Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Disgrace

The Black Caps loss to England this morning is the worst performance I have ever seen from a NZ team. They got themselves through a brilliant Ross Taylor innings with help from Mills and How into a great position. Vettori bowled beautifully to knock England over. A team with a lead of 170 or so should never be lose on a turning track. To capitulate as they did in the second innings was a disgrace. It was a stunning performance. The performances of Taylor, Oram and McCullum is not appropriate for that level. Taylor can be forgiven. The others needed to bat with some test sense. They only needed to bat sensibly as they did in the first innings and they would have batted England out of the game.

Having said that, they should have been able to bowl England out on that track. I am a great fan of Vettori but he failed. Mills, Oram, O'Brien and Martin should have locked up one end and Dan should have bowled England out on a turning pitch with variable bounce. It is a long time since he bowled a team out to win a test and this was his chance.

So all in all, they failed and they failed badly. Looking back, the recent test series in NZ was lost in a similar way as we turned around excellent positions and capitulated. It is a total disgrace!

All in all, it was the greatest embarressment in recent years. England are not a great side, but we are worse. There needs to be a serious culture change in this team!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

South African Rugby Common Sense

I hear today that the South Africans have decided that they will pick players from the European rugby competition. I think this is a huge decision. I think it is bold and common sense in a professional world. I think we need to join them in this, but not quite yet. What we need to do down here in NZ is get the Super competition and test program sorted and then we will be in a position to open the door. We need to have a Super program that runs from Feb until June, double round. This is the professional program. We need to open it up to private backing to increase the wealth in the program. We need to set in place very good regulations so that the AB's can have the players they want for their program. We need to let players play anywhere in the world and be available for the World Cup. It will weaken NZ rugby to an extent but who cares. The tests between world cups mean nothing, the last world cup proves it. We need to go the way of soccer. Our best players will get better playing in Europe, and when they come together they will be brilliant. We are at the turning point where the best All Blacks put together in Europe will soon be better than the best here. At that point we HAVE to allow it. Let the game go professional. Get our own program sorted so there is good money here and good opportunities. Not all our players will go anyway, they have a limit on money over there and will block them when their rugby starts to have too many overseas players. So... get things sorted here, then let it go.

Survivor Micronesia

Interesting program Survivor. I admit I love it. I love it because I imagine myself playing it and would love the challenge. I love it because of the psychology of the program. This one was unique in many ways with the girls banding together to get rid of the guys one by one and then battle it out. They were helped by two competitors being knocked out through injury including crowd favourite James. Two competitors were utterly blind-sided and sent home with immunity idols in their bags unplayed. Mad! Then Erik handed over immunity to one of the girls to show his commitment to her; only for the girls to vote him out. He was both naive and mad!

The final showdown came down to the Parv and Amanda. I would have liked Amanda to win but she blew it in the final speeches failing to impress with her speeches. On the other hand Parvati demonstrated that she had played the better the game and deserved to win.

The Fans vs Favourite format was inspired. The Fans were never going to win though as most of the fans were awe-struck by their heroes and by the time they got organised the fans had the game sown up.

I love the show... all except the whole $1m thing! It is a bit of a worry someone winning $1m for a TV show.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Porn? Ok or not?

Christians and porn: OK or not OK?
Copyright: DrMarkK
The purpose of this brief discussion is to enquire as to whether there is a problem with a Christian (usually a male), or anybody for that matter, engaging with porn; whether it be through movies, internet, magazine or other source.

Some would argue that it is not a problem as it is just another form of entertainment, does not involve actual adulterous relationships and is about visual experience and fantasy.

I would argue strongly that this libertine approach is flawed at a number of points and that if we understand God, Christ, humanity and biblical revelation accurately, we would take the position that porn and engaging in porn is dehumanizing and a sin against self, others and God.

1. Porn and adultery
Jesus in Mt 5 says this of adultery:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. “

Jesus here is critiquing the commonly held view of adultery as active engagement in sexual relationships that violate the marriage relationship. Rather than just active physical engagement, he is telling his hearers that adultery begins in the heart and to even look with sexual desire on another is a violation of the spirit of the command. So adultery begins in the heart and what is done physically is just an outworking of the problem. He warns that this is sin and people of the Kingdom should renounce even the attitude of adultery. The natural reading of the text is that to fail to do so is to face eternal judgement.

While technically adultery can be distinguished from fornication (pre-marital sex), homosexuality and other sexual sins; I would argue here that Jesus’ words apply to all manner of sexual immorality. In Mk 7:19-21 Jesus states that all sexual immorality is evil and this command on adultery is essential to all sexual sin. If then we apply this teaching to porn, it is apparent that when a person engages in watching porn, fantasizing and being sexually aroused through it, they are committing adultery. They are looking with lust at another or others and are sexually aroused through the associated fantasies. It is thus incongruous with being Christian and so, Christians should renounce all interest in pornography and not do it. It is adultery. If the person engaged in doing this is married, they are violating their marriage vows. It is no less in Jesus’ eyes than sleeping with another person.

2. Porn and Relationship with Christ
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul warns the sexually immoral that they anyone who is sexually immoral (porneia) will not enter the Kingdom of God. Also mentioned in this passage are homosexual relationship whether active or passive and adultery, in the technical sense of marriage violation. This text teaches that those who continue to engage in sexual encounters and are unrepentant will be in danger of eternal separation from God.

As the chapter unfolds Paul addresses the matter of sexual relationships with prostitutes. Paul expressly states that to engage in sexual immorality is a violation of one’s own body. It is also a desecration of the purity and sanctity of the relationship one has with Christ. He says, ‘should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!’ This is because in doing so, one becomes ‘one flesh’ in Genesis marital terms with the person (cf. Gen 2:24). The person engaging in sex with the prostitute becomes one with her! Paul’s response in v17 is unambiguous: ’flee sexual immorality.’ He goes on to say that body is the temple of the Spirit and as such when we engage in such illicit sexual relationships we grieve and violate the Spirit. Rather, we should glorify God with our bodies.

Applied to pornography and knowing that adultery comes from the heart, watching porn is a violation one’s own body. It is a violation of Christ and the intimate relationship one has with him. It grieves him and dishonours him. It violates the relationship one has with the indwelling Spirit. As such, it is a crime against the triune God. Christians should be like Joseph when faced with any sexual sin, they should flee it! If they cannot stop the compulsion, they need prayer and counselling to overcome in Christ this problem. They must bar themselves from access to internet site through adequate software and make themselves accountable to others. Where a marriage is concerned, it is a violation of the marriage covenant as one seeks oneness with another, even if just an image.

3. Porn and the Image of God
Lurking beneath all this is the idea of people as being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and being children of God. When one looks at another person lustfully they violate the other person’s humanity, objectifying them and dehumanizing them. Rather than honour them as image bearers, sisters or brothers and creations of God, they become an object of lust and self-gratification. This violates their integrity as precious image bearers who we are to love and honour in purity.

Behind every porn image is a real person who is being exploited and violated by the huge porn industry to make money for someone. Somewhere a woman, man of more was in a room before cameras engaging in sexual activities for money and to please viewers. They are real people having real experiences, however faked to stimulate the viewer. It is thus a violation of God’s image and so of God himself. It is dehumanizing and a disgrace to God.

4. Porn and the sex industry
Porn is a huge industry. By far the dominant use of the internet is through internet porn. The porn industry exploits attractive young men and women, abusing their humanity, for the purposes of stimulating the sinful desires of fallen humanity and material gain. When we use porn we are supporting an oppressive satanic structure that exploits people sexually and materially, Not only are we engaging in dehumanizing others, objectifying them; but we are supporters of an oppressive satanic regime. The porn industry relies on those who will watch their products. We must reject involvement in this satanic and oppressive regime.

5. Porn and Lust
Sexual desire is a wonderful gift from God as is sex. The scriptures clearly tell us that sexual relationships are a gift from God to be enjoyed within heterosexual, faithful, loving marriage relationships. Sexuality is a wonderful means of expressing intimacy, celebrating oneness and procreation. The Scriptures also tell us that the Fall has seen a distortion of all of human existence, warped and marred by sin. Human desire is part of this; all of us are sexually fallen. This is often expressed in sexual desire, the distortion and corruption of what is beautiful; whereby natural positive and God-given sexual desire becomes distorted. People express their sexuality falsely outside of the marriage relationship in all sorts of ways. Porn is one example. Purveyors of porn seek self-gratification through the thrill of satisfying their personal lusts through objectification and fantasy. It distorts what it means to be human. It is a selling out to personal gratification at the expense of others. It is sin.

6. Porn and Male Sexuality
Men are particularly vulnerable to porn. Men are usually quickly aroused through image and fantasy. Porn is a particular problem for men. Christian men are no less vulnerable to this than any other human. On the other hand the power of God is available to men through the Spirit who can help a person overcome through the spiritual fruit of self-control. Men must learn the skill of refusing to be drawn by image to fantasy, from desire to sin. Men must learn to refuse to go there. Porn is seductive and it is easy to justify it on the basis that it is not hurting anyone, is merely image and not active engagement. We must resist such false self-justification and be utterly dedicated to refuse to engage in any situation which will excite us sexually except with our marriage partners. Those who are single need to find positive means of expressing themselves physically through exercise and renunciation of sexual objectification through media and through dehumanizing those they encounter on the road of life.

7. Porn and Marriage
When a married person engages in sexual gratification using porn it is adultery. It is a violation of the marital vows whereby one gives oneself wholly and exclusively to their spouse. To fantasize over another human body whether in real terms or as a visual image is a violation not only of oneself and the other person, but one’s spouse. It is a betrayal of one’s loved one. One can argue that it is less than the act of sexual activity with a real person, but it fails to account for the fact that it is a physical experience involving a real person who has been filmed for this very purpose. It is porneia in Matthew 19 terms and a breaking of the marriage covenant. When we gave ourselves over to our spouse at the marriage ceremony we in effect resolved to have eyes for no-one except our spouse. Any straying whether in the direction of an image or whatever violates the sanctity of the marriage bed. When our sexual desire is directed to a married person, we not only violate the object of our relationship, but we violate that person’s spouse, sinning against them as we covet their wife/husband. There is so much at stake when we sin sexually!

8. Porn and Satan
When one allows a desire that is contrary to God’s will, one opens oneself up to the potential of demonic oppression. This is possible with any sin whether it be material greed, anger or sexual lust. Satan feeds on these opportunities and will seek to take the opening and bring us to a point of addiction. Hence, we need to address this issue quickly and decisively and not allow Satan a foothold into our lives. There is great danger in flirting with this area. It is not unsurprising when a person moves from porn to sexual engagement with others. This is particularly so with sins that is a distortion of natural parts of being human. Eating disorders have the same potential, gluttony leading to the problem of food addictions and other disorders through a blend of sin and Satanic oppression.

9. Porn and Grace
Having said all this, porn is not the unforgivable sin. All of humanity is sexually fallen and many men in particular, struggle with image and sexual objectification. In this age, we are literally bombarded with image. Sexually explicit material is found on free-to-air TV, in music videos and the movie industry. Provocative images are everywhere. Hence, it is almost inevitable that many men particularly with vulnerability in this area, will struggle with sexual desire and stray in this area.

Hence, we need an atmosphere of grace and means by which people can share their experience, be accountable to each other, find forgiveness, experience grace and grow from their failures. We need to allow people space for repentance and confession in this area and to make progress. When one or other in a marriage finds their partner falling in this way; while great hurt will be experienced, the church needs to be prepared to help, guide a person to recovery. Great self-control is required for those with a weakness in this area and safeguards need to be put in place. Care needs to be taken in watching TV, movies; protection needs to be set in place on computers. People need mutual accountability. Men’s ministry fellowships can be great contexts whereby such issues are brought to the surface, prayed through, counselled and support given.

Conclusion
It seems to me that there is absolutely no doubt that authentic Christianity should reject pornography and viewing it. We need to be men and women of self-control in the area of sexuality. We need to recognize the sanctity of sexual purity and be devoted to it. Where we have a weakness in this area we need support, accountability, grace and self-control. As the church we need to proclaim a gospel of sexual purity while preaching grace, forgiveness and restoration. We need counselling and support to be available in these areas. Those who are single have unique challenges and need support and encouragement in single-celibacy. Those who are married have to be utterly dedicated to no sexual relationships of any sort (including porn), outside of their marriage vow. We need to recognize that to engage in pornography is a sin against oneself, against the object of our desire, against our Lord, against the Spirit who lives within us.

So, if you have fallen prey to porn of any sort, do what Paul says and ‘flee immorality.’ Confess to God your problem. Share it with someone you trust to get counsel. And tell your spouse, get it sorted before it becomes more than a mere image problem and your sexuality is distorted. One of the other problems of sexual sin is that it damages us and leaves us broken sexually and often our marriage sexual relationship suffers. You will need healing which will involve prayer and counsel. You may need prayer for demonic oppression and the infilling of the Spirit to replenish you spiritually. Remember that God is the great healer and restorer and there is nothing he cannot deal with.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Things Worth Dying for 5: Jesus death and resurrection is our salvation

The heart of Christianity is the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is through the death and resurrection that we are saved. In some mysterious way that transcends our ability to explain, this death of a man saves those who will believe in Jesus.

There are many ways of understanding this. It is a reconciliation of God and humanity. It is the justification of humanity, in which those who believe in Jesus are declared righteous before God, not on the basis of their merit or goodness in any way, but because Jesus has taken their punishment and their separation from God on their behalf. It is a propitiation in which the wrath of God is averted. It is an expiation in which those who believe are cleansed of sin. He is our representative, standing in the place of humanity as God the man and we are saved "in Christ". He is our substitute, dying on the cross in our place, taking our punishment. It is our adoption, in which we are adopted as the children of God. It is our regeneration or rebirth in which we die in Christ and are raised to new life in him, born again from heaven above to live with God forever. It is our sanctification in which we are declare pure despite being impure, and so called to live our of this purity a life of sanctification. It is our recreation, where we are inwardly born anew as a new creation, created in Christ to do good works. It is the conquest of God over evil, over sin, over law which reveals sin and over death. It is our resurrection, Jesus' resurrection from the dead the first fruits of the glorious harvest of the resurrection of the faithful to everlasting life. It is our entry into the Kingdom, the realm of the King. It is the moment of our incorporation into the community of God, the church visible and invisible, the people of God from creation to the present, his body, the temple of the Spirit. It is life, the overcoming of death. It is the fusion of heaven and earth, the restoration of God's ideals, Eden restored. It is atonement, the coming together of God and humanity, the covering of sin. It is our example, Jesus' sacrifice, suffering and death, our example of supreme living and love. We are to emulate this servanthood, laying down our life for the mission of God to see every person come to know his love and be reconciled to him; and to see his world become what he dreams it could be. I could go on and on!

Over history theologians have grappled with this issue, what does the cross mean, what is it's core. Some go for penal-substitution; some for reconciliation; some for representation; some propitiation; some justification... It is fair enough to grapple with this and to work through the meaning of the cross. It is good to look at it from every perspective, for it is like a diamond that has many faces and it is truly beautiful. But let's not fall into conflict about it; where people genuinely acknowledge that this is the only means of salvation for all humanity, they acknowledge Christ as saviour through the cross and resurrection, they are saved.

For me, this is worth dying for!

Morning After Pill

Yesterday the NZ Herald reported that a trial was beginning to make the morning after pill available free over the counter (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=204&objectid=10508753). Theoretically this is to reduce teen pregnancies.

This is a shocker! The morning after pill is simply another form of potential abortion. Of course the recipient does not know whether they are pregnant, so it is not active abortion; but, it is potential or passive abortion.

This is an astonishing decision. It shows that we have absolutely no concern for the unborn child. It is another example of child-abuse!

Sure, teen pregnancies are a problem, a big problem. But the answer is not to respond to one problem with legitimising the killing of the unborn child!

I am disturbed that the main response I am hearing is a concern that this will lead to more promiscuity. It may well do so, but that pales in comparison to the problem of killiing babies!

This is another example of the horror we face in the western world, in NZ killing 17,000+ babies a year. This will increase that number. We stand before the God who cherishes every child from conception, longing for them to have a great life, and fulfil the potential he has placed in them.

Those of us who care, must rise up, and in unison, fight this horror! We must do so with the love of Jesus, full of grace, not utilising the weapons of this world, but working with all our best thinking and acting and work for the removal of this. Rise up!

Kimberley Smith?

Wow, a 45 second PB for Kimberley Smith in the States over 10k. This can be read in one of two ways. One way is to party because she has come of age and is now a true medal contender. Another possibility is that she has enhanced performance in some way. I hate to think this, but when someone wacks out a 45 second pb, you can't help wondering??? 45 seconds is astonishing!

So which way will I go? I will go for the first response in the hope that there is no enhancement happening! So, way to go Kimberley! You rock! Astonishing. Bring it to them in Beijing and win a medal. Woo hoo!

Esther Keown World Champ

Fantastic news about Esther Keown winning the World Secondary School Cross Country Champs in Algeria. She won by 6 seconds from two Belgian girls with NZ also winning the team's gold. This is an amazing effort for a Kiwi girl.

Esther said that she felt good on the day. She took the lead early after being held back by an Algerian girl. She was concerned that she went out too quick leading through the first lap. However, by the end of the second lap she had a good lead and extended to win comfortably. She also said that she could have gone quicker if the pressure had come on. She held back because she was concerned that there may be someone who would sit on her and come through quickly at the end.

We really do have some promising athletes at present, particularly among the girls. So, go KIWI! Awesome stuff. Another great day in Kiwi sport. Here's hoping Esther and the other girls can come through into senior athletics and perform at the top winning medals for NZ at World Champs and Olympic level.