Sunshine Cleaning

I wonder which love interest you would choose: a one armed detergent wholesaler or a police detective? The beauty of this story is how it reminds us that happiness, direction and meaning are sometimes found in the most unexpected of places. A former prom queen finds herself in the middle of life wondering where it all went wrong. Even when things seem to turn around it is only temporary, revealing that her aspirations are wide of the mark when it comes to true happiness. But all the while, the answer to her problems is closer than she thinks. The plot majors on the reality of death. It forces us to ask hard questions about meaning and find ways of coping without loved ones. A cameo that will please 24 fans illustrates how different our responses can be. Yet despite the potentially harrowing subject matter, it manages to make you smile as well as cry. One to watch.

Revolutionary Road

There are some films that paint such a vivid picture of modern life that you are not sure whether to laugh or cry. This is one of them. The most striking thing about it is the way it tracks some of the options available to us in life. It pulls no punches in showing us the possibilities when we acknowledge that the dreams that we lived and longed for are no longer within our reach:

  1. Anger
  2. Escape (but whether emotional or geographical it can’t change reality)
  3. Retreat (into your own world one way or another)
  4. Death

Not one for a Friday night wind down, but much food for thought.

What strategies will reinforce your faith and repentance?

Not sowing to the sinful nature Gal 5:16-17

i.e. saying ‘no’ to whatever strengthens my sinful desires and therefore reinforcing repentance

AND saying ‘yes’ to whaatever strengthens my spirit inspired desires and therefore reinforcing faith[1]

Avoiding whatever provokes sinful desires

Bible says run 1 Cor 6:18-20; 1 Tim 6:9-11; 2 Tim 2:22

avoidance buys time

vulnerable when Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired

God will provide a way out 1 Cor 10:13-14

Avoiding whatever strengthens sinful desires

Bible says do not love the worldunder control of Satan 1 John 5:19 it reinforces desires 1 John 2:15-17

Screen voices of world out and replace with God’s words Ps 1

Saying ‘no’ to sinful desires

Do not pander, cosset, cuddle and stroke them instead of crucifying them Mt 5:29-30

“Every time we … [sin e.g. harbour…nurse…entertain…linger…read…etc.] we are sowing to the flesh. Some Xns sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness.” J Stott

Only a new stronger desire can displace the old Heb 12:1-3


[1] Caveat – only heart change can produce real change in us, therefore we do this in a context of addressing our heart and its desires

Barriers to change

Proud self reliance – our attitude to sin is often more self centred than God centred (anger at oneself for sin is a veiled form of pride) BUT cf. Mic 6:8

Proud self justification – we think we’re okay alone

  • Excusing sin – Gen 3:11-13 – e.g. context, upbringing, personal history, biology BUT cf. 1 Cor 10:13

  • Minimising sin – “it was a little sin; everyone does it” BUT Is 66:2

  • Hiding sin – won’t change if costs other’s approval(see 1) BUT cf. Prov 28:132; … We need to remember that grace disarms the fear of exposure

Hating the consequences of sin but not the sin itself – We need to be violent with sin. If we hold back, it’s almost certainly because we don’t want to be violent towards something we still love.

Satan’s six arguments to keep us sinning (John Flavel)

1. The pleasure of sin – it’s so good!

The pleasures are real but so are the flames of hell

2. The secrecy of sin – no-one will ever know!

We cannot hide from God

3. The profit of sin – i’ll gain so much!

But might lose my soul

4. The smallness of sin – why worry!

There is no little hell for little sinners; and the less the sin the less reason to commit it.

5. The grace of God – He will pass this over!

There is no promise of mercy for presumptous sinners. Shall we turn grace into a reason for sin?

6. The example of others – Plenty have done it and been restored!

Such examples are not for me to copy but to warn me in light of their suffering

1“it is one thing to make a resolution; it is something completely different to repent, diligently seek counsel and, in concert with others , develop a plan that is concrete and Christ centred”

2Jn 3:20-21

Key truths for change

Behind every sin is a lie (that we are better off without God and that sin offers more than he does) Rom 1:24-25

  • This represents functional disbelief in the face of confessional faith

The truth shall set you free Prov 4:18-25; Jn 8:31-32; Titus 2:11-12

We need to see, know, embrace, and desire

  • Not just receive information about God but recognise him as the Altogether Lovely One i.e. embracing the truth about God and delighting in it Ps 19:10; Ps 34:8; Eph 1:17-18

  • Seeing God → delighting in God → desiring God → desiring God more than we desire sin

We need to preach to our hearts 2 Cor 10:3-5

  • Because God … is … all … we… need Ps 62:11-12

  • God is great – so we don’t have to be in control Is 40:12; Eph 1:11; Prov 21:1; Acts 4:28(See 1)

  • God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others Prov 29:25 …but God…Is 40:25; Ps 27:1-3(See 2)

  • God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere Mt 13:44; Jn 4; Mk 8:34-36(See 3)

  • God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves Neh 9:17; Lk 15(See 4).. to sinners v7, 10, 23-24

  • Change is about enjoying the freedom from sin and delight in God that God gives to us through Jesus

_____________________________________

1See also Mk 4:40; 5:36; Lk 12:25-31 where Jesus demonstrates his power and says trust in it!

2See also Mt 10:28 where Jesus says to fear him!

3Only fleeting pleasures… Heb 11:24-26…which lead to death …Rom 6:23; Js 1:15

4Watch out for joyless duty ‘all these years i’ve been slaving for you’ Lk 15:29; anxious performance ‘I never disobeyed you’ Lk 15:29; proud comparisons ‘this son of yours has squandered your property with prostitutes’ Lk 15:30

You can change

And thus begins a short series of highlights from Tim’s latest book. I heartily recommend it:

“We are more able to stop the sun in its course or make rivers run uphill as by our own skill and power to rule and order our hearts” John Flavel

Change is God’s work Ez 36:25-27

  • The Father is intimately involved in our lives so that our circumstances train us in godliness Rom 8:28-29; Heb 12:10-11; Jn 15:1-2

  • The Son has set us free from both the penalty and the power of sin so that we now live under the reign of grace Rom 6:1-7, 12; Heb 4:16

  • The Spirit gives us a new attitude to sin and a new power to change Phil 2:13; Gal 5:18

HFE Bill Update

You may be aware that there were a record number of 198,499 abortions in England and Wales in 2007 according to figures released on 19 June. Scottish figures this year were also the highest ever.

Things could be about to get even worse as the HFE Bill reaches report stage in the House of Commons on or shortly after 30 June when it can be further amended.

Evan Harris and two other MPs have put down two amendments to the Abortion Act; one effectively allowing abortion on request up to 24 weeks with one doctor’s signature only (ie. removal of physical and mental health grounds) and the other allowing nurses and midwives to perform abortions.

A briefing paper (http://www.cmf.org.uk/ethics/abortion_law_liberalisation.htm) on all these proposed changes gives more background information.

Please write urgently and before 30 June to:

The Prime Minister asking Mr Brown to exert his influence to uphold the government’s position that the Abortion Law should not be amended

Your MP asking him or her to vote against the Harris amendments. You can find out your MP’s views on abortion on the Alive and Kicking Website

A further briefing paper (http://www.cmf.org.uk/ethics/letter_writing_on_abortion.htm) on the CMF website gives a number of points that you could make.

If you can make time to send a letter by post, this will be even more effective than an email. You can write to both the PM and your MP at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Finally please pray that for sake of mothers, babies, doctors and society the abortion law will not be further liberalised.

Left or right politics?

Just stumbled across this “blogalogue” between Jim Wallis and David Klinghoffer.

http://blog.beliefnet.com/blogalogue/2008/06/lets-clarify-the-politics-of-t.html

Will comment in due course.

Pic from flickr: Dunechaser

Existence has no sanctity?

I was struck yesterday by a woman on radio 4 who was campaigning for the right to die when she used the words “existence has no sanctity.” This of course flies in the face of Christian anthropology.

While this point was obvious to me yesterday, I was humbled when chatting with a friend today about a radio interview I had just done on Euthanasia. My arguments were essentially that Euthanasia was:

1. Unnecessary – given that the real reason (unbearable pain) was rarely a necessary are likely event for the person concerned

2. Dangerous – in that all the evidence points to a slippery slope type effect in the Netherlands and Oregon.

3. Unbiblical – We are made in the image of God and while not vitalists (wanting people to live forever no matter what) we do hold that it is not a human right to end life prematurely simply because their life is deemed to be not worth living.

Here’s the thing. Why was this argument number three? On what grounds do we make our arguments? In one sense, by majoring on the first two I am conceding that were it necessary and not dangerous it would be okay. This is of course not my intention, and in fact I think there is some necessary pre-suppositional work to be done whoever you are speaking to so that things are properly understood. But still….

Could Christians use treatments produced by embryonic stem cellresearch?

As unlikely as this is in the medium term, it’s worth asking. The truth is, because the issues are complex, our moral evaluation will need to be on a case by case basis. But we can lay out some basic concepts.

In principle it is possible to redeem objects and tools that have been associated with sin:

  • Lamech’s descendants’ technology (Gen 4:21)

  • Israel’s plunder of the Egyptians (Ex 3:22)

  • The use of ‘foreign’ wisdom in Proverbs and Greek poets in 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Acts 17:28.

  • Wealth of the nations entering the New Creation (Rev 21:24)

But a key distinction is between formal and material sin:

Formal sin: cooperation in a sinful action, in such a way that ‘it could not be done without their participation.’ This is obviously always wrong.

Material sin: perform an action that in itself is not evil, but which then helps an individual or organization perform an evil action

  • If the evil action is an immediate consequence – pretty much the same as formal sin

  • If the evil action is distanced – e.g. promoting further stem cell research, we might need to weigh things up more carefully.

So… if a new treatment involved the need to destroy more embryos (and at present this would be the case because treatments must be genetically specific to avoid tissue rejection) this would be formal sin and therefore unacceptable.

If a new treatment did not involve formal sin, other key questions to bear in mind would be:

  • Was this the result of destroying embryos in the distant past (and cell lines have been independently developed) or last week? i.e. in what real sense am I connected to the original sin?

  • Will not having this treatment really affect the action of scientists?

  • Will this give the impression to others that I endorse wrongdoing?

  • I can’t go against my conscience