Friday, March 31, 2006

Jesus' bluntest teaching

Got to Luke 13 this morning and Jesus certainly doesn't mince his words. 13v1-5 are Jesus' response to a question about various incidents of suffering going on: some Galileans that Pilate had tortured and 18 people who had died when a tower in Siloam collapsed. Did they suffer because they were more sinful than other people? Hindu teaching would certainly say this is the case. Jesus on the other hand points out that their suffering is not because they are any more sinful than any one else. Notice the way he phrases things - v2 "do you think these Galileans were worse sinners that all the other Galileans?" and v4 "Do you think (those crushed by the tower) were worse offenders than those who lived in Jerusalem? "
Jesus just assumes all are sinners. So Jesus clearly teaches the universal sinfulness of all mankind. (So this is not some doctrine Paul made up.)
Hence suffering is common to all. It is a sign of a world under judgement. Generally talks on suffering are apologetics - defences of Christianity - but here Jesus uses the subject evangelistically. Twice in v3 & v5 he says "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish". Because we have all rebelled against God and gone our own way we all will perish unless we accept the rescue that Jesus came to bring at the cross. That rescue opens the door to an eternity where there will no suffering in glory forever. Jesus uses the everyday occurence of suffering to point to the choice we all face - repent and follow him as King to be rescued from suffering now for life in the next world, or perish now and in the life ever after. Sobering words.
When people ask us about suffering, will we use it as an evangelistic opportunity as our master does? Only Christians have a sure hope to present to people who face extreme suffering in this world. Because of Jesus' resurrection, we know that there is life after death and as Rev 21 so wonderfully declares :
Rev 21:3 "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.""

Double standards on sexual ethics

I saw this article on the BBC news website. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4863770.stm
Interesting that so few women think the sexual mores presented by the media are acceptable. I did think that there was a classic double standard in the midst of it:
"The team from the University of Sheffield found that although participants thought one-night stands were immoral, they did not condemn women for having them as many of them had indulged themselves. "
Either it is immoral and they condemn themselves because they've 'indulged' in it or it isn't. They can't say it's immoral when everyone else does it but it's not when they do it!
This is classic hypocrisy.
Jesus warns that: "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." - Matthew 7v2
So by saying it is immoral, they have measured and judged their own immoral behaviour.
This is a trap we are all in danger of falling into. Criticising others for behaviour that we do ourselves.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Huge promises and bigger challenges

Been reading Luke 12v35-48 today. What an incredible passage! Jesus makes some incredible promises to those who are ready for his return - v37 Jesus, the Master of the Universe "will dress himself for service and have them (his servants) recline at table, and he will come and serve them". What an awesome thought! What an incredible master we have! v44 is equally astounding - for the servant who is ready "he will set him over all his possessions". Now Jesus owns quite a few possessions. Which galaxy do you fancy being in charge of?
So what's the catch? Well who are the servants who are ready? Well according to v42 it is the servant who is still doing what the master assigned him when the master returns. But there is a serious warning to those who aren't v47. "That servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating" Who will have the most severe punishment in hell? People who professed to be Christians - they knew the master's will - but didn't serve him. What a sober warning for people like me who have been Christians a long time and know a lot of the Bible. We know the master's will well, so it is vital we do it. Hypocrisy comes in for the greatest criticism of anything by Jesus.
Final note of interest is v48 - people often say "what of those who've never heard?" - look at what Jesus says "The one who did not know (the master's will), and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating." Ignorance is not an excuse in Jesus' eyes. The key is did you do things that deserve a beating? According to Romans 2, those that don't have God's law / will, will be judge by their own consciences. Tragically, therefore, no one will escape judgement because everyone, everywhere is responsible for their behaviour. The problem is that all of us have done things wrong even by our own standards. We all need to flee to Jesus for forgiveness knowing that only at the cross can we find the mercy we desperately need. Once forgiven we stand to receive the wonderful promises Jesus makes in this passage. Serving him therefore is done out of gratitude and in eager expectation of the hope of the coming fulfilment of these huge promises.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The greatest irony?

The parable of the rich fool, Luke 11v13-21, must be one of the most ironic encounters ever in Jesus' ministry. It's hilarious when you have a close look at it. Notice what prompts Jesus to tell the parable.
A man comes up to Jesus and says "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." But Jesus's replies "Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator between you?" Jesus nearly always answers a question with a question and this is an absolute killer question to retort with. Who is Jesus? He's not some human judge that can divide up this man's inheritance with his brother, he is God's divine judge who will judge every man and woman on the last day! Jesus then promptly warns of the danger of being covetous and weighing life by the abundance of one's possessions. Jesus tells the parable of a man totally obsessed with me, myself and my money who has left God and death out of his thinking. God calls him a fool because he may be wealthy in worldly terms but he is not rich towards God.
Tie this in with the guy Jesus is talking to - think what has happened. This guy has got one opportunity to ask Jesus a question and he asks him about earthly riches and inheritance. He's got one question to ask the judge of the universe and he asks that! What a muppet! He's clearly obsessed with worldly wealth when he should be asking about how he can get to have eternal wealth - going to glory to be with God forever.
So Jesus' initial reply "who made me a judge or arbitrator between you?" is laced with irony. God has made him judge over him, which makes the man's question seem that much more foolish!
What would be your one question to Jesus?

The root of Catholicism's error

Just been reading Luke 11v27-28. This along with 8v21 are Jesus prophetically speaking into where Catholicism will go wrong centuries later. A woman declares "blessed be the mother who gave birth to you" and look at Jesus' reaction. Rather than agree that Mary ought to be revered he says "blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!". This strikes right at the heart of where Roman Catholicism has gone wrong.
There are four centres of authority that different parts of Christianity base their views on. Bible, reason, institution and experience. Jesus clearly says here that is being Biblical that matters : hearing the word of God and keeping it.
Catholicism finds its doctrine from what the institution, the church, says. And where the Pope has differed from the word of God they have gone with what the Pope says. This has led them down the proverbial garden path into wrong doctrines such as salvation by works, praying to Mary and papal infallibility.
Equally liberals who base their views on reason and rationality rather than the Bible head off in the wrong direction and end up disbelieving what the Bible clearly says and creating their own doctrines. Charismatics are in danger of basing their views on experience rather than the Bible. Jesus is clearly given us a warning here to get our doctrines of from the Bible and nowhere else.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Walking the wrong line

Watched "Walk the Line" the other day which is Johnny Cash's biography. Was very disappointed to see how his affair was idealised and the devastation caused to his family that he drove away was pretty much ignored. It would be very interesting to watch a film from his first wife's perspective or one of his children by his first life. I wonder how their lives turned out?
It's also sad to note that much of his Christian faith was totally ignored by the film-makers when it is reported that Cash said himself that he hoped this film would tell some of his story of redemption.

Friday, March 24, 2006

My email to the Prime Minister

Do email Tony Blair about Abdul Rahman's plight:
http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Email_The_PM_Form.asp

Here's what I wrote:
Dear Prime Minister,I am deeply concerned about the plight of the Afghan citizen Abdul Rahman who is being threatened with execution simply for converting to Christianity. I want to know why the British government has remained silent on this issue? Why should his human right to believe whatever he chooses be squashed? I thought we went to war to remove the Taleban dictatorship to protect such things as freedom of speech and freedom of belief. Have you removed the Taleban from government but left them in charge in the judiciary in Afghanistan?Yours sincerely,
David Anthony

A critical difference between Christianity and Islam - Freedom of conversion and the heart of love

Just been reading the BBC website about this Afghan Christian, Abdul Rahman who is being threatened with the death sentence: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4841334.stm
One of the comments on the website by a Muslim there is: ""What is wrong with Islam that he should want to convert?" asks an agitated Abdul Zahid Payman. "The courts should punish him and he should be put to death."" Maybe that attitude is exactly what's wrong with Islam!

Check out the photo from the recent Muslim demonstration in London over the Danish cartoons that expresses the same irony:


The reason that Christianity will win the race for the conversion of the world is that Jesus wins people's hearts through love whereas Islam tries to simply force indoctrination, believing that people outwardly obeying Sharia law is victory. True conversion is conversion of the heart where people obey out of love for their master. Jesus brought the good news of God's incredible love for a rebellious world. This love wins hearts, Islam never will as it lacks love period.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wheeler-dealering!

Just noticed this Adsense option. No harm trying to earn a bit of cash out of a website! I got the "Arthur Daley - Nice Little Earner" award on my first school trip to the Isle of Wight aged 9. (For those of you who don't know the classic 70-80s British TV programme 'Minder', the lead character was Arthur Daley who always came up with enterprising schemes to make a bit of cash.) I got the award on this school trip because I came back home with more money than I left with. I managed to achieve this through buying penny sweets for a penny (obviously!) and then selling them to my friends for 5p a sweet. 400% profit margin aged 9, not bad if I do say so myself!

The Best News Imaginable

Well this is my first post. I've just had an electric time reading a bit from Luke's gospel this morning and thought I'd share it. The Bible definitely has to be the best news imaginable and it's true!
I was looking at Luke 8v22 - 9v1. Here we have 4 incidents that are all beyond human control. Experienced sailors out of their depth in a storm; a demon-oppressed man who no one could control even with chains; a young girl dying; a woman who was a social outcast because of her bleeding and who was beyond medical help. In all 4 incidents the people involved are in fear or cause fear in others because of their circumstances. But in all 4 encounters Jesus shows there is nothing beyond his control, so there is no need to fear our circumstances. He displays his authority over disaster, demons, disease and even death. He points out in 8v25 and v50 that true faith believes that nothing is beyond his control and leads to a right fear - of him! He is God so nothing is beyond his authority. Do you recognise that and live your life by this liberating truth? Then astonishingly Jesus finishes in 9v1 by giving power and authority to his apostles to do the same things. Luke ends his gospel by Jesus promising the same power to ALL his followers by his Spirit so they can be his witnesses to the end of the world. Only difference is that the authority we have is from him and points to him, it doesn't point to ourselves. What do you fear? Your circumstances or do you fear your Maker? Do you have faith that Jesus is in total control and no circumstance is beyond his ability to sort it out?