Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Christianity vs. Islam Part 2

"Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus"  Please watch...

From John Piper...

The burning of the Qur’an and the murder of human beings are not morally equivalent. That’s true. And it is, frankly, outrageous the way some commentators speak with more moral indignation about the burning of holy books than the butchery of human bodies. In the western media this seems to me to be sheer fear.

But, of course, my conviction stems from a certain view of the world that is not shared by Muslims.

Andrew Walls, founder of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, and retired professor at Edinburgh University, gives us an insight that may carry more explanatory power than even Muslim rage realizes.

Mark Noll says, “No one has written with greater wisdom about what it means for the Western Christian religion to become the global Christian religion than Andrew Walls.”

Walls draws our attention to the fact that one of the differences between Islam and Christianity is how translatable Christianity is by its incarnational nature, and how resistant Islam is to translation:

Christian faith must go on being translated, must continuously enter into vernacular culture and interact with it, or it withers and fades.

Islamic absolutes are fixed in a particular language, and in the conditions of a particular period of human history. The divine Word is the Qur’an, fixed in heaven forever in Arabic, the language of original revelation.

For Christians, however, the divine Word is translatable, infinitely translatable. The very words of Christ himself were transmitted in translated form in the earliest documents we have, a fact surely inseparable from the conviction that in Christ, God’s own self was translated into human form.

Much misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims has arisen from the assumption that the Qur’an is for Muslims what the Bible is for Christians.

It would be truer to say that the Qur’an is for Muslims what Christ is for Christians.
(The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, 29)

Did you catch that last line?

The parallel between Christianity and Islam is not that Christ parallels Mohammed and the Qur’an parallels the Bible. The parallel is that the Qur’an parallels Christ. The giving of the Qur’an is in Islam what the incarnation of Christ is to Christianity.

If this is so, then Qur’an-burning is parallel to Christ-crucifying.

But ponder the implications of this. On the one hand you might say this goes a long way to explaining Muslim rage. Yes. But more importantly it goes even farther to show the deep differences between the two religions.

In the process of being crucified, Jesus rebuked the use of the sword (Matthew 26:52) healed his enemy’s amputated ear (Luke 22:51), prayed for the forgiveness of his murderers (Luke 23:34), and sent his followers out to love their enemies and do good to those who hate them (Luke 6:27).

So the Qur’an has been burned and the Christ has been crucified—and continues to be crucified.

The test is in the response.



32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. - Hebrews 10 (NIV)

Islam does not hve a philosophically consistent explanation of how a perfectly holy God can forgive sins. Only the cross provides that answer.


Women and Islam:

"[Muslim theology is] a theology of the majority ... [it] offers no systematic formulation of the status of being a minority" — Zaki Badawi

One must divert from Jesus to justify violence in Christianity. One must divert from Muhammad to argue that Islam is peaceful.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You are God's Beloved

Written by Mike Donehey:

The disciples must have thought Jesus was crazy. Seriously. I can only imagine their faces. So confused, so perplexed, uncomfortably glancing back and forth between each other, wondering if they had misheard, wondering if someone could help them understand. Meanwhile, you got Jesus, unnerved, unfazed, just sitting there cooly, looking them dead in the eyes, asking them to marry Him. Yes, you heard me right…marry Him. With nothing more than a cup of wine, no less, the Lamb of God was proposing. So you can imagine their confusion right? “Wait. What? Come again? Jesus, you feeling alright brutha? I mean, I don’t think that I’m exactly what you’re looking for! You want to think about what you’re saying for a minute?”

Of course, we don’t see it that way, because we’re not Jewish. But they were, and they did. See it that way, I mean. “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” We hear these words and we think Communion, Eucharist, Last Supper. The disciples heard this and they’re thinking wedding bells.

Apparently, “In those days,” when a Hebrew man decided to take for Himself a Hebrew woman, he’d go to his father and say, “Her, Dad. I want to make little rabbis with her.” So then the dad would go to her dad and they’d talk camels, or sheep, or whatever the payment was going to be, and after they’d settled on a figure, the groom would call in all his friends and family, set a table in the middle of a room, set the aforementioned girl down in front of said table, break out a cup, fill it with wine, and set it in front of her saying, “This is my covenant with you, take and drink it.” And if she did, that was her answer. With a simple gulp and swig, she was saying, “I do,” and that was it. No rings, no fancy songs or dinners, just a cup and an invitation. And oh yeah, all their relatives sitting in the room watching. I mean, talk about pressure. But yeah, that was it. Her lips to the glass was the same as saying, “I accept your life, and I give you mine in return.”

Now, If the girl said yes, “in those days,” she would then go immediately back to her home, where she would be known as, “one who was bought with a price.” It’s true. That was her name. Kind of long and tedious, and extremely hard to shout out in a game of soccer, but that was it. And with her new identity, she would go back to her town, and start preparing for the wedding. And really, she’d just start waiting for future husband to finish what he had to do and come and get her. What was he doing? Well, during the engagement, the groom’s primary responsibility was to build a mansion for him and his bride to be.

Now girls, before you get too excited, let me explain. “Mansion” in Hebrew means, “apartment.” And what’s even better is that this apartment was actually more like an addition, because the groom would build it onto his parents pre-existing house. Yes. You heard me correctly. Their first home would be with the in-laws. And right now, I can just imagine how many girls are thinking, “oh please don’t let me marry a Jewish boy.” It’s true though. He would build his “mansion” onto the family “insula,” which is what they would call the family dwelling. You see, the entire family would just keep building on and building on until you had what was basically a city block, all comprised of one big bustling Jewish family. (And you thought My Big Fat Greek Wedding was bad) Crazy, but also true.

Well, as you can imagine, this process could take quite a while. I mean, it’s a house for crying out loud. Some scholars say it was six months, or even a year before the poor guy was finished. And get this, the only one who could decide if it was finished was the father. So he’d be working and working and working, and every day looking to his dad, saying, “Are we done yet?” And I can just imagine the father messing with him. Taking his time, looking it over, and then just saying, “Almost.” Could you imagine? Oh, the agony! And to top it all off, the groom and the bride weren’t even allowed to talk to each other. Nothing. Nada. Zip. They couldn’t see or speak to one another during the entire engagement, except for one outlet. The best man. He’d be the instant messenger if you will. Taking notes back and forth between the doting couple. And those moments were probably pretty funny. “Here’s your note, ‘one who was bought with a price.’ Check yes, no, or maybe.” Unbelievable.

But you know, how much more beautiful would that day be when the father finally approved? That day when the groom was finally finished, and he could gather up his homeboys, or ‘groomsmen’ as we westerners would say, and imperiously march into his fiance’s town? Oh it was sweet. And that’s just what he’d do. He’d get his bridal party together and they’d come to her house, and without any prior announcement or advanced warning, they would blow a shofar, which was a ram’s horn that served as a trumpet, and upon hearing it, the pining bride would come bustling out her front door and practically straight down the aisle, and into her beloved’s arms. The period of waiting and wanting would be over, and the two would be united at last to consummate their long-awaited union. Joy. Happiness. Little Rabbis… You know, all the good stuff.

So then, back to the dinner table with the 12. Can you sense where this is going? Jesus breaks into this marriage proposal, cup out, wine-filled, offering his covenant with them. They accept. “I do” to Jesus. Gulp, gulp. “I accept your life, and I give you mine in return.” So then, what does Jesus do? He explains how they have to spend some time apart. Naturally. Only this is going to be longer than a year. However, the best man was coming. His name? The Holy Spirit. So when Jesus leaves, off to get busy preparing a “mansion” for them, (“in my Father’s house there are many rooms”) He doesn’t leave them alone, but instead sends His own mediator, the Holy Spirit, to keep the messages going between Himself and his Beloved. Meanwhile, the bride is left behind in her town, keeping watch, day and night, not knowing the day, time or hour that the bridegroom will appear. Until finally, after a long-awaited return, and we’re talking seriously, long awaited; centuries and milleniums waited people, after this much awaited consummation, the Father alone will announce that the time has come, and Jesus will be coming back for all His faithful, all who are His bride. With a posse of angels and loud trumpet call of their own, He will take us home, to the marriage supper of the Lamb! And we will share in ever-increasing joy and intimacy with Him forever and ever. As C.S. Lewis so brilliantly articulated, “Further up and further in!”

And people still want to insist that Christianity is no more than a religion.

I don’t know about you but in light of this information, it puts Jesus in an entirely different light. He’s no longer an ideal, or a belief system. He’s a person. And to put it more precisely, He is a groom in love with his bride. And not just any bride, but a wayward, adulterous bride. A bride who is half-hearted at best, chasing other lovers and other interests more than Him. And still, He keeps on loving. He keeps on being faithful, He keeps his promises.

In the Old Testament, He tells his prophet Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman, to show everyone the way He loves his people. (see Hosea 3) In the New, He tells us that divorce will never be an option for Him. (Phil 1:6) Over and over and over again, From Isaiah, to Ezekiel, to Ephesians, He tells us that we are not just his children, but we are his bride. Faithless though we might be, we are His, and He is ours.

And like I said before, this changes everything. It changes the way I view prayer. It changes the way I view marriage. It even changes the reasons that I obey. As Donald Miller once said, “it’s a far different thing to break a rule, than it is to cheat on a lover.” I only pray that it changes things for you.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Case for the Resurrection

Author and pastor Tim Keller on why Christ's Resurrection is more than just a story.

In the decades before and after Jesus’ life and death, there were dozens of messianic movements in Israel. In almost every case the messianic leader was killed, in many cases by execution, and after the leader’s death each of these movements invariably collapsed. Everybody went home, and that was it. Of all those dozens of movements, only one did not collapse after the death of the leader. Not only did it not collapse, it exploded: In the course of about 300 years it had spread through the entire Roman empire.

Out of all those messianic movements, what made the Christian faith different? Christians would say it is because of what happened after the leader of this movement was killed. So what did happen to cause explosive growth in Christianity after its founder’s death?

Jesus died in mid-afternoon and the Sabbath began at sunset. The Jewish law permitted no work on the Sabbath, which meant they could not bury the body of Jesus that night or the next day. So Joseph goes to Pilate, hoping to be able to bury the body in time. Joseph, though a Pharisee, shows enormous courage and independence of thought by asking for Jesus’ body. Mark reports:

Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid. (Mark 15:44–47)

The way Mark reports the burial is significant: He is “certifying” that Jesus was really dead. Joseph of Arimathea is named here as an identified witness who actually had Jesus’ body wrapped up and sealed it in a tomb. A Roman centurion (who would be an expert) bore witness of Jesus’ death to Pilate (who would be the legal authority on the matter). Finally, two women are cited as eyewitnesses to the burial. So multiple experts and witnesses prove He was really dead.

The resurrection was as inconceivable for the first disciples, as impossible for them to believe, as it is for many of us today. Granted, their reasons would have been different from ours. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection; in the Greek worldview, the afterlife was liberation of the soul from the body. For them, resurrection would never be part of life after death. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. The people of Jesus’ day were not predisposed to believe in resurrection any more than we are.

Celsus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century A.D., was highly antagonistic to Christianity and wrote a number of works listing arguments against it. One of the arguments he believed most telling went like this: Christianity can’t be true, because the written accounts of the resurrection are based on the testimony of women—and we all know women are hysterical. And many of Celsus’ readers agreed: For them, that was a major problem. In ancient societies, as you know, women were marginalized, and the testimony of women was never given much credence.

Do you see what that means? If Mark and the Christians were making up these stories to get their movement off the ground, they would never have written women into the story as the first eyewitnesses to Jesus’ empty tomb. The only possible reason for the presence of women in these accounts is that they really were present and reported what they saw. The stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty and an angel declares that Jesus is risen.

What was the resurrected Jesus like? Well, Jesus’ resurrection body had “flesh and bones.” He was not a ghost. The disciples were able to recognize Him and to touch Him. He spoke with them. But could they all have been having a group hallucination?

No, because the disciples were not the only ones who saw and touched Jesus. Paul makes a long list of people who claimed to have seen the risen Christ personally, and notes that “most of them are still living” (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Moreover, there has to be some explanation for how the cowardly group of disciples was transformed into a group of leaders. Many of them went on to live sacrificial lives, and many of them were killed for teaching that Jesus had been resurrected.

Jesus had risen, just as He told them He would. After a criminal does his time in jail and fully satisfies the sentence, the law has no more claim on him and he walks out free. Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins. That was an infinite sentence, but He must have satisfied it fully, because on Easter Sunday He walked out free. The resurrection was God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it.

On the Day of the Lord—the day that God makes everything right, the day that everything sad comes untrue—on that day the same thing will happen to your own hurts and sadness. You will find that the worst things that have ever happened to you will in the end only enhance your eternal delight. On that day, all of it will be turned inside out and you will know joy beyond the walls of the world. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear. So live in the light of the resurrection and renewal of this world, and of yourself, in a glorious, never-ending, joyful dance of grace.

Excerpt from King's Cross by Timothy Keller © 2011. Excerpted with permission from Dutton, Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Labor in Prayer

I needed this tonight...

Complete and Effective Decision About Sin

I will admit that I have yet to completely do this...

. . . our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin — Romans 6:6

Co-Crucifixion. Have you made the following decision about sin — that it must be completely killed in you? It takes a long time to come to the point of making this complete and effective decision about sin. It is, however, the greatest moment in your life once you decide that sin must die in you - not simply be restrained, suppressed, or counteracted, but crucified — just as Jesus Christ died for the sin of the world. No one can bring anyone else to this decision. We may be mentally and spiritually convinced, but what we need to do is actually make the decision that Paul urged us to do in this passage.

Pull yourself up, take some time alone with God, and make this important decision, saying, “Lord, identify me with Your death until I know that sin is dead in me.” Make the moral decision that sin in you must be put to death.

This was not some divine future expectation on the part of Paul, but was a very radical and definite experience in his life. Are you prepared to let the Spirit of God search you until you know what the level and nature of sin is in your life — to see the very things that struggle against God’s Spirit in you? If so, will you then agree with God’s verdict on the nature of sin — that it should be identified with the death of Jesus? You cannot “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin” (Romans 6:11) unless you have radically dealt with the issue of your will before God.

Have you entered into the glorious privilege of being crucified with Christ, until all that remains in your flesh and blood is His life? “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me . . .” (Galatians 2:20).

(From Oswald Chambers)

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming." - Colossians 3:5-6