• Has Anyone Provided Proof of God’s Inexistence? Not Even Close.

    “Has anyone provided proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close. Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close. Have our sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close. Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough. Has rationalism and moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough. Has secularism in the terrible 20th century been a force for good? Not even close, to being close. Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy in the sciences? Close enough. Does anything in the sciences or their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ball park. Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.”
    ― David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions

     

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  • So Trump is a Christian?

    This week there have been a few articles going around that Republican nominee for President Donald Trump has prayed the sinners prayer and now is a Christian. For example Dr. James Dobson says this about Trump and his conversion:

    “I don’t know when it was but it has not been long, and I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian, we all need to be praying for him, especially if there’s a possibility of him being our next chief executive officer, and I think that he’s open. He doesn’t know our language, you know, we had 40 Christians together with him, he used the word hell four or five times, he doesn’t know our language, he really doesn’t, and he refers a lot to religion and not much to faith and belief.” (This quote is taken from this website)

    Dr Dobson is not the only one. Many other evangelical leaders have come out saying that Trump is a Christian.

    Now I want to ask do these religious leaders really believe this? I find Trumps’ conversion hard to believe because of the kind of politician he is. Trump has a habit of saying what he needs to say to curry favour with those he is trying to woo and I think this is what is happening here. All through out history politicians have taken on religion for political ends. I was just reading about the great Scottish reformer John Knox who  saw politicians pursuing ungodly ambitions under the cloak of religion. He also says that these men who do this have a habit of then turning around and stabbing the very religious leaders who helped them get into political office in the back. Will this happen if Trump gets into power? I don’t know. I hope not.

    Is Trump a Christian? I have huge doubts about his conversion but I am praying for him. I hope he is. If he truly is we will see this in the way he leads with humility and grace and how he publicly repents of sin and pursues righteousness.

    I’m also praying for the evangelical leaders of our world. I’m praying that they will pursue righteousness not power in this world and that they will have courage in the face of political pressure and love in the face of potential trials.

     

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  • What’s the Biggest Threat to the Church?

    This is a long Interview but a very Important one and insightful one. I have read Douthat’s column for some time and I am going to Read his book Bad Religion. Douthat is very intelligent and insightful and this is well worth an hour of your time.

    Collin Hansen Interviews ‘New York Times’ Columnist Ross Douthat from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

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  • The Secret of Powerful Ministry

    I am more and more convinced that what gives a ministry its motivations, perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion, and grace is the devotional life of the one doing ministry. When I daily admit how needy I am, daily meditate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and daily feed on the restorative wisdom of his Word, I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receiving at the hands of my Savior. There simply is no set of exegetical, homiletical, or leadership skills that can compensate for the absence of this in the life of a pastor. It is my worship that enables me to lead others to worship. It is my sense of need that leads me to tenderly pastor those in need of grace. It is my joy in my identity in Christ that leads me to want to help others live in the middle of what it means to be “in Christ.” In fact, one of the things that makes a sermon compelling is that the preacher is worshiping his way through his own sermon. [1]

    [1] Paul Tripp, A Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. (Wheaton: Crossway), 35

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  • Church Exists to Recenter Your Heart and Mind on What is True

    Church for many of us can be a ho-hum activity. Yes we love the people and we like church but we sometimes leave church underwhelmed and uninspired. I think we leave church this way because we forget why we meet together. The Ancient Israelites had a day set aside for rest and the worship of God. So let us look at what God said their day off of worship was all about:

    “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.” – Deuteronomy 5:12-14

    The first word in this sentence is be careful. The whole point is we must carefully ensure that the Israelites obeyed the Sabbath. There is scrupulous care here. Did you also notice that it was a holy day. The Sabbath being holy meant that it was sanctified, separated from the rest of the week and given by God. The idea is that this was to be a special day. Why? Because God has designed for us to work for six days and then we have a day of rest and worship. I think the word “holy” here implies that a Sabbath for Israel was meant to be a day which, at least part of it, was devoted to God. It was a day where you would go to the temple if you could. And one of the ways you showed you worshipped the true and living God was to take one day off. No other religion in the ancient world had this practice. But the Israelites showed they served God by taking a day off to rest and worship.

    Now thinking about the day we meet together, which some Christians regard as a Sabbath. Wee see from this passage that the Sabbath is meant to centre us once again. As we take a day off and meet together and sing and praise God’s name. As we hear God’s word, read and preached and prayed we are recentered on what matters and we are reminded on what doesn’t matter. Corporate worship is meant to remind us that there is something better than things of this world –  sex, power, money fame, status – and that thing that is better is Jesus. Corporate worship is about your heart, that’s why we sing because music has a way of engraving words that we sing onto our hearts, that’s why we preach because we are trying to communicate this book in a way which grips your heart.  You see as you go out into the world so many things are after your heart’s affections and yet today when we meet together your heart gets recentered. Your life gets recentered.

    A few years ago I went to a chiropractor because I was very sore. I thought there is no way he needed to crack my back or neck or anything. But when I got there that is what he did. He pulled my neck in this weird way and it cracked and then pressed on my back and it cracked. And the cracks were loud and I was scared and I was like, “what are you doing?” He said that my spine was out of whack and he was realigning it. I told him that my spine didn’t feel out so I didn’t think I needed it. He said that all of us use our bodies in such a way that take our spines slightly out of whack. We can’t feel it but they are and unless they are realigned one day we will feel it.

    Do you realise that the way we live causes our hearts to become our of whack? They love the things that they shouldn’t love and are drawn away from God. What corporate worship does for your heart is like what the chiropractor does for your back it brings it back into line. God is a good God he knows we need realignment every week and so he commands one day where this will happen.

    Are you valuing and treasuring the time you meet with other Christians? Do you come to church expectant that you will hear from God through his spirit in his word? At this church, as the bible is being sung, taught, prayed and preached, God is doing eternally significant work. Do you come expecting that, anticipating that? We are called to join in this work as we sing praises to God which will encourage those around us. We are join in this work as we encourage each other as we remind the person who is down of the hope they have in Jesus. As we encourage the person who is struggling with sin that Jesus has dealt with their sin and that they are forgiven. God is doing eternally significant things every week at Church.

    Now what would happen if got this vision of Church? Wouldn’t we be so excited to get here? Wouldn’t we be so pumped that we would get speeding tickets on our way to church? You see God is a great God and this commandment to have a day of worship and rest is one of the his most beautiful gifts to us because on that day we are brought into line with who he is and what he has done. Let’s accept this day as it has come from a good and loving God.

    This is an excerpt from a sermon preached at Resolved Church called “The Freedom to Rest” which was based on Detueronomy 5:12-15. You can listen to the sermon in ITunes here

     

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  • Our Secular Age and the Feeling of Guilt We Can’t Escape From

    There is a modern orthodoxy that says no secular people actually believe in sin, guilt and shame. But on Saturday the UK newspaper The Guardian published the article ‘Would he disapprove of my single heathen lifestyle?’: me and my Syrian refugee lodger. Which as the title suggests, is about a single, non-religious, white, British lady named Jenny and a Syrian refugee that she took in named Yassir.

    Now  this a commendable deed that Jenny has done. What is interesting however is her reason for taking Yassir in. She says:
    “I thought having Yasser to stay would be a kind of atonement for mistakes I have made in my life, but his presence has made me feel guilty. Guilty for what I have, for the easy life I lead, for complaining about trivial things.”
    There are three things to note here.
    1. She believes she has done bad things she is guilty of.
    2. She is looking to have her guilt taken away.
    3. In looking to deal with her guilt and shame herself she only encounters more guilt and shame.
    The problem with our secular society is that deep down we all have a gnawing feeling that we have done wrong, we all have guilt. But our society can’t give us any way to assuage that guilt that is actually successful. Only in Jesus do we find someone who will take away our guilt and shame and a new identity. Out of which we can do good things, like helping refugees, not to atone for our sin but because he first loved us and so we want to love others as we have been loved.
     
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  • We all Worship Something. But Be Careful, What You Worship May Destroy You

    The noted and award winning postmodern novelist David Foster Wallace gave a now famous commencement speech at Kenyon College where he said this:

    Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god . . . to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before [your loved ones] finally plant you. . . . Worship power, and you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they are evil or sinful; it is that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.[1]

    Did you get what he is saying? Not only does everyone worship but if you worship the wrong things the thing you worship will eat you alive. Here is a non-religious man, who only a few years after giving this speech committed suicide, saying that if you get worship wrong you will be crushed. Or to put it another way unless you have Jesus at centre of your life, unless you worship him, unless he is the one in whom you are trying to find fulfilment, then anything else will either fail you or crush you. It will either fail you because it wont live up to what you think it is offering or it will crush you because you will fail to do what it wants. But Jesus Christ is the only thing that you can worship that will never fail you and when you fail him he won’t crush you but forgive you.

    [1] Quoted in Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus, 29-30

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  • I Actually Agree with Richard Dawkins on This One!

    There are very few things Richard Dawkins and I would agree one but here is one. Let me set it up for you. A one-minute advertisement for prayer paid for and made by the Anglican Church in England has been banned from being shown in cinemas because it may offend people. Now I am confused, what is it about prayer that would offend people? And on this Richard Dawkins agrees with me.  Here is what he said to the Guardian newspaper:

    “My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech. But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue. I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”

    Dawkins’ nails it. What it is about our society that we are so scared of offending people that we will stop a one minute advert about prayer? The problem is that we, as a society, have a shared belief that to offend anyone is to hurt them irreparably. This has been used by so many different groups and, in the end, it is a way of intimidation and bullying. If you say that I have said something that has offended you I immediately become the oppressor and you the victim and in our society everyone sides with the victim without ever asking whether they really are a victim. Therefore, because we are scared of being an oppressor, we will ban things that some people might say they take offence at. In the end, this silences dissident voices in our society that may not agree with modern orthodoxies through intimidation.

    What we need to do is to get back to a real and workable definition of tolerance where there is an open and frank exchange of ideas. Even if some ideas offend our modern sensibilities.. Only when we do this will we be able to get away from a silly idea that a short advert by a Church would be offensive to anyone.

    If you haven’t seen the ad in question you can watch it here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/22/cinema-chains-ban-advert-featuring-lords-prayer

     

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  • So What if They Are a Nice Person They Could Still Be Wrong

    One thing that I have noticed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks is how many people are saying something like “Every Muslim I know is a beautiful person.” The idea being communicated is that because they are beautiful people Islam is a good religion or a religion of peace.  But kind of thinking is also used in different areas. For example I have heard people say these kinds of things: “All the gay people I know are great people.” or “All the Buddhists I know are amazing!” Now let’s be clear that there are always going to be beautiful people coming from all facets of our society and conversely there are going to be terrible people coming from the very same facets of our society. I know Christians that are arrogant and I know some Christians that are humble. I know gay people that are warm and generous and some that are cut-throat and mean. I know Muslims that are beautiful people and I know some that are rude.

    Here is the point I am making, whether a person is a good person or not doesn’t legitimize or illegitimize their beliefs or their way they live their life. For example, imagine I said “Every murderer I know is a great person!” does the fact that every murderer I know is a nice person make murder legitimate? Of course not. Or imagine if I said  “Every person that gives money to charity is terribly rude.” Does that mean the rudeness of people who give money to charity mean that giving money to charity is wrong? Of course not! Just because a person has an agreeable or disagreeable temperament doesn’t mean their beliefs or their way of life is right or wrong.

    How did we get to this place where it seems like we are willing to vouch for the person’s religion or way of life based on their temperament? The reason is because we, by in large, no longer have a narrative in which we find who we are and what we are to do and think. We want to be truly free and that means detaching ourselves from everything and anything that may define us. But, when we do this we are left with nothing that will help us judge the worthiness or unworthiness of a particular belief, belief system or way of life. In this circumstance, we are left with either having our beliefs dictated to us by the media or by our by how a person or an idea makes us feel. So if I meet a nice Muslim, Christian, atheist etc. I will think they and their religion is nice because I like them. But if they say something that we don’t like I will dismiss either them or the belief they hold.

    The solution to this problem is finding ourselves by looking deeper but finding ourselves in grand story that will not only inform us of who we are but will help us think and consider what it is to live the good life.,

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  • Germaine Greer, Caitlyn Jenner and the New Intolerance

    Two of the strangest stories of the past week was Caitlyn Jenner, a person who has all the physical attributes of a man and yet self-defines as a woman winning Glamour magazine’s woman of the year award. And secondly a woman, who many have said has pushed the rights of women more in line with men than any other, Germaine Greer, is disinvited to give a lecture called “Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th century” at The University of Cardiff because she doesn’t believe a man who goes through surgery to become a woman is actually a woman.

    There are many things that can be said in response to these two stories, but I will limit myself to two.

    Firstly it shows how, as a society, we are extremely confused about gender. This is cheekily summed up by Brandan Oneill who said “This is the world you live in, folks. One in which a bloke can be globally celebrated as an inspiring woman — and heaven help the brave soul who asks: ‘But is this strapping former athlete with testicles really a woman?’ — while an actual inspiring woman, whose balls are only metaphorical, can be labelled a disgrace to ‘feminism and society’.”  When our gender becomes something that is entirely malleable and we can choose it based on a variety of factors, any talk of gender is inherently meaningless.  When this happens more and more children will grow up with gender identity issues which can stunt a child’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. What we are saying and doing with gender today I fear will have huge repercussions in the coming years.

    Secondly, it shows how, in order to be as tolerant as we can be, we have actually become extremely intolerant. The new definition of intolerance is as Don Carson says “no longer a refusal to allow contrary opinions to say their piece in public, but must be understood to be any questioning or contradicting the view that all opinions are equal in value, that all worldviews have equal worth, that all stances are equally valid. To question such postmodern axioms is by definition intolerant. (The Intolerance of Tolerance p. 12). In questioning a contemporary shibboleth, Greer has become on an outcast because she no longer fits the definition of tolerance. It is a supreme irony that Greer fought for the very right to speak that Rachael Melhuish, Cardiff University’s Women’s Officer, the person who penned the petition seeking to ban Greer, is now using against her. This shows that the new tolerance actually cannibalistic. The new tolerance movement has to eat its own because when your existence is predicated on the fact that there are enemies of tolerance out there you have to keep coming up with new people to name and shame, eventually naming and shaming the very p[eople you once considered allies.

    What is the solution to all this? We, as a society actually need to be reconnected with God. Because it is in our connection with God we find out what is right and wrong, what gender is and how the genders function. It is when God is rightly on the throne of our lives, families, and societies can people find who they truly are and be free from looking for the enemies around them. The stories that we mentioned at the beginning show that what we really need is a revival. Are you praying for that?

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