Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Revolutionary Message of the Gospel

Mark 1:16-20
As Jesus walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Matt 8:19-22
A teacher of the law came to him and said “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first go let me bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Mark 8:1-4
During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called the disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

            There is something utterly profound about Jesus’ message. It was a message which prompted people to abandon the few comforts and securities to hear. These people were desperately poor. They lived hand-to-mouth, most of what they earned in a day’s wages was spent on feeding their families.  
The desperate conditions that these people were burdened under go to show what great lengths they took to find Jesus just to hear his message. Such great lengths which the above verses document can hardly be understated; they travelled to remote parts of the country without any food, abandoning their only sources of income to seek out Jesus. They gave up the promise of their inheritance to become his disciples, which left their parents heirless. Jesus even required them to break some of the most sensitive of customs of the day like burying one’s dead father.
These things would be difficult and risky enough for us to do in this day and age, but back in ancient times the lengths that people took simply to hear Jesus’ message were inviting both extreme poverty and social opprobrium.

So what on earth could have enticed people to go to such extremes? What revolutionary teaching caused people to radically change their lives after hearing it?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

God's Reaction to the Fall


And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

Genesis 3:8-10

The line “God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” gives the impression of a scenario where God habitually visits earth to stroll casually through His newly created Garden for no good reason, other than to periodically catch up for a chat with Adam and Eve. The scenario that this passage paints comes from only a small mistranslation, but ends up creating an entirely false picture of the nature of God.


The most poignant reason why this common understanding has to be false, is that it implicitly implies that God was wholly ignorant of the profound transgression of Man’s sin which has just transpired. Surely God would be immediately storming through the garden to confront Adam and Eve in light of

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Vain is the Wisdom of Man

It is interesting that science -the wisdom which is proudly boasted of by contemporary secular mankind- is utterly incapable of penetrating the mysteries of God. It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:20; “Where is the wise man (the philosopher)? Where is the scribe (the scholar)? Where is the investigator (the logician, the debater) of this present time and age? Has not God shown up the nonsense and the folly of this world’s wisdom?


It is like God has purposely orchestrated things that just when man reaches a zenith in scientific understanding, that God makes this understanding to be utterly incapable of probing spiritual things. God is purposely withholding

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

God in the Heart of the Heathen


The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.

Psalm 14:1


God is big. His dominion is so extensive that it is commonly said that He holds the whole world in His hands. Not one sparrow dies without the decree of God, nor is there a hair on our head that is not numbered by Him (Matthew 10:29-30). That is big! 

In fact God is so big that He even directs our very footsteps (Proverbs 16:9). But God doesn’t simply limit His providence to only those who fear and follow Him, rather God is just as active in the heathen’s life too (Psalm 98:2). After all, God loves all His creation and desires that we all become

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blessed To Suffer For Christ

My time spent in China earlier this year was an amazing time of spiritual discovery for me. My eyes were further opened, and my heart drawn ever closer to my heavenly Father.
My understanding of God and of Christianity has changed in a fundamental way, and has resulted in a profound faith that is set in concrete.

Recently I was given the opportunity to send a letter to the man in China that particularly impacted me. Being a Pastor of the underground church in China, he is living on the run, at perennial risk of being arrested for merely refusing to join the church controlled by the Government. Such persecution gives one a different perspective on what true Christianity is, the kind that was experienced by the Apostolic fathers.

Below is the letter that I wrote to him (he uses a pseudonym). It is a letter that seemed to come directly from my spirit, mostly unaltered by the usual subconscious cogitations of my brain.

The 'Non-Gospel' Vision of Mission Australia

The folk at Mission Australia recently replied to the email that I sent them last week, which I had shared here in my previous Blog post. So I thought I would post their reply here as a bit of follow-up for all to see. Also below is my response to what I thought was their rather poor defense of their 'non-Gospel' vision there at Mission Australia.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Standing Firm in an Age of Compromise

Should charitable Christian organisations sanitise their institutions of the distinctive truths of their Christian religion in order to receive tax concessions and subsidies from the government?
And How should Christians respond to government regulation that interferes with our ability to freely exercise our faith?
Today when reviewing charities to support, I came across Mission Australia's website. What I read, or I should say what I didn't read, provoked my ire. There is little else that raises more indignation in me than Christians compromising their faith. And in an age of high government regulation it seems many Christian organisations are all too happy to sellout to receive government subsidies.

Below is the email that I sent to Mission Australia in response to what I see as invertebrate compromise.

Hi, I just thought I would send you guys a quick email regarding why I felt that I can not support Mission Australia. I have in the past been a regular supporter, but had to cease supporting financially due to my own tight fiscal circumstances. However, God has recently restored my financial position with even greater blessings than before, thus I have been able to start tithing far greater amounts to use in ways that glorify His great name.

After initially going to your website with great enthusiasm to setup a regular donation, I thought I would review why I wanted to support Mission Australia, and whether your organisation aligned with my goals in donating. So after having read through the main ‘About Us’ page, I quickly became thoroughly disappointed. Did you know that not once are the names God, Jesus or Christ mentioned? Neither are the terms of sin, salvation or grace? I would have expected that the goals and vision of a “Christian community service organisation” would be to spread the Gospel and the good news of salvation through your service, yet there is no hint of that on the webpages that I viewed.
I am sure you aware that these essential themes of Christianity must be part of every Christian’s mission. All of Mission Australia’s stated goals are pointless if they are not rooted in Christ. ‘Pathways to strong families and healthy, happy children’; ‘successful youth’; ‘pathways away from homelessness’; ‘life and work-ready skills’, ‘sustainable employment’. No one can gain salvation through these things, and without salvation these things are pointless. It is only through Christ that these things are of any value.

Maybe you have sacrificed the essentials of Christianity in order to comply with this Government's excessive and intrusive regulations? But where is this approach taught in Scripture? Never did the first Christians water-down their operations to appease the Romans. That is exactly what the Jews did and were duly condemned by Christ for doing so. Instead Christians preferred to face the most horrid of persecutions rather than compromise their faith. The Romans authorities didn’t ask for much, just a bit of harmless incense burning here and there as an act of submission to the sovereignty of Rome, all without having to give up their worship of God. Yet those Christians wouldn’t compromise even that little bit.
But what I see from Christian organisations these days, which Mission Australia seem to be of the same mould, is a willingness to compromise to whatever extent possible to show submission to the sovereignty of the Australian State.

Unfortunately Christ seems to be a distant number two in your allegiances. How else do you explain the total absence of Christian truths in your mission? This is the reason why I can not support your organisation. Christ and His gift of salvation must be the first and primary goal of any Christian organisation, and unfortunately I do not see a hint of that in Mission Australia's website.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Judeo-Christianity as a Syncretistic Phenomenon

I have just finished reading 'Primitive Christianity in its Contemporary Setting'.
It is of the 'historical-critical' mould of theology. The type that attempts to explain how the Judeo-Christian God merely evolved from a mixture of various other neighbouring cultural traditions. So it's actually more like anthropology than theology. The historical-critical method aims to demystify God and reduce religion down to a social phenomenon that has merely evolved from the social environment. It basically denies that God actively reveals Himself in people's lives over history, as well as denying the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

I have always steered clear from this type of liberal theology in the past, not necessarily because I was scared that it would destroy my faith in a personal God, but primarily because these scholars seemed to be mostly motivated by the desire to justify their atheism by rationalising God out of existence. After all, no God = no consequences for one’s choices in life.

So after some initial discomfort towards the critical assertions by the author at the start of the book, I started to open up to the ideas within it. Assertions such as; “Jahweh, the God of Israel, started out as a tribal god, like the other Semitic deities.” ”Hebrew thought, in it’s initial stages, was not monotheistic” ”Israel, like other nations, had it’s creation myths.” “Such creation myths lie behind the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.” These are just a handful of examples from the first few pages, but enough to give an impression of the general tone of the thinking in the book, a tone that zaps the wonder and awe that most Christians view the Scriptures with.

The discomfort that such irreverent statements causes stems from some serious questions that are raised about how we view God and Scripture. It is easy to dismiss such authors as godless cynics, but such rash judgements aren’t necessarily warranted. For the first time I’ve started to see some sense in this type of liberal criticism. It’s not that this thinking necessarily dismisses the reality of God and the inspired nature of Scripture (although liberal scholars do go this far), rather it questions the modern beliefs of how the Patriarchs of old came to know God.  Was God known to the Patriarchs as we know Him now? I tend to think that Abraham, Moses and the prophets all had radically different ideas of who God was. And their knowledge of God would certainly be determined by the different surrounding religious and philosophical beliefs, just as Christians now are influenced by Islamic, darwinist, materialist and other prominent philosophies that pervade our zeitgeist.

So is it really sacrilegious to suggest that the various individual books of Scriptures each hold their own narrow and myopic view of God, if the authors of these books themselves had their own narrow and myopic views of God? Certainly not. In fact it makes perfect sense, because it was only with advent of the Messiah’s teachings that all of the individual teachings in Old Testament were pulled together by Christ to be fulfilled as a cohesive whole.


But the key point to keep in mind in light of all this, which the scholars who practice historical-criticism don't seem to get, is that none of this diminishes the awesome nature of God as we now know Him. So it's not that God is a just phantasm of the mind which evolves through the millennia from surrounding cultures (as many liberal scholars would conclude), but rather it was God’s purpose to reveal Himself over time through various influences of neighbouring cultures. God uses the influences of other cultures to build His ‘religion’.
Liberal scholars would recoil at this suggestion, ridiculing it as a desperate attempt of religious people to hold on to God in a scientific age where there are fewer and fewer unexplained aspects of reality to hide Him. But this is not so. Just as these scholars think they have eradicated the reality of God by eliminating the mystical places for Him to fill, God shows the awesomeness of His omnipotence and power by being the force behind the even greater complexity of life and reality that we are uncovering through science.

God doesn’t just work in miraculous ways, rather He primarily uses the natural things of this universe to affect His will. For example, the atheist would say that a religious person's happiness isn't a mystical gift from God, rather it is merely just a result of neurochemistry, a purely ‘natural’ phenomenon. Yet what the atheist doesn't realise is that God uses the natural neurochemistry of our brains to cause the emotion of happiness. This is far from a weak answer, which at first seems to move God’s actions into the realm of the untestable. How, the atheist must answer, would God affect happiness without activating the 'happiness' neurochemistry in the brain? Neurochemistry and the brain are God's creation, thus logic demands that He would use it to cause any emotion He so desires.



God has never been hiding in the inexplicable and miraculous aspects of the physical universe, rather He has always been the power behind the physical 'laws' of the universe.
Just when atheists and liberal scholars think they have gotten the upper hand on God in eliminating Him from rational existence with their historical-critical and scientific methods, God then uses these exact same methods of His critics to prove the magnitude of His reality!!! God drives the dynamics of societies to produce Christianity just as much as He drives the dynamics of physical nature such as neurochemistry. That's how big this God is!

God is behind it all, every atom, every thought and every action!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere" ?!!

Which religion would you associate the following statement with?

'Heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere'

To me it sounds like a typical brain-fart from a crystal waving New Ager. But would it surprise you that it was on a billboard in front of an Anglican church? This certainly shocked me. It seemed like quite a feeble and nonsensical, but more importantly non-Christian, statement to me.

So after ruminating on all the illogical paths that such a statement could lead, I decided to send the church an email. You just can't say such innane statements in public like that without having to explain yourself!
So below is the email that I sent to the church.

"I just thought I’d send a short email in regards to the content of the church’s display sign out the front of the building. It read; ‘Heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere’, as I remember it.

I don’t frequently travel past your church nor am I familiar with Anglican doctrine, so I’m not sure what context to read this message.


"To be honest my initial reaction was dismay, not just because of the unorthodox nature of such a statement from a Christian source, but also because of the ostensibly illogical nature of it. Does it mean that heaven is also in Hell, because if God is omnipresent then He must be in Hell too? Maybe it’s implying that there is actually no hell or heaven as the Scriptures teach, and they are only a state of mind? Or maybe even that God doesn’t literally exist, but He is merely the mind’s personification of the heavenly state of being?

The statement is so open-ended that there is no limit to the logical ends that it would lead to.


"So rather than endlessly speculate, I was hoping to get the author’s opinion on exactly what it means."


My feeling is that this message is just another example of the sycophantic nature of modern liberal Christianity, which is so scared of offending people in our plural society, that the Truth of God’s Word is purposely sacrificed in favour of pursuing the ecumenical policies of some denominations.

I’ll see what their response is!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bearing Good Fruit

Over the past year or so my mind has been periodically harassed by a nagging guilt of not producing enough 'good works'.

The New Testament undoubtedly puts a lot of emphasis on not neglecting our duty of good works:
"And already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Matt 3:10
"'I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!'.....'So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags....And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’" Matt 25:24-30

I know quite well that salvation is not a remuneration for good works, but still, such verses do give the grim impression that the slothful servant is in danger of being tossed into the fiery pit of perdition.

But much to my joy, God, according to His relentless benevolence, pacified my conscience with this realisation:
It's that producing 'good fruit' isn't strictly just performing outward work like philanthropy; but rather it also includes the inner 'work' of behaving in a virtuous manner.
For example, behaving in accordance with the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) is certainly also what God considers to be in the sphere of what is defined as producing 'good fruit'. It also seems that this inner work is probably an even more important part of producing good fruit than purely just outward philanthropic work.

I think it would be safe to deduce, without diminishing the importance of our philanthropic duty, that living our lives in accordance with these spiritual fruits for the non-believing world to observe, is also a significant part of the Christian's evangelistic duty. In fact I'm sure that if we were to adhere to only one of these two duties, that God would much prefer us to have the spiritual fruits than the philanthropic fruits. I could scarcely imagine that the later would be at all effective without the former anyway.

So whenever that nagging guilt rears its ugly head again, I've got to be sure to remind myself of all this!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Worshipping Angels?

The following passage in Revelation has always puzzled me a little:

"And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets"
Revelation 22:8-9

The traditional interpretation of these verses never made too much sense to me; that St John made the foolish mistake of worshipping an angel. Surely a man of such high standing with God and so learnered would never make such a schoolboy error. Maybe a neophyte in the faith may make such a mistake, but one of the Apostles?!!
Then I read somewhere a much more cogent explanation (I think it was in David Chilton's 'Day's of Vengeance'): It's that back in those days angels were considered to be superior beings to us wretched humans, and it was customary that we were to automatically bow (the bible sometimes translates this as 'worship'. The Greek word translated as worship in this verse specifically means to fawn or crouch, or to literally prostrate oneself in homage) to any superior person as a sign of submission (Gen 18:2).

But what it seems that John was getting at in this verse is that Christians have been washed clean of their sins and are perfect in the sight of God, so are no longer are lesser beings than angels. We are equals, or as the angel said "for I am thy fellowservant", thus bowing in their presence is no longer required!

I was reminded of all this this morning when meditating on Psalm 8, where verse 5 says that humans are lower than angels; "For thou hast made him [mankind] a little lower than the angels"
But no more! We have been fully restored by Christ!