Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ethics and Morality

I've always regarded 'ethics' as a 'Christian' field and have always associated it with 'morality'. However, I came across a few instances in which ethics have driven people to justify acts which were obviously contrary to the will of God i.e. morally wrong. This led me to seek a few answers which I have summarized below...

Ethics is defined as 'that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions'.
Morality is defined as 'conformity to the rules of right conduct.'

Don't you see the difference? Morality refers to an unchanging set of rules as to what IS right and what IS wrong, regardless of the society, culture, situation or era. However ethics is based on perception. Ethics weigh the pros and the cons of an issue or action from a human point of view - this balance may sometimes lead to a 'morally wrong' decision.

As Christians, we're not to focus on the 'ethics' of an issue, but its 'morality'. We ought not to weigh up its advantages and disadvantages i.e approach it with 'worldly wisdom' but focus on the truth explicitly stated in the word of God. The truth is unchanging, inerrant and infallible as it is from God - God makes the rules - however, we determine ethics, and if you haven't already noticed, we make mistakes!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Genetically Predisposed to Sin

During our Chemistry lesson, a friend decided to instigate a religious debate on homosexuality and its place in society. While asked, my obvious answer was that it is a sin, as the Bible clearly regards it as. Our low profile debate rapidly escalated involving various other members of the class and eventually the teacher. While there were many interesting, common misconceptions about this Biblical stance that were brought to light and battled with, there was one particular opposing argument that grabbed my attention...
While asked whether I felt homosexuality was 'natural', I replied 'no'. My friend immediately said that he believed it was a genetic predisposition, and many of my classmates agreed with him. This concept intrigued me immensely.

My mind wandered and wondered...

The obvious repercussion of the above scenario is that those who practice homosexuality will use it as an excuse to not restrain or mend their ways.

Reading 'DNA - The Secret of Life' by James Watson, I found out more about some serial killers .etc. having a 'genetic predisposition' to anger or extreme violence. This somehow semi-justified their actions. However, they've murdered - taken another life away! Even if one 'is' predisposed, their actions ARE NOT predetermined. Their actions are determined by their environment and various other personal factors .i.e. they still have the power to say 'yes' or 'no'.

Here's another scenario. Nick Vujucic is an inspirational man I dearly respect and love. Nick has tetra-amelia syndrome, also called autosomal recessive tetraamelia. This is characterized by the absence of all four limbs i.e. Nick was born with no arms and no legs. While he struggled emotionally as a child and teenager, he eventually found Jesus, found his purpose in life and now is beyond active. He swims, plays football, dives...name it! He is absolutely remarkable!
Nick could have wobbled in self-pity all his life and not persevered to do anything. However, despite being not just 'predisposed' but 'predetermined' to immobility, he still chose to move and be active. Have you heard of the saying 'Where there is a will, there is a way'? Well, he is the personification of that saying!

So what, if homosexuality turns out to be genetic! You STILL have to CHOOSE to practice it and yield to its pull. There is definitely a CHOICE involved. You can CHOOSE to live as a homosexual or have the will-power to resist the desired, repent and trust the Savior to work in you. You cannot just 'resist' without God's help and expect a change!

Predisposition and the Bible

Like the murderer example, many acts that the Bible states as 'sin' seem to have a genetic link. I wondered if this entire idea of a 'genetic predisposition to sin' is Biblical.

Galatians 5:16-17
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Romans 8:5
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on that what nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

I believe that the above verses hold a very strong implication to genetic predispostion to sin. The Bible tells us that it is 'natural' for humans to sin...that's funny...that's exactly what the world tells us!! Take lust for example, every human being is guilty of that. Why? Because it is 'natural'. Why is sin 'natural'? That is because of the original sin. We have a tendency to sin incorporated into our systems.
What God wants is COMPLETELY different. To not sin, we ALL NEED to act against our 'natural inclination' to do it. The Bible is very clear that what the Spirit demands is what our 'flesh' or what nature isn't used to.

So I guess, once again, science is too slow to discover something the Bible already speaks of!

What now?

Hebrews 2:18
Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.

God's ways are higher than our own. Whether we are 'naturally inclined to sin' or 'genetically predisposed' to it, we can STILL CHOOSE to say a big fat, firm 'NO'! Although we have the desire to sin, we still have the liberty to fulfill or dismiss this desire.
When we commit to God by trusting and relying on Him and the Savior's price on the Cross, He will help us let go of the sinful nature that is deeply rooted in our being.

Are you willing to CHOOSE to say NO to sin, despite your genetic predisposition to love and practice it?

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

When Blessings Become Idols

Recently, God has been reminding me about the real value of the things in my life. It is a lesson that He has taught me many times, but I still haven't grasped it!

What are blessings?

Friends, family, material success, are all blessings that God has lavished upon us. While the world may view these everyday things with indifference, the Christian very well knows they're good gifts that God alone can give. Israel experienced this like no other nation ever has; victorious battles against nations double their size, prosperity during the most parched of times, name it!

Blessings are the little things in life we long and pray for. The privileges that embellish our lives to make it that one bit sweeter. 

Why does God bless us?

Psalm 103:17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children's children 

Psalm 1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in path of sinners...

...well you get the gist! Numerous verses in the Bible answer the above question...the list would practically be endless!

He is a good God. He loves those who fear and seek Him and thus bestows His grace and mercy on them. We cannot earn blessings, we neither deserve them; He blesses purely because He loves. The purpose of the blessings He bestows are to lead us to trust Him on everything else with a spirit of gratitude i.e. bring us closer to Him.

Where does the problem arise?

The spirit of complacency? Self sufficiency? Pride?

Back to Israel...in the book of 'Hosea', we see what often happens to our hearts when we are blessed. Although Israel enjoyed God's mercies, goodness and riches, they lost their focus - they drifted away from God. The very things that were designed to bring them closer to Him had become a hindrance as they forgot where these originate from. Anything that comes between us and God is an 'idol', thus the blessing is now an 'idol'. Israel turned her back to the one true God and sought worthless idols and the help of fellow nations, instead of God.

[Food for thought: I can't help but relate it to creation. The created world around us, nature in all its splendor, has been 'designed' to bring us closer to God by reminding us of His presence. However, sadly, humanity uses that very blessing to deny His existence.]

God's Solution

What follows in Hosea is a beautiful love story; a King seeking His worthless adulterous wife just because He loves her. (Read Hosea 10)

How does He do it?

He does it by taking away the 'blessings'. It might seem harsh, however isn't it harsher for Him to leave us in our sinful, Godless state that is headed for hell?

My friend Bea put it this way...

A father gives his son a toy because he loves him. It makes the father happy to see his son play and enjoy the gift. However, eventually, the son ONLY plays with his toy. He stops spending time with the father. The gift now has become a hindrance. In desperate measure to nurture his relationship with his son, the father will have to remove the toy! He doesn't want to, but has to, because of what is more important.

It is right to be grateful for the blessings God has placed in our life. Let us cherish them. However, let us ensure that we ALWAYS remember that they are 'good gifts' given to us by the Father. Blessings are temporary, however God alone can give us lasting peace and joy. Make sure you don't place the blessings before God Himself; remember that He'll do anything to get His place in your life (even if that means removing the blessing).
This is an area that I struggle with, but I know that God will empower me to overcome it. Let us put God first and make sure we don't turn His blessings into our idols.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? - Luke Watkins

Biblical accounts supported by unbiased historical logic and facts, reiterate the inerrant, infallible and divine nature of the Bible, accentuating the authenticity of the message portrayed. My friend, Luke Watkins, presented a talk titled 'Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?' - it was very impressive and based its case entirely on historical facts. I have thus requested to reproduce his work (below) on my blog, as I feel it can benefit many - not only those who are earnestly seeking the truth, but also those who are faced with theological conversations and arguments.


It is possible to make a case for the resurrection of Jesus even if we totally ignore the Bible, and use only historical and often non-Christian documents as evidence. To make our case we must consider four points:

1. The death of Jesus
2. The burial of Jesus
3. The empty tomb
4. The eyewitnesses

The Death of Jesus

To prove that Jesus was resurrected, a good place to start is to prove that He died. Josephus, a first century Roman Jewish historian wrote:

When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified’.

Tacitus, a second century Roman historian and senator wrote:

Christus... suffered the extreme penalty [ie crucifixion] during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of out procurators, Pontius Pilatus’.

These along with other sources make it fairly clear that Jesus existed, and was condemned to crucifixion by Pontius Pilate. In spite of this, some people claim that Jesus may have survived crucifixion. This is a fairly weak argument. It requires Jesus to have been beaten and whipped with a flagrum, an ordeal so painful that many died in the process - indeed Jesus was in so much pain afterwards that He was unable to carry His Cross up the hill. It then requires Him to be crucified, whilst wearing a crown of thorns, by a professional crucifixion team who, not only had they done this countless times before, but risked being put to death themselves if a victim survived. It requires Him to then survive a spear in the side (most likely into the heart), again by a professional execution team, and to have been transported to the tomb, where He woke up and managed to unwrap Himself from heavy cloths soaked in spices, which almost certainly would have suffocated Him had He still been alive. He then had to move a stone so heavy it took a team of Romans to roll into place, then overpower between two and fourteen hardened, trained and armed roman soldiers, and then run off and appear to his disciples.

However, some may cite Josephus’ account of a man who survived crucifixion. It is important to note that this man was one of three who were friends of Josephus. Upon seeing their execution he asked the roman governor, Titus, to take them down, and all three of them received the best medical attention of the day. Only one of them survived, and that was with medical attention and without having a spear thrust into his side.

The Burial of Jesus

Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, obtained Jesus’ body from Pilate for burial in Joseph’s own tomb. We know this from all four Gospels, but we can be fairly sure this is true as it is unlikely that the disciples would have invented the story that Jesus was buried by a well known person, whom people knew and check the account with. It’s especially unlikely it was invented seeing as he was a member of the Sanhedrin, who sentenced Jesus to death, so would have every reason to rebuke the disciples account if it were not true.

According to the record He was buried in Joseph’s private tomb, and his burial was witnessed by the women from Galilee and the two Marys. The tomb was new, so there could be no confusion about the body. It is also highly unlikely that the location of the tomb was lost. It was in Joseph of Arimathea’s private garden, and with the burial being witnessed by both Joseph and Joanna, wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household. With such important and intelligent people involved, it is unlikely that the location of the tomb was confused.

Finally, Jesus was wrapped in burial cloths containing up to 25kg of spices. If Jesus were alive then He almost certainly would have been suffocated by the cloths, and if He hadn’t been it is highly unlikely that He would have been able to unwrap Himself from them in His post-crucifixion state. The tomb was secured by Joseph by a large disc shaped stone that fitted into a groove in the side of the tomb. Fairly easy to roll into place, but requiring several men to roll away. The Jewish leaders had the stone officially sealed, and had a number of guards placed at the entrance of the tomb. This seems extremely likely, for a start the Jewish authorities circulated a story about the guards falling asleep when Jesus’ body went missing - which if anything proves there were guards and proves the tomb was empty. It also makes sense as something the authorities would do, they were very nervous about any claims that Jesus might not be dead.

The Empty Tomb

All four of the Gospels agree that the tomb was found empty when the Christian women came early in the morning on the first day of the week, so as to finish encasing Jesus’ body in spices. The gospels also agree that the disciples, upon investigating the women’s claims, also found the tomb empty. From this we gather that when early Christians talked of the resurrection of Jesus, they meant He had been genuinely resurrected in the same body - not a new and unconnected body. This is important as some theologians argue that Christian reports of the resurrection may be no more than mystical accounts of a spiritual resurrection - we know from the Gospels and from historical evidence that this is not what Christians claimed.

Next, what is interesting about the empty tomb is that the first people who told the world that the tomb was empty were the Jewish authorities - the last people who wanted it to be the case!

Matthew 28: 11 - While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Although some argue about the authenticity of this story, saying that it may have been a myth created later, this is unlikely to be the case. We know that it was probably published around 60 AD, and it also has all the marks of being created for circulation among Jews (as indeed does the entire Gospel of Matthew). It would have been circulated around Jerusalem and beyond, so if it was a myth then people could easily check for themselves by checking the tomb to see if it’s empty or not. Assuming the story is true, then the only reason the Jewish authorities would have circulated the story if it was indeed true that the tomb was empty. If it hadn’t been, then they could simply have produced the body and Christianity would have been crushed there and then - Jesus was a celebrity after all.

However, what if the story is true, what if the guards did fall asleep? Well, it’s scarcely conceivable that the authorities would have trusted such a sensitive job to guards who would fall asleep on the job. We know there were up to 14 guards, so the idea that they all fell asleep at once makes this even more unlikely. And in any case, if they had fallen asleep then how would they have known what happened, and been able to identify the disciples as the culprits? This propaganda by the Jewish authorities is extremely compelling evidence for the empty tomb, they simply had absolutely no conceivable reason to lie about the tomb being empty if it wasn’t.

As a side note, an inscription found in the nineteenth century, dating to AD 30-40, contains the ‘Edict of Nazareth’ which proclaimed robbery or desecration of a tomb to be punishable by the death penalty. Historians believe that something pretty unusual must have happened around this time for such a severe edict to be issued - perhaps the robbery of Joseph’s tomb?

Next, we can consider the disciples explanation of the empty tomb. It cannot be emphasised enough how important this point is. These disciples died excruciating deaths, and most of them were Jews of the highest moral character. Is it really conceivable that they came up with the worlds most elaborate conspiracy theory, and died excruciating deaths for this belief? Well, people die for things they believe in all the time, a disbeliever might say - look at suicide bombers. But that’s exactly the point! People die for things they believe in, not lies they concocted.

Finally, the people involved make it even more unlikely that the disciples made up the story. The Gospels describe women, the two Marys and Salome. Seeing as women couldn’t even testify in a court at this time, it’s highly unlikely that if the story was made up that women would have been chosen as the first witnesses - it’s rather an embarrassing fact, which the disciples probably only put in because it was true.

As a final note, we can consider the physical evidence at the tomb, such as the grave cloths. Grave robbing was common in the ancient world, however the idea that Jesus’ tomb was robbed seems incredibly unlikely. Ignoring the armed guards outside, there is no reason for tomb robbers to have stolen Jesus’ body but to leave the grave cloths which were soaked in extremely valuable spices. Even if for some strange reason the tomb robbers had just wanted the body, then there’s no real reason for them to go to all the trouble of unwrapping Jesus’ body before taking it.

It is important to remember this third point very well. In the words of the historian, Sir Norman Anderson, “The empty tomb, then, forms a veritable rock on which all rationalistic theories of the resurrection dash themselves in vain.”

The Eyewitnesses

Christians did not, however, just assert that the tomb was empty. They claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead, and that they had seen, spoke to and even eaten with Him. Seeing as Jesus appeared to over 500 people it is almost certain that people believed there to be resurrection appearances - when Paul references them He encourages people to go and check with these people. However, atheists might say that these people had hallucinations. There are four reasons this is unlikely:


  •   Hallucinations usually appear to people of an imaginative temperament, but all the disciples were very different - from fishermen to tax collectors.
  •   Hallucinations tend to be of expected events, however the disciples did not expect to see Jesus - many of them were in hiding for example.
  •   Hallucinations tend to occur over a prolonged period, either increasing or decreasing. However Christ’s appearances occurred frequently over a period of 40 days then abruptly stopped. This is not consistent with normal hallucinations.
  •   Most importantly, many people saw Jesus at the same time on different instances. This would require a mass hallucination, which is absolutely not possible. By its nature a hallucination is in the mind, and so there is no way for someone else to share the experience. For 500 people to experience the same thing from a collective hallucination is absurd, as collective hallucinations have never been recorded. For one person, Jesus might be floating on a cloud, for another, he might be riding a donkey - however everyone saw the same thing! 


C. S. Lewis also makes the perceptive remark that:

Any theory of hallucination falls down on the fact that on three separate occasions the hallucination was not immediately recognized as Jesus.” (Luke 24:13, John 20:15, 21:4)

Finally:
  •  Saul's transformation to Paul on the road to Damascus.
  •  Many eyewitnesses named, so they could be checked by people
  •  Close but not exact testimonies.
  •  Resurrection predicted in the Old Testament.
Credits - John Lennox (much of the research material)

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dear friend, who hopes in the works you do
yes, I am here to talk to you,
your life is empty headed for a blind end,
I want to warn you, because I love you friend

We all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory
we try to get back on track but forget about His mercy.
Aimlessly relying on goodness, charity and magnanimity,
all we'll ever reap is heaven's eternal enmity

God desires not a slave but a friend
He wants not discipline but love, till the end.
Don't get me wrong, 'good works' are needed,
not first, but emerging from the faith primarily seeded.

Didn't He say that His grace was enough?
You are constantly fooled that eternal life is tough!
God longs not for anything you have got,
all He desires, is a sincere and open heart.

Hasn't He already settled your case?
By paying the greatest price, wiping the shame off your face?
When He has taken your place to ease the pain,
all your frantic deeds look great, but are all in vain

Confession of sins and acceptance of His love,
is all that is required to secure your place above.
Now friend, ponder on what I've been saying,
quit your striving, let's commence the praying.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Are you 'unashamed' of the 'tricky bits' of Christianity?

This is an issue dear to my heart. Coming into contact with so many Christians, who profess their faith, yet refuse to adhere to all of God's holy, moral law, I feel the need to write about this once more, to accentuate the seriousness of it all...

Most Christians would proudly advertise their faith by saying they're Christians. However, seldom do they gladly, shamelessly discuss the values the Bible holds and advocates. What else, there are some who even hold a distorted doctrinal view - a compromised, contemporary set of rules, far from and contrary to the Word of God. 
These are some of the core things people seem to have a problem with:

  • Eternal Condemnation: While they would happily agree that a mass murderer would end up in hell, they will find the aspect of a 'non-Christian' or even an 'unsaved-Christian' ending up in hell, questionable - albeit the Bible is clear that 'we all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory' and that we all deserve hell, only Jesus' blood can save us; He is the ONLY way to Heaven. Good works amount to NOTHING in eternity, if they were not the RESULT of SALVATION! Their argument is, 'You're out of your mind, God is a God of love, He'll forgive them and let them go. He won't punish them in such a manner.' 
  • Acknowledging Something as 'Sin': The Bible clearly defines what is and is not 'sin' for us, obviously only if we take the time to look. Surprisingly, this is something that many struggle on. Why? Primarily, because the 'world's' definition of what is 'sin', has been transforming ever since secularism and materialism have been on the rise - if we make the rules, obviously we're going to justify our actions, thus, just because something is 'common' or 'allowed' or supported by consensus, it doesn't automatically become right. We don't want to look strange by supporting some archaic views, do we?
  • God HATES Sin: Society often claims we 'hate sinners'...note, I DID NOT say 'God hates sinners', I said, 'God hates sin'...and He does. The Bible reiterates this fact throughout its 66 books, 1189 chapters and 31240 verses, innumerable times. When God hates something He rebukes it and demands it to be changed - obviously, those who wish to control their lives are unhappy about this truth, thus protest...and sadly, some Christians support them or do the same.

'Yes, He is indeed a loving God, but He loves what is good and will not tolerate what is evil. It's not because He is impatient or intolerant in a human sense, but because He is blazing with purity, holiness and righteousness. Evil is simply not compatible with His nature; it is completely foreign to Him...If we truly belong to God, it means we must share in His heart - we much hate what He hates and love what He loves. That means hating sin, hating things that are opposed to God and God's way of living...I wonder if all too easily...we become increasingly comfortable with things God wants us to hate.'

As much as God is a 'God of love', He is also a 'God of justice'. He can't just 'overlook' sinfulness by forgiving. The price HAS to be paid. And just because He loves us, He paid the price, so that we wouldn't have to suffer.
Mark 8:38 - "If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father's glory with the holy angels."
Once saved, not only are we to be proud in Christ, unashamed for Him, but also for His word, teachings and everything He stood for - no matter how strange or odd we look! We need to be '...passionate about the things God loves, and opposed to the things God will not tolerate.' We're called to '...radical, counter cultural, uncomfortable ways of living.' (Quoted from The Good Book Company's 'Exploring Identity' Study)

Are you going to fear a temporary, worldly rejection and shame by forfeiting a greater, eternal honor, not only for you but others around you? I pray that you answer that question with a confident "NO!" Choose wisely!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Secular Music - Good or Bad?

'What you listen to is either who you are, or who you want to be' ~ Mark Halls (Casting Crowns)

The above, is a valid statement!
Recently, with all the musical celebrations in London, from the Jubilee to the Olympics, I have never enjoyed music on such a large, commercial scale. As much fun as it is, it isn't all good news...I feel empty once it's done. The results of these songs are temporary, they leave you craving for more 'cause they never satisfy in the first place.

I know I sound like a 'hater' but please bear with me.
I abandoned secular music two years ago, after I chose to have a serious relationship with the Lord. Trust me, not an easy choice by ANY means! My passion and love for music goes beyond years I can remember - from Classical to Heavy Metal, name it, I'll love it! Sadly, it left me morbid; the aftermath was not as glamorous as the music itself, in fact, it was vile.

Music is the portal that gives you direct access into the artist's heart. Singers and songwriters write songs that obviously mean a lot to them; they express their desires, expose their dreams and share their lives. As music leaves us feeling so empty after, we listen to it over and over again. While it seems almost impossible to memorize a few lines for school, it takes no effort to remember a couple of lines from our favorite song. Why? More than the words impacting us, it's the rhythm. The beats make it easier for our minds to register the data. When we listen to songs, we allow the artist's thoughts to enter, rest and saturate our minds. We are being shaped into them - whether you like it or not, whether you agree with me or not - fact is, our character is shaped by our environment. Sooner or later, you will think like them.

Unfortunately, artists, singers and songwriters are mere humans. Just like us, they're filled with the filth of this world - sexual lust, greed, selfishness, pride, rebelliousness, disobedience and open hatred towards God. Unless they're saved or genuinely searching, their songs are bound to have these themes echoing through them. Do you see the problem?

Don't get me wrong! I'm not hating on secular music. I'm not against it either. I feel that it is enjoyable at times and also helps you understand what others are facing. In addition, there are some secular songs that hold very powerful, humanitarian messages. I encourage listening to such songs once in a while. However, I'm concerned about our generation's exposure to the songs with numerous swear words, unimaginably vivid sexual connotations and imagery; and if that wasn't enough, those that are accompanied by vulgar, pornographic music videos.
Is that what you want to feed your system? Is that what you want to be associated with? Is that what you want to become?
As a Christian, your answer SHOULD be a big, fat, firm "NO!"

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

Your goal, as a Christian, should be to please God by obeying His word - living a life that glorifies Him. How on earth do you expect to obey the above command, if all your mind has been fed with, is more filth than what our flesh naturally consists of? I couldn't cope, hence my drastic decision.

I repeat, secular music itself isn't 'bad', unless it consists of debatable lyrics by artists with questionable lives and lifestyles. We, as imperfect beings, 'learn' from our environment, an 'imperfect' environment or one that is worse than our inner spiritual state, isn't magically going to better us! If the language is repulsive, rude or the images portrayed are sexual - FLEE FROM IT 'cause sooner or later, as I found out, you will fall into the same deep pit of sin.

What next?

Simple! Censor what goes in.
I was filled with glee to discover that every imaginable genre, had numerous Christian artists who praise God with their music. You've got to do a bit of research, find the ones that appeal to your musical buds and make them your 'main playlist' - cut the secularism down bit by bit to filter out the filth trying to enter and adulterate your mind.

Yes, you're going to look a bit strange and miss out on the 'fun', but God didn't call you to be 'of' this world - THERE NEEDS TO BE A TANGIBLE DIFFERENCE. Remember, God paid an immeasurable price to save and give you freedom FROM your sins, NOT to give you freedom TO sin! How much do you value His price? Complacency in one area, will surely cost you dear in your spiritual pursuit where you ought to do everything to fortify your relationship with Christ.

Your music defines you. You are what you listen to. It makes a big difference. 
The choice is your's. Choose wisely.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Do You Read Your Bible?

While speaking to some of my Christian friends, I realized eventually that they do not read their Bible - while some regretfully blame a busy schedule, there are others who don't feel they need to! Although they consider themselves to be Christians, they do not regard the Bible as God's word, as God inspired, as infallible or as inerrant! 

It's just a book written by a bunch of men right?
Men are flawed, thus so are the words and claims it makes.
Those men lived in ancient times, they wrote for their culture, not ours, thus it is irrelevant.

It saddens me that those who belong to the Christian family, hold such views! They have certainly missed the point!

What is the Bible?

The Bible is God's word.

It is His manual to us on how to have a relationship with Him; a manual to find the purpose of our life. The God who loves His creation, who is responsible for our existence and the existence of the world, will surely not leave us - the masterpiece of His design - in ignorance of His purpose, our purpose and laws that'll bring us peace, joy and everything good that we've been striving to acquire as mankind! He wants us to know His plans, He wants us to learn and find what this world is all about, what better way than to leave a tangible 'instruction book' - a divine revelation of the 'basic needed knowledge' that man is incompetent of finding for himself?


It was not written BY men but THROUGH men, BY GOD. Men were merely the 'pens' or 'instruments', if you wish, that God used, to convey and record His word. It's a compilation of 66 different books of various genres - covering a vast spectrum of literature like history, science, poetry and so on. It was written over a period of 1500 years, obviously differing in cultural practices, by over 40 different writers - each from different walks of life, from doctors to tax collectors! To baffle and amaze you further... It was written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, in three different continents!

Although these authors differed in so many ways - they addressed many controversial issues - from sexuality to atheism, yet they provide EXACTLY THE SAME advice, moral values and laws on these - NO CONTRADICTIONS. How harmonious! This is firm evidence of its divine origin and nature - only if the author was the same, could these diverse selection of writers agree on such controversial matters.

It is a book that contains numerous scientific facts and truths, from physics to biology - it has been at the forefront of modern discoveries and advancements, however scientists seldom recognize it or fathom the truth stated. In addition, it is a historically sound and accurate literature with numerous accurately fulfilled, detailed prophecies - the one book that predicted in advance, the rise and fall of specific nations and governments, and reveals the destiny of humankind. 

If that doesn't convince you of its inerrant nature, its infallibility and the fact that it is GOD BREATHED...I don't know what will!

No mere humanly inspired book could have revealed these amazing events. Such prophecies must have been divinely inspired. It is the book that has changed and touched the most lives, yet is the least understood and most misunderstood! A universal best seller, a book owned by more people than any other, yet one that sadly, NO BODY KNOWS!

Why bother reading it?

If the above section failed to convince you to pick up your Bible and read it, let me reiterate its importance!

While many dismiss reading the Bible, on the basis of cultural irrelevance, they fail to realize that the Bible is not about 'culture'. It is a book about OUR LIFE and not an ancient culture! Yes, it contains stories and records of a variety of cultures and societies, however that isn't the basis - each story or account is designed to help us learn about how we can get closer to God, it serves as an analogy for a greater purpose, we seldom grasp. 

There are many who feel God is harsh or unjust, yes I mean Christians! I've been there! Shocking right! This is purely due to the fact that they have not known God or what He is like; they've never really begun to understand God's word. I have learnt that just because you struggle to understand it, it doesn't make it false or irrelevant!

I hear it being read at church every Sunday, why read it again?
The priest or minister has dedicated his life to understanding and teaching it, I cannot know more than him! 

As I mentioned before, the Bible is the most misinterpreted book - it has been misrepresented and twisted - sadly, by those who profess to hold it dear. Instead of teaching and expounding the obvious, simple, intended meaning, we now have throngs of human interpretations, numerous of which are 'compromised' versions of the truth. Instead of acknowledging the truth, men justify their own ways by perverting it. They fear what people say instead of what God's word says. Cutting a long story short, they yield to the fear of man, to guide them, instead of the fear of God.

If you speak to those who have concentrated their lives with God's word, they would honestly tell you about something truly remarkable! EVERY TIME you read a passage, you gain a different understanding - something that no other book offers! The words don't change, but the message they carry is far beyond our competency to fathom; it is filled with enigma! By restricting yourself to Bibles on Sundays, you're only exposing yourself to the preacher's interpretation - what they've understood. Sadly, that is not enough! God wishes to commune with YOU, INDIVIDUALLY! He wishes to speak DIRECTLY to you. 

How will you ever know what He wants to reveal to you through His word, if you don't take the time to pick it up and read it?

Furthermore, there are many misinterpretations lurking around in our society - each possessing a fraction of the 'real thing' but totally manipulated. How do you expect to know if you are being fooled? How will you know if you are really fed the truth, or if you are dedicating your life to something that'll merely assure your peril? Like the Berean Jews, God wants us to 'receive the message with great eagerness and examine the Scriptures everyday to see if what [was being] said was true' (Acts 17:11). We are called to test what we hear; we are called to have a speculative approach to God's word.

How to start?

I know that starting off isn't easy! There is always a confusion as to where to begin reading. For more than five years, I was stuck to Genesis chapters 1-20...I never got past them because I never understood them. I would read it, then realized I understood nothing and would rewind back to 'In the beginning...'

I would suggest starting off from the Gospels, preferably John - they're not only easy to understand but contain the key to life, thus the most important part - the first step in beginning a relationship with God. Once you are comfortable with the New Testament, begin to explore the Old - although tricky, it is still applicable and as important as the New. Most importantly, I would strongly encourage you to start your Bible reading with a short prayer, asking God to guide, lead and speak to you. I was amazed by the difference that made! 

While I completely agree with the King James version being the closest to the original, it can at times confuse a person and even bore some! Thus, I recommend reading the King James alongside a credible modern translation, such as the New International or the English Standard, to help you relate to the text. Also, I personally benefit from having a Bible commentary, to help me dig deeper into scripture, especially while reading those head-scratching Old Testament passages where you lose track of what is happening! Finally, remember to read each verse in relation to the chapter, the book, the whole Bible, the culture and then to your life; this will help you discern well and avoid common misinterpretations.

The Bible will mean more to you if you fully fathom its vital relation to your life and its direct connection to current world events, by viewing its history, teachings and prophecies from the vantage point of your current life.

While most people consider reading the Bible as a dull, irksome and uninteresting task, I challenge you to take the first step - read it out of a real desire to learn more and a love for God. Once you begin, and start to understand the Bible, you will find it the most fascinating, the most interesting, as well as the most profitable and enjoyable study of your life! Come on, let's get cracking into God's word! You don't want to miss out do you?

Sunday, 29 July 2012

World Peace?

Recently, as part of a course I'm doing with Herbert W. Armstrong College, I have been exploring the 'end times' - a fascinating, mind-blowing, enigmatic topic which leaves one obsessively pondering over the 'signs' and their 'interpretations'.

During the 'end times', we see that world leaders or authorities will promise 'global peace'. Sadly, we read on in prophesies that this is a 'superficial peace'.
'World Peace' is a concept that humanity has yearned for, for decades and centuries; unfortunately it is a dream that some have given up on. Nonetheless, leaders a many, past and present, have sought it, following what they've thought to be right.
However, has anyone successfully achieved it? No! Will they ever successfully achieve it? Sadly, No! ...but Why Not?...

War and war related turmoil, is what cuts short the path to attaining 'World Peace' - history has taught us well that those who have actively sought 'World Peace' have only found themselves creating wars.



James 4:1-2
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.


The root of war, is 'human nature' - the various fleeting desires contrary to God's will and commands, battling within us, conceiving corruption that in turn gives birth to war. We, as humans, are 'stiff-necked' - refusing to submit to authority, God's authority - instead we let our pride, vanity, jealousy, lust and selfishness rule over us.
An increase in knowledge, as the Bible says, directly increases pride if it isn't built on the love of and for God. As those who possess knowledge or authority count themselves 'great' in some form or another, they trust their own judgement and become 'self-reliant'. This is true for those who turn against God and place their love for pleasure (of any kind) before Him.

Proverbs 16:25
There is a way that appears right, but in the end it leads to death.


Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?


What we perceive as 'right' surely leads to death if we aren't rooted in the Lord and His word. The heart - 'the center of human thoughts and emotions' - is highly deceitful as it is swayed effortlessly by our flesh's fleeting desires. We also read that it is complicated, hence, incomprehensible. It is probable that one, especially a leader or ruler, is swayed by it, blinded by the thirst for power, popularity and recognition. Thus, their deeds and intentions, are bound to be tainted by their own flawed nature (One of they key reasons, why I strongly believe in good, fervent, praying Christians ruling and leading the country (point will be made clearer)).

Romans 3:16-17
Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.


Isaiah 59:8
They way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.


Isaiah 33:7-8
Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets; the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no one is respected.


In an attempt to bring about such 'peace' the UN was formed, and world leaders constantly intervene in the affairs of other countries; they've achieved a lot but haven't resulted in much with regards to 'World Peace' - corrupt leaders have always arisen and never cease to arise! It is elucidated that the carnal mind does not know what peace or justice truly means, it just 'thinks' it does. All their ways are tainted by the desires of the flesh - primarily, because it lacks the 'fear of God'.
Human plans for 'peace' always end abruptly causing a lot of pain - they do not provide a lasting solution. However, during the worst point of this pain God promises to intervene, commencing the 'end of the age'. War is always the result of lust and covetousness - a part of our human nature - man cannot 'change' this nature, he cannot transform every heart, let alone his own. World authorities and leaders propose negotiations of various sorts, but they cannot address the problem, thus can NEVER bring about lasting peace.

Isaiah 33:9-10
The land dries up and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves. "Now will I arise," says the LORD. "Now will I be exalted; now will I be lifted up."


Ezekiel 36:26(a)
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you...

Only God can change the human heart and nature, he can renew us and give us a 'new' one when we become 'born again'. A ruler or government that focuses on truly fearing, trusting and obeying God will be able to possess a clear, deception free heart led by God, however in our secular society this seems highly improbable; in fact, such a government has never been established and will not be able to thrive, in our present world. Do not be heavy-laden, God certainly promises to intervene. He is the only remedy for wars and turmoil, He is the only solution, the only one who can bring about 'World Peace'. Until He sees it the right time to bring about His kingdom where this phenomenon is possible and can prevail, our efforts are in vain.

Therefore, let us not be fooled by the worthless, empty promises made or assurances given with regards to 'peace'; it is a heavenly nature which we know NOTHING of! Instead, let us continue to evangelize and stand up for the sake of the Gospel in all aspects of life and law, and importantly, let us lift our leaders, authorities, governments and countries in prayer - seeking God's kingdom, His will and for lives to be transformed continually by the Gospel, until He returns. He has promised, He has the power, thus He will fulfill - Fear, Trust and Obey!


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Get Your Multicolored Coats On!

Listening to a sermon by Jentezen Franklin, my soul was stirred...

What made Joseph the object of reproach, scorn and hate, in the sight of his brothers?

His dazzling, gorgeous, vibrant, loud, multicolored coat!

Why?

It made him different; unique and special - thus, stand out from the crowd.

That's exactly how we ought to be as Christians! Our lives should be like the multicolored coat...
We ought to challenge and let go of status-quo! Quit trying to fit in, quit trying to be like everyone else!

1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.


What does it mean to be different?

Ideologies, practices that are obviously sinful, have become fashionable and society's norm - drunkenness, lust, sexual immorality, foul speech...name it! Seriously, do you want to be a part of that? Do you want to be associated with all that filth?
Our Savior has given up His life to save us from our sinfulness, how much do we value the price He paid? We merely insult it, if we willingly take pleasure in indulging in it!
If everyone else spends their weekend getting drunk, say NO, resist yourself. Silence and rebuke the urge in yourself to indulge in sinful talk or behavior. Say NO!
Shouldn't there be a tangible, audible, visible difference in the lives of those inside and those outside the church?

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.


The devil has got to HATE you - hate you for not following the crowd; for not conforming to the repulsive, world pattern he has integrated into our society.

Moreover, Joseph's brothers wanted his coat, they were jealous - they longed for the coat to the extent that hatred sprung from their deprivation.
Live a life that dazzles others, baffles others...a life that others want, a life that reflects your Savior and how much you value His sacrifice. Let us pray that God strengthens and equips us to stand out from the crowd, make Him proud and not to give in to external and internal pressures we continuously face.
If there isn't a change in yourself - a vibrant, loud, eye-catching change in the way you live your life - ask yourself, WHY?

If you're not hated, you're not living right!

John 15:19
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Dare to be different to make a difference!
Get your multicolored coats on!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Daniel's Bewildering Visions


A couple of days ago I was reading Daniel Chapter 8. It describes one of Daniel's most bewildering visions. What amazed me was its near future, historical relevance and the simultaneous distant future, apocalyptic relevance. Even after Gabriel interprets it, explaining the historical relevance, Daniel is left perplexed and worried, accentuating the complex nature of his visions.

The Historical Relevance

What Gabriel states, in explanation to Daniel, has already come to pass, Biblical prophecies are real, another proof that the Bible isn't just an ordinary book written by a bunch of crazy men - it is God-breathed and was written by men who were inspired by God, they themselves understood very little of what they actually noted down (as depicted by Daniel's baffled response).

The vision commences with the image of a ram with two long horns - however, one horn is longer than the other. The ram established its might in the north, south and the west.  Gabriel later refers to the ram as the Medo-Persian empire. The longer horn clearly refers to the Medians as they emerged first and the later, the Persians. As the map illustrates, the directions in which the Medo-Persian empire extends its dominion historically, is accurate with the Biblical prophecy. Moreover, this also fulfills one more of Daniel's visions as it links to the 'bear with 3 ribs' in Chapter 7 - Medo-Persian empire, having defeated Babylon, Egypt and Lydia, seems to fit the description well.

Map of the 4 divisions of GreeceHistorically, the Greek empire followed the Medo-Persian with Alexander the Great actively conquering over and thrashing the Medians and the Persians. Gabriel's interpretation of the goat which follows the ram, therefore is very accurate. It is also, thus, universally agreed that the single horn symbolizes Alexander the Great. After this horn was broken, in its place emerge 4 smaller ones - from one of the four, emerges a tinier one. This beautifully parallels with the four Divisions of the Greek Empire after Alexander's death as the kingdom was divided between his four general successors: Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy.
However, unlike the unanimity in the agreements regarding the interpretation of the other images, the little horn has been the center of many disputes, disagreements and debates - while some outline the possibility of it representing Antiochus of Epiphanes, a Syrian who ruthlessly persecuted Jews; others believed it could represent the Roman Papal Dynasty, due to its predominant influence in laws and other matters which also complied to the description in Chapter 7. (Please check out this article for an in depth analysis of the various interpretations: The 'Little Horn' of Daniel's Sea-Beast)

The Apocalyptic Relevance

Besides the excitement this evokes, we ought not forget the passage's apocalyptic relevance which will affect our future. Gabriel did say, "...seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future." This is the beauty of the Bible, although it was primarily meant for the different era, it is also very contemporary and relevant to our society. The words in it are ever-pertinent, thus significant, and should not be changed!


Many have devised ideas and interpretations trying to surface the apocalyptic relevance the book of Daniel holds, especially this Chapter! (I know that I myself have formed an idea of my own about how this fantastical book relates to the end times - which, for obvious reasons, I will not be sharing here!) But, God is the only One who ultimately knows what these wise words truly mean; our incompetent minds often fail us.

However, one thing is certain. The precision and accuracy rendered historically, automatically implies the same when we take the apocalyptic relevance into consideration. Be weary, search God's word and earnestly seek to fathom its mysteries in prayer. Let us be prepared for the Lord's coming! Are you ready to meet our Lord, the God of the universe?
Recently a thought grabbed my attention... one of the worst feelings one could ever feel, is when they care about or love a person to such an extent, however that same care or love isn't reciprocated, appreciated or even recognized.

This thought saddened me greatly. As I reflected, I realized something far more upsetting...
There is Someone who cares about me very much, He has done so much for me, He loved me to such an extent that He gave His life to save me - that Someone is God...however, I rarely thank Him, I rarely show my love for Him, I rarely do anything back for Him, in fact I rarely think about Him although I'm always on His mind! Does this sound familiar?

We neglect spending time with God, the one who immeasurably loves us. We seldom reciprocate, appreciate or even recognize the love He has for us...wouldn't that sadden, grieve and hurt a God who has sacrificed everything for us. The greatest heartache is said to be, when one waits for a loved one without realizing that they're trying to avoid them. If this can be said of humans, whose love is 'limited', it'll have to be aggrandized greatly to express the heartache God feels, whose love is 'unlimited'.

Give Him what He deserves, set aside at least a small part of your day, say 30mins or an hour, just to focus on God and spend some quality time with Him. A lack of communication not only hurts people, it destroys a relationship.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Speak Up!

Recently, many of the western countries have been affected by serious 'equality' themed movements, e.g. abortion, homosexuality.etc. - some for the better but most, for the worse.

In the UK, the government opened a consultation, proposing to redefine marriage to accommodate 'gay marriage' on the basis of 'equal rights', when already, civil partnerships are available! A strong movement grew against this redefinition across Britain called the 'Coalition for Marriage' - this was supported by many political leaders, people of many faiths, heterosexuals and even homosexuals.

Slightly digressing, just to be clear on this issue - 'Marriage' shouldn't be redefined as it is a sacred institution whether people CHOOSE to involve God into it or not, it was intended to be between ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN, God willing, for life.
Supporting this view doesn't make you a 'homophobe'!
What does 'homophobia' mean? - It is the 'fear' or 'hatred' of homosexuals. Remember, Jesus said that 'hatred' towards a person itself is a sin as it is equivalent to murder! Besides, there is a HUGE difference between hating the sin and hating the sinner; we are called to hate homosexuality but to love homosexuals.
Homosexuality is a sin (as it is not a part of God's intended world system), just like lying, adultery and murder; thus, we ourselves, are no better (James 2:10 "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking it all.")! As much as God is love, He is also a just judge - although God loves us as we are, like one of my favorite preachers, Pastor Barry King, puts it, "He loves us too much to leave us unchanged." Yes, rights are essential however, there is a limit. On the grounds of 'equality' everything and anything under Heaven DOES NOT become permissible!

My digression has just slightly touched on one tiny example, unfortunately, the number of examples available are growing...

As a Christian what should our response be? 
Should we ignore the rise of sinfulness around us? Should we just keep laws separate from our beliefs? Should we just care about our spiritual stand and sinfulness?

As I pondered on the above thoughts a few days back, I came across this powerful verse - the message is clearly stated for the Christian. 

Romans 1:32 "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them"

Woe to the aloof! 

When we know that it is a sin, we need to stand up against it. Someone on Twitter put it this way: 'When a dog's owner is attacked, the dog barks, likewise, when God's word is attacked, we need to speak up.'
It is a sin to remain silent against sinfulness! If you're aiming for popularity, do not follow what I'm writing right now as you are very well going to be hated by many. They may brand you as a 'Bible-basher', 'homophobe', 'Jesus freak', 'hater' - but who cares! Can't you bear to take just a flavor of the immense ridicule Jesus had to take. He did warn us and say we had to bear His Cross!

Proverbs 27:5 "Better is open rebuke than hidden love"

This is a calling - a general calling that applies to every Christian - yes, including you and me!

By remaining silent against sinfulness and the rise of it, we are actively allowing many to sin - thus have a share of the blame. We know where they're headed, the indisputable reality of hell, yet we do nothing to warn or help them - can't you see the lack of love!


James 5:20 "remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins"

What do I mean by 'speaking up'?

I don't literally mean taking a microphone and yelling down the road! If you have the courage and the confidence to do it, go for it! However, not all of us are gifted that way.
Thus do what you can - from wearing a catchy t-shirt, to writing to the government or taking part in forums, there are numerous options available for you to choose from. When you step out in faith, God will honor your trust and will do the rest. His word does not come back void.


Finally, as Ephesians 4:15 beautifully reminds us, we ought to '...speak the truth in love...'. The criticism we face, is generally due to hateful self-righteous rebuke - let us not forget our own flawed, imperfect selves that God has saved and is continually transforming. Grace is essential while speaking up!


Someone needs to tell this generation where they're headed. 
Someone needs to point out right from wrong. 
Someone needs to accentuate the fact that everything that makes you happy isn't right, lasting or permissible. 
Is that someone going to be you? 
If not, ask yourself, 'WHY NOT?'

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Theological Reflections on 'Inception'

Recently, we watched 'Inception', starring Leonardo DiCaprio, during our Church youth night. It took all of us by surprise, as we wondered about how this much loved secular film that confuses many, could have any relevance to Christianity. We were proved wrong.


Note: I will not be re-telling the story, as I do not wish to spoil it for those who may not have watched the movie yet. However, I might have to expose some vital parts of the movie to explain my points!

'Inception' is full of important, controversial themes that have been woven together intricately and beautifully to produce such a fast paced, thought provoking, engaging film. The themes and issues raised throughout, are important as they reflect our minds and our deepest, inner desires; there is much we all can learn and be wary of. In this post, I will be focusing on two of my favorite themes from the movie. If you haven't already watched it, I would strongly encourage you to do so.

No Regrets


This is, by far the most prominent and salient theme in 'Inception'. 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien' by Charles Dumont is played extensively, on many occasions throughout the film, especially just before the characters wake up from their dreams. Why? The title of the song translates into: 'No, I Have No Regrets' - this reflects their desire to live a life without regrets, something that the protagonist, Cob, earnestly longed for - something, I am sure all of us can relate to, ourselves! 
All of us are alive once, with trends like '#YOLO' (You Only Live Once) on Twitter, it is clear that the world pressurizes us to make the most of life. However, it stumbles terribly on what '...make the most of...' truly means! Making the most of life has very little to do with settling for temporary pleasures found in numerous relationships, sex, drugs or alcohol, instead it refers to living a life where we are truly joyous, truly happy and at peace naturally, not as a result of a stimulus, that leaves us feeling worse once it wears off. Moreover, these 'temporary pleasures' are not the answer, instead of escaping regrets, they bind us to more! 

To live a life without regrets, we need God. We need His grace, forgiveness and ransom. In Isaiah 43:25, God says regarding Israel: "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more." - Now that is a prodigious promise! Inevitably, we all have 'fallen short of God's glory' and are rooted firmly in sin, which with itself, has bound us to barrels of regret and guilt. Only God's grace and His blood shed, in the person of Jesus, on the Cross, can manumit us. 
We live once, make the most of this life to live a life free of guilt and shame. Instead of relying on deceiving worldly pleasures that offer very little for what they promise, seek God and His help to wipe the slate clean, to gain forgiveness and fill your heart with the joy, peace and guidance, it yearns for. Ensure that your life has a meaning and purpose, and that you don't live it selfishly but strive to love and leave a lasting, worthwhile legacy, in the lives of those around you.


Reality


Ever so often, we can be trapped by our ambitions, dreams, hopes and assumptions. We might end up believing a lie, being deceived and living in a dazed state and struggle to distinguish reality from delusion - just like Cob and the other characters in 'Inception'. For example, a person suffering from anorexia - he or she isn't able to see their real state as they're mentally accustomed to the lie they hold dear, likewise, someone who might be suffering from depression - a bit like Mal(Cob's wife), she believed the lie Cob had himself planted in her, that eventually led to her tragic peril.
Every character involved in the dreams, has their own 'Totem' - an object used to test if a person is in their own or someone else's dream. In a person's own dream, the totem will work and feel correct as they know it well.

We all need a point of focus, a totem, one that is steady and reliable at all times. The only steady point of focus, is God! He is the same, 'yesterday, today and forevermore', He 'doesn't lie', He can be trusted at all costs. When our point of focus is on God and we are driven by the desire to please and love Him, we can never go wrong. Our totem, needs to be God, we need to know our Totem well, to be able to get back to reality, establish our identity in Him and proceed, with peace, joy and satisfaction - something these characters were miserably deprived of. Unlike the characters' inanimate totems, if our totem is God, EVERY TIME we focus on Him, He will straighten our paths and relinquish clarity.


In conclusion, there are a lot of interesting themes in the film, however, I would call those 'sub-themes' as each one can be categorized into one of the two mentioned above. The above themes are absolute and universal, they are not only relatable but also teachable. 'Inception' might have been targeted at the secular world, however the themes dealt in it are far from secular; they reiterate the importance of a God centered life, free of sin and full of forgiveness and redemption through His grace alone. Like Cob and the other characters, we are flawed, inside out, searching restlessly for something that satisfies us; God still sees something in us that He can transform, He is the one we ought to turn to, to put that search to rest. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

True Love Waits

I was listening to Kim Walker, one of my favorite worship leaders and randomly stumbled upon her blog - didn't know she had one! I read one of her posts on 'Love' and 'Singleness', she beautifully offered advice, to all the young women reading, using some exquisite, vivid imagery. Here is an extract from her article titled, 'All the single ladies!':


'Imagine that your heart is locked away behind lots and lots of gates. When a guy comes along who is interested in you, only put a little, tiny piece of yourself out there. In other words, you don't just give away your whole heart and tell him every single thing about you and in you. Just let him see a small glimpse of who you are and what you hold dear inside you. If he handles that well; if he honors it and treats it like the treasure it is, then maybe you open the first gate and let him through. With each time you put a piece of yourself out there, you see how he handles it. Does he honor and respect it? Is he kind? Does he treat it as a treasure? The moment he doesn't treat you well or handle a piece of who you are well, he doesn't get through the gate. there is only ONE man who will get through all the gates and win your heart, and he is the man who will stand at the altar and vow to love you and protect you the rest of your life. Does this make sense? By doing this, you are protecting your heart, but also allowing someone to get to know you. But not just anybody gets to know you deeply...be careful! Let a man pursue you and see where he leads.'


I cannot agree more! Adding to what Kim beautifully depicts, lock all those gates up and give God the key; let Him control who enters and who doesn't!



The world's 'normal' is 'following your heart', a Christian should know that not everything you 'feel' is permissible...your heart isn't always right, why else would Solomon write, 'Guard your heart above all else, for it is the wellspring of life' ? Something needs 'guarding',only if it is vulnerable to the environment it is in.
How do you 'guard your heart' from yielding to every desire of the flesh?


1. God First

God has instructed us to not be yoked with an unbeliever, however, sometimes, we might find ourselves drawn to someone who is just not on the same spiritual spectrum as us or who doesn't share the same passion for God as us. When we find ourselves in those situations, let us remind ourselves of Matthew 6:33 - Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you - This 'seeking' rule also applies for a potential spouse.
This is important, you've got to realize that by looking for a relationship with someone, you're viewing them as a potential spouse... Thus, if you find yourself allured to someone who doesn't share your love and passion for God, move on, no matter how hard it may be.


2. Make every thought captive in Christ

Easier said than done! I know! However, this is one of the most important measures to take to strive to live a life of purity. Give a little thought to the following quotes:

'Where the mind goes the man follows' ~ Joyce Meyer
'An idle man's brain is the devil's workshop'
'You can't stop birds flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest on it' ~ Billy Graham

How true! When you like someone, you're bound to think about them, A LOT! As it is, there is nothing wrong with 'thinking' about a person, however, it is certainly wrong to dwell on the thoughts and turn them into 'mental fantasies'. These can soon, turn from thoughts into actions, and before you know it, you're down a slippery slope! As they say, 'better safe than sorry', so when you catch your mind wandering and fantasizing, pray and ask God to make every thought captive in Christ.


3. No Haste!

Just because everyone around you has a boyfriend/girlfriend, doesn't mean you need one right now too! Wait for God's timing! Many Christian teens I speak to, including myself, agree that purity, in mind and body, is one of the hardest things to maintain. We are pressured to be in a relationship, but remember, don't be hasty! Your hasty response could be the result of a fleeting, temporary, infatuation - True love, grows deeper with time! Strive to preserve those special moments in life for this special one God has predestined you to be with, even your first kiss - remember, that is why the priest, at the altar says, "You may NOW kiss the bride!"
God's timing is always right, wait for Him to show, lead and guide you to 'the one'. God has already chosen someone special for you, you have to wait for Him to reveal this person to you.

God has assigned ONE MAN for ONE WOMAN - obviously, 'free-will' comes in the way, thus we have to find the right person, the ONE that God has preassigned. Don't seek to establish your identity by a relationship, you've got a God who loves you immeasurably, more than anyone on earth ever could, may your identity be rooted in Him. Hence, trust God alone, seek Him and His will first and remember (girls especially!), in the words of Kim Walker, "...you are worth the fight!"

There is a lot more that can be said on this topic, however, I am still learning, thus I'll let the experts do all the talking...

Be sure to read or listen to: Paige Omartian, KimWalker, Practical Purity for Christian Young Ladies, Moriah Peters, Every Young Woman's Battle and Jamie Grace.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

FEAR NOT!

I have recently been struggling with fear, a fear that inhibited me from sharing the gospel, I'd have a handful of tracts but will not have the guts to give it to anyone. This is a fear, I am ashamed to own-up to but, inevitably suffer from. The fear of 'rejection'. However, WHY do I fear 'rejection'? I am trying to please men!

This powerful, self-explanatory video attached below was a wake-up call, reminding me that as Christians, we are called to be fearless for God - a calling that isn't easy, a calling that we all try to dismiss or ignore, yet, a calling that is vital and determines our commitment and love for the Savior. 

We are being called to fear God not man. We are being called to rise up without fear for the sake of the gospel. We are being called to be fearless for God.

What is your response?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Is your flame on a stand or hidden under a basket?

Listening to friends argue about Scientology, I picked up something which distressed me...
Scientology was being commended and advocated for its self-less, self giving, charitable attributes - while many may disagree, this opinion does exist, and it makes me wonder why we don't hear this about Christianity!

Christianity is built upon love - loving others as ourselves, treating others the way we would want to be...but why isn't 'loving' or 'charitable' or 'self-less', the first things that come to the minds of unbelievers? Instead we hear, 'hypocrisy', 'selfishness' and so on!

We preach forgiveness, but do we forgive?
We preach love, but do we love?
We preach kindness, but do we show kindness?
Where is the evidence for the changed life? Of God transforming and working in us?

We, as believers, first and foremost, are called to evangelize and spread the good news of the Gospel and the love of Jesus. However, mere words or sermons aren't going to convince this generation, we need to live it out and educate them about God's love, by example. All of us may constantly SAY the right things, but do we DO them? Message and manner go together; people may undermine our message but they can never undermine our testimony. When we live the Gospel out, expressing brotherly love, obedience to God, discipline, care and kindness, others become witnesses and will be challenged to follow - they will SEE the DIFFERENCE!

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-15, Paul exhibits how to set a good example. Three key points pointed out by our Church Pastor, Pastor Derek Sewell are:

  1. Lead the way in pleasing God and not man
  2. Lead the way in giving our all
  3. Lead the way in living a life worthy of God
May I take this opportunity to encourage you to explore this truly eye-opening scripture, with these points in mind.

We ought to live a life of self-giving - demonstrating an honest love, gentleness and intimacy. Preaching alone is no use, if we do not share our lives with others by building relationships and spending time to care and love them. Love that we exhibit needs to be 'from the heart' - an earnest love.

Moreover, we are called to be 'salt and light' - salt makes food taste better, do we make others' lives feel better? Light leads the way, comforts the hurting and provides security; do we do that? Are we reflecting the light of the Savior, who is the Light of the world?

Matthew 5:14-16 ~ You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We have a flame burning within us, a flame set alight by God when we accepted Him into our hearts. You are called to make it shine brightly, for all the world to see...but it is your choice! 
Are you going to keep your flame hidden under a basket? Or are you going to dare to be different and place it  on a stand?
Remember, a candle soon burns out when it is covered due to the lack of oxygen! Don't let that happen to your flame!



Saturday, 26 May 2012

How are you going to finish the race?



Tests come in all forms and are inevitable...we aspire and long to overcome each one victoriously...but seldom, we remember that the greatest test is life!

Romans 14:12
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Life itself is a test. With every choice, every word, every action, we choose to honor or dishonor God. This is what determines how we finish this race...in Heaven or in hell!

The Bleak Road

The unbeliever is on a bleak road. He tries to work his way up to Heaven and misses the beauty of life passing by. He accumulates good works upon good works or just relies on the times he got it right, to win God's favor on the day of judgement. Much to his surprise, he will find out that his good works are of no worth if they weren't the product of genuine faith in His grace. Unfortunately, many who call themselves Christians, also make this mistake.

Why won't 'good works' bridge the gap between us and God?

Firstly, by relying on good works, we are relying on ourselves. This unveils the pride within us as we boast in our goodness. James 4:6 says, 'God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Being prideful prevents us from seeking God's help.

In addition, 'good works' cannot cover up sinfulness! This was one of the points that shocked me, before I became a Christian! Many believe that God would weigh their 'goodness' against their 'sinfulness' without realizing that the 'sinfulness' is still present, it doesn't vanish. Besides, no matter how many good deeds we've done, God's standards are very high, we can never measure up, thus our 'sinfulness', on the scales (if it were to be weighed), would weigh A LOT more than our good deeds. Heaven is a place WITHOUT SIN, NO SIN IS PERMITTED. All our slates need to be wiped clean of sin, if any of us were to enter Heaven.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Yes, it's not all bad news! There is a way our slates can be clean, if the price, for our violation of God's Holy Law, is paid. As of ourselves, we are imperfect, we cannot pay for our sins; our offerings are worthless and inadequate...
There is only one hope, only one way...Jesus! The only perfect man who ever lived on earth, God-incarnate, died on the Cross to pay for all our sins and redeem us, so that we do not have to face the fiery jaws of hell! All we need to do is believe and trust in this sacrifice of His. By believing and relying on Him, we understand our incompetence, practicing humility and receiving grace and forgiveness as a gift from God. That is the only way out!

The Road is Long

It doesn't end there, in fact this is where it starts... Salvation isn't just believing, but also repenting. We need to show the evidence of our faith in Jesus by a changed life. Resent sinfulness, strive in the Lord for purity and accompany it all with good works. Ah! So this is where good works come in! James 2:14 says, '...faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.' Good works here, are a result of the faith, you're not relying on these to work your way to Heaven, you're just obeying God because of what He has done for you first.
More importantly, we need to live a God-centered life, living sacrificially for the sake and glory of the gospel. This is long, hard, unpredictable, yet a worthwhile road that many have given up on...don't make that mistake, press on. All the struggles we face will be worth it when we hear God say, "Well Done!"



Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace.


1 Corinthians 9:24
Run in such a way as to get the prize


There is only one winning road and it is not easy, but we have a God who is always by our side! With this in mind and practice, we can be assured of how it'll end. With Jesus at the center, we are guaranteed a victorious finish...
May we, with Paul be able to say:
'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.' - 2 Timothy 4:7

Are you on your way to victory or peril? Are you eager to hear a "Well Done!" from God? How are you going to finish the race?