Book Review. The Grand Design – Stephen Hawking.

The Grand Design

“The Grand Design – New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life,” was written by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.[1] Both authors are highly credentialed scientists. Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA is a British theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) and the Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University.[2] Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist, author, screen writer, designer and producer of computer games.[3]

The book is nearly five years old now, having been first published in 1010, which within days become the number one seller on Amazon.[4] It’s a follow up from “A Brief History of Time” which was published twenty two years earlier.[5] It is small in size measuring 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches, it has eight chapters and is 208 pages long – excluding the glossary, acknowledgements and index. It’s printed on glossy photo paper which create a tactile and visual aesthetic akin to a typical glossy magazine. In keeping with the magazine theme, is published in a ‘popular science; rather than a technical academic referenced style format; a beef which I refer to later. This aligns with his confession that he wants his books sold in airports. [6]Though their book is co-authored; there is no indication throughout the book as to who contributed what to the book.

It’s A Creation Account.

They begin by asking the big questions of life: “How can we understand the world? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did this all come from? And did the universe need a creator?” They briefly sketch a historical overview of the history of scientific / religious / philosophical thought regarding the universe; and declare with some boldness that philosophy is dead and that only science can truly answer life’s questions. From there, while ignoring current other cosmological research, and using a ‘scientific deterministic’ style they build on the ‘big bang theory,’ draw heavily on Richard Feynman and his proposal that every system has every possible history and then, set the stage for a new hypothesis called the “M Theory,” whereby they show how gravity created the universe from nothing.[7] One of the major conclusions coming from their work, is that God has now been made redundant, because the universe was created and run via the laws of science.

William Lane Craig, synthesises their questions into three major questions;

  1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
  2. Why do we exist?
  3. Why this particular set of laws, and not some others?

He observes that the answers are brief and that question two isn’t even answered. In answering these questions they rely on the “no boundary” model from Hawking’s prior book, “A Brief History of Time,” which was published twenty two years beforehand; without providing any evidence for it, nor mentioning other scientific models. [8]

Building on Craig’s observation of lack of evidence, the book lacks rigorous scientific and academic respectability by not referencing their sources, through either foot or end notes. I found it particularly frustrating where they quoted references to make Christians look like total idiots, take the following quote as an example. “In the eighteenth century another Christian theologian went so far as to say that rabbits have white tails in order that it be easy for us to shoot them.”[9] I not only want to know who this theologian is, what was his status and how has he influenced contemporary Christianity, I want to know the context of what he said and why? I also want to know the others he quotes without providing a reference, such as Einstein’s purported question to his assistant, “Did God have any choice when he created the universe?”[10]

Ironically, in the beginning of the book, the authors declare that philosophy, which is the traditional way of answering most of those questions, “is dead,” and states the purpose of the book is give answers which are suggested by then recent discoveries and theoretical advances;[11] yet the contextual framework of the book is philosophically driven, and as others point out, philosophy is well represented and respected at Cambridge and Caltech universities as major disciplines and is far from dead.[12] [13]

As you read through the book, it becomes obvious that they don’t believe philosophy itself is dead; rather they believe the theistic worldview which has driven much of traditional philosophy has become obsolete; whereby pure science is now the basis of all philosophy. There is a strong anti-religious polemic whereby they build a case against ancient deistic understandings and traditional religious world views and show how science has ‘supposedly’ either debunked or improved on those theories and traditional scientific beliefs. However, it appears that a lot of the examples used to illustrate this debunking have a straw man foundation, as no engagement has been made with current theological research and thought throughout the book. [14]

Understanding the nature and nuances of philosophy is an important overriding factor to understand this book. The authors begin by a shallow discussion of “model-dependent realism,” which is discovered to be a form ontological pluralism, or in other words, the authors are “extreme anti realists,” a philosophical foundation on which they build their thesis [15]

I find it interesting that the authors develop a theme about the “Laws of Science,”[16] while they debunk some of the Old Testament stories, (such as the sun standing still.)[17] This leads me to ask the question if this is a deliberate ploy and play on words, as much of the Old Testament is considered to be the book of law. I suspect that Mlodinow’s experience in computer gaming production has influenced the author’s insistence that the laws of the universe are what created the universe, as games can only operate within the parameters in which they were coded to operate.

Building upon the big bang theory, they heavily promote and rely on the ‘law of gravity,” through the proposal of “M Theory.”  M Theory, is a ‘theory’ of supersymmetric gravity that involves a connection of sorts (through String Theory) with eleven dimensions – which is the unified theory which Einstein thought would be found.[18] However, it appears that the theory is controversial within the scientific realm, is not widely accepted, and at the time of publishing, the theory by many highly credentialed scientists was considered more to be a collection of abstract thoughts, hopes and aspirations; then it was a fully formulated observable theory.[19]

In Chapter 5 the authors make the bold statement that the universe is comprehensible because it is governed by scientific laws.[20] Prominent theologian, and ex scientist Alister McGrath engages their statement. He counteracts with the argument that they are confusing laws with agency, stating that “Laws themselves don’t create anything. They are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions,” and illustrates this point succinctly with the story of a cricketer hitting a six, showing that human agency was needed; noting that while science explains how it happened, it’s not the explanation that causes it to happen.[21]

The concluding chapter was a little puzzling, as it should have wrapped up the research and answers to questions that they presented in the earlier chapter; but they use the concluding chapter to start answering the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and bring in fresh information not previously discussed to answer it. In chapter six, they go to great pains to show there was nothingness in the origin of the universe – but in the concluding chapter, they conclude that there was something, which is called “vacuum energy,” which voids their presented hypothesis in chapter six. [22]

Conclusion.

While I found the book to be written in a clear, concise and witty conversational style, which clearly explained complicated scientific terms that made for easy reading; I found their dogma confusing, disjointed, and lacking logical coherence. While they claim they have no philosophical foundation; it’s clear it’s a theological philosophy they are ignoring. However, the weakness of the book is that it doesn’t disprove God’s existence, nor does it weaken God’s continual work in the creation process.

Hawking’s dismisses the need for God, as science doesn’t look for the cause of the big bang, and as we discover the ways the universe work, we have no need for God.

However, as Christians, our faith starts and finishes with Christ. Regarding the starting point for us, regarding the existence of God within a framework of Christian faith, we can’t go past the Trilemma of infamous atheist philosopher turned Christian C.S. Lewis, who gave three possible answers to the question of who was Christ – he was either a liar, lunatic or who he said he was. [23]

Bibliography

Craig, William Lane, The Grand Design – Truth or Fiction, Reasonable Faith with

William Lane Craig http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-grand-design-truth-or-fiction [accessed 24th May 2015]

Dupuche John, Book Review / The Grand Design Australian eJournal of Theology

London, Bantam Press, 2010 18.1 April 2011

http://aejt.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/436139/AEJT_18.1_BR_2.pdf

[accessed 24th May 2015]

Freeman, Nate Hawking’s Book Shoots to Top of Amazon Sales After He Denies

God’s Existence Culture / Observer, 2010. http://observer.com/2010/09/hawkings-book-shoots-to-top-of-amazon-sales-

after-he-denies-gods-existence [accessed 24th May 2015]

Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History in Time. New York, Bantam Books, 1988

Hawking, Stephen & Mlodinow, Leonard, “The Grand Design – New Answers to the        Ultimate Questions Of Life” (Great Britain, Bantam Book, 2010)

Hawking, Stephen, About Me page, Cambridge University Website,

http://www.hawking.org.uk/stephen-at-cambridge.html [accessed 24th May 2015] http://aejt.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/436139/AEJT_18.1_BR_2.pdf [accessed 24th May 2015]

Lennox John C., God and Stephen Hawking – Whose Design Is It Anyway. Oxford

England, Lion Books, 2011

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. 1952; Harper Collins: 2001

McGrath, Alister, Stephen Hawking, God and the role of science, (ABC Religion And

Ethics, 14 SEP 2010)

http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/09/14/3011163.htm?topic1=home

&topic2= [accessed 24th May 2015]

Mlodinow Leonard About Me, Face Book Page. https://www.facebook.com/LeonardMlodinow/info?tab=page_info [accessed 24th May 2015]

Penrose, Sir Roger, Critical reaction to ‘The Grand Design,’ by Stephen Hawking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2kVPnussGo [accessed 24th May 2015]

Soloman, Deborah, “Questions for Stephen Hawking, “The Science of Second

Guessing,” (New York Times Magazine, New York, 2004) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/12/magazine/12QUESTIONS.html?_r=0 [accessed 24th May 2015]

[1] Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design – New Answers To The Ultimate Questions Of Life (Great Britain, Bantam Book, 2010)

[2] Stephen Hawking About Me Page, Cambridge University http://www.hawking.org.uk/stephen-at-cambridge.html [accessed 24th May 2015]

[3] Leonard Mlodinow FaceBook Page https://www.facebook.com/LeonardMlodinow/info?tab=page_info [accessed 24th May 2015]

[4] Nate Freeman Hawking’s Book Shoots to Top of Amazon Sales After He Denies God’s Existence (Culture / Observer, 2010)

http://observer.com/2010/09/hawkings-book-shoots-to-top-of-amazon-sales-after-he-denies-gods-existence [accessed 24th May 2015]

[5] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History In Time ( New York, Bantam Books, 1988)

[6] Deborah Soloman, Questions For Stephen Hawking, The Science of Second Guessing,(New York Times Magazine, New York, 2004) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/12/magazine/12QUESTIONS.html?_r=0 [accessed 24th May 2015]

[7] John Dupuche, Book Review / The Grand Design” Australian eJournal of Theology 18.1 (April 2011) http://aejt.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/436139/AEJT_18.1_BR_2.pdf  [accessed 24th May 2015]

[8] William Lane Craig, The Grand Design – Truth or Fiction, Reasonable Faith http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-grand-design-truth-or-fiction [accessed 24th May 2015]

[9] Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow, p.208.

[10] Ibid. p.210.

[11] “Ibid”. p.13.

[12] John C. Lennox, God and Stephen Hawking – Whose Design Is It Anyway. (Oxford England, Lion Books, 2011) p.18.

[13] William Lane Craig, The Grand Design – Truth or Fiction, Reasonable Faith http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-grand-design-truth-or-fiction [accessed 24th May 2015]

[14] Ibid. p. 45.

[15] Ibid,

[16] Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow, p.41.

[17] Ibid. p. 111.

[18] John C. Lennox, God and Stephen Hawking. p. 51

[19] Sir Roger Penrose’s Critical Reaction to ‘The Grand Design,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2kVPnussGo [accessed 24th May 2015]

[20] Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow, p.11.

[21] Alister McGrath, Stephen Hawking, God and the role of science (ABC Religion And Ethics, 14 SEP 2010) http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/09/14/3011163.htm?topic1=home&topic2= [accessed 24th May 2015]

[22] William Lane Craig, The Grand Design – Truth or Fiction, Reasonable Faith

[23] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 51-52.

Posted in Apologetics, Book Review, Grand Design | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Visiting a mosque to understand Islam.

Introduction

The online visitation of a mosque helped knit the information together that I had learnt in class through lectures, reading material and guest speakers. It also helped to overcome previously held misconceptions and distrust of what goes on behind the walls of the mosque as well as given me some understanding in how to prepare to evangelise Muslims in a cultural acceptable way.

Key beliefs and practices of Islam

One of the major points that stood out about, the architecture was how they were able to blend the ancient buildings with modern feeling. The building design was a mix of austerity, practicality and starkness.

Through its beautiful and artistic building design, the calligraphy around the dome, and the artistic art around the building, the mosque instils a sense of awe. You enter the reception area and take your shoes off. From there you enter the absolution hall, which is like a common bathroom area, where the washing of one’s body becomes an outward expression of cleansing of wayward thoughts and preparing their mind to concentrate on prayer. From here, the entering of the prayer hall is not taken lightly. Upon entering the prayer hall, you are automatically directed to face Makkah, The direction in which you are to prayer, through a Mihrab, which is a decorative niche built into the wall.

There are 5 pillars in the prayer area with writing which symbolise each key area of faith. They being:[1]
1.) Iman – stating there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.

2.) Salah – the importance of prayer being the back bone of Islam and that prayers must be prayed 5 times a day.

3.) Sawn – regular fasting and the month of Ramadan, which fasts, food, water and sex between sunrise and sunset.

4.) Zakah – giving to those who deserve it, the poor and indigent.

5.) Hajj – a reminder that it’s the duty of every able bodied Muslim to make the journey to Makkah.
There is also a lot of quoting of their scripture which goes around the inside of the dome and it’s important to note, that all the writing is above eye level, signifying the high view of the Quran, Allah, and the lowliness of humanity.

The Mosques have a practical layout with the shoe racks, absolution area and wide open spaces making the movement of people easy. The minaret towers used to call for prayer and the clocks on the wall made certain that visitors and worshipers new the time of prayer. The prayer room faced Makkah Yet, it was stark in that there were few creature comforts and though the mosque was built to show the immensity of God; it denies any sense of intimacy with God.

Ironically, though the layout of the mosque is supposed to allow king and peasant to stand together and pray together as equals under Allah. But, in the Blue Mosque, there is a stair way in the prayer hall to an elevated room, which is the Sultans prayer room.

Overcome misconceptions.

The main prior misconception I had about Islam was regarding the vast difference between Islam and Christianity. Upon closer scrutiny, I find there is much commonality between Islam and our own faith. Though, in making this statement, it’s also important to nuance it; so as to avoid syncretism and the denial of our own faith.

According to the Institute of Islamic Information and Education, Muslims have four directions to follow[2], directions which are very compatible with Christian values.
1) Our faith should be true and sincere,

2) We must be prepared to show it in deeds of charity to our fellow-men,

3) We must be good citizens, supporting social organizations, and

4) Our own individual soul must be firm and unshaken in all circumstances.
The architecture of our traditional places of worship have a minaret or a tower. Both Muslims and Christians use it as a call to prayer across the countryside. The Muslims use a voice, and Christians use bells.

We both believe there is one God – yet disagree on his prophet. We both believe that prayer is the backbone to our faith – yet disagree on intimacy and the way to God. We believe in fasting, though how its practiced is different and while we don’t have a month of fasting like Ramadan, many practice lent leading up to Easter. We practice and believe in generosity, social justice which is worked through our giving to individuals and causes. And we practice a type of Hajj – Muslims to Makkah – and the Christians to Israel. As well as supporting others less fortunate than us, both the Mosque and the Church have a way of a collecting monies for the ongoing upkeep and running costs of the building. And we both meet together for around an hour on a weekly basis to hear a sermon or some form of teaching based from our Scriptures.

It’s also worth noting, that Muslims view Jesus with high regard as being a prophet of God and that he will return at the end of the world. Though once again, we differ in how we understand Jesus.

A way to reach Muslims.

A Muslim prayer hall has recently opened across the carpark from our church, I intend to frame this section around a proposed way of reaching out to them.

Dave Andrews from the Waiters Union in Brisbane, published “ISA Christian Muslim Ramadan Reflections,” which he intended for Christians and Muslims to give to each other, and fast and pray with each other during Ramadan.[3] He has drawn the mutual Scriptures from the Quran and the Bible that refer to Jesus. While Dave Andrews doesn’t believe in proselytism [4]; and instead focuses on community building and social work – we can learn from his methodology and build on the common ground we already have for evangelistic purposes to reach Muslims during their fast in Ramadan.

An awareness of the nuances of what is known as C1 through to C6 converts is important when reaching Muslims[5]: for the best way forward may be to release them to become followers of Isa within their own cultural expressions of faith; for “when the gospel is proclaimed in culturally relevant ways, Muslims repent!”[6]
In this framework, building long term relationships with the prayer hall leaders where a dialog about holding a cultural awareness and prayer night/s: where a number of reflections can be shared from Dave’s book about Jesus, a time of prayer and followed by fellowship around non-offensive food.

It’s important that we lay a foundation with the congregation as to what Muslims believe, how their belief works out in day to day life and how they function within a family environment. In general Muslims have an extremely high view of their scriptures and can be shocked at our low view towards out own Bibles. They are always placed high on book shelves and handled with clean hands. Unlike many western Christians; they will never write in the Quran and are horrified that we will make notes in and highlight our Bibles. They will never place a Quran on the floor, or on a seat beside them.

Secondly, most Muslims don’t sing their praise and worship to or about Allah like Christians do; for they have little sense of intimacy with him. Interestingly, the Sunni, do have a sense of craving for intimacy with Allah – though there is a veil always stopping them from pushing through. For them, worship happens through their daily times of prayer, and following the other pillars of Islam.

Therefore to minimise culture shock and show that we take our Scriptures seriously – how we handle our Scriptures is extremely important. To overcome any potential offence from perceived congregational carelessness; having a clean skin bible on the lectern, and the use of data projection technology on the screens which are above eye level is the best way forward. And if song is used, perhaps one of two reflective songs about Jesus is the way forward.

Conclusion

Understanding Islam and Muslim people is a complex task: and while research can help develop an initial understanding and foundation of understanding their faith, cultural traditions, allay fear and suspicion; setting the goal of ‘prayerfully’ building long term relationships with Muslims is the only way to truly grasp a deeper understanding of their faith and culture, and more importantly, how to reach them for Christ.

Bibliography

Andrews, Dave, “ISA Christian Muslim Ramadan Reflections.” (Prestons, Victoria: Mosaic Press, 2013)

Love, Rick “Discipling All Muslim Peoples in the Twenty-First Century” International Journal of Frontier Missions, (Vol. 17:4, winter 2000)

Massey, Joshua, “God’s Amazing Diversity in Drawing Muslims to Christ”, International Journal for Frontier Missions, (Vol 17:1 Spring 2000.)

Hussain, M.D Mohammad I, “Exploring Ancient World Cultures, Essays on Early Islam” (Mohammad I. Hussain, M.D, 1997)

Institute of Islamic Information and Education, “Moral System of Islam”, http://www.iiie.net/index.php?q=node/21,

http://www.3dmekanlar.com/en/blue-mosque.html

http://www.thebcom.org/ourwork/interfaith/116-virtual-mosque-tour.html

[1] Mohammad I. Hussain, M.D. “Exploring Ancient World Cultures,  Essays on Early Islam” (Mohammad I. Hussain, M.D, 1997)

[2] Institute of Islamic Information and Education, “Moral System of Islam”, (http://www.iiie.net/index.php?q=node/21, accessed 4/05/2015)

[3] Dave Andrews, “ISA Christian Muslim Ramadan Reflections.” (Prestons, Victoria: Mosaic Press, 2013)

[4] Through an exchange of emails, Dave Andrews clarified that he doesn’t believe in syncretism or proselytism; but instead believes that all are made in the image of God, and that God accepts both Muslim and Christian on that basis. Most Christians rightly disagree with this worldview and caution must be exercised so as to ensure we don’t allow the Quran to dictate what we believe about the “Word of God.”

[5] Joshua Massey, “God’s Amazing Diversity in Drawing Muslims to Christ”, International Journal for Frontier Missions, (Vol 17:1 Spring 2000.)

[6] Rick Love “Discipling All Muslim Peoples in the Twenty-First Century” International Journal of Frontier Missions, (Vol. 17:4, Winter 2000)

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It’s Anzac Day. –

So many fathers, so many husbands, so many sons, so many brothers, so many cousins, so many uncles, so many grandfathers and grandsons and so many friends – never returned from war. For many, those who did, never returned the same.

We had sons fighting other sons. Fathers fighting other fathers. Husbands fighting other husbands. Brothers fighting those who were brothers. Uncles fighting uncles. And so the list goes on.

Grief, pain and shame came and shattered families, communities and nations. Today, I don’t celebrate war. I commemorate it. I commemorate the courage shown in the framework of evil. I grieve that so many lives around the world were lost. Women, children and men – lost to war.

WW1 was supposed to be the ‘Great’ war, to end all wars. But, we know that was not true. The only peace maker for all of humanity is Jesus Christ – who reconciled all to God and to each other. In him, there is no race, gender or social class distinction. Today, ask yourself, am I at war with God – or have I accepted his peace and am reconciled to him – for forgiveness of all sin, and the life he gives me.

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Resurrection theme.

We had a distinctively resurrection theme at church today.

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He opens our eyes. He is risen.

I have the privilege to give the communion message tomorrow at church. I can’t think of a better day, than Easter Sunday. This is the gist of what I am sharing.

Imagine what it would be like to be the disciples of Jesus. They are in shock, trauma and tremendous pain. Their grief was immense on a number of fronts. The guy they thought was the messiah, had been brutally tortured and then executed. The reality is, the guy they thought was the messiah, was the messiah – but, their expectations of the messiah – were vastly different to the real purpose of the messiah. A purpose they were soon to encounter. An encounter, which was to eternally change their lives.

The era in which Jesus was executed, had no electricity, the only ice they may have encountered was from snow. The only way they could stop death bodies from stinking to high heaven, was to cover them in herbs and spices. Some scholars say they used up to 30kg of spice matter to cover the bodies with.

A group of women go to the tomb to prepare and tend to his body properly – Imagine their grief. Their pain. And then imagine their heart ache and confusion when they discover the tombstone had been rolled away, and the graveclothes sitting on the tomb floor.  Luke records that an angel appears to them telling them Jesus is alive. Other gospel accounts tell us that Jesus appeared and spoke with them. With great joy, they ran to the others and told them the news. But, apart from Peter who ran to the tombs to see for himself, the others scolded the women with disbelief.

For some reason, a couple of the disciples decided to take off and walk to Emmaus. A town some 7 miles away. During their walk, an apparent stranger came up to them and walked along with them. He was asking them questions to which they told him the story of the birth, ministry and death of Jesus. To make matters worse, they continued, some silly, very silly women, came and told us a story about how they had seen angels who said Jesus is alive. We don’t know what to make of it all.

The stranger starts to talk to them, rebuking them for being foolish, explaining that the law and prophets foretold this very thing. They continued their conversation, and entered the village. They invited the man to stay with them, as it seemed he was going to move on.

During the meal, the stranger took the bread and he gave thanks. He broke it, and began to give it to them. And it was here, during the receiving of the broken bread, their eyes were opened.  They recognised him, and Jesus disappeared before their eyes. They got up and hurried back to Jerusalem, found the others and told them the news. Jesus is alive. He is risen. We have seen him ourselves. And they continued to tell them the news of what had happened.

While they were talking, Jesus appeared in their midst. I’m not a ghost, touch my hands and my feet. Give me something to eat. And then once again, opened their mind to the Scriptures which told of his birth, ministry, death and resurrection. That repentance and forgiveness of sin for all nations will be preached in his name.

There was tremendous power when Jesus broke the bread with his disciples. When Jesus broke bread with the disciples in Emmaus, their eyes were open, and they saw Jesus as he really was. There is tremendous power when we also break bread, and drink from the cup with each other, when we celebrate not only the death of Christ – but his resurrection.

And just as those disciples eyes were opened to know the fullness of Christ in their midst as they took the bread – let us continue to remember Jesus through the breaking the bread and drinking from the cup, so that our own eyes – both our natural and our spiritual eyes, that they will continually be opened to recognise Christ and all he has done.

Jesus took the bread and broke it. Saying this is my body, given to you, eat this in remembrance of me. In the same way, he took the cup, and shared it, saying, drink, this is my blood of the new covenant. Drink this in remembrance of me.

Before we praise God for all he has done, I would like to pray the prayer that the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians.

18 I pray that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Come Holy Spirit, we pray. Come.

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What a day.

What a day. God is good. All the time. I was up and about early this morning, as Jo eagerly made a beeline out the door to look after her grandson. While checking my emails, I received one from one of our church pastors, who runs his own business, some pics of some pallets and cable drums, which he was offering me. “I’m always on the scrounge for suitable pallets to burn and do wood work with. So I was off and out and got them, all before 8am. To my delight, all the pallets were marked HT, meaning heat treated, and not treated with chemicals. Upon getting home, I unloaded them, started to make some breakfast, and the rains came bucketing down.  Thank you Lord, I missed getting wet.

I cooked up a feed of bacon, eggs, and baked beans and leisurely sat down to eat it, with a cup of tea in hand. Phone in hand, I turned it on, and checked out the variety of texts and messages on it. Till I found an interesting one.

It was a death threat. But, it was more than a death threat – the threat was against my wife, my kids, myself.  And it wasn’t just one threat. There were eight of them recorded on my phone. Sigh! Groan! I know the man who was making them. He was pissed of his rocker. He was cheesed off with me, because he asked me on Sunday if I would do something for him, and I told him I wasn’t able to, with an explanation of why. In other words, I was placing a few boundaries at the time.

So I rang a few people, including the police. And I made a status on my facebook page, naming him for the threats he had made. The police came out, they listened to the voice mails and said they would go and chat with him.

Now, I have to say, I was filled with peace. God’s peace saturated my soul. I don’t think he was serious. BUT, at the same time, this guy is known for his bullying, manipulation and bullying behavior in the local area, and I wasn’t going to put up with it. And 8 verbal threats, which included getting biker gangs involved, the burning down of our home etc…had to be taken with some element of seriousness. I was glad that my wife was out of the home at the time, and she didn’t hear them. I didn’t tell her about them till late this afternoon when she came back home.

So what does one do when he receives some threats. It was raining outside, so I decided to clean the oven. (As one does, when he receives death threats.) I had heard about a nifty idea about wrapping the oven racks in foil, and soaking them in hot water and detergent, till the water cools. When unwrapped, the grease and grime just slays off. I cheated on cleaning the oven…and turned it on high and allowed it to bake the stuff left, until the oven stopped smoking. I have to say the oven is much better. The racks fairly sparkling clean.

But, I left a huge grease ring around the bathtub. And nothing seemed to work to clean it down. Until, I spied the Armour Car Wash, and used that, and it worked. We have a sparkling clean bathtub.

I have faced death a number of times and from a number of directions over the years. I have had guns pointed at me when called to help a suicidal man. I have had a number of near death experiences through anaphylaxis  and viral encephalitis. I have been threatened to be stabbed a couple of times, and had a few close calls with snakes on the farm.

The truth is, all of us face death. Death is not a threat- its a certainty. It’s going to happen. Scripture tells us that it was while we were dead in sin, that we become alive in Christ. And the gift of Christ is life. Eternal life. Forgiven life. I am not intimidated by the threat of death. That is for myself; though, naturally enough, I am not going to go looking for it. And when someone threatens my family, that is another topic all together.

I am blessed to follow the God who is for us, and not against us. I walk in the security that he offers me. Sadly, the man who threatened me, doesn’t. He rejects the hope of the gospel and so sadly he walks the ways of the world. And the ways of the evil one.

Join me in prayer for this man and his family. For he needs a revelation and a heart change. And only God can do that.

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I’m tempted to go argggggghhhh – but, instead I will celebrate.

I was talking to a friend last week who is studying Greek. This person has taken to it like a fish in water. Her comments to me on the subject was that she was is able to easily remember the case endings without too much trouble. I have another friend who, with her husband live as missionaries overseas, and translate the Bible into that native language. She too has a natural affinity with languages and is able to think and even dream in a variety of languages.

I’m tempted to go arrrrggggghhhhhh when I hear stories about people picking up languages like this. For I struggle and struggle with it…and my noggin just won’t remember. But, I won’t go argggghhhh with jealousy. Instead, I celebrate the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has granted my friends to do the study they do.

Every Christian has the same God, but a different calling. The same God, but a different vocation. The same God, but a different ministry. The same God, but a different outworking of empowering grace. The same God, but a different ability. For each one of us, are gifted, empowered, called and set apart to do the work of him. who works so powerfully within us, through us, over us.

No matter our differences in calling, vocation, outworking, and gifting – we are all called to be men and women of prayer. Prayer is the great equalizer. For together, we bow down, as equals, before our mighty God – seeking his face, that we may live, breathe and do the work that he has set us to do. Both as an ongoing community that needs God’s breathe of life to sustain us and for the world, who needs to experience the living God for themselves – through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit.

Father God. I thank you for the diversity of gifts you grant your people. I thank you for the diversity of vocations, callings, abilities that you have given us. I thank you for my own uniqueness. I celebrate the uniqueness of those around me. May you grant us the ability together to make Christ known to a spiritually bankrupt world. May you continue to show us, empower us, help us to understand our own callings and abilities and to walk confidently the pathways you have set before us. Knowing that you don’t abandon us – but, walk those pathways with us, helping us along the way. In Jesus name I pray.

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