Saturday, November 28, 2009

Check your focus.

Someone was having a bit of a grumble about our church recently. They asked me if I felt there was enough leadership in it. Their view is that the church pastor is a leader and should lead.
I didn't have an arguement, just heard him out. But I've heard those comments before and it makes me wonder: do people sometimes get the focus a bit wrong, and look to the church, the human congregation and the pastor, for things that should come from the Holy Spirit?
Yes, a church pastor has a leadership role in their church, so do the elders. But it can be a mistake, I believe, if the pastor or any group within the church take too much on themselves in telling other people what to do. Some churches, especially those ones that might be called sects, have gained a bad reputation for being too heavy handed and controlling in their attitude to their congregations. They may be assuming an authority that only belongs to God. The human leaders of the church are there to teach and guide, but the ultimate Lordship is God's alone. And the most critical leadership for any Christian does not come from another mere human being. It comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. The Spirit's guidance goes hand in hand with the Scriptures. If anyone claims they have been told 'in the spirit' to do or say something, and that something contradicts the teachings of the Bible, then it is a false leading. That is why we need both. But if human leaders gain or claim too much influence, too much power in running other peoples' lives then you get the Jim Jones mistake. It seems Jones acted and said things contrary to what the Bible actually teaches, and his followers did not see it because they looked to him for things that they should have found from the Written Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Some more mainstream churches can lead their followers astray, also, when in an attempt to be 'modern' they compromise the Word.
The moral of the story is, do not mistake the mere human body of the church, its pastor or any one else for He who is not of this flesh and world. The leadership of a church should always be subject to that limit. Ultimately we do not rely on the human members of the church, although it is good to join in worship and seek the guidance of others where it can help. But too much emphasis on leadership in a church can lead people astray. I heard of one pastor who told some of his congregants that if they left the church they would break the bond with the Holy Spirit. He as good as said that they could only communicate with God through him. That man was, I think, going way over the top claiming that. And all humans are fallible and imperfect. No human should claim the mantle of God in holding too much power or authority over others. We need to remember that when we talk about church leadership. Its real leader is not the pastor, but the God who calls him and all of us too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Expelled": They just don't get it!

Watching "Expelled" I recall one of the non-believers saying that he and other rationalists don't want to 'abolish religion' as he put it. What he thinks will happen is that science will gradually cause the disappearance of religion. In his words, let people have their religion if it means getting together and having fun. But as time passes there will be more scientific discovery and religion will just fade away. He talked about 'a little bit more science, a little bit less religion, a little bit more science, a little bit less religion' until it simply doesn't have any followers anymore. That speaker, and others like him, just don't get it. They do not understand what faith and belief mean to people. Perhaps he perceives churches as social organizations or old-fashioned cultural things that have outlived their use. In fact if a person has a real faith, a really genuine belief in God, then all science does is reveal more of the genius of God. Or when science tries to prove the non-existence of God it gets caught out breaking its own rules, namely accepting what the evidence shows honestly instead of using it to suit itself. Some of the laws of science, like the Laws of Thermodyamics, are evidence against evolution. One of those laws says that things tend to go from a state of order to a state of disorder. That is the exact opposite of what evolutionary theory suggests, that things become more ordered and complex.
If science was going to stifle interest in faith it would have happened decades ago. It did not because even though scientific investigation can explain HOW things happen, that does not explain WHY things happened. Finding meaning in life is not just a matter of understanding what happens, it also requires us to see a point to it. From a purely rational viewpoint, an atheist viewpoint, humans exist like animals to propogate their own species. All that they do just serves to prolong their existence so that they will have more offspring. A belief in God gives you a reason to go on existing.
Discoveries made seem to give humans more power, so that they can start deluding themselves they've made God unnecessary, or become as powerful. So then people learn the hard way to respect His place. When antibiotics were discovered, some humans thought they had the power to scorn God's rules. They could control disease. Instead, antibiotic resistant strains began to appear. With discoveries enabling contraception, preventing pregnancy and STDs, some arrogant unbelievers thought they could disdain the rules God made. Then they found out the hard way that contraception can leave people sterile when they want to conceive, and STDs became antibiotic resistant. When science learned what was needed to build the Titanic, some FOOL wrote 'Even God can't sink this ship'. History records how clever that comment was. So humans think they can displace God by learning the things they do, and find they are just as helpless before Him as their ancestors thousands of years ago. They just managed to hide the fact with all their technological rinky-tinks. How humiliating!
The longer we go, the more we have to face the fact that there are things we cannot do, and ways in which only a superior intelligence has the answers. But there, one of the atheist speakers in "Expelled" ended up admitting that there must be some intelligent design in the beginning of life - and said it must be from another planet! That's the old von Danniken stuff, "Chariots of the Gods."
Some people will talk about men from Mars before they accept the place of God in this universe. But to those who believe, the reality of God is only shown more and more by human attempts to scorn Him. Religion will not disappear in the face of scientific discovery. The more science finds out and tells us, the less it will have answers to the question "Why are we here?"
Jesus Himself said, some people will hear but not understand, see but not believe, because their wicked hearts are hardened.
Jesus is eternal. So is the Holy Spirit, reaching out to us. Science can't equal that. Scientific discovery will all become redundant when Heaven and Earth pass away, but Jesus' words do not pass away.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I've finally seen "Expelled," after it came to the cinema here. So that's why it caused a stir! Scary stuff! People who dare even mention the idea of Intelligent Design find the thought police falling on them, and their jobs lost. A new version of the Spanish Inquisition, in which people were victimised for uttering ideas that those in power did not approve of. And here's the classic irony. The people behind the persecution claim to believe in freedom of thought and speech. Humbug!
How many cases were there? I'll have to see it again sometime and take notes. Academics, researchers and journalists found themselves in trouble because they even referred to the idea in passing. It's fear, partly. Some people who consider themselves the judges of what is right are scared rigid of the idea that there may be a God or any such being who could have made the universe and life in it take the forms that they did. There is no reason to be so ferocious about stifling an idea unless they are frightened of it.
The excuse used is that it leads to a belief in some 'religious' teaching, whether it be Christian, Jewish or any other. For that reason, they have to stifle any suggestion that life is not a gigantic accident and series of ongoing accidents called mutations. The opposition to religion is justified by saying that it creates division and starts wars. The claim there is that an atheistic, secular, 'logic and science based society is safer. Oh really? Did anyone here about the horrific human rights violations that occurred in the Soviet Union and the euphemistically misnamed "Peoples Republic" of China under Mao Zedong? The gulags? Mao's purges? The secret police state that existed in East Germany? So that is what the atheists do when they set up a society, do they? And that is safe?
I feel like telling some 'rational thinkers' who claim they offer a better way that people like them are the least likely to inspire my confidence. A world ruled by the hard-line leftists I've known would be a cold and ruthless place, lacking in the better, warmer side of humanity. That is to say, it would reflect them!
The problem is partly that to make a lie seem true you have to make sure everyone believes it. You can't have some bright spark speaking up and saying that the emperor has no clothes. So dissent has to be squashed if some dictator wants to set up their great new world based on science, rationality and atheism. Hence the blood on the hands of people like Lenin, Stalin and others. They spout about freedom of thought and proceed to deny freedom of thought.
It would alarm me if I didn't remember the words of the Psalm: "Do not fret because of evil men, or be envious of those who do wrong, for like the grass they will soon pass away." (Psalm 37, verses 1 and 2.) Again, "Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their evil schemes." (verse 7) "For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land." (verse 9).
One of the reasons I became a Christian was a complete loss of hope that mere human beings could be relied on or make the world a good place - and that includes myself. I could see the weakness and sin in me.
Those who deny God His place will not only not succeed, but will earn His retribution.
As for our household, we will serve God. And may He shield and protect us.