A Great Sermon..by a friend!

Check this out. Someone has put this video together with a sermon from a friend of mine, Paul Blackham. I have said before on this journal – I think Paul is probably the finest preacher I have heard and one of the best theologians out there.

Check out the whole sermon HERE; 03 D037-02a Why isn’t good good enough

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GOD IS GOOD, GOD IS GREAT: Why Believing In God Is Reasonable and Responsible Edited by William Lane Craig & Chad Meister

Atheism is no longer simply about ‘not believing’ in a God or an intelligent designer. New Atheism has arrived and it has gone on the offensive. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and others are now not just refuting the existence of God, spirituality, heaven or hell, they are proclaiming the message that to believe in a God, or in intelligent design is irrational and dangerous. The only sure and true ‘truth’ that can be relied upon is science.

These new atheists are pro-active – almost evangelistic in their zeal. Their mission is simple – to actively turn people away from any form of theistic belief.

This book is a powerful and substantial response to the claims and arguments of the new atheists.

The authors take on Dawkins et-al head on, unafraid of tackling the toughest of subjects including ‘Are The Old Testament Laws Evil’, ‘How Could God Create Hell’, ‘God Evil and Morality’. There are also chapters on ‘Arguments for God’, ‘The failure of Scientific Atheism’, ‘God and Physics’& ‘God and Evolution.’

What I find wonderful about this book is the breadth of the scholarship from Christians, philosophers, theologians and  scientists. From Dr William Lane-Craig, a philosopher, theologian and strong apologist of the Christian faith, to Michael Behe, a top scientist in the area biochemistry and Anthony Flew a well known former atheist who have both declared that evolution is not possible without an intelligent designer.

This book is by no means anti-science. Indeed, the aim of this book is to show clearly that the claims and arguments of the new atheists simply do not stand up to intellectual, scientific and philosophical scrutiny. And it succeeds.

God Is Good, God Is Great provides the reader with a wealth of wonderful information that, while scholarly, is readable and most importantly encouraging. But for me, the most impressive thing about this book is that it is incredibly balanced. Each author writes carefully, clearly and logically not making any outlandish statements or rash leaps in their argument.

There is now no need to worry about what Dawkins, or Hitchens or Harris says. There really is no need to be on the defensive when people raise the apparent objects to theism which is advocated by the new atheists. This book will give you the depth, understanding and confidence to respond directly and to the heart of the issues.

This book is for both christians and non-christians, those interested in science, those who have no scientific background, those who simply want to be better informed and those who wish to study the arguments fully and those who want to be apologetically armed.

Daniel Chapter 3 – part 2

THEY ARE WILLING TO DIE FOR A GOD WHOM THEY DO NOT EVEN KNOW HAS THE POWER TO SAVE THEM – BUT THEY KNOW HE EXITS AND THAT HE IS REAL AND THAT HE IS WORTHY OF WORSHIP!!

What faith!! What faith!!

Here are three things for us to learn about this kind of faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego showed:

1.   Our faith needs to be rooted in who God is – not in who we are or where we are. Faith based on our circumstances – hey, life is great, God is good; life is crap God is…….  Is not a good place to be. If our faith is based on what is happening to us we will not benefit from faith nor will we be able to group as a Christian. Faith based on a God who is Lord of the Universe even though he seems silent should still be able to give me peace, even when we face our worst fears.

2.   Our faith needs to be rooted in BOTH the power of God and in his goodness. God can be trusted. Therefore we need to be able to leave the decision of whether God will protect us or rescue us to Him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego say that their trust in God is not based on whether they are save dor not – he is God, he is Good – they trust that!!

3.   Our faith should be about loving God for his person not for his performance. Too often we pray to God as if we are sending God coded signals to dictate his behavior like a performing pony. Instead we should approach God like loving parent who will do what is best for us. Can we, WILL we trust his decisions?

This is the type of faith we are called too. Resilient, (able to cope in tough situations) adaptable (able to survive the unexpected in life) and strong, able to face even our worst fears knowing that God is God.

There are times when we will want God to show up so badly, but we will say or try and think that it does not matter if that prayer or desire is not answered – when in fact it does matter and we silently get angry with God – and there are the times when we have prayed and then the things we asked for happens and we are totally stunned God showed up

Sahrach, Meshach and Abedego held the tension between “it really does not matter whether God shows up” and “we are totally shocked that he has shown up.”

They really didn’t care either way – it would not effect their thinking or decisions.

As the three are thrown into the fire, Neb sees a fourth person in there with them. God shows up and the three guys don’t faint shocked that God did rescue them.

Now if I was one of the guys I would popped my head out of the furnace and gone – “Nanananana”.

Who was the fourth person in the fire? Jesus.

And this was not just for the benefit of the three guys, although I am sure the three were vaguely happy to see God. Jesus showing up is for the benefit of Neb. Here was the second encounter he has had with the followers of Yahweh. Daniel not only interprets Nebs dream but tells him what the dream is and Neb is impressed and acknowledges Daniels God to be powerful. Here, he sees three followers of Yahweh completely protected from the fire, in a miraculous way and his response is good, but it is still not the right response. Neb says that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego should be praised – but he still has not bowed the knee to God  and that was the reason for this miracle. Sharach, Meshach and Abedego could have died and gone to be with God, but God is chasing Neb’s heart.

It is the kind of faith which these three Hebrews showed that allows missionaries to continue to try and lead Muslims to Christ. It is this type of faith which will help us when we stand up for those being bullied, or picked on, or beaten up, and it is the kind of faith which will help us to stand up for truth.

Is this the faith you have? Is it the faith you want.

You know, the true reward of faithful witness to God is not to be found in its results but in the experience of knowing the presence of God in the midst of the struggle.

Life will through at you some hefty knocks – some bad situations – times when your so sad you will hurt – and times when you will be SO happy you wish it would never end.

Living life with the faith of Christ – the faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego had – will help you pass through the hardest and the best of times knowing that God knows what is happening and all things are in is hands.

Daniel Chapter 3 – part 1

Recently, two American missionaries in England were stopped from handing out tracks to Muslims in a Muslim area of England. They were accused of a hate crime. In England it has become improper for a Christian to try and convert a Muslim because it will OFFEND THE MUSLIM! So Christians are discouraged to try and lead an ethnic minority to believe in ‘Christianity.’ Part of that is because Christianity is seen as western, white, religion, but also because it is politically incorrect. Our Culture says that no-one has the right to tell you that they have THE truth.

And that alone, challenges Christians to compromise aspects of our belief in God.

Christians are seen as bigoted, or fundamentalist, or unloving, intellectually stupid and even weak for believing in and trusting what scripture has to say and so we step back, and do not say the things we should say or do the things we should do because we are afraid of the consequences or what people will say to us.

If you see someone al getting beaten up, abused or shouted at do you step in between them and stand with the person getting beaten? Or would you just slip by? Hey, wait a minute, you might say, that’s not fair. I could get beaten up – I would lose my reputation – I couldn’t make a difference – but you WOULD be making a difference to that one person and for most of us stepping in is just too much trouble for us.

So, what is it that makes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego NOT worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue?

How easy it would have been to just bow, shout and make believe that they were worshipping the statute.

Yet their action in NOT worshipping it is so noticeable that some of the dudes they work with tell the King that they are not obeying the command to worship the statute.

Now notice something here – they are ratted out by the people they work with. I don’t think Sadrach, Meshach and Abedego were the cool kids on the block – part of the gang. There seems to be some jealousy here. They were looking for a reason to drop the three into something that would get them into trouble. Maybe the three were vocal about their trust in Yahweh. Maybe they were known as the geeks or the egg heads because they did everything to the best of heir ability.

What ever it was they are not liked by their peers.

You know Jesus said something very interesting – he said in John’s gospel, that if the world hated him, its going to hate us. Does the world love you or hate you. Most of the time the world loves us because we really love, or at least like the world – that is not God’s way.

Now, as an aside, why does Neb decide to build this huge statue? It would have looked a little odd – ninety feet high and 9 feet wide – tall and skinny.

Remember the dream Neb has about the big statue with the head of Gold and the body of different metals and the feet of clay that Daniel interpreted?

Daniel’s interpretation of this dream, as we saw a few nights back, was telling Neb of the inevitable future.

Yet Neb here seems to have built this statue in an attempt to unify Babylon. The statue is not of different metals but of all gold – unified, one metal – and he demands that ALL worship it – a monotheistic religion – a one, unified idol to worship.

Yet our three guys refuse – they do not love the world –  and they are brought before the King.

I do not know what your greatest fear is. What is the thing that will wake you up in a cold sweat? Disease, death, drowning, burning alive, spiders, snakes.

But imagine being brought face to face with your greatest fear. How would you respond? Would you pray? Would you acknowledge God’s power and love? Or would you break down weeping and crying like a baby, and try to get away?

Sahrach, Meshach and Abedego are faced with certain death.

And yet their answer is one of the most remarkable answers in scipture because it is filled with Faith – a faith that is a Christ based faith – a faith that we need to learn from and begin to live out.

Now V17 in the NIV translation is not that good. But the excellent NET Bible and HCS Bible bring out the real sense;  if our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”(NET) …..&… If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

Please notice something – these translations leave room for doubt – IF THE GOD WE SERVE EXISTS AND IS ABLE TO DELIVER – I find that so cool. Here are three men who have seen their country  destroyed by Babylon, are captive and have, according to their culture, seen their god defeated. They are expressing normal, expected doubts – our God has been silent and so we are not sure he even exists or can save us – AND HERE IS THE AMAZING PART – despite not being sure of all of these things –  THEY STILL WILL NOT WORSHIP THE STATUE.

Catholic Bishop Thomas J Tobin Creamed by Chris Matthews

Maybe ‘creamed’ is too tough a word, but I have just watched Chris Matthews from MSNBC HardBall lay into Bishop Thomas J Tobin regarding abortion. The Bishop has reportedly asked Congressman Kennedy (son of the late Ted Kennedy) to stop taking Holy Communion because of his position on pro-choice.

In the interview (watch it here) Matthews makes a powerful point – one which the Bishop is obviously reluctant to answer. He asks the bishop if he thinks abortion is murder, what penalty should a woman receive for the murder of her baby – what law, as a churchman, would he write to punish woman who commit murder.

Now, as one who is not pro-choice – I believe abortion to be wrong – it really is  a fascinating question. And it raises the important question of Christians and politics. What would the church see as acceptable punishment for the murder of a baby? Matthews point is that if the catholic church demanded one minute of prison time for women who have abortions they would be laughed out of town.

Daniel Chapter 2 – part 2

God is present with Daniel in Babylon and God is present with us here in the 21st Century America.

We live in a world and a culture that is walking away from God and yet is still terrified of what the world, and nature can throw at it. The world, the culture has no explanation of why hundreds of thousands died in a devastating cyclone in Myanmar – or why thousands have died in the earthquake in china, or why kids get cancer or why moms die when their children are young. The world, the culture has no answer for disaster, except to blame a God they do not believe in and use it as an excuse not to believe in God.

“I could never believe in a God that would allow something like that to happen.”

Daniel did not know why God had given Israel over to Babylon, but he did know that God was still in control.

Do you really know that God is in control? How can I know this you might ask? The same way Daniel knew – BY HIS WORD. The Bible tells us to TRUST in God – To do what he says and then to trust that God knows what he is doing.

God is not is heaven multi-tasking and saying “Gosh I hope that works out – ooooh Andy, you nearly messed that up= ahhhhh, John stop that!”

How is God in control?

The dream Neb has shows us.

Too often people get hung up about what the dream represents, and its details – to do that is to ignore its point – the thing that the dream teaches us is NOT the details of the course of events in history BUT that the fact that HISTORY is UNDER GOD’S CONTROL and that it has a purpose.

What is the purpose?

That all the kingdoms of the earth, Babylon, Assyria, Rome, Great Britain, America will not and cannot stand against the breaking into the midst of this world the Kingdom of God.

Nothing can stop it. Nothing can stand in its way. THE KINGDOM that is to come – the Kingdom of God, will eventually smash every kingdom.

And, by the way, as an aside – you do realize that if you are a believer in Jesus you will not be spending eternity in heaven. Our vision of heaven is some cloud and us sitting there with a harp.

Oh no. Eternity for us will be on a NEW EARTH – a perfect earth. 2 Peter 3:13 says But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Revelation 21:1, Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” [ Isaiah 65:17] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

Paradise, life forever will happen on the new earth.

But this begins now – the Kingdom of God has broken into our world through Jesus.

And that is the message that we – YOU are called to tell people in your schools, homes, neighbor hoods – wherever you are.

Are you strong enough to give this message?

You can only give this message – you can only live in this world as a follower of Jesus if, like Daniel, you are willing to listen to your culture but have not been assimilated into the culture.

There is nothing that is hidden from God or that God does not understand – NOTHING. In the end, this fact should be more important to us, God’s people, than anything else.

When we realize this truth about God’s knowledge, we should be comforted as well as have the courage to go on even when life seems dark, when we are confused by the shocks of life and wondering what is going on and why.

Daniel Chapter 2 – part 1

What overwhelms you? What stresses you out? What worries do you have? Maybe some these worries, or concerns, or stresses are about your life, your future, your family, the state of the world, global warming, wars.

A lot of life is out of your control. You have no idea if you will get a serious disease, or whether someone will crash into your car and kill you, whether a world wide recession will effect your future education or college or even your parents future.

Daniel had no control over whether he was taken captive and sent to Babylon.

He had no control over his physical state, but he did have control over his inner state.

Now, Daniel could have fretted, worried, despaired, been fearful, given up, but he didn’t. He kept going forward. He lived in the place that God had put him to live.

And this is the key – he lived in the PLACE GOD HAD PUT HIM.

God had placed him in Babylon. And I think that this was the attitude Daniel came to live by. Yes, he was now having to do things he didn’t want to do, learn things which he didn’t want to learn, but his loyalty and his focus remained on Yahweh He learnt to live in Babylon with as much faithfulness to God as he would have if he had remained in Jerusalem.

And here is the radical point. Just as Daniel was in Babylon because God had placed him there, so was Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon because God had placed him there.

Here was Daniel, captive of the largest most feared kingdom in the known earth and yet it too was completely at the mercy of God, and of God’s people.

Neb has a dream which is so troubling to him that he is willing to kill every wise man in the kingdom unless they tell him the dream and then the interpretation. The dream was so powerful that Neb knew that if he told the dream to his wise men they would then just give him a load of meaningless interpretations – Neb wanted to now exactly what this powerful dream meant.

Babylon was at the mercy of God.

And Babylon was also at the mercy of an insignificant little Jewish guy – Daniel – who then tells the most powerful king in the world what God of the Universe was telling him.

God is involved with our earth. He has not abandoned it. He has not left it. There is no part of the world that is out of God’s hand or out of his control.

Hear this – nothing happens in the Universe without God knowing about it and allowing it to happen.

That is what the Bible says – Jeremiah 20:4-5 says:

For this is what the LORD says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. 5 I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon.

Jeremiah 25:12: “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, [a] for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever.

Jeremiah 27:11: But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the LORD.” ‘ “

And here is a big one! 1 Samuel 16:14-15: Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil [a] spirit from the LORD tormented him.

15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.

Why are their earthquakes in China, or war in Africa, cyclones in Asia? I don’t know – but the message here in Chap 2 of Daniel is that while we may not have an answer as to why something has happened – WE MUST REALIZE THAT GOD STILL KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING!!