Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Another Voice - Heroes at Drinking

So Irish people spent €6.5billion on alcohol in 2005. In 2006 we drank 732 million litres of the stuff. That was 232 litres per person over 18 – which is probably a fair enough figure since those over 18 who don’t drink goes some way to offset those under 18 who do. Apparently we top the international league for binge drinking among the under-20s, and in the amount of alcohol consumed by those aged 15 and over.

Add to that the toll of death and injury caused by people driving under the influence of alcohol. Add to that the abuse and violence inflicted on children, wives, and husbands by those under the influence. Add to that the chaos and over-burdening of A&E departments up and down the country at weekends because of alcohol related violence or accident.

Now why is it then that I keep hearing people whinging about Garda checkpoints and ‘morning after’ breath-testing? It’s even got to the stage that some politicians have voiced their disapproval.

There is an innate selfishness about this – “I have a right to drink what I want, and to go out on the roads and endanger the lives of others just because I want to drive.” It’s all about me.

Why should one person’s favourite offence be treated lightly by the law and not someone else’s preferred manner of law-breaking, like downloading child pornography? I suspect most who complain about breath-testing wouldn’t for a moment let a viewer of child porn off the hook. They want other people’s anti-social behaviour dealt with, while being let off the hook for their own. That is the height of arrogance.

God says in Isaiah 5: “Woe to those who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine… Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks… Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people.”

It’s time to face up to the fact that we have taken one of God’s gifts and made an idol out of it – and every time we do that it will turn round and bite us. We need to repent of this worship of the god of alcohol and turn to the worship of the one true God.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Food for thought - The Mobile and the Bible

(Local newspaper column)
I love gadgets. I love having a digital camera and playing around with it. I love my iPod and being able to listen to whatever I want wherever I am. But there is one gadget that just doesn’t excite me – the mobile phone. I do own one, but it isn’t the latest or the smallest and it doesn’t even have a camera. But I see that I am almost alone in this. Everywhere you look someone is gabbing into a bright shiny phone, or a cluster of people are standing round peering at photos on a 2 inch screen, or talking about their latest upgrade deal.

It has become the new mentor that has to be consulted before we do anything. It carries our lives, our diary, numbers, games, messages, pictures, and music. It has become the new Bible. But I can think of several ways that a Bible is better than a mobile:
  • It doesn’t need charged.
  • There is nowhere where it is out of coverage.
  • No-one will beat you up for your Bible.
  • There’s no monthly bill, or pay as you go.
  • A mobile turns you into a slave who can always be found, the Bible sets you free.
  • Phones carry possible health risks; the message of the Bible enables you to live forever.
  • They don’t keep issuing better models with new options every two months.
I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our mobile phone?
  • What if we carried it around in our bags or pockets?
  • What if we turned back to go and get it if we forgot it?
  • What if we referred to it several times a day?
  • What if we used it to receive messages from God?
  • What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?
  • What if we took it out of our pocket to pass the time on a journey?
  • What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
  • What if we used it as we travelled?
  • What if we used it in case of an emergency?
One more advantage a Bible has over a mobile - You can get one free from me, but you won’t get a free mobile! If you would like one, or if you would like someone to give you a beginners guide to the Bible, get in touch.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A couple of sermons online

Up until now there has been no evidence on the web that I actually preach the sermons I post here. Some perhaps hoped that they never saw the light of day, but sadly the delusion is gone. Real people have to listen this this stuff! :-) And someone has put a couple of my sermons up for the general population of the world to download. (As if there is going to be a mad rush!)

So for those of you who stumble upon this site and want to hear what I actually sound like you can download a couple of sermons I preached at another church here. The church is Killicomaine Evangelical Church in Northern Ireland, and the services were at their anniversary weekend in 2007. They are on Ecclesiastes - Living well when life is easy and Living well when life is tough

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Food for thought - Spare the Rod

Corporal punishment in schools has been banned for 25 years, according to a report on last Friday’s RTE news. Are we the better for it being gone?

The reporter interviewed a series of older people who had experience of the ruler or the strap at school. Every one affirmed that it wasn’t pleasant but it hadn’t done them any real harm. The reporter then spoke to a group of school children and asked, “Would you like to have been hit for doing something wrong?” – understandably none were terribly enthused with the idea.

I find it interesting the way reporters reveal their bias by the way they ask their questions and to whom they ask them. Who in their right mind asks anyone if they would like to be disciplined? Also choice of the word ‘hit’ has a far wider range of connotations than getting a smack with a ruler. It could mean a solid blow to the head. This loads the issue even further. As for “something wrong” - the impression given is that you could get a battering for not being able to spell antidisestablishmentarianism, rather than for misbehaving and disrupting class.

Now I would accept that there were teachers who were cruel, violent and sadistic and who abused the power they had. I accept that corporal punishment may have been used unfairly on those who had learning difficulties. But the solution is not to remove the power to discipline; instead it is to remove the teacher who abuses the power, and to see that punishment is used appropriately and sparingly.

The report then went on to talk about the new and improved ways of enforcing discipline and finished with the telling line, “In the absence of corporal punishment, schools have had to find other ways of enforcing discipline, which is an even bigger issue now than it was 25 years ago.”

So discipline is an even bigger problem 25 years after the abolishing of corporal punishment than it was when we had corporal punishment – I wonder what has caused this?

Could it possibly be the abolition of corporal punishment?

There is an “emperor’s new clothes” mentality about all this. We go on and on about what a wonderfully advanced society we have here in Ireland, and all the while discipline in schools, behaviour in our towns and respect for law and order are going to the dogs.

Can we not see the connection – we have removed the power of the state to discipline and punish criminals properly, we have removed the power of educators to discipline pupils effectively, and we are pursuing the path of preventing parents from disciplining their own children effectively – and we wonder why we have problems with discipline at every level?

Like the two little boys in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the emperor, the Bible points out the obvious. It says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1). That applies not just to those who don’t like being disciplined, but to all who would seek to remove and forbid proper discipline. The well-known adage, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is from the book of Proverbs (13:24), which also says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15).

The reason we have discipline problems in society at large is because we have ignored God’s word on the issue. First we ignored his guidelines for how discipline should be done. Now we are ignoring his commands for discipline altogether.

The conclusion? When we fail to build our lives around the maker’s instruction manual we shouldn’t then wonder why everything seems to fall apart.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Another Voice - Identity Theft

{Column for a local newspaper)

Last week’s Post carried an article on autobank (ATM) scams here is Letterkenny. Apparently people were finding large amounts mysteriously disappearing from their accounts. The week before carried an article about someone getting their credit cards nicked on holiday and losing out. Last November I looked at my Visa statement to find that someone had purchased tickets to fly from Slovakia to England on my card. It took a lot of phone calls and emails to get the thing sorted out.

It’s a shock to the system to look at your bank balance and see not only that it is less than you expected, but that there are several transactions listed you know nothing about. Your stomach clenches up in momentary panic as you try to figure out what’s going on.

And then a wave of relief comes as you realise that it wasn’t you, and that your credit card company is meant to cover this sort of thing. The relief is final when you get the letter from the bank saying, “We’ve credited you account with the missing amount.”

Identity theft is a real nuisance – and can be costly. However, I owe my life to an identity ‘thief’. It was one of those occasions where the switcher came off the worse for the switch. Instead of getting my resources he got my debts. Instead of me looking at the statement and finding all these things going out of my account, there were lists of things coming into my account. Beside each of my debts an equal amount had been entered to clear it.

The identity switcher was Jesus – on the cross he assumed my guilt and my bad record. He took my identity and therefore had to bear the punishment that my sins had racked up. And it wasn’t a mistake either. He willingly assumed the foulness of my record, and paid my debt with God so that I could be forgiven.

As if that wasn’t enough, it was a two-way switch – he became like me so that I could become like him, a son in God’s family with all the privileges entailed. Mind boggling or what! To find out more about enjoying this identity switch for yourself have a look at this website or feel free to contact me.