inhabit a withering national landscape of crass consumption, incessant imitativeness, and dreary profanity. Bored by the banality of everyday life and beaten down by the struggle to avoid despair in a nation of stark polarities, Americans will grasp apprehensively for any convenient lifeline of hope".

I need Thee!

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

(Annie Hawks, 1836-1918)

Annie Hawks wrote :
"One day as a young wife and mo­ther of 37 years of age, I was bu­sy with my reg­u­lar house­hold tasks. Sud­den­ly, I be­came so filled with the sense of near­ness to the Mast­er that, won­der­ing how one could live with­out Him, ei­ther in joy or pain, these words, “I Need Thee Ev­e­ry Hour,” were ush­ered in­to my mind, the thought at once tak­ing full pos­sess­ion of me" After writing the lyr­ics, Hawks gave them to her pas­tor, Ro­bert Low­ry, who add­ed the tune and re­frain. The hymn was first pub­lished at the Na­tion­al Bap­tist Sun­day School Con­ven­tion in Cin­cin­na­ti, Ohio, in No­vem­ber 1872. Some years lat­er, af­ter the death of her hus­band, Hawks wrote:
"I did not un­der­stand at first why this hymn had touched the great throb­bing…

Be still, my soul!

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Who is God?

In Genesis, He's the breath of life
In Exodus, the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, He's our High Priest
In Numbers, the fire by night
In Deuteronomy, He's Moses' voice
In Joshua, He is salvation's choice
In Judges, the law-giver
In Ruth, the kinsman Redeemer
In First and Second Samuel, our trusted prophet
In Kings and Chronicles, He's sovereign
In Ezra, the true and faithful scribe
In Nehemiah, He's the rebuilder of broken walls and lives
In Esther, He is Mordecai's courage
In Job, the timeless Redeemer
In Psalms, He is our morning song
In Proverbs, wisdom's cry
In Ecclesiastes, the time and season
In the Song of Solomon, He is the lover's dream
In Isaiah, He's the Prince of peace
In Jeremiah, the weeping prophet
In Lamentations, the cry for Israel
In Ezekiel, He's the call from sin
In Daniel, the stranger in the fire
In Hosea, He is forever faithful
In Joel, He's the Spirit's power
In Amos, the arms that carry us
In Obadiah, He'…

What did the church fathers believe about end times?

Church historians and theologians offer some reflections : 
Philip Schaff writes: "The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene [i.e., prior to AD 325] age is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius" William Alger writes: “Almost all the early Fathers believingly looked for a millennium, a reign of Christ on earth with his saints for a thousand years.” William Masselink writes: “The Chiliastic [Premillennial] conception immediately found acceptance in the Christian church. … The Apostolic history shows us that many of the old church fathers were leaning toward this view.” Don…

Do human rights exist?

This recent BBC article on human rights starts off very well and then becomes confused. I think he would have been better to simply say :

Inherent conception of human rights requires an objective moral standard i.e. moral law giver (God).
Since the moral law giver is under dispute then we can't universally speak of human rights. This is a well understood position among many moral theorists anyway.

The issue therefore is not whether human rights exist or not, but whether those who hold onto them do so consistently. And of course, it follows that unless you believe in God, you can't believe inherent human rights. Precisely for the reasons he has stated.

The notion of progressively evolving your way to an agreed objective "rights" standard fails because the conception of rights demands not just appropriate objective comparisons at time "t" but also "t + 1". In other words, moral comparisons must be consistent across time periods. We are not just in…

The Silence of God

Andrew Peterson is undoubtedly the most gifted living Christian song writer. Here is one of my favourites by him 'The Silence Of God' :

It's enough to drive a man crazy; it'll break a man's faith It's enough to make him wonder if he's ever been sane When he's bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod And the heaven's only answer is the silence of God
It'll shake a man's timbers when he loses his heart When he has to remember what broke him apart This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God
And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they've got When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross Then what about the times when even followers get lost? Because we all get lost sometimes.
There's a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold And He's kneeling in the ga…