Monday quote

Legalism arises when Christian communities try to have the fruit of discernment (the ability to make fine distinctions) without having the maturity that is necessary.

Douglas Wilson, Hebrews Through New Eyes.
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Government Handout To Further Impoverish Children

The Poor Are Going to Become Poorer

We are on the cusp of being driven to conclude that lefties are dumber than a sackful of hammers.  We mean really, really stupid.  Not just inchoately naive–but perversely stupid.

All week we have been lambasted by politicians telling us that 88,000 children will be lifted out of poverty in New Zealand by a brand new tax funded lollypop that will be winging its way to their respective households.

It is projected to lift 88,000 children out of poverty through a combination of higher Accommodation Supplement changes, more generous Working for Families scheme, a “Best Start” payment for parents of young babies, and a “Winter Warmer” grant for beneficiaries and superannuitants.  [NZ Herald]

Let’s charitably grant that the Gummint is all full of naive genuineness when it makes such claims.  It really believes that its new grant will lift 88,000 children out of poverty.   Gummint politicans will go home for Christmas, stroking themselves in self adulation over the wonderful change it has wrought in thousands upon thousands of Kiwi families and households.  So simple, too.  Just spend an additional $5.3 billion over four years, and it’s done and dusted.  The Finance Minister tells us how he and his colleagues are swollen with pride at the accomplishment.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said it would transform the lives of many and was a far better way to improve the lives of children than across the board tax cuts.  “This is one of the most significant packages to reduce child poverty in recent memory, We are very, very proud of this package.” [Emphasis, ours]

This wonderful transformation of human nature that will allegedly lift 88,000 children out of poverty will deliver an extra $75 dollars per week to 384,000 families.
  Yes, you read that right.  You understand what the Gummint is claiming.  An extra $70 odd dollars per week will perform an absolutely magical transformation in human nature and disposition.  It is so miraculous and magical that we suggest the Finance Minister, Grant Robertson be given a new New Year’s honour: he ought to be trebly knighted and dubbed The Great Transformer.

But, let’s move out of Cloud Cookoo Land, and face reality.  Let’s imagine what will actually happen to the $75 per week in many, if not most cases.  It will enable every household to stock up on the essentials.  For many households that will mean an opportunity to buy a bit more weed, or P, or crack.  In countless others it will mean an additional bottle of whisky or a few more dozen beer.  If the additional funds were to be spent on the children resident in the house, it would be likely spent on a couple of buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  And let’s not forget how the thrice weekly trip to the supermarket will now be festooned with at least three or more large bottles of extra fizzy pop.  Bye bye poverty.

Some households will prudently consider the longer term perspective.  Knowing that savings and building up a nest-egg means self-denial in the present, for longer term benefits, they will increase their weekly investment programme in the national Gummint owned and run lottery in the hope of winning the Big One.

And think how many new consumer goods and items can be bought on tick with an extra $75 per week. Those red trucks circulating through neighbourhoods will be having a special Xmas this year.  Spare a thought for all those folk enticed into buying lots of “must-haves” on tick, ending up spending over three times the original price of the item in interest payments and charges.  The debt counsellors are going to be inundated with new clients and the poor are going to become poorer than ever.

In the random Alice-in-Wonderland world of Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson–along with their brutely ignorant colleagues–these human realities simply do not exist.  They have the pixie dust, the enchantment spell, the One Ring.  A little bit more money makes the world go round.

Eighty eight thousand children lifted out of poverty.  Imagine that!  But Ardern and Robertson, along with their fellow dumb-hammer colleagues, know next to nothing about how the poor actually, really live.  They know nothing about the far more complex, deep seated, and powerfully rooted causes of child poverty in New Zealand.

Perversely ignorant they are. And in their ignorance their chests are swollen and they are “really, really proud” of their “accomplishment”.  As we said, dumber than a sackful of hammers.

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name of shame

marmsky December 2017 (16)devotional post # 2232

Num 1:26  Of the sons of Judah, referencing their historical lineage, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war:
Num 1:27  those mustered of the tribe of Judah were 74,600.

name of shame

74,600 sons of Judah followed general Nachshon, whose name “enchanter” seems to have been associated in some way with the magic arts. Perhaps God was getting them ready to see a pure magic from his hand, which would encourage them to stay away from the dark arts for good. Or, maybe his name is a reminder of the influence that Egypt had on the Israelites. God had rescued his people from Egypt, but there was still a memory of Egypt in them, with its emphasis on animistic power. Either way, this name probably brought shame to the Judahites. But, embarrassment over sin is also a good thing.

LORD, when we are tempted to prideful thoughts, remind us of the sins of the past, but keep us from repeating them.

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Holland’s Integration Into the Void

Even the Pagans Are Objecting

Dutch euthanasia getting so out of hand that even assisted-death docs want to hit the brakes

Doug Mainwaring
LifeSiteNews

July 5, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — An advertisement taken out in a major newspaper in the Netherlands by more than 200 Dutch doctors begins, “[Assisted suicide] for someone who cannot confirm he wants to die? No, we will not do that. Our moral reluctance to end the life of a defenseless man is too great. “

The doctors, many of whom currently serve as assisted-suicide providers, are objecting to the unchecked growth of euthanasia in their country, where people who have reduced mental capacity due to dementia are being euthanised.

Current law allows doctors to euthanize without verbal consent if a written declaration of will has been provided in advance. In addition, a doctor has to also first determine that the patient is undergoing unbearable suffering. But with reduced mental capacity, patients are often unable to confirm that their former request to be euthanized — executed perhaps years earlier — is still valid.

A turning point

Alarm bells began to sound for these doctors a few years ago when an elderly woman was euthanized against her will.   The 80-year-old suffered from dementia. She had allegedly earlier requested to be euthanized when “the time was right” but in her last days expressed her desire to continue living.  Despite changing her mind about ending her life, her doctor put a sedative in the her coffee. When that wasn’t enough, the doctor enlisted the help of family members to hold down the struggling, objecting patient so that she could administer the lethal injection.

“Doesn’t someone have a right to change their mind?” asked Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. He told LifeSiteNews earlier this year, “They sell it as choice and autonomy, but here’s a woman who’s saying, ‘no, I don’t want it,’ and they stick it in her coffee, they hold her down and lethally inject her.”

“It’s false compassion,” Schadenberg continued. “It’s killing people basically out of a false ideology” that treats euthanasia as somehow good when “it’s the exact opposite of what it actually is.”

In 2016, the Dutch doctor was cleared of wrongdoing by a euthanasia oversight panel. The chairman of that panel expressed hope that the case will go to court – not so the doctor can be prosecuted but so a court can set a precedent on how far doctors may go in such cases.

Troubling new legislation

That case remains fresh in the minds of the Dutch as ‘groundbreaking’ new legislation is being floated by the country’s lawmakers.  Legislators in the Netherlands have now proposed the ‘Completed Life Bill’ that would allow anybody age 75 or older to be euthanized even if they are healthy. If the legislation passes, it would be a big step toward the ultimate goal of making euthanasia available to any adult who wants it. 

Alexander Pechtold, leader of the Dutch political party D66, said, “It’s my personal opinion that in our civilization dying is an individual consideration. You didn’t ask to be brought into the world.” He went on to explain that this new legislation would be one more step toward the universal availability of euthanasia, part of a process of steady incremental gains over the last few decades.

Belgium’s culture of death seeping into the Netherlands

As reported by Schadenberg several years ago, according to available data, more than 1,000 Belgian deaths were hastened without explicit request in 2013. 

Schadenberg quoted Belgian ethicist Freddy Mortier from an Associated Press article:

“Mortier was not happy, however, that the ‘hastening of death without explicit request from patients,’ which can happen when a patient slumbers into unconsciousness or has lost the capacity for rational judgment, stood at 1.7 percent of cases in 2013. In the Netherlands, that figure was 0.2 percent.”

The Netherlands appears to be going the way of nearby Belgium, with that 0.2 percent statistic climbing rapidly. In 2009, 12 patients with dementia were euthanized. In 2016, there 141 cases reported. And for those with psychiatric illness, there were no cases in 2009 but 60 in 2016. 

Boudewijn Chabot, a psychogeriatrician and prominent euthanasia supporter, said in June that things are “getting out of hand.” He continued, “[L]ook at the rapid increase … The financial gutting of the healthcare sector has particularly harmed the quality of life of these types of patients. It’s logical to conclude that euthanasia is going to skyrocket.”

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God has added

marmsky December 2017 (15)devotional post # 2231

Num 1:24  Of the sons of Gad, referencing their historical lineage,, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war:
Num 1:25  those mustered of the tribe of Gad were 45,650.

God has added

Gad’s general was Elyasaph (God has added – from the same Hebrew root as the name, Joseph). The young and old men who followed him into battle were reminded that when God is with you, your numbers do no matter. God can always make up for your lack of numbers by his miraculous power.

LORD, remind us that whatever we do, your power to help us far supersedes our capacity to do it for you.

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Advent Meditation

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10–11)

John Piper

God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25). The gifts of the magi are not given by way of assistance or need-meeting. It would dishonor a monarch if foreign visitors came with royal care-packages.

Nor are these gifts meant to be bribes. Deuteronomy 10:17 says that God takes no bribe. Well, what then do they mean? How are they worship?

The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself in much the same way that fasting is. When you give a gift to Christ like this, it’s a way of saying, “The joy that I pursue (verse 10!) is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things, but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things, in the hope of enjoying you more, not things. By giving to you what you do not need, and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, ‘You are my treasure, not these things.’”

I think that’s what it means to worship God with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

May God take the truth of this text and waken in us a desire for Christ himself. May we say from the heart, “Lord Jesus, you are the Messiah, the King of Israel. All nations will come and bow down before you. God wields the world to see that you are worshiped. Therefore, whatever opposition I may find, I joyfully ascribe authority and dignity to you, and bring my gifts to say that you alone can satisfy my heart, not these.”

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America’s Love of Hagar

The Madness of Jerusalem

Much euphoria has been displayed in certain quarters with the announcement that the United States would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Some much-mistaken Christians in that country foolishly believe that somehow earthly Jerusalem is significant in the coming Kingdom of the Messiah. 

It is not significant at all–except in the same way that ancient Jericho or Sinai remains significant.  All three represent a place and time when God wrought marvellous deeds, whether of mercy or judgement.  But the Jerusalem below is now little more than a bitter reminder of human folly and rebellion against God and the Messiah. 

If there were one passage in Scripture which puts this reality most forcefully, it is Galatians 4: 21–5:1.  Jerusalem, says the Spirit, is of Mount Sinai.  It bears children for slavery.  She is Hagar.  But Jerusalem–the only Jerusalem that matters–is from above.  She is our mother.  Therefore we are commanded to “cast out the slave and her children”.  Ever since God’s judgement fell upon Jerusalem in AD 66-70, as Christ forewarned in Matthew 23 & 24, we are not to look for the fake Jerusalem upon this earth; we are to look for, love, and be part of the real Jerusalem that is above.

The reality of Jerusalem and what it represents in God’s Kingdom is better described by historian, Simon Montefiori.  He speaks as one whose words coincide with the implications of Galatians 4–whether he is aware of it or not.  He says of Jerusalem:
   

Death is our constant companion: pilgrims have long come to Jerusalem to die and be buried around the Temple Mount to be ready to rise again in the Apocalypse, and they continue to come. The city is surrounded by and founded upon cemeteries; the wizened body-parts of ancient saints are revered–the dessicated blackened right hand of Mary Magdalene is still displayed in the Greek Orthodox Superior’s Room in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Many shrines, even many private houses, are built around tombs.

The darkness of this city of the dead stems not just from a sort of necrophilia, but also from necromancy: the dead here are almost alive, even as they await the resurrection. The unending struggle for Jerusalem–massacres, mayhem, wars, terrorism, sieges and catastrophes–have made this place into a battlefield, in Aldous Huxley’s words the ‘slaughterhouse of the religions’, in Faubert’s a ‘charnel house’. Melville called the city a ‘skull’ besieged by ‘armies of the dead’; while Edward Said remembered that his father had hated Jerusalem because it ‘reminded him of death’.  [Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jerusalem: the Biography (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011) p. xix]

By these lights (both of Scripture and the reality that is Jerusalem today)  we must testify to our generation that the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem is of no spiritual or eschatological significance whatsoever.  Whatever vain hopes or portents some believe are contained in this silly move, the reality will disappoint.  God will not honour Hagar nor Mount Sinai.  Rather He will honour His Son and the seat of Messiah’s power and authority, which is in the Jerusalem which is above.  Those who fall prey to the Jerusalem Syndrome will, in the end, weep dessicated tears.

Jerusalem has a way of disappointing and tormenting both conquerors and visitors. The contrast between the real and heavenly cities is so excruciating that a hundred patients a year are committed to the city’s asylum, suffering from the Jerusalem Syndrome, a madness of anticipation, disappointment and delusion. But Jerusalem Syndrome is political too: Jerusalem defies sense, practical politics and strategy, existing in the realm of ravenous passions and invincible emotions, impermeable to reason.”  [Ibid., p. xxi]

Note this well: the Jerusalem below defies sense, practical politics and strategy, existing in the realm of ravenous passions and invincible emotions, impermeable to reason.   It drives its slaves to madness.
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Fundamentals of Christian Living

Don’t Take It from Me

Reasons You Should Not Marry an Unbeliever

Kathy Keller
The Gospel Coalition

Over the course of our ministry, the most common pastoral issue that Tim and I have confronted is probably marriages—either actual or proposed—between Christians and non-Christians. I have often thought how much simpler it would be if I could remove myself from the conversation and invite those already married to unbelievers do the talking to singles who are desperately trying to find a loophole that would allow them to marry someone who does not share their faith. That way, I could skip all the Bible passages that urge singles only to “marry in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) and not “be unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) and the Old Testament proscriptions against marrying the foreigner, a worshiper of a god other than the God of Israel (see Numbers 12 where Moses marries a woman of another race but the same faith).

You can find those passages in abundance, but when someone has already allowed his or her heart to become engaged with a person outside the faith, I find that the Bible has already been devalued as the non-negotiable rule of faith and practice. Instead, variants of the serpent’s question to Eve—“Did God really say?” are floated, as if somehow this case might be eligible for an exemption, considering how much they love each other, how the unbeliever supports and understands the Christian’s faith, how they are soul-mates despite the absence of a shared soul-faith. Having grown weary and impatient, I want to snap and say, “It won’t work, not in the long run. Marriage is hard enough when you have two believers who are completely in harmony spiritually. Just spare yourself the heartache and get over it.” Yet such harshness is neither in line with the gentleness of Christ, nor convincing.

SADDER AND WISER

If only I could pair those sadder and wiser women—and men—who have found themselves in unequal marriages (either by their own foolishness or due to one person finding Christ after the marriage had already occurred) with the blithely optimistic singles who are convinced that their passion and commitment will overcome all obstacles. Even the obstacle of bald disobedience need not apply to them. Only ten minutes of conversation—one minute if the person is really succinct—would be necessary. In the words of one woman who was married to a perfectly nice man who did not share her faith: “If you think you are lonely before you get married, it’s nothing compared to how lonely you can be AFTER you are married!”
Really, this might be the only effective pastoral approach: to find a man or woman who is willing to talk honestly about the difficulties of the situation and invite them into a counseling ministry with the about-to-make-a-big-mistake unequal couple. As an alternative, perhaps some creative filmmaker would be willing to run around the country, filming individuals who are living with the pain of being married to an unbeliever, and create a montage of 40 or 50 short (< 5 minutes) first-hand accounts. The collective weight of their stories would be powerful in a way that no second-hand lecture ever would be.

THREE TRUE OUTCOMES

For the moment, though, here goes: There are only three ways an unequal marriage can turn out, (and by unequal I am willing to stretch a point and include genuine, warm Christians who want to marry an in-name-only Christian, or someone very, very far behind them in Christian experience and growth):

1. In order to be more in sync with your spouse, the Christian will have to push Christ to the margins of his or her life. This may not involve actually repudiating the faith, but in matters such as devotional life, hospitality to believers (small group meetings, emergency hosting of people in need), missionary support, tithing, raising children in the faith, fellowship with other believers—those things will have to be minimized or avoided in order to preserve peace in the home.

2. Alternatively, if the believer in the marriage holds on to a robust Christian life and practice, the non-believing PARTNER will have to be marginalized. If he or she can’t understand the point of Bible study and prayer, or missions trips, or hospitality, then he or she can’t or won’t participate alongside the believing spouse in those activities. The deep unity and oneness of a marriage cannot flourish when one partner cannot fully participate in the other person’s most important commitments.

3. So either the marriage experiences stress and breaks up; or it experiences stress and stays together, achieving some kind of truce that involves one spouse or the other capitulating in some areas, but which leaves both parties feeling lonely and unhappy.

Does this sound like the kind of marriage you want? One that strangles your growth in Christ or strangles your growth as a couple, or does both? Think back to that off-cited passage in 2 Corinthians 6:14 about being “unequally yoked.” Most of us no longer live in an agrarian culture, but try to visualize what would happen if a farmer yoked together, say, an ox and a donkey. The heavy wooden yoke, designed to harness the strength of the team, would be askew, as the animals are of different heights, weights, walk at different speeds and with different gaits. The yoke, instead of harnessing the power of the team to complete the task, would rub and chafe BOTH animals, since the load would be distributed unequally. An unequal marriage is not just unwise for the Christian, it is also unfair to the non-Christian, and will end up being a trial for them both.

OUR EXPERIENCE

Full disclosure: One of our sons began spending time a few years back with a secular woman from a Jewish background. He heard us talk about the sorrows (and disobedience) of being married to a non-Christian for years, so he knew it wasn’t an option (something we reminded him of quite forcefully). Nevertheless, their friendship grew and developed into something more. To his credit, our son told her: “I can’t marry you unless you are a Christian, and you can’t become a Christian just to marry me. I’ll sit with you in church, but if you are serious about exploring Christianity you will have to do it on your own—find your own small group, read books, talk to people other than me.” Fortunately, she is a woman of great integrity and grit, and she set herself to looking into the truth claims of the Bible. As she grew closer to saving faith, to our surprise our son began growing in his faith in order to keep up with her! She said to me one day, “You know, your son should never have been seeing me!” She did come to faith, and he held the water when she was baptized. The next week he proposed, and they have been married for two and a half years, both growing, both struggling, both repenting. We love them both and are so grateful that she is both in our family and also in the body of Christ.

I only mention the above personal history because so many of our friends in the ministry have seen different outcomes—children who marry outside the faith. The takeaway lesson for me is that even in pastoral homes, where the things of God are taught and discussed, and where children have a pretty good window on seeing their parents counsel broken marriages, believing children toy with relationships that grow deeper than they expect, ending in marriages that don’t always have happy endings. If this is true in the families of Christian leaders, what of the flock? We need to hear the voices of men and women who are in unequal marriages and know to their sorrow why it is not merely a disobedient choice, but an unwise one.

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a friend with us

marmsky December 2017 (14)devotional post # 2230

Numbers 1:22-23

Num 1:22  Of the sons of Simeon, referencing their historical lineage, by their clans, by their patriarchal houses, those of them who were mustered, according to the number of names, head by head, every male from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war:
Num 1:23  those mustered of the tribe of Simeon were 59,300.

a friend with us

Simeon’s general was Shelumiel, whose name said “my friend is God.” For the 59,300 soldiers who followed Shelumiel into battle, it was an encouragement to know that they had a powerful friend who would be at their side when they fought.

Whatever challenge we face as we seek to obey the LORD and do his will, we can be assured that he is there. Jesus promised his disciples that he would be with them always, even to the end of the age. We have a friend who fights with us when we fight.

LORD, thank you for going with us into the dark places we must go, because you are our friend.

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Advent Meditation

Two Kinds of Opposition to Jesus

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)

John Piper

Jesus is troubling to people who do not want to worship him, and he brings out opposition for those who do. This is probably not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is inescapable as the story goes on.

In this story, there are two kinds of people who do not want to worship Jesus, the Messiah.

The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented by the chief priests and scribes. Verse 4: “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Well, they told him, and that was that: back to business as usual. The sheer silence and inactivity of the leaders is overwhelming in view of the magnitude of what was happening.

And notice, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” In other words, the rumor was going around that someone thought the Messiah was born. The inactivity on the part of chief priests is staggering — why not go with the magi? They are not interested. They do not want to worship the true God.

The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus is the kind who is deeply threatened by him. That is Herod in this story. He is really afraid. So much so that he schemes and lies and then commits mass murder just to get rid of Jesus.

So today these two kinds of opposition will come against Christ and his worshipers. Indifference and hostility. Are you in one of those groups?

Let this Christmas be the time when you reconsider the Messiah and ponder what it is to worship him.
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