|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on February 15, 2011 at 8:20 AM||comments (0)|
Do you know those little toys that pre-school children have, often cube in shape, that have several holes in them, all different shapes. There will be a round hole, a square one, a triangular one and perhaps one shaped like a star or something. The toy also includes several blocks of corresponding shapes and teaches young children through play how to sort shapes and fit them into their respective holes.
What many people give no thought to, however, is that perhaps we are pretty similar to these toys in that there is a hole in us that needs filling for us to feel completely satisfied in life. The hole is not a physical thing, though; it cannot simply be filled with things we put into our body. It is a God-shaped hole because we need our own Father, Creator and Saviour to make our lives complete. We have been made in God's likeness (Genesis 1:26) and Jesus has bridged the gap between mankind and God by his death and resurrection so we naturally have a bond with God.
It's tragic therefore that we cannot feel whole all the while we are ignorant of how to fill the hole! Many people, perhaps most - if not all! - have at some point felt a bit empty and in need of that special something to make us feel full. British culture at the moment seems to be obsessed by this hole and is encouraging us all to fill it however we like. Young people in particular who are still trying to find their way in life, are encouraged to use whatever hedonistic practises they most enjoy to feel satisfied. Common hole-fillers are sex (and lots of it!), booze (and lots of it!) and money (and lots of it!). These are all physical things and none of them is intrinsically wrong - it's just that we are misusing these things to find instant gratification, sometimes even regardless of consequences.
The cheapening of sex, the over-consumption of alcohol and the lust for money is drawing our attention away from that which can truly satisfy, and not just for a Friday evening, but for ever.
Jesus, our only connection to our loving Father and Creator, once said "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the waterI give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life". (John 4:13)
Don't pass up the opportunity to accept Jesus' offer of "living water" - belief in him is enough to fill that hole which we all have.
|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on November 13, 2010 at 9:19 AM||comments (0)|
No, this blog entry is not a bizarre take on the Nativity! "Dog in the manger" is instead referring to a fable most commonly attributed to the Ancient Greek thinker, Aesop (as is the fable of the Sun and the Wind; see below!) Basically it's a short story about how a dog decides to sit in a manger full of hay which prevents the horses from eating it, and yet the dog does not eat it either.
I can't help but think of some militant atheists as being like that dog. We all have the right to personal opinions and the freedom to express them but I find it insanely detrimental for staunch advocates of a Godless world to insist that Christians would be happier and better off if they were to reject God.
Christians believe that God wants to have a deep and loving personal relationship with each and every single person on this planet, so much so that he sacrificed his very own Son to die on behalf of us sinners. No one can earn their way to heaven and perfection; we depend entirely on God's mercy and true generosity. Life is a gift.
To use a different example, imagine two little brothers, perhaps four or five years old, who are each given a very exciting new toy by their loving father. One adores his gift and takes great pleasure in playing with his new toy. He is happy with it and his face lights up as he engrosses himself in it. The other boy, however, rejects the gift, even though he could really enjoy it. Imagining this, we may be saddened by the fact that the latter boy has thrown aside his father's gift. Or perhaps we are just sad that the boy doesn't like it and isn't able to enjoy it like the other one. Either way, ultimately it's the boy's decision not to play with his new toy and we accept it as such.
Imagine though, if the story did not end there. While the first boy is playing happily with his wonderful new toy, the other boy is not content to have simply thrown his away in disgust. He despises seeing his brother playing with his toy and in a fit of annoyance tears the new toy out of his brother's hand and throws it out also, declaring "you can be happy without it, like I am". Imagine that child's reaction. He'd cry, scream, and shout at his brother. It was not his brother's prerogative to throw the toy away. He threw his own out, but he didn't need to prevent his brother from enjoying his own.
There are times when we all express our views and explain our reasoning to other people in the hope that they will see our way of thinking and acknowledge them, and perhaps even adopt them themselves. But trying to take away the most wonderful gift a person could ever receive - the promise of salvation and life after death - which is offered to everyone, is not beneficial to anyone. Atheists cannot claim that we would be happier as humans, or that the world would fall into order if we were to start by doing away with Christianity. One can't take away someone's hope, joy and reason for being and replace it with a void, saying that they have done them a favour. People who have a personal relationship with their loving Father God do not want to be torn apart from Him in the interests of satisfying someone who doesn't want a relationship with God themselves.
|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on March 19, 2010 at 10:51 AM||comments (0)|
It's almost that time of year again! Its date may change from year to year but every spring we celebrate a new lease of life with chocolate eggs and treasure hunts and we call this festival Easter.
It doesn't tend to rank up there with Christmas on the most-exciting festival list because, and let's face it, we see Christmas stuff going on sale in September these days, and while it can be alarming to see us spending almost half a year working up to one day in December, when the 25th comes, most of us have a great time. So no, Easter doesn't get that hype even though eggs are often on sale well before Lent, but to a Christian, Easter is the most important festival. Why? Because while Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, Easter celebrates his resurrection shortly after his death.
The main reason we have eggs at Easter is because they symbolise new life, which is what Jesus himself achieved and has similarly promised for anyone who accepts him as their saviour.
Saviour from what?! "I don't need a saviour!" you may think, but wait a second. Are you perfect? Are you completely blameless? Or have you done things of which you're ashamed and would die of embarrassment if people could see into the depths of your mind? Don't worry - we're all the same! Human society in this world is far from perfect because it's inhabited by corrupted people, but despite our shortcomings, God wanted to repair the relationship we have with Him so that we could still know Him intimately despite the massive gulf that has a perfect, flawless God on one side and little insignificant us on the other. How do you bridge a gap like that? The answer is for God to become human, share our suffering and even to die for us!
So over two thousand years ago God came to live as a human amongst His people in the name of Jesus, and we celebrate this truly amazing move with the festival of Christmas. Thirty three years after Jesus was born, following years of his ministry he was totally despised by the Pharisees, betrayed by a disciple called Judas, and handed over to the Romans for one of the most horrific executions going, crucifixion. Well before all this happened though, Jesus had predicted all these things would come to be, and even the Old Testament scripture had pointed to it. But Jesus also proclaimed his return, saying that on the third day after being killed he would come back to life and show his mastery over death because while he was totally human, he was also completely divine (and death is no obstacle to God!)
With Jesus alive again, he had paid the ultimate sacrifice for all our flaws and imperfections (called sins) and had bridged the gap between us and God. Through Jesus and his immense sacrifice, we can truly know God. Anyone at all, regardless of everything, who believes that Jesus was God in human form, destroyed their sins with his death, and then returned to life, is similarly promised life after death. Now that's why we have every reason to celebrate Easter!
This Easter as you think of the Easter bunny, chocolate eggs and TV specials, remember also why we celebrate Easter in the first place, and how it shouldn't just mean something to Christians, but is meant for all people, you included. It doesn't matter who you are, how you were brought up, what language you speak, your race, your past, or anything at all - God loves you enough to send Himself to Hell and back to save your soul, and is offering you the gift of an everlasting and perfect life after this one. It's not too good to be true, but like any free gift, it can be ignored or rejected. While you still have air in your lungs and blood being pumped through your heart, seriously consider the implications of accepting Jesus Christ's invaluable sacrifice made just for you.
|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on February 27, 2010 at 1:58 PM||comments (0)|
Even non-Christians tend to be aware of the Ten Commandments (also known as the Decalogue), which can be found in the Old Testament book of Exodus, chapter 20.
Perhaps you are familiar with the sayings "Thou shalt not kill" or "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour". For some reason the Ten Commandments always seem to get quoted in the 17th Century English of the King James Version (KJV). Christians perhaps quote them in this way since such words seem to hold more authority than modern idioms (e.g. "Thou shalt not kill" sounds a lot more assertive than "Don't kill").
Antitheists also like to quote the Bible (though not just the Ten Commandments) in the KJV English as it helps to boost the image that the Bible is old fashioned and out of date. As I have mentioned on my page on the Bible, whilst language and relevant examples have changed over hundreds of years, the basic principles are timeless (e.g. being told not to covet your neighbour's ox is not really applicable to most people today, but "car" didn't mean anything to them when the OT was written!)
Besides the issue of what version the Ten Commandments are quoted in, I feel that sometimes they are rejected, along with the rest of the Christian faith, for being negative. Being given a list of no-nos is the act of a killjoy or spoil sport, surely? Well I must say I see their point, but then I think that if the moral instructions of the Bible, in particular the Ten Commandments, were quoted in a different, more positive, way, then perhaps people would find them harder to criticise. Let me show you what I mean.
Below are the Ten Commandments. I will quote them in four ways each. The first is the KJV which is probably the one you've heard before! Below that will be the New International Version (NIV). I like this translation as it both keeps to the original languages of the Bible well, but also speaks in easy-to-understand modern English. Below that is The Message version. I love this translation of the Bible and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading the Bible for themselves, especially if they've never done so before, as it really speaks volumes without being too challenging to understand. Finally I will put my own spin on the Ten Commandments, showing how they can be seen in a more positive light and perhaps sound more encouraging, yet lose none of their meaning.
> KJV - "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
> NIV - "You shall have no other gods before me."
> Message - "No other gods, only me."
> My positive spin - "Put God first."
> KJV - "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them..."
> NIV - "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them..."
> Message - "No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatsoever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them..."
> My positive spin - "There's something far more spiritually satisfying than any created idol - God will satisfy your needs entirely while idols can't help you at all."
> KJV - "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain."
> NIV - "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God."
> Message - "No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter."
> My positive spin - "How would you like it if your name was a swear word? Try to show God some respect by using his name appropriately."
> KJV - "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."
> NIV - "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."
> Message - "Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."
> My positive spin - "Have a day off on Sunday in honour of God."
> KJV - "Honour thy father and thy mother..."
> NIV - "Honour your father and mother..."
> Message - "Honour your father and mother..."
> My positive spin - "Show respect to your parents."
> KJV - "Thou shalt not kill."
> NIV - "You shall not murder."
> Message - "No muder."
> My positive spin - "Preserve life."
> KJV - "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
> NIV - "You shall not commit adultery."
> Message - "No adultery."
> My positive spin - "Be faithful to your spouse."
> KJV - "Thou shalt not steal."
> NIV - "You shall not steal."
> Message - "No stealing."
> My positive spin - "Respect other's possessions."
> KJV - "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."
> NIV - "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour."
> Message - "No lies about your neighbour."
> My positive spin - "Be honest about other people - lies can lead to destructive gossip."
> 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 anything that is thy neighbour's."
> NIV - "You shall not covet your neighbour's house. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour."
> Message - "No lusting after your neighbour's house - or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbour's."
> My positive spin - "Be content with what you've got because you'll never feel satisfied if you are forever trying to keep up with the Joneses."
|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on November 19, 2009 at 12:42 PM||comments (0)|
I don't know if you are familiar with Aesop? He was a Greek who invented a lot of clever little stories to illustrate real-life situations in an abstract way. One of is fables was about the sun and the wind. The sun and the wind were always in competition with one another and were determined to prove themselves more powerful than the other. One day a man was walking along below them and the wind said to the sun "I bet I can get that man's coat off!" "Go on then," challenged the sun "and if you fail, I'll have a go!" The wind tried his hardest to blow the coat off the man but he just pulled it tighter around himself. Eventually the wind admitted defeat and the sun had a go. The sun shone brightly and allowed his heat to warm the man. The man got so hot that he just had to take off his coat. Who won that challenge then, the one who was cold and forceful or the one who was warm and persuasive?
So what's my point? Well have you ever been minding your own business in town and heard someone talking to the public in general? You go nearer to hear what they're saying and all you can hear are phrases like "repent or perish", "doomed to hell" and "you sinners". I can't speak for you but people like that make me feel distinctly uncomfortable and irritated and I just want to get away from them and continue what I was doing before I had the misfortune to hear them. Who are they to tell me to sort my life out? They don't even know who I am! The problem I have with these people is not their intentions as I am sure that they are (almost always) good. No, the problem I have is the message that they are conveying and the way it is being said. It just reminds me so strongly of the wind in Aesop's fable. Their way of "attracting" people to the gospel is by bullying strangers. Perhaps it works every so often but I'm sure it's more counter-productive than effective.
What upsets me the most about this approach to sharing the gospel is that it does not match that of Jesus' way of communicating with the public. Far from making people feel awkward and driving people away from him whenever he opened his mouth to speak, people flocked from all over to hear what Jesus had to say. He got surrounded by strangers to such an extent that he often had to get out of their reach just to preach to them! Now who can say they've seen and heard someone like that in town?!
Yet Jesus had the same intentions and the same message to share as those awkward people we meet in town these days. What's the difference then? The delivery of the message!
Jesus had a message of love, hope, joy, forgiveness and grace. He told it like it is and his gospel (i.e. "good news") spread like wildfire. People of all times and cultures love good news and Jesus' purpose on earth was to share it. He went out of his way to be with people who were considered dirty by the rest of society and even ate in their houses! He spoke with prince or pauper and loved them all the same. Often he described heaven in terms of parties or feasts and was well acquainted with the party lifestyle himself, and was very much the most sociable member of his group... Isn't this just an illustration of his love of people, his love of God and his love of life? He was love personified! "I have come that you may have life and have it in all its fullness!" he proclaims in John 10:10.
Why then do we still have people proclaiming doom and gloom to a bunch of people who are perhaps hurting enough inside as it is? Shouldn't we be looking out for one another and showing love like Jesus? "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," said Jesus in John 8:7 as an angry mob got ready to stone a terrified prostitute. The only one there who had an entirely clean conscience and therefore the right to stone her, Jesus himself, did no such thing. Now that's an example to live by.
|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on October 19, 2009 at 3:53 PM||comments (0)|
...They both think that the middle ground is best! Have you seen the advert for Clover declaring that it is half the saturated fat of butter and reasoning that half fat is better than full fat or no fat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle had a similar belief, saying that you are most virtuous if you act halfway between too extremes, for example, don't be cowardly, but don't be over confident either.
I too like to have a "middle is best" approach to most things in life, and this extends to my faith. My interpretation of the Bible is somewhere between the hard-line fundamentalism which takes the Bible extremely literally, blowing things out of their cultural time and context, and just regarding it as a good book which people thought summed up God. I believe something somewhere in the middle, and I go into more depth on this topic on my page on the Bible.
I also have the mid-line philosophy for my faith in general. I can't be someone who has no time for God, otherwise I can't really call myself a Christian, but at the same time I don't want to be so extreme as to turn every single conversation I have into a religious debate. Being in the middle ground has its pros and its cons - I feel like I can interact with people on both sides of me with ease, but sometimes I just feel like I'm stuck in no-man's land between extremists on either side!
|Posted by whybelieveinjesus on October 9, 2009 at 12:06 PM||comments (0)|
I'm trying to find employment at the moment and part of that process involves attending group sessions designed to help you find work. At one of these sessions I was told of the different ways companies employ people. Some, I was told, have a recommendations policy meaning they find new staff through the people who already work there. So if a member of staff has a friend or family member who would also like to work there, they can get in through the back door so to speak.
I feel at a distinct disadvantage because of this as I am not related to anyone who can get me a job where they work. But it is one example showing the truth of "It's not what you know; it's who you know".
Being a Christian is much the same, although that doesn't mean that you have to know Christians to be one yourself. No, there's only one person you have to know to be a Christian, and he wants you to know him: Jesus Christ. It really is that simple. Anyone who believes that Jesus was a real person, but is also God's Son is saved. This is the Good News and there are no catches. You don't have to achieve anything before you accept Jesus' offer of eternal life, nor do you have to be of a certain background. No, God loves us all equally and sent His own Son to be our friend and Saviour. He loves you already, and would be overjoyed if his love was returned. The entire message of Jesus is based solely on love - love for God and love for one another - even love for ourselves!
It is therefore very sad when other things cloud this simple message, or distort it entirely so that the importance of love is ignored. Christians and non-Christians alike sometimes feel that this simple message is either too easy, too good to be true, or just plain unfair. Shouldn't we be rewarded because of our efforts, not because we know someone who'll get us out of trouble? Well, truth be told our efforts will never be good enough, not even by human standards, and therefore no way near God's standards. Yet He still loves us, despite our obvious failings. Trying to earn your forgiveness or way into heaven makes for a very competitive culture where some will be forever trying to be perfect (and failing) and others will wonder what's the point of bothering in the first place. So the only way we can get right with God is to accept that we're not perfect and admit that we will need his saving grace. And grace is something God is willing to deal out abundantly.
So why then do people like to add to the message, trying to say that you have to be or do a, b or c before you stand a chance of going to heaven? Don't overcomplicate a simple message, especially an important one! I feel Jesus best expresses his purpose in John's gospel, chapter 3 verse 16:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (New International Version)