Just a country boy

Not everyone is mourning the passing of Billy Graham who died on Wednesday just past, 21/02/2018.

 

The vitriol and spitefulness of the most extreme demagogues on the political left was predictable in rearing its head, yet shocking in the depths of depravity and incivility it plumbed:

 

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/02/22/teen-vogue-s-lauren-duca-rips-evil-rev-billy-graham-have-fun-in-hell.html

 

Now, Max Lucado is unfailingly polite and not as direct as I think human beings have a right to be when they have an opinion, so he stands in the starkest contrast to that lost soul Lauren Duca:

 

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/02/21/max-lucado-farewell-billy-graham-world-is-better-because-were-in-it.html

 

Only in the Kingdom, can a simple country boy and a preacher come to have such influence. I don’t necessarily agree with all the lives on Lucado’s list of great people, but I get what he’s saying. The world is poorer for Dr Graham’s passing.

 

I somehow think though that Billy would echo Paul’s sentiment, that it is better to be apart from the body and at home with the Lord…the body of Billy Graham was chugging uncomfortably up the final hill of life, and now he has been welcomed into the joy of his master.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Corinthians+5%3A1+-+10&version=NIV

 

I somehow think that Billy Graham would also echo the sentiment of Dr Carey (link below) who suggested that a friend speak less of Dr Carey and more of Dr Carey’s saviour.

 

https://bibletruthpublishers.com/chapter-8-say-nothing-about-dr-carey-or-speak-about-dr-carey/james-joseph-ellis/william-carey/j-j-ellis/la121922

 

On the passing of Billy Graham, he would point the way – and so should we – to Billy’s saviour, God’s one and only Son.

 

So, it’s not as much about Dr Graham as about Christ. I’ll wager Lauren Duca – disgusting as her sentiments are – is really angry and lashing out at Christ, rather than his servant Billy Graham.

 

I remember when my father’s mother passed away and we had her funeral. The pastor held a very respectful, modest service. But he also did his primary job, which was to use the opportunity of an audience (some who were not regularly churched), to make a gospel appeal.

The passing of anyone is a moment to ask the question – and particularly on the passing of such a world-famous evangelist – and if I may let Billy Graham speak for himself and ask the question…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKHL3UttNeA

Denis the ginger

I’m sure it was exactly as the publishers anticipated.

 

The title grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go: “The man who broke into Auschwitz”. It is a stain on human history that the Holocaust happened at all, amongst a people who were otherwise refined by culture, music, art and thinking.

 

Nobody who visits Auschwitz comes out of the place cracking jokes. It is a most solemn contemplation of the evil that men are capable, on an industrial scale.

Denis Avey was a British soldier who fought in WW2 in North Africa and was captured by the Italians and after a brief escape, the Wermacht. The telling of his tale is compelling and strange enough to actually be true.

 

In his obituary, written by the Telegraph, the writer casts a smidge of doubt on the central thesis of his book – that for a short time he swapped places with a Jewish prisoner and experienced the full spiteful wrath of a government pogrom in order to be a witness to history so that he could testify about it.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11828297/Denis-Avey-Auschwitz-witness-obituary.html

 

There is humour and British pluck in the midst of the account. It brings a smile to my face even now as Avey recounts a dysentery outbreak in a prison camp, and the ditch that the Italians had dug for the prisoners to do their business, how a skinny prisoner leaned too far back and fell in, and declared in absolute frustration that it was the second time that day he had fallen in.

 

And the time Avey and a chum were shuffling back to the POW camp near Auschwitz after working at the IG Farben factory with the chum hiding a (dead) chicken in his pants. The smuggling effort busted, and having to explain to the commandant through a translator…the cheeky blighter claimed that it was self-defence and the chicken had attacked him. They escaped punishment for that big slice of wit.

 

The whole episode of Auschwitz reminds me of a talk by R.C. Sproul – who has since passed on – and who tried to explore the nature of evil and more particularly where it came from.

 

Evil could not have come from God, and from this starting point, Sproul discussed theodicy: a defense of God in the light of evil and its existence.

 

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/answering-evil/

 

This is a timely question to ask however neither Sproul nor his mentor has been able to explain precisely where evil comes from. We just know that it exists.

 

A school shooting in Florida, and half of our American cousins on social media level blame at the NRA and hyperventilate about gun laws.

 

The large elephant in the room is human evil and perhaps it’s too philosophical (or even theological) to examine the question about evil and the destructive proclivities of the shooter. Easier to lobby the least intellectual members of Congress to pass a law, any law. Ready, fire, Aim!

 

 

I’ll wager that R.C. Sproul, having entered into the presence of the Lord in eternity, has finally learned the mystery of human evil, and fully experienced the present grace of the Lord, that makes a way for us.

Standard tactical deployment

This Tuesday just past, the Bible app on the smart phone reminded the Christian who may have seen it that if you suffer for being a Christian to take it as an opportunity to remember Whose name you bear and to offer up praise.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Peter+4%3A14+-+16&version=NIV

 

I suppose that our first response when being pounded on by cantankerous unbelievers is to take it personally, which is why Peter does well to remind us what the big picture is about.

 

And then it occurred to me that my natural charm doesn’t make me immune from the grumpy godless, which begs the question, am I doing it right? Why aren’t I offensive enough as a Christian?

 

It may have something to do with the fact that my profile is really humble. I noted while reading news this week that a teacher in the UK got tattled on by a social justice warrior (SJW) with an axe to grind. And boy do they grind those axes. No buried hatchets there.

 

https://www.dailywire.com/news/26804/england-teacher-fired-telling-lesbian-student-god-paul-bois#exit-modal

 

Not one, but several; students reported this teacher to the UK’s terrorist prevention program because they claimed she was a radicalisation threat. Her offense? Having a conversation about faith and directing a comment at a student: ‘God loves you’. O, the horror.

 

This lady almost assuredly had an opportunity to take Peter’s words to heart. Not just his, words inspired by the Holy Spirit.

 

You bear his name. Rejoice.

 

That may sound very passive, unpalatable, not very action oriented.

Gotta love the classics

It’s not often that the Christian finds himself (or herself) in a scenario like Samson in the temple of Dagon at the end of his life, with clear lines of good and evil and a stunning act to set things right.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+16%3A23+-+30&version=NIV

 

Samson was God’s instrument to rescue the Children of Israel by thumping the Philistines. According to the New Testament, we are not at war with flesh and blood.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+6%3A12&version=NIV

 

We are at war with spiritual foes, opposed to Christ and because we bear His name, we come into the firing line.

 

More often than not, the opposition we face comes at the enemy’s initiative and the most difficult thing is to have the wisdom to react in the moment. It would be so easy if our battle wasn’t spiritual. However, this is the battle and this is our place in it.

 

It’s spiritual. The warfare we know is physical and it’s very easy to understand. I read recently of the last stand of Alexander Prokhorenko, a Russian forward air controller in Syria who in an act of stunning bravery and sacrifice – when surrounded by IS fanatics and with no way out – called in an airstrike on his own position, taking the thugs with him. Like a modern-day Samson I suppose.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3513911/Trapped-surrounded-murderous-ISIS-fighters-heroic-Russian-Rambo-wiped-calling-airstrikes-HIMSELF.html

 

Combat like that is fairly basic to train for, easily understood, tactile, visual and practical.

 

The Christian soldier is engaged in a spiritual battle where the terms of battle are spiritual, taken on faith with results perhaps not seen.

 

Being a Christian soldier involves

 

  • Daily discipline
  • Hourly prayer, and
  • A lifetime of endurance,

 

For me, this starts with taking my cross up daily:

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+9%3A23&version=NIV

 

Which is why I’m thankful for Bible apps and smart phones in the morning, before coffee (B.C.).

Sanctity

Sanctity

Noun

  1. the state or quality of being holy, sacred or saintly;
  2. ultimate importance and inviolability
Water is essential to life, and He will not forget us

Sanctity Life Sunday occurred late last month, on the anniversary – it is said – of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalised abortion in America.

 

https://thegoodnewsherald.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/the-sanctity-of-life/

 

Sometimes we take life for granted, until we’re reminded of its sanctity (especially as it pertains to us) and then we don’t take it for granted anymore. It is of ultimate importance and inviolability and if we think someone may take our lives from us, there is no other way to take it than personally.

 

When does life begin? If you ask that question, you will get many different answers, depending on who you ask in the abortion debate. Those who favour abortion try to narrow it down to a given week based on the latest thumb-suck.

 

Inviolability to me (and many others) is linked with the idea of absoluteness. Life, and its definition cannot be split and bifurcated into weekly measurements and foetal systems coming on line.

 

It’s absolute. Life either is in whole, or not at all.

 

Life begins when God says it does. And similarly it ends when He says it ends. There is nothing wrong with prolonging life via the intervention of medical science, since sin and decay were not His original design.

 

The idea of aborting babies or ending a sick person’s life with euthanasia or murdering someone for any given reason, these ideas and actions have been there since the year dot. In 2018 however, odious thinking spreads by way of social media, the internet, slick lies packaged in promotional video overlaid with the sound of deep-voiced actors and inspirational background tracks.

 

It’s unsanctimonious. It’s murderous. And as a society, we are apparently okay with all of it.

 

A bill was tabled in the U.S. Congress last year to ban abortion after 20 weeks since it could be demonstrated that the foetus undergoing abortion endures pain.

 

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/36?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Pain-Capable+Unborn+Child+Protection+Act%22%5D%7D&r=1

 

Unfortunately the bill did not pass the Senate, and Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse remarked via Twitter: “I can’t imagine the regret these 46 politicians will one day have when they stand before God, the Creator & realize the opportunity they had to do good, but they voted NO to protecting lives. They voted against human rights, the right to be born.”

 

Sanctity means something that we shouldn’t mess with, however as a society life is something that we mess with the most. Instead of life being sacred, organisations like Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes are sacred cows.

 

I suppose, after all the unborn cannot lobby the state, or protest in the streets and they don’t have a budget to buy off politicians. They are the most vulnerable and the easiest targets. The latest statistics available for South Africa indicate 89,126 abortions for 2014. These are official statistics but as with any information gathered officially, the true number is always higher.

 

It appears that in the mind of Creator God, people are known before they are born.

 

One of my favourites, Psalm 139, (NIV) on being known by God in advance:

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+139&version=NIV

 

God knew Jeremiah before he was born:

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+1%3A5&version=NIV

 

This doesn’t mean that we pre-existed before our bodies were formed, but that God, in eternity, knew us before our time of birth and death in regular fourth-dimensional space and time.

 

At the moment a sperm and egg fertilise, a brand new DNA chain is created and a human being comes into existence. For the rationalist and the strict atheist, since this life is not viable outside the womb, it does not merit the definition of a human being.

 

Which is really small thinking. Consider conception and birth on a biological level as well as a spiritual level and the complexity involved in keeping that straight in your own mind. Nicodemus didn’t understand it:

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+3%3A+1-15&version=NIV

 

Biological life that begins, conducts and ends, but within that loop, the beginning of spiritual life that conducts along with the biological and when the biological ends, continues in an infinite loop.

 

Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus:

 

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]

 

John 3: (NIV)

 

Abortion advocates and atheists cannot bring themselves to understand biological life, although they have devised ways to lobby for its termination. Fortunately, they cannot comprehend how to snuff out the spiritual life of others. Unfortunately their spiritual pathology would ordinarily lead to death; death for the unborn and spiritual death for them and those influenced by them.

 

The following account by a Christian couple fighting for the life of their sick child illustrates the stake of why we fight for life:

 

http://www1.cbn.com/700club/millermon-miracle-baby

 

This is why we fight for life, and eternal life. God is on the move…Hallelujah.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPB9ENSd1Xc

 

Oil in my lamp

If we’re being honest with ourselves, I think we’re all intimately familiar with make-believe. AKA acting.

 

We also use sarcasm a lot, or at least I do, and that is the joke version of saying something we know to be the opposite of what is true, for humorous effect. When we use sarcasm, we’re winking at our audience, knowing they’re in on the gag.

 

I’m about to knock those fakes in Hollywood, but let me be the first to admit that I watch a lot of movies and I know it’s all acting and CGI wizardry, and yet I’m moved with emotion when various scenes are being played out. Most recently, watching ‘Patriots Day’ I was moved to tears repeatedly.

 

So, can Hollywood be filled by hypocritical fakes and I an audience member be moved by real authentic emotions? Yup, that’s what I’m saying. Who knows, in the moment, the actor may actually be moved by genuine emotion.

 

Recently enough that you may remember, Hollywood hosted a Golden Globes ceremony. To coin a phrase by an adroit politician, the ceremony could be described as an ‘orgy of mutual backslapping’. Additionally, it was filled with virtue-signalling, an odious, slimy act of pretending that your motives are pure as the driven snow while simultaneously ignoring decades of behavioural evidence to the contrary.

 

In other words, I’m righteous because I have the right motives in public, manners when everybody is looking.

 

The revelations of misconduct brought to public attention by Rose McGowan and Ronan Farrow regarding Harvey Weinstein must have sent a shiver through Hollywood, a town built on abuse and secrecy, but quick as a flash they co-opted the movement at the Golden Globes and all of a sudden, everyone was in lock-step, advancing in a self-righteous frenzy of self halo-buffing.

 

It was a monumental job of acting. However, once all the sizzle is done from the Twitter trending and testimonials, how much has really changed in Hollywood?

 

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2016/06/13/hollywoods-gun-hypocrisy-15-movie-posters-2016/

 

http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-weinstein-hollywood-hypocrisy-20171006-story.html

 

http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-weinstein-hollywood-hypocrisy-20171006-story.html

 

https://townhall.com/columnists/brentbozell/2015/05/08/hollywoods-climate-hypocrites-n1996044

 

Without being hypocritical, I like to think that I stack up quite reasonably when compared to an industry whose bread and butter is fakery. The truth is however, that I don’t have the energy for too much pretence anymore, and moreover, honesty is something that God can work with.

 

After all, the first step in repentance is confession.

 

Quite without meaning to think about it, the other morning I woke to a song on repeat in my head, the simple, children’s song: ‘Give me oil in my lamp’.

 

Give me oil in my lamp,
Keep me burning,
Give me oil in my lamp, I pray,!
Give me oil in my lamp,
Keep me burning,
Keep me burning
Till the break of day.

 

The song is derived from Scripture where Christ is telling a parable about being ready for the bridegroom, ready for His return; all ten of the virgins in the wedding party seemed on the up and up, ready for the bridegroom (it is interesting that in our culture, the wedding party waits for the bride but in this case it is the groom that is expected).

 

5 of them were virtue-signalling. They had no oil in their lamps.

 

Right-standing with God doesn’t depend on our effort – although neither is there faith without striving – but by faith:

 

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[b]”

 

Romans 1: 17 NIV

 

I am reminded of faith when I think about the commodity of oil in the parable

 

The 5 foolish virgins never really had any oil, whereas the 5 wise virgins did, and it was not possible for the 5 wise to bail out the 5 foolish. The readiness of waiting for Christ in faith was not transferrable to others for the virgins in the parable, nor is it transferrable from any Christian to any non-Christian.

 

It seems clear from Christ’s parable that the Second Coming will demonstrate very clearly who is prepared and who isn’t, eliminating any posturing or any insincerity by those who are good at pretending.

 

God is perfectly capable of distinguishing the difference between a trending hashtag on Twitter and our heart.

 

It’s not a matter of haughtiness for the Christian though; we have to be mindful and ask that He would give us oil in our lamp. It’s easy to become somnolent, dismissive of the idea that He could return at any moment.

 

I look at the eastern sky some mornings and am stirred by the idea that it could all be wrapped up before the day is done. And then 10 minutes later the business of the day has begun in earnest. The business of life is interesting when juxtaposed with the sleepiness of the virgins in the face of the bridegroom’s coming.

 

The parable doesn’t condemn them for that –  all of the virgins rested when they shouldn’t have been, but the 5 foolish didn’t have the oil. That’s the difference.

A preview

To my way of thinking, the ultimate in song-writing is being faithful to the original text and devising a melody around it, and this morning in church we sang ‘Salvation belongs to our God’.

 

According to Scripture, this is the song that is being sung in heaven by those who are faithful in the tribulation:

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+7%3A9+-+12&version=NIV

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxM_n4LnK_M

 

Writing a worship song using revelation from Scripture is absolutely rocking. In a moment, I could picture the scene and what I saw was heaven, and the presence of God, but also noteworthy was what was missing.

 

No fake news and breathless histrionics by biased media trying to sway public opinion. No lying by governments or leaders. Just the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth,

 

No state capture, as we have our treasure in heaven, “where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20, NIV) and the Guptas and JZ cannot lay their hands on it, and heaven’s economy is unavailable for corruption.

 

No cold hearts towards God. No more making up excuses and time spent wasted trying to avoid dealing with God and what he wants from us.

 

No sin and death. Can you imagine that? Not being able to truly conceptualise this, nevertheless it is true, a state of being that awaits His people. No more rebellion and doing things that are inexplicable and that we hate but that we do anyway.

 

This is a preview for His children. Whether 2018 or timelessness.

Alpha Rambo Zulu

And so 2018 has begun, with a no-nonsense rain on Old Year’s night and a viewing of the traditional ‘Dinner for one’…

Let it rain

“Same procedure as every year James”.

 

Winding down the week before school starts, my wife actually participated in a Rambo omnibus through all four movies in as many nights. I can watch Rambo before bed and sleep like a baby, strangely.

 

Rambo’s story, as with every story, as with all our days as with our lives has a beginning, middle and an end. Alpha and Zulu if we’re in the military, or Alpha and Omega if we’re Greek. ‘First Blood’, the opening movie released in 1982 was artistically the best and Sylvester Stallone’s favourite and by his reckoning, the final Rambo film comes in second.

 

It’s a fitting conclusion to the series; Rambo repeatedly tells the female protagonist Sarah to ‘go home’ as he believes she has no business in Burma and at the end of the movie, it is Rambo himself who goes home. The final crescendo of gore that ties off Rambo’s war-making is some of the most epic violence ever captured on film, perhaps with the exception of the opening scene of ‘Saving Private Ryan’.

 

To provide a few stats to flesh this out, according to Rambo wiki, in the final Rambo movie, 2008’s ‘John Rambo’, there is an average of 2.59 killings per minute, far in excess of the previous films. Most of a battalion of Burmese troops lie vanquished and in bloody heaps when the dust settles and the smoke clears. That’s typically around 300 soldiers.

 

http://rambo.wikia.com/wiki/Rambo_Wiki

 

The violence is not comfortable, however it is the nature of war and in every case, Rambo is reacting against an aggressor.

 

The protagonist is either reacting to abuse by police officers (First Blood, 1982), rescuing American POWs left behind in Vietnam (First Blood part II, 1985), rescuing his friend and local Afghans from the Soviet aggressor (Rambo III, 1988), or rescuing Christian missionaries and local Karen people from being abused by an aggressor (John Rambo, 2008).

 

In every instance, Rambo doesn’t seek out violence as a first resort, however once he is engaged, he finishes the battle. Injustice provokes a response.

 

Again according to Rambo wiki, apparently part of the inspiration for the final battle climax where Rambo wipes out most of a battalion with a .50 gun mounted on a jeep is the real-life account of Audie Murphy who performed a similar feat in WWII.

 

While watching this final scene, I considered what response might the massive and sustained injustice in the world provoke from God in all His holiness. It’s not as if He is ignoring it or is unaware of it.

 

As recorded in the book of Revelation:

 

“9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[e] were killed just as they had been.” (Revelation 6: 9 – 11, NIV)

 

A bit morbid you say? Distasteful? I’m not suggesting that God has need of a .50 jeep-mounted gun or a heavenly howitzer, but what I am saying is that when Christ does intervene directly, it’s going to be epic.

 

His people are being murdered daily for no crime, only for being Christians, by people who loathe, hate and despise God. Obviously they cannot mount an offense on Him, so they take it out on His children.

 

As with the first murder when Cain killed Abel, the innocent blood calls out for justice.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4%3A10&version=NIV

 

That is what I took out of watching Rambo. We’re not typically comfortable thinking about the wrath of God, especially on global terms, however we have to consider what sinful people get away with every day, and that God’s patience – though extreme – is not without limit.

 

Also, we have to consider that we are indeed to have the discipline of soldiers without taking up arms against human beings. God will conduct His campaign and rescue His people and punish those who hate Him according to His prerogative.

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+6%3A10+-+13&version=NIV

 

We only need to see to it that we endure, walk daily with Him and testify to His gospel.

 

In this new year, Onward Christian Soldiers.

 

https://www.christianpost.com/news/onward-christian-soldiers-should-not-be-taken-out-of-hymnals-says-popular-pastor-blogger-213817/

A big box of manure, or Going in Style

A social contract is a grand experiment that doesn’t fit in with the history of all countries. Basically, it is an agreement between a State and its citizens as to how best to organise a society where the best common good is the goal.

 

It is characterised by a specific set of ideas that are at once both sweeping in scale and specific in practice. The Constitution of the United States is a fine example of a social contract.

 

The thinkers Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau considered the idea of a social contract and what it means. Historically the idea of a social contract was attempted in Western Europe and North America.

 

So, everybody knows what society should look like and agree on the way to get there. It used to be the best system going. People from horrible parts of the world still flock to Western Europe and North America.

A social contract is better than a repressive government dictatorship, I’m sure everyone would agree. And it’s better than an infomercial with hidden clauses that the buyer only encounters afterwards.

 

Something has gone wrong however.

 

Trust has eroded between the voters and the government that was said to represent them.

 

Nobody believes that others have good motives anymore.

 

I watched a charming movie called ‘Going in Style’ this week, a re-make of a previous movie about three retired friends who are let down by society and decide to rob a bank.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2568862/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

Now, what these characters did is wrong. The Ten Commandments are clear and forbid stealing (Exodus 20:15). In this movie, we are presented with a scenario that is familiar and maybe even some of us have experienced. Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) are retirees living simply from day to day in New York City when their former employer decides to ship off overseas leaving pensioners with no pension that they are owed.

 

It’s a technicality buried in a clause, but the employer invokes it and they are no longer obligated to support pensioners. A weasel clause in a contract wipes out a social contract to be a responsible employer and just like that these guys – and all the others – are left to rot. Additionally, the bank that handles their pensions has fooled Joe by glossing over another technicality and shepherding him to take a certain account whose fees quadruple overnight when he least expects it.

 

Joe, Willie and Albert discover that it’s all a house of cards based on lies, masquerading as clauses in incomprehensible contracts. It’s wrong of them to plan a robbery, however their employer and their bank have engaged in dubious ethics by lying and/or stealing.

 

Our own eyes teach us that elections are not honoured, lies are told with no shame. The ruling class are horrified that the Brexit vote went through, that Hillary Clinton lost out to Trump.

 

Pick any democratic country and you will see the pile of lies and breakdown of trust between the State and the electorate. The honeymoon phase is over.

 

I found it intriguing that the co-producer of this movie about a bank robbery is one Steven Mnuchin, former hedge-fund manager and occasional movie producer, and outrageously the current Secretary of the Treasury under Trump.

 

Could it be that even a cabinet member in the government subscribes to the idea that things in the economy are not as they ought to be? On a systemic level? When the film was in development, the script writer Theodore Melfi sought to craft a happy ending, making it different from the 1979 original version of the film, remarking that it would be perfect for the protagonists to get ahead these days (get one over on the bank), as ‘everyone hates banks now’.

 

Apparently banks are no longer noble or believable, along with the State, police, intelligence services or even the Boy Scouts.

 

For his trouble of being the Treasury Secretary at the time of a tax bill that was recently passed, Steven Mnuchin was the recipient of a large box of horse manure gift-wrapped as a present by a man who thinks Mnuchin and Republicans are evil.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/12/25/a-gift-wrapped-package-of-poo-why-a-man-left-a-box-of-manure-for-steven-mnuchin/?utm_term=.56f14f8321f6

 

Apparently, in America in 2017, everyone’s motives are suspect. Indeed, everywhere in the world, going into 2018, everyone’s motives are dodge.

 

I like that God’s devotion to us is not based on a contract, but a covenant.

 

https://newcreeations.org/contracts-vs-covenants-why-the-difference-matters/

 

That’s a profound difference. God has no weasel clause in a contract but a covenant sealed in blood.

The miracle of condescension

This Christmas is in many ways the same as all that have gone before, all 44 of them. In other ways, it is as different as the year that has unfolded.

 

The same because the Christmas feeling and rhythm is familiar, and different because a lot has happened.

Wouldn’t be Christmas without it

I have tried to be more deliberate this Christmas, less passive. I have availed myself of a significant portion of preaching and teaching from the likes of R.C. Sproul (God rest his soul) and John MacArthur. Interestingly, both are 78 years old and I appreciate the wisdom that comes from being that advanced in years and studying God’s word for longer than I’ve been alive.

 

I watched the late R.C. Sproul discuss the problem of pain in a lecture, along with the attempt at a Theodicy (moral defence of God on the issue of pain and evil) and at this moment, he has the answers that he sought for so many years.

 

Some things stand out about Christmas: the miracle of condescension, as well as the same elements of a blue Christmas and the hatred of the people of God.

 

The miracle of the condescension

 

Christmas usually encompasses shopping, gifts, food, bright decorations and occasionally a mention of the Christ child. All this is from the point of view of the lowest common denominator in society and is built around the idea of commerce, whether we like to think of it or not.

 

In the sermon by John MacArthur that I watched, he views it from heaven’s perspective:

 

Jesus

 

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6 – 11, NIV)

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians+2%3A6+-+11&version=NIV

 

We normally see the angel’s announcement and the stable, the baby, the animals, the manger. The theological term is condescension…God becoming flesh (https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_795.cfm)

 

The Son gave up every right and privilege and emptied himself of many of the advantages of being God without actually ceasing to be God, as that would be impossible (https://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/kenosis.html).  Being God was and is part of his nature and essence but Christ entered the world as a helpless baby and laid aside a lot of advantages that were due to Him:

 

  • Glory; In his prayer of John 17:4 – 5, He asked the Father to restore His glory, the glory that he had before;
  • Omnipotence; He opted not to use his power to escape the cross (Matthew 26:53) and he prayed for the Father to raise Lazarus (John 11:41 – 42);
  • Omniscience; He didn’t know the timing of the Second Coming (Mark 13:32);
  • He took on the form of a servant and lived in obedience to the Father, He trusted the Father and walked by the Holy Spirit

 

Merely the idea that God downgraded to humanness is a stunning move. In my humble opinion we don’t consider the implications of this when we merely think of a baby boy in a stable.

 

This is God coming to earth, way more cool than the large mother ships in ‘Independence Day’. That thought became more relevant to me as I consider the toll that life takes this time of year for many.

 

When Christmas hurts

 

Christmas is a time of mourning for many. A lot of people experience loss around this time of year and even if that loss is six months or six years old, the absence of a loved one is felt especially keenly at Christmas.

 

I was not surprised to discover that a liturgy and church service exists especially for those who are mourning at Christmas.

 

https://youngclergywomen.org/blue-christmas-service-when-christmas-hurts/

 

The first candle lit in the advent service is specifically for those who have lost a loved one, for when Christmas hurts. It’s really comforting that Christmas is not only tinsels and elves but real people going through real life.

 

Modern day Herods

 

2017 is hardly different from the time of Herod and the systemic hatred of God and his people. The Christmas season has seen many attacks and planned attacks that have – mercifully – failed to materialise:

 

http://abc7news.com/fbi-man-planned-christmas-terror-attack-for-sfs-pier-39/2812473/

 

https://www.yahoo.com/news/nine-foreigners-among-melbourne-car-attack-injured-013414270.html

 

http://dailymailnews.com/2017/12/18/nine-killed-in-terrorist-attack-on-church-in-quetta/

 

https://patch.com/new-york/midtown-nyc/nyc-bomber-5-things-investigation-reveals-akayed-ullah

 

If it wasn’t obvious before, it is obvious now: Christ is hated by many and His followers are targeted for bearing His name.

 

A New Hope

 

It is into this mess, this crime scene of humanity, with haters, with soldiers falling in the combat zone of life, that Christ enters.

 

He brings a New Hope. Better than any promissory note, better than a fictional Luke Skywalker, a light in the darkness, God made flesh.

 

This is my Christmas 2017.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIb4NC5ikYo

Too much Christmas?

The past week at work, I was listening to a Christmas overture by Coleridge and in the midst of my day and listening to this piece of music, the second stirring of Christmas took place for the briefest moment, much the way a globe illuminates and is switched off moments later because you activated the wrong switch.

 

The first was unexpectedly in a shopping mall of all places, hearing Christmas music in the background, an embarrassing cliché.

 

This Sunday just past, I was listening to the song ‘Lion and the Lamb’ by Big Daddy Weave and was reminded that we’re expecting God to resemble a Santa Clause laden with gifts to indulge us, when the return of Christ might better resemble a righteous butt kicking by John McClane.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMTfj4xOjZk

 

Let me explain.

 

Christmas is good if we use it to draw closer to Him and prepare our hearts, but unfortunately more often than not, we’re too busy. With a secularized Christmas. Read the following description by Jesus about people missing the message of Noah as well as the days of the Son of Man:

 

26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17, NIV)

 

The activities Jesus mentions of the spiritually unaware, could we not fit rushing around, buying presents, honking on our horns, losing our temper with fellow mall shoppers into the type of busyness that Christmas has come to represent?

 

Advent goes together with Christmas and helps us prepare for it. All too often we skip advent entirely and don’t slow down until the digesting feast in our bellies compels us to cease most other activity, and even then the discomfort of having eaten too much precludes being able to think about anything deep.

 

https://www.christianpost.com/voice/too-much-christmas-too-little-advent.html

 

I like the following clip which helps explain what advent is and why it is helpful:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eC0FGQLBp7w

 

  • Commemorating the birth of Jesus
  • Welcoming God into our lives everyday
  • Preparing for Christ’s second coming

 

We have secularized His first coming and all but ignore his second. When He returns, it will not be a grandpa in a red suit outwardly frosted but warmed inwardly by sherry and mince pies, spending an evening showering humanity with gifts.

 

There are wrongs to be righted and rescue to effect. Jesus is a lamb that was slain but simultaneously a lion, fighting battles for His people.

 

The world of the irreligious does not want truth, but merely comfort and indulgence.

 

The secular Christmas is associated with gifts, the idea of peace and a story, just not the real one.

 

Those who reject God understand the giving and receiving of gifts. It is a way of buying influence and is the currency of greed and manipulation. This is clearly evident in our country right now.

 

https://qz.com/825789/state-capture-jacob-zuma-the-guptas-and-corruption-in-south-africa/

 

The promise of peace is a genuine one when God initiates it and sustains it (peace with God and between men who are brothers, and even our enemies). When the irreligious speak of peace, it is a cudgel for politics. If you don’t accept their definition of peace, you’re a hater and desire war. Perhaps even a racist.

 

The narrative of the false Christmas is not of the Saviour born in a manger, but of other base and more personal concerns. You might say it is the ultimate fake news with an agenda that diverges from God with the most extreme counter-logic.

 

Our aim should be to draw near to God and let the rest fall into place, as it will when we do it right.

 

Christ is the cornerstone of Christmas, and I want to be as ready for Him as for the 25th December 2017.