Saturday, October 10, 2015

Am I Muslim? - Part 2

This is the second part of a multi-part post. If you haven't yet, you may want to first read Part 1.
I believe in the resurrection of the dead, both of the righteous and the unrighteous. Paul tells us that "there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." (Acts 24:15) Of this, the Koran agrees. "Every one of them shall come to Him upon the Day of Resurrection, all alone. Surely those who believe and do deeds of righteousness -- unto them the All-merciful shall assign
love." (Koran 19:95-96) However, in Mohammad's day there were many who doubted the resurrection. To them, death was the end. They could not conceive of life after death. Mohammad rebukes them saying, "They say, 'There is nothing but our present life; we die, and we live, and nothing but Time destroys us.' Of that they have no knowledge; they merely conjecture [it is merely their own conceit]... Say: 'God gives you life, then makes you die, then He shall gather [assemble] you to [on] the Day of Resurrection, wherein is no doubt, but most men do not know.'" (Koran 45:23, 26) The unbelief in Mohammad's time should not surprise us for, even in Jesus' day, there were those who doubted. "Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection." (Luke 20:27) However, Jesus showed us the truth of the resurrection when He Himself raised from the dead. His resurrection give us hope for our own resurrection. "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him." (Romans 6:8-9)

I believe in eternal reward and eternal judgment. In the resurrection, some will be resurrected to eternal life with God and others to eternal damnation away from His presence. Jesus describes the judgment at the end of the age and concludes with a remark regarding the wicked."These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:46) The Koran similarly describes the paradise that awaits the righteous at the end of the age. "This is the similitude [picture] of Paradise which the godfearing have been promised: therein are rivers of water unstaling [which corrupt not], rivers of milk unchanging in flavour, and rivers of wine -- a delight to the drinkers, rivers, too, of honey purified [clarified]; and therein for them is every fruit, and forgiveness from their Lord." (Koran 47:16-17) It is interesting that the Koran depicts paradise as having waters running underneath it. This is a picture of a desert oasis which those of his day could easily relate to. Similarly, the Koran describes hell, the reward of the wicked. "Surely We have prepared for the evildoers [offenders] a fire, whose pavilion [smoke] encompasses [enwrap] them; if they call for succor [implore help], they will be succoured [helped] with water like molten copper [brass], that shall scald their faces -- how evil [wretched] a potion [drink], and how evil [unhappy] a resting-place [couch]!" (Koran 18:28)

More to come...
David Robison

Friday, October 09, 2015

Am I Muslim? - Part 1

To truly be Muslim speaks less of your religious affiliation and more of your dispensation towards God. The Arabic word "Muslim" means to be surrendered or even resigned. So when Mohamed writes, "No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters [those who add gods to God]." (Koran 3:60) He is not speaking of Abraham's religion, as defined by laws, behavior, and ceremonies, but of his total surrender to God and to God's will, purpose, and commands for his life. Thus we read later, "When his Lord said to him, 'Surrender [Resign yourself],' he said, 'I have surrendered me [resigned myself] to the Lord of all Being.' And Abraham charged his sons with this and Jacob likewise: 'My sons, God has chosen for you the religion; see that you die not save in surrender [as Muslims].'" (Koran 2:125-126) Again, acknowledging here that Abraham was a Muslim because he surrendered his life, purpose, and will to God. This is what it means to be truly Muslim.

It is in this sense that, yes, I am Muslim. I not only believe in God but I am also totally surrendered to Him. He is the source of my life, every good thing I possess is from Him, and He is my only hope of righteousness and of obtaining the resurrection and eternal life to come. I am committed in my life to seeing His will and purpose fulfilled in my life. It is my daily desire that "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10) And by that I mean "in this Earth" that is my body.

Beyond this simple definition of being Muslim, there are a number of points of faith that I, as a Christian, agree with concerning those who are Muslims.

I believe in one God who is the creator and sustained of the universe; one supreme God who is all powerful and all knowing. Moses taught us saying, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4) There being but one God is a central tenet of the Koran. Repeatedly Mohammad tells us that there is only one God. "Your God is One God; there is no god but He, the All-merciful, the All-compassionate." (Koran 2:158) Furthermore, the Koran pronounces judgment on those who believe in multiple gods or who assign to God others beside Him. "God forgives not that aught should be with Him associated [joining other gods with Himself]; less than that [other sins] He forgives to whomsoever He will. Whoso associates with God anything [joineth gods with God], has indeed forged a mighty sin [erred with far-gone error]." (Koran 4:116)

I believe that, while God is one, He is also plural. John tells us that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." (John 1:1-3) The Christian scriptures speak in several places of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all being God and yet God still being one. We also see that, when God first spoke, He spoke in the plural. "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.'" (Genesis 1:26) While many Muslims may disagree with this, it is interesting that God almost always speaks in the Koran in the plural. "And We have sent down on thee the Book making clear everything, and as a guidance and a mercy, and as good tidings to those who surrender [resigned themselves to God]." (Koran 16:91) This is a great mystery; God being one yet, in the one, being plural. However, both the Jewish and Christian scriptures as well as the Koran testify to the plural nature of the one true God.

More to come...
David Robison

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Koran from a Christian perspective

Today I begin a new series on the Koran from a Christian perspective. I have wanted to do this series for a number of reasons. First because there are approximately one and a half billion Muslims in the world today; people I know little about. Being a Christian and a westerner, I do not understand their religion, their way of life, and their perspective on the world. Meanwhile, the Muslim world continues to expand beyond its historical Muslim lands into Europe and America, thus continuing the fourteen hundred year expansion of Muslims and the Islam religion. Increasingly it is becoming more and more important for Europeans and westerners to understand the hoards of people moving here and their differing ideas, religions, and world views.

The second reason I wanted to pursue this project was to better understand the violence directed at Israel and the west by those who claim guidance from the Muslim faith. On one hand we are told by our leaders that Islam is a religion of peace, yet daily we see the atrocities carried out by those whom I can only describe as Muslim fundamentalist. I do not understand why they hate us so much as they chant "Death to America!" and refer to us as the "Great Satan." What kind of religion could provoke such hate and anger as some of the Muslim faith display? Yes, there will always be isolated extremists in any religion, and even misguided Christians in centuries past have committed such atrocities, but violence and conquest has seemed to be part-and-parcel with the fourteen hundred year history of Islam. It seems that in many parts of the world dominated by Islam that its people have reverted back to the time before the flood when, "the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence." (Genesis 6:11)

In preparing for this study I have spend the last several months studying the Koran in different translations in an attempt to be honest and fair in what it says. My goal is not to slander the Koran but to let it tell its story and then to analyze what it says from a Christian perspective. I freely admit that I am not a scholar nor do I understand Arabic (the original language of the Koran). I welcome all comments, corrections, and substantive debates from anyone who might wish to comment on these posts. We will look at what the Koran contains, its claims about itself and its author, and compare its history and doctrine against that of the Jewish and Christian faith.

Finally, my goal here is understanding and not politics. I will not venture into the realm of suggesting what, if anything, our government ought to do in the face of the Muslim expansion and the violence of Islam. My goal is to help other Christians to better understand the Muslin faith and Muslims to gain greater insights in to the Christian faith.

I hope you enjoy this new series.

David Robison

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

New Audio: The Full Grown Man - Part 2

I had the opportunity to teach the second part of my series on The Full Grown Man last Sunday. You can download the full teaching from the Resources tab on my blog and hear the message below. I hope it encourages you.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

New commentary on Colossians

I've added my 15th full book commentary (OK, yes some are rather short) to my lists of commentaries under the Commentary tab on my blog. It is a compilation of my recent posts on Paul's letter to the Colossians. This commentary is free to download and to share. I hope you find it interesting and encouraging.

David Robison

Monday, September 28, 2015

Encouragement - Colossians 4:7-8, 10-14, 16-18

"As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. Aristarchus... Barnabas's cousin Mark... and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me. Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis... When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. Say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."... Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you." (Colossians 4:7-8, 10-14, 16-18)
Paul was not just and Apostle and teacher of the Body, he was also a member of the Body of Christ and, as such, stood in common need with other believes; the need to be encouraged, the need to love others, and the need to have relationships with others who shared the common life they had in Christ Jesus. When Paul writes to the Colossians, he is not writing scripture nor is he sending them a doctrinal teaching. Rather, he is writing a letter from one who believes in Christ to others who similarly believe in Christ. Granted, he is an apostle, but that does not separate him from other believers but merely defines his function within the household of God. In the end, he remains simply the brother to all who believe.

There was a time, and still may be, when some seminaries taught pastors to remain aloof and disconnected from their congregation; to always appear strong and confident and to never let anyone close enough to see your stumblings and weaknesses. However, this was not how Paul lived his life. He was not a super-man or even a super-christian, he was just a man like any other; a man who had received a gift from God to function as an apostle, but a man none the less. As a man he was not afraid to recognize his need for encourage nor his ability to encourage others.

The Greek words here translated as encourage and encouragement mean to draw near and to speak near to. Encouragement rarely happens outside of the context of relationships. When we stand in need of encouragement it is those close to us, those who call us close to themselves, who are able to speak words and can strengthen and lift us up.

Christianity was never meant to be lived in isolation and ministry was never meant to be engaged upon apart for relationships. It is only in the uniting of the body together in relationships that the life of God flows in service from one member to the other and back again.

In the end, Paul leaves with this final prayer, "Remember my imprisonment." It was a prayer to no be forgotten. Surely he knew God would never forget him, but there was the need in his heart that his friends and brothers and sisters in Christ would not forget him. Paul needed the body and so do we today. Let us come out of the shadows and from our own self-imposed isolation and return to the family of God that we too might find live-giving and life-affirming relationships with other members of Christ's body.

David Robison

Friday, September 25, 2015

Salty speech - Colossians 4:5-6

"Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." (Colossians 4:5-6)
Most of us go through life with little thought as to what and how we are living. We are on autopilot; living and responding as we always have; living by habits and patterns developed over years of life experiences. However, Paul is asking us to be more purposeful in our lives; to take a greater interest and care in how we live and act, especially as it relates to those around us.

The goal of the Gospel is the reconciliation of men and women back to God. However, not only are we reconciled to God but we are also reconciled towards one another and made members of God's family; members of His household. We live in a world where there are two spiritual families. Those who are the children of God and those who are called, "children of wrath," (Ephesians 2:3) "children of the devil," (1 John 3:10) and "sons of disobedience." (Colossians 3:6) Each day we live and commingle with those who have yet to know God and have yet to be reconciled to God through His Son. Each day we are given an opportunity to leave an impression on other people regarding the Gospel and the God we serve. However, when we live our lives on autopilot, that message gets lost and confused though the business and distractions of life.

If we are to allow our lives to testify of God and His Gospel, there are three things we must do. First we need to live our lives according to wisdom. Wisdom, like prudence, is knowing what not to do; it's knowing how to avoid sin. However, wisdom, unlike prudence, is also knowing what to do; it's knowing how to do righteousness. We need to think about how we should live. We need to consider the message our lives are sending to people around us. If we go through life always complaining, then how can we convince a lost world of the joy that comes from knowing Christ? If we always surrender to the will of the majority and never stand up for righteousness and justice, how will the world see that there is another way of living? We must learn to direct our lives and our behavior according to wisdom, the wisdom of God.

Secondly, we need a since of urgency. Paul says in another place that we should be "making the most of your time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:16) In both cases the Greek term for "making the most" means to "redeem" or "buy back." Life is very short and sometimes opportunities do not come twice. We never know what lies ahead for anyone and we may never get another opportunity to communicate to them the good news of the Gospel of God. We need to redeem the time, to buy it back, before it is too late. We cannot afford to withhold our testimony from those who need it just because it might inconvenience us or disrupt our plans. Life is precious and time is short.

Finally, we need to make sure that the conversation of our lives is seasoned with salt. There is a saying that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Standing on a street corner preaching hell-fire and brimstone may work for some people but many find such a message unpalatable. We meed to learn how to communicate the Gospel in a way that is easily to receive and digest by those who hear it. This does not mean that we compromise the message but sometimes a "spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down." Being tough, bold, and blunt may inflate our immature pride, but it does not win many friends. Think about how the other person is hearing what you are saying. Remember how you felt when you first heard the Gospel. Remember that the Gospel is of little value if it is not, or cannot, be received by the hearer. Learn to speak in a way others can receive it.

David Robison

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Watch and pray - Colossians 4:2-4

"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak." (Colossians 4:2-4)
This is something, I must confess, that I find very hard to realize in my life. It's not that I don't desire devotion in prayer, but it's very hard to establish as a habit in my life. What does encourage me is the hope of the continual pursuit of devotion in prayer. The Greek term for "devote" (others translate it as "continue") means to be "strong towards" or "intense towards." It speaks of a pursuit as much as a continuance. While we may not have reached continued devotion in prayer, we may still journey down that path as we remain strong towards the goal of prayer in our lives. Continuing in prayer does not mean perfection in prayer but a continued growth in our relationship with God especially as it is demonstrated in our prayers.

The purpose of prayer is not discipline. Many religions teach prayer as a discipline or an obligation; a standard of piety to be measured against. However, God enjoins prayer upon us for its beneficial aspects in our lives. One of them Paul lists here. The Greek term for "keeping alert" is often translated as "watch" and also means to "keep awake." The opposite of sleeping is not being awake but watching. "Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober." (1 Thessalonians 5:6 NKJV) It is through prayer that our spiritual eyes are open, that we are able to see into the spiritual realm, to see the things that are around us and the things that are approaching us, For example, it is through prayer that we see the plans of the Devil and the temptations that are coming our way. "Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:38) It is also through prayer that we see trials and the snares of the Devil before they arrive. "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into." (Matthew 24:42-43) Prayer is more than asking. This type of prayer that Paul is calling us to is a prayer that is watchful. It is a prayer that is alert, seeing, and circumspect. As someone once said, "It is a jungle out there!" and prayer allows us to see the "lions and tigers and bears oh my!"

Finally, Paul asks for prayer for himself, but not for his ease, comfort, or needs but that he would find success in his purposes in life; that he would fully fulfill the call and will of God on his life. Life is short, and what prize will we take with us into the next life? Paul asked the Thessalonians, "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) In the end, the material blessings we have found will account for little as we proceed into eternity. However, the eternal victories we have won, the knowledge that we fulfilled the purpose of God in our lives, and the relationships we have forged along the way; these will be the things that give us joy and are the prize of our life on this earth. Let us learn to extend our prayers beyond temporal blessings to include those things that have eternal value and reward. Life is short. May this revelation teach us how to pray.

David Robison

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ruling over slaves - Colossians 4:1

"Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1)
It is interesting that Paul did not command masters to free their slaves. Truth be told, when living in a slave culture like that of the first century Roman Empire, emancipation is not always a beneficial option. Where would the slave go? Where would he find work? How would he survive in a culture that considers him property even if his own master sets him free? It can be hard for us to understand this since we are so far removed from our own slave culture and have little to no context from which to understand Paul's words. Paul's command to the masters was to extend charity to those they ruled over; to treat them fairly, justly and with equity.

We tend to be people who desire honor, mercy, forgiveness, and grace from those above us yet extend judgment and exacting expectations towards those beneath us. We pray for God's forgiveness while we hold grudges and unforgiveness towards others in our hearts. We expect the world around us to accommodate itself to us and our desires while turning a blind eye to the needs and interests of others. We demand others to accept us as we are while all the time holding others in bondage to our exacting exceptions of them. We are like a master who desires peace from his heavenly master but only extends servitude to those over whom they rule.

One day, Jesus told this story of the man who owed his master a large sum of money. The amount today would be in the millions of dollars. Unable to pay, he pleads for more time to repay his debt. Move by compassion, his master forgave him the entire debt and sent him forth free and forgiven. "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' " (Matthew 18:28) The man pleaded for mercy and more time to repay but the other would hear none of it and threw him into jail until he should repay the last cent of his debt. When the master of this man heard what had happened he was furious and called the man to account. "'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?" (Matthew 18:32-33) So the master "handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him." (Matthew 18:34

The moral of the story is that we need to extend the same mercy, forgiveness, and grace that we have received from God to others around us. We may have servants but we too have a master in heaven and He is watching to see if we treat our slaves the same way He treats us. We must remember the words of Jesus when He said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." (Luke 12:48) We have been given so much from our heavenly master. It is time we give some of that to people around us. Even to those we consider as insignificant as slaves. We must learn to give what you have been given and treat others the way God has treated us.

David Robison

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Serving masters - Colossians 3:22-25

"Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality." (Colossians 3:22-25)
As a twenty first century westerner, it's hard sometimes to read and relate to what Paul has to say to and about slaves. Few of us have ever seen slaves and fewer of us have ever experienced slavery in our own lives. However, slavery was very much the norm in the first century Roman Empire. With each conquest of a foreign nation, Rome made slaves of its inheritance. Often relocating them to serve others within the Roman Empire. In many cities, there were more slaves than freeman and much of the early church was made up of the destitute poor and slaves. It was only as the church continued to grow and expand that people of the upper classes would come together with the poor and the slaves to worship their common creator and Father in heaven.

Paul's words to slaves were written in the reality of their situation. They were slaves and slaves they would be. There was very little opportunity to change their social status and less to abolish the institutionalization and acceptance of slavery. Paul's words to the slaves were to help them understand how to honor and obey God even as they lives as slaves to another man.

Today, while we may not have masters, most of us do have bosses, managers, and people in authority over us and some under us. We all serve masters. Even if we are a self-made man or woman, we still have God as our master over us. The question is not so much what we do in life, but how we do it. This questions extends over every area of "work" in our life. There is no aspect of our life that is hidden from the question: How shall we life our life?

First of all, we must live our lives nor for the sake of appearances but from some deeper reality within us. The Greek term for "external service" literally means "eye-service" So many people live their lives for the purpose of being seen by others. They live their lives to project some imaginary image of themselves but they never live from the reality of who they are inside. They pretend to be someone else rather than expressing who they really are. Especially as believers, it is important that we live lives that are consistent with the new life of Christ that had been born within us; that we live as the new creation we are. Living not to be seen by men but by God.

Secondly, regardless of how we live, we must live from within ourselves. The Greek term "heartily" means "from one's self" or "from the soul." The truth of the matter, as Christians, is that we are no longer slaves of men but slaves of God. We no longer have to do anything out of obligation but we can choose to do all we do out of choice. As God's freemen we no longer have to obey our masters out of duty but we can choose to obey them out of heart. We are now free to choose. There is a great difference between doing your job and choosing to do your job. One is automatic, done out of what is expected, the other is a choice, done out of will; driven by will rather than dragged by compulsion.

God does not want people who are drifting though life, only doing what the think is expected of them, only living by what is required of them. God wants people who are engaged in life; who live life "from their soul", who live life by choice and purpose and, who in their choosing, recognize that it is God who is their master and the master over all. From Him comes their ultimate reward and it is unto Him that they choose and live life. Let us learn to live life as free men and women and let us choose to live life to the honor and glory of God.

David Robison