Monday, March 26, 2007

Desperate Christian Wife Alone (in Pakistan)

Whenever I think of this nameless woman, I pray for her. All I know about her is what's daily statistics informed me about her visit.

She used to type in the words that caught my attention: desperate christian wife alone. She visited one of my sites, Desperate Christian Housewives, on March 26 2007, 5:38:25 a.m. The length of her visit was 3 minutes 56 seconds. She viewed three pages on my blog. She lives in Pakistan in the Punjab State, or region, in the City of Lahore.

Is her husband or family Muslim? Did she find what she was looking for to help her in her desperation? I felt for her and was sad my blog didn't offer her more than it did. Or perhaps it did help her a bit, especially since she remained on my site for almost four minutes. She even clicked on one of the pictures and that was her last contact with my blog. If she, or someone like her, returns in the future, I want to offer more than what that particular blog offers at present. I said a prayer for this unknown woman in Pakistan. How important it is to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you whenever you post something that is of a spiritual or semi-spiritual nature in the blogosphere. It may be someone's only chance to find the help they're seeking. Cyber encounters like this are indeed unusual and frustrating. But also rewarding, in a way.

One seldom hears about Christians in Muslim countries and the challenges they face. If one does read about them they are distant and don't impact directly on one's life. This nameless Pakistani Christian woman crossed my path in an indirect way and now she's real enough to me that I think about her and pray that God will help her in her desperate and lonely Christian life in Pakistan. I wonder how she came to believe in Christ in a country that is predominantly Muslim? Even more important is how she is able to continue struggling with Christianity to the point of desperation and loneliness. Perhaps my struggles don't compare with hers. It makes me think that one may sometimes have to struggle in one's Christian walk even to the point of desperation and loneliness.

We take freedom of religion for granted so often. We think we have problems when, in fact, we don't. Our problems pale in comparison to women like the one in question, who find themselves wanting to follow Christ in a country, and perhaps a home, that is Muslim. Even if she has an understanding husband or family, who love her in spite of her interest in Christ, there is still an empty part of her life, that makes her feel alone and desperate. Perhaps her business associates or her neighbors contribute to her desperation and her aloneness. What would I tell her if she had asked me point blank for help in overcoming her problems? The only thing I could have done is point her to the source of her faith. I know that it's easier to say to others than it is to practice oneself. But when things had pretty much reached rock bottom at one point in my life where I also felt desperate and alone, I prayed that God would lead me to a bible text that would help me. Even though I didn't fully understand the text he led me to, it helped me in ways I can't explain even today.

But he [Christ] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Cor. 12:19 (NIV)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Awaiting 2033 A.D. and October 22, 2044 A.D.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 2 Pet. 3:8-10 (NIV)

There are two dates I look forward to living long enough to experience. The first is 2033. Christ would have ascended 2000 years prior to that date. The other is October 22, 2044. The Great Disappointment as well as the reassessment as to what took place on that date, the beginning of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, will have started 200 years prior to that date.

Even if I don't live to see those dates, others will, hopefully, find this post and think of someone who wanted to be alive on those two separate dates. To you of the future who are reading this, I wish you greater faith and a newness of vision as you make sense of the next thousand years of waiting for the Lord's return.

Might there not be similar written hopes left behind from believers looking forward to 1033 as well as forwards to October 22, 1944? What, if anything, did they wish for those who lived, and died in either of those years?

No doubt most of those who would have read those documents years before those anniversaries came to pass, scoffed at the thought that Earth's history would ever experience such unlikely years as 1033, as well as, October 22, 1944.

We are a species that was born to wait. We live our lives waiting. We will die waiting. At least we have each other as we wait and hope for new beginnings.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dark Energy, Dark Matter and God

"Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne." Psalm 97:2 (NIV)

Dark energy and dark matter are beyond the electromagnetic spectrum. They have to be inferred by their effects on visible objects and cannot be detected directly. It is possible that they may never be detected directly.

How similar this is to God himself. We cannot see him directly nor perhaps, will ever be able to do so, for God is invisible. [Rom. 1:20, Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 1:17] Nevertheless, we infer his existence from what we perceive in ourselves when we have a positive reaction to him. We perceive him indirectly as we contemplate his creation. We perceive him indirectly as we read the bible, as well.

Scientists accept the possible existence of dark energy and dark matter on faith, in a way. It is quite possibly the only explanation to explain why the visible universe doesn't fall apart or fly apart. Something we cannot see is holding the visible universe together. In the same way we accept God's existence on faith, so our world, and our place in it, doesn't fall apart or fly apart.

It is said that the .04 percent of the visible universe is truly inconsequential when compared with the remaining .96 percent of the "invisible" dark energy and dark matter components of the universe. It is also said that, potentially, dark energy and dark matter particles are bombarding our bodies constantly and we are oblivious to their reality.

Whether we choose to believe in God's existence or not, his sustaining power is also constantly bombarding our bodies and minds and our visible world with his perfect essence.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Eradicating Legalism in the Adventist Church

"The righteous will live by his faith [alone.] Habakuk 2:4 (NIV)

Sitting in a pew near the front of the church, to not be distracted by the occasional conversations that my congregation produces frequently, I was saddened by a pre-offering appeal made by a church member. He started to rattle off a list of sacrifices, or offerings, that ancient Israelites offered when ceremonial law was still in place on planet Earth. Among those he mentioned was a special live offering for sins committed. He summed it up by saying, "so you see brethren, there are lots of sacrifices (offerings) in the bible that one should think about when thinking of what or how much to give today. I've been attending this particular church only two years and I had never heard legalism rear its ugly head as much as I did last Saturday.

While I tried to listen to the sermon as best I could, I occasionally was compelled to jot down some reflections that this offering call made on me.

I'm without a computer these days and I've got only 41 minutes left at the public library. So I apologize if these are mere reflections and nothing more. Thank you for your understanding.

There's a deadly quality to legalism. Two years ago I used to pray a strange prayer. I had forgotten it until this moment. I went something like this: "Lord, save me from legalism, which is worse than death." [I remembered the original phrase late last night. "Lord, save me from legalism, for in legalism there is only death."] I prayed that wholeheartedly. Perhaps I need to start praying that strange prayer again.

Legalism is so deadly to me that I wondered if because of it, Adventism was dying, in a limited sense? As secularism increases in society, we need less not more legalism in the Adventist church. As our youth are leaving and some never to return, legalism is, perhaps one of the causes. As Adventism splinters internally into different isms, i.e., ultra-conservatism, progressivism, cultural adventism, postmodern adventism, etc., is legalism party to blame?

Is the golden age of Adventism behind us? Was it during the 50s, 60s and 70s? Or is it still ahead of us? It is said that Adventism is fading in parts of North America, Europe and Australia. I'm told that only in the third world, parts of Africa, parts of South America, parts of Asia it is still thriving and alive. Is legalism causing that growth there and is it causing a slow death in the other declining areas? Or is righteousness by faith alive in well in the third world, but not in the places where Adventism is dying out slowly?

I'm tired of legalism. Aren't' you? What can we do about it?

It almost felt like the fear one used to get before knocking on some one's door before you gave them a smile and literature. I went to the speaker after church and I congratulated her for the good points in her sermon. I explained to her my concern with the legalism in the Adventist church and I asked her if in the future she could dwell more on Christ our righteousness. I told her I was especially concerned about the young people and how important it was for them to hear those worlds. Not appeals to give more offerings or tithes, or to come to prayer meeting more often so as not to miss out on a special blessing, or other similar mildly legalistic appeals. I told her that I never heard any sermons about righteousness by faith in Christ until I was almost 18 years of age. It was the best news I had ever heard. It made Adventism come alive for me.

Other suggestions to rid Adventism of legalism might be to email every Adventist publication or magazine and complain when you read something that smacks of legalism to you. Write Bill Knott at the Adventist Review. Write Cliff Goldstein at the Sabbath School Quarterly. Write the conference president. Tell him to keep legalism out of the publication in question and keep it out of Adventism. If you hear a church member saying anything that smacks too highly of legalism, take him aside courteously and speak to him or her of your concerns. If you lose friends in the name of ridding Adventism of legalism, those are the casualties of the war on legalism. Perhaps they were never very dear friends to begin with. Perhaps you need newer, less legalistic friends in and out of church.

Adventism needs to be simplified, cleansed, re energized. Legalism is the enemy. Righteousness by faith in Christ is our ally. These three thoughts came to me in church last Sabbath as I thought how to simplify Adventism. Look to Jesus Christ. Seek the daily baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read your bible and pray.

In closing, let me speak of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is beautiful. It, however, has to be kept naturally, effortlessly, spiritually. When you have to make an effort to keep the Sabbath you are not, in fact, keeping the Sabbath. Ask God to make you holy so you can keep his Sabbath holy. Ask God to fill you with his Spirit of righteousness so you can love Christ and keep his commands. Ask him to fill you with his Spirit of love so you can treat others as you would like to be treated.

Lord, save me from legalism, for in legalism there is only death.

God bless you all. God bless Adventism.