Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

This blog will be written from an orthodox Christian point of view. There may be some topic that is out of bounds, but at present I don't know what it will be. Politics is a part of life. Theology and philosophy are disciplines that we all participate in even if we don't think so. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. How about self defense? Is war ethical? Think of all the things that someone tells you we should not touch and let's give it a try. Everything that is a part of life should be an expression of worship.

Keep it courteous and be kind to those less blessed than you, but by all means don't worry about agreeing. We learn more when we get backed into a corner.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Opus 2011-139, Basic Beliefs: All Have Sinned

Closely following after the idea of Original Sin is the idea of personal sin.  The Bible makes a simple statement,
(Romans 3:23 KJV)  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
This is a simple statement that is in harmony with the rest of scripture.  All human beings have sinned.  The result of sin is spiritual and eternal death.
(Romans 6:23 KJV)  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This means that every human being is on the way to hell, not because of a precondition, but because of actions and choices they have made.

homo unius libri

Friday, April 29, 2011

Opus 2011-138, Discernment Watch: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

At this point we have an extensive series of books branching out from this basic title.  Long ago I jotted down a quote that started my thinking.  It has been so long I don’t have any idea what page it came from.
“...there are women who have a personality that avoids conflict or confrontation by denying themselves.  On the surface they seem to have a good relationship, but the husband complains that she does not seem to be happy.  That is his only complaint.  The wife will say ‘We have a great relationship, except I am so depressed.’” 
Then the author goes on and talks about the problem being that she is denying herself.  Our current post-modern culture embraces this line of thinking.

The Bible has a different standard regarding self denial.  Jesus spoke very clearly.
(Luke 9:23 KJV)  And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Since Jesus said it, as Christians we start by accepting this as a truth.  There is another truth which Paul gets into defining love in Philippians 2 where he talks about love as an attitude that does what is best for the other person.  I will use the NASB since it is much more clear to me.
(Philippians 2:3-4 NASB)  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
It might seem that on the surface these are the same, but not necessarily.  Jesus is talking about our response to God.  Paul is talking about how we relate to other people.  Many times when we take statements which are designed to explain our relationship with God and we apply them to our relationships with people, we run into major problems. 

For instance, when Jesus speaks he is saying that we are saying “no” to ourselves so we can say “yes” to God.  This is always right.  This is always appropriate. 

Paul’s guidance gets a little more tricky.  He is talking about us denying ourselves to do what is right for the other person.  You are looking after their interests.  This does not mean doing it their way.  It does not mean being manipulated.  Doing what is right for the other person may sometimes mean saying “yes” to yourself and saying “no” to them.  Since we are dealing with people it is not right that they always get their way.  It is not healthy for them to be around people who always let them have what they want.  I would stress that the verses in Philippians don't say give people what they want, but give them what they need.  There is a big difference there. 

The point that the Bible is making is that putting the other person first can be healthy and fulfilling.  I can understand that a garden variety pagan might think it is wrong, but we march to a different drummer.  I vote for the Jesus way.  How about you?

homo unius libri

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Opus 2011-137, Key Scriptures: Ephesians 2:8

(Ephesians 2:8 KJV)  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

One misunderstanding about Christian salvation is that you are saved by faith.  Faith is involved but the key thing to remember is that you are saved by grace.  Grace means that something undeserved is given as a gift.  It is true that we must have faith but it is not the strength of our faith that saves us.  It is the power of the grace of God. 

There is nothing that a human being can do on their own power to gain salvation.  The debt of sin is too much for our feeble efforts.  God grants it to us as a gift.  If you are of the Reformed tradition you believe that this grace is only extended to those who are elect.  If you are Arminian you believe that God’s power is available to save any who respond in faith.  Either way it is the grace that does the saving not our ability to believe. 

Let me give a crude illustration.  Sitting in the parking lot is an eighteen wheeler, loaded to the gills and you need to get it over Donner Pass.  We talk as if you are moving it, but the truck does not move because you are powerful.  You may turn the key, release the break and press the accelerator, but it is the engine in the truck and the fuel in the tank that makes the miracle of modern transportation happen.  It is the highways built by others that provide a path.  All you could do on your own was sit and wish.

Salvation is like that.  God’s power is ready to move the load.  You may think you are the driver, but you are nothing without Him.  As Alistair Begg said on a pod-cast,
“We are not saved by belief.  We are saved by a savior in whom we believe.”
Accept the gift if you are not already on board.  Turn the key of faith and let the engine of grace move the load of sin.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Opus 2011-136, Koran Klarifications: Homosexuality

There are some issues that Christians and Muslims have at least some degree of agreement.  Homosexuality is one of those.  I don’t know what the Hadith has to say or what kind of fatwahs have been issued but the Koran is pretty clear, it does not approve.
“We also sent Lot, when he said to his people, commit ye this filthy deed in which no creature hath gone before you?   Come ye to men, instead of women, lustfully? Ye are indeed a people given up to excess.  But the only answer of his people was to say, ‘Turn them out of your city, for they are men who vaunt them pure.’”  Surah 7, “The Height,” verses 80-82
All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Opus 2011-135, Discernment Watch: Public Education

We are failing in our basic education.  It used to be that school was to give you the basic tools to make something of yourself.  You were taught to read and then expected to go forth and read.  You were taught basic mathematics and expected to balance your budget.  You were taught the rudiments of science and knew that turning up the gas made the soup boil quicker.  It worked.  I had uncles who did not go further than high school who knew more about the Bible and theology than a most seminary trained pastors I have met.

We all have gaps in our education.  That is to be understood.  Some of us are getting older and are forgetting much of what we knew.  I can’t help that.  There is, however, an old truth:  You can’t forget what you never knew.  If I just made that up then it is a new truth, but true just the same.

I have in front of me a shiny, new “District Strategic Plan” for the school district I work in.  It has engaging full color photos, glossy paper and a lot of nifty words like “road map,” “collaboration,” “passion,” and “potential.”  It doesn’t say a thing about reading, writing or ‘rithmatic.  To be fair, you need to go on line to find out the full plan, but why would I bother.  If I see a half a worm sticking out of an apple I don’t need to eat the apple to know what is inside.

homo unius libri

Monday, April 25, 2011

Opus 2011-134, Koran Klarifications: Punishment

The American attitude toward war and defeated enemies is an aberration in history.  Much of it comes from a teaching that people think is from Jesus but really is based in the Old Testament.  Here are the words of Jesus.
(Matthew 5:44 KJV)  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Paul echoes the same thought.
(Romans 12:20 KJV)  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Both of them are looking to the OT times.
(Proverbs 25:21 KJV)  If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
What they are advocating goes against the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest.  It is the Christian way.  There have been times when God demanded killing but it was location specific, not general directions for all occasions. 

How does the Koran instruct victorious Muslims to treat defeated infidels?
“Only, the recompense of those who war against God and his Apostle, and go about to commit disorders on the earth, shall be that they shall be slain or crucified, or have their alternate hands and feet cut off, or be banished the land: This their disgrace in this world, and in the next a great torment shall be theirs-  Except those who, ere you have them in your power, shall repent; for know that God is Forgiving, Merciful.” Surah 5, “The Table,” verses 33-34
So you have choices.  You can convert, be killed or be mutilated.  But notice that the conversion must come before they are defeated, not after. 

We see the same command in regard to thieves.
“As to the thief, whether man or woman, cut ye off their hands in recompense for their doings.19 This is a penalty by way of warning from God himself. And God is Mighty, Wise.”  Surah 5, “The Table,” verse 38
Some people have noted that this is not usually practiced today.  Okay.  Then I guess some Muslims are living in disobedience.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Opus 2011-133, The Calvinians Strike Again

This morning I attended a Baptist church.  Like many churches today, it did not admit that on its sign or in its bulletin.  If you listen long enough, though, it is obvious.  I enjoy the worship.  It is a church that is not afraid to declare truth.  The preaching is strong.  Too bad I am an Arminian.

Today was a beautiful example of the confusion in Calvinist ranks.  The sermon was taken from Luke 14:11-24.  It was the parable that tells of a man giving a dinner and everyone cancels at the last minute so he invites everyone to come.  It was an evangelistic sermon.  People were being invited to the table.  At one point the pastor made a big point of how he might remove you from his guest list if you didn’t come, God never would.  He was very clear about once your name was down you were part of the family.  He spoke to those who had once known Jesus but had drifted away.  He said something to the effect that you are a Christian but you have not been to the table recently.  It was very heartwarming except he totally ignored the last verse of the parable.
(Luke 14:24 KJV)  For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
This last verse tends to undermine several points of his doctrine.  This seems to be a grace that is resistible and a perseverance that is not guaranteed. 

I believe that Calvinists will make it to heaven if they repent and believe.  That is true of any theological group.  I don’t have a hard time with Reformed theology because they are going to Hell but because you have to twist and strain so much to make it fit the full counsel of scripture.

Eternity is going to be a very long time because it will take that long to straighten each other out.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-132, Discernment Watch: Higher Education

Is “Higher” Education really Higher?  It seems to me we have growing pools of educated fools.  They know their jargon and have learned the art of pulling wool over eyes but they are totally parochial.  We have people who have lots of degrees and have been marinated in the herbs of ignorance.  (Can you marinate in herbs?  I must admit my ignorance.)  You would think it would be an inverse proportion but it is direct:  The more classes, the greater the ignorance.  This is a result of having a greater respect for “education” and a secret embarrassment at the truth. 

We have become a “literate” society if you define literate carefully.  The reason you must define carefully is that I have classes full of students who can pick up a book and read the text letter perfect, but they don’t have any idea of what it means.  The Muslim world is full of people who can read the Koran but don’t understand the Arabic.  Unfortunately the Christian world is full of the same kind of people in regard to the Bible.  We have had to get more specific.  Now we call these people “functionally illiterate.” 

If we are failing in our basic education, higher education is a disaster.  In California we have this item called the CBEST.  I think it stands for California Basic Educational Skills Test.  You are required to pass it to become a teacher.  It is an insult to “higher education.”  It has some reading comprehension, you write an essay, you answer a few math questions with simple algebra the highest level.  I think it is about 10th grade level.  Twenty percent of the college graduates fail.  Did you get that?  After four or more years of college and a college diploma, these people can’t pass a 10th grade test.  I knew one man who had taken it five times and failed five times before he was removed from his teaching position.

What is the difference between education, knowledge and wisdom?  I did a word search on “educate” and “education” in the KJV and NASB.  I came up with nothing.  The church needs to get back to the Biblical words and the Biblical meanings.  The church needs to influence society instead of conforming to society.  Maybe then someone will listen.

homo unius libri

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Opus 2011-131, Koran Klarifications: Women

Islam is a religion of total male dominance. 
“Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God hath gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them. Virtuous women are obedient, careful, during the husband's absence, because God hath of them been careful.  But chide those for whose refractoriness ye have cause to fear; remove them into beds apart, and scourge them:  but if they are obedient to you, then seek not occasion against them: verily, God is High, Great!”  Surah 4, “Women,” verse 34
Next time you see a picture of a large mass of Muslims in a public area take a close look.  Unless it is a carefully staged picture with mainly women, you will rarely see a woman in the crowd.  Women are not allowed to mingle with men who are not in their family.  It is true.  Believe it even if you don’t believe in it.

When the Bible talks about the creation of the human race, it is clear to point out that both men and women have the image of God.
(Genesis 1:27 KJV)  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
The Bible does talk about the husband being the head of the house but that is balanced by other statements that do not allow the man to feel like he is a dictator.  For instance:
(Galatians 3:28 KJV)  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Islam discounts women’s value before the law.
“And they who shall accuse their wives, and have no witnesses but themselves, the testimony of each of them shall be a testimony by God four times repeated, that he is indeed of them that speak the truth.”  Surah 24, “Light” verse 6
It takes four women to counteract the word of one man.  You can see how this would make it hard to convict a man of rape or any other kind of abuse.  A woman has nothing she can say.

It is amazing to me that feminist organizations are not loud and unified in their criticism of Islam.  It may be out there, but I haven’t heard it.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Friday, April 22, 2011

Opus 2011-130, Headlines: The Financial Crisis

The headlines have told us about how the financial crisis is over and the economy is on the mend.  The headlines lie, at least in California.  This week we learned of two different friends that have family members being moved to the unemployed column.  Someone once said a recession is what hurts other people and a depression is what hurts you.  We are getting ever closer to a depression. 

Where do we go from here?  We need to make adjustments to entitlements.  We need to do something with Social Security and Medicare.  I say that as one who is approaching retirement.  Ideas are being presented if we can just keep the political classes and the chattering heads from demonizing everyone who wants to discuss the issues. 

Perhaps we need to adjust our sense of entitlement as much as the entitlements themselves.  We need to get over our expectations from the Government and expect things from our God.  Accept responsibility and duty.  I do not suggest lower standards but changing where we expect them to come from.  Remember the words of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”  It is time to live that advice.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-129, Spiritual Gifts: Interpretation

(1 Corinthians 12:10 KJV)  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

A companion gift to speaking in tongues is the gift of interpretation.  It is just what it says.  One person will speak a message in an unknown tongue and someone else will tell everyone what he said.  Evidently it doesn’t work quite that smooth because Paul gives a caution,
(1 Corinthians 14:28 KJV)  But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
So the basic rule seems to be if there is not interpreter, there should be no speaking in tongues.  At least in the church.  Some feel that the private prayer language is an exception to this verse.

homo unius libri

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Opus 2011-128, Koran Klarifications: Hatred of Jews

Consider this statement,
“Abraham was neither Jew nor Christian; but he was sound in the faith, a Muslim; and not of those who add gods to God.”  Surah 3, “The Family of Imrhan,” verse 67
Do you get this?  Abraham, the father of the Jews is now not a Jew.  Abraham was really a Muslim.  It doesn’t matter that there is not a shred of evidence for this outside the Koran, because Allah has declared it, it is so.  I remember talking to a Palestinian who told me that Jesus was not a Jew.  You can see why these people got along so well with the Nazis.

Do you have a Muslim who acts like a friend?  Read this.
“O Believers! take not the Jews or Christians22 as friends. They are but one another's friends. If any one of you taketh them for his friends, he surely is one of them! God will not guide the evil doers.”  Surah 5, “The Table,”  Verse 51
Notice that anyone who takes a Jew of Christian for a friend is one of “them.”  That means he has become an Infidel. 

You need to be careful to people who talk of a religion of peace and how we can live together.  Those are the words of someone who either does not know his Koran or does not believe what it teaches.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Opus 2011-127, New Terms: Missional

I am getting older.  Some might say I am getting old.  It happens to everyone.  The days of world changing dreams are behind me, but I still believe that God can use each of us for His glory.  I was wondering about what my mission was at this time of life and my mind took off on the word “mission.”

It used to be when we talked about mission is was plural and referred to sending people to other countries to spread the Gospel.  Or it might have been used in the sense of “Mission Impossible.”  From there my mind went to the way the church is thinking up new words.  “Missional” is one of those words.  If you have spell check, you will see that it is not recognized as a word. 

“Missional” is a response to adopting the management styles of the world.  How many of you have spent time developing a “mission statement” or “vision statement” for your church when Matthew 28:19-20 was all you really needed?  It comes from losing the meaning of being the church and trying to define it a new way, one that is acceptable to the world.  Our leaders seem to believe that if you add enough adjectives, adverbs and synonyms, you can get away from requiring people to repent and be saved.  It is like a bag of candy labeled “a fat free food.”

One pastor extended this trend and said he wanted a church service that was “invitational.”  He got so excited about making up new words that he failed to notice that this one has already been claimed.  “Invitational” means not open to everyone.  You must have an invitation to come and participate.  I don’t think that was what he wanted to say.

We do all kinds of administrative gimmicks instead of doing our job.  Mission statements instead of dealing with discipline.  Seminary gives all kinds of weird degrees instead of teaching to study the Bible and preach.  To paraphrase, “Beware of Greeks bearing new words.”

homo unius libri

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Opus 2011-126, Koran Klarifications: Christians Are Infidels

Christians and Jews were originally considered people of the Book.  You hear a lot about how Mohammed and Muslims do not hate Christians.  Unfortunately that does not seem to be consistent with the teaching of the Koran.
“Infidels now are they who say, "God is the Messiah, Son of Mary;" for the Messiah said, "O children of Israel! worship God, my Lord and your Lord." Whoever shall join other gods with God, God shall forbid him the Garden, and his abode shall be the Fire; and the wicked shall have no helpers.” Surah 5, “The Table,” verse 72
So by definition, anyone who believes that Jesus is God is an infidel.  Infidels are to be killed.  Infidels will spend their time in Hell.
“Say to the infidels: ye shall be worsted, and to Hell shall ye be gathered together; and wretched the couch!”  Surah 3, “The Family of ‘Imrhan,” verse 8
And if you believe in the Trinity, that Jesus is God, you are by definition an infidel.
“They surely are Infidels who say, "God is the third of three:" for there is no God but one God: and if they refrain not from what they say, a grievous chastisement shall light on such of them as are Infidels.  Will they not, therefore, be turned unto God, and ask pardon of Him? since God is Forgiving, Merciful!”  Surah 5, “The Table,” verse 73
There will never be real peace between believing Christians and believing Muslims.  At best there will be a tension that cannot be resolved.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Monday, April 18, 2011

Opus 2011-125, The Glory of the Off Button

Life is full of afflictions.  They come in different grades and degrees, but they all tend to cause tensions and pains that try to derail us from living our lives.  A strange thing happens to our afflictions when we allow God’s grace to sanctify them.  When we respond to them as God would have us respond our afflictions cease being liabilities and become assets.  They become in some mysterious way something which makes us stronger and better.  When we respond in faith, God sanctifies.

Take a simple example.  You might not even consider this an affliction but remember I said they come in many degrees.  Like many people I have a long drive to work.  Forty-five minutes that I used to consider a total loss.  Now I have allowed God to use it to be a blessing.  Instead of fuming and fussing I am able to praise and rejoice.

I was trying to fill the time listening to a program on talk radio.  When this man first came on I found him offensive, obnoxious, narrow minded and shallow.  This was true in spite of the fact that I generally agreed with his positions.  My opinion of him has not changed, but he has become a blessing because by turning him off I have been forced back to using the time in a more spiritual edifying manner. 

There are big potential benefits in that simple motion.  Many times the lesson God is trying to teach us is the glorious freedom of the Off Button.  What it is that is causing problems?  Is it an attitude, a person, a situation?  Fill in the blank.  If we look, many times there is a way we can turn it off.  That simple decision makes all the difference in the world.

Turning off the radio led me to discover the wealth of pod casts available for free download.  My I-pod because a gift of God.  I am sure that would surprise Steve Jobs, but it is true.  I don’t need to listen to commercials about mood enhancing drugs, I can listen to Alistair Begg.  I don’t need to yell at the radio, I can listen to some of the best speakers in the world. 

What I once thought of as a waste of time has been transformed into a time of blessing. 
(Colossians 4:5 KJV)  Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
Make down time a blessing.  Get an I-pod, carry a book with you everywhere, keep a notebook of thoughts that the Holy Spirit brings to your mind.  Be blessed so you can be a blessing.

homo unius libri

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Opus 2011-124, Koran Klarifications: Jesus, Forerunner of Mohammed

In contemporary, politically correct books that discuss Islam and Christianity it is popular to say that Islam has a high opinion of Jesus and so we should focus on what we have in common.  The problem is that we are not talking about the same Jesus.  Islam makes Jesus into the role of John the Baptist, one who prepares the way. 
“And remember when Jesus the son of Mary said, ‘O children of Israel! of a truth I am God's apostle to you to confirm the law which was given before me, and to announce an apostle that shall come after me whose name shall be Ahmad!’   But when he (Ahmad) presented himself with clear proofs of his mission, they said, ‘This is manifest sorcery!’”  Surah 61, “Battle Array” verse 6
One of the key purposes of Jesus, according to the Koran, was to announce that Mohammed (Ahmad) was coming.  When Christians clearly reject this, and Mohammed was obviously aware they did, they are rejected.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Opus 2011-123, Alistair Begg: Dealing with Grief

I was listening to an Alistair Begg sermon on a podcast.  He talked about the burden he carried for his family after his mother died.  He related the moment he knelt and cast all his cares on Jesus.  We all know about that kind of experience.  We also know that the pain doesn’t disappear and we still struggle.  This is where Begg’s words became really helpful.  He said he had to learn a 60 second a minute discipline of not taking that burden back.  That is the part we overlook.

Being more than intelligent animals we have greater struggles than our pets.  I remember when my father died.  I did okay but I could not stop those unexpected moments of grief that would come on me.  They would be triggered by unexpected events.  The heaviness would descend.  This is where the “60 second a minute discipline” comes in.  We need to work at not picking up burdens we have put down.  That may involve a repeated letting go until the new habit is ingrained in our being. 

May your life be full of blessings.  We know however that death happens.  Illness strikes.  Banks fail.  But God is faithful 60 seconds a minute. 

homo unius libri

Friday, April 15, 2011

Opus 2011-122, Koran Klarifications: Jesus, The Trinity

Muslims clearly deny the divinity of Jesus and the concept of the Trinity,  The “people of the Book” here are the Christians.
“O ye people of the Book! overstep not bounds in your religion; and of God, speak only truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only an apostle of God, and his Word which he conveyed into Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from himself. Believe therefore in God and his apostles, and say not, "Three:" (there is a Trinity)-Forbear-it will be better for you. God is only one God! Far be it from His glory that He should have a son! His, whatever is in the Heavens, and whatever is in the Earth! And God is a sufficient Guardian.”  Surah 4, “Women,” verse 171
Notice that they accept the term “Messiah” but reject the meaning Christians and Jews put into it.  The Koran teaches clearly that Jesus was just another man on a mission.
“The Messiah, Son of Mary, is but an Apostle; other Apostles have flourished before him; and his mother was a just person: they both ate food.  Behold! how we make clear to them the signs! then behold how they turn aside!” Surah 5, “The Table,”  verse 75
People are not free to declare Jesus to be co-equal with God.
“And SAY: Praise be to God who hath not begotten a son, who hath no partner in the Kingdom, nor any protector on account of weakness. And magnify him by proclaiming His greatness.” Surah 17, “The Children of Israel,” verse 111
There will never be any agreement between Muslims and Christians about who Jesus is.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Opus 2011-121, New Terms: Spin

I am sure that you have read this word or heard it used.  It refers to the version of events that a press secretary is putting out to the public.  In common, ordinary, everyday English, it means "lie."

We are so good at accepting new definitions of old words.  We have heard this one and glossed over its implications.  We are becoming a society that accepts falsehood.  Part of the is a result of the Post-modern philosophy that has become dominant.  In Post-modern thinking there are no absolutes, especially absolute truth.  As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so truth is in the experience of the individual.

This may be acceptable in current philosophical trends, it is not acceptable in Christian thinking.  The Bible reveals an eternal, unchanging God.  That God reveals eternal, unchanging truths.  The consequences are eternal, unchanging destinies.  Truth, if embrased can lead to an eternity in the presence of God, enjoying His fellowship and experiencing unending joy.  Spin will lead to an eternity away from God and all of the forces of good, in a short phrase, eternal hell.

Don’t accept the spin doctors.  Call them to account.  Hold their feet to the fire because if you don’t someday their feet will be in the fire, eternally.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Opus 2011-120, Koran Klarifications: God Changes His Mind

In Islam Allah is free to change his mind and in fact the Koran seems to set the stage for such changes.
“Whatever verses we cancel, or cause thee to forget, we bring a better or its like. Knowest thou not that God hath power over all things?” Sura 2, “The Cow,” verse 106
This seems to develop a bit of inconsistency in the words of Allah.  This verse seems the opposite of what you just read:
“And the words of thy Lord are perfect in truth and in justice: none can change his words: He is the Hearing, Knowing.” Surah 6, “Cattle,” verse 115
I guess a way around this is to say that Allah can change what He said but no one else can.  This seems to hinge on the fact that Allah is supreme and can do anything He wants.  In a podcast on the book The Closing of the Muslim Mind by Robert Reilly, the author quoted one of the debates that took place in Islam in the ninth century.  The question was formulated, “Is murder wrong because Allah said so, or did Allah condemn murder because it is wrong?”  The faction of Islam that won the argument said that it was wrong because Allah said so.  If He changed His mind and declared it good, them murder would be good.  Allah was free to do whatever He wanted.  That kind of thinking dominates Islam today.  The author said that what is called the Golden Age of Islam came to an end with this philosophical and theological change.

Notice that the Koran endorses the Virgin birth.
“Remember when the angel said, ‘O Mary! Verily God announceth to thee the Word from Him: His name shall be, Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, illustrious in this world, and in the next, and one of those who have near access to God;  And He shall speak to men alike when in the cradle and when grown up; And he shall be one of the just.’  She said, ‘How, O my Lord! shall I have a son, when man hath not touched me?’ He said, ‘Thus: God will create what He will; When He decreeth a thing, He only saith, 'Be,' and it is.’”  Surah 3, “The Family of Imrhan,”  verses 45-47
Later it denies that Allah had begotten Jesus.
“And SAY: Praise be to God who hath not begotten a son, who hath no partner in the Kingdom, nor any protector on account of weakness. And magnify him by proclaiming His greatness.” Surah 17, “The Children of Israel,”  verse 111
That seems a bit inconsistent but I guess you could say Allah created Jesus in a virgin without begetting Him.  It comes down to an acceptance of anything Allah wants to do.  He does not need to be consistent.  He does not need to keep His word.  You are considered an Infidel because you try to limit Allah by expecting Him to fit any categories.  He is not the God of the Bible, but the Allah of the Koran.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Opus 2011-119, Christian Cliches: God wouldn’t disinherit his children, would He?

I hear this statement every once in awhile.  It is usually used to defend the last point of the TULIP theory, the “Perseverance of the Saints.”  Those of us that have a hard time with this teaching call it “Once saved, always saved.” 

The full reasoning goes like this.  God predestined you to be one of the elect (Unconditional election).  He gave you faith and you believed, thus you were saved (Irresistible grace).  You were sealed by the Holy Spirit and what God has sealed cannot be unsealed (Perseverance of the saints).  If you accept all of these points as being Biblical, you are home free.  You can find verses to back up each of these points.

The problem with this is that you can also find verses that make this understanding impossible.  From my point of view, you need to take the whole counsel of God, not just the Cherry Picker’s Edition.  Although the Reader’s Digest Association has published a Bible, and the method is fine for reading the works of James Michner, I would not use it as a foundation for my theology.

The Bible is full of times where God has cut off His “children.”  The Cherry Pickers would quote to you
(Romans 11:11 KJV)  I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
Sounds good, but keep reading.  As you do you find that the entire following section tells you that God will cut off those who turn from Him.
(Romans 11:22 KJV)  Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
Some people mock and ask, “You mean you can be saved again and again?”  Well, read the next verse.
(Romans 11:23 KJV)  And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
It certainly looks like it to me. 

Some times people look at you, dripping mercy and compassion, and say, “You wouldn’t cut of the inheritance of your children would you?”  They look shocked and offended when I say, “You bet your bippy I would!”  The thought of passing the wealth that God allows me to accumulate to someone who has my blood but would use that wealth for the glory of Satan chills my blood.  It should chill yours too.

We are adopted into the family of God.  That means that before the adoption you were not part of the family.  Understand the Roman view of adoption.  At this time in history adoption was a higher form of family than natural birth.  At this point the Roman emperors were not putting their natural children on the throne.  They would look around, find a good candidate, adopt him and designate him as heir.  To do this they might disinherit their natural children or even put them to death.  Adoption was not a backup plan, it was a mark of honor.

If you want to work at the animal shelter and love the puppies, go for it.  But don’t let all that love and compassion blind you to the fact that puppies don’t go to hell, people do.  You need to have a more Biblical standard for the Body of Christ.

homo unius libri

Monday, April 11, 2011

Opus 2011-118, Koran Klarifications: Jesus, the Crucifixion

Although the Koran accepts the existence of Jesus and His virgin birth that does not mean it accept the Jesus of the Bible.  The Crucifixion, for instance, is denied,
“And for their saying, ‘Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an Apostle of God.’ Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness.  And they who differed about him were in doubt concerning him: No sure knowledge had they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they did not really slay him, but God took him up to Himself. And God is Mighty, Wise!”  Surah 4, “Women,”  verse 157
Notice the word “likeness.”  This is the heretical idea that Jesus did not physically die on the cross.  It was just some sort of illusion.  Of course this is only heretical to Christians.  Muslims simply do not accept it.  To them it is nonsense. 

If Jesus did not die on the cross then there was no sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.  Our salvation is in our hands and based on our efforts. 

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-117, The Touchy TSA

I had another chance to refuse to be radiated.  This time they were trying to put everyone through the rays.  When I “opted out” they took me out and did the pat down.  Other than the general loss of dignity being searched like a criminal in public and the violation of probable cause and due process protections of the Constitution, it was no big deal.  Since I am not a glamorous young woman the touching was basic.  There were no cavity searches.

Both times I have been patted down they have assigned the newest, least experienced TSA employee.  They have been polite and professional, but obviously had not done this much.  Each time I politely tell them that I hope when the courts come down on this I hope it is the suits that get nailed and not the ones “following orders.” 

And a good time was had by all.

homo unius libri

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Opus 2011-116, Immortal Quotes: The Pursuit of Happiness

Most people are familiar with this part of the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...”
Most people don’t know, but in the original draft, Thomas Jefferson had “life, liberty and property.”  This was because property was, and is, one of the important roads to prosperity and liberty.

Notice that is says our right is the “pursuit of happiness” not “happiness.”  Many people miss this.  Our modern culture seems to think that it can guarantee happiness.  Everyone should be happy.  Remember the song that went, “Don’t worry.  Be happy.”  No one can guarantee happiness but we can have a culture that allows us to pursue it, however we define it.

Happiness is largely up to you. 

So get it right.  Don’t expect someone else to do it for you. 

homo unius libri

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Opus 2011-115, Koran Klarifications: Translation Issues

Sometimes the text of the Koran is translated in such a way as to cover up what it really says.  One place that jumped out to me was this statement about King David,

“So we forgave him that his sin; and truly he shall have a high rank with Us,  and an excellent retreat in Paradise.”  Surah 38, “Sad,” verse 25

That is the Rodwell version.  The Muslim version says that David will have a “happy journey’s end.”  This is a bit different from the one translated by the Englishman.  Why?  Obviously I can’t see into the heart of the translators but it seems pretty obvious that for a Muslim to admit that David went to Paradise would cause some obvious problems.  You see, David was a Jew.  Jews can’t go to Paradise.  Thus you need to translate in such a way as to convey what you want to convey, not what it says.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Friday, April 8, 2011

Opus 2011-114, Key Scriptures: John 14:6

(John 14:6 KJV)  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

This is a statement that is both totally clear and totally controversial. 

On the clear side, Jesus is saying He is the only way to eternal life.  “Way” means road or path.  “Truth” means just what it says.  “Life” is the goal.  It comes through Jesus and only Jesus.  This makes Christianity an exclusivist religion.  You cannot be both a follower of Jesus and Buddha.  You cannot claim Jesus as Lord and accept Mohammed as God’s prophet.  It doesn’t work that way.

This is what makes it controversial.  This is why the popular media and education culture claims that Christians are narrow minded and mean spirited.  The reason is because we believe what the Bible says.  The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

Some have problems with the concept of truth.  To them truth is a relative term and everyone finds their own truth in their own situation.  This is the difficulty of the heretical arm of the Emergent Church.  They are relativists.  They reject Jesus, not as “a” way, but as “the” way.  I am not an expert in Greek but I remember some of my lessons.  Greek does not have the indefinite article “a.”  It does have the definite article “the,” but it is not always used.  When it is used it carries more weight than in English.  In all three words, way, truth, life, it is used in this verse.  It is a clear statement of emphasis.  Jesus is claiming to be “THE” way, ‘THE” truth, and “THE” life.  It does not leave open the option of Jesus only being one way of many.  You can reject this and be a good neighbor and wonderful member of the PTA, but you cannot reject this and be a Christian.

Is this important?  Are you paying attention?  Yes, it is important.  If this is not true then millions of us have placed our trust in a lie and followers of Jesus are as confused as people who believed in the Piltdown Man.

homo unius libri

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Opus 2011-113, Koran Klarifications: Jesus and the Virgin Birth

Muslims admit that Jesus existed.  They even use some of the standard words to describe Him.  He is called Messiah, Apostle and Son of Mary.  Although the Koran is not always in agreement with the Bible,  one place there seems to be some agreement is the Virgin Birth.  This passage from the Koran sounds a lot like the Gospels:
“Remember when the angel said, ‘O Mary! Verily God announceth to thee the Word from Him: His name shall be, Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, illustrious in this world, and in the next, and one of those who have near access to God;  And He shall speak to men alike when in the cradle and when grown up; And he shall be one of the just.’  She said, ‘How, O my Lord! shall I have a son, when man hath not touched me?’ He said, ‘Thus: God will create what He will; When He decreeth a thing, He only saith, 'Be,' and it is.’”  Surah 3, “The Family of Imrhan,”  verses 45-47
Notice that an angel makes an announcement.  Mary protests that she is a virgin.  God says, “No problem.”  One added touch that seems strange to us is that it seems to say that Jesus will be talking when He is first born.

This sound good but later we will see that it is an illusion.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Opus 2011-112, New Terms: Spirituality

Here is another word that is not really new but has a definition which is being changed.  The word “spirituality” is showing up frequently.  When I was growing up, to talk about someone’s spirituality would be to talk about how much they were in contact with Jesus.  They lived as if they were in contact with the Holy Spirit and were examples of righteousness.  Not so much any more.  The word has been coopted by the New Age religions and the Emergent Church. 

Spirituality today means being in contact with your inner person, your spiritual side.  It has nothing to do with an objective reality centered in God.  It is all about how you feel about being above the rat race.  It may involve some contact with spirits in seances or occult practices but that is just another example of how empowered you are.

Another term I am seeing related to this is “Spiritual Formation”.  Again, this could be interpreted to mean that you are growing in grace and wisdom under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  It could be a wonderful concept.  My fear is that it is a matter of setting aside the Bible and studying gurus from the past and other religions. 

We need to be careful when we see terms that sound good but can be used to deceive.  Discernment is called for.  Knowing the word is a necessity.  Don’t be seduced into paths that God has clearly marked as evil just because someone who seems really nice says it is the way to go.  Always use the Bible as your standard whether you are reading Wesley, Calvin, Augustine, Lucado, Bell, McClaren, Dawkins or Marx.  They have opinions.  It has truth.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Opus 2011-111, Koran Klarifications: Gnostic Influences

Mohammed was illiterate.  That is a simple statement of fact.  This comes from Surah 7, verse 158, “...Therefore believe on God, and his Apostle-the unlettered Prophet-who believeth in God and his word. And follow him that ye may be guided aright.”

This was not uncommon in those days but keep in mind that he could not read things for himself, he could only repeat what he heard.  As a Christian, it seems that much of what he knew about the Bible he heard from local heretical sects.  Here we see the influence of the Gospel of Thomas.
“and he shall be an apostle to the children of Israel. "Now have I come," he will say, "to you with a sign from your Lord: Out of clay will I make for you, as it were, the figure of a bird: and I will breathe into it, and it shall become, by God's leave, a bird.20 And I will heal the blind, and the leper; and by God's leave will I quicken the dead; and I will tell you what ye eat, and what ye store up in your houses! Truly in this will be a sign for you, if ye are believers.”  Surah 3, “The Family of Imrhan,” verse 49
To an orthodox Christian, turning clay into birds is not in the spirit of the Bible.  In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas Jesus turned some children into birds.  You can see the connection.  Most of his knowledge of the Christian Bible came from heretics.

There were also early heresies that denied the physical death of Jesus on the Cross.  We see that in this passage.
“And for their saying, ‘Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an Apostle of God.’ Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness.  And they who differed about him were in doubt concerning him: No sure knowledge had they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they did not really slay him, but God took him up to Himself. And God is Mighty, Wise!”  Surah 4, “Women,”  verse 157
Notice that is was His “likeness” that was crucified.

Of course heresy is in the eyes of the beholder.  If you are a Muslim and believe that Gabriel actually dictated this to Mohammed, that is not a problem.  It would just make the Gnostics right and orthodox Christians wrong.  I guess if you are a Muslim you figure the Christians are wrong anyway.

Keep in mind that Mohammed is having his visions around the year 610.  By this time the Christian church had worked through the debates on Gnosticism and rejected its positions.  In a sense the Muslim rejection of “Christianity” was consistent with Christianity’s rejection of these false teachings.  I guess that gives us something in common.

homo unius libri

Monday, April 4, 2011

Opus 2011-110, Heaven Is Outside the Box

How glorious will heaven be.  First, for those of you who are technical theologians, I understand that the word “heaven” is misused.  We will be resurrected in glorified bodies on a New Earth and walk the streets of a New Jerusalem.  We will not spend eternity floating around on clouds, playing harps and flapping our wings.  That picture is from cartoons not from the Bible.

But putting that aside, what will it be like.  I hate to cop out on you but it will be beyond our comprehension.  Start by thinking about the things we take for granted that the Roman Emperors would have sold a kingdom for.  Think about...toilet paper.  This is a modern invention.  Think of extensions of that:  Klennex, Handi-wipes, paper towels, feminine hygiene, the list goes on.  What about the simple zipper?  Think of the I-pod, let alone the computer.  This would all be magic to them and they are just extensions of human creativity. 

Most of us will never come up with anything like these.  Most of us will never have a really creative thought, if we are honest.  Or if we do we won’t remember what it was the next day.  Hold that thought.  Now, how do you expect to comprehend an experience that lasts for eternity and never gets boring, that gives access to the feet of Jesus and is constantly renewed by the glory of an infinitely creative God?

We don’t even have words to substitute for “glorious” when we try to describe heaven.  Get over it.  Some things you have to experience to experience.  Does that make sense?  In a sense, neither will heaven.  Someone once commented that if there is no sex in heaven, he didn’t want to go.  That is like a child saying that if the restaurant didn’t have Chicken McNuggets he didn’t want to go. 

I hope you join me.  It will be quite a ride.

homo unius libri

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Opus 2011-109, Koran Klarifications: God Hates Sinners

What is God’s attitude toward those who are not believers?  In Christian thinking we have statements like John 3:16,
(John 3:16 KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Although God hates sin it is clear that He loves even those who reject Him.

The Koran has a different approach.  First a general statement. 
“Whoso is an enemy to God or his angels, or to Gabriel, or to Michael, shall have God as his enemy: for verily God is an enemy to the Infidels.”  Sura 2, “The Cow,” verse 98
At other places it gets even stronger.
“Let him who thinketh that God will not help His Apostle in this world and in the next, stretch a cord aloft as if to destroy himself; then let him cut it, and see whether his devices can bring that4 to nought at which he was angry!”  Surah 22, “The Pilgrimage,” verse 15
Notice that this is instructions for non-believers to kill themselves.  If you are a Christian, that means you.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Opus 2011-108, Headlines: Benefits for Public Employees

I have been reading a lot of hostility to public sector unions lately.  Since I am a teacher in a public school I am covered by that very broad brush.  One of the points of hostility is the health benefits we receive.  Health benefits are more than insurance.  In addition I get 10 paid sick leave days a year.  I can use up to seven of those for “personal necessity leave” (PNL).  I also get up to five days for jury service and three to five days of bereavement leave depending on where the funeral is held.  I have often taken these blessings for granted.

I began to get congested a couple of days ago and since it is hard to teach when you can’t talk without coughing or breathe without blowing your nose, I decided to take a few days off to recover.  When I was younger I would have just toughed it out.  As I age I don’t have the energy to do that, so I use my sick leave.  Sitting home drinking lemon laced tea I received a call from the secretary at our dentists office, telling my wife she could come earlier if she wanted.  She heard what I sounded like and we exchanged horror stories about what is going around.  I asked her if she had paid sick leave and she said, “No.”  I commiserated with her and commented on how much easier it was to take a day off when I still got paid.

That got me to thinking about all the people I have regular contact with who may have health insurance but still don’t have paid sick days.  This starts with anyone who runs there own business.  My dad was self employed.  If he did not work he made no money.  I can’t remember him ever staying home sick.  I think of our auto mechanic, our gardener, people of do work on our house and at the upper levels our doctors.  When work is not performed, profit is not generated.  Only large businesses and government can afford to pay people for not producing.  Having this benefit is truly a blessing.

This is often abused.  People call in sick when they want to go shopping or play golf.  I know some people who never accrue a day of sick leave.  When they can take a day, they suddenly develop an illness.  Others never take a day.  I began to ask myself if I would have taken the day off if I did not get paid.  Probably not.  I would not have done as well dealing with the students as if I were healthy.  I would have healed more slowly and possibly died sooner.  I would have spread more disease among the children.  I would have worked because I could not afford to stay home.

I would urge believers to remember the 10th Commandment.
(Exodus 20:17 KJV)  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Maybe Moses should have included things like health benefits and pensions.  Be careful of envy and covetousness.  Don’t let the elites who are trying to generate these feelings between people be successful.  There is another verse that speaks to me on this topic.  It is from the Love Chapter:
(1 Corinthians 13:6 KJV)  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
What this says to me is that we need to be careful about being happy when someone else gets the punishment they deserve.  On this topic it would say that we cannot fall for the salesmen of class envy and divisiveness by wanted to pull down those who have more than we have.  We should instead be seeking ways to care for those in need.  Taking away one man’s health insurance does not get another into a doctor’s office.  Much more productive would be getting rid of all the red tape, paper work and lawyer fees that drive the costs up and make doctors less willing to risk.

If you have coverage, consider yourself blessed.  If you don’t, seek a solution that does more than destroy.

homo unius libri

Friday, April 1, 2011

Opus 2011-107, Koran Klarifications: Dietary Laws of Islam

You may have heard about the way the Muslim inmates of Guantanamo are eating.  They have meals specially prepared for them that reflect the dietary laws of Islam.  You may be aware of the well known restrictions:  No alcohol and no pork.  You may be aware of other religions that have dietary laws.  Jews are not to eat pork.  Mormons avoid coffee.  Some Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarians. 

What you may not be aware of is that the dietary needs of Muslims are totally flexible.  There is not real need to make sure that Muslim captives are fed according to the Koran.  Let me quote the book itself:
“But that which dieth of itself, and blood, and swine's flesh, and that over which any other name than that of God hath been invoked, is forbidden you. But he who shall partake of them by constraint, without lust or wilfulness, no sin shall be upon him. Verily God is Indulgent, Merciful.”  Sura 2, “The Cow”, verse 173
So you can see that a Muslim is under no compulsion to eat a certain way if circumstances make it impossible.  Any noise made over this issue is just an attempt to manipulate people.  As with so much that you hear about Islam, it is not true.  Ignore it.  Save your sympathy for someone that needs and deserves it.

As in any quoting of the Koran, I would encourage you to get a copy and read it yourself.  Read the entire book.  Read everything in context.  If you are a Christian, that is the way you should read your Bible.  Be cautious about proof texting by anyone.  At times it is necessary, but only as a way of giving you a chance to check it out for yourself. 

Truth will out.

All Koran quotes are from the translation by Rev. J.M. Rodwell, M.A. provided by the Gutenberg Project.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-106, Christian Luck, an Oxymoron

For a long time I have been trying to avoid the use of the word "luck" in relation to my life.  Luck has the idea of chance and randomness that I don’t think is applicable in the life of a Christian.  I came across this statement by John Wesley in his Journals, dated July 6, 1781:
“So far as fortune or chance governs the world, God has no place in it.”
We should talk about being blessed, not lucky.  God is sovereign.

homo unius libri