Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Meditations on our Saviour's crucifixion

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Luke 23: 39-43

Isn't it particularly comforting that after the price for sin was paid and the work of Jesus Christ on earth was finished, one of the first people admitted through the gates of heaven, possible the first person travelling on this new Heavenly passport was one of the thieves on the cross who recognized and accepted the the Lord for who He was? He prayed a very simple prayer "Remember me" on his death bed and he was pardoned.

Fanny Crosby probably had this in mind when she wrote the second verse of that wonderful hymn, "To God be the Glory". She writes

"The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives"

I take comfort in this because being high up in the heirachy of sinners myself, there is nothing else but the Cross for me to cling to. And that is what the Bible teaches. There is none righteous, no not one. I have been listening to the proceedings on the trial of "the 20th hijacker" and particularly on the account of the events as they unfolded on Fight 93 before it crashed in Pennsylvania. And sometimes I think these guys were the vilest of people and I ask what kind of wickednes is this?

But I do not think there are varying temperatures in hell for degrees of sin. Ultimately, the sin of the hijacker or the mass murderer is no different from my sin of disobedience if I reject Christ. There is only one way out of eternal damnation no matter who you are. And that way is the Grace of God through Christ; to ask for and to receive an unmerited pardon just like the thief on the cross. - Robbo

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away. -
William Cowper 1731-1800

.......

Good words, Robbo. I have heard Bob Mumford say that when the thief got to the gates of Heaven, he was probably asked questions like, "What are you doing here? You don't belong here! You've not memorized Scripture verses, you did not witness, you did not tithe, you did not attend Sunday school etc, etc"

Someone mentioned to me recently that if by some chance Timothy McVeigh made it to heaven, she would not be comfortable being there with him. But the truth of the matter is in Ephesians 2:8-9

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast"

Its incredible isn't it- faith plus nothing else. This shows that people are saved inspite of all our showmanship at altar calls. Sometimes I wonder if it is not just to count bodies that we get so passionate about altar calls. I do believe in giving people the opportunity to come forward though, though unlike many pastors I do not get upset when no one does- they may have heard the message, repented and said their own version of the "sinner's prayer" and quietly beaten a hasty retreat at the instruction of the Holy Spirit. - Gaius Texas.

.........

I'm blessed by your Easter meditation. I'm very grateful that Jesus Christ paid the price we're incapable of paying. What transpired was definitely the work of grace- even fro the thief to have believed in Christ at that crucial moment.

First, he recognised that he was unfit to be crucified at the same time and place with the Son of God. But to have recognized the deity of Jesus was again the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus on the way to the cross had no resemblance ( the Roman soldiers did a good job on him) to what anyone will perceive as the Son of God. He had failed to command the angels to His rescue, was agonizing just like any human will do and did not shut the foul mouth of the taunting crowd.

The brother also recognized and admitted his sins and made no excuses. Furthermore, he believed even what the disciples had failed to believe at that time; that Jesus had a kingdom other than to overthrow the hated Romans. He even believed that Jesus in his most helpless state (God the father had temporarly looked away because of our sins) was able to change his destiny. I hope when people come to Christ (whether during alter calls in church, en mass at crusades, or in private) they're as sincere and full of faith as this brother did. - Gaius Chicago

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Shrewd Manager- lessons from the PARABLES 1

"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light". Luke 16:8.

What exactly is the lesson our Lord Jesus was teaching to his disciples and for that matter to us with this parable? What kind of shrewdness are we supposed to exhibit in our dealings with our own kind (fellow christians) or with the world?

I ask these questions because I think the manager commited two crimes. First he mismanaged his employers properties and second, after he was served notice he gave away debts which belonged to his employer for his own future benefit. Recently I heard a preacher use this passage to teach on giving, as a way of storing up treasure for the future in heaven. I am not sure that the verse was applied correctly in this regard and it set me thinking about this parable again (and I am now having sleepless nights). Help me out with your thoughts- Robbo



I have never fully understood that parable. A lot of pastors have used that as cream on the pudding (Calorius, I know it should be icing on the cake, but so what?) when they have preached their tithing sermons. I am not entirely sure what the real spiritual meaning is. By the way do you remember that popular preacher in Ghana who used to challenge people to "give until it hurts"?

I was hoping that my brother Gaius Columbus, who is usually deep on these things will make an inspired showing with an answer to your question.- Gaius Texas




Okay folks, this is my take on this parable: Sometimes you hear that a criminal has broken the law (e.g. robbed a bank) and while abhoring the crime, you are impressed with how he accomplished his feat --his intelligence, his daring etc. Sometimes we go even further to almost excuse the act if the pretext for the crime seems justifiable, e.g. we say, "forgetting, for a moment, the morality of the case, and focusing only on the ingenuity of the scheme and the motivation for it" perhaps if the crime was carried out to pay for an ailing child's or parent's health care. We may say "this was a very daring and intelligent crime carried out by some very smart crooks".

This is probably, in part, the reason why we all read and loved books such as "The adventures of Robin Hood". In those stories of this benevolent outlaw, we were impressed by Robin's intelligence, skill, and bravery in robbing the sheriff of Notingham and the King, without necessarily fully excusing his acts of lawlessness--because his acts were done to alleviate the suffering of and to show kindness to the poor, etc. Thus we hailed him to be a hero of sorts given the terrible plight of the poor under the rule of the tyrannical kings depicted in these stories.

I think this parable aims at the same principle. It is not given to condone the dishonest acts of the manager but to call attention to an aspect of his behavior that illustrates a principle or deeper lesson that is worth emulating. The lesson is what I would like to call the PRINCIPLE OF THE MORTGAGE which I will explain below.

First of all, I think we it is worth reiterating that the Lord is NOT saying God's children are to cheat or be dishonest. This would be inconsistent with the rest of scripture. Instead, He uses this parable to set up His main point. To do this He paints a picture or creates a model of behavior within a godless context, that highlights a principle that should have even greater relevance when applied in a godly context. He tells a story that seen from a purely practical/utilitarian viewpoint and within the hard cold calculus of a naturalistic worldview (with no respect for God or to life after death) illustrates a principle that christians are to apply to their lives.

In a dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest kind of world, this shrewd manager faced with sudden dismissal and the need for a pension to survive his old age acted shrewdly by handing out favors to his master debtors to secure his own future. The Lord then asks why the children of Light, with so much more at stake, aren't as wise. So what aspect of the manager's actions was commendable?

Now the mortgage principle. For me, an analogy that perhaps best answers this question is that of a mortgage. The houses we inhabit (unless you are as wealthy as Gauis Texas and are able to buy your house outright) belong to the bank for the first 30 years or so of a mortgage. Still, we are allowed to live in those homes and to profit from them. By the latter I mean that while we live in these homes we also hope to build equity and wealth. The cool thing with these mortgages is that when the worth of these houses increase, the profit belongs to us (even if we do not own these homes outright).

Similarly, Jesus seems to be saying that the money we currently have is not ours. It belongs to God. Yet through acts of kindness to others using God's money, we are able to build true wealth in the life to come--wealth that will (like the profit on our mortgaged homes) truly belong to us. It seems to me, therefore, that Jesus is admonishing us to be as shrewd as the manager in this parable. I must say I love Jesus' pragmatism. He appears to be saying to us "be smart: use another's (God's) money to enrich ourselves in the world to come. Use the money and possessions that God has entrusted to you (wealth that like a mortgage does not truly belong to us but to God), to bless others, to relieve them of their burdens. Do this, so that like the shrewd manager (as in a homeowner with a mortgage) you can reap the eternal returns based on possessions that do not belong to you."

It is this principle; the smart use of God's money to enrich oneself in the world to come (not the dishonesty of the manager in the parable) that is being recommended. Incidentally, the use of actions in a worldy context to illuminate principles that should be even clearer in a spiritual context is something our Lord seems to do in other parts of scripture. See for example the parable about the godless judge and the widow, or the statements contrasting what godless parents do when asked for bread to what we can expect God to do when we pray. In both of these instances, contrasts are used to illustrate a deeper spiritual lesson.

Similarly, Jesus creates a model of prudent action given a world-view drained of God and the afterlife (in that context alone is this manager's actions considered shrewd). Having done this, he then re-injects God and the afterlife into this same sort of pragmatic framework but infuses it with spiritual significance to make His deeper point; being, "How much more, should the children of light be sensible about the future, given the stakes, by applying this same principle.

Use the money entrusted to you, through acts of mercy and kindness to secure a real future". Incidentally, this confirms for me the idea that in the present era, not merely the tithe but all of our wealth belongs to Him. Interested to hear your thoughts. - Gauis Columbus



G Columbus! Once again you show confirmation that the Holy Spirit is here today and continues to work in our lives. May all the glory be to God who gives us all understanding by his Holy Spirit. I have nothing more to say.- Robbo



G Columbus, you gave some deep spiritual insights which I fully concur with.
I agree with your analysis.


Now if you don't mind put your money where your thoughts are and cut out a check for $1000 to each of your impoverished brothers on this blog- send me the total amount and I will distribute it for you. You can fully trust me on this one. :0) - Gauis Texas

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Christian Cable TV, etc

What do you guys think of the current state of "Christian" broadcast television, particularly TBN? And what about the recent pronouncements of Pat Robertson? - Gaius Texas



I think Pat Robertson's politics is stronger than his faith he is not making evangelism any easier for us at the grassroots. The worst part of mixing politics with christianity is that it destroys christianity. It happened with the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican church, and now, unfortunately it is happening with the evangelical church in america. Church and state do not mix, period. - Calorius


Many evangelicals are beginning to distance themselves from Pat Robertson. Some people even think his pronouncements are age-related which is not a politically correct thing to say and is also not very kind. I do not agree with that because personally our own Mr William Ofori Atta in Ghana ( the late "Paa Willie") continued to teach and preach sound doctrine into his old age. Pat Robertson keeps coming back to apologize for his statements and yet keeps making new ones. I think it has reached a stage where his every word is being scrutinized by the media for the next controversial.

Personally, I am also concerned about guys like John Hagee with his exoteric and escapologist interpretations of Scripture as it applies to the nation of Israel. In actual fact I think the level of sound doctrine on TBN and other christian cable channels is very poor indeed. - Robbo



It's strange, but I seem to agree 100% with you guys on so many things. There is hardly any sound doctrine on TBN etc, and even more dishearteningly there is hardly any evangelism of any kind. There is plenty of music, entertainment (even though I must admit it's clean entertainment), and peripherally important doctrine. Moreover, it's hard to absorb the little good there may be, because of the ostentation, commercialization, ignorance, bias, self-aggrandization, self-promotion, pretense, exaggeration, profiteering, and in-your-face hollywoodism that is blatantly practiced on those channels.

Regarding John Hagee, I like your play on the words esoteric/ exoteric and escapology/ eschatology. I agree fully though. And time will not permit me to talk about Benny Hinn, Paula, Rod Parsley, and the rest. -
Calorius



On a related note my local Christian radio station runs adverts for injury and workers compensation lawyers, you know the "pay nothing until we get money back for you" kind. It also run adverts for bankruptcy lawyers advising people to act quickly before the law changes. It has whole 30 minute segments devoted to paid advertizing (infomercials) for alternative medicine products and food supplements.

In between these advertisements it also carries the sound teaching of men like John MacArthur and Alistair Begg. It does also carry the radio version of a lot of the TBN stuff. Sometimes I think it is a just a commercial station which will broadcast christian programming if the supplier is willing to pay, which is quite sad. I know they have to pay their workers and pay the bills too. I guess we should be grateful they are not carrying advertisements for dodgy enhancement products. But the thin line is getting broader and broader. I don't recall the christian radio station where we previously lived carrying such advertisements- Robbo


I don't think they can refuse to air a particular advertisement because of its content, unless the contents are indecent or illegal. It's like being a bus driver or a landlord; you couldn't refuse to pick a specific passenger because they are going to the den of gambling or to the house of prostitution. I don't think you should be too hard on them that way. The problem happens when their own content is bad. - Calorius

I am in full agreement with what my two brothers have written. My only interaction with TBN is when my wife switches it on for the Gaither gospel bandstand (or is it hour?). Thereafter whenever I see Joel Osteen or any of his ilk I quickly flip the channel. I really feel that those guys do a disservice to evangelism and christianity as whole. Slowly but surely they have turned christianity into a bunch of cliches and a national religion.

It also reminds me of the Roman empire which I believe started decaying as the empire embraced christianity as a national religion. Spain comes readily to mind. After it shed its catholic mantle (no offence Robbo, to your former church) under General Franco it slowly saw a boom in its economy and international prominence. I sometimes worry that Christians are actually making this country more retarded by their well meaning, or should I say self serving, ideas.

You can carry this argument forward to Martin Luther and though popular wisdom may dispute it the reformation was actually the catalyst for the rennaissance- at least in my opinion. I have come to the conclusion that religion and politics- church, mosque, synagogue and state must be kept separate. I will concede that our faith must certainly influence our politics but not the inquisition style faith of Pat Robertson.

TBN probably is run by executives who are career oriented and not necessarily faith oriented. Having said that they do provide an alternative to the torrid sex infested shows on the other channels and by the same logic some very good teachers sometimes appear on it. What gets me though is that the most inspired and devoted christian teachers you could ever have- Bob Mumford, TW Hunt, Henry Blackaby, Derek Prince (now deceased) and so on are never seen on TV . A lot of main stream christians never get to hear them.

This is where I think TBN may be missing the mark, but I feel that they also feel the financial pinch since the big TV evangelists can come up with the money required for the shows to run- I feel this is where the faith meets the road and usually looses out to the politics and career tracks. - Gaius Texas

I'm speechless, because you've said everything on my mind, better than I could say it. I have to mention one exception though: I have often seen the Billy Graham ministry purchase time on standard local channels for a purely evangelical half hour segment. I hear this is extremely expensive, but personally I would rather support that than the lavish lifestyles portrayed on TBN. - Calorius



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