Friday, 19 December 2014

The prohibition of sin

Contrary to what I've listened to preached for years I still don’t think that the blood of the lost is on my hands if I fail in some way to bring them to Christ. It’s at least very much an oversimplification to say that I should take the blame in any way. God has set up a very complex series of events that leads up to an opportunity to even get to share the gospel with someone. It’s not all on you, no matter what you’re taught. And in many ways, the Calvinists are correct. In terms of the perspective of God, He already knows who is going to be saved and who isn't. When you’re dealing with the Big absolute O’s – omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence, it’s a matter of perspective. But to say that we can determine our behaviour based on God’s predestined and predetermined chosen saved is just as bad. From our perspective we have free will because we don’t know! We have no idea who has been chosen because we’re just us. Even with an active and living holy spirit living within us we’re still for the most part in the dark on the future.

This prohibition of sin, the duty of the Great Commission and studying at theological man made institutions is just as much religion as a jihadi faith that leads to so much death, and it leads to the same death. It’s all about us, not about Him, even if it claims to be the opposite. And in many ways church ends up being absolutely nothing to do with faith. It’s just a club for those that are acting like Pharisees. This nonsense about obedience and duty really is just that: nonsense. If you don’t rely on your relationship with Christ it doesn't matter how hard you try you won’t get the peace and joy and rest that will lead to that security.

Ah, but your interpretation of the Bible trumps my interpretation of the Bible.

Of course I’m wrong. I’m not you.

Everyone’s theology and relationship with God is different. We’re all individuals and I thank God that we’re all unique like that.

But I’m not employing the full counsel of God if I don’t follow this rule or that rule.

Oh well! You know what? It doesn't matter. God has it covered no matter how much I fret or panic or even how indifferent I am.

God is in control, I’m just along for the ride.  And until I reached that conclusion I never really felt rested. I’m not up at 4am reading my Bible. I’m not praying the Lord’s prayer 5 times a day, in fact my prayers don’t even conform right most the time. I talk to God like I talk to everybody else. That’s the only way I can, and that’s okay. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate His omnipotence, His omniscience or His omnipresence. But one of the reasons that He gave us His son is so that we can understand that we can talk to Him on our level. I've found that the performance of corporate prayer can itself be religious, and it’s just such hard work, saying the right things at the right time on key. It’s not easy, and that makes the yoke difficult and the burden heavy. That’s not the gospel I know.

The getting myself right with God at every communion is nonsense too. I’m always right with God. Once I accepted Christ as my saviour He was there. All the time. Not just when I eat the tiniest bit of potato chip or grape juice. Not when I dress up in cheap suit and sing out of key to some song that may nor may not be related to the gospel. Every single moment of every single day He is with me.

Yes, even when I defy Him, even when I disobey Him, He’s still here.

Of course if I’m saying that I don’t have to make the effort in the war on sin, that automatically means I’m saying it’s okay to go around sinning. That’s just as ridiculous too, for two reasons. God is with me all the time, and therefore the attraction to sin is interrupted by Him. And sin really can mess you and other people up.

But when they talk about sin prohibition they’re usually only talking about specific sins. The ones that are highlighted are usually the ones that are being inflicted with themselves. In psychology it’s something called “attention bias”. Most of the sins outside of sexual sins are in line with our legal systems. The sin of murder is taken a lot more seriously than the sin of coveting your neighbour’s iPhone for instance. Of course that is subjective and that’s the issue. Sin is sin no matter what it is, and in my mind this duty of obedience and the effort of looking to combat your ‘sinful nature’ is itself a sin. Because it’s looking at yourself. And that is all sin is really. It’s trusting yourself and not trusting God’s will. It is being selfish, not selfless. Your effort should be on faith and trust, not on obedience and submission. Of course in many ways these could be thought of as the same thing but they’re not. God does the former, you do the latter. Trusting yourself to change yourself is a faithless endeavour. Fretting over whether or not you’re living up to the Christian life is just as fruitless.

So where does this leave me? Does this mean I don’t think church its worth going to? No, of course not! I love going to church, I love the worship, I love the praise, I love hearing God’s word and I love most of all the fellowship and edification that comes from that. No matter what, it’s still God’s house even if there are people with different interpretations and rituals from mine. The point I think I’m trying to make is that it doesn't matter that much if we have slightly different theologies and slightly different opinions. The arguments and fighting that it leads to are not worth it. Church should be, and for the most part is, in my experience, a place to come together to worship Jesus Christ and edify each other as a body of believers. That’s it.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Zombie Apocalypse

The zombie apocalypse is upon us. The hordes of the walking dead are everywhere. It really is the end of the world. The contagion is universal, everybody is infected. There is no escaping it. Everybody is born infected. Most zombies don’t even know they’re infected. Some think they can fight off its lethal effects though a hygiene regiment. But their efforts are futile. What’s worse is that the armed forces are preparing for a nuclear strike to wipe out the plague of the undead. It will be judgement day. When the nuclear fire-storm starts however the zombies will not be vaporised. Because they are undead they will writhe and suffer as they burn for all eternity. Again some of the zombies think they can protect themselves from the nuclear strike with their makeshift protection measures. They think if they build a big enough umbrella they will be protected.

However nowhere on earth is safe, no prisons, no farms and no townships.  

But there is hope.

There is a book.

The book tells us how to join the army. It shows us all directions to our own special tank. In the tank there is a cure for the plague. A tank that will keep us safe, and will guide us safely to the security of a nuclear bunker. A safe haven where we will be happy and secure forever. There is on board a radio where we can call in support from our mission commander. In our tanks we stand on the front line on the war against this plague. But our mission isn't one of eradication, it is one of peace. The arsenal of our tanks is love.

That book is the Bible. It shows us how the whole world is infected with the plague of sin. Sin makes us like zombies because it controls us and makes us think that empty pursuits like drugs, alcohol, money or meaningless sex are the way to seek happiness. There is no escaping it and nothing we can do on our own can make us safe from our mission commander - God and His final judgement. We all fall short of the perfection that God requires of us. If we are infected with sin on the day of judgement or when we die it will be permanent. We will suffer for all eternity in hell.

The Bible however, tells us the cure. It tells us that God sent us his only Son, Jesus Christ to save us all from hell and to cure us from sin. By dying on the cross and raising from the dead he washed away all sin with his blood. All we need to do to accept the cure is to repent from sin and turn to and have faith in Him. He wants us to have a relationship with Him so we can be together with Him in heaven, in joy and peace forever. Praying to God is like calling our mission commander on the radio. Before we accept Christ we are spiritually dead. When we accept Christ we allow the Holy Spirit to become alive inside us. We are born again with the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that when we have accepted Christ we can put on the full armour of Christ. A living spiritual armour that is like a tank against evil. Nothing can get in if we don’t take it off. The devil is armed with the equivalent of sticks and stones, almost powerless compared to God. He can still taunt, he can still attack, but if we live within in this impenetrable tank then we cannot be hurt by him. Of course if we don’t have or live within our own tank we are easily hurt by the sticks and stones of the devil even if we are still cured from the separation of sin.

If you don’t know Christ your fate is certain. Denying hell is like denying the threat of an imminent nuclear strike. It is a real threat and it is a fate much, much worse than death. There is absolutely nothing we can do as individuals on our own to protect ourselves from that sort of threat. No good deeds, no charitable works, no kindness.

It is absolute.

Repent from sin, turn to Christ, and you too can have your security with joy and peace forever in Heaven with Him.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia

About 2 weeks ago my wife was diagnosed with b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. I've had a lot of support from friends and family and church family. Everyone that I've talked to has been surprised that I’m so able to maintain myself considering the stark reality that in a short space of time my marriage 12 years may come to it’s natural conclusion, and the love of my life will no longer be with me.
So how come I’m so stable? Where is this strength coming from? Shouldn't I be a quivering wreck, sick with worry and unable to do anything but be by her side? Am I not feeling? Don’t I love this woman?
I've asked myself these questions and realistically if I had the beliefs I did a few years ago I think I would be a quivering wreck by her side hoping and wishing for her to get better.
But I’m not.
The reality is, and always will be that a marriage will end. The vows we said 12 years ago were that the marriage was until death. And death us do part. Our marriage was always going to end, no matter how much we don’t want it to. It’s simply matter of when.
I've thought that somehow I’m perhaps autistic in some small way that I simply can’t process or come to terms with these emotions. I've thought that I've simply just had not enough time with all the work I've been busily doing to help my wife into hospital and keep her as comfortable as I can to be able to articulate my feelings on this. Or maybe I've become so desensitised to her suffering, that a little more illness really doesn't upset me.
However, I don’t think it’s any of these things. I think it is something supernatural that is keeping me going. It is the security and the strength of the Holy Spirit that I have allowed in me. It’s in all of us. We just have to accept it to be able to draw from it. And we do that by repenting from sin and turning to Jesus Christ.
Last night I was there in the hospital and I briefly went into the visitors’ room to access the fridge and the room was full of relatives from a single family. I could tell by their attire that they were Muslim, I’d seen a lot of them hanging around over the last few days. I knew something was seriously wrong, and some of them were crying and the eyes that I could see, because all I could see of them were eyes, were full of despair.
And that’s simply the difference between the lost and the saved. To them life is an exam. They have no hope. They have no guarantee of salvation. Their absolute best hope is to try their hardest to get the highest mark. And then when Allah comes on the last day, they might get into paradise. But if their score isn't high enough it’s off to hell.
Jesus gives us something entirely different. He shows us our exam results today. He has our mark sheet printed out already and the score is 100%. And the reason is that Jesus sat the exam for us, and wrote our name on the top. He’s done away with sin, the law is fulfilled, and we get to go to heaven.
How can I possibly be in despair when I know that my wife, the one I love the most in this world will get to be with the loving God that did that for us?
What’s fantastic about this whole storm is the opportunities that God has given me and my wife to witness. And it really is a great testimony and it will be no matter what happens. And in my mind if one seed can be planted that eventually brings another lost soul to the Lord then it is worth the storm that we’re going through.
And yes my body will grow weary and tire and I may well break eventually, but He has me, no matter what.
What is there to fear in death? This is the power of Christ in me.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Am I crazy?

There's a lot of things said about Christians in general, they're self righteous, judgmental, and most of all delusional. Some of them go on about crazy ideas like the Universe is 6,000 years old or that a giant boat filled with a handful of animals somehow survived a catastrophic flood that wiped out all other life on earth. They believe in a magical invisible sky daddy that they can talk to but who doesn't talk back, but who somehow makes things happens according to their wishful thinking. They go on about this thing they've made up called 'sin' that means that they get to judge and condemn people for doing things that they should have a right to do, like get married to whomever they want or to take perfectly reasonable pleasure that any normal evolved human animal should be able to. And they base it all on some book that was made up thousands of years ago and translated and changed by so many biased people that it could be made to say anything. They claim to be following some guy that may or may not have lived thousands of years ago whose details are a bit sketchy but he seemed like a good guy that told people they should get along. If only Christians actually followed his example and didn't constantly start arguments and wars and crusades over their twisted ideas. They're all uneducated, illiterate and ignorant of scientific facts like evolution and the Big Bang and they simply follow their corrupt leaders in blind obedience to this book.
So am I crazy? Or ignorant? Or illiterate?
Maybe these popular ideas about Christianity are just plain wrong. Maybe the reality we live in can’t just be taken at simple face value like atheism suggests. Maybe the Bible isn't the corrupt work it’s alleged to be and maybe, just maybe Jesus really was the Son of God and died on the cross for our sins.
Christianity in my experience isn't about what my behaviour is like, or judging or condemning people. It isn't even really about helping others out, although that is a symptom of it. It’s about aligning yourself with the nature of reality. It is building a relationship much like a marriage with the designer and the omnipresent creator of the universe. Which itself is an entirely abstract concept, because we are so very very small and the universe is so very very big. I used to think that Christians in their delusions were trying to anthropomorphise the universe, while in reality, it was the creator of the universe that was deifying us. And in terms that we can't really understand we have been made in the image of our creator. We read in the Bible of this angry, wrathful, graceful, merciful and loving God. We ask for God's hand in events, when He is omniscient, and omnipotent which means that every time we think of God as reacting to anything, whether it be healing of the sick or blessing us, it isn't really a reaction. Indeed, the whole limitation of cause and effect is not a limitation for God. So in terms we can understand God is constantly loving, wrathful, merciful and forgiving. He knew the state of our hearts before we had them, and therefore there is no shock or reaction, indeed the cause and effect are ours and ours alone. When we talk about Heaven and Hell being for eternity, I don’t think it means literally that time would go on forever, I think this is really the absence of the limitations of cause and effect. That they, like God exist outside of what we think of as time. Of course we can’t really understand that.
So it begs the question. Why? Why do we exist? Maybe somehow we are part of some sort of soul factory, where God creates all these souls and only the faithful ones get to be with Him. But if that is the case, why bother creating the rejects? Why would God possibly want us to have that relationship with Him? Omnipotence means just that, if God is in the business of creating faithful souls why bother with the whole business of this reality and just create those souls spontaneously? Maybe the nature of Heaven requires this existence and God has willed it this way because of that prerequisite. Who knows? The point is that we can’t possibly understand God or Heaven or Hell or any of it while we exist here.
That’s where Jesus Christ comes in. Christ is like our interface to God. He helps us to understand the nature of God, just like a keyboard and monitor are our interface with a computer. He was born as a human, He lived as a human, He ate, He slept, He felt love, joy, temptation, and pain. He was perfect in that He was sinless, because He was not separated from God, except at the moment of His death. Jesus Christ shares in our joys, shares in a sorrows and is always with us.  We become spiritually alive when we accept Him in our hearts and the Bible teaches us about God’s will. So we can in a sense understand the nature of the universe through Christ, even if it is beyond our comprehension.
So am I crazy? I don’t think so. Even if it does reject a large proportion of widely accepted modern theoretical science. I don’t think it’s any more crazy than believing in abiogenesis, that is to say that life occurred spontaneously through random chance, or the belief that the universe occurred spontaneously from a singularity in a Big Bang.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Church denominations

I've recently spent some time in an ecumenical journey because I have felt God calling me to at the very least gain an understanding of what is going on with the food-bank and homeless support group known as “House of Bread” in my local town. While I was drawn into this group by ties with local Baptists, the group seems to involve a lot of other denominations including Methodists.. It has gotten me thinking about some of the differences there are between Christian denominations. I think it would have been foolish for me to explore this in the past, when I may have first felt called to do so, because I did not have a strong understanding of the theology portrayed by my church.

While I think a lot of the noticeable differences between denominations is down to differences in style, in terms of the dress code, and the age of the worship music being sung there does seem to be a whole myriad of different proxies in place between God and these congregations. The noticeable difference between a vicar and a pastor is not the dog collar, it is the fact that one acts as a proxy between a non-ordained believer and God, while the other acts almost as a team leader in group of born again believers. It strikes me as more awesome and in line with omnipotence that God can have a 1:1 relationship with every individual rather than go through specific ordained ministers. Still the early apostles were chosen specifically and I can understand how the Bible can be interpreted such that specific ordinations can still be made today in that same vein. However, if I was only able to communicate with my parents through a third party I don’t think I’d have a very good relationship with them.

One thing that does strike me as odd though is how there are things that are universally condemned by all churches pretty much, that aren't really explicitly condemned by the Bible, such as slavery, polygamy and paedophilia. In fact there are passages that talk specifically about how to treat your slave, or how to handle having multiple wives. However, there are things that are explicitly condemned in the Bible, like sex before marriage, homosexuality, women preachers, and drunkenness that seem to be a matter of contention between churches. And yes, those condemnations can subject to individual interpretation of the Bible, but the point I’m making is there is no contention on whether or not we should have slaves.

Having said all that I’m finding that there is great fellowship between Christians, even if our theology can be slightly different. The fact that we all have the same focus, Jesus Christ, means that I can get together with Methodists, Anglicans and Baptists and enjoy fellowship with them, even if that is pretty much the only thing we have in common.