Sunday, March 30, 2008

Preached at Cradley Chapel

I preached at Cradley Chapel again. There were very few people there. However, I did bring a couple of friends with me, one of whom took the opporunity to accompany the hymns on the piano.

My service had four hymns and lasted 45 minutes.

I hope you will be edified by my sermon:

Jude
5 ¶ I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.

6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

7 Even as Sodom and Gomor'rah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

8 ¶ Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.


The epistle of Jude is such a short book of the New Testament that it often tends to get forgotten.

It is about false teachers and about how these men are going to get their comeuppance.

I am going to focus on verse 6:

“And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day.”


This must be a very important verse. Does anybody know why I say this must be an important verse?





Because Peter wrote an almost identical statement in an almost identical passage in his second epistle. Scholars fail to agree about whether Jude copied Peter or Peter copied Jude. It is not very important, as we know the Holy Spirit inspired both passages.

A few weeks ago, the United Nations criticised Britain. For some reason the UN likes to criticise our country all the time. They complained about how celebrities like Peter Doherty and Amy Winehouse get away with using drugs. They argued that these are dangerous role models for young people.

Just imagine if we read in the newspaper that Amy Winehouse had been convicted of possessing drugs. And she was going to be sentenced to prison.














You can just imagine what the Daily Mail would say. They would praise the courts. They would say this is an excellent move. It sends the message that nobody, no matter how rich or famous can get away with taking drugs.

Now, it may well be that it would not make any difference. Perhaps young people would take drugs anyway. But you can imagine the delight with which many people would greet such a conviction.

We see a similar thing here. The angels that kept not their first estate were condemned for their sin and bound up in chains. If God does not spare these angels, how much will He not spare those who teach falsehoods and heresies in His name?

There is the question of who these angels are. Some hold that they are Satan’s angels. Indeed, many angels rebelled with Satan.












However, this cannot be. For those angels are free. We read in Ephesians that we are at war against principalities and powers in heavenly places, against the rulers of darkness. Satan’s angels are not in hell, but in heaven, where they make war on God’s kingdom. The angels that kept not their estate are helpless. They are defeated.

In the next verse we read of the sexual immorality of Sodom. This gives strong support to the view that the angels here are those Sons of God that are referred to in Genesis 6. They did not keep their estate in heaven, but came to earth and committed sexual immorality with human women. From them the race of giants came. You are welcome to disagree with me about this and debate it with me afterwards, but it seems to me that there is good reason for making a connection between Jude and Genesis 6.

I would also suggest that these angels are the ‘Spirits in prison’ referred to in 1 Peter. Peter tells us that Christ preached unto the ‘Spirits in prison’ which were disobedient in the days of Noah. This would have taken place in between His death and resurrection.

Clearly, the angels in prison were not being given a second chance. The message our Lord preached to them was a message of victory and triumph.

Indeed, Christ’s triumph has been declared to the angelic world. All thrones and dominions in heaven were created for Him. And He is exalted over all of them. We read in Colossians that Christ has made a show of principalities and powers. They have been humiliated before Him. I think that would seem to be in view in Peter’s comment about the spirits in prison.

It is easy to forget that beyond this world, there is a vast world of angelic beings, thousands and thousands of them. They are witnesses of God’s dealings with man. Christ is exalted above them all and He is made ruler over them. Those who are in Christ, who have placed their trust in Him can share that position of rulership over the angelic world. The Christian is called to judge angels and to be lord over them.

This passage is a reminder of the awful reality of hell. Hell is real. There are many churches where there is never any preaching on hell. There are some theologians who deny the reality of hell.

If we believe what the Bible says, we cannot deny the reality of everlasting punishment. And we cannot hide it. Brethren, we must preach it and we must preach the good news that Jesus Christ has delivered us from this place.

The angels are special to God. He created them first. He gave them a place of privilege and glory. Yet these angels who sinned against Him were cast into hell.

If God sent angels to hell, how much more is He prepared to condemn forever those who reject Him and His way of salvation?











If you are here today and you are not a Christian I have a warning for you. If you continue to reject Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers, you will go to hell. There is everlasting torment for those who reject Christ. I don't like having to say that, but it is the truth. Yet if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you can be delivered from hell and receive everlasting life. You can know everlasting joy and everlasting peace.

The failure of these angels is an important warning about apostasy. These angels were great in power and glory, yet they fell into sin and rebellion. They fell from a great height.

Likewise much of Christianity has been removed from its original standing. Through the Church, the Gospel has been made known. The power of the Holy Spirit has been manifested in the Church. The New Testament has been entrusted to Christians.

Yet how far has Christianity fallen!

I need not remind you of the gross errors of the Roman Catholic church; of the idolatry of the mass, the worship of Mary and Saints, of the supposed infallibility of the Pope.

But we must not let Protestants get off lightly.

A Roman Catholic priest was once told by a Protestant that the Roman Church was the Whore of Babylon spoken of in Revelation chapter 17. He replied “Ah, but who are her daughters?”

We have seen bishops who deny the virgin birth and even the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you ask the average minister in any denomination whether he believes the Bible, you are unlikely to get a straight answer.

I need not remind you of the scandal of television evangelists who squander huge amounts of money and get caught out in scandals. Or the scandal of the thousands of Protestant denominations divided against each other.

Christianity is in a sorry state.

Yet God will judge apostate Christianity. The book of Revelation prophesies God’s judgement upon Mystery Babylon, which many commentators take to be a corrupted form of false Christianity, just like the false teachers that Jude speaks of. Judgment begins with the house of God.

However, all over the earth, the Holy Spirit is moving. Men and women are still being born-again and coming to new life in Christ.

We must also recognise the possibility of the failure of individual believers. The child of God can fail in His service. The believer can fall into sin and error.

David, that great man of the Old Testament, chosen to be king of Israel, committed adultery and murder. In the New Tesament, Peter denied the Lord three times and later compromised the Gospel by his incosistent conduct towards the Gentiles.

Yet praise be to the Lord, we are saved by grace. Our salvation does not depend upon our worthiness, but upon God’s grace.

The apostle Paul spoke about those who had made shipwreck their faith. The author of Hebrews gives us many warnings against falling away.

You might then ask: "Is it possible for a born again believer to go to hell?" The Lord forbid! No, the Christian has received everlasting life. Once you have drunk of the water of life, you shall never thirst again. Those who are in Christ shall be with Him forever. They belong to Him.

However, there are consequences for failure in the Christian life. We read in 1 Corinthians about believers who were sinning suffering from sickness as God’s judgment. That is not to say that all sickness is because of sin, but the Lord does use physical suffering as a means of disciplining His children.











If we continue in sin, there is the possibility that the Lord may take us home. You have read about Ananias and Saphirah in Acts. They lied to the Holy Ghost and were cut down dead. No doubt, they went to heaven, but what a tragedy that their lives were wasted. They lost the opportunity to spend their lives serving their saviour. We see no mention of their children, so perhaps they were a young couple, in which case their story is even more tragic.

There are consequences after death too. Paul wrote in Corinthians about the judgment seat of Christ. If any man's work is burned up he shall suffer loss. Not loss of salvation, of course, but loss of rewards. Sometimes you hear Christians say "I'm not worried about rewards, I just want to get to heaven." I tell you this is foolishness. Our Lord commanded us to seek treasures in heaven. You may not worry about rewards now, but you will be disappointed when you get to heaven and you missed out on them.

Paul speaks about reigning with Christ. "If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him." What a tragedy it would be to miss out on reigning with Christ. Let us labour for that inheritance in heaven.

Yet we must not be discouraged. If we are in Christ, we are a new creation. We are indwellt with the Holy Spirit. We have the power to overcome. Were we to depend on our own strength in the Christian life we should surely fail. But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

At the end of this epistle, Jude reminds us that the Lord is able to keep us from falling. The Lord is able to keep us strong in the Christian walk if we keep our faith in Him, if we keep looking to Him.

Brethren, look to Christ day by day, moment by moment. Think on Him. That way you will be reminded of His power to keep you from falling. If we overcome this world we shall receive a glorious inheritance in the kingdom. We shall reign with Christ and become lords over the angels and all of creation. That is one great incentive for carrying on and never giving up in our Christian walk.

British Summertime

The clocks changed last night. It is officially British summer time. It is a lovely warm day today.

Yesterday, I wore short trousers for the first time this year. Despite the rain we had. I am an optimist.

Too bad I was preaching this morning and had to wear a suit.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Times: Gordon Brown: Stalin to Has-been

Times: Gordon Brown: Stalin to Has-been

'There's his penchant for reviews and dithering. Then there are the sat-nav problems'

article by Ann Treneman

I really don't like the prime minister.

Times: The State works. Have faith

Times: The State works. Have faith

article by Matthew Paris

Some great balanced thinking from a former Conservative member of parliament.

What I am listening to right now


Right now I am listening to Minor Threat, a hardcore punk band from the 1980s.

Minor Threat were the original straightedge band. Straightedge was a movement in American hardcore punk rock that rejected the use of drugs, alcohol and casual sex.

Back when I was 17 and 18, after I had given up alcohol (after a horrible experience on a drunken night out) I aspired to be straightedge. I was mocked by other students at high school because I did not drink, smoke or use Marijuana, so it was really encouraging to think that there was a radical movement that was opposed to that stuff. The straightedge identity made me feel confident in my rejection of the values of my fellow students. Later when my commitment to the Christian faith became more intensified, I no longer felt the need to identify myself as straightedge.

Now that I have become the great beer lover that I am now, I can no longer agree with the straightedge thing (though I do work in substance abuse treatment). However, I do like straightedge hardcore and admire the spirit of it.

It is kind of nice to think that there was a youth subculture that rejected degenerate and hedonistic lifestyles. Straightedge also avoided the negative political posturing of a lot of punk rock and instead presented a far more positive lyrical message.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Times: This organic view is bananas

Times: This organic view is bananas

'Why should African farmers suffer because do-gooders are trying to cut carbon emissions?'

Article by Mick Hume

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why seek ye the living among the dead?



John Rodham Spencer Stanhope, late 19th century



Annibale Carracci, ca. 1590

Friday, March 21, 2008

Prometheus Institute: Doling for Columbine- Five Reasons Why Welfare Should Be a Libertarian Cause

Prometheus Institute: Doling for Columbine- Five Reasons Why Welfare Should Be a Libertarian Cause

A very good article from the Prometheus Institute arguing for the compatibility of social security and libertarianism. I would have liked to have seen some mention of housing as a distinct issue, but the author might not see eye to eye with me on that.

This article was published by the Prometheus Institute, an American think tank promoting Libertarianism. I am too much of a pragmatist to endorse Libertarianism as an ideology and too much of a Neo-Con to agree with them on foreign policy. However, there are some great ideas here.

What impresses me about the Prometheus Institute is that their Libertarianism is very balanced and moderate. They allow for some limited regulation of market forces and are in favour of a state assistance in health care. They are not advocates of Anarcho-Capitalism or Social Darwinism. They do not support the Libertarian Party either.

They have an interesting article on healtcare in the USA:
Avoiding Dr. Leviathan- Five Ways to Solve America’s Health Care Crisis Without Accruing Massive Debt

I cannot say whether or not I agree; I know little about healthcare in America.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Strangers into Citizens

Strangers into Citizens

A campaign to give an amnesty to illegal immigrants in the UK.

A most excellent idea, in my opinion.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thoughts on the Far Right

I had a brief look at the British National Party's online shop, Excalibur. It was quite interesting. I was interested to notice a CD that can be found in my own CD collection.

There was a big emphasis in the material on the pagan, pre-Christian people of England. That interest mirrors the interests of those in the Scandinavian Black Metal scene who have adopted Far Right nationalists views. Individuals like Varg Vikernes combine a celebration of pagan culture with a sympathy for National Socialism. This commonality reflects the paradox of extreme nationalists; the fact they are so similar. The artist whose CD I recognised on the online shop, as it happens, is German.

Far Right groups across Europe use similar imagery, have similar policies, similar tactics and values. And frequently there is a good deal of co-operation between extreme nationalists in one country and another. One could almost imagine (though I would hardly relish it) a European Union made up of countries that had Far Right governments. Except they are against the European Union and want to stay separate from each other. Thus, the paradox of very similar people working towards the same ends and using similar means, yet at the same time wanting to be utterly separate.

I am proud of my country. I am proud of the British way of life and the great achievements of my countrymen in the past. However, being patriotic about being British helps me to understand the pride that other nationalities have in their own countries. They also have things to be proud about. Thus, if these people have things to be proud about in their own heritage, Britain can surely benefit from receiving these people into our shores to work. I believe that the diversity of modern Britain is a positive force. We are able to maintain pride in our nation and our past while at the same time delighting in the cultures of others and tolerating the different ways that those who come to our country live. We British are a tolerant people. We believe in minding our own business and not forcing people to do things a different way.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A postmodern thought

I have lately been thinking it would be fun to wear Skinhead type clothing- an MA1 Bomber jacket, braces (braces are rather hard to come by in shops these days- too passe), Ben Sherman shirt, combat boots. That would be such an ironic postmodern statement.

I dont think I would do the haircut though. I think my side parting and no.2 at the back and sides is a right-wing enough haircut.

Only trouble with getting a pair of combat boots though, would be that they would take so long to lace and unlace. I could never wear them if I was going to somebody's house as a guest. I would be messing about for ages in their hallway undoing the ten eyelets.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Job worshipping with his family (William Blake)




The picture at the top shows Job worshipping with his family before his tragedy and trial. The second picture shows Job worshipping with his wife and his ten new children after the return of his prosperity.

Can you see some differences between the two pictures?

In the first picture, the worship is very formal. The musical instruments are not being used; they have been hung up on the tree. In contrast, the worship in the later scene seems far more joyful and heartfelt. The musical instruments are now in use, giving joyful song.

It is fascinating that William Blake has shown Job's worship after his trial to be more joyful and sincere than that of his earlier prosperity. It is so true that often trials and suffering deepen our love for the Lord and help us to draw closer to Him.

I believe holding a time of family devotion and worship can be extremely beneficial. It may be difficult to find time for such activity in a busy schedule, but if a family cannot worship at home, when can it worship? If worship is a fundamental part of what God intends for our lives, it ought to be a part of our family life. Children can only learn the ways of the Lord when they are living in a home where Scripture is central to family life.

Re-assuring

A couple of people, a young man and a young woman were wearing flip flops at the evening service at church. I was not wearing flip flops myself, but it was rather re-assuring to know I am not the only who has been wearing flip flops and sandals in March.

A couple of years ago, it was really trendy to wear flip flops all year around, even in winter. That fashion seems to have passed, probably because of the popularity of boots and ballet pumps among girls.

For a theology postgraduate who reads Fantasy literature, I am surprisingly fashion conscious. I do like to pay attention to what people are wearing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Times: Delia Smith has sinned against the foodie priesthood

Times: Delia Smith has sinned against the foodie priesthood

'Frozen or tinned food is a great human advance, not a sign of moral decay'

Article by Mick Hume

"Delia's sin in her new book and series is to stray from the organic orthodoxy preached by the priesthood of celebrity chefs. She champions cheap and quick recipes using (the horror!) frozen and tinned food, and has offended the Green and the Good further by insisting that battery chicken is necessary to feed hard-up families."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chicken stir-fry of vaguely Japanese character

My home fellowship held a mission night yesterday which was accompanied by food from around the world.

I brought a stir-fry I had cooked which was of vaguely Japanese character. The smell did remind me of Japan, but maybe I was just recalling some of the food I cooked myself while I was there.

The most Japanese ingredient I used was of course Miso. I would have liked to have put some Sake in, but I did not have any. The closest thing we do have in taste is sherry, so I put some of that in.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Coats of Arms


Hungary


Bohemia


Moravia

Wearing Flip Flops in March

We had glorious sunshine this morning (with some rain this evening and seriously bad weather approaching the country tonight).

The warm weather gave me the opportunity to wear to church some of the cool summer clothes I bought on Monday.

I wore a khaki short-sleeved workshirt with Japanese lettering and a pair of grey combat trousers. I finished the look with a pair of green flip flops that I got last summer.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Holsten Pils beer

I am trying Holsten Pils beer from Germany right now. It is not bad, but not that exciting. It is 5% in volume. It kind of tastes strong. The alcoholic content comes through in the taste, though I have tried far stronger beers than this.

A colleague of mine says it is the beer for people who get into fights. Whenever he talks to people who get into trouble for fighting, he says it is invariably Holsten Pils that they drink.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I am 27 Today


Oh dear. I am another year older today. I stopped liking birthdays when I got to 24. Just three more years before I am 30.

H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)


Being a patriotic Englishman, I believe that Dr Who is among the finest Science Fiction ever. One of the things I have come to discover is how much Dr Who was influenced by the American horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft. About 50% of Dr Who stories take something from Lovecraft in some way.

Most horror literature is not worth reading. Most provides cheap and unpleasent thrills. However, H.P. Lovecraft is one horror writer who wrote some excellent stories that are among the best in the genre.

Lovecraft's stories present a vivid world in which hidden entities lurk in dark corners, slimy, tentacled beings, yet creatures of immense power.





These stories are fascinating because they present a worldview. Lovecraft's atheism lead him to see the cosmos as essentially chaotic. Mankind is helpless and hopelessly lost in a meaningless struggle for existence. There is a considerable lack of beauty in Lovecraft's work. He dwellt on ugliness and terror. The godlike horrors that he uses as his villains are not so much evil as indifferent to humanity. Like his view of the cosmos, his evil aliens simply do not care about humanity and will dispose of human life at leisure. This bleak worldview is the natural conclusion of atheism. A world without God is an hopeless world. Those who do not believe in God may well despair of life.




I once heard a preacher praising J.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings.' He pointed out how Tolkien creates the sense of absolute evil. There is nothing ambigous about the evil of Sauron. There is a sense of rotteness about the villains of Lord of the Rings. Lovecraft also captured this sense of rottenness. The difference being that there is no good power to counter-balance them in his fictional universe. The alien monsters of Lovecraft reflect the hopelessness of his worldview.

As Christians we agree with Lovecraft's fictional world that there are evil alien beings out there that affect this world. The Bible tells us that this world is the kingdom of Satan, who is its god. The Bible speaks of 'principalities and powers' in the heavenly realms. There are alien life forms that are hostile to us and to God's kingdom. However, in Christ, we posess the power to have victory over these ancient beings.


Lovecraft's alien beings, sometimes described as 'Old Ones' are deeply interesting. Sometimes they are presented as creatures from another dimension, sometimes as simply aliens from another planet. It is unclear what they are and his descriptions of them reflect that fact. Sometimes they are described in spiritual terms. Sometimes, like the Fungi from Yuggoth, they are seen as part vegatable. This tension between spirituality and physicality is interesting to me as a Christian theologian. We read in the New Testament about the resurrection body. It is clearly a physical resurrection; yet at the same time, the resurrection body is a different kind of body, a spiritual body. While many Christians think that angels are bodiless spirits, I would argue that there is enormous biblical evidence that angels have bodies that, like those that resurrected saints shall posess, are both physical and spiritual.



















For those brave enough to try dipping in to Lovecraft, I would recommend first reading At the Mountains of Madness, which is a sort of science fiction story about the ruins of an ancient alien city discovered in the Antarctic. This city is described with great vividness. One almost feels like it is real. The Whisperer in Darkness is one of my favorites, and is perhaps one of his creepiest. This is about fungoid aliens that are unseen throughout the story.

Prohibitions (PDF)

Prohibitions (PDF)

An excellent collection of essays critiquing the prohibition of a wide variety of activities from gambling to gun ownership. Published by the Insitute for Economic Affairs, they advocate a libertarian approach to these matters.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Times: Get your cocaine from Superdrug

Times: Get your cocaine from Superdrug

'The celebrity glamorisation of drugs is irrelevant. There would be huge benefits from legalisation.'

Article by Camilla Cavendish

It is unfortunate that governments are so reluctant to consider the case for legalization of illicit substances.

Cheering in Bed

I cheered in my bed when I heard the news on the radion that Hillary had won in Ohio and McCain had got the Republican nomination.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

Times: No Heathrow runway? Stop flying

Times: No Heathrow runway? Stop flying

'The objectors to the Heathrow expansion are hypocrites if they plan to use planes as normal.'

Article by David Aaronovitch

Hardcore Techno Music

I was listening to some Hardcore Techno/ Rave music earlier. Not the sort of thing I usually listen to, but I wanted to try something a little different.

Maybe I will have to host a rave sometime at our house. That would be fun. Just as long as everybody removes their shoes at the door.

Clothes Shopping!

I went on a shopping spree for clothes today. Being the stylish, wardrobe conscious dude that I am, I have spent winter thinking about my next summer wardrobe (It's always summer in my heart).

The summer clothes were back in the high street stores last month and I could not hold back any longer.

I got some great clothes from Republica, Topman, River Island and Next.

I suspect my sudden urge to buy lots of trendy clothes may have something to do with my approaching 27th birthday on Friday.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Times: Carrier bags last 1,000 years? Fantastic!

Times: Carrier bags last 1,000 years? Fantastic!

"The self-righteous eco-bullies at the checkout"

Article by Melanie Reid

And the reason people are not going to give up plastic bags? It's because they are so useful: so very, very useful, in fact, that it's hard to think of a single other household item that has more applications across every facet of our lives. Plastic bags, one might say, if it is not in too bad taste, are embedded in society to a much greater extent than they are inside a porpoise's gullet. And that is the flaw at the heart of the anti-bag campaign. You might as well try to ban glass, or fridges, bicycles or handkerchiefs; for plastic bags are just as irreplaceable. One can genuinely ask, what did we do before they were invented?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Nostromo by SleepResearch_Facility


I just listened to an amazing record, Nostromo by SleepResearch_Facility.

This music is ambient. It is on the extreme experimental side of ambient, however. There is absolutely no rhythm or melody in it, just noise.

The music is inspired by the film Alien. At the start of this film, the spaceship Nostromo is drifting through space with the crew in deep sleep. The spaceship is quiet, but not silent, for we hear the sounds of machinery keeping it in motion and keeping the crew alive.

This album is made up of dronings, bleepings and humming. It creates the atmosphere of a computer-controlled electronic environment. It is highly relaxing music, but also quite thought-provoking.