• We all Worship Something. But Be Careful, What You Worship May Destroy You

    The noted and award winning postmodern novelist David Foster Wallace gave a now famous commencement speech at Kenyon College where he said this:

    Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god . . . to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before [your loved ones] finally plant you. . . . Worship power, and you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they are evil or sinful; it is that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.[1]

    Did you get what he is saying? Not only does everyone worship but if you worship the wrong things the thing you worship will eat you alive. Here is a non-religious man, who only a few years after giving this speech committed suicide, saying that if you get worship wrong you will be crushed. Or to put it another way unless you have Jesus at centre of your life, unless you worship him, unless he is the one in whom you are trying to find fulfilment, then anything else will either fail you or crush you. It will either fail you because it wont live up to what you think it is offering or it will crush you because you will fail to do what it wants. But Jesus Christ is the only thing that you can worship that will never fail you and when you fail him he won’t crush you but forgive you.

    [1] Quoted in Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, 29-30

    Please follow and like us:
  • I Actually Agree with Richard Dawkins on This One!

    There are very few things Richard Dawkins and I would agree one but here is one. Let me set it up for you. A one-minute advertisement for prayer paid for and made by the Anglican Church in England has been banned from being shown in cinemas because it may offend people. Now I am confused, what is it about prayer that would offend people? And on this Richard Dawkins agrees with me.  Here is what he said to the Guardian newspaper:

    “My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech. But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue. I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”

    Dawkins’ nails it. What it is about our society that we are so scared of offending people that we will stop a one minute advert about prayer? The problem is that we, as a society, have a shared belief that to offend anyone is to hurt them irreparably. This has been used by so many different groups and, in the end, it is a way of intimidation and bullying. If you say that I have said something that has offended you I immediately become the oppressor and you the victim and in our society everyone sides with the victim without ever asking whether they really are a victim. Therefore, because we are scared of being an oppressor, we will ban things that some people might say they take offence at. In the end, this silences dissident voices in our society that may not agree with modern orthodoxies through intimidation.

    What we need to do is to get back to a real and workable definition of tolerance where there is an open and frank exchange of ideas. Even if some ideas offend our modern sensibilities.. Only when we do this will we be able to get away from a silly idea that a short advert by a Church would be offensive to anyone.

    If you haven’t seen the ad in question you can watch it here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/22/cinema-chains-ban-advert-featuring-lords-prayer


    Please follow and like us:
  • So What if They Are a Nice Person They Could Still Be Wrong

    One thing that I have noticed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks is how many people are saying something like “Every Muslim I know is a beautiful person.” The idea being communicated is that because they are beautiful people Islam is a good religion or a religion of peace.  But kind of thinking is also used in different areas. For example I have heard people say these kinds of things: “All the gay people I know are great people.” or “All the Buddhists I know are amazing!” Now let’s be clear that there are always going to be beautiful people coming from all facets of our society and conversely there are going to be terrible people coming from the very same facets of our society. I know Christians that are arrogant and I know some Christians that are humble. I know gay people that are warm and generous and some that are cut-throat and mean. I know Muslims that are beautiful people and I know some that are rude.

    Here is the point I am making, whether a person is a good person or not doesn’t legitimize or illegitimize their beliefs or their way they live their life. For example, imagine I said “Every murderer I know is a great person!” does the fact that every murderer I know is a nice person make murder legitimate? Of course not. Or imagine if I said  “Every person that gives money to charity is terribly rude.” Does that mean the rudeness of people who give money to charity mean that giving money to charity is wrong? Of course not! Just because a person has an agreeable or disagreeable temperament doesn’t mean their beliefs or their way of life is right or wrong.

    How did we get to this place where it seems like we are willing to vouch for the person’s religion or way of life based on their temperament? The reason is because we, by in large, no longer have a narrative in which we find who we are and what we are to do and think. We want to be truly free and that means detaching ourselves from everything and anything that may define us. But, when we do this we are left with nothing that will help us judge the worthiness or unworthiness of a particular belief, belief system or way of life. In this circumstance, we are left with either having our beliefs dictated to us by the media or by our by how a person or an idea makes us feel. So if I meet a nice Muslim, Christian, atheist etc. I will think they and their religion is nice because I like them. But if they say something that we don’t like I will dismiss either them or the belief they hold.

    The solution to this problem is finding ourselves by looking deeper but finding ourselves in grand story that will not only inform us of who we are but will help us think and consider what it is to live the good life.,

    Please follow and like us:
  • Germaine Greer, Caitlyn Jenner and the New Intolerance

    Two of the strangest stories of the past week was Caitlyn Jenner, a person who has all the physical attributes of a man and yet self-defines as a woman winning Glamour magazine’s woman of the year award. And secondly a woman, who many have said has pushed the rights of women more in line with men than any other, Germaine Greer, is disinvited to give a lecture called “Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th century” at The University of Cardiff because she doesn’t believe a man who goes through surgery to become a woman is actually a woman.

    There are many things that can be said in response to these two stories, but I will limit myself to two.

    Firstly it shows how, as a society, we are extremely confused about gender. This is cheekily summed up by Brandan Oneill who said “This is the world you live in, folks. One in which a bloke can be globally celebrated as an inspiring woman — and heaven help the brave soul who asks: ‘But is this strapping former athlete with testicles really a woman?’ — while an actual inspiring woman, whose balls are only metaphorical, can be labelled a disgrace to ‘feminism and society’.”  When our gender becomes something that is entirely malleable and we can choose it based on a variety of factors, any talk of gender is inherently meaningless.  When this happens more and more children will grow up with gender identity issues which can stunt a child’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. What we are saying and doing with gender today I fear will have huge repercussions in the coming years.

    Secondly, it shows how, in order to be as tolerant as we can be, we have actually become extremely intolerant. The new definition of intolerance is as Don Carson says “no longer a refusal to allow contrary opinions to say their piece in public, but must be understood to be any questioning or contradicting the view that all opinions are equal in value, that all worldviews have equal worth, that all stances are equally valid. To question such postmodern axioms is by definition intolerant. (The Intolerance of Tolerance p. 12). In questioning a contemporary shibboleth, Greer has become on an outcast because she no longer fits the definition of tolerance. It is a supreme irony that Greer fought for the very right to speak that Rachael Melhuish, Cardiff University’s Women’s Officer, the person who penned the petition seeking to ban Greer, is now using against her. This shows that the new tolerance actually cannibalistic. The new tolerance movement has to eat its own because when your existence is predicated on the fact that there are enemies of tolerance out there you have to keep coming up with new people to name and shame, eventually naming and shaming the very p[eople you once considered allies.

    What is the solution to all this? We, as a society actually need to be reconnected with God. Because it is in our connection with God we find out what is right and wrong, what gender is and how the genders function. It is when God is rightly on the throne of our lives, families, and societies can people find who they truly are and be free from looking for the enemies around them. The stories that we mentioned at the beginning show that what we really need is a revival. Are you praying for that?

    Please follow and like us:
  • Why We Can’t Rest Part 3

    downloadOn Tuesday, I said that when you rest God is preaching the gospel to you because when you rest you are saying to the world you are not its slave. This freedom echoes the freedom you have from sin, satan and the law that you have in the gospel. But when you rest, God is also preaching the gospel to you in another way.

    When you rest what is happening in the universe? The answer is everything. Galaxies are being formed, stars are shining their light, and planets are spinning. While you rested the earth still rotated on its axis as it travelled through space around the sun. While you rested people went to work, fell in love, created art and ate food. While you rested the industry that you work in kept moving and even the company that you work for kept moving forward. Who was doing all this while you rested? God, and while you and I rest while you and I sleep God, in his grace, is preaching the gospel to you. He is saying you to and I “I am sovereign. I am in control. You can sleep or watch your reruns of Friends and I will be holding up all of creation without any of your help.” When you and I rest God is preaching to us that we are not the centre of the universe, we are not indispensable but he is. But there is a flip side to this too. A lot of us can’t rest because we think we are indispensable.  We think that If I rest this won’t happen, or she won’t do this or if I rest they need me and will suffer without me. What I am saying when I think this is that I am the one that makes the things around me happen. I am in control, I am important. I am God. If we are in this mindset when it comes to rest and work we commit Idolatry. God is no longer on the throne of our lives and the universe sovereignly ruling we are. And this is why our lives are so exhausting. We don’t have the physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual power to make sure everything happens. But God does and so we can rest well knowing that he is in control and that the world will go on and God’s purposes will continue even while we sleep. Only when we see ourselves us creatures and we get that God in his power has exhaustive sovereignty over everything will we be able to rest well and let him uphold creation.

    Please follow and like us:
  • Why We Can’t Rest Part 2

    tired_womanOne of the main ways we see in today’s society that we have made an idol out of work is in our inability to take a off day to rest. And yet God has knitted the idea of rest into the fabric of the universe.

    Genesis 2:1-2

    Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

    By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

    Now notice what is repeated here three times. It is the idea of the seventh day.[1] God connected this seventh day with rest and then commanded his people to take this day as a day of rest.  So rest for us is not an optional extra. It is not something we have only when our diaries can allow. Because in the beginning God has made us to not only need rest but, in the beginning, God set up the week to have six days of work and one of rest. But this rest is not just connected to the way God has created the rhythm of the world, the rhythm that mankind is meant to find it’s groove in. It is also connected to your freedom. It is connected to the gospel! Have a look at Moses’ words to Israel:

    12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:6-12

    In Deuteronomy 5 the Sabbath is re-enactment of the Exodus from Egypt. It is a reminder of God’s saving them from slavery. It is saying to them “You are no longer slaves but free!” So when an Israelite rested from all their work it was, for them, a practical reminder of their freedom. It is the same with us, taking a Sabbath is a “declaration of your freedom.”[2] When you rest you are saying to your work, your school’s demands, your family and even your own insecurity that I am not your slave I am free. If you cannot rest you are a slave you aren’t free because “a person is only free when they can limit their activities.”[3]

    Therefore when you rest God is preaching the gospel to you. He is reminding you that you are free in every sense that matters. When you take time to sit on the couch and watch an episode of your favourite TV show or you  kick a ball with your kids or you take your spouse out on a date (without your phone) you are declaring to the world and yourself that you are not a slave to your work. You are declaring your freedom! Your freedom to not be defined by your work subtly hints at your freedom in the gospel. Because in the gospel you are truly free, free from sin, guilt, shame, condemnation and even death! So when you rest there is a sense in which you  are preaching the gospel to yourself! But the flip side is true. If we can’t rest we are really saying we are slaves. Some of us are slaves to our work, other are slaves to our extended families or our friends who we can’t say no to. If you have not had a day off for a while, if you are always busy and you never rest you are actually living as a slave and Jesus, in his death has freed you from the most oppressive form of slavery, the slavery to sin, why are you then living in a lower form of slavery?

    [1] Kenneth A. Matthews, The New American Commentary: Genesis 1- 11:26 (New American Commentary), 177

    [2] Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, 236

    [3] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics the Doctrine of Creation: The Work of Creation (Church Dogmatics) III.1, 215

    Please follow and like us:
  • Why Can’t We Rest? Part 1

    tribes_godin_coverSeth Godin tells an interesting story in his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. Godin is in Jamaica, it is 4 am, and he can’t sleep. So he goes down to the lobby of the hotel he is staying at to check email. A couple walks by that were on their way to their rooms. The woman whispers in a way which she really wants Godin to hear, “Isn’t that sad? That guy comes here on vacation and he’s stuck checking his e-mail. He can’t even enjoy his two weeks off.” Godin points out that we shouldn’t be pointing out how sad it is that someone is working while on holidays, but we should be asking instead “Isn’t it sad that we have a job where we spend two weeks avoiding the stuff we have to do fifty weeks a year?” Seth Godin has got a job that he loves, a job where he is so enthusiastic that he would rather check his email than do anything else when he can’t sleep in Jamaica at 4 am! Godin then challenges us. He says: “You don’t have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre. It’s not just pointless, it’s painful. Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

    Wow what an inspiring quote! I agree that we should be setting up lives that we don’t want to escape from. I think I have that and I hope you have that too! Now I don’t think that Godin implies that we should never take a vacation or rest but it is not a big leap to go from the above quote to a type of thinking about work where work becomes everything and we don’t take time out.

    If you love your work you are actually in a dangerous place because your love of work can consume you and when working is fun you can easily put in sixty plus hours a week for a while but then fatigue creeps in and then sets in and then takes a hold. This is what I have seen in many people in my church, my social groups and even in my family. When we love our work, when we have created a life that we “don’t need to escape from”, our health and wellbeing can come second (or third or twenty eighth) to our life. When we love our work, rest can become an optional extra and yet, like anything that we know is important but never feels urgent, it will become one day both urgent and important!


    Please follow and like us:
  • Playboy Is No Longer Publishing Nude Pictures Of Women….. But You Still Should Weep

    The March 2016 edition of playboy will be radically new. For the first time since its first edition in 1953, the magazine will not have any pictures of naked women. But the curious thing is why the editors of Playboy have taken this route. Quoted in a New York Times piece called Nudes Are Old At Playboy the company’s chief executive, Scott Flanders,  tells us why:

    “That battle has been fought and won,…….You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

    The article continues:

    “For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.”

    The reason for Playboy radically changing its policy on nudity is not because it is morally wrong to show nude women, but because it no longer makes economic sense. But I hoped you notice that Flanders is still seeing this as a victory. He is saying that Playboy has so pushed the boundaries that what was once shocking has now become so mainstream it is boring and no longer commercially viable.  There is a profound sense that Playboy has won and now the culture has radically shifted.

    Even Feminists like Ariel Levy has noticed this cultural shift and laments it. In her insightful book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, after detailing the ubiquitous new culture of female sexuality Levy says this:

    “What was almost more surprising than the change itself were the responses I got when I started interviewing the men and — often — women who edit magazines like Maxim and make programs like The Man Show and Girls Gone Wild. This new raunch culture didn’t mark the death of feminism, they told me; it was evidence that the feminist project had already been achieved. We’d earned the right to look at Playboy; we were empowered enough to get Brazilian bikini waxes. Women had come so far, I learned, we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny. Instead, it was time for us to join the frat party of pop culture, where men had been enjoying themselves all along. If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves.

    When I asked female viewers and readers what they got out of raunch culture, I heard similar things about empowering miniskirts and feminist strippers, and so on, but I also heard something else. They wanted to be “one of the guys”; they hoped to be experienced “like a man.” Going to strip clubs or talking about porn stars was a way of showing themselves and the men around them that they weren’t “prissy little women” or “girly-girls.” Besides, they told me, it was all in fun, all tongue-in-cheek, and for me to regard this bacchanal as problematic would be old-school and uncool.”

    She continues:

    “Despite the rising power of Evangelical Christianity and the political right in the United States, this trend has only grown more extreme and more pervasive in the years that have passed since I first became aware of it. A tawdry, tarty, cartoonlike version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular. What we once regarded as a kind of sexual expression we now view as sexuality. As former adult film star Traci Lords put it to a reporter a few days before her memoir hit the best-seller list in 2003, “When I was in porn, it was like a back-alley thing. Now it’s everywhere.” Spectacles of naked ladies have moved from seedy side streets to center stage, where everyone — men and women — can watch them in broad daylight. Playboy and its ilk are being “embraced by young women in a curious way in a postfeminist world,” to borrow the words of Hugh Hefner.”

    Levy and Hefner both imply and that Playboy has won, but who has been defeated? According to Levy and Hefner both feminists and moral conservatives have lost. But why does this matter?

    Let me get personal for a moment. I have a daughter who is beautiful in every way imaginable. The scary thing for me as her father is that one day she will be compelled to feel that her worth as a woman and as a human will be based on a ridiculous notion of sexuality that Hefner and Playboy proliferated. I, as a parent, am working so hard to show her that, even though she is beautiful, she is more than her looks and when she blossoms into a young woman I will have to work doubly hard to help her see that she is created in the image of God and, therefore, is worthy of dignity, honour and respect even if she doesn’t fit into a distorted and impossible to attain stereotype of female sexuality. I am grieved at the news of Playboy no longer having naked women in their magazine not because I want to have naked women in the newsstands but because  it once again shows the world we live in and gives a foretaste of the world my daughter will be a teenager in. It is the world which Edith Wharton prophesied about in 1915  when she said “What a woman was criticised for doing yesterday she is ridiculed for not doing today” And that, for me as a parent, is a scary thing.


    Please follow and like us:
  • How Much Does God Love You?

    Sometimes a world of meaning is found in just one verse. I think Galatians 4:4 is one of those verses.

    But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, Galatians 4:4

    This verse is all about God’s son, Jesus. By calling him, God’s son Paul is implying he is divine. But not only is he divine, in saying that he is born of a woman Paul is saying that Jesus was completely human. And Jesus was also born under the law which meant he was born in a time in the history of Israel where they were trying to obey all of God’s laws as found in the Old Testament. Paul is laying out here why Jesus is perfectly qualified to redeem us.  See the perfect redeemer needed to be divine because the cost in redemption would be infinite and so someone of infinite worth had to die. The redeemer had to be human because he was redeeming and representing humans and he needed to be righteous, that is, he needed to obey God’s laws perfectly. This was Jesus. He had the CV and the credentials to be the redeemer.

    But shot through this one verse is the character of God. We see here that God is a God who takes the first step, he takes the action to show his love and redeem those who need it. God is not sitting back in the world waiting to see if you are going to come to him. He is not waiting for you to show interest in him or love to him before he comes. No, the offended God, Himself, in infinite compassion, broke the silence and came forth to save his enemies! See how spontaneous is the Grace of God!

    If you ever doubt that God loves you or that he feels distant remember this. Maybe you are in a situation or have been in a situation where you doubt that God loves you.  I remember a few years ago when my dad had cancer and he passed away. it was in those moments of deep pain and sadness that it was so easy to question the love of God. Maybe something has happened in the past few weeks or months, or maybe even it happened years ago, but it is still raw and you feel like God doesn’t love you.

    Or maybe you are disappointed with life or an aspect of life and you feel like God doesn’t love you. I mean if he did love you your life would be better wouldn’t it? Or maybe you are doing your best job at ignoring or running away from God and, therefore, your heart is convinced that he doesn’t love you. Or maybe you don’t call yourself a Christian and you think God doesn’t love you because of that. Well, if that is you remember that he has shown his love by stepping into this world in love. By writing himself on the pages of human history in love and he did this even before you were born. When Jesus stepped into the world to die he showed you how far he is willing to show you love and win you.

    A preacher named Bryan Chappell tells a story of an old man he once ministered to. When this old man was a young man he lived in a small mining town. One day there was an accident in the mines and he was paralysed from the neck down. He couldn’t walk or move and so he sat beside a window in his house and from this window he could see the world pass by. He saw his friends who he went to school with, fall in love, get married, have children and grandchildren all from the vantage point of his chair by the window. He didn’t experience any of this. One day when he was a very old man he was asked by a young man “I hear you believe God loves you. How can you believe that after all that has happened to you?” He replied “When satan whispers in my ear “Does God really love you?” I take him by the hand to the cross and I show him the nail pierced hands of Jesus and wounds he bore for me and I say “Yes how much does he love me?”

    If you ever doubt the love God has for you go to the cross where God took the initiative in your relationship with you.

    The story of the paralysed man was taken from Bryan Chapell The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach: Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times, 14-15

    Please follow and like us:
  • Why Casual Sex is Destructive

    wing-girl-dating-tips-4-simple-rules-for-casual-sex-1085862-TwoByOne“Why can’t two people do whatever they want behind closed doors as long at they don’t hurt anyone?” Is a question that has been so repeated in our day and age it has almost turned into dogma. The idea that we own ourselves and our bodies and we can do anything that we want with them is a prevailing view in our society. The logic goes that if I find a person who wants to enter into a fun encounter or a series of encounters why shouldn’t I do it if we both want to? Aren’t we just both are using our bodies for pleasure and what is the harm in that?

    One of the most interesting thinkers of all time, Immanuel Kant, would answer these questions in this way:

    Human love is good will, affection, promoting the happiness of others and finding joy in their happiness. But it is clear that, when a person loves another purely from sexual desire, none of these factors enter into the love. Far from there being any concern for the happiness of the loved one, the lover, in order to satisfy his desire and still his appetite, may even plunge the loved one into the depths of misery. Sexual love makes of the loved person an object of appetite; as soon as that appetite has been stifled, the person is cast aside as one casts away a lemon which has been sucked dry. Kant: Lectures on Ethics, 164

    The problem that Kant sees with casual sex is that the people engaged in casual sex are treating each other like objects to satiate their desires and not as people worthy of dignity, honour and love. . Kant says, that when we treat each other like objects we don’t care about each other and we may hurt each other to get what we need and when  we are done we discard each other like a piece of trash.

    Michael Sandel summarises Kant’s objection this way:

    “Even when casual sex involves the mutual satisfaction of the partners, “each of them dishonours the human nature of the other. They make of humanity an instrument for the satisfaction of their lusts and inclinations.”  Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? 130

    The reason casual sex is destructive, according to Kant, is that it is dehumanizing. And we would all agree that when something is dehumanizing it is destructive.



    Please follow and like us: