Monday, June 18, 2012

"What must I do to be saved?"

The story goes that after Paul and Silas disrupted the business of fortune-telling exploiters in Philippi that they were beaten and jailed. The jailer, when he got the order, put them in the inner cell and put their feet in stocks.

It must have been quite a day or maybe the fact that it was midnight. But something contributed to the jailer falling asleep. Maybe he'd too much of their singing. Nonetheless, he was in charge and duty bound to the prisoners. But his eyelids closed, and he was out, only to be awoken by the shaking of a mighty earthquake. It was such a shock that the prisoners were no longer bound, neither by their cell nor their stocks. And as one would imagine, the jailer thought the prisoners had escaped. He drew his sword without reservation in order to kill himself until he heard the words, "Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!" Prisons were not used for rehabilitation but containment until sentencing (i.e punishment). So, it would have been a big deal for a prisoner to escape. More research would need to be done, but is it possible that the reason the jailer would have killed himself was to spare himself torture and possibly him being tortured to death? Maybe he thought if he went ahead and ended his life quickly with the sword he would not have to endure Roman punishment for "sleeping on the job." Could it be that he thought he would punished in place of the escaped prisoners? Punished to death?

I think the jailer realized he had just lost everything; his job, his prisoners and consequently his family and ultimately his life. He asked for lights and rushed in trembling before Paul and Silas after hearing their words. He wanted to see for himself if they were alive. For if they were, he would still have a chance at being alive.

Paul answers his question with the words we know well, "Believe on (in) the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household." But I am not totally sure Paul answered the jailer's question.

We think and have so for some time that the jailer was inquiring about salvation from the eternal punishment of his sins, when he asked, "What must I do to be saved?" But was he? I think the jailer was asking these men (maybe he saw them as gods as in Acts 14:11-14) how he could escape the punishment of Roman bosses. It was a natural question arising from the current situation. But Paul flipped the question and answered it by telling him how we all can escape the punishment for our wrong-doing, our falling short of the glory of God.

The jailer fell asleep and should have been killed. He wanted to know from these men who didn't run how to escape punishment. Paul told him how to escape punishment, but not from the Roman authorities. We are all spiritually sleeping, having fallen down on the job, deserving severe punishment from God. But God says, "Wait a minute, I've sent my Son to you, put your trust in him and you will escape the punishment due to you." It is cause for singing.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Can anything good come out of you?

How do we answer the question, "Why are some atheists/secularists good and why are some believers not?"

I know that the Bible says that there are none good, no not one. I am not questioning if mankind is sinful. Of course we all are. I am just grappling with trying to figure out where morality comes from. Experience shows that those who believe in God are not more likely to "better people," than those who do not believe. I know atheists who are much more concerned about the poor and oppressed and downtrodden than their believing counterparts. Why? Shouldn't followers of Christ have more sensitivity to the needs around them than someone who believes very little about Jesus, much less trusted him for forgiveness?

I think we have made too little of human potential. And before I am accused of converting to a secular humanist, let me explain. Even though I am not a secular humanist I do think we've missed how much potential we have for good. And I don't think this contradicts Scripture. (However, I may have to edit this post after the responses)

I want to start by saying that even the best of our human potential will never be good enough to satisfy the holiness of God. We will always fall short of giving God glory. I want this to be understood from the outset. Faith in Jesus is the only way to be brought to the Father in forgiveness. Now that that is clear, let me proceed.

Humans have the potential for great good. But we will never be as good as possible. Humans also have the potential for great evil. And we can be as evil as possible. Mother Theresa was a good person but she could have been even better. Jeffrey Dahmer was an evil person, and while it can be argued he could have probably been worse, I think it is fair to say he went out of his way to do evil things. We could cite more examples, but hopefully this shows what I'm trying to say. The doctrine of the fall of man does not teach that man is as evil as he could be, but it did leave him the potential to delve deep into evil without some sort of constraint. On the other hand what the doctrine of the fall of man does teach is that man is prevented from ever being as good as he possible could.

We can still be and act "good," (just not good enough). We were created in the image of God. God is good. Therefore, we were created for good. Creation was very good. When man ate the fruit of the tree it was not the tree of the knowledge of evil, but the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When that fruit got into the human system, they could still do good, but now they also knew evil as well as good. This is why humans, whether believers or not, do have a lot of potential for good. But in the end, they will always fall short of perfection in good.

Relucant Warrior or King Disguised

In trying to understand more about Islam, I am reading through Islam An Introduction. My comments are not directed at the author, Rosalyn Rushbrook. But I am using her information as my source of knowledge for my understanding of Islam.

In the chapter on the PM, one finds him to be a somewhat likable fellow and even peace loving. But what stood out for me was how he's like the rest of us. When we feel threatened we tend to strike back, whether verbally or physically. He seemingly allowed peaceful coexistence of Jews and Muslims unless their community came under attack. In this case he had asked they all come together to fight the common enemy. "...he would have preferred it if he had been left in peace in Madinah, but sadly, the opposition from the Quraysh tribes continued and he was obliged to take part in sporadic warfare...[even if] only a few months." (pg16) "Jihad was...primarily for defensive reasons..." (pg17)

So PM was a relucant warrior. Sounds pretty noble. But what would have happened if he had been led to the slaughter as a lamb, not opening his mouth? What would have happened if he had taken insult and turned the other cheek? What would have happened if he had commended his spirit into the hands of God? What if he would have defeated death by dying and rising again in victory?

I would say that anyone who could do that would be a King, but maybe one in disguise.

Quran burning

I hate being behind in blogging. I miss opportunities like the Quran burning in Afghanistan and the desecration of graves of Christians and Jews in Libya.

So, I'll just add my two cents worth a bit late.

First, as I understand it there is a misconception about how non-Muslims view the Quran. From a Christian perspective one would tend to think the Bilbe is to Christianity as the Quran is to Islam. (Bible:Christianity, Quran:Islam).But actually the Quran is to Islam as Jesus is to Christianity (Quran:Islam, Jesus:Christianity). So, the burning of a Quran is a bit more inflammatory (pun intended) than someone burning a Bible. It would be similar, yet not to the degree, of the outrage felt by Christians when Andres Serrano submerged a crucifix in his own urine and took a photo of it. The Quran is seen as literally the word of Allah (God). In the same way, Jesus is seen as the word of God too (John 1:1 etc). So, as Rosalyn Rushbrook, a convert from Christianity to Islam, has stated in her book Islam An Introduction, "Muslims react strongly when they feel that the Quran has been treated with insult or disrespect." (p43)

And I guess "strongly react" means to kill and pillage. This is quite a contrast from what Jesus taught his disciples, which was to turn the other cheek when someone does something bad to you. Besides, the Word of God, Jesus, himself, was cursed, spit upon, beat to a pulp, mocked, a crown of thorns jammed on his head, and nails thrust through his hands and feet until he was dead. I think that kind of death is a bit more extreme than burning God's word, which by the way can be reprinted as a wise Islamic scholar said in the aftermath of the insurgence in Afghanistan.

And it seems an apology is not even good enough. It's unforgivable. On the other hand Jesus said blasphemy of the Son would be forgiven. Even he prayed from the cross for forgiveness for those who had put him on the cross saying they didn't know what they were doing. Is there no mercy in Islam, not even to those who may not know what they were doing?

Is this incident really a true picture of Islam or just an excuse to kill Americans?

And lastly, why were there no reports of Libyan Muslims being killed after the cemetery desecration of Christians and Jews?

I'm not saying the followers of Jesus have always been stellar examples of actually following Jesus. Of course, they haven't. But I am highlighting the difference between the two religions. And it is a stark difference.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Star of Bethlehem

This is either a late Christmas post, a way early Christmas post, or just a post that happens to be about the Christmas story, mainly the star that led the wise men to Jesus.

There are many theories about what the star actually was. Was it the conjunction of two planets, three planets, a comet, a supernova, or something else? What if it wasn't a natural phenomena? Would that really matter? In other words, if all the "natural" explanations failed to provide a satisfactory reconciliation with Babylonian sky charts and the story in the Bible would that mean the event recorded in the Bible was made-up?

Not necessarily.

We could, as some would, say that the entire story is pure imagination. No Jesus, no Mary, No Wise Men, and of course no Star. But to make that conclusion one would also have to ignore Bethlehem as a real place. If the story was pure imagination the author would had to have known about the place, Bethlehem. To know about Bethlehem it makes sense he would had to have live relatively close to there. (Unless the Wise Men from Babylonia wrote the story. haha). So, if the story is made-up, it is based at least in some reality. Otherwise, Jesus would have been born in Huierty and had three eyes.

The Star of Bethlehem is connected exclusively with the guidance of the Wise Men. They were star gazers. God wanted them to come see Jesus, so he spoke to them in their language, stars. Whatever they saw or however they interpreted what they saw, it prompted them to travel to Jerusalem and then onto Bethlehem seeking out the king of the Jews. God speaks to us in our language. We can explain the voice away by attributing the sound to natural events or we can accept that when we read the Bible, a book about God, we will find supernatural events beyond and outside the scope of our small natural "world."