Christianity has been under attack from the very first days of its existence. Those attacks have been relentless – even vicious – and yet it survives.
Modern critics such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens – commonly known as ‘The New Atheists’ – continue the tradition.
It seems to me that most of their attacks have been directed at the wrong target. You’d think they’d learn after all this time.
But they continue to attack on the same fronts that have proved impregnable for centuries: the existence of God; the reliability of the Bible; creation vs ‘Big Bang,’ the hypocrisy of Christians, and more.
And every attack fails. But there is a weak spot that they should attack, there is one vulnerability. If you can tear down this, then the whole of Christianity will collapse like a house of cards in a violent storm.
And to help their cause, the Bible even tells them where to attack.
Reports just in from the Celebrity pages of ‘Jerusalem Post’ indicate that disgraced former Pharisee Paul continues his successful – if controversial – tour around the Mediterranean.
In every city he visits, he seems to stir up trouble. His message causes riots in some cities, and stirs up violence against himself in many.
And still he continues his tour, determined to share a message that discerning hearers have labelled bizarre and grossly unappealing. Others call it blasphemous in the extreme. Hence the riots and the attacks.
And yet, it seems to be captivating many who hear him. Reports are that the educated and religious are discerning enough to ignore or reject his message.
Initially it seems to be the poor, the working class, slaves, and the disenfranchised who welcome his message, and embrace the man himself. That should tell the discerning reader something.
Strangely though, many amongst the middle-class – and even some wealthy business owners seem to be won over by his message. Rumour has it that there are some within Caesar’s own household who have accepted Paul’s teaching.
Paul apparently has the same things to say in every town and every city; his message never seems to change. One might imagine that, to be successful, you’d need to have a few different stories to tell from time to time.
But not Paul. He seems to delight in telling the same story over and over again. He is quoted as saying that this is because “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”
And he also says that he refuses to change his message because “this gospel is of first importance.”
“What on earth could be so important that you never change your message, Paul?” Well might you ask.
How many crazy End Times theories have been concocted over the generations out of the book of Revelation, I wonder? Probably nearly as many as the stars in the heavens.
And how many of those have proven to be right so far? I’m guessing about as many as the stars in the oceans. But still, we can’t help ourselves. Every major earthquake, every war, or plague we try to tie to some verse or chapter in Revelation. Thereby hoping to work out a timeline of the Last Days.
It certainly would be convenient to be able to link these events to specific passages in Revelation. Then we could look at this Coronavirus and know how close we are to the end of all days.
But that’s not why Revelation was given to us. And many people have stubbed their toes on this book by trying to use it for the wrong reasons.
For I’m convinced Revelation was given to us for an entirely different purpose.
There never was an athlete who was able to perform at the peak of his skills by sitting on the couch watching TV. He could watch 18 hours of his chosen sport every day, but he will never even get picked for the team, let alone be able to excel.
Not even if that athlete is LeBron James, or Serena Williams, or Dustin Martin. It just doesn’t work that way.
The athlete has to train – train hard, train often, train relentlessly. There is nothing comfortable or particularly enjoyable about training. The athlete has to push against resistance, and push through pain barriers that would overwhelm the average person. The end result may be satisfying and enjoyable, but the path to that end is nothing short of intensely demanding and painful.
And few are able to reach the pinnacle of their sport without a coach to push them harder and further than they ever imagined they could go.
And so it is with Christian life and faith…
We had some solid food to chew on Sunday at church. Food that JI Packer said “is strong meat: very nourishing to those who can take it, but acutely indigestible to those whose spiritual system is out of order.”
We can blame Jesus for leading us into it, for we were only considering what He means by His words in John 6:35-48. It’s not the only place He talks about this though. It keeps popping up in John’s gospel. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record similar statements. Paul brings it up – often. James and Peter mention it. Even Jude brings it up in his short letter.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Jeremiah are all examples of it. So clearly it must be food that the Lord wants us to chew on, to digest, and to absorb.
And yet, Christians argue over it – heatedly. Churches have split over it. Which tells me one thing about this food, this teaching – we don’t understand it. For that is the last thing that should be happening.
So what it this solid food?
Why is it that some people put their trust in Jesus Christ, and others do not? What sets these people apart that they become Christians, while others don’t?
Are some more righteous than others to begin with? Are they more godly, more holy already, so that they naturally take the next step and trust Jesus entirely? Is that what happens?
I doubt it. I can think of any number of people I know who seem to be better people than I, who at the same time, express zero interest in Christ. Some even openly declare their atheism.
Maybe they are more spiritual than others. They’ve always had an interest in spirituality, so it’s natural to take the next step into Christian faith.
Again, I doubt it. I’ve met plenty of very ‘spiritual’ people, many of whom I would suggest are spiritual fruit-loops, with no real interest in Jesus Christ.
Are some more intelligent than others, and so make the right decision for Christ? Surely not, for some of the most intelligent people on earth are often the most anti-God.
Well, maybe it’s that some recognise their need, their sin, their emptiness, their bankruptcy, more than others. But then I’ve known some pretty glum, pretty defeated people that never turn to Christ.
So, what is it then?
Jesus answers that question – at least, in part – in John 6. And it can make for uncomfortable – and confusing – reading for some people.
Finally! After 37 weeks separated by the ‘Rona, we were able to meet face-to-face. Or should I say, mask-to-mask?
Still, it was a delight to see (nearly) everyone in person. Christians are ‘social creatures,’ designed by God to connect, and connect regularly, with each other. That’s one of the reasons why the book of Hebrews warns us to not neglect meeting together [see Heb 10:23-25]. It’s just not good for our (spiritual) health.
It was a joy to join together with precious brothers and sisters-in-Christ to sing the praises of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Few things in this life can beat the sound of voices – and hearts – raised to exalt Him.
We finished off the meeting with Communion, which we also haven’t celebrated together since March. John – in an excellent presentation – reminded us of the ‘once-for-all’ nature of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; an offering never to be repeated, because it never needs to be repeated. Christ’s offering is sufficient and effective for all who would receive it, for all time.
It was fitting to end with the bread and the cup, because our text for the day was the one in John 6 where Jesus talks about the necessity of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.”
Strange language, graphic and gruesome language. This language was the reason the early Christians were sometimes accused of cannibalism.
What in the world would move Jesus to use such disturbing language?
It’s not often that Elvis Presley comes to your church. Even less often does Elvis share the gospel with you.
But that was our rare privilege on Sunday. Well, not really Elvis. Everyone knows Elvis has left the building. But we did have Elvis-impersonator Mark Borg join us with his wife Gina by Zoom. It may be nearly as rare to have an Elvis-impersonator share the gospel with you.
What a strange job for anyone outside of Las Vegas or the cabaret circuit. But Mark and Gina lead a church in Malta. Elvis is just Mark’s side job.
As they shared their testimonies and the word of God with us, it became clear that Mark’s unusual career choice also provides a unique opening into Malta. For the Maltese are – apparently – obsessed with Elvis, almost to the point of worship.
Which reminds me of something the apostle Paul once wrote…
What a frustrating and disappointing weekend. Many hours were spent planning and preparing for our first face-to-face church meeting in several months.
Since we are in between venues, we decided to hold the first one in our home. Connor spent some hours working out the audio-visual setup so that we could both Zoom the meeting for those who might be unable to attend in person, and also ensure we had whatever sound and video requirements necessary for those meeting in our home.
All systems “Go” to meet together and still comply with government regulations, it would seem. And enthusiasm all round.
Or so we thought…
Buried there in the fine-print of the regulations was a phrase that made clear that ‘religious gatherings’ in a private home were restricted to 2 visitors. Strike 1!
So, with Harley and Teash’s help, we scoped out a suitable outdoor location to meet. Given the weather forecast was warm and sunny, this seemed safe.
Until 9.30 Sunday morning, when the rain set in. Strike 2!
So, back to Plan A, and Zoom the meeting as we’ve been doing for several months.
Disappointing for all who were excited about finally catching up with friends and family.
But we need to keep our disappointment in perspective…
“There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us.” I’m sure you’ve all heard that idea. Maybe you’ve even used it in your evangelism to explain the deep emptiness that resides within every human being.
Is it a biblical concept, though? I wonder. I’ve heard arguments both ways. For one thing, how is it possible that the God who fills the universe could fit into a hole somewhere inside a human body?
Possibly the first to express the idea clearly is Blaise Pascal, 17th century mathematician, philosopher and theologian.
He said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ.”
I’m sure there are problems with the idea that the more theologically astute could explain. But in fact, it’s not that far removed from what Jesus told the crowd that followed Him to Capernaum in John 6:22-29.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” [John 6:6-27].