Thursday, April 30, 2009
This movie shows the harsh reality of what is going on in our world today. The sex slave industry is growing in the criminal world and affecting nearly every country. Organizations such as Wellspring International a humanitarian arm of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries work to come along side and fund legitimate organizations that are working to bring help to the women and children who are victims of this criminal activity.
As I viewed pictures in the gallery and read stories of the women and children not unlike the women depicted in the blockbuster hit Taken, my heart broke for these precious people who are being so horrendously mistreated. Hundreds of thousands of victims are continually being subjected to this profitable crime wave of the sex slave trafficking.
Invisible Children is another faith based organization that is working to provide relief to the victims of slavery. Invisible Children works in Uganda raising awareness and providing aid to the thousands of children being abducted and made into child soldiers.
As I read down the list of organizations on Wellsprings website working to bring social justice to the downtrodden victims of modern slavery I saw just how large the need is and how much help is needed to end these problems and bring healing and restoration to the victims.
I recently heard Rick Warren on CSPAN speak to a group of Muslim dignitaries from the United Nations appealing to a multi-faith effort to curb the violence and victimization in the world. He asked for a joint effort to work in the countries in Africa and the Middle East to bring relief. He said the governments haven’t been able to bring social justice. Maybe a united effort of faith based organizations could bring hope where the governments could not.
The answer to all these problems is love. If we love each other we would not enslave people and victimize children. And love is the cure for the hearts broken by abuse. I do also want to support the work of the organizations already on the ground loving these people in red light districts, and brothels across the world.
I recently listened to a pastor and his wife speak about how they travel the world with their team visiting the garbage dumps in third world nations to just simply love the people living there amongst the rubbish. They bring them love, music, food and they hug on them showing them there is someone who cares. They also hang out with any marginalized group especially the gypsies who are highly ostracized. They hang out with them, love them, heal their sick, and provide food and care for them. Love is a universal language that meets the needs of the most desperate people on the earth. That love comes from the Father who gives it to his children to give to the world so that the world can know that the Father loves them.
Love is not just a feeling, it’s something tangible we gain more of the closer we are to our Father, and the more we give it away. He gives it to us, we love Him back with it, and that increases it to even greater tangibility, and then we give it away to others. The more we give, the more we receive to give.
Jesus had compassion on the prostitutes and the woman caught in adultery. He showed them loving kindness for it was only love that could heal their broken hearts and spirits and bring healing life to their souls. His love is still working in the world today and each person has the wonderful opportunity to give some away. The awesome thing is, when you give it away you don’t have any less you have even more.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
- The Bible from Genesis to Revelation is true in what it covers.
- There is an eternal good God who created the universe including life on earth.
- He created man in His own image.
- He made woman to have relationship with man as we are designed for relationship just as God is a relational being.
- He said man and woman were good.
- He said all of creation was good.
- He gave man freedom.
- Man used his freedom for ill and took sin into his nature.
- Man now needed cleaning to restore his relationship with God to its perfect potential.
- Mankind began a journey that would bring man to the place where God comes down in the flesh to live the life of man, while still being God.
- Jesus is that eternal Son of God who showed us how to live life properly related to God.
- He took on his shoulders all the sin ever to have been or ever to be in this world and it was buried with Him once for all.
- He rose again with victory over all death, decay, and sin. That same victory was accomplished for mankind.
- He returned to dwell with God in heaven until the time of His return.
- He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and empower us to live the life He lives.
- Anyone who puts their trust/belief in Jesus, the Risen Lord, they enter into the reality of their sins having been buried with Christ and they rise with Christ now cleansed from their unrighteousness.
- This includes all who died before Christ came and all who ever lived. Meaning that there were people who had this kind of relationship with God because of what Christ was going to do in time before it was done in our time.
- Scripture also tells us that Jesus preached to all the captives already dead in eternity so that none would be denied that opportunity to know the Lord.
- Those who are now in relationship with Christ are walking this out in process upon this earth as individuals and as a community of believers that encompass all who are united with Christ no matter the denomination or church affiliation.
- One day Jesus will return for His Bride, the Church and all sin and death and decay left in us will be no more and all of creation will be fully restored. All of the redeemed humanity and all of creation will live in the
a fully restored reality in abundant joy lavishing in the love of God for all eternity. Kingdomof God
Monday, April 27, 2009
To quote Saul Bellow’s 1976 Noble Laureate lecture, “The intelligent public is waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, and social theory and what it cannot hear from pure science: a broader, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are, and what this life is for. If writers do not come into the center, it will not be because the center is pre-empted; it is not.”
Bellow invokes the need for artisans and writers to paint the picture of the story that all these things fit into to provide the more coherent, comprehensive picture of who we are and what this life is all about.
For too long we have kept our knowledge separated from the grand story thereby keeping it secular and distinct from anything religious in nature. However, knowledge was never intended to be learned in a vacuum. It is to be gained to tell us more about the story we are living in and not just to fodder our minds with more interesting facts. At the same time, it has been problematic for the Church to siphon off theology and ‘religious knowledge’ and hold it separate from the whole picture as if it is irrelevant to the world’s systems. There needs to be a reemergence of knowledge that interconnects to tell the story that gives meaning to all the systems of this world.
The picture I would like to paint for you is one that starts with the eternally good and relational God who out of His love and glory created the universe and all that is in it with great splendor. He created a habitat for man on earth that is finely tuned for life. He created man in His image and likeness and gave him dominion over the world to cultivate the earth without the sweat of the brow. Man was to live in peace and harmony with the animals caring for them as well as tending the earth. But something happened to interrupt this paradise when man, who had it all, was allured by Satan to have knowledge that was outside the good and he chose to taste that knowledge and took into himself the poison of sin which corrupted not only the line of men, but the nature he was designed to cultivate in the goodness and glory of God.
Man and nature now knew pain, decay, death, darkness, etc. The world became something different from what God created, but God was not without a plan to bring its grand restoration. We still see the glory in the nature, we see it in a sunrise over the ocean or the mountains, we see it in the rainbow, we see it in the stars, and we see it in the birth of a baby or the wings of a butterfly. But we see also the corruption and death and decay and pain in this world. We know intuitively that pain, death, sickness, decay, tragedy are not good things and we desire peace on this earth, and to heal pain and stop decay. We strive at this in our medicine and in our science. We go after these good things because were designed to live in such a world where we are free from all these distresses and vices. We strive for that world through natural means because it is in us to want the restoration of this world.
God also wants the restoration of this world and of humanity and He has put a plan into place that involves our interaction with Him through relationship with Him made possible by Jesus. We can now work with God as He works through us to work out the redemption already made complete with the work of Christ through his death and resurrection. When an event happens there is a change, but that change takes time to become manifest. Transition is that process that works out the change to its fulfillment. When a person gets married they are married upon saying “I do,” but a transition process begins to occur in order to actualize that singleness is being transformed to a marriage relationship. It is something walked out in time.
This is what has been happening in this world. Jesus brought a change into individuals who are collectively the Church who are working out their redemption in life and as a community upon this earth to reveal the glory of God in all spheres of life. Jesus said that he did not come to condemn the world, but to give it life. He came to bring life and restoration to end the perishing of people due to their sin. He came to free us from the bonds of sin and death as well as giving us the power to redeem the world around us to its intended glory.
The miracles of God are there to bring life and restoration and not to tamper with nature for the fun of it. A traditional doctor repairs a broken body to restore it to health, not to play around with the natural makeup of man. God is the Great Physician who is in the restoration business and He along with those who have found life in Him uses supernatural means to mend nature and infuse it with its natural glory. He brings out the life that was lying dormant and unveils it without its corruption to the watching world. He does this in people and He does it in creation and in anything that is submitted to Him to be made whole.
A day will come when this process is complete and the old corruption of the earth will be no more and the earth will be as new; fully redeemed and shining in its full glory with a humanity that is also fully redeemed and fully righteous and holy.
The story of God and His relationship to man cannot be fully revealed by only arguing for His existence. It is a whole picture that includes mans place in the story and our relationship to the Redeemer, Jesus. It is a worldview that is a grand story of which we are very much a part. It is this story that causes my desire to share the reality of God and to point to the way of our entering into the reality of His love.
As I’ve said, it’s not about mere intellectual assent to a set of beliefs. It’s about a real life encounter with the essence and being of truth. It’s a truth that heals hearts and restores what is lost or damaged to its full health and glory. It’s a story you can find your place in that also has chapters yet to be written by your contribution by entering it as a royal child of God through Jesus.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I was recently asked, what has religion offered to humanity’s knowledge about the world? In clarifying, this question was unpacked to ask how has divine revelation aided our knowledge about the world?
First I must explain that I don’t divide knowledge out to be the result of unaided man versus what is the result of divine revelation for I see the two are inseparable. All knowledge that lines up with truth is attained because God has given us the ability to attain it through a variety of means whether they are received through the scientific process or received through direct revelation. I would say that all true knowledge is either gained indirectly or directly from God.
To illustrate, consider that as a Christian I see God as being the Author, Creator, and Sustainer of life. Thus all truth is God’s truth for He is its author and its source. He wants us to learn the truth about the world because the way of truth is the way of life.
Now to be fair, I am not trying to skirt the question. I can still talk about direct divine revelation as long as it is understood that I don’t see the indirect as being somehow secular or merely human oriented.
As a Christian I see direct revelation from God coming in two mediums; the written word of God known as the Scriptures or the Bible or through God speaking to individuals consistent with the Scriptures. Thus, the individual doesn’t have license to run with something as being God that is in contradiction to the truth of Scriptures. Now the first is an unchanging objective standard of revelation and the second is a subjective relational receiving of God’s revelation, often referred to in many Christian circles and in Scripture as the prophetic.
Therefore to answer this question from the point of view of a Christian I am examining the contributions to human knowledge from the Bible and the contributions from prophetic experiences. Prophetic experiences come through a myriad of ways such as dreams, visions, impressions, feelings, hearing internally that “still small voice,” seeing internally or externally and sometimes angelic visitation or visitation from the Lord Himself.
The Scriptures have provided a wealth of information for many things in this world. John Locke, who supplied much of the foundational philosophy to form the American republic, quoted extensively from the Scriptures in developing his model for government.
William Wilberforce who was instrumental in ending the slave trade in England did so from his moral imperative from Scripture than man ought not to be treated thus as we are called to love one another.
Recently, in the last decade or so,
John Maxwell is a proliferate author in the business world writing to business executives about leadership principals to aid the growth and health of their companies. His books are found in the business section of major book stores, however, he is a Christian, and his principals of leadership are all Biblically based. His books are also on the shelves of Christian bookstores.
These are just a few of the many examples of how Biblical revelation is aiding the world and not just the church and the private lives of individuals. I am going to pause at this point and not continue on to discuss the subjective revelation through prophetic means because if the former is not received the latter certainly will not be for it is much more subjective in nature. Now, of course, if you don’t accept the Bible as revelation then my examples will not aid your understanding of the aid of direct revelation to the world. At least, maybe, it will give food for thought of the value of the Bible.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
A resounding question reverberates off the halls of logic regarding the nature of truth. People often ask how anyone can have the right to declare something true and thereby declare other things false by default. However, this question is fraught with problems brought on by the errant application of ethics to the nature of truth.
When anyone puts forth a proposition of truth that which is contrary to that proposition is logically false. There is no possible way to avoid the reality of the dichotomy of true versus false. Even the person who levies the charge that “it is wrong to present that another’s view as false” is advocating a truth claim, which means, if true, this person is also wrong. It is a self-defeating statement and thus defies rationality.
(to read the rest of the essay please click here to go to Helium.com.
Note (I am not directing this to atheism, but the essay came about from questions I have heard regarding truth outside of this blog).
Thursday, April 16, 2009
At the same time there is risk in starting at something solid for that something must be presumed in order to test it as solid. For instance, in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indie is following a list of steps to make it through the booby traps unharmed. He comes upon the last step where he is standing out on the ledge of an enormous precipice and it appears there is no way to cross it. One step more and he would fall many miles to his death. He refers to his guide book and states, “it’s a leap of faith.” He then hears his father’s voice in his minds ear encouraging him to believe. He takes the risk, stepping forward his foot connects with solid ground, a path the same color as the ravine that would support his walk across to the other side. He had to take a risk to test the solidity of his path. Now, some may call this blind faith, but it was not blind. The steps he was following in his book had worked each time aiding him through the treacherous traps. If he had been skeptical of his guide book, he most certainly would not have come through the traps unscathed. Either he wouldn’t have had enough faith to try to navigate the path to the treasure, or he may have failed dreadfully in his attempt. But each time it worked, his faith was growing. The solidity of its value was not established in full until after he exercised faith. Each time, Jones was finding the value of trust, each time creating more trust leading him to the treasure he sought.
Now this does not mean to believe everything you hear or to accept all truth claims as they cannot all be true. But the reason we cannot accept them all, is because of standing in a place of knowing that there can only be one truth. We might not know that one in its totality, but we could know enough to know that that which contradicts it in a manner that would break away the foundation would not be in line with truth. The best way of determining truth, ironically, is being in truth, and working outwards. You have to test it out from inside to fully get a handle of the truth. No one can really know what marriage is about without being married. But at the same time, one need not try out adultery once they found that marriage is a better reality than cheating.
Once you have risked and your risk met with something solid and full of substance then you can start with that foundation to compare it with new ideas that come into view. If, however, you take a risk and bite into something sordid or bland and do not find the solid foundation, you back out and go another way, looking for the real and authentic foundation.
I was watching The Andy Griffith Show last night; the episode was fitting to this discussion. When I tuned in, Opie was standing in the sheriff office recounting a fantastical story to his Pa and to Barney. Opie told of a man who walked in the trees, jingled, could blow smoke out of his ears, and wore a silver hat. He said the man’s name was Mr. McPheby. Andy and Barney eyed him with faint skepticism. Then Opie pulled a coin out of his pocket and declared Mr. McPheby gave it to him. At this, Andy asked if Opie could take him to Mr. McPheby. Opie complied and they jumped in the sheriff car and headed to the trees where Opie claimed to have seen this man. Nobody was there.
Back at home, Andy has a talk with Opie and asks him to confess that this was all make-believe. Opie sullenly starts to comply with his father’s wishes, when he stops and shakes his head and says he can’t do that because it wasn’t make-believe. Opie says, “won’t you believe me, Pa?” Andy looks at him for a moment, and says, “Yes son, I’ll believe you.” He heads down stairs to waiting Barney and Aunt Bee and informs them Opie sticks to his story. Upon finding Andy was not going to punish Opie for lying, Barney asks if Andy believes in Mr. McPheby. Andy responds, “no, but I believe in Opie.” In the next scene Andy is out at the trees and hollers “Mr. McPheby” in resigned frustration. From above, he hears a man respond to his holler as he repels down from the trees jingling all the way with a silver hat upon his head. Andy happily greets the man and tells him he is Opie’s father.
You see, Andy knew that Opie’s story didn’t seem to match up with what would seem to be true, but he realized that his son was trustworthy and while all the pieces had not yet fallen into place he would trust in what he knew to be true, his son’s word. As it turned out, his faith was well placed, for his son was telling the truth all along. Rationality was not abandoned, for it was rational to believe that a boy who was trustworthy was telling the truth even though it didn’t make sense.
Scripture talks about testing things, and discerning matters, but this is done in conjunction with the real. It’s seeing what is dark because you are in the light. The way to see if something is counterfeit is to compare it to the real. You have to know what the real authentic version is in order to see if what you are beholding matches it or falls short of it. Does it have the same standard of authenticity, or is it a fake? Or maybe it’s not a fake, but a mixture of the real and the counterfeit. Or maybe it’s a distorted real. The way to pull out that real that is of substance is to have the eyes that can see the truth for they already behold the true.
When you believe you have that foundation, it is tested time and again by whether it holds against other truth claims as they come. Does it hold firm, or is it weak? Does it ride out the storms, or does it fall apart? It’s always being tested. Faith increases the more it passes the test, and decreases when it falls short. When there is a falling there needs to be reexamination of the foundation. The weakness needs to be found, is it in the foundation, or is it in the person’s own perspective of the foundation. What needs adjusting? Where is the authentic, the real?
If the whole foundation is to be rejected, what is going to be in its place? It needs to be rejected for the greater rock if the rock your knowledge is built upon doesn’t stand up to the test of life. What you believe in your head needs to converge with your heart and with your practical life. Is it philosophically sound? Is it realistic and authentic? Is it livable? This harkens back to one’s worldview. It needs a sure foundation.
Joe Boot says this of those who are ardent skeptics, “They deny Christian theism, claiming that their reason cannot accept it, while implicitly affirming that they have no foundation to do any reasoning at all.” If one’s foundation isn’t the Christian God, something else needs to be posited in His place. Never committing to any foundation of truth, always being the passive negater, does not lend oneself to a position of knowledge, but of continual skepticism. What foundation do you have to stand on that you are testing out by skepticism?
While I see the hearts of many skeptics is to find the real through skepticism, and I admire and encourage that seeking of truth, I think it difficult to find the results in which you seek by that method. Truth is most usually best found by taking risks based on reality, not unfounded leaps in the dark, but aided by reason and by faith into what may appear to be shaky ground at first to find that it is very solid indeed. If, indeed, the faith was misplaced and the ground is soggy or unstable, one merely retraces their steps and follows another path to the real.
Joe Boot also writes and I will conclude with this, “We must be willing to get to the foundations of our experience. If we remain content to decorate the interior of the house of knowledge and pay no attention to the structure and foundation stones of that house, we will find that the dry rot of absurdity and the rising damp of unexamined assumptions are fatal to the structure.”
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Paul wrote in Romans that if Jesus did not rise from the dead all is in vain. All of Christianity hinges on the reality of one very important event; the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus lived, died, and rose again in a particular time and place of history. The truth of this isn’t something relegated to spiritual mythology, but is rooted in real history. It can be, and has been extensively investigated. The Church was birthed in the very place where this miraculous event occurred. Should it not have happened, there would be little reason for the rise of the Church in this place and time. It wasn’t popular to be a Christian, and it certainly wasn’t safe. There was no power to gain, no influence to grasp, but it was something worth giving all to attain.(to read more click here)
Friday, April 10, 2009
There are more ancient manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient text. There are 5,700 handwritten Greek copies of the New Testament with another ten to fifteen thousand manuscripts in other languages including Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian. In addition to that there are approximately 10,000 more written in Latin. While some of these manuscripts are certain books or compilation of books from the New Testament there are 60 full Greek New Testament manuscripts.
However, if all of these manuscripts were lost we could still reconstruct an accurate New Testament from the writings of the Church fathers. According to Dr. Daniel Wallace, who is a renowned expert of New Testament criticism the world over, there are more than one million quotations of the New Testament in the early church fathers’ writings dating from the 1st century all the way until the 13th century.
Therefore, there is an overwhelming amount of documentation to sufficiently render a New Testament that accurately reflects the original versions. This is an amazing collection of historical documents which is not found with any other ancient texts. All of which have been well preserved.
Dr. Wallace relayed to Lee Strobel in an interview that, “The quantity and quality of the New Testament manuscripts are unequalled in the ancient Greco-Roman world. The average Greek author has fewer than twenty copies of his works still in existence, and they come from no sooner than five hundred to a thousand years later. If you stacked the copies of his works on top of each other, they would be about four feet tall. Stack up copies of the New Testament and they would reach more than a mile high—and, again, that doesn’t include quotations from the church fathers.”
In comparison, the Illiad and Odyssey together have less than 2,400 copies surviving. These books are the second most abundant to the New Testament while not coming close to the number of manuscripts still in existence. Dr. Wallace commented “At bottom, textual criticism for virtually all other ancient literature relies on creative conjectures, or imaginative guesses, at reconstruction the wording of the original. Not so with the New Testament.”
Furthermore, fragments of papyrus have surfaced dating back to within at least one hundred years of the original manuscripts and match up succinctly with the later handwritten manuscripts. There are at least 117 of such documents and some of the “fragments” are quiet long, as one is nearly the complete Gospel of John.
Thus we have a very good historical record of the events of the life of Jesus that far surpasses any other historical records of antiquity.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
For the purpose of this post, I kept only to the secular sources that referred to Jesus and his death by crucifixion. I give one modern quote at the end that I found of interest. I realize that there is some debate out there about these authors of antiquity. While I accept the validity of the Gospels and that they date within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses as well as the validity of the early creeds that date within five years of Christ’s crucifixion I will wait for another post to present that case.
Josephus – First Century Jewish Historian wrote in Antiquities c 94A.D.:
“When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified. . .”
Tacitus – First Century Historian who was not favorable toward Christians wrote in Annals:
“Nero fastened the guilt [of the burning of Rome] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of your procurators, Pontius Pilot.”
Mara Bar-Serapion a Syriac writer who is both non-Christian and non-Jew wrote possibly as early as 73A.D. (40 years after the crucifixion) or as late as third century (there seems to be some debate about this) writes:
“What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king?”
The very skeptical scholar of the most liberal Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan writes in his book Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography:
“that he [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”
Friday, April 3, 2009
The quotation ingrained in the minds of many "that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" has a new twist. Today it is commonly asserted that knowledge is power and as such people are concerned that those claiming to have a potentially superior knowledge are also those to be weary of for its association with power that brings corruption. On the other hand, knowledge seems to be a good thing by which we learn how to avoid corruption. Scientific knowledge, historical knowledge, and any kind of academic knowledge have been highly esteemed in civilized culture for centuries. (to read more click here)
Article written for Helium.com.