Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pentecost Extraordinaire

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come ... they were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying one to another, What meaneth this? ... This is that ..."
(Acts 2)

What made this Pentecost different from all others?

Something extraordinary was being fulfilled.

Devout Jewish men from every nation had gathered for generations at Jerusalem to celebrate this yearly feast. The eleven disciples with friends were no doubt gathered in the Upper Room as part of this festival, but with a greater purpose in view.

Suddenly - the skies gave no indication - a distant sound, growing ever louder, like a gathering windstorm, then a thunderous explosion as its epicenter struck the room where the 120 were gathered, sitting. This otherworldly wind filled the house profoundly affecting each person present. Bolts of fire distributed, settling upon everyone - young and old, men and women, regardless of status. This heavenly fire so infused their beings and captivated their powers of speech that they began speaking the very languages of the many gathered for Pentecost, declaring the wonders of God

The sound of the tornado-like wind and its effects upon nature and the 120 drew a bewildered crowd to this never-seen-before scene, asking:

"What Does This Mean?"

God the Holy Spirit had come!

God had come upon Mount Sinai.

God had come to the Tabernacle of Witness.

God had come to Solomon's Temple.

God had come to Bethlehem's Manger.

Now He had come in baptizing power upon the nucleus of the first early church, the Body of Christ on earth. 

The question awoke memories of something similar, to the days of Joshua, when a memorial of stones were set up of the crossing of the Jordan - a witness to God's deliverance to future generations (4:1-9). These many years later God's activity in their daily lives were all but a faded memory. They weren't expecting anything different from life than the normal. Thus the question held somewhat of a rebuke of the supernatural. Perhaps too to their tired faith and dreams it carried a breath of fresh hope.

Sweet Wine or This?

The Spirit-filled Peter responded to the fears, doubts, and hopes of the crowd by reminding them of ancient prophecies when God would once again visit and claim His desolate people, and that this time He would come with salvation to everyone who called upon the name of the Lord. No, this activity of speaking in tongues wasn't the result of sweet wine. This was God's time. God was taking this early morning opportunity, before man's inventions could mar it, to literally pour His Spirit upon men and women, with a promise of more to come.

When Peter quoted Joel 2 he did not say, 'this fulfills that spoken by the prophet Joel', as a past event, but rather, 'this is that' ... as a continual action, meaning that it will continue indefinitely.

Even today.

To “know Christ and the power of His resurrection”, we ask for the Holy Spirit.

To see what God can and will do through His Church, locally, we ask for the Holy Spirit.

To make a difference for God to reach a dying world and our communities, we ask for the Holy Spirit.

This Is That ....

* which helped Moses become the man and leader he was, led His people by fire and cloud, anointed David for kingship, inspired holy men to write the Holy Bible we have today
* likened as oil for anointing, water for life, wind for power, fire for purity, a dove for meekness
* a rest and refreshing for the weary, aids us in prayer and worship, a sign from God to the unbelieving, a means of edification and communication with God, extols the wonderful works of God
* gives wisdom, understanding, counsel, and might to people; lifting a standard against the kingdom of darkness
* fathered Jesus, anointed Him in life and for service, raised Him from death, gives life today
* the source of hope, miracles, boldness, purity, spirituals gifts and leadership roles
* gives access to God, strengthens our inner person; creates, illuminates truth, convicts of sin
* prophesied by the prophets, the Promise of the Father, commanded by Christ to receive
* "This is that" is God the Holy Spirit, ready to fill and empower us today

No Opportunity Wasted

Take the challenge. Face your greatest fears. Seize the day. See what the Holy Spirit can and will do through you. We can be ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Through the Holy Spirit we can:

1. Speak the Kingdom of God into lives and situations (Acts 1:3,4).
2. Devote ourselves increasingly to prayer (Acts 1:14)
3. Be continually filled with His presence and power (Acts 2:17; Eph. 5:18).
4. Live in an atmosphere of repentance toward God (Acts 3:19).
5. Live as the reconciled (Acts 2:43-47).
6. Empower the coming generation (Acts 2:39a).
7. Be the voice and vision of God; no Spirit, no voice - no Spirit, no vision (Acts 2:39b)
8. Suffer for the glory of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:41)
9. Bring the healing Jesus to suffering humanity and a skeptical world (Acts 4:30)
10. Extend the blessing of Christ to the nations (Acts 3:25)
11. Elevate our praying into new dimensions through the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14:14,15)

Father God, I want to be a difference in my world of influence; I ask for the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost: Memorial or Legacy

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly ...
Acts 2:1,2)

A memorial is something designed to preserve the memory of a person or event; therefore, a specific reminder. A legacy is something handed down from the past; a perpetual inheritance, endless in existence. Memorials are standing monuments, legacies are gifts of a LIFEtime. A memorial is also a written statement of facts or a petition presented to a sovereign, legislative body, or CEO.

Pentecost is both a memorial to a past event and a legacy of the present and future. The past lay a foundation upon which to build today for tomorrow. Pentecost, as an event, cannot be repeated. However, as experiencing its reality, there are many 'fillings' of the Spirit. Many just are content with remembering the past, but not God. From God's perspective, Pentecost is His living legacy, or will, to the church, His governing body. For the church, it is a factual statement and petition presented to God of our rightful inheritance.

Sudden things do not occur with stationary monuments, they happen with the releasing of a legacy.

Latin American Exodus

The Catholic Church in Latin America has embarked upon a "continentwide, great evangelical mission" in an attempt to reach out to the faithful, especially in their cities slum areas, where Protestants have been gaining converts. In so doing the Church hopes to stem the exodus tide from Catholicism to evangelicalism.

One billion Catholics live in Latin America but Pentecostal churches are seeing enormous growth in recent years. Brazil's census shows that the Catholic population dropped from 89% in 1980 to 74% in 2000, while evangelical Protestants rose from 7% to 15%. In Guatemala, the evangelical community represents almost 25% percent of the population.

The faithful poor are leaving the stale and inactive liturgy dedicated to the past for the personal and vibrant faith where God lives and acts through the Holy Spirit in daily life. In reinvigorating itself the Catholic Church must return to the basic tenets of Pentecost.

Pentecost's Continuum

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:32,33)

This is the legacy. The Holy Spirit! The Spirit is a continuum of the life and death, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, being poured back into our lives to reproduce the same life and works. One part cannot be distinguished from the other; it's a whole.

Speaking of the Spirit Jesus promised, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-39) The fountainhead of these 'rivers of living waters' is Pentecost . These waters are living, not stagnant. He also said that the streams would flow from Jerusalem to the most secluded, remote, out-of-the-way places of earth. (Acts 1:8) Its grand earthly finale is discovered in Revelation 22:1 where it flows eternally.

When Jesus commented that the source of the rivers in the believer is his 'belly' he was referring to the area know anatomically as the solar plexus, a large network of sympathetic nerves located behind the stomach; the area where we really feel things, thus the pit of the stomach. Some has translated it as 'heart', as the 'heart of the matter'. The Spirit assists in the very core issues of life. And this is the area where the gift of tongues exists.

It is also interesting that in Peter's pentecostal message he confirms that of these things we are 'witnesses', someone who gives a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced, furnishing evidence. We affirm our Christian faith, as a witness, being present when a spiritual transaction took place, and we sign our name, our life, to its authenticity.

Generational Blessing

We speak of generational curses but the promise of Pentecost is a generational blessing. God covenanted with Abraham to make of him a great nation, Israel, and through them "all peoples on earth" would be blessed. That blessing was fully realized with the coming and continuum of Jesus Christ through the New Covenant beginning at Pentecost. The blessing of Abraham is one of faith and the Holy Spirit. (Gal. 3:7-9, 14)

Isaiah spoke of the Gospel era in these terms, "As for Me," says the Lord, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants," says the Lord, "from this time and forevermore." (59:21) At Pentecost Peter reminded, "you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39)

We are blessed to be a blessing to, in, and with every generation! Let's be living legacies.


Pentecost: Before and After

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come ....

The Day of Pentecost is the Jewish Feast of Shavu'ot. It is also called the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering. Pentecost follows Passover by fifty days. It commemorates the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. This was one of three feasts in which every male was to attend. Ritual sacrifices, offerings, and holy worship were observed.

This then is the setting for the Day of Pentecost. Jesus attached special significance to this day. God was up to something, something out of the usual, something different from the normal, something new and extraordinary. He spoke of the fulfilling of a promise. As the fulness of the season arrived in the Temple city of Jerusalem, on schedule, the Ruach HaKodesh blew in and consumed those seated in the Upper Room with divine unction.

Days of Waiting

Before His ascension Jesus gathered with His family of disciples, commanding them not to leave Jerusalem, but to "wait ... until". They did not fully understand what they were waiting for, nor could they have predicted the events of Pentecost. Similarly, we also pray as we wait and wonder what God is up to; we cannot predict when or how the Holy Spirit will act out His plan and desires. Often nothing seems to be happening; our work of faith has gone unrewarded, our prayers unanswered. This is the business of waiting on God. The church waits to hear from its Lord; we know not what the Holy Spirit will do in the church and in our lives anymore than the early disciples did. In this waiting time of birth and rebirth things cannot be rushed, contrary to the "fast food mentality" of our world. We wait prayerfully, attentively, expectantly. The Holy Spirit will come, with new orders. Ascension days are preparatory to pentecostal days.

Ascension Day

Forty days after His Passion and Resurrection Christ Jesus "was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God". His re-entrance presents four priorities of Ascension Day.

1) The Son of God has resumed His role in the Godhead. While upon earth the Son of God lived and acted solely as Son of Man, limited as a human being. Now exalted to the right hand of God, the Son of Man lives and acts solely as the Son of God, unlimitedly. "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."

2) The Son of God is enacting His role as Saviour of the World, administering His sacrificial salvation on a worldwide basis to all who believe. "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God."

3) The Son of God is mediating His role as Advocate and Intercessor. "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."

4) Being ascended the Son of God shall descend at His Second Advent to rout His enemies. "For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death."

The tenor of New Testament thought is that the Resurrection and Ascension are contemporary events; being raised from death Christ is raised in position. Jesus is not living and moving about short-changed from earth; He is actively engaged and involved from a heavenly position.

Fully Come

Pentecost is more than an event, it became an experience. Christians worldwide live out Christmas and Easter; less experienced are Ascension and Pentecost. Pentecost came yearly, as usual, but this time it came with a difference. It arrived with wind, fire, and speaking in tongues, causing the gathering crowds to question, "Whatever could this mean?" Whenever God did the unusual it evoked, "What does this mean?" So, Pentecost means ....

a) The Holy Spirit has come. It was in the Heavenly Father's eternal plan to send His Son to earth as the Redeeming Sacrifice. Everything in history pointed in that direction. Jesus came and lived the perfect life, died to remove sin, rose in conquest of death ... end of story. But it's not; Jesus ascended in exaltation and sent forth the Spirit in His place. This is equally as true and important as the sending forth of the Son to initiate the plan of God. The Son writes the covenant agreement with His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit now enacts the conditions of the covenant, to the end of time. One initiates, the other consummates. One without the other leaves the plan of God unfulfilled and incomplete.

b) The Church was born. It was conceived in eternity past, it birthed at Pentecost. In and through the church God's plan is carried out across the face of the earth. Without the church the Cross dies; it has no vehicle to propel itself. Without the Cross the church dies; it has no message and no reason for existence. The church is the single most important entity in the world today. The church is comprised of many individual ministries, but ministries alone does not the church make. At Pentecost the flames came individually, but then collectively they were "all filled with the Holy Spirit". The Spirit created the church as a body, "a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit". Let us honour that, because together is better.

c) The Church is gifted. The Spirit endows and empowers the church with His manifold gifts, graces, and abilities, for the common good of its members and the benefit of mankind through the proclamations of the Gospel. "But we have gifts that differ and which are meant to be used according to the grace that has been given to us." God wants us to discover and develop our gifts and to use them to His glory. No gift or ability is too insignificant for God. And God expects churches to allow the members to use the gifts He entrusted them with. He wants no one left behind. In this way the life and ministry of Christ is replayed in our day for all to see.

That makes God smile!

Source: Acts 2:1, Ex. 34:22; 23:16, Lev. 23:15,16, Ex. 12:6,12; 19:1,11, Deut. 16:16, Lev. 23:18,19, Duet. 16:11,12, Lk 24:49, Acts 1:4, Mark 16:19, John 17:5, Rom. 3:22, Heb. 10:12, Rom. 8:34, 1 Cor. 15:25-26, Acts 2:12, 33, Eph. 2:22, Rom. 12:6

Forum Explores Pentecostal Explosion

Whatever could the global explosion of Pentecostal "renewalism" have upon the religious, political, national, and social landscapes of countries increasingly being touched and impacted? Like countries in North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia?

This question has been repeatedly asked and debated since its inception in the Upper Room at Jerusalem during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13)

To address the rapid growth of one of the fastest-growing segments of global Christianity with a quantitative study on the religious, political and civic views of the participants, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, with financial help from the Templeton Foundation, revealed some interesting data.

Before identifying the survey, key terms must be understood. Pentecostal is used to describe individuals who belong to classical Pentecostal denominations, such as the Assemblies of God (AOG) or the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC).

Christians who have experienced the "in-filling" of the Holy Spirit but who are not members of Pentecostal denominations are Charismatics (graced with gifts from God). Most charismatics belong to mainstream Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox denominations.

The report when referring to Pentecostals and charismatics as a group uses the umbrella term "Renewalist".

The World Christian Database suggests that 1/4 of the world's 2 billion Christians are Renewalists. The common denominator of the Renewalists is the belief that God, acting through the Holy Spirit, continues to play a positive, direct and active role in their everyday lives.

Survey Says

The Pew Forum surveyed 10 countries with larger than normal renewalist populations. These were the United States; Brazil, Chile and Guatemala in Latin America; Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in Africa; and India, the Philippines and South Korea in Asia. In each country, the surveys were randomly taken of the public at large, as well as a larger representation of pentecostals and charismatics.

The report is lengthy and comprehensive. Therefore, for the sake of brevity we'll crunch the numbers. In the United States 5% are Pentecostal, 18% Charismatic, for a total of 23%. Brazil is 15% and 34% respectively, totaling 49%; Chile, 9% and 21%; Guatemala, 20% and 40%; Kenya, 33% and 23%; Nigeria, 18% and 8%; South Africa, 10% and 24%; localities in India, 1% and 44%; the Philippines, 4% and 40%; and South Korea, 2% and 9%. These findings show that Renewalists not only make up a significant portion of the country’s population but as well make up the majority of all Protestants.

Pentecostal Distinctives

There are certain distinctives that distinguish pentecostals and charismatics to a lesser degree, from other Christians. In seven countries surveyed nearly half of pentecostal churches include the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues speaking, prophesying or praying for healing of the sick. Charismatic services are less so, though still prevalent.

When it comes to healings and miracles, receiving divine revelations from God, and the casting out of evil spirits (exorcisms) renewalists outnumber other Christians. In South Korea, for example, healings have been witnessed by 56% of Pentecostals, 61% of Charismatics, and 20% of other Christians.

It is interesting to note, however, that outside of the United States these manifestations of the Spirit do rise significantly among non-renewalist Christians. In the USA only 28% of non-renewalists witnessed healings, 25% received a direct revelation from God, and 7% saw an exorcism while in Guatemala, for instance, it's 47%, 39%, and 28% sequentially. Perhaps this is because the need is greater.

Beliefs and Politics

Renewalists also have a higher view of traditional Christian doctrines and practices. In eight of ten countries renewalists believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. Amazingly this drops in the USA and Chile.
> Compared with non-renewalist Christians, renewalists stand out for their views on the "end times". The survey showed that in six countries over half believe that Christ will return in their lifetime. More than 80% in each country believe in the Rapture.

Pentecostals also share their faith with unbelievers at least once a week. And 70% in every country, except South Korea, completely agree that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.

Renewalist Christians are not apolitical; they believe there is a place for faith in political and public life. In every country they are as likely as others to express their views on day-to-day social and political issues. They also believe that political leaders should have strong Christian beliefs. Most believe in separation of church and state, but many adhere to the idea their nation should be Christian. This view is strongest among African pentecostals; 48% in Kenya, 58% in Nigeria, and 45% in South Africa.

Pentecostals are divided on whether or not AIDS is a punishment from God, are more likely to stand with Israel than with the Palestinians and are more willing to allow women leadership roles.

You can access and resource this and other survey material at http://pewforum.org/surveys/pentecostal/.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The fire alarmed sounded at my apartment complex. The housing authority usually does a monthly Tuesday system check so, personally, I considered it such until it didn't stop ringing. The fact is, nobody down my wing, including myself, believed it, and that is dangerous and could have been fatal.

No one systematically did the drill check, we just sat/walked around wondering if it was real and what we should do. We even took the word of a tenant that everyone was out of their rooms or at work without checking.

I don't even know who the fire monitors are. We have the emergency info but at this moment that was useless; I forgot about it or what it contains. But clearly we're not prepared for the 'real' thing! Staff were in our wing at the time and they were in the same boat as the rest of us, unbelieving and unsure of procedure.

I just couldn't believe our ignorance and stupidity.

But on a broader scale it reminded me of what I believe as a Christian, about a judgement to come, a place of separation. And we sit around, talking/discussing/wondering if the fire is real and the siren is trustworthy. When it comes to spiritual matters we're just as ignorant and stupid.

What do you say, is there life after death? Is there a hell or a heaven? On what do you base your beliefs on? How trustworthy is it?

Something to think about ....

Sunday, May 06, 2007

"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord". (1 Cor. 1:9) As I survey the past years I am humbled and thankful for God's faithfulness in my life. Undeserving am I. Who but God would come my way. Who but God would come to stay. Who but God could see and understand the real me, and provide things I really need, like family, friends, opportunity, faith. I know now it is but His grace, His amazing grace shown to me.

Who but God could take the time of day for me. I live life through a wheelchair. I
stammer. My body is twisted. I have nothing to give. Nothing that would benefit Him on a large scale. I have dreams, unspokened. I have hopes, unfulfilled. I struggle with nagging fears. I weep, tears of disappointment and frustration. This is common to everyone I know. But it is my pain, and that is the difference. My life is ongoing. Others may change their circumstances. I cannot. Here I sit. But God makes the difference ....

Maybe that is the secret I hold. If I take what little I do have - my hurts, my abilities, my gifts - maybe I can just, without being noticed, just kinda sneak over to Jesus with my box of leftovers and with gratitude pour it - I know I'll spill most - over Him, maybe, just maybe, He will see and welcome my efforts. Maybe He will bless and multiple, creating something new from many old. But if not, I have Him. Him alone. His smile. His scars. His touch. His lap to cry upon. His friendship. His hope. His upward call. His faithfulness.

Thank you Jesus. You are mine. I am Yours.

Signed Forever: Albert

Monday, April 09, 2007

Remembering Vimy And The Cross

This month Canada is remembering the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France 90 years ago where 3,598 Canadian soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Along with that death toll were 7004 wounded returnees.

That victory during The Great War gave rise to the birth of our nation. The Cross of Christ gave birth to the Christian nation called the Church. As death and combat shaped our nation so the death and battle of the Cross shapes the Christian's life.

The frontlines between the German and Canadian soldiers were in places talking distance apart. The Cross connected heaven and earth, locked in mortal eternal conflict; Jesus dies and rises the Mighty Conqueror.

The Vimy Monument symbolizes the War to end all Wars. The Cross symbolizes the defeat of Satan and his agents of sin, death and hell.

About four thousand Canadian students bore the names and stories of soldiers at Vimy. Christians bear the name and story that's all about Jesus before the world.

The Twin Towers of the monument represent Canada and France. The twin timbers of the Cross represent Divinity and humanity.

After decades of discoloration the Monument has been restored to its former beauty, shining like a gem in the sunlight. The message of the Cross needs no facelift. It will forever shine as a beacon of hope in the darkness of depravity.

Though a testament to Canadian courage the Monument also stands as a testament to human failure in resolving conflicts. The Cross too was erected because of human sin and the need to reconcile mankind to God.

The cost for the Monument's restoration ran into the millions. The cost to the Cross runs red with blood, sweat, and tears.

Though located in France the Monument grounds were perpetually donated to Canada in remembrance. The ground surrounding the Cross has forever been given by God to His Community and the nations of the world for rebirth and victory.

Let us remember!

The Fools of Easter

He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25)

It is significant that this year April Fool's Day, Passover and Easter fell during the same week. Much has been said and done to discredit and marginalize faith. Christians are regularly made the blunt of jokes for their beliefs, as if our faith system is not historically sound. Faith alone makes the facts believable. The only measurement to believing anything is whether it is true. The tenets of the Christian faith, based upon the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, are not found wanting. Both biblical and extra-biblical sources attest to the validity of our faith. Passover gives identity to the Jewish family. Easter gives identity to the Christian community. It is the distracters and doubters who always become the fool for their unbelief.

Who Is A Fool?

There is a difference between being foolish and a fool. The disciples were being foolish in forbidding mothers with their tiny tots away from Jesus when He desired to bless them. Peter was foolish in his attempt to talk Jesus out of the sacrifice He was committed to make. They all made brave boasts and then ran away in the dark of night. Their intentions in protecting Jesus were noble but foolish; they were naive but teachable. Foolish but not fools.

A fool, on the other hand, is willfully and deliberately ignorant and rebellious toward God; they are godless, void of any spiritual and moral aptitude.

King Herod was monarch when Jesus was born in Jerusalem. He was known for his political savvy and building programs. History has nominated him: "Herod the Great." But any man who tries to defeat the eternal promises of God through an inquisition of infants is a fool.

Judas surrendered to his greed and for fool's gold kissed his Master good-bye. The priests in the office of God arrested and illegally tried Jesus, buying the testimony of liars, creating new and ever-changing charges, and bullied Pilate into arranging the crucifixion. Pilate himself thought he could have peace by washing his hands of the whole set-up. The crowds thought they could please their leaders if they shouted long and hard enough for the blood of the only One in the world who loved them best. All fools with intentions of playing the wise.

In the end the government which boasted of its legal system crumbled like a house of cards and the religious leaders rebelliously rejected the facts of the empty tomb as reported by the guards in favour of a bribe. They'd rather create a lie than face the truth.

Modern Fools

Today there are voices saying that God and His church are liars when we proclaim God's Gospel: That Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. That our sins were paid for that day on Golgotha. To them Jesus wasn't anything more than a misunderstood carpenter's son.

These fools want you to believe that Jesus was just a man. A good man, a great man even, but only a man. They want you to believe that the resurrection of Jesus is a
hoax; that Jesus was buried and then revived in that cold, damp tomb. After recovering from being whipped, beaten, crucified, and stabbed in the heart with a Roman spear Jesus managed to escape, married and had children and lived happily ever after.

Others say that the Scriptures have lied and that Jesus and His bones and those of His family have been discovered in some Jerusalem excavation. These fools would have us believe that our forgiveness is unfounded; our hope is based on falsehood and our belief in heaven is nothing but some cosmic April Fool's Day joke.

The Fool of a Dean

The Church of England has a fool in its midst. The Dean of St. Albans, Rev. Jeffery John, a practicing homosexual, has revealed his reprobate intelligence by rejecting penal substitution - that man is sinful and needs a Saviour - and announcing that Christ's sacrifice is 'repulsive', 'insane', 'nonsensical', and makes 'God sound like a psychopath'. His reinterpretation of the Cross is merely one of example and encouragement in our hour of trial and suffering. Jesus died to share our pain, not to redeem from sin.

Needless to say John hasn't pleased everyone within the ranks of Anglicanism. Though the Church has suffered in attendance since the 197o's due to liberal theology there is a growing conservative element, consisting of evangelical and charismatic churches, praying and working to restore the Church to its authentic faith.

Is God a Psychopath?

Are we to understand and view the God of the Cross as a mentally unbalanced person who is inclined toward antisocial and criminal behaviour? No, being psychopathic is a human condition, never associated with the Divine Being who is God. But God has an adverse condition to human folly, anything and everything that distorts human life. The Cross is the answer for both parties. And God initiates the comeback to reconciliation.

This month Canada is remembering the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France 90 years ago where 3,598 Canadian soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Along with that death toll were 7004 wounded returnees. That victory during The Great War gave rise to the birth of our nation. The Cross gave birth to the Christian nation called the Church. As death and combat shaped our nation so the death and battle of the Cross shapes the Christian's life.

The frontlines between the German and Canadian soldiers were in places talking distance apart. The Cross connected heaven and earth, locked in mortal eternal conflict; Jesus dies and rises the Mighty Conqueror.

The Vimy Monument symbolizes the War to end all Wars. The Cross symbolizes the defeat of Satan and his agents of sin, death and hell. The Twin Towers of the monument represents Canada and France. The twin timbers of the Cross represent Divinity and humanity.

About four thousand Canadian students bore the names and stories of soldiers at Vimy. Christians bear the name and story that's all about Jesus before the world.

After decades of discoloration the Monument has been restored to its former beauty, shining like a gem in the sunlight. The message of the cross needs no facelift. It will forever shine as a beacon of hope in the darkness of depravity.

Though a testament to Canadian courage the Monument also stands as a testament to human failure in resolving conflicts. The Cross too was erected because of human sin and the need to reconcile mankind to God.

The cost for the Monument's restoration ran into the millions. The cost to the Cross runs red with blood, sweat, and tears. Though located in France the Monument grounds were perpetually donated to Canada in remembrance. The ground surrounding the Cross has forever been given by God to His Community and the nations of the world for rebirth and victory.

Would anyone dare call that valiant act of Canadian history psychopathic? The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ answers the call of God's justice, God's grace, God's integrity, and God's law. (Rom. 3:25-31)

The Cross does four things: 1) It introduces forgiveness and freedom. 2) It demonstrates the love and justice of God. 3) It reveals the human condition ..."sin entered the world" (Rom. 5:12). 4) It presents Jesus as God's ultimate sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith in His blood. The Cross remedies the statement by Matthew Henry (1661-1714), 'There is nothing we can call our own but our sins and our death.'

The Foolishness of The Cross

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. We preach Christ crucified: Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. Everything that we have - right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start - comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:18-30 NIV/Mes)

There is a foolishness to the message of the Cross - a foolishness not born of naivety or rebellious unbelief but of profound simplicity. The worldly minded seek to defame it. The enemies of the Cross, within and without the Christian Community, seek to destroy it. The Jewish hierarchy, the Roman government, and the crowds, were responsible and instrumental in the murder of Jesus. And Islamic jihadists were responsible and instrumental in the crucifixion of a 14-year-old male youth in Basra, Iraq, in an effort to destroy one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, the Assyrians. This not only reveals the ongoing persecution of the Body of Christ but also the depravity to which mankind will stoop to eradicate the message of the Cross.

However, Christians worldwide joyfully celebrate Easter - the Cross and Resurrection/Ascension - because we are given a "new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus." (1 Peter 1:3) This hope is not a wishful desire. It is secured in historical and personal evidence. It's a firm foundation of our saving faith and a comfort in the midst of suffering, more precious than gold.

Through Christ's resurrection we know and believe that truth is stronger than lies, good is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, and life is stronger than death.

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Stones 'n Bones

Above the entrance of the so-called recent discovery in Jerusalem of the lost burial plot of Jesus Christ, His family, and extended family, by some Hollywood moguls should be engraved this epitaph: "Why are you looking in a tomb for someone who is alive? He isn't here! He has risen from the dead! (Luke 24:5-6)

The whole discovery and documentary fantasy is suspect and bogus by noted scholars and archeologists. This Hollywood blitz and other 'blockbuster' attempts to question the validity of biblical evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is nothing but the resurgence of Gnosticism, an ancient form of 'hidden knowledge' not historically factual.

Modern Gnostics have five defining elements. 1) The removal of God from center stage to off stage. 2) Installing Man (you) from off stage onto center stage. 3) Man becoming God. 4) Man having 'secret' insights unknown by others. 5) Man drawing possibilities to themselves, becoming their ideal selfs and effecting personal redemption.

Such possibility thinking is toted as Truth when, in truth, it is The Lie. They exchanged the truth of God for the lie (Gk.), and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator ... (Rom. 1:25)

Gnostics would have us believe their 'secret knowledge' completes the Gospel accounts. Balderdash! It's an aberration to the written testimonies!

It was once ignorantly but falsely held that the earth was the center of the universe. Science has since debunked that theory for the sun. Similarly Man is not the center of his universe, the Son of God is.

Returning to the crime scene (the lost tomb), there are stones but no bones.

So what became of the bones of Jesus after dying His redeeming death and being buried in a borrowed tomb?

The truth? His body did not see decay but was brought back to life, imperishable and immortal, by the power of God. The New Testament writings provide irrefutable evidence for His physical, bodily resurrection.

Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you." They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, "Don't be upset, and don't let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet - it's really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn't have muscle and bone like this." As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn't believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true. They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes. Then he said, "Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled." (Luke 24:36-44)

Forty days after His rising from death we see His body of flesh and bone on the Mount of Olives. "Raising his hands he blessed them, and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven." (vs. 50-51)

And today? "Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." (Romans 8:34)

The body of Jesus Christ is not to be found in any ossuary or tomb but in Heaven, alive and well. He took His bones with Him!

After the Resurrection news was given, (the women) remembered his words. (And when) they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. (vs. 8-9) We too must tell others the real story, the story that's all about Jesus!

For our personal salvation, daily living, and eternal destiny where do we wish to place our trust, The Truth or The Lie?

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Are Savants a Reflection of Earlier Times?

The quest of modern science is to discover the 'missing link' of our beginnings and existence. Their theory is that we have grown or evolved from lesser to greater, from non-intelligent to intelligent life. There is a significant group within our population that may defuse this theory in favour for a creationist worldview. These individuals possess rare intelligence unknown in the rest of the population. Their intelligence is not acquired but 'wired'; it's just there. They could not learn their knowledge even if opportunity existed for they are either autistic or mentally challenged. They are called savants. Some are concluding that their islands of genius are a throwback (known as atavism) to a former time, as when Adam and Eve and descendants walked the earth as mental giants, and that savants represent the abilities God gave humans at creation but ones we have since lost due to man’s fall into sin.

Society holds this unknown treasure within its embrace, not of its choosing or making but that of its Creator. The treasure captured by the most vulnerable of all, our children, and not any child, but a developmentally challenged child is a wonder. We often think of a gifted child as a well balanced person, perfectly coordinated -- someone like Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, or Tiger Woods. Gifts do not always come perfectly wrapped. Disappointments are often God's appointments.

Jesus compared entrance into the kingdom of heaven to the simplicity of a child. Likewise He spoke of it as a hidden treasure being discovered, or a pearl of great price being purchased and developed. The Apostle Paul catches this imagery as he describes our earthen bodies as containers of the glory of God. (Matt. 18:1-4; 13:44-46; 2 Cor. 4:7)

In the end we must ask ourselves, do savants in their own way represent the incredible abilities God intended all men to have at creation?

What is Savant Syndrome?

Savants are individuals with astounding abilities usually in one area such as math or music and yet are incredibly challenged in other areas.

Interestingly the word 'savant' means a person of profound or extensive learning; a learned scholar in a particular subject. But when combined to some form of mental disability the word was used describing someone referred historically as idiot savants. At that time, the term idiot was an accepted scientific term for IQ below 25. The term idiot savant has since fallen into disrepute. Almost all reported cases now occur in persons with IQ above 40. The term Savant Syndrome has been substituted and widely accepted.

Savants have been known throughout history, having been reported as early as 1751. The term 'savant' was not applied to these special people until 1887 by Dr. J. Langdon Down, the man known for having named Down's Syndrome.

In recent years savants are looked upon with interest as medical science seeks to understand 'savantism'.

Islands of Genius

Savants, among other special skills, are able to memorize facts, numbers, license plates, maps, sports and weather trivia. They can recall perfectly a very long sequence of music, numbers, or speech. Or, estimate distances and angles by sight and calculate the day of the week for any given date going a long way back. Others tell time without the assistance of a clock.

Prodigious savants are very rare persons whose genius is so high that it would be spectacular to be found in a non-handicapped person. Probably fewer than 50 of these are presently living today.

Savantism is usually recognized during childhood. It has also been discovered in adults whose left side of the brain has been injured or impaired. Some suggest that these highly intelligent abilities can be induced, supporting the view that within everyone are these powers, hidden and undeveloped. By stimulating the cranial neurons, temporarily disrupting the left front part of the brain, researchers are theorizing that savant-like skills can be increased in a healthy individual. While no single theory can explain all savants one consistently rises to the top: left brain injury with right brain compensation. If savantism can be acquired - without the disability - scientific research may be taking us forward in our potentiality and back to what Man originally was.

Savant Syndrome is not normally a disorder or disease. Amazingly, it is having extraordinary skills and memory grafted onto an already existing brain dysfunction or nervous system disorder. Let’s take a look at what some of these savants are capable of doing.

Meet Mr. & Ms. Savant

* Ask KIM PEEK and he will give your day of birth, your present year's birthday, and the year and the day you will turn 65. Ask him for the telephone area codes in Alabama and all major zip codes in Ontario, ask him for all American TV stations and their markets, ask him to identify the classical music compositions and when the music was written and the composer's birth date and place of birth and death, and if you have the time Kim will gladly tell you all that and more.

* Concerning GEORGE WIDENER, John Hendricks, the world's most prolific and published magic squares mathematician, relates this incident on the Wisconsin Medical Society's website, "George Widener sat outside the library in the drizzly afternoon, where a documentary film crew has just finished a calendar calculation contest between him and a former NASA engineer. While the engineer has access to complex algorithms and a laptop, George has only the information found in his head. As dates spanning thousands of years were read aloud, the engineer scribbled fiercely, tapping his computer with increasing frustration. "Looks like a Thursday," George answered within seconds, sometimes almost before the host finished speaking. And, every single time, he was right."

* BRITTANY MAIER is a very accomplished female prodigious musical savant. Beginning at age 5, she played "twinkle, twinkle little star" on a children's toy keyboard. Brittany soon progressed into "Ave Maria", "Phantom of the Opera" and others. Around age ten, she began composing her own music, playing by ear, and performing for audiences. Her genre has grown to over 15,000 songs, most of which she learned after only hearing them a few times.

* DANIEL TAMMET says "numbers are my friends" and has massive memory skills. On international Pi Day he recited, from memory, Pi to 22,514 decimal places, in just over five hours. This set a new European record. His exceptional language skills include French, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Esperanto and Icelandic. When told to master the difficult Icelandic language he did so in seven days.

* ELLEN is a blind female savant with an astonishing musical ability. Ellen has developed a vast recollection of tunes and styles. In Led Zeppelin's apassionata, 'Whole Lotta Love', Ellen was asked to replicate every voice, instrument and studio sound effect. She flawlessly accomplished the feat.

* BLIND TOM, an internationally recognized musical savant around the time of the civil war, was known as "the eighth wonder of the world" and "the greatest musical prodigy of the age". He became the most celebrated black concert artist of the 19th century. His vocabulary was less than 100 words but his musical ability was over 7000 pieces.

* ALONZO CLEMONS saw a fleeting image of a horse on a television screen and in 20 minutes had created a three-dimensional perfect replica, down to each and every detail. The puzzling thing is, Alonzo can't even feed himself or tie his shoes.

* HENRIETT SETH F, a Hungarian autistic savant, is an accomplished, highly recognized, writer, poet and artist. At age 8 Henriett's 'read' Attila Jozseff's book of poems by memory. Also at that age she played flute and played contrabass at the age of 10-12. Until the age of 13 she played in many concerts. At age 9 she was composing poems.

The Image of God Among Us

In the beginning (when) God created the heavens and the earth He called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. There (previously) was no man to till the ground. Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.
- The Creation Story, Genesis 1 & 2

The Creation account demonstrates a simple yet profound truth, that Man - Adam and Eve, the progenitors of the human race - was created whole beings, complete in spirit, soul, and body. This wholeness is God's image and likeness. There was no lack of life or ability. His mental IQ was astonishingly intriguing. Not only was Man sufficient to manage life's directives but God distinctly gave him the responsibility and privilege of naming every animal, bird, and plant species. This is the first indication of man’s savant-like genius.

Sin has blemished our world, blighted our nature, and defected our intelligence. We use only a small percentage of what we are capable. Even through these distortions of sin early mankind showed capabilities of intelligent genius, reflections of God. Lamech married two women, Adah and Zillah. Adah gave birth to a baby named Jabal. He became the first of the herdsmen who live in tents. His brother's name was Jubal, the first musician, the inventor of the harp and flute. To Lamech's other wife, Zillah, was born Tubal-cain. He was the first to work with metal, forging instruments of bronze and iron. (Gen. 4:19-22)

And here we thought we derived from monkeys and cavemen.

It's impossible not to reflect God in some way because we are His image, whether we use our hands, minds, or voices.

The genius and skills of savants are a distinct reminder that intelligence is not man-made but God-bestowed. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a day when the incredible is accomplished with a people created for His glory. (43:7)

It is interesting to note that at Christian conversion and the entrance of the Holy Spirit our spirits are regenerated or reborn, our emotions healed, our bodies often rejuvenated, and our intellects renewed. So much so that we come into a right relationship and understanding of God and the world heretofore unknown. As if we become savants by virtue of the life and gifts of God's Spirit within. (1 Cor. 2:12,14; Rom. 8:6-8)

Our amazing God likes doing amazing things!

Source: http://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/savant/profiles.cfm

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Lost Tomb of Jesus Documentary

There are good reasons to doubt the conclusions of this documentary. Having
seen the documentary, here are some problems that quickly come to mind:

* Scholars have known about these tombs for over 25 years. There's a
reason they haven't taken these names seriously. Only three have any
direct biblical significance: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And that cluster
of names is statistically unremarkable. In fact, it would be odd if a
family with those three names was not found in a tomb together, given
their common use (there are at least four ossuaries discovered inscribed
"Jesus, son of Joseph," and one in four women were named Mary, so it's
even money that one of these tombs would have that combination). And
connection of Jesus to any of the other names? Wild speculation. So what you have here is a creative guessing game.

* The entire argument is based on the statistical significance of the
names in a cluster. If Jesus was married, and if Jesus was married to a
woman named Mariamne, and if Mariamne was also a nickname for Mary
Magdalene, and if Jesus had a brother named Matthew, and if Jesus had a
son named Judas, and if the now-famous Jame sossuary belonged to James the brother of Jesus, then you'd have all the members of Jesus' family together in one tomb. But that's a lot of "ifs.

* Even though this is called the "Jesus Family Tomb," there is no hard evidence that any of these so-called "family members" is even related. The only DNA testing that's been done - between Jesus and Mariamne - came up negative. Let me repeat that: The DNA test came up negative. That is fact. The rest is speculation.

* The documentary claims, "Jesus and Mary were married, as the DNA evidence suggests." This is nonsense. Think about it. How can DNA evidence suggest someone is married? DNA can't "suggest" anything about legal relationships, only biological ones. In this case, the DNA evidence showed Jesus and Mary were not related by a mother, not that they were husband and wife. The truth is, she could have been
married to any one of the males in the tomb, or to none of them for that matter. The DNA "suggests" nothing.

* The researchers claim they're just trying to connect the dots? Fair enough. But why connect the dots the way they did? I'll tell you why. Because it tells their story. There are many other legitimate ways to connect those same dots - some much more probable than the way the documentary connects them, but won't give the story they're promoting. But, of course, that wouldn't create breaking news, would it?

* Jesus' family was a poor family from Nazareth, not a middle- to upper-class family from Jerusalem. So this tomb is the wrong kind of tomb located in the wrong city.

* The documentary claims Jesus spoke in codes. This is false. Jesus spoke in parables, like many of the teachers of His day, not in codes that needed to be deciphered. They say Mary Magdalene was Jesus' most trusted apostle. But you have
to wait 400 years before this evidence pops up in any alleged historical record. They said that Jesus' family members were executed because He was a pretender to the throne of Israel. This is pure fiction. Notice what this accomplishes, though.
All of these little exaggerations and inaccuracies make an unlikely tale sound more plausible when, on its own unembellished merits, it is not.

* What we have here are two different characterizations of what happened to the body of Jesus of Nazareth 2,000 years ago. One is based on artifacts - the ossuaries - and one is based on documents - the historical records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul. Now granted, these kinds of things are not entirely exact science, but all things being equal, which do you think gives us more precise
information, bone boxes or written records? The written records, obviously.

* The claim of Jesus' resurrection, was part of the earliest, most primitive testimony regarding Jesus. And it was made by those very same people that the documentary suggests knew Jesus' bones were actually secretly buried in Jerusalem. Why would so many of them die for this lie when they knew it was a lie? It doesn't add up. But that's what you must believe if you take seriously the conclusions of
this documentary.

- By Gregory Koukl,
Abridged from an e-mail