Thursday, 30 August 2012

Are you 'unashamed' of the 'tricky bits' of Christianity?

This is an issue dear to my heart. Coming into contact with so many Christians, who profess their faith, yet refuse to adhere to all of God's holy, moral law, I feel the need to write about this once more, to accentuate the seriousness of it all...

Most Christians would proudly advertise their faith by saying they're Christians. However, seldom do they gladly, shamelessly discuss the values the Bible holds and advocates. What else, there are some who even hold a distorted doctrinal view - a compromised, contemporary set of rules, far from and contrary to the Word of God. 
These are some of the core things people seem to have a problem with:

  • Eternal Condemnation: While they would happily agree that a mass murderer would end up in hell, they will find the aspect of a 'non-Christian' or even an 'unsaved-Christian' ending up in hell, questionable - albeit the Bible is clear that 'we all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory' and that we all deserve hell, only Jesus' blood can save us; He is the ONLY way to Heaven. Good works amount to NOTHING in eternity, if they were not the RESULT of SALVATION! Their argument is, 'You're out of your mind, God is a God of love, He'll forgive them and let them go. He won't punish them in such a manner.' 
  • Acknowledging Something as 'Sin': The Bible clearly defines what is and is not 'sin' for us, obviously only if we take the time to look. Surprisingly, this is something that many struggle on. Why? Primarily, because the 'world's' definition of what is 'sin', has been transforming ever since secularism and materialism have been on the rise - if we make the rules, obviously we're going to justify our actions, thus, just because something is 'common' or 'allowed' or supported by consensus, it doesn't automatically become right. We don't want to look strange by supporting some archaic views, do we?
  • God HATES Sin: Society often claims we 'hate sinners'...note, I DID NOT say 'God hates sinners', I said, 'God hates sin'...and He does. The Bible reiterates this fact throughout its 66 books, 1189 chapters and 31240 verses, innumerable times. When God hates something He rebukes it and demands it to be changed - obviously, those who wish to control their lives are unhappy about this truth, thus protest...and sadly, some Christians support them or do the same.

'Yes, He is indeed a loving God, but He loves what is good and will not tolerate what is evil. It's not because He is impatient or intolerant in a human sense, but because He is blazing with purity, holiness and righteousness. Evil is simply not compatible with His nature; it is completely foreign to Him...If we truly belong to God, it means we must share in His heart - we much hate what He hates and love what He loves. That means hating sin, hating things that are opposed to God and God's way of living...I wonder if all too easily...we become increasingly comfortable with things God wants us to hate.'

As much as God is a 'God of love', He is also a 'God of justice'. He can't just 'overlook' sinfulness by forgiving. The price HAS to be paid. And just because He loves us, He paid the price, so that we wouldn't have to suffer.
Mark 8:38 - "If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father's glory with the holy angels."
Once saved, not only are we to be proud in Christ, unashamed for Him, but also for His word, teachings and everything He stood for - no matter how strange or odd we look! We need to be '...passionate about the things God loves, and opposed to the things God will not tolerate.' We're called to '...radical, counter cultural, uncomfortable ways of living.' (Quoted from The Good Book Company's 'Exploring Identity' Study)

Are you going to fear a temporary, worldly rejection and shame by forfeiting a greater, eternal honor, not only for you but others around you? I pray that you answer that question with a confident "NO!" Choose wisely!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Secular Music - Good or Bad?

'What you listen to is either who you are, or who you want to be' ~ Mark Halls (Casting Crowns)

The above, is a valid statement!
Recently, with all the musical celebrations in London, from the Jubilee to the Olympics, I have never enjoyed music on such a large, commercial scale. As much fun as it is, it isn't all good news...I feel empty once it's done. The results of these songs are temporary, they leave you craving for more 'cause they never satisfy in the first place.

I know I sound like a 'hater' but please bear with me.
I abandoned secular music two years ago, after I chose to have a serious relationship with the Lord. Trust me, not an easy choice by ANY means! My passion and love for music goes beyond years I can remember - from Classical to Heavy Metal, name it, I'll love it! Sadly, it left me morbid; the aftermath was not as glamorous as the music itself, in fact, it was vile.

Music is the portal that gives you direct access into the artist's heart. Singers and songwriters write songs that obviously mean a lot to them; they express their desires, expose their dreams and share their lives. As music leaves us feeling so empty after, we listen to it over and over again. While it seems almost impossible to memorize a few lines for school, it takes no effort to remember a couple of lines from our favorite song. Why? More than the words impacting us, it's the rhythm. The beats make it easier for our minds to register the data. When we listen to songs, we allow the artist's thoughts to enter, rest and saturate our minds. We are being shaped into them - whether you like it or not, whether you agree with me or not - fact is, our character is shaped by our environment. Sooner or later, you will think like them.

Unfortunately, artists, singers and songwriters are mere humans. Just like us, they're filled with the filth of this world - sexual lust, greed, selfishness, pride, rebelliousness, disobedience and open hatred towards God. Unless they're saved or genuinely searching, their songs are bound to have these themes echoing through them. Do you see the problem?

Don't get me wrong! I'm not hating on secular music. I'm not against it either. I feel that it is enjoyable at times and also helps you understand what others are facing. In addition, there are some secular songs that hold very powerful, humanitarian messages. I encourage listening to such songs once in a while. However, I'm concerned about our generation's exposure to the songs with numerous swear words, unimaginably vivid sexual connotations and imagery; and if that wasn't enough, those that are accompanied by vulgar, pornographic music videos.
Is that what you want to feed your system? Is that what you want to be associated with? Is that what you want to become?
As a Christian, your answer SHOULD be a big, fat, firm "NO!"

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

Your goal, as a Christian, should be to please God by obeying His word - living a life that glorifies Him. How on earth do you expect to obey the above command, if all your mind has been fed with, is more filth than what our flesh naturally consists of? I couldn't cope, hence my drastic decision.

I repeat, secular music itself isn't 'bad', unless it consists of debatable lyrics by artists with questionable lives and lifestyles. We, as imperfect beings, 'learn' from our environment, an 'imperfect' environment or one that is worse than our inner spiritual state, isn't magically going to better us! If the language is repulsive, rude or the images portrayed are sexual - FLEE FROM IT 'cause sooner or later, as I found out, you will fall into the same deep pit of sin.

What next?

Simple! Censor what goes in.
I was filled with glee to discover that every imaginable genre, had numerous Christian artists who praise God with their music. You've got to do a bit of research, find the ones that appeal to your musical buds and make them your 'main playlist' - cut the secularism down bit by bit to filter out the filth trying to enter and adulterate your mind.

Yes, you're going to look a bit strange and miss out on the 'fun', but God didn't call you to be 'of' this world - THERE NEEDS TO BE A TANGIBLE DIFFERENCE. Remember, God paid an immeasurable price to save and give you freedom FROM your sins, NOT to give you freedom TO sin! How much do you value His price? Complacency in one area, will surely cost you dear in your spiritual pursuit where you ought to do everything to fortify your relationship with Christ.

Your music defines you. You are what you listen to. It makes a big difference. 
The choice is your's. Choose wisely.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Do You Read Your Bible?

While speaking to some of my Christian friends, I realized eventually that they do not read their Bible - while some regretfully blame a busy schedule, there are others who don't feel they need to! Although they consider themselves to be Christians, they do not regard the Bible as God's word, as God inspired, as infallible or as inerrant! 

It's just a book written by a bunch of men right?
Men are flawed, thus so are the words and claims it makes.
Those men lived in ancient times, they wrote for their culture, not ours, thus it is irrelevant.

It saddens me that those who belong to the Christian family, hold such views! They have certainly missed the point!

What is the Bible?

The Bible is God's word.

It is His manual to us on how to have a relationship with Him; a manual to find the purpose of our life. The God who loves His creation, who is responsible for our existence and the existence of the world, will surely not leave us - the masterpiece of His design - in ignorance of His purpose, our purpose and laws that'll bring us peace, joy and everything good that we've been striving to acquire as mankind! He wants us to know His plans, He wants us to learn and find what this world is all about, what better way than to leave a tangible 'instruction book' - a divine revelation of the 'basic needed knowledge' that man is incompetent of finding for himself?

It was not written BY men but THROUGH men, BY GOD. Men were merely the 'pens' or 'instruments', if you wish, that God used, to convey and record His word. It's a compilation of 66 different books of various genres - covering a vast spectrum of literature like history, science, poetry and so on. It was written over a period of 1500 years, obviously differing in cultural practices, by over 40 different writers - each from different walks of life, from doctors to tax collectors! To baffle and amaze you further... It was written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, in three different continents!

Although these authors differed in so many ways - they addressed many controversial issues - from sexuality to atheism, yet they provide EXACTLY THE SAME advice, moral values and laws on these - NO CONTRADICTIONS. How harmonious! This is firm evidence of its divine origin and nature - only if the author was the same, could these diverse selection of writers agree on such controversial matters.

It is a book that contains numerous scientific facts and truths, from physics to biology - it has been at the forefront of modern discoveries and advancements, however scientists seldom recognize it or fathom the truth stated. In addition, it is a historically sound and accurate literature with numerous accurately fulfilled, detailed prophecies - the one book that predicted in advance, the rise and fall of specific nations and governments, and reveals the destiny of humankind. 

If that doesn't convince you of its inerrant nature, its infallibility and the fact that it is GOD BREATHED...I don't know what will!

No mere humanly inspired book could have revealed these amazing events. Such prophecies must have been divinely inspired. It is the book that has changed and touched the most lives, yet is the least understood and most misunderstood! A universal best seller, a book owned by more people than any other, yet one that sadly, NO BODY KNOWS!

Why bother reading it?

If the above section failed to convince you to pick up your Bible and read it, let me reiterate its importance!

While many dismiss reading the Bible, on the basis of cultural irrelevance, they fail to realize that the Bible is not about 'culture'. It is a book about OUR LIFE and not an ancient culture! Yes, it contains stories and records of a variety of cultures and societies, however that isn't the basis - each story or account is designed to help us learn about how we can get closer to God, it serves as an analogy for a greater purpose, we seldom grasp. 

There are many who feel God is harsh or unjust, yes I mean Christians! I've been there! Shocking right! This is purely due to the fact that they have not known God or what He is like; they've never really begun to understand God's word. I have learnt that just because you struggle to understand it, it doesn't make it false or irrelevant!

I hear it being read at church every Sunday, why read it again?
The priest or minister has dedicated his life to understanding and teaching it, I cannot know more than him! 

As I mentioned before, the Bible is the most misinterpreted book - it has been misrepresented and twisted - sadly, by those who profess to hold it dear. Instead of teaching and expounding the obvious, simple, intended meaning, we now have throngs of human interpretations, numerous of which are 'compromised' versions of the truth. Instead of acknowledging the truth, men justify their own ways by perverting it. They fear what people say instead of what God's word says. Cutting a long story short, they yield to the fear of man, to guide them, instead of the fear of God.

If you speak to those who have concentrated their lives with God's word, they would honestly tell you about something truly remarkable! EVERY TIME you read a passage, you gain a different understanding - something that no other book offers! The words don't change, but the message they carry is far beyond our competency to fathom; it is filled with enigma! By restricting yourself to Bibles on Sundays, you're only exposing yourself to the preacher's interpretation - what they've understood. Sadly, that is not enough! God wishes to commune with YOU, INDIVIDUALLY! He wishes to speak DIRECTLY to you. 

How will you ever know what He wants to reveal to you through His word, if you don't take the time to pick it up and read it?

Furthermore, there are many misinterpretations lurking around in our society - each possessing a fraction of the 'real thing' but totally manipulated. How do you expect to know if you are being fooled? How will you know if you are really fed the truth, or if you are dedicating your life to something that'll merely assure your peril? Like the Berean Jews, God wants us to 'receive the message with great eagerness and examine the Scriptures everyday to see if what [was being] said was true' (Acts 17:11). We are called to test what we hear; we are called to have a speculative approach to God's word.

How to start?

I know that starting off isn't easy! There is always a confusion as to where to begin reading. For more than five years, I was stuck to Genesis chapters 1-20...I never got past them because I never understood them. I would read it, then realized I understood nothing and would rewind back to 'In the beginning...'

I would suggest starting off from the Gospels, preferably John - they're not only easy to understand but contain the key to life, thus the most important part - the first step in beginning a relationship with God. Once you are comfortable with the New Testament, begin to explore the Old - although tricky, it is still applicable and as important as the New. Most importantly, I would strongly encourage you to start your Bible reading with a short prayer, asking God to guide, lead and speak to you. I was amazed by the difference that made! 

While I completely agree with the King James version being the closest to the original, it can at times confuse a person and even bore some! Thus, I recommend reading the King James alongside a credible modern translation, such as the New International or the English Standard, to help you relate to the text. Also, I personally benefit from having a Bible commentary, to help me dig deeper into scripture, especially while reading those head-scratching Old Testament passages where you lose track of what is happening! Finally, remember to read each verse in relation to the chapter, the book, the whole Bible, the culture and then to your life; this will help you discern well and avoid common misinterpretations.

The Bible will mean more to you if you fully fathom its vital relation to your life and its direct connection to current world events, by viewing its history, teachings and prophecies from the vantage point of your current life.

While most people consider reading the Bible as a dull, irksome and uninteresting task, I challenge you to take the first step - read it out of a real desire to learn more and a love for God. Once you begin, and start to understand the Bible, you will find it the most fascinating, the most interesting, as well as the most profitable and enjoyable study of your life! Come on, let's get cracking into God's word! You don't want to miss out do you?