Thursday, August 30, 2007

Not Scared Anymore

This Sunday here in Australia, people will celebrate Father's Day. They do it on a different day than that in North America. Usually, I get scared to go to church on this day. I get annoying feelings, begrudging feelings about being in church on a Father's Day. I do not like going to church when I can predict the sermon.

If you are a father and you are going to an Evangelical/Pentecostal church, I can predict the sermon topic you will hear this Sunday, I can bet you the subject of the sermon you will hear -- is about you, the father of the house. Well, be prepared for a lecture, don't say I did not forewarn you.

As for me, I am free, free, at last...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mother Theresa's Crises of Faith

Over at Time magazine, there is an article that speaks of Mother Theresa's crises of faith. I read it with great interest and I hope you wonder off to the above link to get a context of what I am about to say here.

What is striking is that according to this article, Mother Theresa did not have the "presence of God" even in the last 50 years of her life. Now, no one can deny that Mother Theresa is an epitome of good works that all of us stand to be shamed, hands down. Our selfishness, and self-indulgence need no further commentary. You already know what I mean.

So, one would wonder, what drove her to these self-sacrificing care for the poor? Now, I will not deal deeper into the state of her standing with God. I do not know her heart. I do not know if she clung to the promise of God alone, that for Christ's sake her sins are forgiven, without throwing any of her good works to the mix. Her experience reminds me of my Jehovas Witnesses train buddy, George. Back in those years, I used to take the train to work and I happened to be-friend him. He saw me reading my Bible and we started conversing and converting one another. I think I got to around 96 hours of debate with him altogether. One time, George hopped into the carriage I was in, looking not so happy and quite burdened, I asked him, what was up? He said "well you know, if you remember Noah being in the ark with his family, they were probably not that happy too, sometimes it is like that in the kingdom of God. It is sweaty and unpleasant, ugly being around those animals, with their pooh and smell and that". I ignorantly replied "well, yes there is that, but over all I should be glad for after all I am being saved from the flood".

So, putting aside the crucial issue of Mother Theresa's object of faith, I do not know where it was placed for sure, but crises like these is absolutely guaranteed to hunt us. As our body is racked by sickness, weakness and ill health, we will be thrown into an ocean of doubt, dryness and feelings of being left alone to die. The abandonment so to speak. Sometimes, you would not even know who and what you are. I have fits of these. You see, life gets harder, as life gets older. In fact, I have attacks of atheism myself (see my article below). So what to do?

Some few points of observation:

1. If we are thinking that God comes to us by we doing some good work, He does not. Quit trying that route. He has already come, in Jesus, I should be content that He has come and I should see this in His Word and Sacraments. In other words, I should look into the promises of God, both verbal and visual forms that are outside me. If I look inside me, and draw spiritual energy there, well, we are bankrupt in the first place, that box is empty and emptiness is what I do get.

2. Our dryness, doubts, emptiness have nothing to do with the done deal of Jesus. All of these are experiences we go through, and the best way and may God grant it, is that God causes us to doubt our doubts, and make us skeptical of our dryness or His apparent lack of presence in us. There is no mucking around, we need to look at the Cross. Some follow the idea that God is holding them... like this saying here...

this is when I am glad to be a Reformed believer because it's not so much that I
hold on to God but that God holds on to me, not so much that I know God but
that God knows me.
This does not do anything for me, not because I am not Reformed, but because that is precisely what I am doubting - is God for me? Is he holding me? I do not know, for I am feeling forsaken at that time so this saying gives me no comfort. Why? Because I am a sinner, God has no reason to hold on to me. BTW that saying above brings you also down the slope that is inward looking. It will not do (at least for me). I suggest that only the Cross is the one that truly gives comfort. For me that is the only one that avails, by experience.

3. It is important that we continue to hear the Word preached to us, because we are wondering atheist ourselves. We need to be put back to our senses and in our place by someone else preaching Law/Gospel to us. Due to a very serious family crisis in my life today, I have not been in church as I had to travel inter-state over the week ends. Skipping worship services, I was tempted in my mind yesterday to say --"hmmm, I feel blah about going to church, I could get used to this". Then something in my head said - "you need to go to church, dumbo, you need to know you are a sinner", "you need Good News outside your situation, buck-o".

One time Pr. Tom Baker at said this that blessed me, he said
"God abandoned One, so He does not need to abandon you"

Hebrews 13:5b
"I will never leave you nor forsake you."

See also John 14:18. Oh my soul, hope in His word.

Do me a favor, when you see me dis-oriented, whack me in the head and send me a message telling me - "go read your blog".

Friday, August 24, 2007

What God thinks of atheists

Wow, I wondered off some atheist blogs and boy, are they insulting and impolite. They really do foam in the mouth with animosity towards theists in general and Christians in particular. The latter is the usual punching bag and target of verbal insults and boy, do they make an art out of it.

I was an atheist during my university years, in fact that is why my minor was Philosophy.

If the Bible is the Word of God then it is God speaking there, so to know what God thinks of atheists, see Psalm 14:1.

God calls them "fools". Now that is a nice term, the Bible is being nice, but I think the translation of that word is found here.

Now, pleases do not get mad at me, I did not write the Bible.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ahh, that's a negative, over...

My Professor and I were discussing over lunch and in passing the notion of negation. What happens when we negate a proposition? For example NOT P. If it is NOT NOT P, does this mean P? In classical logic, yes, but that is an axiom (depending on how you structure, it can also be a theorem). We have a thing called "negation as failure". For example if I can not prove NOT P, we conclude it is P. Yet that is because we assume that NOT NOT P ->P, i.e. implies P. In general this is not true, I know this is hard to believe, I still get mental on this.

Now what does this have anything to do with theological ideas? Well, a plenty. Notice that when we say NOT P, we are not saying what it IS. We are saying what it is NOT, and not what it IS. For example, if I say "this is not a pen", I am saying what it is not, but what it IS has a myriad if not infinite of possibilities. Using your eyes and looking to where I point my finger to the thing I am referring to, well, you can infer what it might be. Now if we are only communicating non-visually, like conversing like this, via blog, then nothing helps to clarify when I state a negation to you.

My concrete example then is found in the Chalcedonian Formula. There we read this words in reference to the Lord Jesus being God-Man...
inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably
The above is what we are not to do with his God and Human natures. That is, NOT confuse them, NOT change them, NOT divide them, NOT separate them.

Whatever we do, we are not to do the above. You can do plenty of reflecting on it but see to it that you do not fall on the negation's edge. Because, if you do, you get into error and that can be fatal spiritually.

As you notice, the mathematical-logician's downfall is negation. For the theologian, well, he gets into trouble when he crosses "negation" too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I feel, teach and confess

It must be true because I felt it, I felt the presence of God in the worship service, and I felt the moving of the Holy Spirit. I used to think that. Unaware, I was conditioned to believe some doctrines to be true because I experienced it myself. Tell you what, that situation is recipe for depression.

As you get older, you find that what you feel is not always true, and your strongest enemy within you is your emotion. If you have been conditioned that "feeling" great means you are into God's will, when depression hits, guess what? You go down the tubes so fast you need a parachute.

When I am depressed, I now realize that what I need at that time is not to feed my emotion, besides, depression is like that, it refuses to be comforted by whatever is good. Providentially this is where the divine service, ie the formal liturgy has helped me. Because there you will find that your mind is being drawn away from you, at least for a brief moment, you are being helped to not focus on what is inside you but to focus on what is outside you. That I believe is what I need when I am depressed, something that will bring me out from my mind which is going 200 miles per hour with anxiety and what have you, to the truth that never changes. You need truth that is unchanging, that is there whatever your feelings might be - be it good, nice, warm feelings or not. That is God's Word and God's Done Deal in Jesus - the Cross. Whatever promotes that, that is what I believe we need, and a liturgy that is peppered by God's Word is the most useful tool to have and use.

Then there is also the aspect of creeds and confessions. I now think that creeds and confessions must have been practiced and used by the early Christians because these creeds have the effect of limiting the domain of your thinking and imagination. It is kind of a fence or a border to which you can relate too in your private moments of reflection, as you are lost in your own thoughts and imaginings, it will tell you or pull you back from where you have strayed. And by George, we have plenty of that, our sinful nature talks to us and lies to us 24 X 7 . We can manufacture novel ideas and teachings without realizing they are heresies.

Of course there is no comparison, absolutely no comparison, with Scriptural passages being recited and confessed. That should be a habit too specially the passages that promises us forgiveness/salvation. Scripture is there, it is outside you, it has no bearing on how or what you feel about you or about God at all. The Creeds however convey the truth of Scripture's teaching in summary form.

For me now, the creeds although they can be mechanically recited, should not be. Rather as it is recited, it ought to be reflected on. They are meant to convict and comfort us by the truth those creedal lines convey. It normally starts with I believe not with I feel.

Amazingly when you are challenged again and again by what you say you believe (and do you really), your feelings change. I think it starts getting comforted by the truth that Jesus loves you by dying and rising from the dead -- for you, your sins. That is good news one should never get tired of hearing and believing.

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Baptist's Testimony

Over at IssuesEtc you can here a testimony of a Baptist. Click here. Go to the next portion of the program to hear his testimony, somewhat in the middle.

To understand the proper view of baptism, one must relate it to objective justification.
Q: When did God forgive you of your sins?
A: At the Cross of Jesus 2000 years ago.
Q: How does God apply that gift to your space and time?
A: At my baptism.

This does not violate sola fide and sola gratia, in fact it demonstrates it, the baptism declares the Gospel of forgiveness to the sinner as a free gift. I follow this understanding when it comes to babies, is this baby a sinner? Yes. Did Jesus die for this baby? Yes. Then I can baptize it. Again, objective justification is a free gift.

One time I ask a baptistic Calvinist if there is a parent who has a teenage, say, son who is in a coma and the parent requests that the teenager be baptized, if he would do it? He said--what is the point? I guess he won't because the teenager is unable to profess faith, it can not speak as plain in simple, it is in a coma. But then again this illustrates that God only applies the forgiveness of sins found in the Cross of Jesus, only if the person is able to profess. What about a deaf, mute and blind one? They probably would not be baptized.

Is baptism a ticket? No, because one can reject the gift, they can say, thanks very much I do not care about it. In that case, the Gospel is left in the shelves, languishing and of no benefit to this baptized person.

more later

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Be All You Can Be

The fact that Jesus died for my sins has nothing, if not little, to do with my reaching my maximum potential.

Whoever sold me the notion that after Christ, God's plan is that I should be all I could be must have been like a salesman selling me air. I am just wondering how come I bought it?

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

* Refrain:
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow

Colossians 2:10 (New American Standard Bible)

and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Friday, August 10, 2007

Miss Saigon and The American Dream

My daughter gave my wife and I a ticket to the musical play Miss Saigon a few months ago so we went to watch it. We enjoyed it very much, one of the reasons is that the main casts were played by several Filipino singers/performers! I am biased of course. We were quite pleased that they did very very well and our hearts were warmed. Seated to the right of us were Vietnamese folks and I thought they were touched by the story and by the performance. There were a few hankies drawn and sounds of sniffs after the performance. It was a very touching and real piece of a story. I hope the Vietnamese watchers considered the performance doing justice to that part of their history some 30-40 years ago. The Filipinos and the Vietnamese in some respect share a common experience, they both were colonized by western powers. Ours was with the Spaniards and then the Americans. We Filipinos are good colonial children. Colonized people live in a mixed cultural mindset. Everyone is superior to you and you are down there below. You are never happy with who you are and you wished your skin was white, your height tall, your nose pointy and your hair blond or fair. You wish you were rich and not poor. Everyone is beautiful except you. Ever felt like that? Then we got something in common.

Here is the conclusion I draw from seeing Miss Saigon, though the Americans retreated and lost the war, culturally they won! They won because that American Dream got embedded in that generation they touched and they are pursuing it today. That is what is going to happen in Iraq. The US may lose the war, but culturally they will win because their version of democracy and lifestyle appeals to the human psyche, it is right on the ball and in sync with human nature. The right to be "happy" and the right to pursue it, what could be wrong with that? Who would not like the nice life shown in Hollywood?

Some one like D. Gelernter's Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion says that America (Americanism) is a religion!(I got the book reference from Bill Cork's blog). In fact if you look at the way Evangelicalism has developed today, Americanism is mixed in there too, right there in that form of Christianity which, ironically has very little trace or connection now with the original Evangelicals, it is there too. Fortunately thinking ones are reflecting and are waking up.

Over at the restless reformer blog, I got this poem

i repent, i repent of my pursuit of america’s dream
i repent, i repent of living like i deserve anything
of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
in our suburb where we’re safe and white
i am wrong and of these things i repent

~ Derek Webb, “I Repent”

Same here, I repent of it too.

Hmmm, yawn, whatever

I went to a Atheist vs. Christian debate last week, Matt was kind enough to let me know so I went to my uni where the debate happened to be. I was actually expecting the Dr. (the atheist) to do a lot of damage since the Mr. (the christian) has not even finished his uni degree yet. I mean, the credentials of the atheist is just so over whelming.

Firstly, the christian went in first on the floor, but actually he should have gone in after the atheist because the atheist is in the affirmative, his thesis is that religion is a delusion and the christian is on the negative. At any rate the christian boy did a good job specially in the middle of the "debate" as he focused on Christ and his Cross.

Unfortunately the atheist did not even do a dent. The atheist made assertions even to the point of asserting that Jesus did not exist! Now you may try and prove he did not rise from the dead but there was a Jesus who pagan historians said that was crucified and whom Christians addressed as their Lord. To assert that is to be taken out of the realm of being serious. So plenty of assertions but nothing to back up that substantially can be taken with much seriousness. Then comes the kicker, the atheist stated that atheists are moral people and that you do not have to have a God to have morality. Hence, he believes in being moral but he does not believe (or he doubts) if there was a God. Now his definition of his type of atheism is already subject to equivocation, but the justification for morality is...passe'.

Here is what I mean by passe'. I remember when I was a young college sophomore, in my Philosophy class, we studied Immanuel Kant and his work - Critique of Pure Reason. I do not remember the full details of the book but in summary, Kant showed that there was no positivist evidence one can use to convince that God exists. There is no empirical test one can use. Whether we agree with Kant on that or not is another issue. But the atheist in the debate was sounding off Kant, but with a sad incoherence. Unlike him, Kant showed that for practical reasons we should believe in the existence of God because morality and social order has no basis at all. In fact social order has no foundation or basis to be. One's idea of justice also becomes irrational and absurd. Rather than order, it will produce anarchy (yet the atheist's solution to world peace is to chuck out religion).

So the position of the atheist, I conclude is passe'. Did you observe today that there are not too many becoming atheists? What are people becoming? They are becoming spiritual! The issue today is no longer does God exist? The issue that people are working on now is - which God should they believe in? They are shopping for a God or some form of spirituality they can latch on to.

The Gospel does not give spirituality, it tells and gives the love of God for poor souls wandering in the dark, in demonstration. It does not simply say God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Yuck.

Rather God says I love you and here is how - see my Son hanging on the Cross for you, an enemy worthy of my wrath.

Psalm 14:1

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Beating to submission

I see that the ELCA will vote again on the topic of homosexual clergy. I heard they have discussed and voted on this issue before, and now it is back again on the table. Ohh, I see that, all you have to do is if at first you do not succeed just try and try again until you beat your opposition to tiredness and wear them out to submission.

I am just wondering, this technique can be used also for pushing again the ordination of women. All those who want this to be a reality is attempt to put it again on the next synod. They know how to wait, but you just got to admire the tenacity of the movement.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Do you think I am a super star?

Ahh yes, the world of Superstar Apostles, Swash Buckling Preachers and Adorable Master Jedi of Communicating Therapeutic Prosperity Get-All-You-Can-Get-From-This-World Message, where else, but in CCW (Crazy Charismaniac World)?

I got to share with you the world of celebrity preaching, read here at a Charisma Mag editorial. Something is wrong isn't it? It starts from its root doctrines that are wrong to begin with, how come my pastor friends find it hard to see? This sort of thing is the fruit of false teachings. How crazy does one need to get?

The sad thing is that this American Pentecostalism is being exported in Asia, South America and Africa, in short 3rd world nations, and they are being misled by it.

Saved *from* 'good works'

I said one time in a correspondence that God has saved me from good works! Someone read this took objection, "how can God save you from something good"? "He saves you from evil (nut head), good works is not something God has to save you from"!

That is the question, are my good works looked by God as "good works"? Or is it me, by fiat, declaring my works, good? If you are going to come to God for acceptance based on what you believe to be your good works, may I have a suggestion? You'd better be sure that those works you have are darn "good" and God judges them to be so.

God saved us from our "good works", he is not requiring us to rely on the good works that we might thought we have performed as the basis for being in a right status/ relationship with him. God has released us from looking at our "good works" as a basis of having a relationship with Him, that is what I mean by saying God saved me from (my) good works. I forget the words of Luther, he even said somewhere that we should repent of our good works! Good works when used to front up to God is no longer "good".

I believe St. Paul's attitude towards his good works were the same, he said (one of my favorite verse) in Phil 3:9
9and be found in him, not having(V) a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but(W) that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Having good works is not the problem, having faith in Christ is.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

We got groove

In the last couple of years I came to see that God has given us many gifts like music and culture. The thing is that we misuse and abuse these gifts. I thought I should share something personal, this was the type of songs my buddies and I used to like when we were in high school. Its got groove, its got soul (Funk Bros & Joan Osborne). We liked these types of songs because we were a bunch of lonely cowboys hanging out figuring out the meaning of life. Besides we were Filipinos boys, what could we do but sing. Imagine that, I am posting something "un-spiritual" and I do not even feel guilty about that! Just tells you how much of a baby boomer I am. If it looks unclean in Firefox, let me know, Safari Beta isn't handling this well.

I know I got to find, some kind of peace of mind, help me please.

Thank God, the words of this song is not the last statement that can be made to the broken hearted.

I have been praying for the Korean Christians being hostaged by the Taliban.