Monday, May 24, 2010

Is the Church just interested in money?

All too often atheists assert in objection to Christianity that the Church is just a business that is interested in making money out of people. By their view the Church is some evil empire that sucks the life blood out of people because of simple greed.

But is this a fair and factual objection?

Well lets consider some organisations that are solely intent on making money for the services they provide.
- Fast food restaurants like McDonald and Pizza Hut are businesses that only operate to make a profit
- Music producers like Sony records or EMI are businesses that only operate to make a profit
- Universities are Harvard and Oxford are businesses that solely operate to make a profit
- Private doctors surgeries are businesses that solely operate to make a profit
These are just a few examples, but if we consider these, would any atheist object to people going to Harvard university, eating at McDonalds, listening to Sony music and visiting a private doctor's surgery?
No they would not object. I am certain that there are plenty of atheists that would be happy to do all of the above themselves and also have no problem with others doing them. In fact you would be hard pressed to find any atheist that would object on some moral basis to even one of the above.

Ask yourself, how many atheists are made to give money to the church? None, they have no obligation to give to the church because they are not members of the church.

So if the atheist objection is about Church members being expected to pay, then let us consider other organizations where members have to contribute money.
- sporting club
- recreational clubs
- historical societies
- yoga clubs
- yacht clubs
- chess clubs
- writing clubs
- scrapbooking club
These are just a few examples, but if we consider these, would any atheist object to people paying money as part of being a member of one of these clubs?
No they would not object. I am certain that there are plenty of atheists that would be happy to pay fees as a member of any or all of the above clubs themselves and also have no problem with others doing so. In fact you would be hard pressed to find any atheist that would object on some moral basis to even one of the above clubs expecting some payment from its members.

So if an atheist has no moral objection to fees being charged, by psychologist, doctors, food providers, carpenters, taxi drivers, nurses, meditation clubs, literary clubs, music producers, educational facilities, recreational clubs etc then there can be no moral basis for them objecting to the Church requesting money from its members when it often provides services similar to these to its members.

The fact is that this is one of the atheists' least thought out objections to Christianity, but it is one of the most heart felt, because it is driven by the love of money.
The love of money make people protect their money from anyone they believe might want some of it.

The fact is that we don't want the atheists' money. We can take care of ourselves with God's help.

The Church is a family, it is the family of God's children through Jesus Christ.
Family members happily share with each other what they have and come to the aid of those brothers and sisters that are in need. The church does this. It cares for its members in times of need, it provides ministers who serve the Church family, it also reaches out to people outside of the church. The church leads the way in caring for the homeless, the sick, the abandoned, the elderly, the lost and the needy.

If you resent the Church for teaching its members to be generous with their money, to care for fellow Christians and for the needy, then stay at home and let your money comfort you in whatever way it can. If you find the love of money no longer gives you any comfort, then rest assured that the love of God is the comfort you need. Embrace God and you will be blessed. When you learn that giving is receiving, you will no longer be without.

God bless you all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What is the Meaning of Life?

The meaning of life is one of the foundational questions that people ponder in addressing matters of religion and philosophy.

So what is the meaning of life? What are we doing here?

Fans of Douglas Adams' fantasy book Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would probably tell you the answer is the number 42. This may be a comical response, but unfortunately 42 is just a funny way of saying, "We cannot know the meaning of life because it is all too confusing".

Some times we might not want to think about the meaning of life and 42 might seem like a good enough answer at that time, but when we lose a loved one, or when we come near to death ourselves, or perhaps even when we bring a new life into this world and become a parent, we want to be sure that we are not wasting our lives on frivolous things, and be sure that we have done something worthwhile. We want to be sure we are getting it right because this is our only shot at it.

To start to think about what the meaning of life is, I will look at something that might seem irrelivant at first.
What is the meaning of a softdrink can?

First let's list what it does:
- It provides a container to hold softdrink
- It allows softdrink to be easily transported to people
- It keeps the softdrink in hygenic conditions to avoid contamination and spoiling
- It keeps the softdrink under pressure to retain the gas in the softdrink
- It provides a place to adhere labelling to identify the contents as being softdrink

So why do we want it to do all these things?
-Because people require water and energy to survive and softdrink contains both water and energy so softdrink is useful to people to aid in sustaining life

People are constantly working and making things in order to aid in the sustainance of life.
eg: most economies are centered around things which relate to life sustaining products such as food & drinks, water, heating and cooling, accommodation, medicine, clothing.

So why do people want to survive? Why is life so valuable?

It is inherent in human nature to want to live, and only severely abnormal circumstances alter that inherent drive to live. But even the harshest of circumstances may still not overcome a person's will to live.
In the concentration camps of Nazi Germany people were subjected to the cruelest of conditions and yet those prisoners continued to eat, drink, breath, sleep and do the things that sustain life as much as they were able to.

Even today, prisoners who are on death row awaiting certain execution still eat and sleep and exercise and do the things necessary to sustain their life up until the very moment that their life ends.

If during the time from when the prisoner entered death row until the time they were executed, they had nothing to do except wait to die, then was there any reason for them to continue to sustain their life any longer? Is each moment of life that precious that we should take every last breath we can get?
The people on death row certainly appear to think so!

Some will reduce human existance to an animalistic nature, suggesting that we live in order to reproduce and serve the preservation of the race.
By that principle once we are not able to contribute to the propogation or preservation of the race our lives become meaningless and worthless. Some would say that in those circumstances our lives would actually become a burden to the race and that we are better off dead in order not to burden others.
Charles Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life argued that some persons were not fit to reproduce and that the human race would benefit if these allegedly inferior persons would just die without reproducing.
That logic was adopted by Charles Darwin's half-cousin Francis Galton who began the Eugenics movement responsible for the forced sexual sterilization of persons deemed as inferiors.

If a person is born dissabled then is their life worth living? If you ask them they will certainly tell you it is worth living. After all, they continue to breath and eat and drink and do what is required to sustain life don't they? Their lives are just as valuable as any other person's life.

But as demonstated by Charles Darwin and his relative Francis Galton, not all people place the same value on life. One person might place one value on a human life and another person might put a differing value on a human life. So where does the value of life come from?

The value of anything is a measure of what someone is willing to give in exchange for it.
The value of the item is not measured by what the lowest bidder is willing to pay, but the value is always defined by what the highest bidder is willing to pay for that item.
Some people would not value your life more than a 40 cent bullet and would beat you to death to save money on the bullet. Another person may be willing to pay a million dollar ransom for your life. And yet another person may be willing to give up their own life and die for you. So the value of life is measured by the highest price that someone will pay.

God has set a price for the life of each and every human being, by offering his Son Jesus Christ as a ransom for your life. Jesus has died as an offering for each and every person to receive eternal life because we were all guilty of sin and subject to be penalized by death.
No higher price can be set on a human life, than the price set by God in his Son Jesus Christ.
He has paid for your life with the life of His Son Jesus Christ, so every human life is valuable to God.

This may help us to understand why even someone on death row will not stop eating or drinking or breathing until his life is snatched away by force. Life is precious and God who created us has imprinted that knowledge into our hearts, into our minds and into our soals.

So why would God value our lives so much?

Well what is valuable to us?
Sometimes it is hard to tell what is valuable to us because we have so much in life; but those who are about to leave this life can offer some good insight into what is valuable in life..

Ask them if they want a new car.
Ask them if they want a million dollars.
Ask them if they want to be intelligent.
Ask them if the want to be beatiful.

None of these things really matter when you have only days or hours left to live.
What people close to death want most of all is typically to give love to and receive love from the people that they are about to leave behind, and they want to know that when they pass into the afterlife, they will still be loved.

When God created mankind, He created them in His image.
The human desire to love and be loved is a reflection of the nature of God.
God wants to be surrounded by people that love Him.
God wants to be loved by you so much that he would pay the greatest price to bring you out of death row and into life in his presence.

King Solomon was notoriously pesimistic and unsure about his relationship with God when he wrote the book of Ecclesiates, but it can still offer some insightful views into the meaning of life.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-14 (ESV) says:
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them"; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. 
Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

So King Soloman is saying that the vigor and bravery of youth fades in time as we wither like old flowers. All wealth and achievements are swallowed up by the grave and our health fails us. Unavoidably we will end up before God, and we should fear to upset Him because He holds all power over us and He knows all of all the things that we have done in this life.
If we want to be able to give love and receive love in the afterlife, then we must come into relationship with God and love Him and receive love from Him. If we are not willing to love and obey God then how can God live with us for eternity? If we reject the loving sacrifice that He made for us in sending Jesus Christ to die for us then how could we live with God for eternity? The only alternative is to spend the afterlife without God, in a place without love; and that would be unbearable.

When a baby is born, it knows instinctively that it is meant to love its parents and recieve love from its parents. God is calling us all to be born of the Holy Spirit so that we will be his children. So that He can love us and we can love him back. If you have not received the Holy Spirit of God into your life, then you can do that now. If you accept and confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour having died for your sins to bring you into relationship with God, then you will be able to ask God to send the Holy Spirit to dwell with you, and you will be a child of God and receive His love eternally.

Just as a softdrink can has many aspects to what it does, there may be many aspects to what we do in our lives, but really there is only one reason that we do them, and that is to learn how to come into relationship with God. Everything is a learning experience to become better equipped to living in relationship with God.

No matter what value people in this world place on your life, nothing can compare with the value that God has placed on your life. You were born to be in relationship with God. Now is the perfect time to accept your destiny; to receive the love of God and to know that God wants to recieve your love.