Thursday, July 23, 2009

Table mat

Every Tuesday night, we have a special meal for members of our church. We call it an 'Agape' meal (agape being the Greek work for divine love that is used by the writers of the New Testament); I've written about the Agape meal before on this blog.

Recently, we've been lighting a candle on our Agape dining table. Nothing very unusual about that, perhaps - candle on a meal table - adds a bit of atmosphere. But this candle was lit for a purpose beyond just creating the right ambience. We lit it for a person; a person we love and have been praying for.

He's been coming to one of our Wednesday night cell groups for the best part of a year. Fiercely atheistic, but always up for a good debate, he got on well and became part of the furniture in the group. It was from this that some of us began to long for him to find faith in Christ, and to experience the power of His love.

And so a few weeks ago we lit the candle, deciding that we would have it on our table every Agape meal as a silent prayer for him to belong, with us, to God. He was part of the family - we longed for him to be with us at the table of Christ.

And last Sunday night - it happened. Another friend and I had an opportunity to pray with him. It was awesomely beautiful to behold. His spirit opened up, slowly, like a flower in the morning sun. Sorry if you think that's a bit over-poetic, but it was truly moving. I had tears in my eyes. As we prayed that God would reveal Himself, our friend's face - eyes closed, waiting, open - became lighter, uplifted. A peace came over him. He began to slowly lift up his hands. Faith unfurled in him. God met him.

Afterwards, he was without words to describe what had happened. (The New Testament supplies some - like being 'called' or 'regenerated' or 'born again'.) But he knew that he was changed. Fathered by God; he had become a Christian.

The candle prayer had been answered.

It was a long journey from the desert of atheism to the flowing waters of faith. First his mind was opened, through our discussions at cell group, to the fact that Christian faith was not, in fact, just irrational nonsense. It brought him a cetain agnostic openness, but couldn't bring him all the way into faith. Then, as he spent more time among the family of God, the church, he found his heart drawn to the love that we have. ('You can feel the love' - it may be a cliché, but yes, he said it.) Faith had made the two foot journey of a lifetime from his head to his heart. There remained one final leg of the journey - to his spirit. And on Sunday night, God made his spirit alive.

Next Sunday, we intend to baptise him in water to complete his beginnings as a Christian.

Thank God. Now the real journey begins. he can head for the horizon. The view is awesome. The Son is shining.

Friday, July 17, 2009

40 reasons to believe in Christianity

Photo by eliselovesprada of Flickr.comEvery Wednesday night, my wife and I meet with some friends for a 'cell group'. (Nothing to do with prison, by the way, and everything to do with being a little unit of the body of Christ, in case you're wondering.)

Cell group is a highlight of the week and usually involves some energetic discussion (as well as coffee, chocolate and silly games).

Not everyone in the group is a Christian; this week I was responding to a challenge to come up with '40 reasons to believe in Christianity'. So I gave it a shot and we debated and explored some of them.

I ought to say here what I said to them: none of these 40 reasons to believe are trying to be knock down 'proof' of the truth of Christianity; they are pointers, hints. And a lot of them cry out for a bit of further explanation or defence. In the case of a few of them that's what we did in the cell group. What's more, they make no claim to be definitive - no doubt there are many more points could be made in defence of Christian belief. These just happen to be the ones I came up with.

So, for what it's worth, here they are. And of anyone out there wants to comment, go ahead, and I'll try and respond.

1. Because Jesus is risen from the dead and that’s the only explanation that makes sense of history.
2. Because the order and beauty of creation makes God's invisible qualities known.
3. Because human beings have a sense of morality, of right and wrong
4. Because human beings love.
5. Because Israel exists – unlike Philistines, Ishmaelites, Amonities, Kerites, Kerizzites, Hittites, Perizzites and many other nations that got going at the same sort of time.
6. Because people we know have been changed by God.
7. Because countless millions we don't know have been changed by God.
8. Because human beings instinctively worship.
9. Because the fruit of atheistic philosophies is death – witness Marxism, Nazism and consumerism to mention the three pillars of post enlightenment Europe.
10. Because when Christianity brings war and death it can be evidenced that this is a perversion of its beginning, whereas atheistic philosophies are based on dehumanising ideas.
11. Because St. Francis of Assissi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and William Booth were not wrong.
12. Because an accidental universe is amoral, empty and meaningless.
13. Because God has become man and died to rescue us.
14. Because the apostles’ testimony is true.
15. Because the church has never been snuffed out.
16. Because the church, though subject to sin and drift, has revived and re-birthed countless times.
17. Because the church is a place of true love.
18. Because Christians care.
19. Because Christians can heal.
20. Because Christians forgive.
21. Because Christians speak in tongues and use spiritual gifts.
22. Because of music.
23. Because of colour.
24. Because of taste and flavours.
25. Because of the smell of flowers.
26. Because of the feel of silk, and ice, and tree bark, and stone, and fur, and water, and a lover’s skin.
27. Because God is love and those who live in love, live in God and he in them.
28. Because of the Bible – remarkable by any standards: written by writers over centuries, yet speaking the many sides of one coherent vision.
29. Because the Bible is honest and tragic, and speaks to human being as they really are.
30. Because the Bible has a happy ending – paid for by God himself.
31. Because grass seed is more remarkable than a microchip.
32. Because a brain makes a Mac look feeble.
33. Because of Abraham.
34. Because of Paul.
35. Because of the members of our cell group.
36. Because the martyrs didn't die for nothing.
37. Because Jesus didn't die for nothing.
38. Because we'd have never even of heard about Jesus dying if he wasn’t the Messiah
39. Because Jesus, as the Messiah has bourn the exile of his people, Israel – and the exile of the human race in death – through his sacrificial death. And his resurrection establishes him as Messiah, head of this people, saviour of humankind, and son of God.
40. Because Jesus is risen from the dead – and that's the only explanation that makes sense of... everything.