An appeal to Muslims

Did you know that Christians are praying for Muslims during Ramadan?

 

https://30daysprayer.org.uk/about/

 

I have a list of people that I pray for and it includes Muslim colleagues. Just this morning in church we prayed for Egyptian Christians who are undergoing persecution simply for being Christians in a country that Muslims consider to be Islamic. Attacks in the name of Islam have taken quite a toll on many innocent people in the last 15 years and many frustrated people have grown antipathetic to Muslims, if not downright hostile. What is to be remembered however is that Muslims are souls in need of salvation, and every Christian was once in need of salvation too.

 

By that logic, many Muslims would be pre-Christians.

 

I saw a sign on the N1 highway this morning that posed a question about religion. Religion can burn a person out, thereby offering the appeal to know God instead of trying to do stuff for him. Many years ago, I worked for an insurance brokerage that was run using Scientology, the religious system devised by Lafayette Ronald Hubbard in the 1950s. Scientologists measure production on a graph which can range from ‘danger condition’ (line on graph trending down) to ‘emergency condition’ (line on graph either trending slightly down or level) to ‘affluence condition’ (line on graph trending sharply up), and other various conditions in-between.

 

Whilst I didn’t particularly enjoy the whole Scientology angle, it gave me a glimpse into how religion can almost become corporatized or incentivised.

 

Taking that church sign into account, religious activity can burn a person out because we can almost put it on a graph and track faith by the things that we do: so much money given as charity, so many prayers at so many times, or so many hours of fasting.

 

Is God really like that? Requiring graphs and stats and PowerPoint presentations of corporate growth? Or can statistics be misleading? Ever heard of that saying? There are lies, damn lies, and statistics…

 

…the idea that religious activity can measure up to God’s key performance indicators for humans takes a large assumption for granted, that anything on our scale could ever measure up.

 

Neither is zeal the measure of salvation if the zeal is misplaced. Paul the apostle expended a lot of serious energy opposing ‘Followers of that Way’ (as Believers were called before they were known as Christians) and when confronted was very surprised that it was the God he thought he was serving that he was ultimately persecuting:

 

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

” (Acts 9, NIV)

 

 

Islam is many things, but it cannot be argued that the religion is tolerant of conversion away from it. Yet for all that, and despite the dangers involved for Christians is proselytizing, Muslims are still becoming Christians with many reports of people seeing Jesus in a dream like the testimony below:

 

http://blog.godreports.com/2015/07/imam-planted-16-mosques-and-hated-christians-with-a-passion-until-jesus-appeared-in-his-dreams/

 

If God’s name is YHWH and he sent Christ and his gospel is true, then it cannot help but have an impact on the hearts of all people in need of the message, even Muslims, and even in the face of persecution.

Curmudgeon 2.0

Senator Bernie Sanders has never struck me as a particularly thoughtful person. He does have definite ideas about government and voters and the public and a somewhat anti-establishment bent, which is the only common ground I find with him.

 

Whatever positives I saw in Bernie it evaporated with his treatment of a Christian public servant nominated to an under-cabinet post.

 

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/06/09/bernie-sanders-attacks-trump-nominee-for-following-teachings-christ.html

 

Russell Vought has been nominated by President Trump to be the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. I imagine the post would carry all the pizazz of an accountant. Bernie unveiled his petulant irritation at Christianity and lit into this poor guy at his confirmation hearing because Mr Vought had the temerity to write that non-Christians are condemned and in need of salvation – as all Christians once were. The horror!

 

He who has the son has life but he who does not have the son stands condemned: it’s a bedrock principle of Christianity.

 

“12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5, NIV)

 

Colonel Sanders, with about as much understanding for Christianity as a bucket of fried chicken, seemed not to be interested in even listening to the candidate but merely went on to use the occasion to virtue signal.

 

In the name of inclusivity and tolerance, Bernie showed just how intolerant he was by refusing to endorse Trump’s pick because of a religious belief.

 

http://thefederalist.com/2017/06/13/sen-bernie-sanders-defends-attack-christians/

 

It’s not only Bernie. This is the way of the world. I suppose we must get used to it, trying to reach people with the gospel when they hate you for representing it.

Open door policy

It was a Friday morning and I had had snippets, glimpses of God in a week that was filled with business, routine, autopilot and not thinking about much in general.

 

On Wednesday I had listened to a song on the radio about being in need of grace and agreed with it.

 

On Thursday, my attention was drawn to Habakkuk 3 about how He strengthens the Christian and makes us firm like the practiced and practical feet of deer on the heights.

 

The picture you can see is of your typical male, in his cave, content to interact where necessary but in his cave nonetheless. Pop culture imagines the male of the species in his cave, and in fact men in general as troglodytes holed up in a network of caves content to roar across to fellow cave dwellers. In this imagining, the women of the world are trying to communicate the man out of the cave, which oftentimes serve to drive him back further into its reaches.

 

Sometimes that self-imposed emotional solitary confinement extends to the Maker, the Lord. Who hasn’t tried to keep God at arm’s length for reasons we can’t explain?

 

Except that He knocks and beckons us out. Or we beckon Him in; it would be impossible to turn Him away.

 

On this June Friday morning, I experienced His appeal much the same as I had experienced in London many years before, and in White River, some years before that. Some 17 years ago now, not looking for God, I was alone at the flat watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie and suddenly He was there. There was a straight path from the story line to His appeal for me to draw near. Times like this are unpredictable and authentic and cannot be synthesised.

 

I’ve wondered whether God is geographical but it suddenly occurred to me that He isn’t four-dimensional but wherever I’m at, there He is too. Even if I found myself in the Islamic stronghold of Saudi Arabia, or the pagan stronghold of the darkest corner of Africa replete with witchdoctors, He would be with me.

 

And it wasn’t like on this Friday morning He opened up mysteries to me, answered questions that I sought, but merely let me know that he was at the door, knocking.

 

Revelation 3:20 is used at altar calls to appeal to unbelievers, but in the context of the passage, it’s for believers:

 

“20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (NIV).

 

When He makes His appeal, it is good to be practiced in opening the door.

Warning signs

The warning signs have been there since the beginning of the year along Cape Town’s highways. Drought conditions. Save water…

Sign of the times here in Cape Town

…a lot of environmentalism purports to warn people about CO2  emissions. The idea of environmental catastrophe is open for debate, in terms of human impact (or lack thereof) or level of catastrophe.

 

Good warnings need to be heeded. However it reminded me of one area where society in general isn’t listening to warning anymore: from the church.

 

Jesus spoke to the crowd about being able to interpret weather and general signs, who then refused to consider the signs of the times:

 

54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” (Luke 12, NIV)

Taking a ‘footsie’ after prayer

Whilst I’m worried about rain the same as anybody, and whilst we prayed about it as a family and a church, there is something that is becoming ever more obvious: seeing the Gospel as something unappealing. Look at point 5 in the following link and tell me we’re not there already as a society?

 

http://somehelpful.info/Prophecy/Signs.html

 

The godlessness and licentiousness of modern society that tells us to do what feels good versus the reversion to 6th century theocracy under Islam make opposite appeals and it is to these extremes that society is going. And in the middle, the church, who people are increasingly not listening to anymore.

 

Its frustrating, but we are called to still hold out the hope.

He holds the keys

This past two weeks was pretty rough: 22 innocent victims in Manchester (including young girls), Roger Moore, a gentleman and actor who brought joy to millions, a grade 7 local school pupil who suffered a fatal accident at school that caused shock, 29 Christians murdered by (who else) jihadists in Egypt, 90 ordinary people going about their lives in Kabul.

 

http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/boy-12-dies-after-falling-through-school-ceiling-20170526

 

http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film/93263080/roger-moores-acting-was-plastic-but-he-still-had-an-impact

 

I read with bemusement a report this week about some clever guys trying to hack aging to give people eternal life, although one would imagine only the rich would be afforded the luxury..’tis the way of the world.

 

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/03/silicon-valleys-quest-to-live-forever

 

And it then occurred to me that this was a pointless exercise in trying to crack or hack the aging code. Scripture provides a glimpse, through the eyes of St John, of the Christ:

 

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1, NIV).

 

He holds the keys. He has the authority to use them and one day he will. Aging and death are under his authority and if this doctor in the report knew that he would turn his life’s pursuit in another direction. There are plenty of worthwhile avenues for the study of how to mitigate disease and suffering.

 

Of great comfort to me is that Christ has full authority and won’t ask me to pony up a few million bucks in a vain hope of plastering over the weaknesses in an aging body but that He will one day provide me with a new body, with 20/20 vision, rippling muscles and hopefully a full beard.

Prime numbers

We use numbers every day. Numbers are a universal language that is true because they never lie. Two plus two does always equal four.

 

This past week I was considering the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God, three persons in the Trinity: 1 and 3, prime numbers that are only divisible by themselves and 1, but not by another. You cannot really split 1 into three parts because you get a third recurring.

 

Numbers can illuminate many things but they cannot really illuminate God. When applied to events in the world and to human beings, numbers can shed light on a lot of things. Whilst reading the news reports of the terror attack in Manchester in May I noticed that the attacks happened on the 22nd of May, by a 22 year old terrorist, who managed to kill 22 people. A straight line that connects three facts, that while interesting, does not pose an independent significance.

 

119 injured – five more than the 114 chapters of the Qur’an that the terrorist, Salman Abedi, reportedly memorized. 5 – the fifth month of the Julian calendar. Again, not significant, but if you apply numbers you realise that they intersect at interesting angles, and therefore show how connected everything is.

 

Of more relevance to this modern age of global terror, is the number 9: the average number of days between attempted jihad terror attacks in the UK since the beginning of the year, or the number 46: the number of attacks carried out globally since the beginning of Ramadan, or the number 510: the number of fatal casualties resulting from those 46 attacks.

 

Being aware of time passing and our mortality is beneficial because it makes us realise that there is a finite quality to our existence:

 

“Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, NIV).

 

The advent of our lives can be described by very specific numbers: born on such and such a date, at such and such a time of day, with a particular mass. Apparently, I’m a little over 15 927 days old. Sounds more impressive than 43 years.

 

Numbers describe many aspects of our lives; however we cannot be reduced to pie charts, graphs and formulae. The numbers that characterise my past life are absolute and known and cannot be changed. In the mind of God, name provides context and meaning to the numbers.

 

The television series Person of Interest is both interesting and a picture of how numbers relate to human lives where the impetus is for the good:

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1839578/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

The algebra of grace proclaims to us that God – at any given time – keeps a tally of something as trivial as our follicle count:

 

 “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30, NIV).

 

He keeps a record of the issues that concern us and the tears that we shed (and presumably other expressions) in dealing with them:

 

“Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll[a]
are they not in your record?” (Psalm 56:8, NIV).

 

With the latest terror attack on London on 3 June 2017, there are new numbers, new tears for God to note in his records, more attacks and casualties added to the list of growing jihad attacks. We could be tempted to see numbers – and we do some of the time – but for God, he sees the person and the name behind the data.

 

The valence of personality; the algebra of grace.