Saturday, 30 August 2014

Understanding Grace

In the beginning when God created life the universe and everything, he gave man freedom of choice.  The choice to choose right from wrong, good from bad, generosity from greed, being helpful from hindrance, loving from lust, etc.  If we choose what is right there is a cost and there is also a benefit, if we choose what is wrong there may be a benefit but there is always a consequence.  The consequence of our decision to do what is wrong not only affects us, but also those around us. 

Sometimes bad things are a direct result of wrong we do:

  • If we exceed the speed limit : we can expect to get a fine.
  • If we have a fight and injure someone: we could end up in jail.

Sometimes bad things happen as a result of others doing wrong:

  • If someone steel your lunch: you go hungry.
  • If is a war: some will be killed and some will be orphaned.

If you think that life is not fair then you are quite correct. LIFE IS NOT FAIR.  It is not supposed to be; life is not about fairness, life it is about GRACE.

Grace is where someone who loves you, and knows that you cannot afford it, pays your speeding fine for you; someone shares his lunch with you because yours was stolen; someone bails you out of jail; someone adopts the orphan and becomes their father.  Grace and fairness are not the same things. Don't get me wrong. God is just and we are accountable to Him for our actions (and inactions). But God is also gracious.

You see we all do what is wrong, each and every one of us.  We all have fallen short of the glory of God.  Each of us has gone his (or her) own way, like stray sheep wondering of to do his own thing and not the right things that God intended.  But I do mostly what is right isn't that good enough. To not break the law you must do what is right all the time and as the apostle Paul wrote: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23 NIV)

There is something that you must understand about God.  God is absolutely good, absolutely pure, absolutely holy and absolutely just.  There is no darkness in Him at all.  To stand in His presence we must be absolutely pure.  But as you know, mankind is anything but pure.

I will use cake for an analogy.  In some ways our lives are a bit like baking a cake. To make a good cake you must have 100% good ingredients.  If you have 99% good ingredients and 1% dog poo, you can’t make a good cake.  You may argue that it only has a little bit of dog poo and that it’s mostly good, but are you willing to eat it?  We are a bit like this.  At best we are only mostly good and therefore partly bad.  The Bible describes our good works as filthy rags.  So what about our good intentions that so often go wrong?  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)

So this is what God did about it, He came in the very person of Jesus taking upon Himself the likeness of a man. This man Jesus loved like no other and he was righteous like no other. In His love he took upon Himself all the sins of the world and died in our place.  It was he who picked up the tab, he who took upon Himself the inadequacies of us all and it is His love that sets us free.

So, what will you do about Jesus?

If you want the ride of your life, and don’t mind that you will have your life turned upside-down and inside out, challenged and changed and if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, having a bit of a rough ride occasionally but also having life and living it to the full, then you’d better check out what Jesus said.

Life in Christ is rewarding like no other but it is not always easy or necessarily comfortable. And the cost can be considerable as there will be many things that will change and need to be changed, but the journey is worth it and so is the destination.

But before you race of and start something that you cannot finish, Jesus talked about counting the cost, and he did this through a Parable.

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:28 – 33 NIV)

The Parable that Jesus told about counting the cost is in two parts. The first part is counting the cost of following Jesus, which can be substantial, especially for some people in more restrictive parts of the world.  The second part of the parable is about a king, with an opposing king coming against him with a far greater army. The decision that must be made as to whether he can defend his kingdom against the overwhelming odds or whether he should send a delegation to ask for terms of peace.

One day, whether we like it or not, we shall all stand before God our Creator and to Him, we will have to give an account of our action and inaction. Can we defend ourselves against God, or should we ask for terms of peace before that day comes.

God loves you, but He will not put up with the corruption of man forever.

It’s time to choose.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Parable of Grace

This is a parable what was told to me many years ago.  It helped me understand the nature of the Grace of God and it is my hope it helps you. 


The Banker and the Business Man
Try to imagine a young man from way back in the early 1800s, he is entrepreneurial and very ambitious.  He has dream to make his fortune by sending a ships to the Spice Islands loading it with spices and gems and selling the goods in Europe.  However he does not have enough money to do what he has planned, so he borrows heavily from a bank against everything that he has and even more than he has.  He then buys a ship and hires a crew.

The first part of the journey was more successful than imagined with a far greater quantity of spices and gems traded for the goods that he brought from England than was originally anticipated.  The journey home was not so good.  The ship was wrecked on a small island in a massive storm and only two of the crew and the young man survived.  After many months on the island, the young man and his two colleges were eventually rescued and returned to England but with nothing more that the tattered clothes that they stood in.  The two others went their way but the young man owed money, lots of money.

At this point he had a choice, he could run off perhaps to Europe or the Americas and try to avoid the grasp of his debts or he could go and face the banker now. In Europe and the Americas, the banker has many friends and connections and the young man knew that eventually his debts would find him out.

He decides to go to confront the issue head on. So he goes to the banker and tells him everything, he even explains how that if he had listened to the captain and waited for the monsoon season to finish all would have been well so the whole mess really was his own fault.

The banker could have responded a couple ways; he could demand of the young man all that he had and then sell him into slavery which he had every right to do after all the young man had signed the contract.  But the banker did something extraordinary; he cancelled the young man’s debt totally.

So when this debt was cancelled, who really paid for it, after all the money given to the young man was totally lost?  In this case, because the banker cancelled the debt the money was a write-off but in effect, the bill is paid for out of the profits of the bank and since the banker owns the bank, it was banker who really paid out the debt.

This is the way it is with God.  It is He that we owe, He that we cannot possibly pay and He that cancels the debt.  God did this by coming to earth in the very person of Jesus taking upon Himself the likeness of a man. This man Jesus loved like no other and he was righteous like no other. In His love he took upon Himself all the sins (rebellion) of the world and died in our place.  It was he who picked up the tab, he who took upon Himself the inadequacies of us all and it is His love that sets us free.

This is love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Islam and Christianity

There are quite a few distinct differences between Christianity and Islam even though they both claim to worship the one true God.  I believe that one of the most important distinctions can be found in the Quran in Surah 4.157-159. These verses are, to my way of thinking, foremost in a number of Quranic verses that divide the two religions with an unbridgeable chasm.  The reason for this is that these verses deny the death and therefore the resurrection of Jesus.  The resurrection of Jesus being the very heart and foundation of the Christian faith.

While these verses may seem difficult for the Christian, it also puts up quite a challenge for the Muslim because they are, in some ways, self contradictory and paint God as a liar and deceiver. Let’s look at these verses:

Surah 4.157-159 reads:
"And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise. And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness."

While explicitly denying the death of Jesus on the cross, Surah 4.157-159 also confirms that Christians (or at least someone of the time) believed that Jesus died on the cross. This is quite a confronting section of the Quran, and as far as I can conceive, there are only four possible explanations as to why this verse says what it says the way it says it and why these thing contradict the Bible. These possibilities are as follows:

  1. Allah deliberately deceived the Jews and the Romans in order to save Jesus and then made a mistake, accidentally deceiving the disciples of Jesus.  Allah then left it to snowball for nearly 600 years until this mistake was corrected through Muhammad. 
  1. Allah did not care about the disciples or deliberately went out of His way to deceive the disciples of Jesus and then the disciples recorded this deception as the Gospel. 
  1. The Quran has errors or is incomplete. 
  1. The Bible has been somehow radically changed.

For obvious reasons, Muslims reject possibilities 1, 2 & 3. This leaves only possibility number 4. However this is actually the most impossible of all as explained below:

Impossible for the First Reason
For the first possibility to be true, the Bible would have to have been changed totally and dramatically. As stated above, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the very heart and foundation of Christianity and this event has been recorded in just about every book of the New Testament and foretold in some books of the Old Testament. For the Bible to have been changed after Muhammad received the revelations, one would have to gather up every copy of New Testament writings that were spread across Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa at the time and replace them with the new altered versions without anyone noticing. Don’t forget that the Jews have their own copy of the Old Testament scriptures. And this would also have to include the Dead Sea copy of the book of Isaiah – lost in the first century and not discovered until 1947.

Bible could not have been changed before Muhammad received the revelations otherwise the Quran would not have said in Surah 10.94:

"And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers."

To get a full understanding of just how impossible it would be to change the Bible, I challenge you both to read the Gospel of John and the book of Acts.

Impossible for the Second Reason
If someone did in fact manage to change out all the Bibles across Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa, then please note that it would have to have been changed in such a way as align is with Surah 4.157-159 to make it look like Allah lied to the disciples of Jesus. And on top of this, Allah did not see it coming.

If God is God, then He is not bound by the things that constrain man. God created time; he is therefore not bound by it and can see the past, present and future as if an open book. The explanation provided in Surah 4.157-159 is very incomplete given that Christians everywhere believe that Jesus died on the cross and three days later rose from the grave thus conquering death and the grave.

If the Bible has been changed or corrupted, why doesn’t it clearly state that in the Quran?

Impossible for the Third Reason
"And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them."

According to the verse above someone else was put in the place of Jesus and made to resemble him and Jesus somehow went to his freedom and was raised up to be with God. But God is Almighty and Good and is not like sinful man. Why then would Allah resort to the use of a deception to save Jesus from the cross? Why did Allah need to put someone in Jesus' place? And if this action was not deception, what would you call it?

Impossible for the Fourth Reason
The requirement for there to be two eye-witness testimonies

There are many witnesses that testify that Jesus is what the Christians claim that he is:
  • The writers of the four gospels - Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.
  • The letters written by - Peter, James, Paul and Jude.
  • The prophetic writings of - Moses, David, Nathan, Isaiah, Daniel and Micah and others.
  • The historical writings of hostile witnesses - Josephus, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger.
  • Plus the many writings from the first century church.

I have named just 18 manes of witnesses, but as you can see there are many, many more.  Some of these were eye-witnesses of Christ's death and resurrection like Peter and John.   Others like Isaiah and Nathan were prophets of God and it was revealed to then ahead of time.  Paul on the other hand saw the risen Christ and was blinded for a time.  These people listed above bear witness that Jesus is the Messiah, the Alpha and the Omega, the Risen Christ, the King of kings, the one the Christians claim to worship, the Prince of Peace, the Holy one of God, the one who was killed on the cross and raised to life again.

But Muhammad said all of these things are not so and that Jesus was only a prophet of the God, a messenger of Allah and nothing more.  For certain offences under Islamic law, the testimony two eye-witnesses are required.  How could this not be the case for the accusation that someone had bared false witness about God or that someone changed the scriptures?  And yet the Muhammad is only one witness and not an eye-witness.  His testimony cannot stand? 

Impossible for the Fifth Reason - History. 
The Bible itself is regarded as historically accurate, particularly the New Testament (although there some historians who will discount the miracles).  There are also others historical documents written in the First Century that can be referenced.  These are the works of:

Josephus - a 1st century Romano-Jewish historian (37AD – 100AD)
Tacitus - a senator and historian of the Roman Empire (56AD – 117AD)
Pliny the Younger - lawyer, author and magistrate of Ancient Rome (61AD – 112AD)

The three authors listed above were all hostile to Christians, one was a Jew the other two were part of the Roman hierarchy (Pliny even had Christians torched and executed). The documents written by these men provide quite detailed information on life and the time in which they lived.  All three records record that Jesus Christ died by the order issued by Pontius Pilate. It is also recorded Christian community at the time believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus and that they celebrated communion with one another. All three are regarded as historically accurate.

This being the case would mean that for the Quran to be without error, ether Allah deliberately would have had to go out of His way to deceive the disciples of Jesus and through them all Christians, or made a mistake and the disciples of Jesus were deceived accidently.


Conclusion and a Challenge
Standard Muslim teaching asserts that the Injil, which is the prophetic Gospel delivered through the prophet Isa (Jesus of Nazareth), has been irretrievably corrupted and distorted in the course of Christian transmission; and that consequently, place no reliance on any text in the New Testament.

However there is existence today some 5,735 manuscripts of the whole or part of the Greek text of the New Testament (Injil) all of which pre-date Muhammad. Worldwide, there are 24,800 copies of these original manuscripts. These include the Codex Vaticanus (325-350 AD) located in the Vatican library and the Codex Sinaiticus (350 AD) located in the British Museum. There are also 80,000 quotations in the works of early Christian writers, which are so extensive that the New Testament could virtually be reconstructed from them without the actual New Testament documents. Then there is the obvious fact that the Christian Gospels were so widely distributed both before and after Muhammad, that any attempt to change (add/subtract) something in the Christian Gospels would have resulted in immediate discovery and condemnation.

Surah 10.94:
"And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers."

According to the Quran the Bible was trustworthy at the time of Muhammad. With the 5,735 manuscripts pre-dating Muhammad, Moslems and anyone looking to Islam for answers have got to do some soul searching. Better still some reading.  I challenge Muslims everywhere to read part of the bible of the Bible: the Gospel of John and the book of Acts. Then you can explain to me how on earth Surah 4.157-159 cannot be in error.

The reason that the Bible is rejected by Islam is not because it’s inaccurate or because there are minor variances in the source documents, it is because they must reject it or else they must admit that the Quran has errors.

So out of the four possibilities the only possibility that makes logical sense, and that is possibility number 3 - “The Quran has errors or is incomplete.”

Please seek the truth in this regard,
it is the truth that is important not pride or saving face.

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Battle to Assert Influence

The human mind is one of the most incredible and most powerful things in the physical universe. With our minds we think and reason and with our minds we imagine.  Anything constructed by man in the physical world is first constructed in man’s mind.  The mind is indeed powerful but the human mind can also be influenced.  And just as it has been throughout all of history, there is a battle going on for influence over our minds. Politicians, lobby groups, religious leaders, rebels, storytellers, songwriters, scientists, teachers, advertisers and many others all reach out to touch and influence our minds.

Influence is power, and some like Hitler and Starlin have sought to influence and even to control the minds of others for the purpose of political power and military might.  Others push advertisements down our throats so they can sell us the latest car or shampoo.

I believe that this push for influence has never been more intense than it is today with social media, TV, billboards, news papers, the internet and even our peers all attempting to exert some level of influence over us. These attempts to influence have not always been for our betterment, and truth can often be a casualty in this maddening push for influence.

But it’s the truth that matters, not the ideas, opinions or agendas of those who would want to gain power over us.  It was God who gave us our minds; not so that we would blindly follow someone else, but so we could use our minds, determine what is the true and then to do what is right.

Seek the truth
It is the truth that matters
And it is the truth that sets us free.

The stories and anecdotes that form my blog, are a compilation of some of the imperfect thoughts of a very imperfect man living in a corrupt and fallen world.  However, it is my hope that these snippets will cause you to think, and to think beyond the boundaries to which you have become accustomed.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Gay Marriage

What is it about marriage that gets everyone so upset these days? And what is so wrong about gay marriage? Why can’t marriage be between or two guys or two girls. Well if we’re going to get serious about any of this, we’ve got to define what a marriage is.  So what is marriage?

The Oxford Dictionary defines marriage as:“The formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.” And then it goes on to add:  “(In some jurisdictions) a formal union between partners of the same sex.”

But there is more to it than that because marriage is a covenant and a covenant is not the same as a contract or a formalised agreement.  Contracts and agreements can be negotiated between the various parties; whereas the terms of a covenant cannot, they are fixed.  You either accept the terms of the covenant, or you don’t enter into the covenant.

The covenant of marriage
There are many arguments as to who set out the terms of this covenant, some would say God others nature but marriage is a covenant is set in stone by biological and it cannot be changed.  It is a covenant between two who will live together and to build the foundation of a family. It is a promise to be exclusive and stick together through thick and thin.  It is between a man and a woman who will come together and share their DNA in the creation of a brand new human life.  By definition, gay couples cannot have this and by definition, no act of any government can ever change this.

Look at the simple mechanics of it:  To create a baby human it takes an ovum from a woman and sperm from a man, and we put them together and place them in a womb where the fertilized egg will grow into a brand new human life.   Two men cannot make a baby.  Two women cannot make a baby.  It takes one man and one woman to create a baby, no more, no less.  At present there is no other way.  Science may one day come up with an alternative, but if they do, it will certainly not be natural.

It is true that some couples cannot have children and others choose not to, but I am not to discuss this aspect because it is beside the point.  It is this potential of procreation because of the union of man and woman that make it a marriage.  No other type of union has that potential.  So, in truth, anything else is not marriage and can never be marriage.

What is so wrong about gay marriage? To accept gay marriage you have to redefine marriage and call it something it is not.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

God versus the rock

If God is really God, can He make a rock so big that He can’t lift? 

It one of those "throw it out there" sort of questions.  The one they try to stump you with.  A question that Christians are not supposed to be able to answer.

So, can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift?
Even this loaded, nonsensical question with its curricular, no win argument has a rather elegant answer. But first let’s look at the point they are trying to make:  If God can make rock so big that He cannot lift it, then He is not God because He cannot lift the rock.  But if He can lift it, then He is not God because He cannot make a rock big enough.

God can’t win this one, or can He?  Since this is a hypothetical question and God is not into performing circus tricks to entertain a whim, then the answer can only ever be hypothetical.

So, how big is big? 
How about a rock as big as a car or even a house?  Well I don’t reckon that God would have a problem with making or lifting either of them.  How about as big as block of flats, skyscraper?  Not a problem. How about a rock as big as a small town, or even a city, or maybe even a country, how about as big as the earth?  Well God made the earth and put it in to motion around the sun so he's actually done that one.

We've got to go bigger! How about as big as the solar system?  Well God made the galaxies and put them into motion too.  So even a rock the size of a galaxy should not be a problem. However, a rock of that size would collapse in on itself to form a giant black hole so God may have to change a few of the laws of physics.

Well how about making a rock the size of universe: infinity to infinity.   Yes I am quite sure that God could do that if He wanted too.  Imagine that, a single rock of infinite size, stretching to infinity in every direction, the whole universe one giant never ending rock. Only problem is that if this rock was infinite there would be nothing else except for this rock, so there would be no place to lift the rock from.

So the answer to the question:
Yes, God could make a rock infinitely big that would fill all of space. But if He did this, there would be no place to lift the rock from.  So how about that, God is still God.  This is because the question was flawed and did not take into consideration infinity.

About those other questions:
There are a lot of questions like that out there, some of them could be answered much like this one, but there some that can’t because most of these questions are loaded and/or intrinsically impossible.   

By loaded I mean a question like: “Do you still have that problem with Kleptomania?”
The question is loaded because if you answer “no”, then it was a problem you once had, and if you answer “yes” then it is a problem you still have. 

Intrinsically impossible question is one like: “Can you make a square circle?”  The question is intrinsically impossible and self-contradictory.

Make Anonymous
Delete Answer
C.S. Lewis stated:
His (God’s) Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. . . It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities .
. . nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God (Problem of Pain, 18).

There are other examples of impossibilities for an Omnipotent God:  “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18) Lying like sinning is against God’s nature and because God is good, it is intrinsically impossible for God to lie.

So, the next time someone tries to undo you with one of these silly little questions or statements, have fun dismantle it.  Take your time and think your way through it properly, and if you cannot see through it straight away, tell them that you will get back to them. Have fun.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Who created God?

If God created everything, then who created God? 

How many times have you heard that question or variations of it? I have heard it many times.  But inherent within the question there is an assumption, and this assumption that is wrong. Because when someone asks the question, “Who created God?”, they make the assumption that there was a time when God did not exist.

If God created everything, then He created absolutely everything: space, stars, planets, mountains, rivers, oceans, life etc.  This means that He would also have to create all matter (the atoms that things are made from).  All this God would have made from nothing or else where did it all come from?  He would also have laid out all the rules that hold it all together: the laws of gravity, laws of motion, laws of thermodynamics and the rest; all the laws that hold the very fabric of the universe together. 

This means He also created the dimensions; you know: up - down, left - right and forward - backwards. Without these dimensions there would be no ‘place’ to put the stars and planets etc. 

If God created everything, He also created time.  If He created time then there wasn’t a time when God did not exist.  This would make God outside of the dimensions of time and space that we are bound by.  We are bound by these things; He is not.   For God, all of time would be, sort of like an open book.   God is bigger than any box we can make for Him.

So, the question “Who created God?” is the wrong question because to ask this is to assume that there was a time when God did not exist.  Because of this the question is nonsensical and a bit like asking, “What is the smell of the colour 9”.

So what is the right question?

Well a much better question is: “What is God like?”  And the answer to that can be found in the Bible.