Google+ Badge

Saturday, 23 July 2016

What is Truth?

I am increasingly amazed by the number of people, even intelligent people, who say that truth is relative or subjective. Basically that the truth about something can be determined by what a person believes or thinks and that there are no absolutes. I spent a few hours the other day chatting with someone who was espousing this view as a reply to virtually everything I said about the Christian faith. We were going round in circles something like this; 

Me: I believe Jesus died on the cross to save people from sin.
Him: That’s your truth, not mine.
Me: If it’s true for me it’s true for you as well. There can only be one truth.
Him: I have my own beliefs that are true for me.
Me: Jesus either died on the cross for sinners or He didn’t. The truth about that statement is real for everyone.
Him: It doesn’t have to be true for me. I have my own truth.
Me: The Bible is the Word of God
Him: I don’t believe that…
Me: What you believe about it doesn’t change the truth. Either it is God’s Word or it isn’t.
Him: There doesn’t have to be one truth and all religions lead to God anyway.
Me: All religions don’t lead to God. They all say different things and are fundamentally opposed to each other.
Him: They can still all be true and right.
Me: No they can’t. Christianity teaches that Jesus is the only way to God and that all other religions are false. That is either true or it isn’t. Other religions teach the same; that their beliefs are correct and that other religions are false. There is only one truth. Black is black, it isn’t white….
Him: I see in shades of grey.
Me: Grey isn’t black or white, it’s grey. 

I don’t know how reading this makes you feel but for me it was pretty frustrating, but I’m becoming used to it and learning not to get riled but just to stick to the TRUTH, which can be known absolutely! (By the way I didn’t talk to that person in such a militant and unloving manner, that was just the gist of the conversation so you can see the point I’m making.)

Consider this in John 18 vs 37-38

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Jesus is confirming that His purpose for coming into the world was to be a witness for the truth. Can you guess how Pilate responded to Him? 

“Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

This is sounding tragically familiar in our post-modern society. The tricks of the enemy are not new we just fail to recognise them in our apathy.

It is one of the enemy’s best deceptions to convince people that truth doesn’t exist. If there is no truth, then there is no right and wrong. Right and wrong become subject to what a person believes. There is then no sin and therefore no eternal punishment for sinners. Jesus didn’t then die for our sin as there is no sin because we can choose our own morality. Sounds great doesn’t it; But is it true? 

The problem; we have a God given conscience so deep down we know what is right and wrong. People who allow themselves to believe that truth is relative to justify their sin will one day have to stand before God and explain why they believed this lie. We can comfort ourselves by looking around and thinking that we must be okay because everyone else believes the same as us. But when we stand before God we will do so as individuals not as a group. We will be asked why we believed lies and it won’t be acceptable to say that this is what we were taught by our parents, friends, neighbours or even through our culture. I am writing today to tell you that not everyone believes that truth is relative. There are still those of us who believe that there is a knowable truth. 

You might be wondering how this lie crept in in the first place. Political correctness played a big part. It is seen an unloving to tell people that what they believe isn’t true. It is seen as judgemental to tell people that they will go to hell if they don’t trust in Jesus. It is seen as intolerant and arrogant to state that Christianity is the only way to God. So people begin to soften their stance. They say that as long as a person is sincere God will accept them, that maybe a God of love won’t send people to hell and that all religions lead to God. But these people are missing the point. God has not changed and nor has the Bible. Believing something different or adjusting your views to accommodate diversity and to try and be more loving doesn’t change the truth. Is it really more loving to water down or withhold the truth to avoid offending someone? If a person is about to get run over by a bus you drag them out of the way, right? Let’s call the bus “Truth is relative” and let’s call the driver Satan.

My purpose in writing today is not to criticise the person I chatted to or to hold myself as somehow superior. It is to ask you all to reflect on this simple question; Is there such a thing as absolute truth? The Bible says that there is and that it can be known and that it holds the key to life, death and everything in-between. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. His death on the cross after living a perfect life here on earth allows us free forgiveness of our sins and to be reconciled to God for a life in heaven one day. 

Don’t allow yourself to believe that truth is relative. It is a dangerous and illogical path leading to confusion and ultimately to the loss of your soul for eternity.  I challenge those that are not yet trusting in Jesus to ask God to reveal the truth to you. Seek the truth sincerely with all your heart and an open mind and be willing to follow where-ever your search leads. God will not ignore a sincere seeker. Decide for yourself whether Jesus' claims to be the Son of God are true or false. The decision you make about God is the most important one you will ever make. Don’t leave it for another day as it may be too late.

Romans 10 vs 9

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. YOU WILL BE SAVED.”

1 Timothy 2 vs 5

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”

Friday, 15 July 2016

Charismatic Chaos--The Sign Gifts

I tend to steer clear of this area having spent a considerable amount of time studying it when I first came to faith and making a decision that ‘Cessationism’ was the most convincing position. I am not going to use this platform to argue or try to persuade others that this is what the Bible teaches. For those who don’t know, Cessationism is the belief that the sign gifts (tongues, prophecy, healing, casting out demons) ceased after the period of the Apostles and that individuals are no longer given these gifts. God may still answer prayer in relation to the latter two (healing/casting out demons) and perform miracles of healing/allow a person to be freed from demons but specific individuals no longer have these gifts to exercise. 

I have decided to address this today because I believe that it has become one of the most controversial areas in church life and practice and has sadly resulted in serious confusion, discouragement and disillusionment for many professing Christians. Regardless of whether or not we believe the gifts have ceased, we are required to submit everything that takes place to the authority of Scripture. The Holy Spirit always points us to Jesus. The Bible is God’s Word to us and is reliable for every spiritual dilemma that we face. It follows that any experience that occurs outside the bounds of Scripture, or in some cases being totally against what God has said in His Word, cannot be from God. God does not and will not contradict Himself and He had given us His Word as a complete revelation. The conclusion must be then, that when these things happen outside His Word, as I know they do, they are either something that we have manufactured ourselves, maybe with prompting from our teachers/leaders, or something sent by the enemy to cause confusion in the church.  And this it has done. God is a God of order not of chaos.

I recently read ‘The Charismatic Illusion’  It is a revised and expanded edition of ‘The Charismatic Phenomenon’ which has been around for several years. I was reminded of many good points that some Christians seem to have disregarded or forgotten with the passage of time. I am going to highlight a few of these here in the hope that it will help you as you seek to ‘discern the Spirits’ to see if they are from God. I was prompted to do this after having a discussion with a poor lady this week who had been told by her church leader that it was her fault that her son was ill and that he wasn’t healed due to a lack of faith on her part. She had been told that God always heals and that this is His desire. She then watched a drunk girl stand on the stage in her church whilst speaking in tongues, this girl then apparently became sober under ‘the power of the Holy Spirit,’ The lady was totally discouraged as she felt the experience may have been ‘fake’ but she wasn’t sure and then she felt that she was lacking the joy and excitement that others seemed to be feeling as a result of their ‘personal experiences with God’. She was thinking of walking away from her faith. Sadly, this is all too common.

Tongues were originally given to show that the church was authentic (God’s miraculous power) and to allow the spread of the Gospel (so that everyone could hear it in their language.) In the modern church it seems that mostly people are seeking this gift for personal fulfilment or spiritual one-up-man-ship. The purpose of any of God’s gifts is to edify and build up his church, they are not granted for selfish use. Tongues in Scripture were recognised foreign languages and there was a clear purpose for them. They were not taught or learned, they were given instantly and used immediately. Now, people are taught tongues by church leaders and through various courses in order to enhance their spiritual experiences. The tongues that are learned are not generally recognisable as foreign languages and there seems to be no discernible message for the church. They are often exercised without an interpretation which means that no one is edified as no one understands what has been said. It is widely accepted that anyone can learn to speak in ‘tongues’ and that this practice forms part of many pagan rituals, other religion’s worship and cult activity. As for speaking in tongues privately in prayer, this is, in my view, a strange practice. We are taught not to empty our minds and to worship in Spirit but also in truth. If we don’t understand what we are saying to God and only He understands, having granted the gift in the first place, then what is the point?  It takes discipline to pray consistently and regularly and there are no shortcuts.

Prophecy was originally used for a similar purpose to tongues. It was used before the Bible was complete to demonstrate that God was in control and that He knew what would come to pass. We can see evidence of this due to many of the Old Testament prophecies having already been fulfilled in the New Testament. It was meant to encourage us and teach us to trust in God. It was widely known even in those days that if a Prophet’s word didn’t come to pass then he was a false Prophet and should be disregarded. The majority of contemporary ‘prophets’ have made at least one prophecy that didn’t come to pass yet they are still allowed to bring messages to our congregations. If God has granted the gift of prophecy to an individual do you think that He would really allow ANY of their prophecies to fail to come true? Surely this would then cast doubt on Him if He is truly speaking through this Prophet. Modern day prophecies sometimes tell people to do things that are not in Scripture or even to follow the ‘Holy Spirit’s’ leading away from Scripture. But these are clearly wrong. Why should we trust anyone who claims additional revelation that causes us to doubt the reliability of the Word of God? Prophecy is sometimes used to encourage someone or to affirm a Biblical message or a course of action. If this is found in Scripture and Godly counsel has already been received, then maybe it can be considered along with the other factors. But there are people making life changing decisions based on the ‘prophetic word’ of a person acting outside the bounds of Scripture. If Christians don’t have the Bible as their firm foundation they can end up absolutely anywhere….

Healing is probably the area that is causing the most suffering both in terms of physical pain from the illness and emotional pain due to charismatic teaching. In the Bible healings were always total, complete and irreversible. They were not of aches and pains or things that come and go. We see sight being restored, lame people walking, people being cured of leprosy and even some being raised from the dead. If there are modern gifted faith healers, why do they not spend all of their time in the world’s hospitals? Often these people themselves have illnesses which they cannot cure. What a terrible thing to tell an immature believer that they remain sick due to a lack of faith or that it is their fault that they are sick in the first place. Occasionally God may use illness to discipline someone but there needs to be clear evidence that this is what is happening before making pronouncements along these lines. It is cruel to suggest that someone’s level of faith can heal them of serious illness or disability. It is clear in Scripture that miraculous healings had already begun to die out later in the New Testament; Paul had a thorn in his flesh, Timothy had to take wine for his stomach and others were sick and not healed. Why not if God wants everyone to be healed? Surely Paul should’ve been able to heal those around him if not himself? Did Paul have a lack of faith? No, God clearly told him that He would not take away his thorn because it was used to keep Paul weak in order for God to be glorified. God uses sickness to draw us closer to Him and to teach us to trust in Him completely and totally. He doesn’t promise healing. We can and should pray for it but we need to learn to accept His will if we remain ill as there is always a purpose for our suffering.

Demon possession is not something we commonly see in the West but it is prevalent in other parts of the World. A true Christian cannot be possessed by a demon. I am always amazed by the number of people who think this would be possible but if Jesus is living in a heart by the power of the Holy Spirit then there is definitely no room for a demon there. People cannot be possessed by a demon   accidentally, a door must’ve been opened. A door to the occult/satanic activity; maybe through tarot cards or Ouija boards or idol worship or even the use of some drugs/substances. Christians don’t need to be afraid that they will inadvertently be possessed. Even those who have dabbled in dangerous areas can pray for God’s help and protection and ask a Christian leader to pray for them.  If there is real evidence of demon possession, then experienced church leaders should be called to pray for the person asking God to free them. It is not something that someone needs to be gifted to do, but I wouldn’t recommend dealing with it alone or as an immature believer, even the disciples were unable to deal with demons on one occasion (Mark 9.) This is a serious subject and shouldn’t be taken lightly, yet now we see people casting demons out of everything and delivering people from all kinds of imaginary bondages. Where does this even come from? It’s definitely not in Scripture, when people had demons it was obvious by their speech and behaviour.

To conclude, God is able to do anything and He does answer prayer. Believing that the sign gifts have ceased does not mean that God’s power is limited or that Christians who hold this position don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. It is a belief based on an interpretation of Scripture and how God chooses to work through individuals in our day. Regardless of our specific stance on this we should check everything that happens against the Bible and not allow our experiences to determine our viewpoint. A church leader once said to me that he was dubious about the gifts until one of his relatives was healed when she touched the television during a faith healing show. But surely this is the wrong way round. Our experiences should be submitted to Scripture; we shouldn’t try to fit Scripture around our experiences or take individual verses out of context in order to justify them. We also need to remember that the enemy can counterfeit these things and appears as an angel of light in order to deceive people. He prowls around like a roaring lion.

A diet of exciting charismatic experience can leave people feeling empty when they come down to earth. They are seeking fresh ‘words from the Lord’ or ‘words of knowledge’ rather than being satisfied with a daily personal devotion time which takes discipline to maintain. We are taught to walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5 vs 7.)  Charismatic practice can also leave people feeling lost and alone if they don’t have the same type of experiences as their friends or people in their church. This type of competitive self-seeking is not what God wants to see and it is not loving. The main teaching on the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 has at its core the famous passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13. It reminds us that if we have/seek gifts but don’t have love we are like a clanging gong or resounding cymbal. My former Pastor made this point by entitling a sermon “The best teaching on spiritual gifts ever” thus drawing the crowds, but then preaching the whole sermon on 1 Corinthians 13.

Let’s remember this as we seek to discern the spirits and to live sincere lives for God. Let’s come back down to earth and focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection and the Good News of forgiveness of sins through Him and eternal life with God. Let’s take the focus off ourselves and channel our zealous energies into obedience to God and into fulfilling the Great Commission by telling others about Jesus so that they too might be saved! 

John 14 vs 15

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”

Matthew 7 vs 21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

1 Corinthians 1 vs 21-23

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[a] to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,”

2 Corinthians 11 vs 12-15

“And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

Monday, 4 July 2016

Modern Technology--Friend or Foe?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently as gadgets galore seem to progressively dominate people’s minds and lives and the internet has taken the place of traditional shopping. So, is this necessarily a bad thing and how should Christians respond to the dramatic changes that are taking and have taken place in recent decades? Is technology itself evil or can it be used for good? Should we as Christians go with the cultural flow or should we take a stand against this seemingly unstoppable advance? Is this even an issue that needs to be discussed from a Christian perspective or should we take a neutral position as it is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible? 

I have always had something of an aversion to modern technology, maybe partly this is an inherited view ingrained in me from a young age. It is not the typical attitude of someone of my generation as I have grown up in the computer literate age, surrounded by gadgets. But, when my school friends were sporting the latest mobile phones, I was faithfully carrying a Nokia brick and laughing when Dom Joly produced an even larger one on Trigger Happy TV and yelled into it in public places startling and embarrassing everyone around him. This leads me to the first point; as Christians we are accountable to God for our use of money. Our money is not really ours to spend as we like, it is God’s and should be primarily used in ways that advance His Kingdom. Does God care about the latest fads/fashions/status symbols? Probably not. Should we, as Christians, try to keep up with the latest gadget models and trends, regardless the cost? Probably not. Is living simply a good way to show our friends and neighbours that we have different priorities? It could be. 

Within the last week I finished a book called “Zapped.” It basically states that an average household has gone from having around 15 electronic devices in their homes a few decades ago, to a staggering 150 now. The book talks about Electro-magnetic fields and explains how these can affect our health especially over the long term. We all know that using mobile phones for lengthy periods carries a risk of cancer but the book details many of the other risks that are out there. When I was in the police, a few years back, Airwave radios were introduced and many officers were initially worried about the risk to their health, but as we were forced to use them day in and day out and other options had been taken off the market, there wasn’t really anything that could be done, so the protests died a death in the end. But I continue to wonder about these devices and others. There are documented cases of people becoming ill after living near mobile phone masts and other such key equipment. But with all of these things it is still early days and none of us really knows the actual impact on our long term health. There are consequences to all of it. Should we be paranoid and go rushing off to buy all of the things suggested in “Zapped?” Probably not. Is there a case for knowing about these things and minimising the risk to our health where possible? I think there is.

Another area that should concern a Christian is that of state control or our countries gradually being turned into “Nanny states.” The government decides that the people are either incapable of or not wanting to make their own decisions about things so they take control. They do this by preventing free speech and by interfering in the private and family lives of individuals. This leads to attempting to control people’s viewpoints and various government departments examining how individuals may or may not act according to what they believe or think; “The Thought Police.” I experienced a measure of this whilst working for Sussex Police due to my Christian views about homosexuality (Planet Police.) I also read a series of Novellas that describes what may happen in America if technology continues to advance at its current rate ( (Backland.) Modern technology allows governments to monitor and control its citizens as never before. I have heard about people being refused jobs and even sacked for things they posted on their Facebook pages and about one Christian student who was kicked off his Social Work course at University for expressing Biblical views about gay marriage on social media. Should we refuse to use the internet fearing what may happen to us? Probably not as God is ultimately in control. Should we consider online security issues and resist attempts by the government to control our thoughts? Definitely.

A fourth area for consideration is that of our time. How much time is now taken up with these gadgets and with using the internet? Is it addictive? Can we stop ourselves checking our social media pages ten times each day? Are we able to get away from our gadgets to spend proper quality time alone with God and with real people? Are we hearing what God is saying or is He drowned out by the buzz of technology? Are we losing the ability to interact with others in person due to being glued to our phones/Facebook pages?  As Christians, our time (like our money) is not our own and we are accountable to God for how we use it. Should we throw all our gadgets out and ban computers? Probably not. Should we place reasonable limits on our time and activities online and on the credit we spend on phones? Yes. Should we ensure we have face to face contact where possible. I think so, gadgets are not a substitute for actual face to face meetings and a lot of our online contact is superficial.

Fifthly, I find it is a lot easier to say things online or via a gadget that perhaps I wouldn’t say in person in a face to face conversation, especially negative things. This can be dangerous. It sometimes feels as if we are sending the information out there into the world somewhere and that it doesn’t matter what we do and say as it’s a virtual environment. But this is not true. Christians are accountable to God for what they do, say and think, including things that have been hastily typed online or via a text message or email. God knows who has written it even if others don’t. We need to ensure that we are only saying things that we would be willing to say in real conversation and that we are representing Jesus at all times. You probably wouldn’t have a face to face conversation whilst upset and angry, but the internet/gadgets allow you to say what you want whenever you want which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Sometimes it’s helpful to wait a while before posting or sending something especially if we are upset or angry or to ask someone else what they think.

So, I have extensively covered the negative aspects in terms of use of money, health, Government control, use of time, superficiality of relationships. But, is there a positive aspect to modern technology and how can we as Christians utilise it? I say yes there definitely is and it’s all about perspective. How do we view our contact with others via our gadgets and on the internet? Are we using them for Kingdom purposes? How can we best do this?

I think we need firstly to remember that at the other end of every text, email, message or viewing our social media posts is a real person. That person has a soul and needs to hear the Gospel. Modern technology allows us to evangelise as never before; we can reach others quickly and en masse. We can encourage each other with Bible verses and share our Christian viewpoints via social media. We can rate, review and recommend Christian books and share our testimonies easily and with hundreds of people. We can keep in regular contact with people we care about and show Christian love to those in need through a text or email if we cannot be there in person straight away.

As with everything the key is for us to use modern technology in the right way. For us to use it as an opportunity to evangelise and connect with others on spiritual issues, not to whittle away the time or get into heated debates about unimportant issues. We don’t know how God will use these contacts that we are developing and a timely post or message could be used mightily for God. We should be praying about our use of social media and gadgets, that it would all be for God’s glory and with His Kingdom in mind. Can people even tell we are Christians from looking at our profiles? Are we ashamed of our beliefs when we are online and are we being our true selves?

For anyone who is challenged by this and who wants to start using their gadgets/internet time in a more purposeful way. I have recently started volunteering for an organisation called Groundwire UK (there is also a US office.) We answer questions about Christianity from people all around the world via online chat and sometimes via email. I have had discussions with Muslims in Iran and Somalia, people struggling financially in America and the Philippines, people wanting to end their lives in Malaysia and Hong Kong, people working as prostitutes and desperate for a change in Britain, and people asking questions about the Trinity and various cults in Australia. These are just some of the types of conversation that I have encountered so far.

The aim is to bring each person one step closer to Jesus, we try to encourage people to pray to God (and offer to pray for them,) read their Bible, go to church and/or talk to a church leader. I have been encouraged by the responses of those I have chatted to, most of whom just wanted someone to talk through their problem with them. They are mostly very grateful. Some cry and others are relieved as they feel the weight lifted as they share their problem with someone else. Many are surprised that they are not talking to a robot as that is how many websites now operate. If you can spare a few hours a week I would encourage you to sign up, you don’t need special skills and training is given. This is especially good for those who are afraid of face to face evangelism or giving out tracts in the street as it is all anonymous, and you don’t need to worry about getting tongue tied.

If you want to know more about Groundwire click here, or please feel free to contact me and I will help you get connected….

So is modern technology a friend or foe? The simple answer is that it depends on how you use it!