Sunday, January 3, 2016

What caused the flash sideways in Lost?

I am a huge Lost fan. I loved (almost) everything about the show, including the finale and the big reveal that (spoiler alert) the flash sideways universe was some sort of "purgatory" created to allow the main characters to "move on" together in the afterlife. All of the last season, this "flash sideways" universe seemed to be some sort of alternative universe caused by Juliet denoting Jughead.

So how was the flash sideways universe actually created?

Well, in the finale Christian Shepherd says that the characters "made" the flash sideways universe because they "needed" each other (see Lostpedia). He never says how this universe was "made", probably to keep things vague so that people could come up with their own theories.

However, so many of the mysteries of the island the Lost universe were explained (or you can read between the lines and work out the answers for yourself). The flash sideways universe never had a full explanation. It is populated by characters that do not exist in the "main" universe, such as Jack having a son (David - that family is full of biblical names).

Here are my two thoughts on how the flash sideways could have been created.

First, it was caused by the denotation of Jughead and it is an alternate universe of sorts. The bomb detonating not only prevented Flight 815 from crashing but also changed other small details in the past (from the time the bomb was detonated until the time of the flight) because there was no one (Jacob) to influence the lives of the characters. However, because of the issues involved in changing the past/future (time paradoxes), it became a place where the characters would only go when they died. This isn't the strongest argument, but is supported by the detonation of the bomb coinciding with the commencement of us seeing the flash sideways universe.

The alternative argument in my mind is that the universe was created by Hurley (the new protector of the Island) in consultation with all his friends who had died. Remember, he could speak to people who had died. And recall Christian's words that the characters "made" the flash sideways universe because they needed each other. So it is possible Hurley constructed the world somehow following discussions with the dead, realising they needed to meet together in the afterlife to connect, deal with the issues they faced in life and move on.

From a Christian perspective, I found the flash sideways universe fascinating. It appeared people got what they 'deserved' (the "bad" characters died or had awful fates - the "good" had happy endings). The church in the final scenes had symbols from all major religions. The writers went out of their way to keep everyone and all religions 'happy'.

Of course, as a Christian, I believe we all deserve an eternity of pain, suffering and separation from God. This is because we have all sinned and fallen short of God's glory. However, those who accept Christ into their lives and believe he saved them from sin by dying on the cross don't get what they deserve. Rather, they are granted eternity with God in his presence, the best place to be.

So those are my thoughts. Feel free to add any in comments!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Should Christians have lots of money?

Tithing and money are topics avoided in some Christian churches and talked about endlessly in others. It seems every church has a different view on finances. Some say that all Christians should have lots of money and success in life and, if you don't, you do not have sufficient faith. Others take a vow of poverty or believe that Christians should have very little and what they do have should be shared with the poor.

So what is the truth in all this?

First of all, I want to make a point very clear here. We do not live under the Old Testament law anymore. Rather, we live under grace and a totally different standard. We are now filled with the Holy Spirit and led by Him, the Word of God and also our brains (yes, God gave us brains to use - please exercise common sense!)

Second, God has promised to take care of all our needs. These are different than wants but we will not go hungry as believers. The Lord promises to be our provider.

Solomon, an Old Testament king, was blessed with incredible wealth. In fact, all the Israelites at the time were wealthy. Here about all the materials that went into building the Temple here. The amount of gold would have been staggering! People often use the story of Solomon to say that those walking with God should have great riches. However, don't forget that Solomon eventually walked away from God by marrying foreign women and worshipping their gods.

In the New Testament, the first Christians sold their properties and pooled their resources to help each other. We live in very different times today and I'm not sure this would be as successful. However, they clearly had a spirit of generosity.

I'm a big believer that there is no "one size fits all" with Christians. We are to be led by the Holy Spirit. There are those that are called to run businesses or make wise investments and build considerable wealth. However, it is clear that God still wants these people to be generous (not necessarily giving a 'tithe' but having the right spirit and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead in how much to give).

There are others who are called to live a simple life and may dedicate their lives fully to serving God knowing they will never have great riches.

So, here are some simple principles to keep in mind:
  • God has called us to be wise stewards of whatever he provides us.
  • Everything we have is a blessing from God, whether a lot or a little.
  • Do not be jealous of others or covet their wealth and possessions. Be grateful and thankful for what you have.
  • Pray and seek the Holy Spirit's guidance and advice for what He wants for your life.
  • Keep a spirit of generosity; do not store your treasures on Earth but store up treasures in Heaven.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Are some sins worse than others?

A common question Christians and non-Christians sometimes ask is "are some sins worse than others?" It is an interesting and difficult question to answer but I'll do my best!

A lot of Christians use the phrase "a sin is a sin" to say that all sins are equally bad in the eyes of God. They say that a lie is just as bad as murder.

I'm not convinced that this view is correct. Some sins certainly had worse consequences than others. A lie may have very few (if any) consequences but adultery generally affects families, friends and can greatly damage lives.

Does this make adultery a worse sin than others? Well, in the Old Testament, death was the punishment for adultery. However, there was no penalty given in the Old Testament for lust (which is only in one's heart but can lead to adultery). The 'penalty' for premarital sex was that the two people had to marry and were forbidden to divorce (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

So, in my view some sins are definitely 'worse' than others in that the consequences to us and others are far more severe.

However, the view that "a sin is a sin" is true in that all people have sinned, no one is perfect and we all need a Saviour (Jesus Christ). Just because you may not have committed adultery, murder or any other "more serious" sins does not make you a "good" person. Only by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour are our sins wiped clean and he sees us as righteous ("perfect").

Friday, April 24, 2015

What Old Testament Laws Should Christians Obey?

A common question for Christians is what laws or rules they should follow under the new covenant (or New Testament).

Believe it or not, this was also a problem faced by the early Church. At first, all believers were Jews who continued to follow the Jewish laws and customs (in other words, they followed the laws of the Old Testament). However, Gentiles (non-Jews) started to accept Jesus Christ and were filled with the Holy Spirit. The question was then asked as to whether these new Christians should follow the Jewish laws and customs.

The Church decided that Christians should follow only the following rules:

  • Sexual immorality
  • Eating food that had been offered to idols.
  • Eating blood (of an animal) or the meat of an animal that had been strangled.
Interestingly, Paul later wrote to the Church at Corinthians and said that eating food offered to idols was not sinful, but that you should not do so in the company of believers who believed it was sinful.

I would also argue that eating blood or meat of a strangled animal is not sinful, but was included as part of the rules so as the new Christians would not offend the Jewish believers.

However, I think "what rules should I follow" is the completely wrong question to answer. Under the New Testament, being a follower of Jesus is not about following rules. It is about a relationship with Jesus and being led by the Holy Spirit. He will convict you of sin. He will guide you. He will teach you. He will lead you into all truth. This is a process and all Christians must grow in this area.

It is natural for us to want to just follow some rules to get our ticket into eternal life as this is the easy approach. All you have to do is make sure you "don't do" what is labelled as "sin". Jesus doesn't want drones who follow his law to get into Heaven. He wants a personal relationship with you.

So stop worrying about what laws you should follow. Pray about it instead and ask God what he wants you to be doing. Ask him to convict you of sin and show you how to live your life, love others and fulfil his desire for your life. How much better to focus on what you should be doing rather than what not to do!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Should Christians Tithe?

Tithing is quite a controversial topic among Christians. In the Old Testament, the Jews were required to 'tithe' by bringing 10% of all their goods to the temple. These goods (and parts of the animal sacrifices) were to be used by the priests. The priests were not allowed to work the land so this was the only way they would have enough to get by.

So does this requirement still apply to Christians? Should we give 10% of all our earnings to the Church or to some sort of charity?

It is important to remember that we no longer live under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). This doesn't mean we should just ignore the law entirely as it can help us to determine how God wants us to live. However, we should now be guided in everything we do by the Holy Spirit.

The issue of tithing is no different. The law provides a good guide as to how to use our money. Remember that God supplies us with everything in our possession. If we are a good steward with our money and are generous, God will supply more and more (Luke 6:38).

So do not be constrained by the "10%" rule. Pray and seek God's widow and guidance for exactly how much He wants you to give and who you should give to. Don't just pray about money but also consider donating your time, energy and skills. We are all gifted with different abilities that we can utilise to assist others hearing the Word.

And that last point is the key here. We are all saved by grace. We should all want others to find God's amazing grace. Giving our time, money, resources and skills can help others find Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. That is a cause worth giving to! Giving also encourages selflessness, a key to becoming more Christ-like.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Can a loving God really send people to Hell?

It is quite common for Christians to question whether God, who loves all and desires all to be saved, could really send people to Hell. It is also common for atheists and non-believers to challenge Christians on the topic by claiming that God must not be loving if he will punish "good people".

A friend of mine is a Catholic and believes that, provided you are a good person and live a good life, you will go to Heaven even if you do not believe in God or follow other religions. He believes in Hell but is confident it is only reserved for the truly "bad" people of the world. The problem with this view is that "good" and "bad" are totally subjective. The Bible is clear that every single person has sinned and that the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). This cannot mean physical death because people who become Christians are made righteous (without any sin) in the sight of God yet still die.

I have often heard it claimed that Jesus talked more about Hell than Heaven. This is clearly not true. Jesus did not use the threat of punishment to force people to believe in him and neither should we use the Word of God in that way.

In fact, more and more Christians do not believe in Hell as it is generally depicted (eternal punishment) but rather believe that non-believers will simply cease to exist at some point in time. I don't comment on the merits of this view but simply say that most Christians believe that there is a distinction made between what happens to believers of Christ and non-believers. The believers will live with God forever in Heaven. The non-believers will either be eternally punished in Hell (total separation from God) or will simply cease to exist.

Either way, I believe it is essential for Christians to understand that only believers in Christ as Messiah and Saviour will obtain eternal life with God in Heaven. Why? Because otherwise there would be absolutely no need for Christ to die on the cross for our sins. He could have just told people to "be good", "be kind", "be generous" and "give your money away to those in need". He would not have willingly gone to the cross as there would be no point!

Also, this truth also makes us motivated to tell others about Christ, which is our role here on earth as Christians. We are not to tell others to "be good" but to make disciples (followers) of Jesus.

But why would a loving God send people to Hell or not allow them into Heaven merely because they believe in the wrong religion or thing? Because none of us deserve to go to Heaven or can earn our way there. It is only be the grace (free gift) of Jesus dying on the cross that we can be saved and spend eternity in Heaven. We all have a choice whether to accept Jesus as our Saviour or ignore that truth and follow another way. We all deserve death, but Jesus offers life.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Can I be a Christian and a...?

There are literally hundreds of words you can add to the end of that sentence. Can I be a Christian and a murderer, adulterer, drug user, homosexual, fornicator, liar, cheat, criminal, gossiper etc.

The answer to all those questions is a resounding yes, and anyone who tells you otherwise does not understand the gospel message.

The majority of those things I have listed above are sins. Sins are simply doing things that God doesn't want us to do. Essentially, Jesus said that we are to love other people and love God (Matthew 22:36-40). The entire Bible tells this simple message. Jesus also said that if we love God we will obey his commandments (John 14:23).

We all have a past and have done things which are against God's commandments. We are also inherently selfish and cannot truly love others selflessly without God. Those who sin (any sin at all) are deserving of death in God's eyes. This isn't physical death but separation from God and his blessings. Even on Earth, where bad things happen, we are all still blessed by God.

The amazing power of the Bible (New Testament) is that Jesus took our punishment (death) and all we have to do is believe in God (have faith) and what he has done for us in order to be saved. Our pasts are irrelevant. Jesus can save all.

Even when we are saved, we will still sin. However, sin no longer has power over us and, by the power of the Holy Spirit (who comes into the lives of all believers), we can defeat the sin in our lives. The Holy Spirit gradually deals with these things in peoples live. Slowly but surely we are transformed into more God-like people if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. We will never stop sinning completely but being transformed is part of the Christian journey.

Why is this transformation so important? The more Christ-like we are, the more the Holy Spirit has control of our lives. He can then use us more effectively to tell others about God, the most important job for a Christian. And why wouldn't we want to tell others this great news!