Reflection on Mark 1:21-28

Scripture

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching- and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”

Observation
The disciples go to Capernaum where Jesus goes to the synagogue to teach. The people are amazed because He teaches with authority.

A demonised man cries out “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Jesus commands the demon to be silent and then to come out of him.

The people are amazed by His authority over demons as well as His authority in teaching.

Application
Jesus, the Son of God, has authority to teach. He is the Truth, and His words carry the truth about God. Because He is the Truth, there is no lie, deception or error in His words.

Jesus also has authority in His deeds. He is the Creator and sustains all things. The winds and the waves obey Him, as do the evil spirits- they are all a part of His creation.

Jesus gives us the same authority. To the extent that we surrender ourselves to Him, we also can cast out demons and speak truthfully about God.

Prayer
Lord Jesus you alone are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Please help me to align my thoughts with your authority. Amen.

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Reflection on 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

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Scripture

But just as you excel at everything- in faith, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in your love for us- see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Observation

In writing of an offering to help christians suffering hardship, Paul talks about the Macedonian churches who, despite being poor, gave more than they were able to afford. He encourages the church at Corinth to excel in this grace of giving in the same way they excel in faith, in knowledge, passion for Christ and in love for Paul.

Their giving the previous year was an example for many and now they are to complete the work they started. This way the richer churches can help the poorer ones.

Application

The topic of money is often a touchy subject amongst christians, especially for those who allow money to be an idol.

The reality is that as long as we live on this earth it requires money to support those in ministry, to maintain buildings, to send missionaries and to help the poor.

Christians have a responsibility to, as Paul puts it, excel in the grace of giving.

As we practise this grace, we find that God grows our ability to both receive and to give even more.

Prayer

Father please show me how to be faithful in the use of my money. Teach me to excel in the grace of giving. Amen.

Everywhere Hit Hardest by Climate Change

You know climate change must be real when everywhere is supposedly the hardest hit by those hundredths of a degree temperature changes. It’s a bit like cancer being caused by everything.

From Jo Nova:

Climate change will hit “Everywhere” harder than “rest of world”

The Prophets of Doom are still at  The Guardian (and the CSIRO)

Climate change will hit Australia harder than rest of world, study shows

The first paragraph contains the word “could”. It’s all a guess based on models they already know are broken:

Australia could be on track for a temperature rise of more than 5C by the end of the century, outstripping the rate of warming experienced by the rest of the world, unless drastic action is taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions, according to the most comprehensive analysis ever produced of the country’s future climate.

But wait, will Australia — a rich, low population country with a temperate climate and surrounded by ocean — really be hit harder than the polar regions, the poor, those closest to rising seas and those living in cyclone zones?

A new website called ClimateChangePredictions is keeping track of the “hardest hit” predictions and can’t find a consensus on this one:

“Rural Australians will be the hardest hitby climate change according to Professor Steve Vanderheiden from the Charles Sturt University (CSU)”

“Sydney’s urban areas to be hit hardest by global warming” — ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Sytem Science

“Climate change is faster and more severe in the Arctic than in most of the rest of the world”

There seems to be consensus in the developed world that Africa will be the hardest hit or most affected region, due to anthropogenic climate change.

Bangladesh is one of the hardest hit nations by the impacts of climate change.

Maldives is the most at-risk country in South Asia from climate change impacts”

“…climate change is likely to have the strongest impact on Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden”

Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are the countries that would be worst affected by global warming, according to a European Union report.”

China’s Poor Farmers Hit Hardest by Climate Change.

Middle East, African Countries to Be Hardest Hit by Climate Change

The environment organization Germanwatch compiled a climate risk index. At the top of the 2011 ranking is Thailand.

Vietnam is likely to be among the countries hardest hit by climate change…

So the real question is, where won’t be “hit hardest” by climate change (apart from Tasmania). Can anyone find a headline saying “Climate Change will benefit ______ region?”

Bible Translations

In the English language today we are blessed with dozens of translations of the Scriptures all aiming to convey the meaning of the original texts in our world in our language.

It’s not as easy as it sounds because it’s not just a matter of plugging equivalent words from Greek or Hebrew into their closest English meaning. That’s before you even start to consider underlying meanings and assumptions people in a given place and time make. For example how would you translate the expression “I’m flat out like a lizard on a rock” into normal English let alone another language? Just imagine the lep you have to make across 2000 years or more of history and life experience.

What made me think about this was a reading that Margaret Baxter shared on Sunday morning from Acts 2:42-47 from the New Living Translation:

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[a]), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[b] 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

What tripped me up there was the mentioning of the Lord’s Supper twice. I was looking at it and thinking “that’s not there” even as I was reading the words.

The New International Version puts it this way:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The NIV doesn’t mention the Lord’s Supper or Communion at all. The Greek merely talks about breaking bread, which means sharing a meal together, but in the Christian context also means sharing Communion together. So the NIV is closer to the literal meaning, but the NLT is perhaps closer to what the first christians understood by the phrase.

I think what Luke is trying to convey here is the wonderful sense of community amongst the church. They were always hanging out together, doing ordinary things but also worshipping, listening to the apostles teaching and so on. There was no distinction between “church” and “secular” or “home” stuff.

I like the way the Contemporary English Version expresses it:

42 They spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread and prayed together.
43 Everyone was amazed by the many miracles and wonders that the apostles worked. 44 All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. 45 They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. 46 Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, 47 while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.

Both the NLT and the CEV have footnotes to indicate that the term “breaking bread” means sharing a meal and Holy Communion, but how many read the footnotes?

Does it matter that much? I don’t know.

I am sometimes frustrated when I realise that a particular verse in a particular version doesn’t mean what it seems to say. I guess we need to be thankful that we have so many translations to choose from  and  get on with the job of reading one of them and living out all that God shows us in His word.

Reflection on Deuteronomy 18:15-22

Scripture

“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”

Observation
Moses tells the people of Israel that the Lord will raise up for them a prophet just like Moses. The people are to listen to him just as if the Lord himself has spoken.

If a prophet presumes to speak a word not from the Lord or speaks in the name of other gods, he is to be put to death.

The test of a prophet is that words they speak in the name of the Lord come true. If it doesn’t happen the people are not to fear such a man.

Application
God is raising prophets amongst His people. He has always done this because we need to have a clear understanding of God’s will for us.

There is a two-fold test of prophecy and the prophetic ministry:
does a prediction come true?
Does a person speak in the name of the Lord and no other god?

We should not fear those who claim to be prophets but fail in either of these tests.

We don’t stone false prophets any more, but when someone does go astray we need to see that they are restored to the path of God’s truth.

Prayer
Raise up your prophets Lord. Help them to speak truly and your people to discern wisely. Amen.

Feminism, Porn and Addiction

Great article from Life Site this morning:

 

Feminism’s self-defeating about-face on porn

“Pornography is the theory,” renowned feminist Robin Morgan once wrote, “rape is the practice.”

Indeed, feminists used to widely understand that pornography was, at its very best, dehumanizing and degrading, a product by men and for men that portrayed women only as objects of male desire. At its very worst, it was a gory celebration of the destruction of the feminine, with women being beaten, raped, humiliated, and otherwise assaulted for the perverse pleasures of misogynists who claimed that their woman-hating was a “fetish.”

Today, however, feminists are supposed to be “sex-positive,” which means they have to support pornography, because with over 80% of the male population viewing it, resistance is futile.

Those who oppose pornography are not anti-sex. They are simply wise enough to recognize that pornography is poison. When used as a substitute for love, it is the equivalent of giving salt water to a man dying of thirst—it will merely inflame the desire further without bringing any satisfaction. 

I remember a debate on pornography in one of my first political science classes in university—out of the entire class, only myself and one other guy were opposed to pornography. Most of the guys sat quietly, trying to avoid contributing to the discussion, while a few of the girls were the most vociferous defenders of this filth—almost as if they had something to prove.

Pornography, our new sexual dogmas say, is harmless, if not beneficial. And when I asserted in a number of articles that pornography fuels rape culture, the backlash from guys who couldn’t stop looking at porn was quick and angry.

So I began contacting experts in the field, people who had studied the impact of pornography on men and women. The most revealing and chilling interview I conducted was with Dr. Mary Anne Layden, director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. I had cited her work on pornography and violence before, and wanted to see what sort of things her research had uncovered.

Why, I asked Dr. Layden, did you start researching the links between violence and pornography?

“When I started as a psychotherapist, just about thirty years ago, I started treating patients who were victims of sexual violence and felt a special call to the damage that sexual violence did to these patients,” she replied,

When I had been doing the work for about ten years, because I’m a little bit of a slow learner, it occurred to me that I had not treated one case of sexual violence that didn’t involve pornography… some were rape cases, some were incest cases, some were child molestation cases, some were sexual harassment cases – in all of these different kinds of cases, pornography showed up in every single one.

So I said there seems to be some connection here. Over time, I got interested in what is common in the perpetrators of sexual violence because I realized we were never going to solve the problem of sexual violence by treating victims who’ve been damaged by the problem and treating them one at a time and trying to put them back together. There weren’t enough therapists in the world. There were too many victims in the world. We couldn’t solve this by pulling them out of the river one at a time. We were going to have to go upstream and see who was pushing them in.

And as Dr. Layden discovered, it was the porn industry that was pushing people into the river. Men are not born rapists, she pointed out to me. But for some reason, many are increasingly justifying sexual violence. Why? Because pornography has turned the bodies of women and girls into a commodity. It is shaping the way men see women.

“It’s a product,” Dr. Layden said, her voice getting more emphatic.

This is a business and I think that a lot of pimps would stop doing this if there wasn’t any money involved, but it’s a business and as soon as you tell somebody it’s a product, as soon as you say this something you buy, then this is something you can steal. Those two things are hooked. If you can buy it, you can steal it, and even better if you steal it because then you don’t pay for it. So the sexual exploitation industry, whether it’s strip clubs or prostitution or pornography, is where you buy it. Sexual violence is where you steal it – rape and child molestation and sexual harassment is where you steal it.

So these things are all seamlessly connected. There isn’t a way to draw a bright line of demarcation between rape and prostitution and pornography and child molestation. There are not bright lines of demarcation. The perpetrators are in a common set of beliefs, and when we look at the research we can see some of those common beliefs, so that we know that individuals who are exposed to pornographic media have beliefs such as [thinking that] rape victims like to be raped, they don’t suffer so much when they’re raped, ‘she got what she wanted’ when she was raped, women make false accusations of rape because it isn’t really rape, sex is really either good or great and there isn’t any other option other than good or great, no one is really traumatized by it.

All of these are part of the rape myth. People who use pornography accept the rape myth to a greater degree than others. So we have a sense that pornography is teaching them to think like a rapist and then triggering them to act like rapists.

Pornography, like all other products, has done to the female body what economics always does to any product: If you commodify something, you cheapen it. It’s really that simple. But when your marketing strategy is inflaming lust and appealing to power by degrading women, there are devastating results. As Dr. Layden pointed out to me, we even stop seeing each other as human.

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“When you cheapen sex and you cheapen women’s bodies, when you treat people like things there’s a consequence and one of the consequences is sexual violence but one the consequences is also relationship damage,” she pointed out.

There’s an interesting series of studies that actually highlights a bit of the phenomena of how this works. They were showing people just mildly sexualized pictures. They were men and women in swimsuits, men and women in their underwear, sort of relatively mild sexualized pictures and they showed them either upside right or upside down and looked at the processing in the brain, because it will display a phenomena of which part of your brain you’re using to process that picture that you see.

What we see with men, when people look at men, and look at them in their swimsuits or in their underwear, they’re using the part of their brain that processes humans and human faces but when we look at women in their swimsuits and their underwear we use the part of our brain that processes tools and objects and when you process a woman as a tool or an object you use. The rules that we use when we deal with tools or objects is if it’s not doing its job then throw it away, get another one.

So the feminists years ago said these men are treating women as sex objects and we thought that was a metaphor. It wasn’t a metaphor. It was an actual statement of reality, that they’re using the part of their brain which they use to process objects and things and there’s a consequence in the society when you start treating sex as a product and women as a thing.

Those who point these things out, of course, and those who oppose porn, are condemned as old-fashioned, prudish, and “anti-sex.” When I reminded Dr. Layden of this, she was decidedly unimpressed.

The desire for love is built into us. [One of my colleagues] said, ‘The real damage is that it threatens the loss of love in a world where only love brings happiness.’ That summarizes what we are doing, that everybody is hardwired to love and be loved. That’s what feeds our hungry heart, and we have a generation who are starved and have hungry hearts and yet they are eating the sexual junk food and becoming sexually obese because they’re so starved they would eat junk food if that’s all that’s available to them.

And so partly we need to have people talk about the glory of good sex, the wonderfulness of good sex, of how it bonds committed couples together and helps them keep their promises to each other, that there is a thing called good sexuality that is enhancing and enlivening and is love-based, but all of this sexual junk food that is out there is not it.

In short? Those who oppose pornography are not anti-sex. They are simply wise enough to recognize that pornography is poison. When used as a substitute for love, it is the equivalent of giving salt water to a man dying of thirst—it will merely inflame the desire further without bringing any satisfaction. To Dr. Mary Anne Layden, this is self-evident. And she intends to make sure as many other people as possible see it that way, too.

“If I said to people, ‘I want you to eat healthy food and don’t go to McDonald’s,’ they wouldn’t call me anti-food,” she said. “They would say you just want to promote healthy food and you don’t want people to go see that Supersize Me movie and find out if you eat McDonald’s every day for 30 days you’ll have a fatty liver. Well that’s what I want to do with sexuality. I want to promote healthy, loving, enhancing, soul-feeding sexuality, not sexual junk food.”

And the way to do that? With sky-high rates of porn addiction, is it possible? Dr. Layden has so many ideas that they come out in a rush.

“I think we’ve got to educate ourselves, we’ve got to tell the truth to others, you’ve got to speak truth to authority because once you know this stuff if you’re silent, silence is complicity,” she says.

We’ve got to go in to our schools and our libraries and say you’ve got to protect our children, we’ve got to say to our governments you’ve got to stop spreading permission-giving beliefs and that means don’t legalize prostitution. It tells men that it’s fine and more men will go to prostitutes. We’ve got to have laws against things that damage people; we’ve got to have outrage in this society when sexual violence is swept under the rug, when a professional athlete does it.

We’ve got to come together and have the journalists, the lawyers, the parents to get together as a mighty team and say this society is worth saving, our children are worth saving, sexuality is sacred. We’ve got to do it together and so it takes a concerted effort … When I hear people say we can’t put the genie back in the bottle I say fifty years ago 60% of the people in New York City smoked, today 18% in NYC smoke. Put the genie back in the bottle. We can do this one as well and it’s worth doing.

Like Dr. Mary Anne Layden, I am not anti-sex, although I don’t particularly object to being called old-fashioned. I am, however, very anti-porn—and that is because pornography is rapidly turning healthy, loving, and committed relationships into something “old-fashioned.” It is robbing the current generation of their ability to enjoy life-long and happy commitments. And as such, we have a responsibility to heed the call of Dr. Layden and so many other experts to fight the porn threat wherever it is found. Those who claim that pornography is harmless are, at the end of the day, woefully uneducated.