Monday, April 25, 2011

No One Likes A Prophet Of Doom – Unless?

Karen Maley must be a bear to live with - or so her detractors must fear. Karen Maley is a journalist who writes regular articles in all sorts of places about the economy, investment and finance. She certainly belongs to the camp who would describe themselves as bears, as she is, by and large, quite pessimistic about the world economy and its prospects. Here are a few of the headings of articles that she has written recently in an online finance news site called Australian Business Spectator.
·      Gold glitters and America dwindles (An article warning of the demise of the US economy)
·      US Economy gets Standard and Poor’s slap down (Reminding her readers of the significance of the warning to downgrade US AAA debt rating)
·      Will collapse follow Greek's debt marathon? (Warning that Greece’s debt has not gone away)
·      Goldman hears the QE2 music stop (Explaining that when and if the US stops printing money, things may seem a lot worse than they look at the moment)
·      Will Iceland’s austerity chill spread? (Reminding that when countries are so heavily in debt, cutting back spending may prove politically unpalatable)
·      America’s dance with default (Quite self explanatory)
And the list goes on.
To some, Karen Maley is a pessimistic scaremonger. But if you wake up one day and discover the Global Financial Crisis has not been solved, just postponed (and made worse), then remember that Karen Maley will be writing 'I told you so’. Karen Maley and a few friends like Nouriel Roubini, Ken Rogoff and Steve Keen continue, in the minority, to warn that all the warning signs that worried them before the GFC are still there – only it’s now much worse. Of course most of the central bankers, respected economists and politicians of the world believe that these prophets of doom are alarmists, whose depressing message should be ignored at all costs. Time will tell who is right.
The point is that bad news is never popular and rarely listened to.
In the Bible the greatest exponents of bad news were a bunch of unhappy, unliked and almost universally ignored guys like Jeremiah and Isaiah. They preached a bad news message that the foolishness, the greed, the selfishness and the idolatry of their age would result in economic, political, spiritual and national devastation. By and large no one listened until it was way to late.
In spite of the repeated notion that Christianity is good news, the reality is that good news only makes sense if you first accept the bad news.
To be saved you have to accept that you are drowning.
Ignoring God is dangerous.
Believing that we don’t need God is arrogant and fatal.
Knowing that one day we will have to face the judgment seat of God is, sadly, not a message that sells. But it still might be true!
Jesus said. ““Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”  Matthew 7: 13

Monday, April 18, 2011

When Easter and Anzac Collide?

Am I the only one who is complaining about the lateness of Easter this year?

An eleven-week school term and then an Easter celebration at the end of the school holidays seems rather weird. In fact Easter 2011 is being celebrated in the western tradition on the latest day in nearly 70 years – the last late date was Easter Day 25th April 1943.  This year in Australia Easter is followed the very next day by Anzac Day. Though inconvenient in a number of ways, the seemingly divergent messages of Easter and Anzac Day may actually have a great deal in common.
To be honest it is tempting to attempt to draw the parallels:
·      Both are celebrations of sacrifice over selfishness
·      Both appall us by their waste and injustice
·      Both remind us that defeat is not always final
·      Both speak of a desire to pay a price for freedom
·      Both give hope and provide us with identity
But they are different and deserve to be kept so.
Anzac Day is at best a national commemoration and remembrance of war. It can remind us of the pain of the past. It can give a chance for old comrades to gather and remember those who paid the ultimate price. But we need to beware when politicians or clubs turn commemorations into days of national pride. So easily a commemoration can become a victory march. So quickly we can forget that killing in war is never noble and is rarely just. National celebrations of war rarely question the motives of political leaders, the tactics of generals, or the morals of soldiers. Remembering is essential. But national memorials can so easily leave us feeling that someone else always causes the evils of the world. When our freedom is defined only as victory over an enemy, we fail to see the enemy within that poses, at times, an even greater threat.

Easter challenges us to remember the injustices that led to the crucifixion of an innocent man and then forces us to face our own sin and guilt. Easter highlights the battle between man and God, when God allows men to have their way. The crucified Jesus makes us weep even more when we see that He bore the sins of all the world – including our own. Easter exposes the folly that nations and people can save themselves. Easter stamps us all with the failure of crucifixion, calls us to repent and then offers us the hope of resurrection. Easter leaves us with nothing to celebrate in our own strength, but points us to a God whose holiness, justice and mercy know no bounds.
Easter offers freedom from our greatest threats and our most ferocious of enemies - sin and death.
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Luke 23: 34

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bible and Newspaper?

Word4Life is a ministry committed to explaining truth, with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. That is, the aim of this weekly note is to explain how the truth of God relates to the world in which we live.
For many people in a place like Australia the newspaper speaks the truth, while the Bible is at best a quaint, irrelevant but historically interesting religious book. I can leave the defence of the Bible for another day, but today just let me rattle the cage a little about the fact that we might all be a little better off if we had a little bit less faith in newspapers.
Newspapers are still bought physically by the millions of people each day and are now increasingly read online as well. They are trusted, quoted and in many ways still set the media cycle. But anybody who has had any personal experience knows just how inaccurate, biased, ill-informed and at times corrupt they really are.
"Corrupt? Surely that's a bit harsh", you may be thinking. 
Newspapers are corporate entities often owned by large, profit making companies. In the past there has rightly been concern that the powerful owners of these newspapers have used their papers to push political and social agendas. It still happens. Murdoch's papers still read as Murdoch papers.  Advertising is the lifeblood of these operations and editorials and advertising are not always completely separate. The colour supplements that fill up the average newspaper are not about information but about advertising. The profit motive is probably better than having state owned newspapers, but those motives colour what we read.
Saddest of all in modern newspapers is the fact that the profit motive is squeezing journalism on all fronts, such that journalists increasingly do not have the time to research, check facts and really understand an issue. It's much simpler to just re-work a press release or a story from other news services.
In many ways online news is more disturbing, even in the supposedly reasoned broadsheet newspapers. Click on your favourite newspaper any time of the day and there are increasing numbers of pictures of beautiful people (mostly women), with an inordinate number of stories that in some way mention sex. The reason is simply that, not surprisingly, we are tempted to click on these stories and read more. The old page three girl has given way to a media that is trivialized by glamour and what draws the eyes to see. 
I still remain committed to the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
I just don’t want to give the impression that they are in any way equal. 
“For,  “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.”  1Peter 1: 24-25