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Showing posts from August, 2012

We Are All Prostitutes

There's a fascinating exchange in the movie Welcome to the Rileys  that came to my mind recently. It concerns the 16 year old stripper Mallory and Lois Riley. The two are not related. Lois is actually the wife of Doug Riley who has struck a friendship with the young stripper to try and help her reform. All part of his gathering of himself together following the death of his daughter  : Lois Riley: Allison, I don't think you should do this anymore. Mallory: Do what? Lois Riley: You know what I'm talking about. Mallory: You don't work you don't eat. Lois Riley: Wait! I can't let you do this. Mallory: Lois don't. Lois Riley: What? Mallory: Don't be stupid. Lois Riley: I apologize for being so unsophisticated but I cannot let a 16-year old girl prostitute herself! Mallory: I'm a f****** dancer. Lois Riley: And a prostitute! Mallory: [yelling] Well you're not my f******* mom! So get the f*** out of my way! In the cont

Todd Bentley vs. Home Office

While I was on holiday, this story broke in the news regarding controversial American teacher Todd Bentley. He had been planning to visit the UK but the Home Office decided to shut its doors. In their words : "We can confirm that Mr Bentley has been excluded from the UK. The government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe they are not conducive to the public good. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who might seek to undermine our society" As pastors who invited him moaned about the "missed opportunities" of "God's outpouring" many other local Christian groups welcomed the decision. One local  Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland issued a supporting statement for the Home Office : "Violent activities reported as part of Mr. Bentley's faith healing technique have no part whatsoever in our understanding of a loving, caring and compassionate ministry that is sought, often by weak, fra

The Gift of Forgetting

There are many attributes of human behaviour that are considered "deformed". One of them is poor memory retention. But as this story cited in by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger (in  Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age ) illustrates the ability to forget things is a gift from God.  Researchers have recently published the case of AJ, a 41-year-old woman in California, who does not have the biological gift of forgetting. Since she was 11, she remembers practically every day—not in the sense of a day that passed, but in astonishing, agonizing detail. She remembers what exactly she had for breakfast three decades ago; she recalls who called her and when, and what happened in each episode of the television shows she watched—in the 1980s. She does not have to think hard. Remembering is easy for her—her memory is “uncontrollable, and automatic” like a movie “that never stops.” Instead of bestowing AJ with a superb facility, her memory repeatedly restricts her ability to deci

The Moral Limits of Technology

I recently read (and reviewed for a magazine) a book by Michael Sandel, What Money Can't Buy , where he argues that the relentless march of prices in our lives has led to erosion of social assets / goods that money simply can't buy. The result is that as a society, we are all becoming poorer for it. We have shades of similar posturing in this observation by Robin Mansell on technological progress:  In the Internet age the trend is to rely too much on technological progress and too little on social values. The consequence is that the monitoring of online behavior is being extended further and further into the private domain of citizens lives. Citizens are entitled to a world in which the benefits of digital media and information are not outweighed by the harm of increasingly intrusive incursions into their virtual and ‘real’ lives. The challenge is to imagine how governments can privilege democratic rights in the face of the seductive attraction of superfast computing and

Trinity and the Sovereignty of God

The doctrine of the Trinity reminds us that God is the one who authoritatively defines himself. We might imagine that God's love, for example, is defined as a relationship between himself and the world. But then a divine attribute would be dependent on the world. God would have needed the world in order to have an adequate object for his love. But Trinitarianism teaches us that God's love is defined, not by the world, but by the eternal love between the Father and the Son. God would have been a loving God even if he had chosen not to create the world. So God is sovereign in defining his own nature. And he is sovereign, not only in defining his love, but in exercising it. He loves the world, not because he must, but because he chooses freely to do so. - John M. Frame   ( Source : The Doctrine of God )

Pussy Riot as the Messenger

I have always thought there was something uneasy, or something not quite right about Pussy Riot and the western media reaction to it. It was not just the desecration of the Orthodox Church Cathedral. I could not placed my finger on it until I read this assessment by Vadim Nikitin : How many fans of Pussy Riot’s zany “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s erudite and moving closing statement were equally thrilled by her participation, naked and heavily pregnant, in a public orgy at a Moscow museum in 2008? That performance, by the radical art group Voina (Russian for “war”), was meant to illustrate how Russians were abused by their government. Voina had previously set fire to a police car and drew obscene images on a St. Petersburg drawbridge. Stunts like that would get you arrested just about anywhere, not just in authoritarian Russia. But Pussy Riot and its comrades at Voina come as a full package: You can’t have the fun, pro-democrac

The God of Prostitutes

I knew that God was in that brothel before I arrived, suffering with Maria, witnessing her defilement night after night and sharing in her tears, and that he would remain in the brothel long after I left From God in a Brothel: An Undercover Journey into Sex Trafficking and Rescue  by Daniel Walker. Indeed this is true for we worship a God who is truly afflicted by the pain and suffering of this world. The unbeliever's suffering may be purposeless but God is still grieved by it because He is present in their suffering, especially when it is through grotesque injustice. As Calvin rightly observed, the cry of those who suffer injustice is the cry of God. More importantly, I think God wants us to cry and weep with Him for the world. He is not satisfied with crying alone in the garden. He wants to draw us in and share His grief for the suffering prostitutes of the world, the enslaved, and countless victims. As Walker piercingly observes : The worship lyrics of most modern church

Repeaters

Repeaters is directed by rising Canadian director Carl Bessai. It tells the story of three drug addicts - Kyle, Sonia and Mike - who have become friends in the drug rehab. As part of the rehabilitation process they are granted their first day out in the community to "make amends" with loved ones, only to experience failure. Kyle has a young sister who refuses to talk to him. Sonia fails to reconcile with her father lying on the death bed in hospital. Mike is rebuffed by his father in jail. Next morning they wake up to find the day is repeating itself. Everything happening exactly as it was the previous day. And this cycle continues going forward. The film is essentially an exploration of how the three respond to their predicament. On the first two repeats, after satisfying themselves that the repeats are genuine, they  indulge in carefree experiences! Their new immortality or externally inconsequential existence becomes a license to take drugs, rob people and bas

Facing the Abuser

Shelley Hundley suffered abuse at the hands of a minister in the community, which turned her away from the faith and made her become an atheist – believing that the pain she suffered was proof of atheism. An encounter with Jesus Christ changed her life and gave her freedom to forgive and meet face to with her abuser: As we sat down, I told him I forgave him for the specific wrongs he committed against me. Then I placed my hand on his shoulder and began to pray for God’s blessing on him. I spoke with my whole heart, “Jesus’s blood is enough for everything you have done to me and to others. I speak that over you as one of the ones you harmed. His blood is enough!” I felt such a heavy burden lift from my heart, and my countenance lit up with joy, I remember asking him, “Can I wash your feet?” I had to ask him twice because it was so shocking for him to hear that from me. He nodded and looked baffled as I ran to the bathroom and came back with a basin of water and a towel. I felt so mu

Who is God?

God is the eternal, independent, and self-existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made; illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind. - Adam Clarke , 1762-1832 ( Source : Commentary on the Bible )

How Does God Love?

God does not “love” us without liking us—through gritted teeth—as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core—which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word love. - Dallas Willard   ( Source : The Divine Conspiracy )

False Teaching (Wayne Grudem)

In Jesus’ statement about God and Caesar, he established the broad outlines of a new order in which “the things that are God’s” are not to be under the control of the civil government (or “Caesar”). Such a system is far different from the Old Testament theocracy that was used for the people of Israel. Jesus’ new teaching implies that all civil governments—even today—should give people freedom regarding the religious faith they follow or choose not to follow and regarding the religious doctrines they hold and how they worship God. From How Christians Should Relate to Government by Wayne Grudem. This is wrong. A huge leap in application and terribly wrong one for that matter. Jesus's teaching gave freedom for people to worship the Lord God, not just any religion! There's no where in the Bible where freedom of religion is encouraged whether through a civil government or another medium. To suggest otherwise is heresy. 

God is Present in Suffering

I am currently teaching through Nahum at  one of our sister churches. As I was preparing to preach on Nahum 1:12-13 on God's Sovereignty Over Suffering , I came across this quote from Andrew White from his autobiographical account of his life as Vicar of Baghdad, in post-Saddam-Hussein Iraq. Andrew observes God’s unmovable presence in a dangerous city :  However dreadful the tragedy, My Lord is there. Amidst the greatest havoc I have witnessed in post war Iraq, or in Gaza, or in Bethlehem during the siege, I have still seen God’s glory…I have seen heavens opened and glimpsed something of the majesty, might and love of God. When life is full of despair, it is only the glory of God that truly sustains. There have been times when everything has gone wrong, when friends and colleagues have been killed, and there has seemed no hope. It is at times like this that I ask God to show me his glory…so I circulate among the powerful people in Pentagon, Congress and Parliament, I ask to se

A Delicious God!

The world is more delicious than it needs to be. We have a superabundance of divine goodness and generosity. God went over the top. We don’t need the variety we enjoy, but he gave it to us out of sheer exuberant joy and grace. God’s creative joy wasn’t only for the beginning of creation, leaving us “eating leftovers.” God continues to sustain creation out of joy. “The bloom of yeast lies upon the grape skins year after year because He likes it; C6H12O6=2C2H5OH+2CO2 is a dependable process because, every September, He says, That was nice; do it again. From A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community and Mission around the Table  by Tim Chester. Only a delicious God would create such a delicious world! He is truly pleasant and sweet in all dimensions! 

The Gospel Is More Than a Story

When we read the Bible through the lens of any single genre, agenda, or need, distortion will result. It is critical to grasp the Scriptures' narrative unity to resist our culture's counterstories, but we need not reduce the Scriptures to a single genre to grasp its One Story. God gave us stories indeed, but he also gave us proverbs, poetry, law, exhortation, prophesy, lament, riddle, letters, visions, genealogies, and prayers. Man lives by every word that proceeds from God's mouth. All Scripture makes us wise unto salvation. We need to say, with the apostle Paul, that "we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word" Leslie Leyland Fields on the dangers of reading the Bible only as a Story. She notes the new "bible as story" movement has often resorted to imposing their own narrative on the biblical narrative. It is a timely warning. By all means let us get a grasp of the broad outlin

Death Defeated

Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot the passers-by sneer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Savior on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, "O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?" - St. Athanasius ( Source : On the Incarnation )

We Need to Talk About Kevin

I recently watched the movie  We Need to Talk About Kevin . Directed by Lynne Ramsay, it tells the story of Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) who is trying to piece her life together following a public incident involving her son Kevin. He is now incarcerated in a young offenders institution as he approaches his 18th birthday. Once a successful travel writer, Eva now lives a solitary life shunned by everyone around her, even to the point of violent actions toward her. The movie is beautifully crafted, using Eva’s flashbacks to move between the present and the past, as it recounts Eva and Kevin’s troubled relationship since Kevin was born. Kevin is realistically played by three young actors who each add something different. The pace is reflective, allowing the viewer to be engrossed in the narrative. Its use of imagery is equally masterful as is the music which helpfully reflects the mood of the actors and helps to draw us inside the narrative. The temptation is to assume

Wesley and Money

"A distraught man frantically rode his horse up to John Wesley, shouting, “Mr. Wesley, Mr. Wesley, something terrible has happened! Your house has burned to the ground!” Weighing the news for the moment, Wesley replied, “No. The Lord’s house burned to the ground. That means one less responsibility for me.” From Managing God's Money: A Biblical Guide by Randy Alcorn.

Economics of Church Attendance

Economists suggest that the Catholic Church has been losing adherents not because people stopped believing in God but because membership became too cheap compared with evangelical Christianity, which demands a bigger investment in its churches from members and thus inspire more loyalty. From The Price of Everything by Eduardo Porter. Actually this explanation is not necessarily 'rational' because if the investment upfront is sunk it is not obvious why it should have a bearing on church attendance, unless the expected return is also high. Explaining it purely on the cost side suggests some irrationality on the part of the attendants. One possibility of course is that "price of attendance" may act as a screening out device (i.e. evangelical churches only getting committed people) but that would only explain why evangelical churches may be stable not necessarily increase over time! 

Washington Phillips (1880 - 1954)

I recently came across the music of Washington Phillips . He was a travelling preacher and gospel singer in the 1920s and one of the founding fathers of American gospel music. Although his entire recorded catalog consists of only 18 songs, he was instrumental in laying the foundation for future gospel music artists. Some of his songs amount to highly specific and detailed gospel sermons, featuring Phillips' voice self-accompanied by an instrument that sounds like a fretless zither. This instrument, which has been variously identified as a Dolceola, a Celestaphone, two Celestaphones tuned in octaves attached side-by-side, or a Phonoharp creates a unique sound on these recordings that makes them immediately recognizable. Here is one of my favourite - Mother's Last Word to Her Son, which was heavily featured in the British American film  We Need to Talk About Kevin (review coming).   Lyrics to the song below : I never can forget the day  When my dear mother did

Is science broken?

Science means constantly walking a tightrope between blind faith and curiosity; between expertise and creativity; between bias and openness; between experience and epiphany; between ambition and passion; and between arrogance and conviction – in short, between an old today and a new tomorrow. But, nowadays, research increasingly is misdirected toward lucrative prizes, professional recognition, and financial gains – rewards that are suffocating the creativity and passion that scientific progress demands. As T.S. Eliot put it, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” Heinrich Rohrer (physics Nobel laureate) on the ongoing misconduct in sciences. Of course in truth the science merely reflects human nature. There's no reason to expect that those who conduct science would be anymore 'righteous' than say politicians. It is not the nature of the practice, it is the nature of the man. Even in 'hard sciences' wher

A mother's marred hands

Someone told me the story of a teenager who didn’t want to be seen in public with her mother because her mother’s arms were terribly disfigured. One day when her mother took her shopping and reached out her hand, a clerk looked horrified. Later, crying, the girl told her mother how embarrassed she was. Understandably hurt, the mother waited an hour before going to her daughter’s room to tell her, for the first time, what had happened. “When you were a baby, I woke up to a burning house. Your room was an inferno. Flames were everywhere. I could have gotten out the front door, but I decided I’d rather die with you than leave you to die alone. I ran through the fire and wrapped my arms around you. Then I went back through the flames, my arms on fire. When I got outside on the lawn, the pain was agonizing, but when I looked at you, all I could do was rejoice that the flames hadn’t touched you.” Stunned, the girl looked at her mother through new eyes. Weeping in shame and gratitude, she k

Dark Knight Rises

"No one cared who I was, until I put on the mask" - Bane (from. 'Dark Knight Rises') One of many interesting lines from Bane, a character in the Dark Knight rises. I found myself at the cinema last night watching the movie! somewhat unexpectedly. Not a movie I would have planned to watch if I had sway, but the youths at church wanted to see it so I went along! It is a little difficult for me to give a verdict on the film as a whole as I understand it to be a trilogy. And this is the only one I have watched out of the three. What I will say is that the plot was  interesting . Despite his tarnished reputation after the events of The Dark Knight, in which he took the rap for Dent's crimes, Batman feels compelled to intervene to assist the city and its police force which is struggling to cope with Bane's plans to destroy the city.  The ending was a little more than disappointing. The characters are quite fascinating. I liked Bane and his lines. An intri

A hidden narrative of black Elizabethan England

Historian Michael Wood has a fascinating piece on Britain's "first black community" during the reign of Elizabeth I. Long before the exploits of Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano there was Anna Vause and Mary Fillis : In 1597, for example, Mary Fillis, a black woman of 20 years, had, for a long while, been the servant of Widow Barker in Mark Lane. She had been in England 13 or 14 years, and was the daughter of a Moorish shovel maker and basket maker. Never christened, she became the servant of Millicent Porter, a seamstress living in East Smithfield, and now “taking some howld of faith in Jesus Chryst, was desyrous to becom a Christian, Wherefore shee made sute by hir said mistres to have some conference with the Curat”. Examined in her faith by the vicar of St Botolph’s, and “answering him verie Christian lyke”, she did her catechisms, said the Lord’s Prayer, and was baptised on Friday 3 June 1597 in front of the congregation. Among her witnesses were a group

We need more Kathy Irelands

I recently came across this 'I AM Second' video of Supermodel-turned-business-mogul Kathy Ireland, CEO of the $1.4 billion empire Kathy Ireland Worldwide, where she shares her faith in Christ. In an era when scandals follow 'public Christians' at every corner, Kathy Ireland stands out an excellent role model of a woman and mother living out her faith with confidence in the business world : More on Kathy Ireland via Christian Post.

Living in contradiction

As I was growing up in India, I read a story about a man who had two idols in his home. One was large and rather fierce looking. The other was small, with a cheery face. Every day, morning and night, the man would carry out his worship rituals — placing fruit offerings before the idols and chanting hymns, while his son watched with great curiosity. Finally his son said, “Why are you talking to stones? These are lifeless things. They can’t speak or move or do anything, yet you spend all this time every day doing what you do.” The father grew very angry and reprimanded his son. “Don’t you dare speak that way! These are not just stones! These are our gods! We worship them, and they protect us.” The son realized he had touched a raw nerve and wisely decided to push the issue no further. But one day, in the father’s absence, the son took a big stick and smashed the little idol to pieces. Then he took the stick and placed it in the hands of the big idol. When evening came, his father walke

When to Speak Up and When To Shut Up by Micheal D Sedler (A Review)

Michael Sedler’s “When to Speak Up and When To Shut Up” aims to do exactly what it says on the tin - to offer guidance on when to speak or shut up. The tongue plays a critical role in our lives, as Sedler notes, "because of a misuse of the spoken word, destinies have been derailed, disunity has replaced unity, nations have been destroyed" . By the same token, "silence can bring pain, destruction and the inevitable onslaught of sin. Or it can allow the time for God's healing power to work in a life" . Judging when to speak or keep quite is therefore very important.

Lessons from A Toilet!

I was making my way home from work yesterday. As it so often happens,  an hour earlier, I had forgotten that I was planning to leave early to avoid Olympics disruption and therefore needed to cut down on my water intake. As I arrived at Cannon Street Station I was keen to use a refreshing room. Looked for the appropriate signs and preceded. Inside the toilets room it was deserted aside from a what appeared to be a man dressed in Olympics ushering gear. They are at every station now as under shepherds of Mayor Boris Johnson. My first impression of the toilet was it was strangely designed. No usual "standing only" areas, if you catch my drift. All toilets were cubicles. I proceeded to use one and being in a rush, my train was leaving in 7 minutes, was out within a minute. I headed for the sink - that proved tricky. The automatic taps were not automatic after all. Anyway, I finally managed to figure out how they work. I washed my hands. But just as I was just washing, anothe