Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas sermon after the fact

I didn't get to give a Christmas sermon this year. But if I had it would have been on sin.

The background for the sermon would have come from a recent conversation I had with a former Hindu who is now a follower of Christ. After I found out he was a believer and that his background was Hindu, I asked him, "How do you talk about Jesus to Hindus, knowing that He is accepted among the many gods as just another god?" His answer was profound and simply. He said that Hindus are somewhat confused by Jesus. First, you build a relationship with Hindus, let the Holy Spirit convict them of their sin and THEN introduce Jesus as the Saviour. I think that approach would work with anyone, Hindu or not. So many times we are eager to "introduce" people to Jesus before the Holy Spirit has convicted them of sin.

I doubt I would have incorporated this next part, but it was my focus this Christmas. The Wise Men (trying to break myself from saying a number, since that is unknown). This year an Iranian told me the story of the Wise Men from Persia. This person was so excited and proud that Persian people were a part of our Christmas story. I, too, was glad to have a Persian know about Persian influence on the birth of Jesus. Have a Muslim tell you (accurately even) the story of the birth of the son of Mary and see if it won't bless you.

Lastly, the sermon I did hear for Christmas focused on Simeon. It was a great illustration for me because I was holding Ida Claire as the pastor spoke of Simeon holding little Jesus. I could just imagine how this man felt. He had been promised to see the coming Messiah. And when he went to the temple, he saw the baby and took him up in his arms.

Salvation has come. That's what makes Christmas special. Sin has put us in a need to be rescued. Thankfully, God with us in the flesh has made that rescue possible.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Part 2: Why SH is my second favorite atheist/agnostic

I decided to split these two posts because I felt they may be too long as one post. Also, if you read the first and had no desire to continue, then you could skip this one. =) How nice!

As a way of transition I thought I'd give a brief summary of the previous post. Stephen Hawking, the eminent British physicist, has come out with a new book stating that physics does not need a God to answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing. I, on the other hand, found the newspaper article from The Times written by Hannah Devlin, and excerpts from the accompanying free magazine, Eureka, to be an exhilarating testimony to God as Creator.

When I saw how the magazine had headlined the Hawking book (i.e. "The End of the Universe by Stephen Hawking."), I knew this was going to have something to do with multiverse vs. universe. Now from the beginning I do not claim to understand even most of this stuff. Maybe that discredits my opinion. And maybe that accounts for my perceived "naive" continued faith in God as Creator. If so, I hope to always remain a simpleton.

The idea that there are possible innumerable universes out there is a profound and awesome idea. If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, it shows me how incredible the creative power of my God is. I mean, he created this universe and then some?!!! WOW. We do not even know all there is to know about this universe, much less what is going on way out there somewhere in space. How then can we know the mind of God? We can't even know what we know exists in our own universe, let alone know things outside our reality. If there is anything I like about postmodern philosophy, it's this. The idea of multiverse instead of a universe. At first I thought this was where Hawking was going with his support of the M-theory. I thought he was going to be the poster child of postmodern science. However, I can't decide if he is or not.

"Just as Darwinism removed the need for a creator in the sphere of biology,... [SH] renders redundant the role of a creator for the Universe." ("Hawking"...Devlin, here on referred to as HD) So how does he do it?

Hawking postulates that "the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics." (HD). Gravity can cause spontaneous creation. Therefore, if gravity can cause spontaneous creation, then our universe could be the product of that event. This would also explain the rise of numerous other universes out there. "...M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing...Each universe has many possible histories and many possible states at later times, that is, at times like the present, long after their creation...Only a very few would allow creatures like us to exist."(Eureka excerpt of Grand Design, afterward referred to as EGD)

Isn't that incredible!! There are possibly tons of things God has created that we have yet to even discover. Of course, SH did not say this, I did. This proves what I have long thought about God as Creator. He was creating worlds before ours and possible has been creating worlds after ours. He IS Creator, not he WAS Creator. God is creative, and it's his nature to create. He has not stopped on day 7. He may have begun something else on day 8. How marvelous!!

SH goes on to say, "Newton believed that our strangely habitable solar system did not 'arise out of chaos by the mere laws of nature.' Instead, he maintained, the order in the Universe was 'created by God at first and conserved by him to this Day in the same state and condition.'" All Newton was doing was showing the grandeur of God as Creator. For those faith filled scientists, like Newton, God will be behind everything explainable and non-explainable. They will see breakthroughs in understanding the natural and physical world as gifts of enlightenment from God to mankind. Maybe even grace. But God is not demoted when he allows the scientist to understand the world He created. In fact as we find out more about the world, universe, multiverse that we are a small part of, God becomes even more glorious.

But if you are predisposed to non-belief, as Hawking now is, God gets smaller at every discovery until He disappears or as Nietzsche put it "dies." He gets smaller because he is no longer needed. What was a mystery is now formulated. By concluding that spontaneous creation due to the laws of gravity is the reason we are here, the one with no faith convinces himself/herself that they have less of a need to continue to look for something (as a God) as the first cause of the world. They have something, in their minds, more real than a spiritual being. This being acts almost like an excuse for mankind's ignorance. (and BTW I'm not necessarily arguing for the First Cause Theory either). So, as humans begin to understand more and more they become more and more enlightened and think they can afford to "kill off" God. They believe they are emerging ever so slowly from the dark into the light. In other words, it's just the next step in proper evolutionary development of the human.

But it isn't just the non-believers. We all put ourselves on the throne as King instead of submitting to God as King.

So, why does Hawking not see spontaneous creationism as simply a means used by God to eventually create us here, as the defenders of the Intelligent Design Theory would conclude as they have in the theistic evolution debate? Hawking says that the discovery of a planet orbiting a star other than the one in our Milky Way, "...makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions--the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass--far less remarkable and far less compelling as evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings." (EGD) First, I was unaware that God creates for our pleasure. I figured he created because he's king and wants to. Do not we exist because of his pleasure not ours? No kid ever born was asked if they wanted to exist. They exist because God wanted them to. Secondly, I'm too dull to understand how discovering other planets orbiting around other stars diminishes the idea of God as Creator. To me it only enhances it.

One great thing Hawking does for me is give credence to the idea that we are in fact situated at the perfect distance from the Sun to exist and that if nature were off by just a smidge we'd all cease to exist. "But in the case of the events resulting in the evolution of the Universe, such developments were governed by the balance of the fundamental forces of nature, and it is those whose interplay had to be just right in order for us to exist."(EDG emphasis mine)

Hawking continues, "Many people would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God. The idea that the Universe was designed to accommodate mankind appears in theologies and mythologies dating from thousands of years ago right up to the present...[This] could lead at least some of us back to the old idea that this grand design is the work of some grand designer...God." (EDG)

Or I guess it could lead some us further away from God. But how? Frank Close, who does not believe Hawking's endorsement of the M-theory adds one thing pro or con to the God debate, does think that "it may raise questions about God's efficiency...[in that] God's efficiency may be called into question: if the sole aim was to create you, me, Stephen Hawking, would not one solar system have been enough?" And Hawking sees that, "if God's intention was to create mankind, then these many untouchable worlds would surely be redundant." (HD)

Again, I won't even pretend to understand this argument. But in my attempt to understand, they both seem to say that the reality of other planets orbiting other stars suggests that God wasted "space and time" (for I can't think of what else to call it). If he was so good at creating, then why are there other systems? He could have "gotten it right" with Earth. Well, I would say that maybe he got it right with Earth and got it right with every multiverse out there! I mean He is eternal and spiritual so he has a lot of time and space on his hands. Do we think God has so much to worry about here on Earth, and that he's too small to keep creating and deal with stuff on other planes too?

What would happen if one went outside and counted the stars of sky or even tried the same feat with the most powerful instrument we have? Well, God counts the number of the stars; he names all of them. (NET Psalm 147:4) To say that the discovery of planets orbiting suns somehow makes the idea of God as Creator "redundant," or "inefficient," does not seem to be a real argument. In fact, I would hope we WOULD find more stars (and what difference does it make if planets are floating around them). There is compatibility with believing in a Creator God and the science of physics, biology, and astronomy.

Since Hawking does not simply attribute the laws of physics and all that may result from their "interplay," to God, I will. His research and work makes him my second favorite atheist (agnostic) out there. And I am so thankful to God for letting Hawking discover our multiverse.

Do you expect anything less from an agnostic?

It has taken awhile for me to get to this.

And it all started with a coupon at Tescos. Lady R gets these coupons in the mail on various things at the store. She had gotten one that gives you a certain number of points on the Tesco card if you buy a magazine or newspaper. So, I was given the choice. It was September 2, 2010.

I decided on a newspaper that came with a free magazine. I figured I was getting the most for my money. The Times front cover article with the headline, "Hawking: God did not create Universe," was about the new book by the renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking. The article summarized his theories, his agreement with the M-theory, and his conclusion that it is unnecessary for "God," to be Creator.

Was this it? Had science actually proven the non-existence of God? I mean this is Stephen Hawking, who previously had suggested that religion and science were compatible in the sense of God as Creator ("Hawking: God did not create Universe" by Hannah Devlin). And now he has changed his mind and is convinced that "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing." (Hawking, Grand Design, as quoted in Eureka magazine)

I read the newspaper article and the magazine excerpts from the book. When I got through, I actually felt I had just read about God. Have you ever read Phillip Yancey's Finding God in Unexpected Places? For me it was just that. And what was really good and serendipitous was that morning before I started in on the Hawking reading I had read Psalm 95 and Isaiah 40. So for me, no, SH had not discredited my belief in God. He enhanced it.

(As a parenthesis as I was reading my mind kept going back to the two above mentioned passages. "In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." Awe inspiring. And then, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?" From the deepest depths to the highest peaks, it all is in his anthropomorphic hands. He made it all!! And consulted no one and was taught by no one. He is the Creator of all that is or ever will be. This is my God. Let us worship him and him alone!)

However, if you are already predisposed to non-belief, Hawking brings an electron microscopic peace (oops piece) to you. You can bank on his intelligence to satisfy your soul and mind that there is no God and no consequence for such "belief." Nothing I can say from this point forward will convince you otherwise. And frankly, if it is left to me to convince you, you will never be convinced. But even though I'll never be as intelligent as SH, I know that God will say something to you one day, if he has not already, and if you have ears to hear, you will hear his voice. What harm would it do to listen?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When is Jesus getting back here?

You know sometimes you just want to ask the question, "When is all this madness in the world going to end?" You come up against the falleness of our human kind in so many situations and in so many people. It just makes you wonder when enough will be enough.

You see crookedness in the government, both on a local level and national level and even multinational level. You meet people in your church who would rather follow man made rules than actually obeying God. You notice the faults in others so quickly yet they themselves seem oblivious or apathetic.

This is not too mention the multifaceted faults in our own self. Pride, greed, covetousness, envy, hatred, unkindness, blasphemy, self-seeking, complaining, and all out self absorption. Getting out all the logs in our own eyes could help us see better, for sure. But who wants to do that? And if we do decide to who wants to go first?

All this rebellion individually and cooperatively prompts me to ask, "When is Jesus getting back here?" Maranatha!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Who do you think you are?

The BBC has a program that investigates famous people's heritage. I've only seen the show once, but it seems that there are some fascinating twists and turns in these people's backgrounds.

I've been doing some genealogy work too, just for fun. I signed up for the free 14-day trial of so I could have access to what is normal reserved for subscribers. Two weeks is not near long enough, but it gave me a basic overview of my family's heritage.

I've learned that great grandma Pecheur may have been a full blooded Chickasaw Native American. I've learned the names of other great (etc.) grandparents. I've learned some of the movements of the forefathers, and for some even when and where they came to, what would be, the United States.

But a couple of things have struck me. The oral story is often complimentary to the written story and at the same time contradictory to the written story. People's memory of past events often change and morph. Here are some examples.

A person may have been asked on a certain census where their father was born. They may have answered in Virginia. Then, ten years later, when asked the same question, they may have said in South Carolina. And possible ten years later, the father has been reported to have been born in Georgia. Now, the person is not lying. But I imagine as people get older they forget. The father may have actually been born in Virginia, but moved to South Carolina before the descendant was born. He grew up in South Carolina and inadvertently would state his father was born in South Carolina. Or, it could be that he was told his father was born in Virginia, but ten years he had found it, it was his father's father that was born there and in fact his father had been born in South Carolina.

The same is true with birth dates and death dates. These can be off my as much as five years (maybe even more). And it's hard to find out what the true day of birth or death or marriage.

This is not to mention the family stories that can be integrated or separated or whatever. People are not lying. They are stating the truth as they know it and as it has been passed down to them. And to me, it is not that disturbing to find out a birth date is off from one census report to another. Even myself, when verbalizing what I've learned will often mix a story from the paternal side with the maternal side or something similar.

With technology and sometimes the expertise of the experts, we can find out a good deal about our ancestors. We can find out a story, one certain angle, of a relative. This is what the BBC show is trying to do; tell a story from researching historical documents. Sometimes the oral story needs altering to make it more precise after reviewing the research.

This all got me thinking about the oral vs written transmission of Scripture. I would imagine most of the Bible was simply written oral tradition. And somehow writing down oral history solidifies it, makes it true. Then, somebody in some discipline comes along and sees a problem with their research and what is written. Next, the conclusion is that the Bible is wrong, made-up of a bunch of fanciful and moral stories and thereby holds no authority or relevance for today. Check. On to the next undermine of truth structures.

Hold on. This type of conclusion and how one gets to this conclusion may have more problems than at first appears. As I said when I was doing genealogical work, I had a certain tolerance for differences in the oral story and the" documented" story. Birth dates were off, death dates were off. There is a bit of imprecision. And it really does not bother me. I don't conclude from imprecision that my forefather was possibly a historical reality, but I'm not really sure because I don't have a month/date/year for his/her birth. And even the documented (the "written version") version may not be as reliable as I like to think.

So, why should I worry and fret when someone thinks they have displaced the entire Bible because they believe their evidence proves one thing and the Bible may state another? There is a certain tolerance for imprecision when it comes to transmitting history down through the ages. It doesn't indicate fraud or deception or even untruth. It just means we need to look deeper at the story, and also it means we may just have to deal with not knowing every precise detail about the event. We know one angle or two of the event. But until we gain all knowledge, we don't know everything. And that's OK by me.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Naked God

I did something even I can't believe I did.

I gave a book away.

I came across this book, Naked God by Martin Ayers, from a friend. He had received a leaflet about it being distributed for free in their area by a local church plant within the next few weeks. As he waited to receive his copy, I decided to visit the church and get my own copy. I didn't read it right off. I figured if it was free, it probably was not going to be that great. haha My friend got his copy in the mail and had it read before I even started. He loved it and had good things to say about it and was hoping his son would pick up the book and read it too.

Fast forward a little. Since we had visited the church on and off we knew the author attended there. But we had never met him. Then, he spoke one Sunday on the parable of the wedding feast. It was one of the best sermons I had ever heard on heaven. (I think it would be worth it to listen to the mp3 file. Scroll down to the sermon by Martin Ayers). That Sunday I met a church member who asked me if I had read his book, since we had been talking about how much we enjoyed the sermon. She said he talked about the parable in the book and thought it was so good that she was hoping her daughter would read the book. She then introduced me to him.

Then, Lady R read the book and recommended it to me. So, with three people who had read the book, and all had spoken highly of it, I thought I'd pick it up.

All the hype was legit. I read it and felt refreshed and was reminded of the general mentality of atheistic or naturalistic thinking in this country. A lot of food for thought to help those who are still undecided about the existence of God. A breathe of fresh air for the believer who has been affected by the smog of the culture of relativism and pluralism and postmodernism.

With a title like Naked God I was expecting a reproduction of Michelangelo's Sistene Chapel scene of God's backside on the cover. But I guess a burning match head will be OK. =) Especially since the book is not about God being naked but "...strip[ping] away any false ideas we've reveal the truth." Ayers asks a basic question, "Is there a God?" Nothing new there, but he follows up with, "If there is NOT a God then what is the consequence, if there is a God what is the consequence, and what are you going to do about it?"

Ayers tackles head on the philosophy of naturalism, which he defines as existence without God. The consequence is a life without much purpose and machine like. For me though it brought me back to 11th grade and my own experience with naturalism in Ms. Kelly's class. We talked about the philosophy behind Jack London's works and how it was realism, an American form of European naturalism (see also here to confirm my teacher's teaching). I tried to read Emile Zola's work but it was too philosophical and above my intelligence. Nonetheless, I considered myself a naturalist who believed in God. Little did I know I was actually a Calvinist, another French deterministic philosophy with similar consequences as naturalism save only with a hope of and in God. I believed that every minutiae was planned and ordered by God. If someone fell down the steps, they were ordained to or at best there was nothing they could have ever done to have prevented it. I didn't really do much with this information. In other words I didn't develop any theology from this. I just had it in the back of my head. But my freshman year in college I saw the huge error of being a "naturalist." It really did mean denying the existence of God and accepting that all that exists is the natural world. And since I didn't know about Calvinism, I rejected naturalism and through C.S. Lewis' Miracles, I re-considered myself a super-naturalist.

I digress a bit. Ayers states it like this "...every decision we will ever make has been caused...We can't influence the world by our choices, because we're just part of the world ourselves. The naked truth is that we're not free in the way we think we are." (pg 26-7) This is the outcome of a naturalistic viewpoint.

The next section, Ayers deals with Jesus and relativism. This was encouraging to me. In a day when many have an all-roads-lead-to-Rome attitude, it is a balm to hear the exclusiveness of Jesus still being talked about. In this section Ayers also references Lewis' Miracles, but in a different way than I had. Ayers uses a quote from Lewis to show how people in Jesus' day were no more gullible to the supernatural miracles than we are in the "modern" world. (see pg 102)

And it's in chapter 14 where Ayers talks about the parable of the wedding feast. But I think the sermon is better.

When I finished the book, I was in the central part of the city on the underground transportation system. I felt like it was a book worth passing on. So, I laid the book in the seat next beside me. I prayed that it wouldn't simply be put in the trash but that someone who needed to read it would pick it up and read it. It was hard for me to give away a book. I really wanted to bring it home and put it on my bookshelf. But I kept thinking, "Freely you have received freely give."

Also, Ayers has given me permission to include a link to the first part of the book. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'll keep this in mind

I saw these ads. I must say I'm skeptical. I'll keep this information in mind as I continue looking at Islam.
My favorite was Muhammad the defender of women's right. Really? Women seem to be oppressed in Islam to me. But I am willing to be wrong and keep an open mind as the investigation continues.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The building doesn't make the Church

"Qu'une église soit transformée en une salle communale, une salle de concert, où est le problème?...Mais ce n'est pas le bâtiment qui fait la présence spirituelle." p151

Sarkozy is right. It doesn't matter if the church building is also a concert hall or a community center as well as a church. What difference does it make? "It's not the building that makes the spiritual presence."

I figure many of the mega churches of today will be community centers and multi purpose buildings of tomorrow. Building a single purpose church building today is a poor means of spending money. When churches begin to grow, starting a building program could be the worst thing for the health of the congregation. The focus becomes raising money for the building. Everything centers around the building. The building. The building. The building.

Then, you have churches with decline in attendees. You have a big building with few people to maintain the upkeep of THE BUILDING. I'm not against buildings as some are today. I'm against church revolving around a building.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"Islam is a French religion"

"...le creuset républicain n'est pas que chrétien ou juif. L'islam est une religion française,..."p131.

Finally finished up Sarkozy's book on religion and the republic. Here are some thoughts I found as I finished up.

This statement caught my attention. And I think it may be why he said it. Islam is a French religion. What Islam could not do at Poitiers, it now does freely throughout the Republic. It has a presence.

What are the implications of Islam being a French religion? I think it's an acknowledgment of the decline of Christianity through apathy and the spiritual void left by the such rejection. As I understand it, Islam is not growing mainly through converts. It's growing mainly through immigration. The French are still non religious. They just have another faith in their "melting pot."

But if Islam can adapt itself to France, crossing over from a Middle Eastern religion to a European religion, it can conquer the world.

So, why not interact with Muslims as true followers of Christ as they move in next door? What better way to bring the Gospel to the Muslim world than by interacting with them as they settle in our communities in Europe and North and South America.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Rules

Spurgeon's Church

After a horrible Friday night and Saturday morning worrying about our friends, upon their return on Saturday afternoon, we decided to stick with the schedule. We would go to Metropolitan Tabernacle, the church where the late Charles H. Spurgeon pastored.

What an opportunity!! I have read multitudes of Spurgeon's works and even in my early preaching days tried to use some of his illustrations. He was truly a great preacher of his day and God used him to reach London and still uses his works to reach the nations today. In fact, I was surprised to learn that his funeral went on for days and hundreds of thousands came by MT to pay their respects. What an influence!!

As we walked up the steps to the church I couldn't help but notice two signs. One read Metropolitan Taberncale Baptist Church (Spurgeon's). The other one stated that the 11am service was a Teaching Ministry and a 6:30 PM was an Evangelistic service. Funny. I thought the Church was God's not Spurgeon's. And why was there an Evangelistic service in the evening for visitors and a Teaching service for the non-visitors? Traditionally thinking is completely opposite. You try to preach to the heathen on Sunday mornings not Sunday nights. Sunday nights are reserved for teaching those who actually put forth an effort to return to church at night.

I didn't let those little signs detour me though. I was looking forward to a good church service and some good preaching. Somehow, I felt like the pastor would be Spurgeon himself reincarnated up there telling us how to live the Christian life. Exciting.

As we entered the church I knew I was in trouble though. Most of the men were in suits and ties. Now I'm all for someone dressing in a suit if they want. But usually when you see that many men dressed in suits you better hold on. My experience has shown me that the clothes people wear to church do indicate the level of formality one will find in the service.

An usher greeted us and saw we had three young kids under three among us two couples and stated forthright that they would HAVE to go to a separate room. He led us along a corridor beside the main sanctuary to a little room with a video monitor and nice neat chairs all lined up in rows. The audience would hear the songs but only when the sermon was given would they have video relay of the service.

My buddy and I found our way back to the sanctuary. We checked out the books for sell. You would think it would have be Spurgeon's works. And there were a few titles of his but most we from others. The latest was The Dark Side of Christian Counselling. And then, my favorite, a booklet entitled, "Are we Fundamentalists?" I started putting two and two together. I knew this was an Independent Baptist Church. I also was pretty certain of the answer to the question the booklet asked. What I had come to was a hard core true to type, Independent Baptist service. The kind you try to avoid.

We started to take our seats and was handed a KJV Bible and a Psalter. Other people began to file in, and I read the introduction to the Psalter. What the link above failed to reprint on the website but is clearly in the book itself was that the songs in the Psalter did not contain any non- trinitarian, sacramentist, modernistic, nor animistic hymns. I have an idea what a non-trinitarian hymn might be and maybe what a sacrementist hymn might be (anything that sounds Catholic), but what is a modern hymn or even better yet an animistic hymn? Weren't the hymns of Isaac Watts "modern" at some point in history?

The one man show begins. The pastor approaches the podium and prays long? I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said at least 10 minutes. My immediate thought was Jesus and his condemnation of lengthy public prayers. Then, I was ashamed of myself for "judging". I told myself to focus on getting the log from my eye before getting the sliver out of my brother's eye. We sang from the Psalter and the music didn't seem to match well the words. All we had were the words anyway. But I figured this is how they sang in the 1600's and 1700's in London. Go with the flow. Then came the sermon...

You can watch it or hear it, if you like. You'll have to scroll down to the sermon entitled "The New Nationality." But beware it goes on for a solid 45 minutes, or at least it felt it did. And in all fairness some points were not so bad. But I thought I was going to have to burst out loud with laughter when he actually starting pointing out "true" doctrine in the infamous TULIP. He actually brought that up. Honestly, I thought my Reformed/Calvinist friends were past that silly thing. Did he actually say that Jesus only suffered for the saved ones? If you decide to listen to it, let me know what he actually said. I myself can't be bothered to find out.

I didn't take Communion, not that I really wanted to or would have, because you had to see a deacon for a Communion Card to be allowed entrance. Now I believe in closed communion, but I don't think we need to be printing Communion Cards. If you want to practice closed communion and not have any non-Christians there, have a separate service. Guaranteed few non-believers will show up.

My buddy and I returned to retrieve our wives and children. When I heard their experience of the service I lost it. I stated this was in fact a legalistic, Pharisee like, separatist, fundamental, Independent group. I wonder if Jesus would have a few words with them if he'd been there.

The room was for those children and their parents who were not able to worship. They had been given a full page front and back of rules to follow while in the holding cell. Things like no food. Children must be quiet. Children must be in the lap at all times. No moving the sacred chairs. Blah blah blah blah blah. All this sanctimonious nonsense about teaching children how to worship. And what did Jesus say about the little children? If you want your child to learn to worship properly, why not bring him/her to where the action is? And if you do think you need to provide a separate room, why does it have to be like you think the "real" worship service is? If it is a separate room, let the children be. Why not have a room where your kid can cry or scream if s/he needs to but at the same time that allows the parents to not be so self conscious of their loud kid? We've put our kid in nursery before. But she was not expected to sit still with hands folded and be quiet! And why were the parents/children/inmates only aloud to see the pastor perform on stage? That whole one man routine tells me that Bible idolatry and/or personality worship is very close by at this church.

Frankly, if I can help it, I will not be back at Spurgeon's shrine Church again. I hope to let Jesus judge them for their legalism. And it is obvious He will judge me for my lack of spirituality. Because even though I am of the opinion I was sitting in a modern day Christian Pharisee synagogue (Tabernacle as they call it), the place was packed out with hundreds of people in attendance. I simply can not get my head around that. And I have to admit, or so it seems, they must be doing something right, if I do not approve or feel welcome and at home there.

It did my soul good afterward to visit the Bunhill Cemetery, right across from the John Wesley House. What a breathe of fresh air!

When to worry

Oxford trip: The rest of the story.

We left our friends in Oxford and headed back. They were going to visit Stonehenge and Bath and return around 11pm.

At 1am they were not back nor had we heard from them. Even though it was only 2 hours off schedule I was still getting a little concerned. They had two young children, and it didn't seem like something they would do; stay out so late with children. My thoughts began to think the worse at 2am and still no word from them. Were they OK? Why hadn't they called or shown up? Had they been in a wreck? I mean driving in the UK is different. My friend had been a little stressed, and rightfully so, by having to enter the round-abouts from the left rather than right and simply by the difference in Continental driving and UK driving.

And still why had we not heard from them? Did their cell phone die? Most certainly. I had gotten their voice mail when I had tried to call it. But then why had they not simply shown up? Had they run out of gas along the route? Had they forgotten to yield in the round-about and been hit by another driver and were in the hospital? Or worse, had they flipped their car on the road or into a ditch? Were they OK?

I began to pray for their safety and their well-being. But admittedly I could hardly pray. I simply told God to accept my worry as a prayer for their safety. Lady R said we should get some rest and deal with the issue in the morning. My thought was that if they were in danger we needed to get some help to them sooner rather than later. But I laid down and closed my eyes and somehow did drift off to sleep. Until... 4:30am I woke up from a nightmare very upset and fearing the absolute worse. The scene was just outside the apartment and two tall people came around a corner. I recognized them in the dream (but they were obviously a creation of mind because the two were not real people) as my friends spokespeople. And somehow I knew they had just returned from the hospital. I just kept saying, "oh no, oh no." The guy asked me if my roll cage had been installed in my car. And I couldn't answer with a "yes," or "no," I could only say, "oh no, oh no," The man responded with a warm smile and said it was not what I was thinking. For what I was thinking was that my friends were in the hospital and had flipped their car. They were injured but at least not dead.

When I woke up, I got up out of bed, tried to calm down, and thought that we had to call someone. I woke up Lady R. and told her we should call a friend who would know what to do. She asked if I was sure I really wanted to do this and wake him up. I said I was very sure. As you can imagine at 4:30 am, he was not so coherent, but he heard our story and suggested we wait til 8:30am before we started calling hospitals and the police. He said there were a couple of logical reasons why we had not heard from our visitors. And if they were going to those places, it would be impossible for us to get out on the highway and start looking ourselves. He suggested some rest.

On the dot at 8:30am he called and asked if we had heard anything. Nothing. He came over as we put together a plan of action. We would wait until the afternoon then we would start calling hospitals and the police. My friend's logical reason was that their cell phone had died. They had gotten to far from "home base," and had simply found a hotel for the night and would make their way back sometime in the morning.

As we were passing the time, my friend's wife called and said she had just heard from our visitors. Everyone was fine!! Praise God.

What had happened? Indeed, our friends did leave Oxford a little later than they had expected. They went to Stonehenge, Bath, and even to Straford upon Avon, where they found a lovely hotel for the night. Their cell phone had almost died so they had turned it off. They had taken on too much to get back to our place by 11pm. But why hadn't they simply called? They had. They had the wrong phone number, and since it was so late they didn't want to bother calling our local friends and waited til 9am to call them to call us. They had emailed at 11:30pm, 30 minutes after we had last checked our email and turned in for the night.

When they showed up later that day, we hugged and shared stories. It was too much of a dramatic experience not to have learned some lessons.

1) Communicate clearly when separating from you party. Make sure everyone knows the contingency plan if things change or if someone gets into trouble.
2) You can't trust nightmares. Your mind can create stuff at night when your sleeping that is simply not connected to reality. It is just you living out your own fears in your heads.
3) Even though you can't trust your dreams, figure out the elements of the dream and where they come from. Do this when you have calmed down from the anxiety produced by the nightmares. And don't make rash decisions based on nightmares. Get other people involved to help you think clearly if you feel you need to act on a dream.
4) I do not have the spiritual gift of prophecy, and one can't always trust your intuition. This was already a known, but now I have a powerful reminder.
5) I should work on worry and trusting God more in situations in life. Tough stuff.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Allah had no son

I remember picking up a Chick Track some years ago that talked about how Allah had no son. I don't recommend nor endorse Chick Tracks. But it was the first time that I learned that Muslims have a huge problem with Jesus being God's Son (or Allah if you will). Recently, some one put it this way, "Jesus is not the Son of God because God could not have had such relations with a woman."

If I were talking to a Muslim about this, I think arguing would be futile. So why do it?

I got out my interpretation of the Qur'an to see what it says (because the Qur'an can't be translated only interpreted, and I do not know Classic Arabic.) about Mary and Jesus.

Surah 19 is about Mary. In Section 2 :16 the preface reads, "She [Mary] gave birth as a virgin to Jesus...[who] was a servant of Allah, a true Prophet...but no more than a man: to call him the son of Allah is to derogate from Allah's Majesty, for Allah is High above all His Creatures..."

and 19:35: "It is not befitting to (the majesty) of Allah that he should beget a son..."

My response hopefully would be not to argue, but to simple say something like this. The birth of Jesus was like this. When his mother was engaged to her husband before they were married and before they had come together, she was with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph who was a righteous man would have broken off the engagement quietly, but an angel appeared to him and told him that what was conceived in Mary was from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and his name will be Jesus because he will deliver his people from their sins.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Investigating Islam

This is the first (hopefully not last) of a series of posts I want to do on investigating Islam, especially Islam in Europe.

I tried to remember the 5 pillars and only could remember 3. So, I admit my ignorance.

I plan to read the Quran and have actual participants of the religion tell me what they believe and practice.

Why am I doing this?

A fact finding mission. I want simply to know what Islam looks like in Europe.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Comparison of religions

When comparing world religions I will agree, they all are similar (otherwise they would not be called religions), but all religions are not the same.

If we take out "truth" from them all, we do get some comparisons. This tells me man was made for worship.

However, if we consider "truth" when comparing religions, the amount of truth in each one lies on a continuum from mostly true to barely true. If there were no truth at all in every religion, it's no more than futile motions.