Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Joy of God

"The joy of God has gone through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable. It does not deny the anguish, when it is there, but finds God in the midst of it"
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer via Desiring God

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Violent 'evangelist' Todd Bentley refused entry to UK

In a rare show of common sense from a UK Govt. agency, this heretic has been refused entry to the UK.

As a spokesperson for the Presbyterian church is qioted in the article:

"The Home Office has a responsibility to protect vulnerable people and in the light of what we know, is wise to respond in the way it has"

Violent 'evangelist' Todd Bentley refused entry to UK


Monday, 20 August 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Thanks!

Today is one of those days where the only prayer I can vocalise is .. 'Thank You Father'

:)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wretched: Run from the N.A.R.



"They move in the spiritual and in the supernatural flowing of the opening of the rivers so the fire of the movement of the nations for the people and the flowing of the outpouring ... er, something or another" - Todd Friel


Thursday, 2 August 2012

The "Jesus Culture" - a petri dish for growing young new heretics?




Another great video showing the links between the 'Jesus Culture' movement and the Word of Faith movement and Dominion Theology...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Apostles Creed


Christianity.com: The Apostles Creed from christianitydotcom on GodTube.

I BELIEVE in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Amen.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

False spirits invade the church

Very interesting series of video's from http://www.johnthebaptisttv.com/:


Part 1


Part 2

Part 3

Very interesting to note the link between the 'New Age Mystics' and the always increasingly popular Bethel Church..

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1)

Brian 'Head' Welch

I was sent a link to this video recently:

Thursday, 28 June 2012

My Birthday

32 years ago today, God saw fit to allow me to be born.  I'm still trying to work out why...  !!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

John MacArther Interview

"Nothing in the universe is more important than divine truth. We’re saved by the truth and sanctified by the truth. We have hope in the truth. We live by the truth. We love the truth. The greatest need in the world is for truth — divine truth, as revealed by the Scriptures."
From http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/grace-to-you/.  Worth reading, as is MacArthur's critique of the charismatic movement 'Charismatic Chaos'.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Heaven Tourism

I've had a few people tell me recently that I really should read Don Piper's book '90 Day's in Heaven'.  I'm not in the slightest bit convinced, and this article from Challies.com seems to agree...

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Museum of Idolatry

Found this site: http://www.alittleleaven.com/ via a blog post: The Church of No People.

Before I was a Christian, I'd have found this site really funny, although I'd have broke off all contact with any Christian friends.  Now I am a Christian, I'm just embarrassed.  And a little worried.


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Continuationism, Charismaticism and Cessationism

I've not long got back from a church service this morning that has drawn my focus to an issue that's been on my mind for a while now - whether the spiritual gifts in the New Testament are still active today.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Explicit Gospel

I've recently finished this book by Pastor Matt Chandler, which I can't rate highly enough.  It's the sort of book I think all new believers (and many who are more mature in their faith) should read.

Carl Sagan Quote

Saw this on Wil Wheaton's blog::

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Douglas Wilson on Giving Thanks

I've just finished reading 'Is Christianity Good for the World' by Douglas Wilson and (now deceased) New Atheist Christopher Hitchens.  The book is a collaborative work by the two men based upon a series of debates with each other, which then led to this speaking tour:

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Video Game in Used in Church Service

I've just come across this article:  exeter-cathedral-flower-service.

Not sure about this tactic at all.  I love video games - I'm not anti-technology in any way.  I don't think I'm a traditionalist either.  I just fail to see the purpose of this experiment.  If we were talking about a church-run games night or something, where youth workers were on hand to talk with youngsters - I'd see that as a great way to connect with the kids.  But at a Sunday service?  Seems a bit gimmicky to me.  I don't see how it helps spread the Gospel at all?  Maybe I'm just getting old!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Iesu Rex admirabilis

O JESUS, King most wonderful!
Thou Conqueror renowned!
Thou Sweetness most ineffable!
in whom all joys are found!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Explicit Gospel

I've just had Matt Chandlers new book The Explicit Gospel delivered, and have just started reading.  So far, I've only got to the first page after the intro, and already found an amazing statement:

"..  The deeper we go into God's glory, the deeper we will find ourselves in the precious work of Christ on the cross, and vice versa.  Certainly the angels long to look into the gospel of Christ's atoning work (1 Peter 1:12), because God's glory is in deep, brilliant display there.  The great message that we call the gospel begins, then, not with us, or our need, or even the meeting of that need but with the write of the news and the sender of its heralds: God himself"

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Atheist Dilemma

“There are only two possibilities as to how life arose. One is spontaneous generation arising to evolution; the other is a supernatural creative act of God. There is no third possibility. Spontaneous generation, that life arose from non-living matter was scientifically disproved 120 years ago by Louis Pasteur and others. That leaves us with the only possible conclusion that life arose as a supernatural creative act of God. I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God.Therefore, I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible; spontaneous generation arising to evolution.“ (Wald, G. 1954. The Origin of Life. Scientific American August: 44-53)
From Standtherefore.com  - Emphasis mine

Monday, 30 April 2012

Neil Shenvi

I've just come across the website of Neil Shenvi, a research scientist at Duke University.  It has some interesting apologetics essays which appear to focus on answering objections from the New Atheists.  This quote - not specifically about apologetics - is one of my favourites:

"But the Gospel shatters all our self-justification. Jesus says to us: none of you can be his own savior. You are all sinners: the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the Pharisees, the pastors, the bishops, the kings, the businessmen. You're all suffering, you're all dying inside. There's only one difference: the tax collectors and the prostitutes know it; they know they can't save themselves. But you, Pharisee, and you, Neil: you still think you can." (Neil Shenvi - Testimony)
The essay I'm particularly looking  forward to trying to follow later is Quantum Mechanics and Materialism.

Enjoy!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Joel Osteen on Mitt Romney

I saw this video earlier today.




Healing and Apologetics

I've been replaying a conversation over in my head that I had with one of my daughter's youth group buddies.  She said how at school when she talks about her faith the other kids laugh at her.  I told her not to be disheartened about this, and that some people will mock what they don't understand.  I explained I still get similar comments even though I'm an adult.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sinners in The Hands of an Angry God

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" - John 3:18
This is just some stuff I've been thinking about over the past few days.  I have no idea where I'm going with this post, so I don't know what it's conclusion will be.  As a Christian, I believe in Him, and so I am not condemned.  But how about those who don't believe in the Son of God?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Global Missions - David Platt, John Piper

I've been reading through John Piper's free e-book When The Darkness Will Not Lift, which I intend on writing about soon, once I've processed the information.  However, a particular passage stood out for me, and relates very well to some other things I've been thinking about lately:
"What one thing comes to your mind from sixty years of ministry as to what Christians should do to increase their joy?  Almost without hesitation he said, 'Share their faith.'  Joy in Christ thrives on being shared.  That is the essence of Christian joy; It overflows or dies".

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Peter - A Further Observation

Just realised something - how two of my previous posts, which to me seemed to have very different focus's, tie together quite well.

Apologetics Reading List

Great reading list for anyone interested in Apologetics, and perfect for a beginner.  I'll be reading through these books in the suggested order as soon as I can..
An Apologetic Reading List for Beginners
:)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Christian Apologetics Condensed

The claims of Christianity in my opinion can be ripped apart just by dismissing one claim: The Christ.  As John MacArthur states:
"The truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter. Without the resurrection, Christianity would be so much wishful thinking, taking its place alongside all other human philosophy and religious speculation"  (courtesy of The Poached Egg)
Consider this statement, take the time to read this book: The Case For Christ, and consider the facts with an intellectually honest mind.   Could be life-changing....

Monday, 9 April 2012

"The Ground of our Assurance When We Cannot See Our Faith"

Another amazing quote from the book "When The Darkness Will Not Lift" by John Piper:
"It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him.  This is the way Paul thought of his own strivings.  He said, 'Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own' (Phil. 3:12).  The key thing to see in this verse is that all of Paul's efforts to grasp the fullness of joy in Christ are secured by Christ's grasp of him.  Never forget that your security rests on Christ's faithfulness first."
So however we are, whatever we feel, Christ is faithful to us!  Amen!

"Gutsy Guilt"

Quote from John Pipers book "When the Darkness will not lift", which I've just started reading through.  10 pages in and it already offer up brilliance such as this:

"One of the most important is learning to fight for joy like a justified sinner. I call this “gutsy guilt.” Every embattled saint has learned this secret, even if they never called it by that name. Gutsy guilt means learning to live on the rock-solid truth of what happened for us when Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again from the dead. It means realizing that in this life we will always be sinful and imperfect. Therefore in ourselves we will always be guilty. This will prove emotionally devastating if we do not dis cover the reality of justification by faith, that is, the secret of gutsy guilt."

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Apostle Peter

During the last week or so, approaching Resurrection Sunday, for some reason I've been thinking about the Apostle Peter.  I don't know why.

We first meet Peter in Matthew 4:18-20, where he and his brother Andrew were called by Jesus to follow Him.  They immediately left their nets and followed him.  He is then named as one of the original 12 apostles in Matthew 10:2.  Jesus calls him the Rock on which Jesus will build his church, after Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the Christ.

Christianity and The Tooth Fairy

Just under a year ago, I watched this video, and it was a pinnacle moment in a long journey for me from Atheist to Agnostic to Follower of Jesus.  Fascinating stuff, and proof you don't have to give up on your intellect to follow Christ!




Enjoy!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Charles Wesley

So here's my first Good Friday as a Christian.  I'm attending a walk of witness through the town centre later this morning, followed by an open-air service in the middle of the town.  This is a 'churches together' event, and I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Kids!

Hi,

Just spotted another article in my news reader that's well worth sharing:  24/7prayer.com.

The story is from a 19 year old young person talking about her work in South Africa.  The story itself is very inspiring, but looking at where these words of faith come from - a 19 year old - speaks volumes to me in itself.

Young people often get such a bad press here in the UK.  I work with kids, have a kid, and once upon a long time ago, I was a kid.  They can be irritating and hard work at times.  But when a story like this comes to light, it's worth noting.  Here's a teenage girl who could be comfortably staying in the UK, being looked after by her family, and 'enjoying' a typical teenage lifestyle full of copius amounts of cheap drink, clubs and 'fun'.  It's what I was doing at that age!  Instead, she's out there spreading God's word in a tough place, at a very young age.  God bless this young adult, and many, many others like her around the world!

M :)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Monday, 2 April 2012

Craig T Owens - Battling Depression

I've just finished typing up this post, and checked my RSS reader quickly.  I spotted this article, which seemed relevant so, enjoy :)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Isaiah 32:17, and a catch up

"The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever"  (NKJV)


I haven't posted in a while, either here or on my techie blog at mlpcoding.blogspot.com, as I've been feeling very low in spirit recently.  I had a three week absence from church, in the first instance because of a karate grading, followed by a weekend where I felt I really, really needed a rest from everything (I didn't leave the house), then illness.  Going back after that felt quite monumental, but go back I did.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Kony 2012 - A Christian Response


The Kony 2012 campaign has been flooding the Internet for a couple of days now.  Even people I know who rarely take an interest in current affairs are facebooking, tweeting and +1'ing it.  For those of you who have no idea what the campaign is about, watch this video:




Joseph Kony is the leader of the 'Lord's Resistance Army' or LRC.  His aim is to overthrow the Ugandan government and establish a theocracy based upon the 10 commandments.  His methods, according to the above video, heavily include abducting children and forcing them to fight for his army.  He has attracted attention from the International Criminal Court, the US Government, Interpol, and millions of facebook and twitter users across the world.  His crimes against humanity are heinous and vile.

According to the Notable Names Database, Kony believes himself to be a good Christian.  Herein lies my concern.  With Kony publicly claiming to serve the Lord and be following His instruction, my fear is that normal, true Christian's will be vilified as the campaign picks up steam.  Personally, I believe that Kony is either insane, or using the name of God to fulfil his own desires for power.  I do not believe that he is receiving special instruction from God, or acting in a manner that Christ would approve of.

Kony say's he wishes to establish Uganda as a Christian nation, with laws based upon the 10 Commandments, as given to Moses by God in the book of Exodus, Chapter 20.  Yet his actions and what's reported about him tell a different story.  Looking at some of these commandments, we can define clear non-biblical actions either committed by Kony, or committed under duress by his child soldiers.

Honour Your Father and Your Mother
This commandment tells the people of Israel that they are to obey the command of their parents, and honour them.  Kony abducts young children, and as an initiation, many are ordered to murder their own parents.  This is hardly the action of a man who believes we should honour our parents!

You Shall Not Kill
Given the number of murders that Kony is directly responsible for, he has certainly acted in discordance with this commandment.

You Shall Not Commit Adultery
A standard Christian understanding of marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  Most Christians do not accept polygamy as correct.  Therefore, a man who is already married, and takes another 'wife', would logically be guilty of adultery.  Kony is rumoured to have as many as 60 wives, many of which are very young female captives.  Therefore, Kony is guilty of breaking this commandment.

You Shall Not Steal
I'm fairly sure this commandment would cover the stealing of young children from their homes!

I'm sure that Kony is breaking some of the other Commandments also.  As a Christian, we can be forgiven of all sins - the only unforgivable sin is to reject Jesus's sacrifice.  Therefore, a rapist/murderer/adulterer can be accepted into God's kingdom, if they truly repent of their sins.  Logically, if Kony is a true Christian, he would still be accepted into Heaven because he has accepted Christ.  However, Kony isn't looking for acceptance.  He's looking to rule Uganda and establish a nation built upon these rules.  These same rules that he is breaking.  Furthermore, whilst all Christians still sin, repentance means to turn away from, not to continue doing, sinful actions.  Kony shows no remorse for his actions, and claims that he carries them out under instruction from God.  This is not the God I know and love!

Some sites claim that Kony is acting upon instruction from 8 angels - one site even quotes an ex-child soldier:
"Everything they did was because of the malaikas (angels). For an example: there was a malaika from Sudan" (HRW).
Apart from the fact that all sane Christians I know do not claim to communicate with angels, The Bible is clear in it's description of angels.  They were created by God and occupy Heaven.  They are not from  Earth.  Therefore, they cannot be of any nationality!    Kony's claim to receive instruction from a Sudanese angel has to be false.

In summary, the crimes of Kony are disgusting and cruel.  I am glad that Jason Russell has been so moved by the plight of people in Uganda to create this video and start this campaign.  The way the Internet community has united in support of this campaign is both astonishing and wonderful.

I just want to stress that Kony's actions are not supported by Christians.  Hitler and Stalin were both staunch atheists, but to link all atheists to the actions of either of these two would be grossly incorrect.  As it would be to link Christians to the actions of Joseph Kony.

M :)



Psalm 42

Psalm 42


As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”
When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.[c]
O my God,[d] my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Question: Prayer when Prayer won't happen

The past few weeks have been challenging for me.  I've had a home / parenting issue to deal with, as well as uncertainty as to where my life should be heading.  Everything good feels dull and everything hard feels too heavy for me to carry.  My medication seems to be having no effect other than to make me feel tired all the time, and I've lost enthusiasm for everything I once enjoyed.  I just feel a constant tension between wanting to hide away, and wanting someone to reach out and help me.  Sympathy or understanding feels stifling, yet I know it comes from hearts of grace, I feel angry at the giver, and I question their motives.  I just want to cocoon myself away with my daughter and my cat, and forget the rest of the world.

Someone I know is also going through a difficult time, and hearing about this has (selfishly) ignited all the emotions that I went through when a very similar time occurred in my own life.  Stuff I thought I had long since buried.

The result of this is I feel spiritually empty.  In fact, if I had to sum my feelings up in a song, it would be this one:



My logical brain is telling me, based upon my experiences as a Christian up till now, and what I've seen, heard and read, that God loves me deeply.  My mind right now is telling me that God hates me, and so does everyone else.

As I'm sure I'm not the only person ever to feel like this, this post is an open invitation to others to share their advice.  I can't pray.  I don't know why, but when I try, the words don't come.  A feeling of blankness fills my mind, and a feeling of loneliness feels my heart.

So if anyone actually reads this and can relate, please, leave a comment.  Tell me how you work through these times.

Take care

M

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Christianity and Martial Arts

As a Christian first, and also a martial artist, I feel compelled to respond to the objections of some Christians to participation and study of the Martial Arts.

I practice Shotokan Karate, a style of Karate developed and exported to Japan, Hawaii and then America and the world by the Okinawan martial artist Gichin Funakoshi.  Although the term Martial Arts is technically a term used to describe all fighting arts, including archery and boxing, it is most commonly used to describe the Eastern Martial Arts such as Karate, Judo and Taekwondo.

During my so far short journey as a Christian, I have heard many negative things said about Karate, and Martial Arts in general, and this is my response to those statements.

"Martial Arts celebrates other gods"
This is true - some martial arts have very spiritual aspects to them, which participants are encouraged to learn about.  Depending on the teacher, some eastern martial arts emphasise Buddhist and / or Taoist teachings.  A Christian should to be vigilant to ensure that they don't participate in the worship of other gods, and would be right in giving these teachers a wide berth.  This principle is something we should be aware of in all aspects of our life, not just Martial Arts.  We (In the Western world) live in a highly secular world, where many place status, job title, wealth, possessions and popularity as the markers of success, thus making them modern day gods.  Many look to alcohol, drugs etc as their saviours.  Within all aspects of our life we should be constantly evaluating whether we are worshipping other Gods instead of The One True God - whether they be spiritual or material.

However, many martial arts, especially those that have been mass-exported to the west, are just about the martial art itself.  The organisation I train with focuses on sports karate, with some self-defence and fitness thrown in.  There is certainly nothing spiritual about how we train!

Some also employ the use of mediation as part of their routines.  As far as the word of God is concerned, we are called to meditate - but on the Word of God only (1 Timothy 4:15Joshua 1:8).  Personally, I do not and would not engage in the commonly known method of meditation where a participant 'empties the mind'.  Again, this practice varies from teacher to teacher, and isn't very common in western martial arts schools.  Some martial arts teachers ask the students to sit, stand or lie quietly or whilst gently moving at the end of a rigorous training session.  This is generally as part of the warm-down and helps to slow down breathing and heart rate to nearer the resting rate.  For children, it also takes the edge off any post-training hyper-activity.  There is nothing remotely spiritual about this practice at all.

"Martial Arts originate from Buddism / Taoism / Hinduism"
This is also true - many eastern martial arts were developed and practiced by people who worshipped other gods.  But if we were to use the religious beliefs of the developer of something as a yard stick we would have to re-evaluate many, many aspects of our life.

For example, Steve Jobs was, as far as I am aware, Buddist.  Does that mean all Christians should abandon their iPads and Macs?  Does this mean that we should cease eating certain Chinese foods because they originated from chinese superstitions about feeding the spiritual world? (BBC Magazine).  The houses we live in, the food we buy at the supermarket, the clothes we wear - most of the time we have no clue as to the religious beliefs of their makers.  We don't because we can easily separate out the origin from the outcome (checking facebook, eating food).  The same principles can so easily be applied to the practice of Martial Arts.

"Why would a Christian wish to participate in violent activity"
To be honest, once you get away from the stereotypical Karate nerd walking around with nunchucks and attacking everyone he/she comes across, most Martial Artists  don't go out of their way to start fights.  In my whole adult life, both before and after starting martial arts, I have never hit anyone in anger.  I feel no need to prove myself by looking for confrontation.  I can prove myself each and every lesson by training hard.

That aside, I feel the need to stress - most martial arts teach self-defence, not attack-others.  Funokoshi wrote a document titled "The 20 Precepts of Karate".  The second line of which is "In Karate there is no first strike".  In a fighting situation, there has be a first strike.  However, my interpretation of this line is that the person executing the first strike is not practising Karate - they are just thuggishly attacking someone.  The second strike - by the other person - that's where the Karate begins - with an act of self defence.

In an ideal world, there would be no need for that second strike, as humans would not attack each other.  However, we don't live in an ideal world.  We live in a fallen world, where physical violence entered our natures as part of the original sin of Adam and Eve, and was made visible through the world's first murderer: Cain (Genesis 4:7-9).

God has also called up many warriors through the Bible.  One popular warrior was David, who defeated the giant Goliath.  His story is described here.  Sometimes, God requires us to be fighters.


So having given a case as to why practising Martial Arts is not unlawful, I wish to state why I believe Martial Arts can be beneficial to the Christian participant.  One scripture that I feel is relevant here is

"All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." (1 Conithians 6:12).


Breaking this verse down - "All things are lawful to me, but not all are helpful" - a Christian should consider whether an activity is helpful to their lives as Christians.  For me, practicing Karate benefits my life in a number of ways.

  • I keep fit.  In order to stay as active and useful as possible, I need to keep fit.  Many people go to the gym, some cycle, others play football, some attend aerobics classes.  Karate works for me.  I find it interesting enough to stop my mind wandering, and it's easier to exercise if it's doing something I look forward to.  A future aspiration I have is to work as an overseas missionary, and I fully expect there to be times where I may face physical danger.  Being fit and healthy will be a great help when I need to either confront that danger, or run away.  We spend a lot of time at training practicing running away!
  • The mental act of memorising kata (Sequences of moves) is great for sharpening the mind.  This carries over into other areas of my life - work, study, reading the Bible.
  • I face confrontation every lesson.  I'm not particularly tall, and certainly not especially physically strong.  However, I'm regularly called to face others in a confrontational (but controlled) manner. The exposure to this means I have more confidence when confronted outside of my lessons.  This carries over to those who wish to confront me about my faith, and I feel more equipped to not allow stronger people intimidate me.
  • Friendship.  I've made friends with other students at the club, most of which are not believers.  However, I maintain and value their friendship as much as I do my friendships with my Christian brothers and sisters.  I have a common ground on which to relate to them.  They are all aware of my faith, and I have had discussions about my faith with them.  Personally, I cannot see how we can carry out the biblical mandate to spread the gospel if we isolate ourselves from non-believers.  
  • I have fun!  I get to wear a funny white suit, with a colourful belt and run around bare foot with other over-grown children shouting and play-fighting ;)  Last lesson, I even had a chance to pretend I was a bear and run on all fours!  It's a great way to unwind and escape the routine of working mum.
The rest of the verse serves as a warning to Christians regarding all activities - "All things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of any".  This verse is saying that we should not allow anything to have power over us, except the Lord.  I maintain this stance - I am a Christian who practices Martial Arts, I'm not a Martial Artist who practices Christianity.  


Ask plenty of questions of the instructor, keep vigilant for any practices that appear anti-christian, and get out if you feel uncomfortable with any of these practices.  Do not allow martial arts, or any other activity, become your god.  Most of all, have fun!

Maria :)


*** EDIT - 13 April 2012 ***
This Article arrived in my RSS reader this evening, which I feel is relevant to this post:
http://okiblog.com/2012/04/ignorance-west/ 






Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Prosperity Gospel

This post is an examination of a worryingly popular form of Christian teaching commonly known as the Prosperity Gospel.  I'm aware this post may offend some people, and that is not my intention.  I just wish to state my opinion in a fair and honest manner.

The Prosperity Gospel, or the Health and Wealth Gospel, as defined by Wikipedia as "a Christian religious doctrine, which claims the Bible teaches that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians. The doctrine teaches that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always cause an increase in material wealth".  It's a teaching system that is growing in popularity, and is also attracting a body of critics.  In my opinion, those critics have a strong point.

One preacher in particular - Joel Osteen - has a huge following, and teaches that health and wealth follow faith in Jesus.  Here's a transcription of part of one of his sermons:

"we have arrived to live in total victory.  I want you to get that down on the inside, not partial victory, to where we have a good family, we have good health, but we constantly struggle in our finances.  Thats not total victory.  If God did it for you in one area, he can do it for you in another area.  Get a vision for it, don't get stagnant.  I know people that have plenty of money, they have good health, but they can't get along in relationships, there's always strife in their home.  Thats not total victory.  Maybe God's blessed you, you have a good family, a good job, but you have pain in your body for years and years, you used to stand against it, you used to believe you could be free, but it's been so long, you've just decided, this is my lot in life.  Joel I guess this is my cross to carry.  See, too often we accept things - defeat, mediocraty, addictions.  People tell me Joel, that's just who I am.  But with all due respect that's not who you are.  You are a child of the Most High God.  He has paid the price that we may be totally free.  That means free from bad habits and addictions.  Free from fear and worry.  Free from discouragement and depression.  Free from poverty and lack.  Free from low self esteem.  God wants us to be totally free.  The scripture tells us to take hold of all Christ died and rose again for..."
Suspiciously, when I first heard this extract, it was part of a sermon given by Pastor Mark Driscoll titled 'The State of the Pulpit', and I was able to find a link to the sermon itself on YouTube, yet now I can't.  Joel's speech begins at about 1 minute 44 into this video:



To examine this in detail, look at this statement:
"we have arrived to live in total victory.  I want you to get that down on the inside, not partial victory, to where we have a good family, we have good health, but we constantly struggle in our finances.  Thats not total victory.  If God did it for you in one area, he can do it for you in another area."
"If God did it for you in one area, he can do it for you in another area".  This is true.  He's God.  He can do whatever He wishes.  However, just because He can do something doesn't mean he will do something.  This may sound like a small semantic difference, but it's not.  Osteen gives the impression that because we don't live in what he calls 'Total Freedom' we are not living in Christ.  His description of the total freedom that living in Christ offers differs so much from how Jesus lived his life.  Jesus had no home, no capital, had (earthly) family issues, and suffered for who He was, as did his disciples suffer for their faith in Him.

That is not to say we shouldn't pray and ask God to help us with our worries.  Not at all.  We should pray for his help, and God hears all prayers. 1 Peter 5:7 says casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you".  However, God is under absolutely no obligation to us to answer those prayers in the affirmative.  He owes us nothing!  The model prayer given to us by Jesus in Matthew 16:9-15 states that "... Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come, Your will be done".  So when we pray, God will answer that prayer according to His will, not ours.


The Chinese Christian Pastor Brother Yun suffered greatly for his faith.  In his book "The Heavenly Man", Brother Yun says:
"I have a problem with the “prosperity” teaching prevalent today, which tells us if we follow the Lord we’ll be safe and comfortable. This is completely contrary to Scripture as well as to our experiences in China."
This man and his family, as do many other believers throughout the world, suffered greatly for Jesus.  They often face financial hardship, are disowned and rejected by their family and communities, and have suffered physical and mental torture that most of us, by the grace of God, will never be called to suffer.  Now in accordance with Osteen's teachings, they must be doing something wrong!

The Bible states that "You will be hated by all nations for my names sake." (Matt. 24:9).  John 15:19 states that "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you".  This passage certainly indicates that as Christians, people will hate us.  This certainly is not the perfect relationships that Osteen promises us.

When Jesus called his disciples, He called them to give up all they had to follow Him.  Matthew 4:18 - 20 describes how Jesus saw Peter and Andrew, the two fishermen brothers, and called them.  "They immediately left their nets and followed Him" (Matt. 4:20).  These two men made their living from fishing, and as such, their nets were there livelihood.  In following Jesus, they actually gave up their means of financial support.

The passage continues with James and John being called by Jesus.  Just like Peter and Andrew, these two brothers were also fishermen, and verse 22 describes how they left not only their nets, but also their boat and their father.

If we examine an Old Testament character - the father of Israel - Jacob, in Genesis 32, he encounters a manifestation of God.  The result of which is a permanent injury to his hip.  Surely this would have caused him bodily pain?  Yet he was used by God to create the Jewish people.  So living in God didn't guarantee him a pain-free existence.

Many Christians I have spoken to, and I myself, have been ridiculed or rejected by family and / or friends for following Christ.  Does this mean that I'm not a true Christian, or I'm not 'living in total freedom'?   Not in the slightest!

So we have examples of Christians, and Christ Himself not being rich, not being fully healthy, and not having only good, happy relationships with others.  This is contrary to Osteen's teachings.

My problem with this is that many Christians who follow Joel Osteen may come to the conclusion that as they still suffer illness, or are still financially struggling, or have strained relationships with others, they are not doing something right, or Christianity is lacking for them.  Instead of encouraging believers, they come away discouraged.

This section of Osteen's sermon:
"He has paid the price that we may be totally free.  That means free from bad habits and addictions.  Free from fear and worry.  Free from discouragement and depression.  Free from poverty and lack.  Free from low self esteem.  God wants us to be totally free.  The scripture tells us to take hold of all Christ died and rose again for..."
tells us that God wants us to be free from all afflictions.  Yes, Jesus did pay a price for our freedom.  But He paid that price for our freedom from sin, not from poverty, lack, illness etc.  Jesus never made such a promise, ever.  He promised us we could overcome (spiritual) death, the wages of sin, through our faith in Him.