Sunday, 30 June 2013

Giving Your 100%

    I once knew a man who had come to this country after World War II as a displaced person. He had been a skilled cabinetmaker in his home country but after the war had to settle for a job as sexton in a church. Not long after I became a pastor in that same church I also became a father. Toys began to accumulate around the house. Knowing of his dexterity with tools and lumber, I asked Gus if he would throw together a toy box for me when he had a few minutes. I wanted a storage bin for the toys; I knew Gus could do it in an hour or so. Weeks later he presented our family with a carefully designed and skilfully crafted toy box. My casual request had not been treated casually. All I had wanted was a box; what I got was a piece of furniture. I was pleased, but also embarrassed. I was embarrassed because what I thought would be done in an off hour had taken many hours of work. I expressed my embarrassment  I laced my gratitude with apologies. His wife reproached me: 'But you must understand that Gus is a cabinetmaker. He could never, as you say, "throw" a box together. His pride would not permit it.' That toy box has been in our family for over twenty years now and rebukes me whenever I am tempted to do hasty or shoddy work of any kind. 
  -p. 349, from Life At Its Best by Eugene Peterson

Friday, 28 June 2013

The Word of God and Being Practical

I find it bordering on the incomprehensible when someone says, 'Well, the Bible is all well and good in its place, but after all, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, we have to get practical, don't we? Jeremiah, after all, never had to meet a payroll.' [...]
    We have to get practical. Really practical. The most practical thing we can do is hear what God says and act in appropriate response to it.
  -p. 341, from Life At Its Best by Eugene Peterson

Living in Hope

Buying that field in Anathoth was a deliberate act of hope. All acts of hope expose themselves to ridicule because they seem impractical, failing to conform to visible reality. But in fact they are the reality that is being constructed but is not yet visible. Hope commits us to actions that connect with God's promises.
    What we call hoping is often only wishing. We want things we think are impossible, but we have better sense than to spend any money or commit our lives to them. Biblical hope, though, is an act - like buying a field in Anathoth. Hope acts on the conviction that God will complete the work that he has begun even when the appearances, especially when the appearances, oppose it.
    William Stringfellow, who has extensive personal experience with 'Babylon', agrees with Jeremiah: 'Hope is reliance upon grace in the face of death: the issue is that of receiving life as a gift, not as a reward and not as a punishment; hope is living constantly, patiently, expectantly, resiliently, joyously in the efficacy of the word of God.' Every person we meet must be drawn into that expectation. Every situation in which we find ourselves must be included in the kingdom that we are convinced God is brining into being. Hope is buying into what we believe. We don't turn away in despair. We don't throw up our hands in disgust. We don't write this person off as incorrigible. We don't withdraw from a complex world that is too much for us.
    It is, of course, far easier to languish in despair than to live in hope, for when we live in despair we don't have to do anything or risk anything. We can live lazily and shiftlessly with an untarnished reputation for practicality, current with the way things appear. It is fashionable to espouse the latest cynicism. If we live in hope, we go against the stream. 
  - pp. 340-341, from Life At Its Best by Eugene Peterson

(See Jeremiah 32 about Anathoth)

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The news of Jesus's death and resurrection: it's a good news.

The good news we Christians proclaim is this: that Jesus died for our sins and afterwards was raised from the death.

You might not believe this news to be true, or perhaps you don't really care. You may wonder, even if it was true that Jesus died for our sins and was raised on the third day, why is it a good news? Is it a good news for me, you might wonder.

I don't want you to think that the ultimate reason for you to believe in Jesus is what's in it for you, but for now, let me list a few reasons why this news of death and resurrection of Jesus is good for you.

1) It's a good news because it means God is real and consequently your life has a meaning.
Jesus preached about His Father God, was raised up from death by the Holy Spirit, and was declared to be God Himself. If this news about Jesus is real, then, God is real. It means we, you and I are all made by Him. We didn't come about accidentally. We are not merely a transient collection of atoms. We didn't happen by a purely mechanical process. No, we are made by an eternal God and He gave us purpose and meaning that is beyond 100 years of life span. We are made for eternity. What you do today has an eternal consequences.

2) It's a good news because it means that God is merciful.
God's justice wouldn't have been tarnished if He did not send Jesus to die for us. But He did. It means God did not only create us, but He is committed and involved intimately with us. And He chose to be merciful and provide a way for us to be forgiven and be with Him forever.

3) It's a good news because it means God is just.
God's mercy did not come at a cost of His justice, and this is a good news for us. Had He compromised on His justice when He forgave us, we wouldn't be able to trust God to rule us justly afterwards. But He didn't simply let us off the hook and looked the other way. He dealt the death blow to injustice and all immorality by the death and resurrection of Jesus. God's rule can be trusted. He will not run His world like a corrupt government we are all too familiar with. Expecting with full assurance that we will one day live in a just society of the redeemed is a good news.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Again, there is no right not to be offended.

I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again. There simply is no right not to be offended. Jim Spigelman said it, and Lionel quotes it.

We might not enjoy being offended. We are rightly upset if Jesus Christ whom we worship is insulted. But I agree with ABC chairman and former chief justice of the NSW Supreme Court, Jim Spigelman, who said last month: “The freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech. There is no right not to be offended.”

Read Lionel's article here: The Edict of Milan and religious liberty

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Christianity vs science?

Listening to the outspoken atheists of our days is not a pleasant experience. Of course, as a Christian myself, hearing their misrepresentations and belittling of God, whom I know and love, is never going to be a jolly occasion. But that's ok, I have to accept that as part of life. What I want to talk about in this post is, however, a trend I noticed in their arguments against religion. The atheists seem to be creating a false dichotomy between science and religion. They force people to choose between science and a belief in God. To narrow my argument (because there are in fact many religions, and I am not going to defend any religion other than Christianity), they force their hearers to choose between science and Christianity. I think this pitting of science and Christianity against each other is not a very recent innovation, but must have been going on for some time, because people seem to assume it. The recent atheists are using that false presumption as their advantage and enforcing it further.

I think it would be helpful to remember that, as Christians, we are not against science. Science, as a method of exploring and the accumulated-but-nevertheless-transient knowledge about the natural world is just what it is, science. A Christian can do science, a hindu can do science, a muslim can do science, just as an atheist can do science. They just have to do science when they do science. When someone comes along and says to you that you can't believe in God and be a scientist at the same time, don't believe him. He's either trying to trick you, or he hasn't thought it through well enough.

It's important to remember what the real two opponents are. It's atheism (not science) and Christianity. It's the belief or a wilful commitment to the idea that there is no God vs. believing God as revealed in Jesus and trusting Him as we live out our lives.

Atheists often protest: well, you can't prove God exists, so why should I believe in God? When there's no proof for existence of something, it's only rational not to believe that it exists.

Well, I can't prove God exists, at least the way atheists want me to. Nor should you try to prove God exists in the way atheists want you to, because that's always bound to fail. The problem is, most (if not all) atheists I've come across would accept only the scientific proof. They will not accept God that cannot be seen through the telescope or microscope. They will not accept God that cannot be predicted  in some kind of a mathematical paragraph and proven through observations. In other words, they are requiring a naturalistic proof for something supernatural. Of course, having committed to the rejection of the supernatural, they're trying to find a God who is natural, not supernatural, and so, ironically, they are right in affirming there is no God (who is natural).

Again, it's helpful to remember (and remind your atheist friends) that the two opposing sides are not science vs. Christianity, but atheism vs. Christianity. It's a naturalistic worldview vs. supernatural worldview. And, if you think about it, you can have a supernatural worldview and work on something that requires you to focus only on the naturalistic phenomenon and causes, namely, science. So you can be a Christian and be quite good at science. Yet, if you have a naturalistic worldview, you cannot (or would not) have a legitimate method of thinking about and explaining the supernatural because, well, you've excluded it yourself. So for example, an atheist cannot be a theologian. You can be a scientist, but you have removed from yourself a right to comment on anything supernatural. The atheists still do make supernatural claims though by saying that there is no God.

Now, I cannot scientifically prove God's existence, but that does not mean that there is no evidence. God has left His mark both in creation, in history, and in human nature, so there are plenty of evidence for Him. In Psalm 19:1 it says: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaim his handiwork." (also see Psalm 50:6 and Rom 1:20) There have been and still are powerful arguments for God's existence on the basis of what we see in the world (eg. the cosmological arguments and teleological arguments). And you also mustn't ignore Jesus who came into our world (John 1:14), yes, the natural world, and lived, died, resurrected, and ascended (Try John or Mark if you haven't read the gospels before). You can investigate into history to find strong evidence for Jesus and the credibility and reasonableness of Christian faith. There are other arguments for God's existence as well, such as the moral arguments, which basically says, since we all believe in the reality of an objective morality, God must exist. There are multitudes of evidence, or clues, if you like, and many powerful arguments for God's existence, especially if you are seeking evidence for God of Christianity. Only, make sure you are not wholly committed to naturalistic worldview but more open. Atheists like saying science is more open than religion because when new evidence comes in, they are happy to review their current theory and make adjustments. But they are only talking about naturalistic or scientific evidence, and rightly so, since they are talking about science. You and I must be more open than that, however, when investigating the claims of Christianity. More open than atheists by being open to the possibility of something supernatural when you look around you and ponder on the implications of all sorts of evidence and theories of the world. When you do that, with God's grace, you will see how reasonable Christianity really is.