Free Speech – Going, going, gone?

I read this some while ago now at the recommendation of a friend (Thanks Nick!). Having checked the revisions, I first started writing this over a year ago. I’m staggered at how things have moved!

The author, Mick Hulme is an atheist but the subject of Free Speech is something that should unite both Atheist and Christian alike and this book does that. It’s been in my ‘Draft’ folder for a while but the book’s relevance continues. Indeed, the book seems to have more relevance each week. There’s so much to quote you might as well go and buy it. The following extracts will suffice for now. Note especially this line: ‘Free speech means you are also free to talk back as you see fit‘. So talking and talking back. Sounds very much like a conversation – even a heated conversation.

‘If it is to mean anything, free speech has to live up to its name. This is the hardest thing for many who claim to endorse the principle to remember in practice. It means that what others say or write need not conform to what you, I, or anybody else might prefer.

Here is the terrible truth about free speech. Anybody can choose to write, blog, tweet, chant, preach, phone a radio program or shout at a television set. Not all of them will have the purity of soul of Jesus Christ or Joan Rivers, the wisdom of Socrates or Simon Cowell, or the good manners of Prince Harry or Piers Morgan. That’s tough. They still get the same access to free speech as the rest of us, whether we like it or not.

Defending the unfettered Free in free speech is not a question of endorsing whatever objectionable or idiotic things might be written or said. Nobody had to find Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons insightful or hilarious in order to stand by its right to publish them. Nor is it a question of being soft and suffering in silence. Free speech means you are also free to talk back as you see fit.

The Free in free speech does mean recognising that free speech is for fools, fanatics and the other fellow too. Like all true liberties, free speech is an indivisible and universal right. We defend it for all or not at all.’

Trigger Warning: Is the fear of being offensive killing free speech?, Mick Hume (Pages. 12 & 13).

In practice, this isn’t easy for Christians – or for anyone else for that matter. Having our faith and our Saviour ridiculed in public isn’t pleasant but is nothing new. And it’s happening all the time directly and indirectly. (I didn’t say we have to like it) Why other lobby groups expect a free pass on abuse and ridicule is quite frankly beyond me. Welcome to the real world. Christians have been living with this reality for centuries. Christians have been pilloried, abused, imprisoned, made fun of, and even burnt. Now, especially in The West, it’s shaming, losing your livelihood and trial by Media. In other countries, right now, like China for example, it’s another story.

In order to apply the principles of democracy, tolerance and free speech, which the UK is supposed to stand for, and even exports (allegedly), is it unreasonable to ask for the liberty to speak freely? By speaking freely I mean as Mick Hume writes ‘Free speech means you are also free to talk back as you see fit.’ This freedom is disappearing. We thank God for the freedoms we enjoy and we should pray that it continues. But what to do? The temptation is to lie down and simply hope it will all go away and suddenly as if by magic all our liberties will be restored. It’s not going to happen. You might remember when Boris Johnson brought the topic of Free-Speech to the fore (which BTW has come back several times – including ‘Any Questions’ BBC Radio 4).

At the end of the book, Mick Hulme has provided a glossary, if you will, of anti-free speech Trigger Warnings that were trotted out several times over the comments by Boris. Nothing has changed in the intervening period, our liberties, or lack of them, continually slip away. How things change, Boris Johnson is now Prime Minister. Incidentally, ‘Boris’ is a passionate believer in Free Speech (correct me if I’m wrong). Consider the torrent of abuse he receives – including from Christians. Just in the last week a Judge ruled against a Doctor for not referring to someone by their preferred way of being addressed. Again, I’m just amazed at how fast things are moving.

Here’s the first two of Mick Hulme’s Glossary:

‘This is not a free-speech issue.’

‘This is a pretty sure sign that yes, it is.
The first shot fired in the silent war on free speech is often an assurance that the bans or proscriptions on speech being demanded really have nothing to do with attacking freedom of expression. Of course, the fraudsters assure us that they support free speech, but this is about something else – hate or harassment, national security or personal safety.
What they usually mean is ‘This not a me-speech issue’. It is not infringing on their free speech, so it’s not a problem. But free speech is not the same as me-speech, never mind me-me-me speech. It is always about defending freedom for the other fellow, for the one who thinks differently.’

Incidentally, there have a few discussions regarding our freedom to Speak and interesting, and alarming, to note the frequency these warnings given by Mick Hume are used. But here’s another one that you will probably have noticed. One more:

‘Of course I believe in free speech, but…’

‘This is the one most often guaranteed to give the game away that no, in fact, you don’t.
Ours is the age of the but-heads, when almost nobody opposes free speech ‘in principle’, but Principle is seemingly another country and they do things differently there. In Practice, back here on Earth, many have a ‘but’ to wave around in the face of free speech to explain why the freedom to express an opinion should go thus far, but no further, like ‘free’-range livestock caged in a pen.
This might sound reasonable. But (to use the only language some people seem to understand) the problem is that, like all meaningful liberties, free speech has to be a universal and indivisible right. Once you apply a ‘but’ impose conditions or attach a string, it ceases to be a right. Instead it becomes a concession to be rationed by somebody in authority.
Those ubiquitous ‘buts’ don’t just qualify a commitment to free speech, they crush it. To claim to believe in free speech, but … is akin to insisting that you believe in an Almighty God, but you don’t think He’s all that. It might be better if the but-heads came clean and confessed that they don’t really believe in free speech after all.’

Having said all the above, does that mean we can say whatever we like in an absolute sense? By absolute, I mean saying whatever you like without any eternal consequence. I accept that as Christians we ought to weigh our words carefully and I’ll be the first to confess that I may have overstepped the mark on occasion. We should all consider some words from the Bible. Of course, the Bible is itself soon to be labeled Hate Speech (Gen 1:27). The Bible is considered by some as outrageous, and probably to some extent by Mick Hume, but he doesn’t (I assume) want to close me down or have me arrested for having a different view or even for calling him a sinner. The fact is, Jesus said that every idle word we say will be brought into the judgment.

Mat 12:36  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless (idle AV) word they speak,
Mat 12:37  for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (ESV)

That is serious stuff but I still believe people have the right to call me a nutcase and say what they like about the Christian faith. In this life Jesus said every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven: except a final rejection of the Salvation offered by God. But right now, your sin, no matter how grievous, and no matter how you may have railed against your God, it can all be forgiven.

JACO Biography – A Kind Of Review

If like me you love Jaco’s bass playing but know little about the man then this book could be the book for you. The strapline to the book is ‘The extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius.’ Do realise his life was extraordinary, but it was also very tragic. Just a little bit about the book itself. This is the Anniversary Edition of JACO by Bill Milkowski. The text is really dense. It’s a small font for the size of book and sometimes the pages are just a mass of text. But, it is very well written and very readable with several pictures, plus lots of anecdotes and quotes from those that knew him and played with him. Throughout there are a lot of memories of other musicians that first heard him with Sixty Three reflections (Not all good) on his life and music at the end. To use a colloquialism – they were usually ‘gobsmacked’ by his ability and creativity. There’s a fair bit of fruity language – the F-word and S-word are frequently used. However, I found it to be a page turner. There’s also a fairly decent index (in a very tiny font) and a full discography – most of which I was completely unaware of although I knew he played with Joni Mitchell.

Here’s the first paragraph or so in the acknowledgments (p. vii):

‘It’s a rare privilege to be able to revisit an old work and refine, update, expand, and otherwise sculpt it into a better, more satisfying shape. With a fresh perspective afforded by the passing of ten years since the original printing of The Extraordinary And Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius — along with new information gathered, new insights provided by key figures missed the first time around, and the wisdom and empathy that comes with fatherhood — I was able to “do this thing correct,” as Jaco would say.’

Part of his mission, says Milkowski, was ‘to paint a richer, more detailed portrait of Jaco’s early, pre-Weather Report years in Fort Lauderdale, where he was at his happiest and healthiest — a straight-arrow Family man and dedicated musician at the peak of his powers.’

He also wanted to ‘more closely examine the final 24 hours leading up to the savage beating that put Jaco in a coma for nine days and resulted in his ultimate demise on September 21, 1987.’

I was listening to Jaco Pastorius back in the 1970’s when I started listening to fusion styles of jazz (Chick Corea – Return to Forever; Mahavishnu Orchestra) which at the time led me to buy albums by Miroslav Vitous (Bass), Tomasz Stańko (Trumpet) which was just an extension of the other weird stuff (Henry Cow, Gong, Soft Machine) most people thought I was listening to. I was playing the guitar a bit but it never went anywhere but I did at least have the ear (I think) to know when I was listening to something special. Like lots of people then, it seems, listening to Jaco made me sit up and realise this was definitely someone special.

I actually managed to see Weather Report at The Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, London, but we couldn’t stay to the end as I recall else we’d have missed our train. What a shame. When I only recently saw there was a biography of Jaco it was a no-brainer to get it.

Jaco was blessed with an abundance of ‘natural’ ability. He had perfect pitch, perfect time, a photographic memory and was even physically suited to playing the electric Bass. As if that wasn’t enough he was also an innovator. He had all the attributes of a genius. He also had an obsessive personality that made him want to be the best at whatever he did – and seemed to excel at whatever it was. That didn’t mean he just sat around wallowing in his gifts – he obsessively practiced and practiced and practiced. Even for a genius, there isn’t a short cut. But it seems with genius there’s more often than not a corresponding defect in the personality.

I knew nothing about his early life and was quite surprised at how long he held out with a no-drinking and no-drugs policy. But all the time I’m reading I know things are going to take a tragic turn. The first couple of chapters are upfront and tell of the tragedy. The next few chapters tell of his rise to fame – if I can put it like that – as he reaches the peak of his playing ability and the recognition that went with it. All the while there’s this awful expectation that Jaco’s life is going to turn really bad. There’s a sense of foreboding. As I reach this stage of the book I’m wondering what it was that sent him on a downward spiral.

[This little section I had some quotes to insert here but I’ve misplaced the book so this is from memory: There was mention of him getting drunk but it didn’t seem to be a habitual thing. But, we are told that Joe Zawinul and Jaco would ‘get competitively wasted on a regular basis.’ But Zawinul apparently treated him like a son. You would have thought he would have tried to protect him – but he doesn’t. Not really. Other friends notice a real change at this point.]

Anyway, as far as I can tell, it’s at this time in Jaco’s life where things begin to take a bad turn. On top of the drugs and booze his marriage to Tracy was starting to fall apart. He had a relationship with another woman (perhaps many women) and a relationship with Joni Mitchell born out of their musical / spiritual collaboration.

Ingrid (one of the women) knew it was wrong and she felt Jaco’s Catholic upbringing caused him to feel guilty about what he was doing – and rightly so.

So whether there was already a personality defect and the marriage breaking up coupled with fame, booze, drugs and the pressure of being at the top conspired to form a deadly cocktail that drove him on a downward tragic spiral, I don’t know. But there’s more:

Peter Erskine (Drummer with Weather Report & friend) told his father (As it happens, a Psychologist) about Jaco’s mood swings and without even seeing him diagnosed Jaco to be suffering from Manic Depression – what we now call Bipolar Disorder. It wasn’t until years later Jaco was hospitalised, diagnosed and then treated (with Lithium). In the book ‘Tackling Mental Illness Together: A biblical and practical approach’ by Alan Thomas there’s a section on Bipolar disorder (pp, 168 – 172) in chapter 9 ‘Severe Mental Illnesses.’ In this chapter, Professor Thomas describes what we read about in this biography of Jaco – manic episodes and depression. Lithium is still used with the side-effect of trembling that Jaco experienced – especially in his hands.

Part of the tragedy, maybe the main part, is that instead of hospitalising him, he is idolised and treated as a Cash Cow. He was ill. I recently watched a program on Channel 5 called ‘The Death of Amy Winehouse: 13 Reasons Why.’ There were many sad parallels, especially with drink and drugs. The author brings out quite a few times how life was much simpler, and happier, for Jaco in the early days. Before he became famous, when he wasn’t drinking or taking drugs, when he was happy with his first wife Tracy (‘Portrait of Tracy’).

After reading this I now listen to Jaco’s playing slightly differently. It’s certainly a celebration of masterful playing (a new appreciation for sure)  but it’s tinged with sadness.  

When reading books like this I’m always interested in looking to see what their religious convictions are. And for good reason, there’s a lot hanging on it. But I don’t read to judge. Leastways I try not to anyway. I read with hope. As a Christian, I’ve read biographies with lives that are just about as tragic as it gets in this life but by God’s Grace they have come to know Christ. And so their lives become a testimony to the triumph of grace. Reading these biographies there’s a turn from whatever the darkness might be to the light of Christ and an eternal heritage. There’s redemption. Not so with the life of Jaco. There is no redemption, there is no point at which his life turns around. There is no hope. It does not end well. I do not know if somehow God reached into Jaco’s life at the last moment and we’ll see him in heaven. Maybe. I hope it is so. The night when he was beaten that led to his death, he had talked with Carlos Santana. Santana says ‘…. we talked a little bit about Jesus. That was the last time I saw him. (p. 261).   I have absolutely no idea what ‘talking a little bit about Jesus’ means. Jesus gets a mention a few other times through the book and his ‘spirituality’ is mentioned several times. Again, what that actually means, I have no idea. Jaco was brought up a Catholic and sang in the choir so there was some input. Whether he was saved or not then, I don’t know. I know God is Gracious though, and that it’s He that does the saving, not us.

In summary then, if you’re a fan of Jaco you should read it. But it’s not a fun read. It’s not a fun read because we get to follow, through Bill Milkowski’s excellent book the rise of such an amazing talent as Jaco and then his subsequent destruction and fall, ending in his tragic death.

‘Slowhand’ Eric Clapton Biography – Brief ‘Kind of’ Review

This year I’m trying to read a few non-Christian books. ‘Slowhand’ was on display at the local library, so I decided that it would be a good book to read. Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton by Philip Norman was published last year (2018), so is nicely up to date. I finished it a few weeks ago but as far as the readability goes, it’s easy going and I enjoyed reading it. The text is a nice size and the chapters divide up into easy chunks and are not too long. There’s even an Index (and I used it). As I go through the book I note the dates and think how old I was and what was going on at the time. For example, I was at the Rainbow Concert after just turning nineteen. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 25.

I’ve not picked a guitar up for nearly 40 years, and most likely won’t again, but I remember back then having very heated discussions in the pub over who was the greatest guitarist. At the time (early 1970’s), for me, it was Jan Akkerman (Focus). There were a lot of contenders, so Clapton was probably one of them. I do recall the ‘Clapton is God’ label. There are several songs that I really like. For example White Room, Bell Bottom Blues, Crossroads, and Sunshine of Your Love and even though I heard a lot of his music I never actually owned any of his albums (including Cream) until I recently bought a Best of Eric Clapton CD. I suppose, for me, and it is a matter of taste, the Blues is not my favourite style of music, although I appreciate it when it’s done well. In the Blues genre, Clapton is definitely one of its great exponents and I do like a lot of it.

The book starts with Eric in a Service Station with George Harrison. Initially, I thought it was going to miss his childhood but the author then takes us back to when Eric was born in Ripley. His early childhood, or the effects of it anyway, feature throughout his life. His mother left him when he was two. He thought his mother was his sister and his grandmother was his mother. He found out the terrible deception when he was nine. His grandmother Rose, spoilt him rotten (and continued to do so) and so consequently spoilt him.

Thankfully, there are no graphic descriptions but pretty much everybody, perhaps especially Clapton, lived totally promiscuous lifestyles: even when they were in ‘proper’ relationships or were married. It becomes a bit wearisome to continually read about his constant state of drunkenness or drug abuse. But that was how it was and the author faithfully records it all, while (most of the time) avoiding too many value judgments. There is some strong language in the book but It’s kept to a minimum and isn’t gratuitous. My language was quite extreme before becoming a Christian so to me it’s all quite tame.

I wondered if Clapton came into contact with Christians. He was brought up in a culturally Christian environment, as I was, so he would have some vague knowledge of the Christian faith. Vague knowledge, however, is most often completely wrong. After thinking about that the very next chapter found him undergoing radical treatment for his drug addiction by Christian doctors. The nurse was fired though because her evangelism was a bit too ‘full on’.

The temptation is to be judgemental about him and think of him as a spoilt brat (which he was) who seemed to get away with just about anything and everything (which he mostly did) whilst in the main avoiding the carnage he created for others around him. The way he treated the women in is his life is appalling. So appalling that it becomes impossible for the author not to say something. As the saying goes, however, ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ No matter how much money or talent he had, ultimately, it couldn’t protect him from himself or later tragedy. It’s quite amazing that he has survived as long as he has. So many of his musical peers died while young.

He becomes a father and this finally begins to wake him up to some responsibility. And then tragedy strikes. In just one short paragraph (one sentence really) Norman writes about the death of Connor, Clapton’s four-year-old son. What happened is jaw-dropping. It stopped me in my tracks. So, so, sad.  The service was held in Ripley. I’ve no idea what Christian content there was at the funeral apart from the set C of E service.

In Christian circles, you hear the phrase ‘I don’t know how I’d cope if I weren’t a Christian. But people do. And sometimes they cope rather well. It’s not a phrase I like, even though I understand what’s meant. Clapton appears to change after this. He quits the drugs and the drink and takes control of his life. The last two chapters, I thought, were a bit rushed as we read that his grandmother Rose eventually dies, as does his mother, probably the two most influential people in his life. And so here we are in 2019 and Clapton is still playing. He survived. That is remarkable.

I’d definitely recommend reading it. Especially if you are a fan. I think it was good for me to read it.

 

 

 

That Hideous Strength – How the West Was Lost – Melvin Tinker Part 1

via That Hideous Strength – How the West Was Lost – Melvin Tinker Part 1

That Hideous Strength – Part 2 – The Gender Agenda

via That Hideous Strength – Part 2 – The Gender Agenda

The Christian Worldview & BREXIT (Al Mohler – The Briefing)

Not everyone will agree with this (obviously), but for me, Al Mohler is absolutely spot on with this. Below is the Transcript from Friday’s The Briefing. And THIS LINK for the Audio.


Sovereignty, subsidiarity, and the future of Europe: What the Brexit deal tells us about the prospect of the EU

But next, we turn to another story with huge worldview implications, most of which are simply not acknowledged in the mainstream media coverage. We’re talking about the world’s messiest divorce in history. It’s actually not between a husband and a wife, it is between Britain and the European Union, the so-called Brexit. British voters voted quite unexpectedly in the views of the political elites early in 2016, to leave the European Union for Britain to declare its economic independence and to leave the union that had so characterized Europe in the post-war period.

This was a declaration that Britain intended to exercise and to assert its national sovereignty. But that, of course, led to a huge array of the most complicated questions ever confronted in modern politics. How in the world would a nation like the United Kingdom, which has been so integrated into the European Union exit? The word Brexit, as it became popularly known, was actually a clever political neologism. It was a word coined out of the blue, a combination of Britain and exit, thus Brexit.

…political elites first of all in Europe, but also in the United Kingdom were absolutely confident that the voters in the UK would never vote to leave the European Union. But that’s exactly what they did.

It is really important to notice that the political elites first of all in Europe, but also in the United Kingdom were absolutely confident that the voters in the UK would never vote to leave the European Union. But that’s exactly what they did. This then precipitated to the biggest political crisis in modern diplomatic history. How would the United Kingdom leave the European Union? That’s still an unanswered question. It was declared earlier this week that the British government under Prime Minister Theresa May had reached a Brexit agreement with the forces in Brussels that are responsible for the European Union. It had to be a negotiated exit. This is how complicated the situation is.

Britain had been integrated into the immigration laws, integrated into the border laws, integrated into the economic policies, integrated within the custom system of the European Union. In essence, the European Union that came out of the ashes of the Second World War was an attempt to limit the sovereignty of those European states that would join the union and create a new super national authority, the European Union.

Now, as Christians, we need to pause for a moment and recognize there is a huge problem here. That problem is a violation of the principle of what is called subsidiarity. It’s always good for Christians to be reminded of this principle. Subsidiarity is a basic principle of Christian theology, deeply embedded in the biblical worldview. It tells us that truth and reality and health subside at the most basic unit possible. If that sounds abstract, let me clarify. This means that the greatest unit of meaning is in the smallest unit of structure, which is to say that marriage is actually the centerpiece of civilization. Marriage is not healthy because the civilization is healthy. A civilization is healthy because marriage is healthy.

Marriage, the union of a man and a woman creating a family as that man and the woman have children, that creates the unit of greatest importance to the civilization. The functioning of healthy families is something that is so indispensable that no government at any level can alleviate what is missing if the family is broken. That’s a pathology that is radically demonstrated in American society, and in so many other societies today.

Subsidiarity also tells us that the most important government action is not at the highest level possible, most abstracted from the real lives of people, but rather at the closest level possible. That’s to say, a city government is more likely to be responsive to people, than a supranational authority The United States is more likely as a government to be responsive to its people, than would be the United Nations. This is a basic principle. It’s written into our constitutional order in the system of federalism that marks our constitution. It’s also important to recognize that the intellectual elites both in Europe and in the United States, increasingly have rejected subsidiarity. They have instead argued for a certain kind of internationalism.

In the views of so many, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, bigger is always better. A global authorities better than a national authority, a national authority as far better than a state authority. That we need to note is not only the reversal of the constitutional logic of the United States, it is also the reversal of that basic Christian worldview principle of subsidiarity.

When British voters in early 2016 voted so unexpectedly for Britain to withdraw from the European Union, the arguments were extremely important, and they were generally very straightforward. European leaders argued that Britain could not leave, it must not leave. Because in so leaving it would leave the entire European project. Most major British political leaders in both major British political parties also opposed Brexit. So, this was a populist revolt that in so many ways, was matched by the populist revolt in the United States in the 2016 presidential election. Those two events Brexit in early 2016, the presidential election in the United States at the end of 2016, those really formed the year of the great uprisings in both Britain and the United States.

But Britain’s uprising, the Brexit vote, set into play a series of events that clearly is not over. But there’s a deadline, that deadline, March 29, 2019. That’s a hard exit for the United Kingdom, and that might appear to be the easiest solution except it’s not. It’s extremely complicated. Britain is so interwoven into the European Union, its policies, its economics, its politics, its policies going all the way down to regulations about produce and weights and measures. Furthermore, the very important issues of customs and trade, all of these are so deeply intertwined that it is not easy for just one partner to walk out of this relationship any more than it’s easy for one spouse to leave a marriage.

The metaphor of divorce in this case is almost entirely appropriate. It’s messy. Prime Minister Theresa May appeared to win the support of her cabinet in the middle of this week, only to have her cabinet undermined by two very prominent resignations in protest by those coming from a conservative side who argued that this is a compromise, a further compromise of British sovereignty because under the proposal of the British Prime Minister, Britain would continue to lack control over its own trade and customs, processes and policies. That is indeed a very important infringement of sovereignty.

So, what’s the principle for Christians? Why would Christians in the United States care about this? There’s a huge lesson, the lesson is this: once you surrender sovereignty, it is extremely difficult to get it back. Once you compromise subsidiarity, it is extremely costly to clarify it. There are many in the political elites in the United States who would prefer very clearly to have more federal authority than state authority, more state authority than local authority, and even more authority in international entities above the United States of America. That’s a very dangerous argument. We do live in a global community, but we’re really not a global community. We are a community of nations, but what’s really important is to recognize that the existence of the nation state is itself a protection for human dignity and human rights around the world.

The compromise of that national sovereignty is extremely dangerous. But as I said, for Christians, we understand there’s more than sovereignty at stake here, subsidiarity is at stake. The European Union did come out of the ruins, out of the ashes of World War II with the promise that the violence between states that so marked the 20th century will be overcome by integrating those nations in one big entity. There was actually explicitly the hope of something like a United States of Europe to match the United States of America. But the current European Union is complicated by the fact that the kind of union that had been envisioned, well, it turns out to have been far more idealized than can ever be realized to the perplexity are so many who want to believe that we live in a simple global community. The French continue to speak French and to act French, the Germans speak German and to have characteristics to German culture. That’s true across the board in Europe. And what you see right now in the United Kingdom is that the people of Britain decided we’re simply going to be Britain.

Now the question is: will that actually happen even as the decision of the voters in 2016 was abundantly clear, even if unexpected?

Al Mohler – The Briefing

Giving out Gospel Tracts is hard work.

One Saturday morning members from the church went out into the town to give out evangelistic leaflets and if possible get into a conversation. Our church does this once a month or so. I do not find this ‘cold calling’ style of evangelism easy. In fact, that’s an understatement, I find it incredibly difficult. It’s not talking to people I find difficult, there’s something about giving away literature in that cold manner. I don’t know why this is. Honestly, I question whether this is my calling even though I’ve done it for years – door to door and open-air preaching. Maybe I’m just doing it all wrong.

The last time I experienced something new. Call it what you will but I just completely lost it. It was as if I was paralyzed. I just couldn’t do it. I said to myself ‘the fear of man brings a snare’ but eventually, I went home defeated and very downcast. My stomach was all churned up. I felt dreadful. It was physical. It just never occurred to me that it could be some sort of attack by The Devil. Maybe it was. I don’t know. Probably pride related.
I’m kicking myself really because if that was a moment of intense weakness, that was the time to rely on God’s power in weakness. Maybe it was some sort of ‘fainting fit’ as they were called. Maybe God was letting me know my complete and utter inability and that this was a time to trust and not a time to rely on my own feeble inner resources. My own feeble resources dried up – completely dried up! This is a good thing to know. We aren’t about God’s work in our own strength. We might get the blessing by doing the work of evangelism, but we don’t get to have the glory. We daren’t have the glory: that belongs to God alone!
 
Can any good come out of this? The first thing to know is that we need to be praying. We need to be praying in the prayer meeting. We need to pray as a team (however many that might be) before going out. And then to cultivate an attitude of dependence even if that means a feeling of complete despair in our own capability.
 
The second thing is to aware of your fellow workers. You might not be the only one conscious of complete inability. Therefore support one another. It’s very easy to get discouraged in the work. Support your struggling brethren in Gospel work. For some of us at times, it is best not to be left alone. Most of the time I’m probably fine on my own but it was a good reminder that we aren’t Mavericks – even when going out from the same church. And we aren’t sufficient in ourselves either. Our sufficiency is of God. So if someone came to me now, armed with my recent experience, I would say something like: ‘Be courageous Brother, stand with me and we’ll enter the fray in the fellowship of the Gospel – let’s give out tracts together’.
It probably all sounds quite pathetic. If you aren’t a Christian you might think we are a bunch of nitwits. But the reason we do this ‘work’ is because we want people like you to trust in Christ and be saved. There’s no other reason for doing it.

I discovered nearly everyone that Saturday found it incredibly tough. Perhaps you find it hard work as well. So what about next time? Will there be a next time? By God’s grace, there will be. But next time should the same thing happen – and it might – I need to look up, not in. Easy to say. We’ll see. Some Christians are very able at giving out tracts, I’m not. I thank God for those that are and it’s a joy to see.

Since starting to write this post a few weeks ago, in our prayer meeting, we have been going through 2 Corinthians and considering being weak. It’s not a pleasant feeling and is completely ‘counter-cultural’. We have another Evangelistic opportunity later this month. In some ways, I’m looking forward to the sense of dread, that feeling of despair so I can be weak for God. In other ways, I’m dreading it. But it’s not about us, it’s about Christ.

The English Reformation and the Puritans

The English Reformation and the Puritans

This is a series of twelve (12) short lectures (about 24 minutes each) given by Dr. Michael Reeves. I’ve only just finished watching then even though they’ve been available for some time. Do watch them. The series will give you a real flavour for their time and how they continue to help us. There are some really stand out ones. Particularly the ones on Richard Sibbes and John Owen.

One would ask the question, where is the preaching on the person and beauty of The Lord Jesus Christ? Of course, we do not live in the 17th Century (but there are remarkable parallels). But is Christ any less Glorious? Is the Father any less loving? Is the Holy Spirit not able to reveal Christ to us? The Lord Jesus said “… And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”(John 12:32). The Puritans excelled at magnifying and lifting up Christ. So must we.

Follow This Link To View the series. Not sure US friends will be able to view them. Worth a try though.

From the series webpage:

Their Unlikely Story is Ours

Few stories contain heroism, betrayal, ricocheting monarchs, bold stands against repressive authorities, and redemption like this one. And fewer generations have modelled commitment to the gospel and the application of God’s Word like the Puritans of England.

In this 12-part series, Dr. Michael Reeves surveys Puritan theology and the work of the Holy Spirit when the Reformation flourished in England. Major milestones of this movement underscore the Puritans’ special place in history, as they displayed spiritual wisdom and discernment still benefiting pulpits and believers today.

Welcome to Dystopia

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse. Move away from an objective morality and here’s where it leads. Some selected quotes from Al Mohler’s The Briefing Transcript:

‘They are now killing children in Belgium. We’re talking about euthanasia, and we’re talking about children seventeen and under.’

‘We are often told that arguments that say “this will follow that” are slippery slope arguments that are intellectually indefensible. Here, it’s not just the warning of a slippery slope, it’s a slope that has proved itself to be slippery in a most deadly way. By the way, slippery slope arguments are only invalid if they come without the kind of explanation of causality. In this case, the causality is abundantly apparent.’
(Or, as James White would say, That’s not a slippery slope, that’s a cliff!)

Here’s the terrible logic!
‘Back in 2014, one of the Belgian medical authorities who promoted the change said this, and I quote, “Why wouldn’t you give children who are incurably sick and who are unbearably suffering the same possibilities adults have?”…’ ‘…As you look back at that statement made by Dr. Jan Bernheim–that’s the medical authority who argued that children should have the same rights as adults when it comes to euthaooking at the doctor’s language, he said that children should have “The same possibilities adults have.” Well, what is this possibility? It is the possibility to request to death and to have others administer that death.

Dystopia is soon coming to a Healthcare facility near you!

Listen to Wednesday’s edition (8th August 2018) of The Briefing:

8th Amendment – Report from the Republic of Ireland

The following is a report from Len, a church worker closely involved with the 8th Amendment issues and who regularly speaks with people. So this isn’t a second-hand report but from someone directly involved in the 8th Amendment ‘NO’ campaign and with life issues. There’s also a video at the bottom of the page he sent me. This is of interviews with local Pastors and local church members – one in particular that speaks specifically of her experience of a ‘Hard Case’.

Currently, the Irish Constitution contains an article numbered 40 in the third subsection of section 3. It states:

‘’The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

The Irish people voted in a majority to amend our constitution for the eighth time in 1983 to include that article. And because of its presence, elective termination of the unborn has been illegal on our shores for 35 years.

But on Friday, May 25th of 2018, the Irish people are going to the poles once more, but this time we are being asked whether the 8th Amendment should be removed. Yes, or No. If yes, Article 40.3.3 of the constitution will read,

“Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy”.

If you are following, the removal of the 8th amendment will mean Abortion will no longer be illegal, but allowed in the state. The Government has draft legislation ready to go, which includes:

-The provision of Terminations up to 12 weeks “without specific indication” ie. without any reason given.
-Provision of Termination up until “viability” (currently around 24 weeks) based on health grounds
Gestational limits will not apply in cases of a foetal condition or on grounds of risk to health.

Anyone with any knowledge of recent Irish history will understand this proposed new direction as being a serious liberalisation of Ireland’s Abortion laws. And it seems, from my perspective, exactly one week away from polling day, that the Yes side is winning. When you listen to anyone who is pro-repeal of the 8th, they will be keen to highlight the rights of the woman.
-How she is being forced to carry her pregnancy.
-How we already have abortion in Ireland in that 12 women and girls every day will either travel to the UK for a termination, or obtain illegal abortion pills online – therefore we must show compassion to our own.

That is the arguments they have when they spin the truth. And they come from the top down. From our Prime Minister/ Taoiseach (Tee-shock), our very own minister for Health, and our minister for Children. Yes, our minister for Children.

But they are also armed with false truths.

The public are being deluded in thinking that the 8th Amendment is responsible for taking the lives of some women in the past 35 years. That the doctors hands are tied when it comes to treating the most ill women who are also pregnant, because it might harm the baby.

I recently met a woman on the doors whose “friend” was denied cancer treatment because she was pregnant.
This type of scenario is just not created by the 8th amendment, Irish doctors are free to do all they can to save the mother, and if the foetus passes away as a result, that is not illegal, as they weren’t electing to target the life of the baby.
But this is what people are believing, and the Yes side are happy in peddling that lie.
Unfortunately too, radio presenters, therefore the populous, are fixated on the “hard cases”.
“What about the 11 year old girl who was violated by a family relation, should she be forced to carry the DNA of her rapist?” Pat Kenny, a Veteran Irish broadcaster of 41 years asked Dr. Jean Engela of the ICBR (Irish Centre of Bioethical Reform) this week.
All Dr. Jean had to do was highlight the humanity of the unborn child, that no matter who anyone’s father or mother was, they had a right to exist in and of themselves. That life doesn’t have a right to exist merely because of the 8th amendment, all the 8th amendment does is recognise the pre-existing right to life anyone has – because they are human! There are difficult and tragic cases that we must be ready to show much support and compassion to, but Ireland is not being asked to legislate for the tough cases.

Ireland is being asked whether we want to introduce Abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks, and for the vague and unspecified “health grounds” up to 6 months.

This is what I try to leave people thinking when I encounter them on the doors.

There are encouragements that I draw from:

  • The Yes side has lost support in the most recent polls (though still hold a majority). We hope that will continue up until polling.
  • If “Brexit” and “Trump” have taught us all anything, it ain’t over until it’s over!
  • Right now, People’s opinion of the health service has dropped due to a Cervical Smear Test scandal, in which a number of women were given misdiagnoses, leading to a number of preventable deaths. Do the Irish people trust the same politicians to bring in and oversee Abortion “Health Care”? Hopefully not.
  • Urban/Rural Divide. I live in the City, which is traditionally more liberal than the more rural places in the country, so perhaps my perception is skewed.
  • Jesus is still on the throne!

So please pray that the people will vote “No” on May 25th.

-Pray that the truth of what takes place in Abortion not be avoided in the debates on the radio and TV over the next few weeks. The statistics for Ireland’s radio listening habit’s floor me every time I read them, it has been shown that “82% of ALL adults in the Republic (that’s more than 3.1 million ) listen to on average 4 hours of radio, every day”. This is how people’s minds are being made up, so pray that the bias the media have will be evident, and that strong pro-life arguments will prevail.
-Pray that the Christians will be bold to speak up for the unborn to their friends, family and colleagues.
-Pray that regardless of the outcome, Christians will be reminded that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the LORD Jesus Christ”.

In Christ,
Len