Saturday, 15 October 2011

Ravi Zacharias on Faith

Faith in the biblical sense is substantive, based on the knowledge that the One in whom that faith is placed has proven that He is worthy of that trust. In its essence, faith is a confidence in the person of Jesus Christ and in His power, so that even when His power does not serve my end, my confidence in Him remains because of who He is.
(Ravi Zacharias)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Forgiven. Free.

Now, most people would not be willing to die for a person who is morally upright; though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is kind and good. But God offers proof of his great love for us in this: that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly keep us from being condemned. (Romans 5:7-9)

Friday, 3 June 2011

When Will Jesus Return? (Bible Verses Harold Camping Didn't Read, and Why the World Isn't Ending Anytime Soon)

Dear Harold Camping,

I hear you have a new prediction for when Jesus is due to return to earth. Just so you know, there appear to be some important verses missing from your Bible...pretty much all the verses that talk about when, exactly, Jesus is coming again. Here they are. Feel free to cut and paste them in when you have time.

But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36)

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matthew 24:42)

Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes. (Matthew 24:44)

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes. (Matthew 25:13)

And as he sat on the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And when you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be you not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues you shall be beaten: and you shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. (Mark 13:3-10)

But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32)

And he said to them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power. (Acts 1:7)

The Bible does say that Jesus is coming again. Twice, in fact. First, he's coming to the air to call home every soul that belongs to him. The world will be left on its own for a little while. Not one real Christian left (I don't think I need to explain that - you've probably encountered real ones and fake ones and you can figure out the difference). (Also, you might think a world without Christians sounds alright, but if you have a Christian friend, s/he probably carries your name in prayer to God daily. What's that worth?)

Then, in a time of unprecedented war and destruction, Jesus is coming to the earth to reign in peace for one thousand years. (Won't it be interesting to see how that's done!) So things might get messy (war and destruction and all) but the world can't end for at least another thousand years or so.

There's so much wack religion out there to distract us from reality. If you, like me, are hungry for something with a little less flake, Bible.cc is an online Bible in a list of translations that you can search by word or topic, and use to draw your own conclusions.

Something Borrowed: Does God Love You Just the Way You Are?

Note: I borrowed this. The link to the original is at the bottom of this post.

Post Author: Bill Pratt (toughquestionsanswered.org)

In one sense God loves you just the way you are, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Let’s unpack this statement.

God loves each of his children unconditionally, wherever we are, whoever we are. Even if we are sinning, living a dissolute life, He still loves us. But what does love mean? The classic definition of love is to desire the good of another. God most definitely desires the good for all his children regardless of who they are. As human parents, we strive to love our children in the same way. Even though they are behaving badly, we still desire their good – we still love them.

The implication of the person who says that God loves them just as they are is often that they do not need to change anything about themselves; God will be perfectly content for them to be the same forever. Here is where they are making a serious error.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Looking for Signs: Revival in Our Times

There's a lot of talk in the "Christian" world these days about revival. Someone is always muttering excitedly about this "movement" and that one, an end-times spiritual revival. So many people are just waiting for the big one, like a bunch of spiritual surfers just waiting to catch a big wave - one that will sweep gloriously across people and nations and carry us euphorically along on its crest. Churches, when they are filled with anything, are filled with cries to God to "send down fire" or "rain on us".

This, my friends, is rank foolishness. The Bible promises us no universal end-times revival, no outpouring. In fact, you want to know what it says about the "end-times"?

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. (I Timothy 4:1)

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. (II Timothy 3:1)

Now as to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our meeting with him, it is our desire, my brothers, That you may not be moved in mind or troubled by a spirit, or by a word, or by a letter as from us, with the suggestion that the day of the Lord is even now come; Give no belief to false words: because there will first be a falling away from the faith, and the revelation of the man of sin, the son of destruction, Who puts himself against all authority, lifting himself up over all which is named God or is given worship; so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, putting himself forward as God. (II Thessalonians 2:1-4)

That all sounds pretty hopeless, but it's not. Remember Elijah, who went all doom-and-gloom when he felt that he was the only Israelite left following God?

...have you no knowledge of what is said about Elijah in the holy Writings? how he says words to God against Israel, Lord, they have put your prophets to death, and made waste your altars, and now I am the last, and they are searching for me to take away my life. But what answer does God make to him? I have still seven thousand men whose knees have not been bent to Baal. ( Romans 11:2-4)

There is yet hope for a revival. It won't be the one we have dreamed of, sweeping across nations and making magicians of priests and pastors. The holy God will not be conjured or summoned with repetitions or spells.

If we lack the kind of power we ought to have, the trouble is not that he needs to be pleaded with. The problem is not God; it is us. We've been looking for great signs of our God's power, and displays of his wealth, but we seek them for our own vindication and our pride; these things defeat His purpose. He designs to demonstrate not his power, but his love, his worth, his purity.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3)

We won't find revival by seeking it for governments or cultures or nations; we will find it when we seek it for our own hearts and lives. We won't receive it when we look for signs and special powers; we will receive it when we bend ourselves and allow the sword of truth to cut through our own flesh and our selfish wants. Revival won't come to us as a sweet, warm rush; it will humble us and shake us and tear us free from the tyranny of our comfort.

If we truly belong to Christ, and if we truly long for a renewal of our stone-cold, fattened, lazy hearts, we need to do more than squeeze out tears and chant prayers. They insult a great and giving God. Why should we seem to beg before a throne that has ever been the source of grace?

...He who did not withhold even His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

So then, how ought the children of the Living God seek strength and renewal and fresh perspective from him? Real revival will begin, as it always has, with repentance: an awareness of our awful selfishness, and a willingness to learn rather than our bullish desire to teach.

"Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that there may come times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord... (Acts 3: 19)

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Your ways. (Psalm 119:37)

We can learn much from the experiences of Israel. I remember sitting in Sunday School as a child, hearing stories of the Israelites and rolling my eyes at their fickleness - but we, the followers of Christ, who have so much more, are just as foolish and just as easily turned aside. When Israel was brought back to the worship of the Living God, it was almost always through the reading of God's book - their books of the Law, and our Old Testament. We will find ourselves unable to repent, and unable to find renewed perspective, unless we act on a Spirit-given desire to learn the ways of our God, and submit ourselves to the discipline of reading from His book and laying ourselves open before him in prayer.

The desire for real revival is good and God-given. But let us not be deceived into seeking signs and supernatural wonders. Let us not look for God to change many people miraculously. Let us look for him to transform our perspectives, and soften our hearts with his love. Let us bend ourselves low, and allow God to change us, one by one, the hard way. Then we will have revival.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints... (Ephesians 1: 18)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Why I Love Jesus, Part II

Who else but God Eternal has the right to forgive me - not just for being a flawed human being, but for not doing or becoming the good that is within my grasp - ?
Who else but Love Himself dares forgive me?
Who else, real or invented, offers to help me realize the good I can imagine, when I have failed again and again to achieve it?
Who else loves me, without needing a thing from me?
Who else has given up his own rights, comfort, position - for me?
Who else can lift my load of guilt and not exchange it for denial or self-righteousness?
Who else knows me, really?
Who else, but Jesus?

...but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.
(John 8:1-11)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

God of Eternity, Jesus of History

A local website that focuses on multiculturalism has been doing a focus on diverse religions and their origins. I choked a little when I read that Christianity is a religion that was invented by a man named Paul. I'm awfully tired of the great press got by Jesus the Magic Nice-Guy.

The scandal of it, after all, is not that Jesus Christ, the man, was also the Eternal God - but that Almighty God was and is a man, existing in time and space. Yeshua ha Maschiah, promised by the prophets, was a mother's son. The modern world seems to have forgotten that Jesus of Nazareth is not just a religious figure, but a historical one.

It was with relish, then, that I read Skeptic Mantra #14: Jesus Never Existed, over at No Apologies Allowed. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Something Borrowed: Is the New Testament Text Reliable?

This post is not mine. I've "borrowed" it from a site called "Stand To Reason". A link to the full article is at the bottom. I hope you, like me, find it too good to pass up.

Is the New Testament Text Reliable?

By Gregory Koukl

The phrase, "The Bible's been translated and recopied so many times..." introduces one of the most frequent canards tossed at Christians quoting the Bible. Can we know for certain that the New Testament has been handed down accurately? Yes, we can.

In the spring of 1989 syndicated talk show host Larry King interviewed Shirley MacLaine on the New Age. When a Christian caller contested her view with an appeal to the New Testament, MacLaine brushed him off with the objection that the Bible has been changed and translated so many times over the last 2000 years that it's impossible to have any confidence in its accuracy. King was quick to endorse her "facts." "Everyone knows that," he grunted.

This appeal to common knowledge is enough to satisfy the ordinary, man-on-the-street critic of the New Testament. An appeal to the game "telephone" to demonstrate how reasonable this objection is. Whisper a message to one person and transfer it from person to person, ear to ear, in a circle. Then compare the message's final form with the original. The radical transformation of the original phrase in so short a period of time is always good for a few laughs. This comparison is enough to convince the casual skeptic that the New Testament documents are equally unreliable.

The argument against the reliability of the New Testament texts can be stated very simply. How can we know that the documents we have in our possession accurately reflect originals destroyed almost two millennia ago? Communication is never perfect; people make mistakes. Errors are compounded with each successive generation, just like the message in the telephone game. By the time 2000 years pass, it's anyone's guess what the original said.

It's easy to state the problem, and some may think merely raising the objection makes the argument itself compelling. Yet offering evidence on its behalf is a bit more difficult.

Usually the complaint is raised by people who have little understanding of the real issues. In cases like this, an appeal to common knowledge is more often than not an appeal to common ignorance. Like many questions about Christianity, this objection is voiced by people who haven't been given reliable information.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

The question of authenticity is not really a religious concern at all; it's an academic one. It can be answered in an academic way totally unrelated to spiritual convictions by a simple appeal to facts, an apologetic technique I call "Just the Facts, Ma'am."

The objection at first glance is compelling. When we try to conceptualize how to reconstruct an original after 2000 years of copying, translating, and copying some more, the task appears impossible. The skepticism, though, is based on two misconceptions about the transmission of ancient documents like the New Testament.

The first assumption is that the transmission is more or less linear, as in the telephone example--one person communicating to a second who communicates with a third, etc. In a linear paradigm people are left with one message and many generations between it and the original. Second, the telephone game example depends on oral transmission which is more easily distorted and misconstrued than something written.

Neither assumption applies to the written text of the New Testament. First, the transmission was not linear but geometric--e.g., one letter birthed five copies which became 25 which became 200 and so on. Secondly, the transmission in question was done in writing, and written manuscripts can be tested in a way that oral communications cannot be…

(Click the link below to continue reading...)

Stand to Reason: Is the New Testament Text Reliable?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Amazing (Human) Race

Nature attains perfection, but man never does. There is a perfect ant, a perfect bee, but man is perpetually unfinished. He is both an unfinished animal and an unfinished man. It is this incurable unfinishedness which sets man apart from other living things. For, in the attempt to finish himself, man becomes a creator. Moreover, the incurable unfinishedness keeps man perpetually immature, perpetually capable of learning and growing… (Eric Hoffer)

Thinking today about what it is that makes people so much more fascinating than almost anything else. Perhaps it is our unique ability to become. Not just change or grow, which is also fascinating and lovely when you see it in an animal or a plant. No, people have the possibility to do something more. By the choices we make, we actually become more or less than we began. It's mind-boggling, if you think of it. What power, not in doing, but in willing - !

And then, to consider that someday we will be what we have created; what we have willed. Is that the frightening part of death - to have our choices ended, our state-of-becoming completed? To be finally formed, finished?

I read an article the other day about artist Brian Eno, who has been challenging the idea that art needs to be controlled by the artist. His installation 77 Million Paintings is currently on display at Calgary's Glenbow Museum. It consists of a digital kaleidescope of paintings that shift and change at random; what emerges is something Eno did not choose. Eno says he believes that surrender ought to be thought of as an active verb. To be frank, I don't really like Eno's work, but the philosophy behind it intrigued me. In fact, it reminded me of the work of another Creator. The first one. He too created something and let go.

His creation, like Eno's, is not entirely what he would have it. God made an earth that is held together by a vast number of physical laws. He made animals of every sort. It is interesting to consider that when Noah built the ark, and God called every kind of animal in twos and sevens to enter it, they went. There was no complaining, no arguing. And then I think of Jesus in the boat, speaking to the wind and waves, saying, "Peace, be still". No hesitation. Entirely within his control. Humanity, though, is a wholly different kind of creation. Remember what Jesus said about us? O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not! (Matthew 23:37)

But while 77 Million Paintings operates on randomness, humanity does not. For each of us, there are choices, and a choice. We ultimately become, not what we were made, but the result of what we will. We can change; become something different. Jericho's Rahab and Mary Magdalene both began as something many despise - prostitutes - and became women of great honour. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, became a laughingstock.

What our mortality means is that we do not know the day when our choices will end; when we will be frozen forever into what we are; the ultimate result of what we have willed.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Religion and Relevance

Religion and relevance. Two words that don't seem to go together. Can you be religious and relevant? And if your religion isn't relevant, what's it worth?

What we have let people believe is that Jesus and his followers have no relation to the matters at hand; that Christianity has nothing to do with the human, the everyday. How is it that we have allowed such a contradiction to gain ground?

The great Bible translator, William Tyndale, was jailed for translating the Bible into everyday English, but he just kept at it anyway, hoping there would one day be a Bible accessible to the English ploughboy. And there is, thousands of times over. But who today sees the Bible as something really to be read - by ploughboys or anyone else?

Make no mistake - we are the ones who have failed. We have shut ourselves away. We have withdrawn and turned our backs on a world for whom Christ died. We have become irrelevant.

This world deserves to see lives full of the mercy and the truth of Jesus Christ - relevant. Rubbing elbows with those he loves - sinners of every class, and not just the down-and-outs. What's that, you say? They don't want to rub elbows with us? Don't we have anything they want?

We are so in need of another Tyndale to translate our message of freedom and peace into the language of the today's ploughboy.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
(Isaiah 61:1)

The One we profess to follow spent a lot of time praying and a little time preaching, but he didn't just talk. He touched lepers. He paid taxes. He went to a wedding, and provided wine. He spent an afternoon, tired and thristy, chatting with a Samarian woman by a well. He went to dinner parties, at least once with a notorious traitor and a cheat. (Remember Zaccheus?) He had a job - in construction. He played with kids. He didn't just ring the bell of the Synagogue and sigh that no one was interested - he went out and related to people, where they were. His religion was relevant. Is yours?