Daily Devotional

The Fear That Draws Us In

“Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:20)

John Piper

There is a fear that is slavish and drives us away from God, and there is a fear that is sweet and draws us to God. Moses warned against the one and called for the other in the very same verse, Exodus 20:20: “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’”

The clearest illustration I have ever seen of this kind of fear was the time one of my sons looked a German shepherd in the eye. We were visiting a family from our church. My son Karsten was about seven years old. They had a huge dog that stood eye to eye with a seven-year-old.

He was friendly and Karsten had no problem making friends. But when we sent Karsten back to the car to get something we had forgotten, he started to run, and the dog galloped up behind him with a low growl. Of course, this frightened Karsten. But the owner said, “Karsten, why don’t you just walk? The dog doesn’t like it when people run away from him.”

If Karsten hugged the dog, he was friendly and would even lick his face. But if he ran from the dog, the dog would growl and fill Karsten with fear.

Now that is a picture of what it means to fear the Lord. God means for his power and holiness to kindle fear in us, not to drive us from him, but to drive us to him.
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It’s the Real World

What On Earth . . . .?
Quantum physics has captivated not just physicists, but laymen.  Why?  Because it’s so weird.  No-one can explain it.  

Playwright Tom Stoppard provides this description of what appears to be happening in the world of electrons and sub-atomic particles.

The particle world is the dream world of the intelligence officer.  An electron can be here or there at the same moment.  You can choose.  It can go from here to there without going in between; it can pass through two doors at the same time, or from one door to another by a path which is there for all to see, until someone looks, and then the act of looking has made it take a different path.

Its movements cannot be anticipated because it has no reasons.  It defeats surveillance because when you know what it is doing you can’t be certain where it is, and when you know where it is you can’t be certain what it’s doing: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle; and this is not because you’re not looking carefully enough, it is because there is no such thing as an electron with a definite position and definite momentum; you fix one, you lose the other, and it’s all done without tricks, it’s the real world, it is awake.  [Cited in Jeremy Bernstein, Quantum Leaps (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 85f.]

Matter appears to have a life of its own–hence Stoppard’s description of it being “awake”.
 The amazing regularity of matter, its precision: (apparently) absolute natural laws are built upon–on top of–“irrationalisms”.  Electrons are “aware” of one another, and the information is communicated somehow, and the communication is faster than the speed of light, which Einstein told us was impossible.

Quantum physicist, Niels Bohr said,

Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.

And Richard Feynman added:

Might I say immediately . . . we always had a great deal of difficulty in understanding the worldview that quantum mechanics represents. . . .  I cannot define the real problem, therefore I suspect there’s not a real problem, but I am nor sure there’s no real problem.

Irreducible complexity indeed.

  

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sin is a mistake

June 2016 (29)

Leviticus 4:1-7

Lev 4:1 And Yahveh spoke to Moses, and this is what he said,
Lev 4:2 “Speak to the people of Israel, and this is what you should say, if any soul makes a mistake inadvertently in any of Yahveh’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them,
Lev 4:3 if it is the anointed priest who makes a mistake, thus bringing the need for reparation on the people, then he will offer for the mistake that he has made a perfect bull from the herd to Yahveh for a mistake offering.
Lev 4:4 He will bring the bull to the entrance of the conference tent in Yahveh’s sight and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull in Yahveh’s sight.
Lev 4:5 And the anointed priest will take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the conference tent,
Lev 4:6 and the priest will dip his finger in the blood and spritz part of the blood seven times in Yahveh’s sight in front of the veil of the sanctuary.
Lev 4:7 And the priest will put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense in Yahveh’s sight that is in the conference tent, and all the rest of the blood of the bull he will pour out at the base of the altar of ascending offering that is at the entrance of the conference tent.

sin is a mistake

I translate the word traditionally interpreted as sin as “mistake” and the sin offering as a “mistake offering.” I am not downplaying the severity of sin by doing this. It is just the opposite. God holds us to a standard that we consistently find hard to achieve. We need a saviour because we keep missing the mark. But God has provided a sacrifice for all our mistakes: Christ. The standard is high, but our God’s provision is sure and reliable. He never makes a mistake. He never misses the mark.

LORD, thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ, a saviour who can deliver us from all our mistakes.

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And Now . . . The Hard Yards

Brooks Was Here . . . 

Shawshank Redemption is a classic movie about prison.  One of the characters, Brooks has been in prison so long that he cannot survive outside when eventually released.  He takes his own life.  Peter Hitchens sees Britain as akin to a lifer within Shawshank.  He doubts it can survive on the “outside”.

. . . Our presence in the prison of the EU was voluntary. Nobody made us join and indeed we had the chance to leave within three years of losing our independence, and emphatically scorned it.

But my general point remains the same. We have forgotten how to be independent and forgotten that we were independent. We are more than vaguely aware that the world in which we are now offered independence is fiercer, colder, harsher, more expensive and less friendly towards us than it was in 1972. If we are observant we will also have noticed that the government can’t make ends meet and is groin-deep in debt, that much of the country is foreign-owned, that industries which used to help us pay our way in the world have largely vanished, that our trade deficit is huge, that even the vaunted ‘invisible exports’ and ‘services’  which once kept the wolf from the door are not as healthy as they once were, that our armed services are melancholy remnants, the Commonwealth a phantom and our diplomatic standing far from high.

Anyway, how many active adults, now participating in the political process, can remember what it was like being in an independent country, whose Parliament was sovereign,  whose embassies flew its own flag and nobody else’s, whose head of state wasn’t a citizen of someone else’s country,  which chose its own economic policy, had its own fishing grounds, decided how to subsidise its own farms, issued its own passports, controlled its own borders, made its own alliances and trade agreements, did not abandon its traditions and its particular special ways of doing things to conform with some great overarching plan?

It’s a decreasing number. Most people in this country don’t really care about independence itself, and don’t think about it. And the numbers who have (correctly) linked the EU with mass immigration and our loss of control over our borders, though considerable, peaked with UKIP in 2015 and aren’t enough to swing a vote.

‘Euroscepticism’ is a worthless and futile political position involving complaining about the EU in public and at election times, and knuckling under to it in private when the voters aren’t looking. It is very like the institutionalised long-term prisoner’s daydream of freedom, which – when he is actually offered his liberty – he doesn’t really want. They don’t really want it;  they’ve made no serious plan for it, they aren’t prepared for any major sacrifices to get it. It’s just a thing they say, to indulge themselves and assert a sort of machismo.

What’s more, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine our much-diminished country managing to walk alone again on its atrophied and shrivelled leg-muscles, weakened by years of non-independence. I myself am baffled as to how a referendum could decide the issue,  when huge majorities in both Houses of Parliament, plus the great bulk of the media, plus businessmen (traditionally utterly ignorant about politics) plus the civil service, the education sector,  and the judiciary, are committed to our continuing membership.

If we voted to leave, who would implement the decision?

That’s why so many people, even the ‘Eurosceptics’ in law, business, politics and the media, will,  when it comes to a choice, recoil from the open gate and remain in the EU’s nice cosy landscaped prison, hoping for the best.

Barring an economic collapse between now and referendum day, or some other event which turns the vote into a plebiscite on the government itself, I think that there is a poor chance of a majority to leave, especially one so big that Downing Street and Parliament can’t somehow find a way to ignore or override it.

If there were a real desire in this country to leave, then there would be a serious political party which had that purpose at the centre of its manifesto, and was capable of winning a Commons majority.  No such thing is in prospect.  I still plan to stay at home on Referendum Day. I don’t wish to endorse or in any way contribute to this futile exercise in fake people power, whose result will be used to proclaim, for years to come, that the issue is now closed.

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Daily Devotional

Looking Sideways At Other Christians

Screwtape offers more techniques for confusing the Patient:

C. S. Lewis

I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew afford no rational ground for disappointment. Of course if they do—if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge-player or the man with squeaky boots a miser and an extortioner—then your task is so much the easier.

All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’

You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! Handle him properly and it simply won’t come into his head. He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk.

At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these ‘smug’, commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.

The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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At The Crossroads

Will Britain Seize the Moment Or Lament Brexit?
Brexit came, saw, and conquered.  We believe on balance that this is a very, very good thing.  Here are some reasons why.

The EC is a step towards humanitarianism too far.  It has evolved from a free trade economic union into an uber-state.  Increasingly Brussels and Strasbourg were imposing the latest human rights d’jour upon member states, overriding their own governments.  A clique of oligarchs who were never exposed to the vote or ratification by ordinary citizens ruled with growing powers.  They have never held to account by citizens at the ballot box.  This represented the worst of all worlds: a kind of divine right to rule, coupled with a belief in truths to which every knee must bow.  Britain is far better off out of it.

Secondly, the EU has always been a reluctant free-trader.  It wants controls, not liberty and respect for the property of others.  Rather, it has served to protect member states from competition from other nations. Consequently, European farmers still enjoy significant subsidies from the government.

At the heart of the mess is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which was originally agreed too soon after the ill-conceived Common Market came into existence in 1957.  Almost 60 years later it has clearly achieved its primary task of keeping Europe amply fed. But food security is hardly an issue anymore, especially in the context of a global economy built on the premise of free trade.

It was also designed to help the industry manage the impact of fluctuating commodity prices and in so doing safeguard small farming communities. Instead it has rewarded farmers for inefficient agricultural practices and promoted the overproduction of food on a scale previously unseen. Neither is it cheap for the average taxpayer. Although farmers only make up 5.4pc of Europe’s population, they account for 47pc of the EU budget.

Now the system of subsidising farmers in less productive member countries is warping the economics of producing food across the entire region. Taxpayers across Europe pay to fund €58bn of annual farming subsidies and then are hit again by food prices, which some argue are still kept artificially high just to keep farmers in business. Instead of using payments from CAP to develop more efficient farming practices, the industry has instead loaded up on debt which is essentially underwritten by subsidies. [The Telegraph]

Thirdly the EU has shown itself to be a reluctant protector of its own borders.  It has failed miserably to stop the migrant hordes pushing into Europe because of its humanitarianist ideology.  Long before economic migrants reached European shores the EU effectively extended the rights of citizenship in the name of “human decency” and “goodness”.  It has been a kindness that kills, however–not just in the easy facilitation of terrorism and mass killings, but in the way it has undermined the very concept of national sovereignty.  National governments in Europe have shown themselves powerless.   Lingering German guilt over World War II and Nazism have driven collective Europe towards the unintended consequence of Europe becoming an Islamic stronghold.

For these reasons amongst others Britain is  better off by far being out of the EU.  That is not to say that it will not face significant challenges–but for the first time in a long time it will have the opportunity to deal with these under the resumption of fundamental sovereign rights.  It would be able to do something.  It may well be that Scotland and Northern Ireland may depart for greener pastures.  But we are confident that in the longer run Britain will be better off if it seizes the opportunity.

Mind you, this is not to be blind towards the British establishment’s own commitment to Unbelief and secularism.  Progressive humanitarianism is strong–at least amongst the ruling classes and the elites.   But at least it may now have the means and find the resolve to tackle Islamic no-go zones, politically correct policing a la Rotherham,  and the suppression of Christians bearing witness to their Lord in the public square–to name just a few of the madnesses of modern secular Britain.  
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protection comes from the LORD

June 2016 (28)

Leviticus 3:12-17

Lev 3:12 “If his offering is a goat, then he will offer it in Yahveh’s sight
Lev 3:13 and lay his hand on its head and kill it in front of the conference tent, and the sons of Aaron will throw its blood against the sides of the altar.
Lev 3:14 Then he will offer from it, as his offering for a fire offering to Yahveh, the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails
Lev 3:15 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he will remove with the kidneys.
Lev 3:16 And the priest will burn them on the altar as a fire offering with a soothing aroma. All fat is Yahveh’s.
Lev 3:17 It will be a permanent prescription throughout your generations, wherever you stay, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”

protection comes from the LORD

Fat gets a bad reputation today, but it serves a very important role in the body. It cushions and protects internal organs, keeping them from bumping up against each other, and causing damage to each other. Fat is the layer of protection provided by a loving creator. The reason all the fat is to be consumed by fire for this offering is to remind us that protection ultimately comes from him. Safety and security in our families and communities — even protection from one another — is the result of our LORD’s intervention and care.

LORD, thank you for the safety and security you know we need, and only you can provide.

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Peter Hitchens Expresses Scepticism Over Brexit

Peter Hitchens On The EU and Brexit

On March 30th at the Institute of Economic Affairs in Westminster, NewsRedial’s Peter Stephenson sat with author Peter Hitchens of The Mail on Sunday and asked him about the machinations of the Brexit pantomime.

I first asked Mr Hitchens if he thought the ‘out’ camp would win the referendum vote and if so then would the government carry out the will of the people?

Here is a transcript of our discussion:

PETER HITCHENS: First of all I’m against governments calls to plebiscites. I think they are an outrage and I don’t think any parliamentary country should have them. Secondly, I think this one was held solely to save the Conservative party. It was never intended to be held in the first place and I don’t think–there are no clauses in the act that would state what would happen. I very doubt that Parliament dominated by enthusiasts to stay in the European Union is capable of taking us out even if there is a vote to leave.

I think that what is more likely to happen, and no one can say for certain because there (unclear) . . be a vote to stay which will be declared an end to the debate and that we can all go home and forget about it forever and that is why I say that the referendum is a trap rather than an exit.

I think the only way you can get out of the European Union is to elect a government committed to secession from it, probably to elect it for two full terms which in my view (unclear name) was right in that it would take us ten years to get a major country such as this out of the European Union. And given the huge and extraordinary desire of the people who claim to be against the European Union to carry on voting for the Conservative Party which is probably the keenest supporter of the European Union in the country, I don’t think there is much hope of that ever happening.

The chances of developing a party that is in favour of national independence in time to achieve it simply means it is nil.

PETER STEPHENSON: So do you put your hopes more on UKIP or a reformed Conservative Party?

PH: I don’t put my hopes on anything. The Conservative Party is un-reformable. You might as well try to reform Typhus. I don’t put my hopes on anything. I regard myself as the obituarist of a dead country. I’m not joking.

PS: But you are also a Christian and don’t you believe in resurrection?

PH: Yes I do but of Jesus Christ, not of dead countries.

PS: Have countries with waning national spirits never revived?

PH: Possibly but I don’t think ours has the capacity to do so. Almost all our institutions have atrophied, national spirit of patriotism has atrophied, Christianity has practically ceased to exist. All the things which made us the country that we were have shrivelled away I mean also in terms of physical material resources – lack the ability to recover. We are so colossally in debt that I can’t see any way out of it and that’s in terms of both state and individuals. Our industrial capacity is small and falling fast. Our ability to defend ourselves in terms of our armed forces is currently pitiful and we have this ridiculous, supposed nuclear deterrent which is like spending all your money on insurance against alien abduction and so having none left over to insure yourself against fire and theft. We have no effective conventional armed forces at all.

PS: Your view on Britain’s state reminds me of the line in Yeats’ poem ‘The Second Coming’ “The centre can not hold”

PH: Well it’s a cliché isn’t it. But it’s not just the centre that can not hold. The country has, to all intents and purposes, ceased to exist. We are just in that stage in the cartoon where the Road Runner has come off the cliff waiting to discover that there is nothing underneath, after which . . . fyewwww, down it goes.

We are in that state of delusion where we still think we are a major country. We are still invited along to the big summits because for some reason or other people still take the pound sterling seriously, I’m amazed that they do and very pleased but I can’t quite think why.

PS: So you neither believe that we will win the referendum vote, and even if we do that the government won’t honour it?

PH: I think that’s more or less the correct summary of my position yes.

PS: Colin, you had a question?

CT: I was wondering what you thought ‘would’ happen if we vote to leave. What you thought David Cameron would actually do. Do you think he has a plan B?

PH: I think there is an interesting precedent in the Irish Republic’s vote. The Irish Republic used to have referenda under very strict rules. Their original constitution did so and they were probably more valid than other countries because of those rules and they voted against the Lisbon Treaty and the Irish government thereupon commissioned a group of psychologists and anthropologists to go out and they came back and said people had voted against Lisbon because they didn’t understand the question, so they’d hold it again.

I think you also have to note that in the British supposed Brexit campaign there are now large numbers of people, I think of Michael Howard and Alexander so called Boris Johnson who are not really particularly obvious supporters of a British exit from the European Union who I think have joined the campaign and placed themselves at the head of it precisely so that if there is any question of the vote to leave that they can then turn it into a negotiation in how to stay. Which I think would be the most likely thing to happen if there were if there were a vote to leave.

But if there were a vote to leave it’s unlikely to be particularly a large margin. And you still have to cope with the fact that Parliament is still sovereign. What is the Parliament dominated by people who are against leaving the European Union going to do about a vote like that?

PS: Do you think establishment figures like Boris wouldn’t even need a second referendum imposed upon them as they would impose it on themselves?

PH: I think the second referendum is very likely. It would be what they would work for. I think that is one of the reasons why people of that kind are joining the exit campaign.

There is also this great contrast between the different sets of people who are in the campaign to leave. There are people who have a continuing believe that we should be an independent nation and those people who see the European Union as an obstacle to total globalism in which we would barely exist as a place let alone a country. Those two are not compatible, the campaign is not coherent.

PS: You know Michael Gove more than Boris but is Michael Gove a true Brexiter?

PH: I have to say, I was surprised by his decision but I don’t know his inner heart.

PS: Peter Hitchens thank you very much.

PH: Thank you.
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Monday quote

Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow

Michael Ramsey
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Daily Devotional

Not Yet Manifest

“Waiting for the adoption.”  Romans 8:23

Charles H. Spurgeon

Even in this world saints are God’s children, but men cannot discover them to be so, except by certain moral characteristics. The adoption is not manifested, the children are not yet openly declared. Among the Romans a man might adopt a child, and keep it private for a long time: but there was a second adoption in public; when the child was brought before the constituted authorities its former garments were taken off, and the father who took it to be his child gave it raiment suitable to its new condition of life.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” We are not yet arrayed in the apparel which befits the royal family of heaven; we are wearing in this flesh and blood just what we wore as the sons of Adam; but we know that “when he shall appear” who is the “first-born among many brethren,” we shall be like him, we shall see him as he is. Cannot you imagine that a child taken from the lowest ranks of society, and adopted by a Roman senator, would say to himself, “I long for the day when I shall be publicly adopted. Then I shall leave off these plebeian garments, and be robed as becomes my senatorial rank”? Happy in what he has received, for that very reason he groans to get the fulness of what is promised him.

So it is with us today. We are waiting till we shall put on our proper garments, and shall be manifested as the children of God. We are young nobles, and have not yet worn our coronets. We are young brides, and the marriage day is not yet come, and by the love our Spouse bears us, we are led to long and sigh for the bridal morning. Our very happiness makes us groan after more; our joy, like a swollen spring, longs to well up like an Iceland geyser, leaping to the skies, and it heaves and groans within our spirit for want of space and room by which to manifest itself to men.
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