The Antithesis of The Centrality of War And Violence In Culture

I had to bite my tongue in class when the topic of war came up.

I find that my views on war and violence are often quite controversial. I suspect that it is because they are controversial, that people are not always willing to hear them. Furthermore, people seem to not like opinions which span more than one sentence. They like black and white views on life–I am a Democrat, I am a Calvinist, I am a Cessationalist, I am a capitalist etc. More often than not, people don’t have the patience or time to hear a full exposition of how my view of war has been formed and evolved through time to arrive at what I believe in this. With this in mind, I think with any opinion there is a time to voice them, and there is a time to be silent. I also think there are clear opinions on war, that are reflected in our society.

It is unfortunate, because I would argue that the evolution in the history of someone’s thought is immeasurably more interesting than the final opinion that one finally arrives at. John Piper in Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian talks about how his initial views on race were shaped and influenced by growing up in a conservative culture in the South. As he grew up, he began to realize and change how he saw the world in a profound manner.

The Status Quo   Read more of this post

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How Great Are Your Convictions?

This post is a conversation from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals. He is here talking to his grandmother, a Jewish survivor from the Second World War:

“I became sicker and sicker from not eating, and I’m not just talking about being skin and bones. I had sores all over my body…I ate things i wouldn’t tell you about…The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn’t know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.

“He saved your life.”

“I didn’t eat it.”

“You didn’t eat it?”

“It was pork. I wouldn’t eat pork.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean why?”

“What because it wasn’t kosher?”

“Of course.”

“But not even to save your life?”

“If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”

I read this quote in the school magazine as part of an argument for veganism, but I don’t think that that the grandma had that in mind at all. The quote is more directed at religious conviction–for her it was the Mosaic law. I am continually mystified by this Christian faith of which I consider myself a part, that would give up so much for God. Surely, we must truly believe in God to fulfill how much Jesus demands of us.

What convictions do you have, and how far would you go to save it?

Harold Camping Glorifies God

Harold Camping glorifies God.

I promised to myself that I would not mention him anymore, but he does glorify God in his foolishness. In fact, it is impossible for him to not glorify God because all things– they are servant of God’s. It is impossible for us to not glorify God.“By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.” (Psalms 119v.91) We are all servants, whether we are turned towards God or away from him he continues to use us. I am beginning to realise how false the attitude is that thinks that if you do not believe in God, then, you are apart from God and away from his control, but you still are.

In light of this, I am reminded to think about how little I really am–how futile it is to disobey God, how little faith I have that I am not doing what God has chosen me to do. Jonah felt the same way, he ran away from God. And still, even in his disobedience, he glorified God.

He was called by God to go and preach to the inhabitants of Nineveh. “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah 1:3 (English Standard Version)

Even still while he was sleeping on the boat to run away from God, God brought a tempest.

He was glorifying God by sleeping.

His crew woke him up and they pleaded with him, to pray to his god. This was a ecumenical crew that resided on this boat–so much so that whoever would calm the storm, they were willing to listen to. Admittedly, because of the current situation at the present time, the storm was the focus of their attention, not any divine beings. All gathered on the top deck, they were all praying to their various gods filled with fear at this storm that threathened to capsize the boat at any moment.

Still God was glorified: he was sustaining the boat till Jonah came, and none of the other gods would listen.

Surely, Jonah was then tossed into the sea because it was apparent it was his disobedience that was causing the storm. After the casting of the lots, the blame fell on Jonah, and he was the one that was guilty of running away from the One True God. He was tossed into the sea, this was even after they had tried every way to get out of this predicament.

God was glorified, there was no other way but only one who was called by God to sacrifice his life for many. However disobedient he was in running away from God, He was not far from God who is in everything. On that ship, Jonah became sin for everyone on the ship in recognising his sin, and the necessity of putting His trust in God. Only when someone is born again can they seek to give their own life for many—even for these who worshipped their own gods—Jonah was the catalyst for repentance on that ship.

“So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.”Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.” Jonah 1:15-16 (English Standard Version)

God was glorified, in the spreading of the Gospel on that boat. No other way could the realness of God have come onto these men without the immediacy of the material calming of the storm. They were convinced this was the one true God, and this man they had tossed into the sea, He was a servant of this Most High God. Only through the sacrifice of Jonah could they have had knowledge of the One True God who made the sea and dry land. The God who created the storm and the peace afterwards–He was the reason for the storm, and also the calming of the storm.

Surely, Harold Camping glorifies God in his eternal plan in showing the folly of man without Scripture. Moreover, God is glorified in the many ways I fall short, and the times that I forget to shine the Light. I pray daily that He would continue to grant me the Holy Spirit that I may be an instrument of his grace more effectively. 

Seeing People Saved

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Romans 10:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Here in the writings of Paul to the Roman church addresses a heartfelt love for the unsaved—the “they” that he is referring to is the people who have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. The context of the passage reveals that he is in fact referring to the Jewish people who had resorted to Pharisee-ism in an attempt to earn their own salvation.

The context to the passage also reveals that Paul was praying for these people that he was preaching against. In the previous chapter he says of Israel, “who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.” Romans 9:31a (English Standard Version) In the height of all his arguments against the Jewish legalism, he also was quick to point out how much desire he possesses within his heart toward them, and the desire that they might be saved.

Furthermore, it is not merely a sentiment towards the unbelieving Jewish, but a desire that he would see the whole world under God. This pattern of redemption occurs again in 11:11–12, 15 — we can see that this is a prayer not only directed at Jewish unbelieved, but of all peoples, in this mirroring God’s own desires that all may be saved, and none would be cast into hell.

In this passage he is not arguing here for a superficial saving—but a full salvation with justification, sanctification, and glorification. The word used for saved is soteria, translated literally means to save both physically from the fires of hell, but also in a moral sense. He is arguing more than a sinner’s prayer to save these, but a complete life change to bring them back. More than church attendance weekly to appease the human conscience, but a daily surrendering of everything to God, that He would increase and we would decrease.

Moreover, he does not merely desire, but he is praying to God—of whom He is the master of all souls. The commitment of the desires of his heart translates specifically into prayer to God. I wonder how often that we would take things into our own hands, instead of giving it up to God. There are few people who would give up their whole lives to save the world, but even fewer like Paul would give up their lives to God.

I am reminded of the hymn, “Rock of Ages” that we sang in church the other day that has stuck in my mind for quite a few days. This particular stanza was the one that stands out to me:

““Not the labour of my hands/

can fulfil Thy law’s demands;

could my zeal no respite know,

could my tears forever flow,

all for sin could not atone;

thou must save, and Thou alone.”

(Toplady, Augustus. Rock of Ages.)

There is a wonderful helplessness that is translated through to the lyrics of this song. The story for the inspiration is interesting too, where he was travelling along a cliff-face when a storm quickly approached and starting pouring down. Upon finding shelter in a gap in the gorge—the rock that was protecting him gave the inspiration and he scribbled down lyrics on a playing card.

Therefore, when Paul says that the Israelite has a zeal for God, what he is saying here is no mere compliment, but a whole-hearted yearning for souls. Matthew Henry states that: “The unbelieving Jews were the bitterest enemies Paul had in the world, and yet Paul gives them as good a character as the truth would bear. We should say the best we can even of our worst enemies; this is blessing those that curse us.”

I am continually reminded and convicted of how we should approach those who disagree with us—it is an important dialectic between voicing out our disagreements, but also love. I find in Christianity today, there are commonly only 2 positions: one that does not mention sin, and one that emphasizes only sin. We have the Westboro and the Crystal Cathedral–both of which are disastrous to the Gospel because they cannot injure nor mend. They have not the Gospel within them, only a personalised Jesus who cannot save.

Paul points out that the sin of the unbelieving Jews was that their zeal was not according to knowledge. God gave them the Law and they hung so tightly to it without understanding—so much so that when the Messiah came onto this earth, they did not recognise him. When he came to fulfil the very Laws that they were following, they did not know him, and even disowned him.

 Where does the line between what we preach against, and what we remain silent over and pray occur? How honest are we in our dealings with those that disagree? Do we desire that they be saved for merely another debate to occur?

Erasing Hell: Thoughts on Francis Chan and his new book

Francis Chan’s new book Erasing Hell will be coming out July 5th.

That isn’t important though, the more important thing is that this post is better than the JesusneedsnewPR blog. Teehee, I’ll delete that sentence later, but anyway–I can’t say I’m a fanatical fan of Francis Chan, I’m excited with what he says and what an influence he has on other people. Ask any youth group who their favourite preacher is and it most likely will be either Rob Bell or Francis Chan. I much prefer the latter by a long shot, and indeed, Francis Chan has, since the release of “Crazy Love”, exploded in popularity. I’m currently listening to Crazy Love through audiobook, and I’m about halfway through it and I can see why. There is a certain humility in his work, that is relevant and relatable to the audience to whom he is addressing. This is further amplified listening to him speak, he speaks with utmost conviction, which comes across, you’ll see in the video below. Reading that he has given all royalties from Crazy Love to a ministry to children trapped in sex trafficking — his ambition and convictions are ever clearer.

There is another side to Francis Chan that makes me uncomfortable though. I’ve read Forgotten God before–actually I’ve read it a couple of times because I was blessed by it a lot the first time. It undeniably has had a great influence on my Christian walk actually. Yet for all its importance and relevance, what is distressing to me so is how little was dedicated to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I’m not doubting he knows his material about the Holy Spirit, but he jumps quickly to the application of the Scripture without addressing the subject where he drew it from. Without creating that Scriptural foundation, his applications seem bare and according to his own agenda. Why yes, in case you were wondering, I do have complaints about every single author out there! Naw, I truly do like Francis Chan, he’s a great guy. I truly hope you get to the time to watch the video and purchase his new book though — you won’t regret it.

Nevertheless, I always look forward with anticipation to any new project of his. This one seems in a direct reaction to he-who-shall-not-be-mentioned. There is a simple honesty and down-to earth attitude that pervades everything that he says, and I admire that in him above all else that he does. Apparently in the youtube comments, his honesty and fervour is taken as over-acting and false, but I would argue otherwise. I see his willingness to engage and provoke thought in people is wonderful.

There is a moment in the video where he muses the relationship between God and men described by Paul as the relationship between a clay and a potter. He laments how he is a piece of clay, and it is expected of him to teach other pieces of clay about the Potter, and what he is like. At about 1 minutes in, his genuine nature comes through especially in this scene. I wonder what depth that statement truly means in our own lives–perhaps with greater humility we do need to approach things.

There was an interview I read where Francis Chan was asked about the emergent church, a potential hot potato that no one wants to own up to or reject often. This is what he said: “As a pastor I hear a lot of emergent leaders talk about what is wrong with the church. It comes across as someone who doesn’t love the church. I’m a pastor first and foremost, and I’m trying to offer a solution or a model of what church should look like. I’m going back to scripture and seeing what the church was in its simplest form and trying to recreate that in my own church. I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.”

What do you think about Francis Chan, which books of his have you read? Would you be purchasing Erasing Hell? Does he have a lesser emphasis on doctrine and understanding, and greater emphasis on the application of bible verses? Do you see this in his writing, and how does it compare to other authors who have written on similar topics like “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper or even, “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne?

The Purity in Silence

Why do we fear silence so much? 

As part of my university studies, I have to do readings, a lot of them I might add. I mean, I read a lot for recreation: Dickens, Hardy, Wilde, and Wharton are among my favourites — but to be forced to read a book on architectural theory is somewhat dull to me. There is this one book I am reading though, from a French author called Henri Bosco that gave me the idea for this weblog.

“There is nothing like silence to suggest a sense of unlimited space. Sounds lend color to space, and confer a sort of sound body upon it. But absence of sound leaves it quite pure and, in the silence, we are seized with the sensation of something vast and deep and boundless. It took complete hold of me and, for several moments, I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of this shadowy peace.” — Henri Bosco in “Malicroix”

One thing that really mystifies me is in church service that I have sat through, people always have to fill the Holy Communion with the noise of some sort. Whether it be the voice of a soloist, or the gentle strumming of a guitar. There is this almost fear of silence in the church service that might cause the rapture to occur or something like that. Yet, I think that Bosco has something insightful in what he expounds on about silence. There is something unlimited and so solitary within silence that takes and surrounds us.

Where the world defiles us with noise whether visually or aurally — daily we are struck with images which we cannot forget, news of earthquakes and the cries of despair, forest fires and the crackling sound of the American Dream. Being barraged with such noise, often leaves us indifferent in our lives. I don’t know, I for one, am absolutely sick of all the earthquake news of the past month. FFH in their song, “Listen” (parts of which I don’t totally agree with) puts it poignantly:

“Voices are everywhere, and they’re screaming at us: use me, buy me, believe me. We’ve got voices all over our culture: chat rooms, commercials, billboards, and bumper stickers, and they all want our immediate attention.”

The song goes on to expound on the personal nature of our relationship with God, compared to the disconnection of ourselves through media. But, anyway, there is so much we can do personally, but so little that would not become part of the “noise” of life. There is a fine fine line between being a voice in the thousands and the audience of one. Within this world, there is only so much we can accomplish without listening to the one voice which matters: God’s voice; After all, whatever we put our hands to is insufficient if it is not according to what God has willed us to do. It seems that silence often takes the backseat over reactions with the best intentions. in Exodus 14:14 it says the following:

“The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

The context being the Israelite nation had just left Egypt, and the Egyptians are suddenly chasing after them. They had just crossed the Red Sea, and they see the Egyptian army coming up close behind them, fear began to inset upon them. But what Moses tells the Israelite nation to be, is silent. There was no call to arms, to shed blood – but God would fight for their nation.

So often today I am like the Israelites – with the best intentions but without silence I don’t understand how small the situation is to God. I pray continually that my eyes would be open to the angels protecting and controlling every situation as in 2 Kings with Elisha and his servant. I pray that I would not become the noise, but I would be silent, so people may see the true expanse of an omnipotent God. I hope to be overwhelmed by the grandeur of this shadowy peace, that I would not forget my own futility and the power of Christ.

“Loneliness and solitude are not two things to be confused, because I spend my solitude with You” – Relient K

Remembering the Anointed One

Since it’s getting to Christmas almost, I thought I should start writing some Christmas themed posts.

“But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Mark 14:6 (English Standard Version)

Christmas is the remembrance of the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. The name, Christmas, being derived from the Christ, a name of Jesus meaning “the anointed one”.

In the Old Testament, anointing was important for many leaders of Israel. David was found by Samuel and immediately anointed, Solomon was anointed by the priest Zadok in his inauguration before whole nation of Israel. “The specific practice of anointing by pouring oil on the head was used as asymbolic act for officially, designating and setting apart a person for a certain, public,leadership function in the community.” (source) All throughout the Old Testament, there were only three groups of people that were anointed: priests, prophets and kings. The Old Testament dictates that anointing someone involves pouring oil over the head of the one concerned, perhaps not unintentionally similar to the act of cleansing. The aim of anointing giving to the one anointed power, strength, or majesty.

In Christmas, we are remembering someone who was anointed by God, his holy oil poured on his head. But mankind only put a crown of thorns on his head, and killed him on a cross. Only once was Jesus anointed on earth, by a poor woman in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus was eating at the house of a leper, his name was Simon. The unnamed woman opened an alabaster flask pouring it over her head. She was no Levite, her anointing meant nothing, at his feet and she wiped them with her tears.

She was one who had sinned all her life, but she came with a great gift, and put it on his feet. To put the bottle of alabaster in context, a denarii was the pay for a day’s wages to a Roman soldier and the bottle was worth 300 denariis. The disciples naturally were vicious towards her, asking why she didn’t sell the bottle and give the money to the poor. But Jesus defends her, that he would not be with them always, but the poor shall be.

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:8-9 (English Standard Version)

This event occurs close to the end of his life, he knew that the end was coming where Judas betray him and hand him over to the authorities. Everything he said was a reference to his coming death, he states that she will be told in memory of him. His humility and shame in dying on the cross, is mirrored clearly her through the undying devotion, and total sacrifice of her heart to Jesus.

And through this birth of Jesus Christ, no longer was anointing for only those who were of the tribe of Levi, or kings of Israel even only those prophets which preached God’s Word. But now, even to the poorest of women and the tax collectors, they could be anointed and even that be received as children of God. Jesus was born so we could be anointed, and be cleansed and restored to our original state. “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us” (2 Corinthians 1v.21)

*note some other gospels give a different account especially john which gives the woman the name, Mary, who is presumably sister of Lazarus. there is a bit of debate among scholars whether the accounts are related and if the two stories refer to the same event.