ContraCelsum Backup

Dear Reader: Although Google professes to have a policy of free speech, there are now disturbing examples of Google peremptorily shutting down blogs on the Blogger platform espousing views which (presumably) Google wants to censor. Therefore ContraCelsum has set up a mirror blog via WordPress (http://contracelsum.com/). We update the latter weekly. If this site should suddenly go dark, you will find ContraCelsum alive and well at the above address. You may want to bookmark it now (just in case).

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Daily Devotional

Prayer’s Exclamation Point

All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

John Piper

Prayer is a response to promises, that is, to the assurances of God’s future grace.

Prayer is drawing on the account where God has deposited all his promises of future grace.
Prayer is not hoping in the dark that there might be a God of good intentions out there. Prayer goes to the bank every day and draws on promises for the future grace needed for that day.

Don’t miss the connection between the two halves of this great verse. Notice the “that is why”: “All the promises of God are Yes in Christ. That is why (therefore) we pray Amen through him, to God’s glory.”
To make sure we see it, let’s turn the two halves around: When we pray, we say Amen to God through Christ, because God has said Amen to all his promises in Christ. Prayer is the confident plea for God to make good on his promises of future grace for Christ’s sake. Prayer links our faith in future grace with the foundation of it all, Jesus Christ.

Which leads to the final point: “Amen” is a full and precious word in times of prayer. It doesn’t mean primarily, “Yes, I have now said all this prayer.” It means primarily, “Yes, God has made all these promises.”
Amen means, “Yes, Lord, you can do it.” It means, “Yes, Lord, you are powerful. Yes, Lord, you are wise. Yes, Lord, you are merciful. Yes, Lord, all future grace comes from you and has been confirmed in Christ.”
“Amen” is an exclamation point of hope after a prayer for help.

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.

Merry Warriors and Paper Tigers

Enjoying the Battle

Psy-ops has a long and ignoble history in warfare.  In poker it's called bluffing.  In commerce, it's called marketing.  Getting into the mind of your opponent or target can pay great dividends.  Consequently, it is not surprising that in the Great Battle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man the latter would engage in psy-ops as often as possible.

One of the most effective psy-ops weapon is within your grasp when you have a chance to convince your enemies that their defeat is inevitable.  There have been many deployments of this stratagem in our generations.  Jesus Christ is passée.  The Age of Science has replaced the former ages of ignorant myths.  The real is the material; anything else is either fabrication or imagination.  Only fools and horses still believe in the Bible.  Nothing will be able to withstand the forces of reason and the science.  And so on.

It is true that there is much that might discourage the Christian.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Ukraine #4

Douglas Wilson
Blog&Mablog
March 18, 2015

Please allow me just one more set of background observations before I say what I think ought to be done in Ukraine.

When we teach math to kids, we are not training future mathematicians, although some will wind up there. We are training future grocers, carpenters, housewives, etc. We want what they learn about math to be consistent with what the future mathematicians will eventually learn, but it need not be anything like so complicated.

When we teach history to kids, we are not training up future historians. We are educating Christian kids to be faithful citizens in the country where God has placed them. God wants them here, and God wants them to honor their father and mother. As a third grader honors his fathers and mothers, there is no way to keep this from being “simplified” and coming across to academic historians as yet another instance of “monocausality.”
Fine, but monocausality shows up in biblical histories. Why did Herod get eaten by worms?

And at the same time, there are standard monocausal explanations that are simply anachronistic or wrong.

Daily Devotional

Prayer in Gethsemane

"And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed."
Matthew 26:39

Charles H. Spurgeon

There are several instructive features in our Saviour's prayer in his hour of trial. It was lonely prayer. He withdrew even from his three favoured disciples. Believer, be much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial. Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the Church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God's.

It was humble prayer. Luke says he knelt, but another evangelist says he "fell on his face." Where, then, must be thy place, thou humble servant of the great Master? What dust and ashes should cover thy head! Humility gives us good foot-hold in prayer. There is no hope of prevalence with God unless we abase ourselves that he may exalt us in due time.

It was filial prayer. "Abba, Father." You will find it a stronghold in the day of trial to plead your adoption. You have no rights as a subject, you have forfeited them by your treason; but nothing can forfeit a child's right to a father's protection. Be not afraid to say, "My Father, hear my cry."

Observe that it was persevering prayer. He prayed three times. Cease not until you prevail. Be as the importunate widow, whose continual coming earned what her first supplication could not win. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Lastly, it was the prayer of resignation. "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Yield, and God yields. Let it be as God wills, and God will determine for the best. Be thou content to leave thy prayer in his hands, who knows when to give, and how to give, and what to give, and what to withhold. So pleading, earnestly, importunately, yet with humility and resignation, thou shalt surely prevail.

NZ: Increasingly A Closed, Controlled Economy

The Objection Industry

The benighted Resource Management Act ("RMA") was sold to the electorate as a way to achieve economic growth in a manner consistent with responsible resource management.  It has proved to be nothing of the kind.  As so many legislative overreaches demonstrate, the RMA does the exact opposite to its stated intent.  It has been used to stop development in its tracks while a very expensive, litigious court process inches forward, adding costs by the day.

At root, the RMA undermines property rights.  What is mine is no longer mine; it is owned substantially not by the legal owner, but the "community".  Others now have a property right that warrants them (via the courts) deciding when and how one's property may be deployed, exploited, and used. 

Duncan Garner, writing in Stuff, excoriates the RMA, writing up just one case.  It involves an RMA-meddling local council.  The council is unnamed.  That's deliberately done (see below).  One presumes the reporting is accurate.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Letter From America (Tracing Immanuel's Footsteps)

An Arrested Abortion

Billy Hallowell
TheBlaze
March 18, 2015

A woman who was featured tenderly serenading her baby girl in a now-viral YouTube video posted a very personal Facebook message on Sunday, revealing that she almost had an abortion two years ago — until a popular Bible verse stopped her in her tracks.

Kimberly Henderson, a 26-year-old aspiring singer who was rejected three times by “American Idol,” published her testimony on the social media platform, noting that March 15 was the two-year anniversary of her visit to the clinic, where she prepared to end her pregnancy.

“People remember dates for birthdays, and anniversaries. Well this date is forever burned in my brain. It’s a day that I will remember and I remember every single detail of that day,” Henderson wrote. “I think that is [sic] Gods way of showing me that HIS plan is and will always be greater and bigger than anything and everything I’ve ever known.”

Daily Devotional

Interim Anxieties

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On disagreeable, nasty people; and on avoiding obsessing about their bullying.
10 March 1954

C. S Lewis

I am sorry things are not better. I am very puzzled by people like your Committee Secretary, people who are just nasty. I find it easier to understand the great crimes, for the raw material of them exists in us all; the mere disagreeableness which seems to spring from no recognisable passion is mysterious. (Like the total stranger in a train of whom I once asked ‘Do you know when we get to Liverpool’ and who replied ‘I’m not paid to answer your questions: ask the guard’).

I have found it more among boys than anyone else. That makes me think it really comes from inner insecurity—a dim sense that one is Nobody, a strong determination to be Somebody, and a belief that this can be achieved by arrogance. Probably you, who can’t hit back, come in for a good deal of resentful arrogance aroused by others on whom she doesn’t vent it, because they can. (A bully in an Elizabethan play, having been sat on by a man he dare not fight, says ‘I’ll go home and beat all my servants’). But I mustn’t encourage you to go on thinking about her: that, after all, is almost the greatest evil nasty people can do us—to become an obsession, to haunt our minds. A brief prayer for them, and then away to other subjects, is the thing, if one can only stick to it. I hope the other job will materialise. . . .

I too had mumps after I was grown up. I didn’t mind it as long as I had the temperature: but when one came to convalescence and a convalescent appetite and even thinking of food started the salivation and the pain—ugh! I never realised ‘the disobedience in our members’ so clearly before [Romans 7:23]. Verily ‘He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it, hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart’ (or in his glands) [Matthew 5:28].

I shall wait anxiously for all your news, always praying not only for a happy issue but that you may be supported in all interim anxieties.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 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.  Sourced from BibleGateway.

Iterative Tyranny

The Evil Empire

When President Nixon notoriously intoned "we are all Keynsians now" he was right, although it still grates to admit the truth of his statement.  We can add another "we are all . . . now" statement, equally offensive, but just as true.  We are all socialists now.  The Fabian socialists have carried the day.  Fabianism--the doctrine of socialism not via revolution (a la Lenin) but by gradual iteration--has won out.

Every Western nation today is fundamentally socialist in their orientation and bent.  All agree that the government must redistribute the wealth, income, and capital of everyone to the benefit of some, which in turn is forged upon the anvil of the state being the ultimate owner of all property.  Doubtless this is unsurprising.  Materialism, the belief that only matter exists, leads to atheism, which leads to statism because there is no higher power than the state anywhere in the universe.  Ultimately the state is right because might makes right.

Advocates of Fabianism will insist that this is an unfair characterisation of their position.  They have long believed in democracy, not brute totalitarian power.  They have advocated for persuasion and the ballot box.  But for many Fabians this is merely a means to an end.  Right from the very beginning the Fabians secretly admired the absolute ruthlessness of Lenin and Soviet Communism.  They would have loved to have such power, such totalitarian control.  Given the opportunity, the Fabians would have opted for totalitarian control in a heart beat.  They were gradualists, not by choice, but by necessity.  Gradualism was a tactic, not an ethic.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Religious Oppression in the UK

“Christ” and “Jesus” Considered Abusive by Marks & Spencer

March 2015: A pastor’s wife order for bouquet of spring flowers was blocked when she had tried to use words: "Thank you for your care and practical help for Margaret in her last days . . . With love from her church family, Christ Church Teddington". She was confronted with an on-screen warning: “Sorry there’s something in your message we can’t write.”
Marks & Spencer had listed words like “Christ” and “Jesus Christ” on a list of banned abusive and offensive terms. As a result, online customers who tried to include those words in their greeting cards, were prevented from completing their orders. M&S withdrew this policy after it was made public.

Source:
www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Society/article1525516.ece
Intolerance Against Christians

Daily Devotional

Satan’s Candy Store

Since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. (1 Peter 4:1)

John Piper

First it puzzles. Did Christ have to cease from sin? No! “He committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22).

Then it clicks. When we arm ourselves with the thought that Christ suffered for us, we realize that we died with him. “He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). When we die with him we cease to sin.

It’s just like Romans 6. “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. . . . So consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:6–7, 11).

Peter says, “Arm yourselves with this thought!”  Paul says, “Consider yourselves dead!”  The weapon for our vacation is a thought/consideration.

When the temptations of Satan come — to lust, to steal, to lie, to covet, to envy, to retaliate, to put down, to fear — arm yourself with this thought:

Mounting Evidence For Charter Schools

Bleak Future in New Zealand

Teacher unions hate charter schools with a passion.  They see them as undermining the state education system which is effectively controlled by the teacher unions.  This position is a bit ironic, since charter schools are merely another kind of state school.

What teacher unions really hate about charter schools is the relative freedom (we use the term advisedly) charter schools have in operating.  We are somewhat cautious here because the NZ version of charter schools has lots and lots of state control embedded.  Every charter school in New Zealand (there are only five) is under a more rigorous and more frequent reporting regime to the Ministry of Education than an  ordinary state school.  But internationally this is not the case.  Charter schools have far fewer restrictions in places like the US and the UK. 

We can understand the caution of the New Zealand government.  If the nascent charter schools were to fail it would be the end of the experiment for all time.  This is why the teacher unions have tried every trick to ensure that failure is the outcome of charter schools in New Zealand.  But this uber-caution by the government has introduced another serious jeopardy.  So few charter schools have been funded and got off the ground--and the selection criteria have been so narrow and doctrinaire--that it is unlikely the charter school experiment will succeed in this country.  Sooner or later a Left-wing Labour administration will return to power in this country.  Closing down five charter schools will be relatively easy.  Closing down one hundred would have been politically much more difficult.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Hear No Evil, See No Evil

Turning the Blind Eye

Inmate Was ‘Overwhelmed and Nervous’ His First Night in Prison, So He Asked a Guard for a Bible. Here’s What He Was Offered Instead


Billy Hallowell
Mar. 18, 2015
TheBlaze

A report released on Tuesday by a U.K. prison reform charity revealed former inmates’ claims about the sexual exploits that go on in British prison cells, including the presence of pornography, rape and sexual relationships that violate prison regulations.

One former inmate told a commission assembled by the Howard League for Penal Reform that he felt “overwhelmed and nervous during his first night in prison, so he requested a Bible, but the guards didn’t have one readily available.

“After some time, an officer returned and apologetically explained that he could not find a Bible but he could lend instead a selection of pornographic magazines ‘to help you get to sleep,’” reads a press release explaining the report.

Daily Devotional

Becoming a True Servant

TO MARY VAN DEUSEN: On God wanting us and not what we can do for God; and on our job to become more and more God’s.

C. S. Lewis

25 March 1954
I must be short for I have had a run of absolutely full days and there are endless things waiting to be done. You ask ‘for what’ God wants you. Isn’t the primary answer that He wants you. We’re not told that the lost sheep was sought out for anything except itself [Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7]. Of course, He may have a special job for you: and the certain job is that of becoming more and more His. Yes, isn’t [William] Law good?

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 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.  Sourced from BibleGateway.

Easier to Make Vague Noises

Conservatism Without Doctrines

We were intrigued recently to read this description of the Conservative Party in the UK.
Most Conservative politicians have little grasp of policy or its importance, but are captivated by the prospect of office.  It is also because most political Conservatives are rich enough to be immune from the rougher parts of the state school system, and from any regular contact with the officious insolence of local authorities and other government agencies.  A large income can and does buy exemption from many of the worst aspects of the New Britain.  So most Tories have no real idea of what it is like, and no burning desire to reform it.

They camouflage this lack of political understanding by pretending to be Edwardian country squires and roaring with fake masculinity about how Toryism is a "disposition and not a dogma".  This may have been true, when Tories truly were rubicund, weather-beaten, port-soaked countrymen but it is not true of their pasty, suburban successors.  [Peter Hitchens, The Broken Compass: How Left and Right Lost Their Meaning  (London: Continuum UK, 2009), p. xv.)
The UK elites long ago lost their faith.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The UK's Persecution of Christians

Hearing Confirms Christian Educator "Rightly" Dismissed for Faith


March 2015: Christian nursery educator, Sarah Mbuyi, was dismissed from her job after "gross misconduct" for saying that marriage is an institution between one man and one woman in conversation with a colleague.

Sarah Mbuyi struggles now before an employment tribunal against the "unfair dismissal", according to the The Times. Sara Mbuyi worked in a day care center in London's Shepherd's Bush. It states that a conversation with a lesbian colleague was decisive for their dismissal. She was asked what the Bible teaches about homosexuality because their church would not let her marry her partner. Then, the colleague reported the incident to her supervisor. After a disciplinary interview the director, Mbuyi was dismissed for "gross misconduct" and violation of the Anti-Discrimination Act. 

Gross misconduct is the most serious penalty normally reserved for theft and fighting at work. One witness claimed that Miss Mbuyi was not able to meet contractual obligations because of her belief, saying: “She was not able to do her job, to represent the diversity of the nursery. This indicated other beliefs that would make her unable to fulfil her duties.” Sarah Mbuyi said: “You know persecution [for your faith] is coming, but it feels really surreal when you realise it’s happening to you.”

Sources:
Intolerance Against Christians

Daily Devotional

God's Best Promise

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

John Piper

The most far-reaching promise of God’s future grace is found in Romans 8:32. This is the most precious verse in the Bible to me. Part of the reason is that the promise in it is so all-encompassing that it stands ready to help me at virtually every turn in my life and ministry. There never has been, and never will be, a circumstance in my life where this promise is irrelevant.

By itself that all-encompassing promise would probably not make the verse most precious. There are other such sweeping promises such as Psalm 84:11: “No good thing does [God] withhold from those who walk uprightly.” And 1 Corinthians 3:21–23: “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” It is difficult to overstate the spectacular sweep and scope of these promises.

But what puts Romans 8:32 in a class by itself is the logic that gives rise to the promise and makes it as solid and unshakable as God’s love for his infinitely admirable Son.

Romans 8:32 contains a foundation and guarantee that is so strong and so solid and so secure that there is absolutely no possibility that the promise could ever be broken. This is what makes it an ever-present strength in times of great turmoil. Whatever else gives way, whatever else disappoints, whatever else fails, this all-encompassing promise of future grace can never fail.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all . . .” If this is true, says the logic of heaven, then God will most surely give all things to those for whom he gave his Son!

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.

The Wretched of the Earth

A US Politician Speaks Against Domestic Tyranny

Rand Paul is one of the more interesting politicians in the US Senate today.  He is not a group think pollie.  He is not tribal Republican.  He is certainly not a RINO (Republican In Name Only).  In matters judicial he is speaking out about systemic inequities and injustices regnant in that country which make many Christians burn with anger.  In matters economic he is taking the message of how free markets benefit the poor to audiences which are traditionally tribal Left.

Here is a report on a speech he delivered recently to a predominantly secular liberal black university audience, which was substantially welcomed and acclaimed. Firstly, how the Bill of Rights is set to defend the poor and the fringes and the disinherited.  His focus began by addressing grave inequities in the US criminal justice system.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Daily Devotional

Peacemakers

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9

Charles H. Spurgeon

This is the seventh of the beatitudes: and seven was the number of perfection among the Hebrews. It may be that the Saviour placed the peacemaker the seventh upon the list because he most nearly approaches the perfect man in Christ Jesus. He who would have perfect blessedness, so far as it can be enjoyed on earth, must attain to this seventh benediction, and become a peacemaker.

There is a significance also in the position of the text. The verse which precedes it speaks of the blessedness of "the pure in heart: for they shall see God." It is well to understand that we are to be "first pure, then peaceable." Our peaceableness is never to be a compact with sin, or toleration of evil. We must set our faces like flints against everything which is contrary to God and his holiness: purity being in our souls a settled matter, we can go on to peaceableness.

Not less does the verse that follows seem to have been put there on purpose. However peaceable we may be in this world, yet we shall be misrepresented and misunderstood: and no marvel, for even the Prince of Peace, by his very peacefulness, brought fire upon the earth. He himself, though he loved mankind, and did no ill, was "despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Lest, therefore, the peaceable in heart should be surprised when they meet with enemies, it is added in the following verse, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Thus, the peacemakers are not only pronounced to be blessed, but they are compassed about with blessings. Lord, give us grace to climb to this seventh beatitude!

Purify our minds that we may be "first pure, then peaceable," and fortify our souls, that our peaceableness may not lead us into cowardice and despair, when for thy sake we are persecuted.

The Growing Love of Death

The Satan's Final Work

We were struck recently by the declaration attributed to British author, Terry Pratchett in one of the many tributes after his death.  Pratchett had been suffering from early onset Alzheimers.
He also explored the case for assisted suicide in an acclaimed TV documentary. "Either we have control of our lives, or we do not," he said. [NZ Herald]
Herein lies the philosophical and ethical rationale for suicide.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Letter From America (About France)

France Down-in-the-Dumps


Daily Devotional

The Triumph Is Sure

Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. (Isaiah 25:3)

John Piper

Isaiah sees the day coming when all the nations — representatives from all the people groups — will no longer be at odds with Yahweh, the God of Israel and his Messiah, whom we know to be Jesus.  They will no longer worship Bel or Nebo or Molech or Allah or Buddha or utopian social programs or capitalistic growth possibilities or ancestors or animistic spirits. Instead they will come in faith to the banquet on God’s mountain. 

And they will have the veil of sorrow removed and death shall be swallowed up and the reproach of God's people will be removed and tears shall be gone forever.  That's the setting for understanding the vision of verse 3: “Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you.” In other words God is stronger than the “strong people” and he is so powerful and so gracious that in the end he will turn ruthless nations to revere him.

So the picture Isaiah gives us is one of all nations turned to God in worship, a great banquet for all the peoples, the removal of all suffering and grief and reproach from the nations who have become his people, and the final putting away of death forever.

This triumph is sure because God is doing it. Therefore we can be certain of it.

Not one life spent in the cause of world evangelization is spent in vain. Not one prayer or one dollar or one sermon or one letter of encouragement mailed or one little light shining in some dark place — nothing in the cause of the advancing kingdom is in vain.

The triumph is sure.

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.

Earwigs Scurrying For Cover

Politically Correcting the Corrections Department

The probation industry is fraught with tragic mistakes, errors, and pain.  It makes victim's pain more or less perpetual as successive probation hearings need to be testified at.  The anguish and pain to be re-dredged, re-remembered, and refreshed.  At times the Parole Board makes serious mistakes.  A paroled criminal re-offends and more victims suffer.

Now something even more serious has come to light.  The Probation Service and the Department of Corrections are bureaucracies (no surprises there).  Probation officers on the "front line" write reports about prisoners coming up for parole hearings.  Middle level bureaucrats in the Service and the Department of Corrections then edit the reports.  Clearly they want reports to have correct grammar and syntax.  If only.  In fact there is evidence that middle management wants probation reports to be politically correct.  They call it a "quality assurance check".  Now this may be entirely innocent.  Or not.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Letter From New Zealand (About a Christian Dentist Who Escaped ISIS)

The Dentist Who Escaped Isis

Rachel Smalley
NZ Herald
March 14, 2015

One day, he was a prosperous dental surgeon. The next, he was taken from his car at gunpoint and thrown in a bloodstained cell, where he watched as the other prisoners were taken out, one by one, to be shot. Ashour tells Rachel Smalley how he survived.



"Do you want the whole story?" he asks.  "Yes, if you can," I say. "I hear it's quite a story."

His name is Ashour (surname withheld for his protection) and he will soon turn 30. He is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon from Mosul but for the past six months he has lived in a crowded church in Kurdistan, Iraq. He has a bag of clothes, some blankets and a pillow, but little else.  "It's not so bad," Ashour says. "I am displaced but I still have my life."

Ashour is one of two million Iraqis displaced after fleeing Isis and its jihadist agenda of torture, indiscriminate killing and religious persecution.  Almost one million have sought refuge in Kurdistan, the small, semi-autonomous region in the north of the country, sheltering in schools, informal tent settlements, churches, and the bare, concrete skeletons of unfinished buildings that pepper the Middle East's landscape.

I meet Ashour in Duhok, a city encircled by mountains in the rich, fertile basin of the Tigris River.

Daily Devotional

No Exceptions

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."
Acts 14:22

Charles H. Spurgeon

God's people have their trials. It was never designed by God, when he chose his people, that they should be an untried people. They were chosen in the furnace of affliction; they were never chosen to worldly peace and earthly joy. Freedom from sickness and the pains of mortality was never promised them; but when their Lord drew up the charter of privileges, he included chastisements amongst the things to which they should inevitably be heirs.

Trials are a part of our lot; they were predestinated for us in Christ's last legacy. So surely as the stars are fashioned by his hands, and their orbits fixed by him, so surely are our trials allotted to us: he has ordained their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us. Good men must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they will be disappointed, for none of their predecessors have been without them.

Mark the patience of Job; remember Abraham, for he had his trials, and by his faith under them, he became the "Father of the faithful." Note well the biographies of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and you shall discover none of those whom God made vessels of mercy, who were not made to pass through the fire of affliction. It is ordained of old that the cross of trouble should be engraved on every vessel of mercy, as the royal mark whereby the King's vessels of honour are distinguished.

But although tribulation is thus the path of God's children, they have the comfort of knowing that their Master has traversed it before them; they have his presence and sympathy to cheer them, his grace to support them, and his example to teach them how to endure; and when they reach "the kingdom," it will more than make amends for the "much tribulation" through which they passed to enter it.

Long Term Thinking

Inter-Generational Inequity

Here is something you don't see every day.  A local Maori tribe has bought up some state houses in the area of its traditional tribal lands.  It plans to lease them out to tribal members.  Nothing unusual there.  But it is the terms of the lease which are startling.
"Buying land close to Orakei is important to Ngati Whatua Orakei. Our focus is securing land within the tribal boundaries and then using it in the best way to ensure sustainable benefit for the hapu," he said.  The iwi would convert three freehold titles at 38 Takitimu St, 29 Te Arawa St and 11 Ngaio St into leasehold titles and advertise them for sale. 

Leases of 125 years, 150 years or 175 years could be bought, he said.  But ground rent review issues would be avoided because purchases of the leasehold interests in those three properties would be sold with prepaid ground rents. 

Mr Hutchison said such arrangements were relatively rare on suburban residential properties but common overseas.  "There will be no rent reviews throughout the term and the ground leases are prepaid, which we believe removes uncertainly and will make budgeting easier. After 175 years the land can come back to Ngati Whatua Orakei." [NZ Herald]
The first thing that is unusual is the long term view which the tribe is taking of land ownership.  It genuinely believes its newly acquired land is to be held in perpetuity for its descendants.  Ancestral or family land is largely a thing of the past in modern Western economies.  Ngati Whatua is to be commended by thinking in a manner consistent with its tribal ideology.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Making John Knox’s Bones Twitch

Douglas Wilson
Blog&Mablog
March 12, 2015

Rachel Marie Stone wrote an article for Christianity Today urging us to “reconsider” Margaret Sanger. The point was that while Sanger was emphatic about the personal and social good that comes from freely available contraception — contraception that was under the control of women — she was also opposed to abortion.

I learned about this article through a lot of good Christians what-the-helling on Twitter and so on, and so I thought I should go take a look. Having done so, let me acknowledge an important point made by a number of respondents thus far. Sanger was a white supremacist, and she was promoting her methods as a way of keeping the human weeds under control. Her outlook was perfectly appalling, and this illustrates yet again that we shouldn’t really care how good Mussolini was with train schedules, or how disciplined and coordinated the North Korean flag-waving drill team is.

The prefix eu in eugenics was a thin code for those white folks who have now dropped the word eugenics like a hot rock, but who still continue to disproportionately target black boys and girls — with the connivance of black quislings — and it should be pointed out by somebody that they have a kill rate much higher than that of the Ferguson Police Department.

Daily Devotional

I Love Real Mice

C. S. Lewis

TO HILA NEWMAN, an eleven-year-old girl who had sent Lewis her drawings and a letter of appreciation for the first three Chronicles of Narnia: On Lewis’s care not to decode the Chronicles of Narnia.

3 June 1953
Thank you so much for your lovely letter and pictures. I realised at once that the coloured one was not a particular scene but a sort of line-up like what you would have at the very end if it was a play instead of stories. The [Voyage of the] DAWN TREADER is not to be the last: There are to be 4 more, 7 in all. Didn’t you notice that Aslan said nothing about Eustace not going back? I thought the best of your pictures was the one of Mr. Tumnus at the bottom of the letter.

As to Aslan’s other name, well I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who (1.) Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas. (2.) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor. (3.) Gave himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people. (4.) Came to life again. (5.) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb (see the end of the Dawn Treader). Don’t you really know His name in this world? Think it over and let me know your answer!

Reepicheep in your coloured picture has just the right perky, cheeky expression. I love real mice. There are lots in my rooms in College but I have never set a trap. When I sit up late working they poke their heads out from behind the curtains just as if they were saying, ‘Hi! Time for you to go to bed. We want to come out and play.’

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 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. Sourced from BibleGateway.

Policing in the UK

Systemic Failures

It would seem that policing in the UK is a dog's breakfast, and even that's putting it kindly.  We have been shocked by revelations of British police systematically ignoring horrendous crimes and criminal gangs out of political correctness and the values of multi-culturalism.  Apparently the grooming and systematic rape of young girls is a traditional cultural practice in Pakistan, so British police have turned a blind eye to its manifestation in the UK.

But the problems are far deeper and more systemic than we might realise.  The first problem is the prejudice against preventive policing in favour of "fire-brigade policing" (by which we mean attending actual crimes in progress).  Preventative policing now has enormous bureaucratic hurdles.  Take, for example, the bureaucratic morass that clings to the simplest prevention policing action--the issuing of a caution to a petty offender.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Ukraine #3

Douglas Wilson
Blog&Mablog
March 10, 2015

We have already noted how complicated things in Ukraine are, and I trust I have cast suspicion on any approach that wants to reduce everything to clear and simple (and therefore ideological) talking points.
To the extent we are involved in this kind of thing at all, our chief job is to stay out of the current pending disaster, and possibly the one right after that. Our first task is not to set up shop to redress grievances going back to the 1300’s. We are not competent to untangle that skein of yarn, and this is why we need a Day of Judgment, with a more competent Judge than anything the Security Council could ever have.

Our task is more simple, which is to keep things from spiraling out of control now. In the medieval period, the Church attempted to restrain the constant violence by means of the Pax Dei and Treuga Dei (the peace of God and the truce of God respectively). The former attempted to establish a permanent set of “off limits” regulations, while the latter restrictions were more temporary in nature. For example, the Pax Dei prohibited making war on women and children. The Treuga Dei did things like attempting to keep the nobles from fighting on Thursdays. Not very effective, but better than nothing.

Daily Devotional

Open the Windows of Your Heart
I have put my Spirit upon him . . . a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. (Isaiah 42:1–3)

John Piper

Probably the most encouraging words I have heard in weeks came from a prophecy in Isaiah 42:1–3 about how Jesus will use his spiritual power.

Do you feel like a “bruised reed” — like one of those big top-heavy Easter lilies whose stem has been squashed so that the flower slops to the ground and gets no juice? Do you ever feel like your faith is just a little spark instead of a flame — like that little red dot on the wick after you blow out the birthday candle?
Take heart! The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of encouragement: he will not snap off your flower; he will not snuff out your spark.

“The Spirit is upon me to preach good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). “The Sun of righteousness is rising with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). “He is meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). “Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

It may be a grief to us that we are only a spark instead of a flaming fire. But listen! And be encouraged: yes, there is a big difference between a spark and a fire. But there is an infinite difference between a spark and no spark! A mustard seed (of faith) is infinitely closer to being a mountain than it is to being no seed.

Open the window of God's promises and let the Spirit blow into every room of your heart. The Holy Wind of God will not break or quench. He will lift up your head and fan your spark into a flame. He is the Spirit of encouragement.

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.