Friday, February 17, 2012
The saving power of the Bible
Mike Adams, who writes below, is a man of profound faith and I have been an atheist for roughly 50 years -- so why do I reproduce his column below? It is because I still love my Bible nearly as much as I did in my Christian youth. I still read it with pleasure, study it, debate it and find great wisdom in it. I see it as the distilled wisdom of a great people, not as the wisdom of God, but I have nonetheless never left it and it has never left me. Its words run through my head often.
I have never had the sort of personal crises Mike describes below but that is perhaps because I was always guided by that great wisdom. I never rejected it and so never had to rediscover it. I knew the teachings and have always found that when I followed them I got a blessing -- usually very rapidly. My favourite text is from Ecclesiastes 11:1. "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days". Ask your pastor or Rebbe what it means. My old and worn Bible falls open at Ecclesiastes these days. So I join with Mike in extolling the wisdom and power of that ancient Jewish book. And if you see it as God's book, that may help you even more.
One extra blessing that I get is that my knowledge of, and past absorption in, Protestant Christian teachings enables me to understand Bach better. Bach's music is among the greatest of classical music but he was a devout Lutheran and his faith suffuses his work. So as I also understand German, I listen to his cantatas with complete understanding on every level. As I write this I am listening to the great but very sombre cantata "Ich habe genug". It is one of my favourites but its words would seem completely mad to someone who did not know and understand the faith behind it -- JR
It was good seeing you the other day at lunch. I meant to share a story with you but the room was too crowded and the story is too long. So I write to you today sharing something that will surely lift your spirits just the way you lifted mine when I first heard you speak in May of 2007.
My first visit to your church came during the worst time in all of my life. I was struck with personal tragedy in January of that year. That was followed by another tragedy in February, one in March, one in April, and one in May. Things would settle down in July but had I waited until then to visit your church I might not be writing you today. I’m still surprised that my heart or head did not just explode during all of the turmoil in that tragic time of my life.
On my first visit to your church, I listened intently to your sermon on the first letter of John in the New Testament. It was moving – so much so that I made it the subject of a column called “How to Read the New Testament.” Looking back, I am not sure I still agree with everything I wrote in that column. But I did and still do agree with the manner in which you said we should read that letter. You said it should be read like a love letter written just for the reader by someone who is madly in love with him (or her).
Of course, one does not read the entire Bible the way you suggested we read the first letter of John. But your advice was specific to that book. So I walked right out of your sermon and straight over to Barnes and Noble. I bought the ESV translation of the Bible and started reading it over lunch. I ended up reading that first letter of John every day over the course of the next week. Since I wrote a column about it you know how beneficial I found your advice to be.
In the nearly five years since I wrote the column, I have given it very little thought. Then, just the other day, a fellow wrote asking for a link to the column. He wanted to use it in his Sunday school class. Oddly, I received a second email about the column just 24 hours later.
The second of the two letters was far more dramatic and memorable than the first. In it, a man wrote a long and painful account of a series of tragedies in his personal and professional life. I would not have kept reading it had I not seen the reference to the aforementioned column as I glanced casually over the text. It was only the coincidence of getting two emails two days in a row (on the same very old column) that kept me reading.
Eventually, I reached a portion of the email in which my reader said “thoughts of suicide entered my mind each day – every day. Earlier this year, the pain became so intense that I knew that I would either have to find my way back to Christ, or I would have to die.” That was alarming but I kept on reading. I’m glad I did.
The reader continued, “I would have to return to His Word. However, the Bible seemed to weigh a thousand pounds, and I could neither lift it nor open it. Exacerbating this situation was the fact that I realized that I was a coward; I was afraid because the world has become increasingly and vehemently hostile to Christians and Christianity. I knew that reaffirming and declaring faith in Christ would make me a target of the same hatred, ridicule, and scorn I had heaped on others, and I wasn’t ready for it.”
My reader then informed me that, in the midst of his depression, on the brink of suicide, he came across a column I had written. For some reason, he thought that something I said somehow took courage. So he started working backwards through my column archive. Eventually, he read the column referencing 1 John and your sermon that had inspired it. He ended his letter saying that was the very day he found the strength to pick up his Bible and start his journey in the Word anew.
He continued reading his Bible every day. The Book that once “seemed to weigh a thousand pounds” became light as a feather. As he continued to read, his thoughts of suicide disappeared. They were replaced with a burning desire to live again and to walk in the light of forgiveness.
As I read that man’s letter, I realized that it had been a very long time since I told you what your words did for me in my darkest hour. I hope you will forgive me as I am still seeing what those words have done - not just for me, but through me. I am beginning to understand what John meant when he said “What we will be has not yet appeared.”
The ripple effect that flows from our words and from our actions extends far beyond the reach of human perception. It will not be fully revealed until we reach the other side. That is why we need the Word to lift us out of our desperation and move us beyond our present circumstances. It helps reveal the only Light that can lead us out of darkness.
In conformist Britain, anything unusual is assumed to be illegal
Supermarket manager bans man for buying gallons of vegetable oil to power his delivery van claiming it is 'illegal'. I had similar experiences of British rigidity in Britain back in the '70s, as you can read here. No wonder many people from Britain and other Northern European countries migrate to easygoing Australia to get away from all the social rigidities and expectations -- JR
A grocer claims supermarket staff banned him from his local store after he bought vegetable oil to use as fuel in his vehicle. Chris Waites says managers at his local Tesco in Didcot, Oxfordshire, told him it was illegal for him to buy vegetable oil and use it as fuel in his delivery van.
He claims the ban came after he purchased six five-litre bottles of vegetable oil to fill up the van he uses for his grocery business. The transit van has been adapted to run on vegetable oil. It is not thought to be illegal to purchase vegetable oil to be used as bio fuel.
Mr Waites said he clashed with staff at the store when he bought the bottles of oil and told them what he was using it for.
Tesco said it was investigating the matter and stressed that it does not prevent customers from buying products.
He said when he returned to the supermarket on Saturday to buy other items, he was told he was no longer welcome because using vegetable oil to run a vehicle was a criminal activity. He said: 'A member of staff told me in front of lots of other customers that I was no longer welcome at the store because I had been using vegetable oil illegally for my van.
'Using vegetable oil to run a vehicle is not illegal and it was embarrassing to be branded a criminal in this way in front of lots of other shoppers.
'Normally we get given the vegetable oil free from pubs and restaurants but on this occasion I’d gone to Tesco.
'We deliver groceries to people in rural areas but I can’t imagine Tesco are trying to stop me from using my van because they feel threatened by the competition.'
Mr Waites said he had been a customer at the store for seven years and he was not aware of any other reason why he was being banned.
He added: 'The day before I bought the oil I went to customer services because the store had overcharged me for a pack of PG Tips. I got a refund but that was all sorted out and I can’t believe Tesco are being so petty.'
Mr Waites, who lives with wife Miriam, 27, said his 2.5-litre Ford Transit van had been adapted to run on vegetable oil. He added: 'I have been running the van this way for about six years and it’s perfectly legal. The Government actually gives you a tax-free allowance every year if you use vegetable oil. We cover about 50 miles a day travelling around South Oxfordshire and use about 2,300 litres a year.
'A litre of diesel now costs over £1.40 at the pumps whereas a litre of vegetable oil costs about 90p.'
In recent years companies have provided drivers with a source of greener, cheaper motoring by turning oil used for frying chips into biodiesel. After collecting drums of used oil from cafes and takeaways, firms refine the liquid into a fuel suitable for most diesel engines.
But specially adapted engines, like the one in Mr Waites’s van, can run on unrefined vegetable oil.
Biodiesel emits much less unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and other harmful substances, and does not produce the noxious black smoke associated with mineral diesel. However, biodiesel is not a lover of cold mornings and may cause start-up problems at very low temperatures.
Tesco spokesman David Nieberg said: 'Our stores are there to serve customers, not prevent them from shopping. 'We’d like to stress we do not ban customers for simply buying vegetable oil – even if it is to put in a vehicle. We are speaking to Mr Waites to resolve the issue.'
BBC wins Supreme Court battle after spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of licence fee payers' money to keep report on its 'biased' journalism a secret
Leftism can't stand the light of day. But the secrecy itself tells us most of what they are hiding
The BBC has been accused of a cover-up after spending almost £350,000 on a legal battle to suppress an internal report about bias in its Middle East coverage. A seven-year campaign to gain access to the 2004 document, which examined the corporation’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ended in defeat yesterday after the Supreme Court ruled it could remain secret.
Lawyer Steven Sugar, who passed away last year, made a Freedom of Information request in 2005 for disclosure of the 20,000-word Balen Report. But the corporation argued it was exempt from revealing information it held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature’.
After years of courtroom battles and Mr Sugar’s death, his widow Fiona Paveley continued on his behalf. Her lawyer, Michael Levey, said the family were ‘considering their options’ after the Supreme Court dismissed the latest appeal after ruling the report was ‘outside the scope’ of the FoI Act.
By September 2010, the BBC had spent £270,000 on the case, but senior insiders admitted this had now increased to as much as £350,000.
The broadcaster’s reluctance to reveal the details of the dossier – which was compiled by Malcolm Balen, a senior journalist and editorial adviser at the BBC – has led to speculation that it was highly critical. Lord Janner of Braunstone, chairman of the Britain Israel Parliamentary Group, said last night: ‘What have they got to hide?’
Tory MP Mike Freer, vice-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, added: ‘This is the worst of all outcomes. ‘It fuels suspicion they have got something to hide.’
A spokesman for the BBC insisted it did not have anything to hide about its Middle East coverage but had pursued the case to defend its right to protect information about its journalism. He added: ‘We welcome the Supreme Court’s judgment, which will ensure that the BBC is afforded the space to conduct its journalistic activities freely.
‘Independent journalism requires honest and open internal debate free from external pressures. This ruling enables us to continue to do that.’
Why Whitney Houston Died
The media have no bleepin' clue how to cover the death of Whitney Houston. That's because she was slowly dying for years and many in the press simply averted their eyes.
It was ultra-disturbing that a beautiful woman blessed with an extraordinary singing voice chose a self-destructive path in full view of the world. I mean, here is a person who signed a $100 million recording contract, actually sold 170 million albums and commanded high six figures to deliver a 90-minute concert. Houston was a genuine international star, and yet she often was seen in public disheveled and confused, her substance addiction apparent. The media simply did not know what to say.
We live in a time in which addiction is categorized as a disease, and to do what Nancy Reagan once did and urge people to reject narcotics is considered uncool. How many young performers do we see doing public service announcements warning children to avoid intoxication? Right now, I can't think of one.
The national media pride themselves on being non-judgmental unless you are against abortion. Then you are dismissed as "anti-woman" or as a religious zealot. But in the arena of personal behavior, there's an excuse for just about every nonviolent activity and bad decision.
There is no question that some of us have a history of addiction in our families. There are folks who can use drugs casually and avoid dependence, but they are the exception. Once a person decides to dabble in cocaine, or opiates such as heroin and OxyContin, they are putting themselves at grave risk. And they know it. There are legions of famous people who wound up dead just like Houston. From Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson, the signposts are impossible to miss. No matter how rich and powerful you are, drugs can and will destroy you.
The current medical marijuana ruse is a great example of a society walking away from a responsible position. Ask any drug rehab counselor, and he or she will tell you that pot often leads a person to harder drug use and is mentally addictive itself. Yes, most people can function while stoned. But the more you alter your mind the more your perspective on life changes. Believe me, I know people who get stoned or drunk every day. They become incredibly desensitized to those around them.
On the kid front, the situation is dire. Once a child enters the world of intoxication, their childhood is gone. Presto, they are jaded. That's how dangerous drugs and alcohol are to immature minds. Society has an obligation to protect its children, not to tacitly accept or embrace mind-altering agents such as marijuana.
Houston, however, was an adult who made a decision to embrace the drug life. Reports say she tried to rehabilitate herself a few times, but you know how that goes. Once a person enters the hell of addiction, there is no easy way out.
And that's how the Whitney Houston story should be covered. As a cautionary tale. Another life vanquished by substance abuse.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.