Saturday, 27 March 2010

Oh peace! Why is thou far from me?
Oh patience! Why has thou hid your face?
My feet walketh on slippery grounds
And love grippeth me not
Where is the stone that anchoreth my soul?
Where is the joy that makes me whole?
I stretched my eyes afar to see,
I wandered beyond the mist and screamed.
Why oh virtues are thou far from me?
Let me die so that this bitterness may leave
Look and see the emptiness within,
A walking corpse I am to thee
Where is hope?
Tell me its nigh, tell me its nigh, tell me its nigh!
Drippeth my blood slowly down
I’ll take my last breath and kiss good night.

What a fool that died tonight
All because he cherished sin in his heart
Lived a life of hypocrisy
Lived a life deceiving thee
Time and time we warned his heart
He listened not so he received his due
The sin he loved sweetly rotted his bone

k.oni

Friday, 26 March 2010

Eight Reasons Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead

1. Jesus himself testified to his coming resurrection from the dead.

Jesus spoke openly about what would happen to him: crucifixion and then resurrection from the dead. "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31; see also Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22). Those who consider the resurrection of Christ unbelievable will probably say that Jesus was deluded or (more likely) that the early church put these statements in his mouth to make him teach the falsehood that they themselves conceived. But those who read the Gospels and come to the considered conviction that the one who speaks so compellingly through these witnesses is not the figment of foolish imagination will be unsatisfied with this effort to explain away Jesus' own testimony to his resurrection from the dead.
This is especially true in view of the fact that the words which predict the resurrection are not only the simple straightforward words quoted above, but also the very oblique and indirect words which are far less likely to be the simple invention of deluded disciples. For example, two separate witnesses testify in two very different ways to Jesus' statement during his lifetime that if his enemies destroyed the temple (of his body), he would build it again in three days (John 2:19; Mark 14:58; cf. Matthew 26:61). He also spoke illusively of the "sign of Jonah" — three days in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39; 16:4). And he hinted at it again in Matthew 21:42 — "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner." On top of his own witness to the coming resurrection, his accusers said that this was part of Jesus' claim: "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise'" (Matthew 27:63).
Our first evidence of the resurrection, therefore, is that Jesus himself spoke of it. The breadth and nature of the sayings make it unlikely that a deluded church made these up. And the character of Jesus himself, revealed in these witnesses, has not been judged by most people to be a lunatic or a deceiver.

2. The tomb was empty on Easter.

The earliest documents claim this: "When they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus" (Luke 24:3). And the enemies of Jesus confirmed it by claiming that the disciples had stolen the body (Matthew 28:13). The dead body of Jesus could not be found. There are four possible ways to account for this.

2.1 His foes stole the body.

If they did (and they never claimed to have done so), they surely would have produced the body to stop the successful spread of the Christian faith in the very city where the crucifixion occurred. But they could not produce it.

2.2 His friends stole the body.

This was an early rumor (Matthew 28:11-15). Is it probable? Could they have overcome the guards at the tomb? More important, would they have begun to preach with such authority that Jesus was raised, knowing that he was not? Would they have risked their lives and accepted beatings for something they knew was a fraud?

2.3 Jesus was not dead, but only unconscious when they laid him in the tomb.

He awoke, removed the stone, overcame the soldiers, and vanished from history after a few meetings with his disciples in which he convinced them he was risen from the dead. Even the foes of Jesus did not try this line. He was obviously dead. The Romans saw to that. The stone could not be moved by one man from within who had just been stabbed in the side by a spear and spent six hours nailed to a cross.

2.4 God raised Jesus from the dead.

This is what he said would happen. It is what the disciples said did happen. But as long as there is a remote possibility of explaining the resurrection naturalistically, modern people say we should not jump to a supernatural explanation. Is this reasonable? I don't think so. Of course, we don't want to be gullible. But neither do we want to reject the truth just because it's strange. We need to be aware that our commitments at this point are much affected by our preferences — either for the state of affairs that would arise from the truth of the resurrection, or for the state of affairs that would arise from the falsehood of the resurrection. If the message of Jesus has opened you to the reality of God and the need of forgiveness, for example, then anti-supernatural dogma might lose its power over your mind. Could it be that this openness is not prejudice for the resurrection, but freedom from prejudice against it?

3. The disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2).

Their explanation of this change was that they had seen the risen Christ and had been authorized to be his witnesses (Acts 2:32). The most popular competing explanation is that their confidence was owing to hallucinations. There are numerous problems with such a notion. The disciples were not gullible, but level-headed skeptics both before and after the resurrection (Mark 9:32, Luke 24:11, John 20:8-9, 25). Moreover, is the deep and noble teaching of those who witnessed the risen Christ the stuff of which hallucinations are made? What about Paul's great letter to the Romans? I personally find it hard to think of this giant intellect and deeply transparent soul as deluded or deceptive, and he claimed to have seen the risen Christ.

4. Paul claimed that, not only had he seen the risen Christ, but that 500 others had seen him also, and many were still alive when he made this public claim.

"Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:6). What makes this so relevant is that this was written to Greeks who were skeptical of such claims when many of these witnesses were still alive. So it was a risky claim if it could be disproved by a little firsthand research.

5. The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian church supports the truth of the resurrection claim.

The church spread on the power of the testimony that Jesus was raised from the dead and that God had thus made him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The Lordship of Christ over all nations is based on his victory over death. This is the message that spread all over the world. Its power to cross cultures and create one new people of God was a strong testimony of its truth.

6. The Apostle Paul's conversion supports the truth of the resurrection.

He argues to a partially unsympathetic audience in Galatians 1:11-17 that his gospel comes from the risen Jesus Christ, not from men. His argument is that before his Damascus Road experience when he saw the risen Jesus, he was violently opposed to the Christian faith (Acts 9:1). But now, to everyone's astonishment, he is risking his life for the gospel (Acts 9:24-25). His explanation: The risen Jesus appeared to him and authorized him to spearhead the Gentile mission (Acts 26:15-18). Can we credit such a testimony? This leads to the next argument.

7. The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers.

How do you credit a witness? How do you decide whether to believe a person's testimony? The decision to give credence to a person's testimony is not the same as completing a mathematical equation. The certainty is of a different kind, yet can be just as firm (I trust my wife's testimony that she is faithful). When a witness is dead, we can base our judgment of him only on the content of his writings and the testimonies of others about him. How do Peter and John and Matthew and Paul stack up?
In my judgment (and at this point we can live authentically only by our own judgment—Luke 12:57), these men's writings do not read like the works of gullible, easily deceived or deceiving men. Their insights into human nature are profound. Their personal commitment is sober and carefully stated. Their teachings are coherent and do not look like the invention of unstable men. The moral and spiritual standard is high. And the lives of these men are totally devoted to the truth and to the honor of God.

8. There is a self-authenticating glory in the gospel of Christ's death and resurrection as narrated by the biblical witnesses.

The New Testament teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.... He will glorify me" (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit does not do this by telling us that Jesus rose from the dead. He does it by opening our eyes to see the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the narrative of his life and death and resurrection. He enables us to see Jesus as he really was, so that he is irresistibly true and beautiful. The apostle stated the problem of our blindness and the solution like this: "The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.... For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6).
A saving knowledge of Christ crucified and risen is not the mere result of right reasoning about historical facts. It is the result of spiritual illumination to see those facts for what they really are: a revelation of the truth and glory of God in the face of Christ — who is the same yesterday today and forever.

Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org.

Striking Justice

As British Airways braces itself for a second consecutive weekend of strikes by cabin crew, many would be passengers prepare to have their travel plans disrupted. When trade unions vote to strike, opinions tend to flow freely and emotions are usually raw, as managers, the labour force and customers express their differing points of view. It’s not just an issue effecting air travel; the 2009 postal strikes are still fresh in our memories and a national rail strike is looming.

This FNT article makes no attempt to comment on the specific examples of recent, current or future industrial action. Instead it provides two points of caution and two points for discussion that will hopefully equip you as the subject of striking trade unions is raised this weekend.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
The world of trade unions, labour relationships and industrial action is complicated. The fields of labour economics and labour organisation are mind-boggling. Even for the simplest of disputes it can be difficult to grasp both sides of the argument; however labour disputes are usually far from simple. Therefore, we must be careful when passing judgement on things we know little about.

Bombarded by Bible verses

It can be all too tempting to ‘throw’ individual Bible verses at situations like this. Matthew 5.5,41, Ephesians 6.5 and Luke 10.7 all spring to mind. These verses may have something useful to say about industrial action, however, if not handled with care it’s all too easy for verses to be taken out of context and used to support our argument. Instead, we should take the Bible as a whole, and apply the breadth of its message to the individual situations we are confronted with. Selecting a few individual Bible verses may help us address some of the surface issues, taking the Bible as a whole will help us get to the heart of the issue.

Management cornered

The decision to strike is rarely taken lightly and only used as a last resort as by striking the union’s ‘trump card’ is being played. However, when a trade union does decide to strike it is has the effect of forcing management into a corner. Whether or not management is right or wrong on a particular issue, questions have to be raised regarding whether or not ‘forcing someone into a corner’ is the most effective approach for dealing with conflict. As Christians, we certainly have to ponder whether it is a Christ-like response to a disagreement. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5.9). How could we be effective peacemakers in the midst of industrial action?

Fighting for justice

Trade unions have a strong heritage of ensuring that workers are paid fair wages and get to work in safe conditions. When unions are functioning at their best they provide the opportunity for the ‘weak’ workers to join together to ensure that the ‘strong’ managers have to listen to, and act on, their concerns. The idea of fighting for justice for the weak is an extremely biblical idea. Amongst the concern that some trade unions are being as greedy as the managers they were established to confront, it is vitally important that the voiceless are able to join together so their voice is heard.

How would Jesus respond in a strike situation? Would he join or cross the picket line? We can speculate, but we just don’t know. However, I’m confident that he would act wisely, seek peace and proactively fight for justice. That may or may not involve taking sides; that would depend on the specific nature of the dispute.

Phil Green, Public Theology Research Assistant

The Irresistible Revolution: On Friday 21st May, Shane Claiborne will be speaking at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster for an event hosted by Mission Year, in partnership with Pentecost Festival. Shane will be supported by singer/songwriter Nicki Rogers and other guests. Doors will open at 7:30pm. Tickets cost £10.50 and can be purchased from www.pentecostfestival.co.uk/tickets. For further details go to www.pentecostfestival.co.uk/shaneclaiborne

Monday, 22 March 2010

A visit from the Lord

As when the Lord visited Adam, and called him to stand naked before Him, so was I stripped of all my righteousness before the face of the Most High. Yet the visit ended not there; for as the Lord God clothed our first parents in coats of skins, so did He cover me with the righteousness of the great sacrifice, and He gave me songs in the night. It was night, but the visit was no dream: in fact, I there and then ceased to dream, and began to deal with the reality of things.

That first discovery of His injured love was overpowering; its very hopefulness increased my anguish; for then I saw that I had slain the Lord who had come to save me. I saw that mine was the hand which made the hammer fall, and drove the nails that fastened the Redeemer's hands and feet to the cruel tree.

When the Lord visits us, He humbles us, removes all hardness from our hearts, and leads us to the Saviour's feet.

If you had never tasted sweetness, no man living could give you an idea of honey. Yet if the honey be there, you can "taste and see." To a man born blind, sight must be a thing past imagination; and to one who has never known the Lord, His visits are quite as much beyond conception. For our Lord to visit us is something more than for us to have the assurance of our salvation, though that is very delightful, and none of us should rest satisfied unless we possess it. To know that Jesus loves me, is one thing; but to be visited by Him in love, is more.

Earth rises to heaven when heaven comes down to earth.

"As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God!" If you long for Him, He much more longs for you. Never was there a sinner that was half so eager for Christ as Christ is eager for the sinner; nor a saint one-tenth so anxious to behold his Lord as his Lord is to behold him. If thou art running to
Christ, He is already near thee. If thou dost sigh for His presence, that sigh is the evidence that He is with thee. He is with thee now: therefore be calmly glad.

Have your hearts right with Him, and He will visit you often, until every day you shall walk with God, as Enoch did, and so turn week-days into Sabbaths, meals into sacraments, homes into temples, and earth into heaven. So be it with us! Amen.

C.H.Spurgeon

I love you as I love the still

I love you as I love the still
The gentleness of the oceans peace
The merriment of the fading sun
Singing halleluiah with all the hosts above
I love you as I love the tone
Of some soft breathing flute
I loved you since my eternal youth
And I shall love you forever more

k.oni

Friday, 19 March 2010

The rich list

Poor Bill Gates. After decades perched on top of the Forbes Rich List, he has been toppled by the improbably named Carlos Slim.

Mr Slim, a cigar-smoking, septuagenarian, Mexican telecoms tycoon, pipped Mr Gates to the top spot with an estimated net worth of $53.5bn, a fractional $500 million more than Microsoft’s man. Britons by comparison are paupers. The Duke of Westminster, our richest man, was stuck in 45th place with a humiliating $12bn.

We have a curious love-hate relationship with wealth. We know that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, inducing a kind of moral amnesia in even the most sensible of us. We know that rich people are often famously lonely and unhappy. We know that huge sums of money can hit us like a meteor, smashing up the relational networks that keep us loved and sane.

But who hasn’t fantasized about being Bill Gates or, more modestly, about winning £56 million on the EuroMillions, as a British couple did recently? Who hasn’t imagined the charities they would set up, the good they would do, the yachts they would buy?

The Bible doesn’t have the monochromatically negative attitude to money as is popularly believed. It recognises that God’s creation is good and that in as far as money is a means of manipulating that creation, like fire or a knife, it is itself both good and useful. But just as fire and knives are dangerous, so is money – hence the innumerable Biblical warnings about it.

Its danger lies in the fact that it demands our faith. Cheques, pounds, coins, even gold are objectively worthless. You cannot eat, drink or breathe them. They will not shelter you, heal you or help you harvest crops. They only work because there is widespread public agreement that they represent something that is useful. Otherwise, why exchange scraps of paper or debased metal for a loaf of bread or pint of milk? In order for money to work, we need to have faith it.

There is nothing necessary about that public trust. You only have to look at inter-war Germany or modern Argentina to see that a society can lose its faith in money, reducing cash to heaps of worthless paper and its owners to hungry, homeless, impoverished wrecks.

That money demands our faith in order to work is not in itself a problem. In one sense, every tool we use requires that we trust it to work. But because money promises so much, it acts like a black hole for our trust, sucking in all our faith as it offers us ever more.

Other tools we trust – knives, fire, ladders, cars, computers – have specific tasks. We trust them in so far as they do what they are made to do. But money promises everything: food, warmth, shelter, security, comfort, respect, status, sensual pleasure. Money works by demanding our faith in return for apparent fulfilment. Trust it and it will offer you the world.

Hence Jesus’ famously tough words: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 7:19), he tells people in the Sermon on the Mount. His initial explanation is that no earthly banking system is truly secure. Somehow or other, whether through moths, rust or thieves, treasures decay, cheques bounce, banks crash, currencies devalue and economies hyper-inflate. But that isn’t the real reason.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Jesus goes on to say (Matthew 7:21). Money is never just money. It is about trust, about faith. And faith is about love.

Nick Spencer, Director of Studies at Theos, a public theology think tank which exists to undertake research and provide commentary on social and political arrangements.

Education and Relation: Truth and Love

John Piper

Think with me for a moment about education and relationships. Some of you care deeply that education not ignore or marginalize relationships of love. They are essential in real, lasting, life-changing education. Amen.
So I turn to the Bible. I find in place of the words, "education" and "relationship," the words, "truth" and "love." So what does the Bible say about how truth and love relate to each other? There are at least four ways of talking about this relationship.

1. Truth aims at love.
"The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Timothy 1:5). Note: instruction is not the goal, love is. Instruction is the means. It is subordinate. Truth serves love. Education serves relationships - mainly the relationship between us and God, but also between Christian and Christian, and between us and unbelievers. The "goal" of all our education is love.
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider one another how to stir up to love and good deeds, . . . encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:23-25, literal translation). The aim of our "considering one another" and "encouraging one another" is that we stir up love. We mingle insight into "the confession of our hope" with insight into "each other," and the effect is stirring each other to love. The truth of doctrine and truth of people-watching unite to aim at love.
2. Love aims at truth.
"Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love is glad when truth is spoken. Therefore love aims at truth. It supports truth.
"Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you" (2 Corinthians 2:4). Here is an example of how love aims at truth. Paul is filled with love and it compels him to write a letter that was hard, and caused sorrow in him and in the Corinthians. But it needed to be said. So love said it. Love speaks the truth personally and doctrinally.
3. Love shapes how to speak the truth.
"Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). There is an unloving way to speak the truth. That kind of truth-speaking we should repudiate. But there is a way to speak the truth in love, and that we should seek. It is not always a soft way to speak, or Jesus would have to be accused of lack of love in dealing with some folks in the Gospels.

But it does ask about what is the most helpful thing to say when everything is considered. Sometimes what would have been a hard word to one group is a needed act of love to another group, and not a wrong to the group addressed. But in general, love shapes truth into words and ways that are patient and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
4. Truth shapes how to show love.
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:2). It is not always obvious which acts are loving. So John tells us some truth will help us know if our acts are loving.

One truth test for our love is whether we are keeping the commandments of God toward people. In other words, love cannot be cut loose from the truth of God's will. Truth shapes how to show love.
Let us pray that God will cause his love and truth to abound and mingle in us in all these ways for the glory of his truth-filled love and love-filled truth.

Pastor John
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Remedy for a wounded soul

There is no greater remedy to a wounded soul than the gospel of Christ. That Gospel which exalts the love of God for sinful humanity. That Gospel that proclaims that Christ who is King and Lord of Lords was crucified on a tree, became a shameful spectacle for the world to behold and all considered Him cursed. He was mocked and despised, those who loved him deserted him and yet little did they know that all this was God’s doing. It pleased the father to crush him for he carried the sins of his people and it greater pleased his father to raise him from the dead. This Christ that was crucified did not remain in the grave but was raised back to life, so that now sinners can be set free from their debts to sin, be free from the power of death and now live a life that is altogether pleasing to God Almighty. This Gospel is offered freely, freely to all. This glorious salvation of grace that calls all men to repent and believe soothes the soul of injured sinners. If anyone of you is thirsty let him believe in the gospel of Christ. For Christ has risen and He is able to comfort the sinners soul. Whatever your state is, whether that of despair or a shameful disgrace, whether of contempt or of a sleepless spirit believe the gospel of Christ. For Christ has risen and in Him is pleasures forever more. There is joy for your soul, for that is your portion. Remain not in your despair, nor wallow no more in your guilt but turn to the cross. For his hands are wide spread and though the nails pierce his hands yet he considers you and prays for you. His love is unfailing and in offering you mercy God is glorified, Christ is exalted as your saviour. Come and taste his goodness for He is sweet and the bitter taste that engulfs your soul will become a most delicious honey. Focus not on yourself but on Christ turn to him, seek his kingdom and his righteousness. This remedy cures the infirmity of the heart and satisfies the longings of our souls.

k.oni

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A prayer for my soul

Oh God of my righteousness,
Your love is better than life itself
Oh how I delight in the beauty of your name
For you have clothed me with the garments of salvation
And covered me with your righteousness
Oh that precious cross of your Son
Which bids me to come and die
Fill me oh Lord, for I am thirsty
Thirsty for your righteousness
For you have taken me from the depths of iniquity
And you washed me and made me precious
I give you my all

Precious in your sight is the death of your saint
Cause me not to stumble oh Lord
Mercy me oh God of peace
Teach me to love my neighbour more and more
And guide my steps in the narrow way
Let me climb the ladder of righteousness
And Kiss the gate of peace

k.oni

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Seek Christ

The morning star as described in revelation, full of awesome splendour and covered in glory, the son of man as described in the book of Daniels, one to be adored and rejoiced in the joy of hope and the way to eternal life, him I love with all my heart. My soul completely adores him and my eyes are forever fixed on him because He is my light and joy. Oh Jesus how can people not take delight or enjoy you, oh u foolish men lost in foolishness and weak in your understanding, have ye not know that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord and He holds understanding at the palm of His hands. Seek Him early you young ones, rise up and be filled with his holy presence. Dare ye say unto me that why should I rise up just for that, there are many pleasures that takes precedent such as eating breakfast and feeding my hungry stomach. Oh you untaught at birth, you without knowledge, does not the Lord make you thirsty, does He not make you hungry to show you as a foreshadowing of how you ought to come to Christ. A man will do anything to satisfy his hunger, a man will run to and fro in order to quench his thirst. Jesus says that I am the bread of life whoever comes to me shall never hunger. So come to Jesus in the morning wake up early and seek him, open the psalms and meditate. And do not do it begrudgingly but do it with great excitement and the Lord will look upon you and delight in you. Truly I can say that I love Jesus because I delight in Him and in HIS commandment. No more does my soul have a longing to go after all the earthly things. My body does not so much defile itself with the pleasures of this world, which ruled it.

Conform yourself to the kingdom and be worthy through faith, Jesus is the Christ and he died and rose from the dead so that whoever believes shall be saved. Let God be glorified in all that I do, let me not become wise by my own understanding, but I should be rooted and built on the solid foundations of Christ Jesus, so that when the enemy comes I shall not be moved as one tossed to and fro by the wind. Not only shall I stand but the enemy will be defeated, the holy presence of God shall utterly consume those who oppose me, so thus I am never worried because when judgment arises, many will come to full understanding and their worms will never die, though now they say that they are wise and I a fool, on that day the Lord and I shall laugh and say you unrepented at heart that did not heed the words of the Lord, therefore I warn you now take counsel from the Lord and seek His understanding.

k.oni
In the Midst of troubles
When my sins overflowed
I dwelt in pain and misery
My heart filled with great wickedness
I am convinced, I am convinced
I'm a rebel at heart
I have drunk deep the joy of the world
And I am swayed by its charm
My eyes wanders
And lo, my flesh urges me
The whisper of the devil persuades me
And I lift up my sword against the Lord
I consider His ways, but I discard the thought
To please my own soul I sin against thee
I sin knowing I have sinned
But no power to alleviate
Because my power I have given it
Am I not wretched, am I not evil
for my conscious testifies
And His law holds me guilty
Is not my shame evidence of my guilt
Is not my misery the penalty of His wrath
For my soul would have died to the misery of my sin
Maybe death would have been sweeter than life
Had I not tasted His goodness, I would not have longed
Had I not heard, I would not have cried
Who am I that I should treat His grace so cheap
That I should trample on the blood of Christ
My condemnation is just- my punishment is deserved
Oh if there is reconciliation for me, let me have it
Let me feel it, that I may tell sinners your ways
And Transgressors the goodness of your grace

k.oni

What is Islam, and what do Muslims believe?

Question: "What is Islam, and what do Muslims believe?"

Answer: Let’s briefly examine the history of Islam and the beliefs of Muslims.

The history of Islam

The religion of Islam was begun early in the 7th century by a man named Muhammad. He claimed to have been visited by the angel Gabriel. During these angelic visitations, which continued for about 23 years until Muhammad's death, the angel purportedly revealed to Muhammad the words of God (called “Allah” in Arabic and by Muslims). These dictated revelations comprise the Qur'an, Islam's holy book.

The beliefs of Muslims

Muslims, the followers of Islam, believe the Qur'an to be the preexistent and perfect word of Allah. Further, many Muslims reject an English, or any other language, version of the Qur'an. These are translations of the meaning of the Qur'an, which only exists in Arabic.

Although the Qur'an is the main holy book, the sunnah is considered the second source of religious instruction. The sunnah was written by Muhammad's companions about what Muhammad said, did, or approved.

The key beliefs of Islam are that Allah is the only true God and that Muhammad was Allah's prophet. By simply stating these beliefs, a person can convert to Islam. The word Muslim means "one who submits to Allah." Islam purports to be the one true religion of which all other religions have derived themselves from or been created in a mockery of (including Judaism and Christianity).

Muslims base their lives on the Five Pillars:

1. The testimony of faith: "There is no true god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God."
2. Prayer: five prayers must be performed every day.
3. Giving: one must give to the needy, as all comes from Allah.
4. Fasting: besides occasional fasting, all Muslims must fast during the celebration of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar).
5. Hajj: the pilgrimage to Makkah should be performed at least once (in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar).
These five tenets, the framework of obedience for Muslims, are taken seriously and literally. A Muslim's entrance into paradise hinges on obedience to these Five Pillars.

Islam compared to Christianity

In relation to Christianity, Islam has several similarities but significant differences. Like Christianity, Islam is monotheistic, but it rejects the concept of the Trinity. Islam accepts certain portions of the Bible, such as the Law and the Gospels, but rejects the majority of it as slanderous and uninspired.

Islam claims that Jesus was a mere prophet – not God’s Son (only Allah is God, Muslims believe, and how could He have a Son?). Rather, Islam asserts that Jesus, though born of a virgin, was created just as Adam – from the dust of the earth. Muslims believe Jesus did not die on the cross. Although denied by Islam, the Trinity and Christ’s redemption on the cross are central to Christianity.

Islam teaches that the Qur'an is the final authority and the last revelation of Allah. The Bible, however, was completed in the 1st century with the Book of Revelation. The Lord warned against anyone adding to His finished Word (Revelation 22:18). The Qur’an, as a claimed addition to God’s Word, directly disobeys God’s command.

Finally, Islam teaches that paradise is gained through good works and obedience to the Qur'an. The Bible, in contrast, reveals that man cannot measure up to the holy God. Only because of His mercy and love can sinners be saved through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Truth

Therefore, Islam and Christianity cannot both be true. One is God’s Word and one is not. The truth has eternal consequences.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-4).

"I am a Muslim. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?

Question: "I am a Muslim. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?"

Answer: True Christians are followers of Isa/Jesus. Since the Qur’an commended Isa, faithful Muslims should study Isa’s teachings and obey them (Surah 3:48-49; 5:46).

What does the Qur’an say about Isa?
• Allah sent Isa, supporting Him with the Holy Spirit (Surah 2:87)
• Allah exalted Isa (Surah 2:253)
• Isa was righteous and sinless (Surah 3:46; 6:85; 19:19)
• Isa was raised from the dead (Surah 19:33-34)
• Allah commanded Isa to establish a religion (Surah 42:13)
• Isa ascended into heaven (Surah 4:157-158)

The Bible is Jesus’ Word
Isa’s teachings were recorded by His disciples in the Injeel (Gospel). Surah 5:111 states that the disciples were inspired by Allah to believe in Isa and His message. As Allah’s helpers (Surah 61:6, 14), Isa’s disciples would have accurately recorded His teaching.

The Qur’an instructs Muslims to uphold and obey both the Torah and the Gospels (Surah 5:44-48). Muhammad would not have given that instruction if the Gospels had been corrupted. Therefore, the copies of the Gospels in Muhammad’s time were trustworthy and accurate. There are copies of the Gospels that precede Muhammad’s time by 450 years. When comparing the most ancient copies, the copies from Muhammad’s time, and the copies dated after Muhammad’s time, all the copies of the Gospels are consistent in their testimony of Jesus and His teaching. No evidence can prove that the Gospels have been corrupted. Therefore, all of Jesus’ teachings are preserved accurately in the Bible.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection

Knowing the Gospels are true, what do they teach about Jesus? The Gospels record that Jesus foretold His life’s work: He said He would be crucified, killed, and raised from the dead (Matthew 20:19). The Gospels record this happening exactly as Jesus predicted (Matthew 27-28; Mark 15-16; Luke 23-24; John 19-21).

Why would the sinless Jesus allow Himself to be executed? He said that there is no greater love than to sacrifice your life for your friends (John 15:13). Why would God allow His prophet to be mistreated and killed? John 3:16 says that He loved us enough to send Jesus to be a sacrifice for us.

Jesus sacrificed for our sin

Why do we need Jesus to sacrifice His life for us? This is the key difference between Islam and Christianity. Islam teaches that Allah judges us based on whether our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds. Even if it were possible to outweigh bad deeds with good deeds, God is so holy that He will not allow anyone into heaven who has committed even a single sin (James 2:10). The holy God cannot allow anything short of perfection into heaven. We all belong apart from Him in hell.

God knew that we had all sinned and therefore could not enter heaven. God knew that the only way we could be forgiven was for our sin debt to be paid by a perfect One dying in our place. God knew that He alone could pay such an infinite price.

God’s plan to save us

Therefore, God sent His Son to be born of a virgin. Jesus is God’s Son – not that God had parental relations with Mary but in the sense of His relationship with God and deity (John 1:1, 14). Jesus Christ proved He was God’s Son by His sinless life, perfect message, death for sin, and resurrection from the dead.

What does Jesus Christ’s life and death mean for you? God offers salvation from sin to those who trust Jesus as their Savior from sin and Lord of life. Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father [God] except through me” (John 14:6).

Clearly, Jesus taught that He is the only way to God. Only by Jesus can we reach paradise. God will forgive our sins, help us live for Him, and give us eternal life. How can we reject such a precious gift? How can we turn our backs on God who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself for us?

Becoming a Christian

If you are unsure about the truth, say the following prayer to God: “Please, God, show me the truth. Help me discern and reject what is false. Point me to the correct way of salvation.” God will honor such a prayer.

If God is leading you to trust Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and follow Him as Lord, ask God for the gift of salvation through Jesus. Here is an example of such a prayer: “God, I turn from loving my sin and trying to reach paradise through my own works. Thank You for sending Jesus to die on the cross for my sins and rise from the dead. I trust Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I love You, Lord, and submit myself to You. Amen!”

Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord because of what you have read here today? If so, click on the "I have put my faith in Jesus today" button below.

The misery of sin

Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God's restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.

(jonathan Edwards)

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Tax Avoidance

Lord Ashcroft is no stranger to controversy and this week while his donations to the Conservative Party have been deemed legal (BBC News), he has once again been accused of “systematic tax avoidance” (The Guardian).

The central issue to the debate surrounding Lord Ashcroft is his “non-dom” status, meaning he only pays the UK Treasury tax on his UK income. The current accusation of tax avoidance relates to an opinion poll he commissioned prior to the last General Election. It has been alleged that he instructed the polling company to send the invoices to one of his overseas company, allowing him to avoid paying VAT.

Tax is unavoidable and unpopular. It is an often controversial subject which can reveal people’s ideological differences. And, none of this is new! The Gospels reveal that on more than one occasion people questioned Jesus about tax (e.g. Matthew 17:24-27 and Mark 12:13-17). However, when we seek to discuss tax and theology we are entering the highly complex field of economics with all its mind-boggling theories, and opening up potentially divisive political ideologies (e.g. Big or small government). With that in mind, here are a few simple thoughts to stimulate conversations this weekend!

Redistribution of wealth: An idea central to the tax systems of most countries, including the UK ’s income tax, is the idea of the redistribution of wealth. This in itself can be a point of contention! Some would suggest that if you’ve worked hard to earn more money than someone else you deserve to reap the benefits. The principle ‘a worker deserves his wages’ can be found throughout the Bible (Lev. 19:13, Deut 24:15 and 1 Tim 5:18). Others would point out that many people with lower incomes work far harder than those on higher salaries. There does certainly appear to be a great deal of inequality if you compare salaries. Therefore, perhaps an effective system of taxation that redistributes wealth to ensure that all can benefit from public services from education and law enforcement to refuse collection and street lighting is a good idea? After all, the Bible has lots to say about helping the poor.

Responsible Stewards: We might be happy to pay taxes if the money was spent to ensure education, law enforcement, refuse collection and street lighting for all. However, that’s only part of it. Our taxes are also being spent on a number of contentious items such as the war in Afghanistan and the infamous expenses for MPs. Although few Christians would promote the illegal option of tax evasion, many would make a strong case for tax avoidance. That is, ensuring that we’re not paying any more tax than we absolutely have to*. The argument being that individuals can then ensure their money is directed to ‘good causes’. Being a ‘good steward’ of our resources is a key Christian principle, so there may be something to this argument. However, this argument depends on us actually being good stewards of our money. Does the way we use our money benefit those in need more than the way the government spends our taxes? We are also fortunate enough to live in a democracy, therefore, with a General Election to be held in the near future, we have an opportunity to hold those in authority to account regarding the way taxes are spent.

Social Responsibility: As Christians we have a responsible to help those in need. We have a duty to pay our taxes and this may well be one way we can help the poor. However, I doubt the response “But I was honest on my tax return” will be an adequate response to Jesus’ words, “…I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…I was sick and you looked after me” (Matthew 25:35,36)! There’s so much more for us to do.

Phil Green, Public Theology Research Assistant

What does it mean to live a godly life?

If you ever asked yourself the question, what does it mean to live a godly life? and if your not exactly sure what living a godly life involves, this extract taking from Charles Seet book 'A Christian in a non-Christian world' provides ample guidance on just what to do.

Now it is worth asking the question then, 'What does it mean to live godly?' It does not mean that we are just to confine ourselves within a set of rules and regulations. Some people reduce godly living to a list of 'do’s and don'ts.' But the meaning of godly living goes far deeper than that.

Godly living means living in the manner that God wants us to live. It means having the same feelings, attitudes and heart's desires that God has. It means that we love the things that God loves, care for the things that God cares for, and dislike those things which He dislikes. And since God loves righteousness, a godly person also loves righteousness. Since God hates sin, a godly person also hates sin, whether it is in his own life or in others. A godly person will seek to abandon every sin in his life. Since God wants His own will to be done and to be glorified, a godly person will likewise want God's will to be done and to glorify God in everything he does. Now, if we have these feelings, attitudes and heart's desires, we will soon find ourselves being quite different from the world we live in. And we will soon find ourselves coming into conflict with the world many times. So you see, being godly is not an easy thing.
But no matter how difficult it may be to strive to live a godly life in this world, no matter how hard and inconvenient it becomes to live differently from the rest, it surely is worth all the effort we put in, because the Lord deserves much more than this response from us, for all that He has done. The more we think of how Jesus gave Himself for us so sacrificially, nothing becomes too great for us to give to Him.

And now it is our turn to respond to the same gift.

About 300 years ago, there was a rich young German noble man, who visited an art gallery. And as he looked at the paintings on the wall, one particular painting caught his eye and he just could not take his eyes off it. It was a painting of Christ dying on the cross. That painting showed the face of Jesus in great agony with drops of blood and tears streaming down his cheeks. As that rich young nobleman continued contemplating this painting, his eyes looked at the little label that was attached to the bottom of the painting. On it were the words, 'All this, I have done for thee. What has thou done for Me?' And as he was reading these words, that young nobleman broke down and cried. And right there he gave his life to the Lord, devoting all his time and treasures to the cause of Christ. And God used the godly life of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf to build up the famous Moravian missionary enterprise, which sent out hundreds of missionaries in the eighteenth century —and inspired countless others. The self-sacrifice, love, and total commitment to evangelisation of the Moravian missionaries who were motivated through Zinzendorf are unparalleled in the history of missions. They also influenced the Evangelical Revival in England through James Hutton and John Wesley.

It is our turn to answer the same question that von Zinzendorf faced
'All this, I have done for thee. What has thou done for Me?' Titus 2:12 says 'that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.' Will you do this for Him?

to read the book free online just go to this website and click on the book title http://www.ntslibrary.com/christian-living-books.htm

k.oni

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The student culture and the Christian

It is very easy to get consumed in a Christian bubble all the time while having little engagement with the student culture. Indeed being a Christian is a full time job, we are not Christians at cu and at church then non Christians at the clubs and bars, lectures and seminars. Jesus is the Lord of our life and therefore He is Lord even when we are not doing specific Christian duties. It is important that as Christian students we engage with the culture in the hope that we can influence those around us and have a permanent impact on them. Yes, the culture we are engaging with is a sinful culture because they do not know God and once upon a time neither did we. But this is no excuse not to engage with the culture because Jesus came into a sinful world to save us and he was sinless but yet influenced many by his words and actions. He ate with tax collectors and sinners and the religious leaders hated it. I know for some due to other dedications to CU and church, time doesn’t permit you to spend as much time as you want with the student culture, just like the pastor, most of his time is spent in feeding the flock and has little time to engage with the community as much as he would like. We have to remember that God created the world and everything belongs to Him and in the end everything will glorify Jesus. The amazing thing is that God works through the ordinary things, through things that are not necessarily connected to church to bring many to faith. He uses Christians who are in those ordinary positions to work his will. So a reason to engage with the student culture is that God will use you to bring others to saving faith in Christ Jesus, through the ordinary conversations and etc…

It is important to remember that when engaging with the culture that you love the people. You love them with a genuinely love and willing to serve them as Christ served you. For we are all created in the image of God and God loves his creatures. Also, when engaging with the culture, we have to live godly lives lest you portray a negative view of Jesus. Many students have seen those who claim to be Christian’s to be drunk and partaking in the same sinful activity as they do and this is a real problem. A problem that hinders the winning of souls and it is important that we practice what we preach. It is also important to pray, to pray against temptation and for strength because it is easy to get enticed.

Titus 2:11-15 says ‘for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

So let us be eager to do good when engaging with the student culture and live godly lives so that we can influence those around us in a positive way and therefore Christ is magnified.

k.oni

Falling on Deaf Ears? — Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible

An article by Dr Albert Mohler

"It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out." That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity -- an impatience with the Word of God.

The sentence above comes from Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today in an essay entitled "Yawning at the Word." In just a few hundred words, he captures the tragedy of a church increasingly impatient with and resistant to the reading and preaching of the Bible. We may wince when we read him relate his recent experiences, but we also recognize the ring of truth.

Galli was told to cut down on the biblical references in his sermon. "You'll lose people," the staff member warned. In a Bible study session on creation, the teacher was requested to come back the next Sunday prepared to take questions at the expense of reading the relevant scriptural texts on the doctrine. Cutting down on the number of Bible verses "would save time and, it was strongly implied, would better hold people's interest."

As Galli reflected, "Anyone who's been in the preaching and teaching business knows these are not isolated examples but represent the larger reality."

Indeed, in many churches there is very little reading of the Bible in worship, and sermons are marked by attention to the congregation's concerns - not by an adequate attention to the biblical text. The exposition of the Bible has given way to the concerns, real or perceived, of the listeners. The authority of the Bible is swallowed up in the imposed authority of congregational concerns.

As Mark Galli notes:

It has been said to the point of boredom that we live in a narcissistic age, where we are wont to fixate on our needs, our wants, our wishes, and our hopes—at the expense of others and certainly at the expense of God. We do not like it when a teacher uses up the whole class time presenting her material, even if it is material from the Word of God. We want to be able to ask our questions about our concerns, otherwise we feel talked down to, or we feel the class is not relevant to our lives.

It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out. Don't spend a lot of time in the Bible, we tell our preachers, but be sure to get to personal illustrations, examples from daily life, and most importantly, an application that we can use.

The fixation on our own sense of need and interest looms as the most significant factor in this marginalization and silencing of the Word. Individually, each human being in the room is an amalgam of wants, needs, intuitions, interests, and distractions. Corporately, the congregation is a mass of expectations, desperate hopes, consuming fears, and impatient urges. All of this adds up, unless countered by the authentic reading and preaching of the Word of God, to a form of group therapy, entertainment, and wasted time -- if not worse.

Galli has this situation clearly in his sights when he asserts that many congregations expect the preacher to start from some text in the Bible, but then quickly move on "to things that really interest us." Like . . . ourselves?

One of the earliest examples of what we would call the preaching of the Bible may well be found in Nehemiah 8:1-8:

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading with their faces to the ground. [English Standard Version]

Ezra and his companions stood on a platform before the congregation. They read the scriptural text clearly, and then explained the meaning of the Scripture to the people. The congregation received the Word humbly, while standing. The pattern is profoundly easy to understand -- the Bible was read and explained and received.

As Hughes Oliphant Old comments, "This account of the reading of the Law indicates that already at the time of the writing of this text there was a considerable amount of ceremonial framing of the public reading of Scripture. This ceremonial framing is a witness to the authority of the Bible." The reading and exposition took place in a context of worship as the people listened to the Word of God. The point of the sermon was simple -- "to make clear the reading of the Scriptures."

In many churches, there is almost no public reading of the Word of God. Worship is filled with music, but congregations seem disinterested in listening to the reading of the Bible. We are called to sing in worship, but the congregation cannot live only on the portions of Scripture that are woven into songs and hymns. Christians need the ministry of the Word as the Bible is read before the congregation and God's people -- young and old, rich and poor, married and unmarried, sick and well -- hear it together. The sermon is to consist of the exposition of the Word of God, powerfully and faithfully read, explained, and applied. It is not enough that the sermon take a biblical text as its starting point.

How can so many of today's churches demonstrate what can only be described as an impatience with the Word of God? The biblical formula is clear -- the neglect of the Word can only lead to disaster, disobedience, and death. God rescues his church from error, preserves his church in truth, and propels his church in witness only by his Word -- not by congregational self-study.

In the end, an impatience with the Word of God can be explained only by an impatience with God. We -- both individually and congregationally -- neglect God's Word to our own ruin.

As Jesus himself declared, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

http://www.albertmohler.com/

Mark Galli, "Yawning at the Word," Christianity Today [online edition], posted November 5, 2009. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/novemberweb-only/144-41.0.html

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, vol. 1, "The Biblical Period" (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), pp. 98-99.