google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html 2017 October

Archive for October 2017

Exploring Islam 03

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Exploring Islam

The Qur’an and Hadith

Muhammad’s miraculous sign as a prophet was not healing, or feeding of the five thousand, but instead the transmission of Allah’s message to the Arab people, the Qur’an. In this podcast we shall briefly look at this and the additional Islamic writings called the Hadith.

Origins and layout of the Qur’an

The Qur’an as we now read it, was not written and collated until after Muhammad’s death. Whilst he was proclaiming his message from Allah to the people it was common for scribes to write down what he said, but most Islamic scholars agree that this was not systematic. Unlike the Christian Bible which spans many years, cultures and authors, the material found in the Qur’an originated from one person within their twenty year ministry. The nature of the text is very poetic in content and structure so much so that many native Arabic speaking peoples consider it a higher form of the language, as well as an older and now disused dialect.

It is believed that Muhammad received the material for the Qur’an from Allah via His messenger the Angel Gabriel, otherwise known as the ‘the holy spirit’. These visions were intense affairs where the prophet was sometimes seen coming out of a trance like state. After his death it is no surprise that there was some diversity in the form and detail of some of the written records of Muhammad’s message. The third Caliph, or leader of Islam, Caliph Uthman appointed in 644AD twelve years after Muhammad’s death set out to collate and establish a single version of the prophet’s message which remains today. The overall layout of the Qur’an is somewhat different to that of the Christian Bible.

The Suras were ordered not chronologically but in size, the longest first running down to the shortest. The only exception is Sura 1 which is seen as a special opening prayer to the Qur’an. In a general sense this structure placed the later Suras, the ones received whilst Muhammad was living in Medina, first as they were the longest.

Most English translations of the Qur’an have opening comments to each Sura which briefly describe its timing. The Suras themselves are not specific to a particular topic or event, but contain within them a variety of different subjects and exhortations. It may start by talking about the role of women, then move onto accounts of Abraham, and perhaps finish discussing heaven or Paradise. This shift within the Sura makes for difficult reading if unfamiliar with the Qur’an, and the change from one topic to the next does not necessarily mean they should be connected via a general principle or lesson.

Unlike the Christian Bible which is believed to be unified in its truth and content, passages in the Qur’an can come under abrogation. A later passage regarding a particular situation or topic can supersede an earlier instruction. An example might be the growth over time in the number of wives a Muslim may have. As a Muslim this facet of the text is not viewed as a negative drawback but simply as the way Allah has chosen to communicate.

Authority of the Qur’an

Despite the origins of the Qur’an, the words within the book were considered by Muhammad and are still by Muslims to be the actual words of Allah. Even though they were transmitted through a human prophet they contain no reflection or influence by him. In fact, the message contained within the Qur’an originated according to Hadith from an eternal tablet located in heaven. This everlasting tablet of Allah’s words was the source of all the previous books from previous Islamic prophets, Moses and the Torah, David and the Psalms, Jesus and the Gospel. Therefore, the Qur’an itself is handled with great respect. Unlike the Christian Bible it ceases to be the Qur’an when it is translated out of the original Arabic into say English, hence these are typically called ‘The Meaning of the Glorious Qu’ran’. The Qur’an is never placed on the floor, never held below waist height when being carried, can never have anything placed on top of it, and is certainly never written in. All Muslims today consider their copy of the Qur’an to be one of their most precious possessions and as such any non-Muslim should display some level of respect even if they do not believe in its claims.

However, it is this authority stemming from its eternal origins which, in my opinion, poses some food for thought for Muslims. Anything eternal can only be equated to Allah, and therefore what exactly is this heavenly tablet? Many everyday Muslims may not have considered this question and if presented with it may react with offense. Caution and sensitivity is needed or else we risk raising only more barriers.

What about the Hadith?

Along with the Qur’an, what Muhammad said and did outside of the specific proclamations from his Angelic visions have been collated and are called the Hadith. As a political and religious leader he was faced with many different and challenging situations and questions from his followers which he sought to answer. These sayings were recorded either during his ministry or afterwards and form the backbone for what was subsequently structured as Sharia law, the overall structure and guidance for all aspects of Islamic life. Unlike the Qur’an there are today different Hadiths written by different Islamic scholars and have different providence.

The reliability of a Hadith is based upon the length and character of the witnesses who passed on the information before it was written down. Some which today are considered popular and reliable are authored by Bukhari, and separately by a scholar simply called Muslim. Many put a lot of unquestioned trust and authority into the teachings and principles found in the Hadith, sometimes equalling that given to the Qur’an. This is despite the orthodox position that it is only the Qur’an which can be considered the actual authoritative words of Allah. The status of Muhammad as the seal of all prophets has naturally led to this popular view of the Hadith, and many Muslims which I have met have raised the prophet, rightly or wrongly, onto the same ethical and moral pedestal as Christians do for Jesus. Next time we shall look at the different expressions of Islam found today characterised in the divide between Sunni and Shia, but also in Sufism and Folk Islam.

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What About Mormonism 2

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Mormonism - Part 2

Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism.

 

Joseph Smith was the son of parents who were into selling blessings and fortune telling. Joseph himself had quite a reputation for telling tall stories. He was born in 1805 and at the age of fourteen was said to have had a divine visit from an angel and warned to have nothing to do with the established church.

Visit from Moroni!

Joseph was then supposed to have received a further visit from an angel whose name he said was Moroni. who gave him instructions to go to a certain place named Palmyra where he would receive a very special revelation from God. He would be told where to find some special gold plates with very special writing on. The writing would be in Egyptian so he would not have understood with out some kind of aid. Fortunately there just to the side of the gold plates were a pair of spectacles (glasses) and when Joseph looked through those glasses at the writing he would see it translated into his own language. In 1827 Joseph Smith began to dictate from behind a curtain to three men who acted as his scribes as he read from those gold plates using those special glasses I referred to earlier.

Beginnings of the Book of Mormon

When completed, these writings were formed into a book and when printed was called "The Book of Mormon." Then it is said that Moroni the angel returned, collected the plates as well as the glasses and disappeared again. In 1830 Joseph Smith started the Mormon Church or The Church of the Latter Day Saints as it is also known. It is only fair to point out at this stage that this book of Mormon which is given as high a place as the Bible in the Mormon Church was produced at the same time as a historic novel written by a man by the name of Spaulding. He had been a Presbyterian preacher who eventually died of consumption in a place named Conneaut in Ohio .
Before he died he made a great deal of money out of it it as it sold well. The book was called 'Forgotten Tales of the Monk Cyril and the Abbot Joachim'. It is believed that The Book of Mormon is actually the writings found in that book plus some added scriptures. If this is the case then it doesn't enhance the man Joseph Smith to us as a godly man who had said the writings came from God and received from an angel called Moroni. When his own father questioned him about the writings and wanted to look at the gold plates for himself, Joseph said it was unwise for if he were to look upon them he would surely die. His own wife Emma also helped in writing the book of Mormon as Joseph continued to dictate from the gold plates but never became a part of the Mormon church till many years later.

New Revelation

Several years on, Polygamy became a regular practice in the Mormon church. What was it that triggered that off you ask?. After all wasn't this Mormon church supposed to be morally sound, a godly fellowship of God's people? Joseph Smith gives us the answer himself. He said it came as a divine revelation to him. No one it seems was prepared to argue with him on that matter that prompted that action. Following Joseph Smith's death, Brigham Young took over as leader. During his lifetime the Mormon Church was forced to obey the laws of the country and not only follow their own rules and codes of practice. You will not be totally surprised to hear of the legacy Brigham Young left behind him when he died. He left 400,000 dollars, seventeen wives, and fifty six children. Polygamy continued to be expressed as the Mormon church said they were only following their interpretation of scriptures relating to Abraham who had many concubines during his life time. More about that in our next study where we will be looking specifically at some of the teachings of the Mormon church especially in relation to the book of Genesis and what they add to the scriptures as well as leave out!

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POD - Psalm 84

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Psalm 84

 

 
1-2 What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
I've always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
where I could sing for joy to God-alive!
3-4 Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God!
How blessed they are to live and sing there!

5-7 And how blessed all those in whom you live,
whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,

discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain,

and at the last turn-Zion! God in full view!

8-9 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, listen:

O God of Jacob, open your ears-I'm praying!

Look at our shields, glistening in the sun,

our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.

10-12 One day spent in your house,

this beautiful place of worship,
beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God

than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.
All sunshine and sovereign is God, generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn't scrimp with his traveling companions.
It's smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

 

 

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Think Spot - 16th October 2017

 

When we are going through a difficult time it is sometimes hard to believe that you are the apple of Gods eye.

God gave me a picture once.  I asked God what I was worth. God tied a tag round my neck with a piece of string, the kind of price tag that they have in old fashioned shops.  The tag read £10, then he removed the tag and replaced it with one that read £100, then he removed that one and replaced it with one that had £1000 on it. He replaced the £1000 price tag with one that read £100,000 and then replaced that one with a million pound price tag. The final price tag simply had ONE LIFE written on it.   I find it mind blowing that God chose to let His Son die a hideously painful death so that I can enjoy a personal relationship with him that I am so valuable that even if I was the only human being that existed, God would have allowed Jesus to die on a cross for me.

Remind yourself of this fact frequently and you will get a glimpse of your father's heart. He loves you to bits and is proud of you no matter what you have done in the past - if you have said sorry and meant it - it is forgotten. The slate is completely clean.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come."

God's love for you is unconditional. God created us with a thirst to be secure, to have self worth and to have a sense of our own significance. That thirst is intended to be quenched by God himself, by His unconditional love for us and unconditional acceptance of our work.

1 John 3:1 says "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God.! And that is what we are!"
Ephesians 2:10 says "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepares for us in advance to do."

Unfortunately many of us try and get our security and sense of self worth from our spouses or parents.  Whilst that can be okay if we have a particularly adoring spouse or an encouraging mum and dad, it goes badly wrong if we have a critical spouse or a parent that withholds praise. Our self esteem really suffers in the case of a verbally critical spouse or parent and is affected just as badly by someone who is slow to give praise.

Galatians 4:7 "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father.' So you are no longer a slave but a son and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."

Our aim should be to please God and fulfil his purposes for our lives. If it is we will discover a sense of security, value and significance in God and then it will not matter if our boss does not appreciate us or if our spouse criticises us.

We should be aiming to enjoy God, to have a life of worship and to get to know God better each day. God adores us and considers us adorable. He is proud of our achievements but is so much more thrilled with our efforts to get to know Him better.

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Exploring The Bible

36. Old Testament

Obadiah - 840BC

 

G'day and welcome to our series, "Exploring the Bible" This is also the title of our latest book available on Amazon by clicking here or visiting PulpTheology.com

Key Verses:

  • Obadiah 1:8-10
  • Obadiah 1:21

 

Obadiah preached 840 BC to Edom and Israel. Speaking against Edom, Obadiah preaches that there are no pleas to return, no words of consolation or hope and no deliverance from God’s destruction. Obadiah, meanwhile speaks to Israel about God restoring them to Himself.

Obadiah accuses Edom, who should have been supporting Israel, of being an enemy to them. As a result Edom will be destroyed. Only a small remnant will survive, apparently because they take refuge in Jerusalem.

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Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 118 - 1 John 5:20
What We Should Know



What we should know. John wanted the people of his fellowship to ‘know’ 4 things.

They are:
  • that they have eternal life (16);
  • that those born of God do not continue to sin (18);
  • that they are children of God but all the world marches to a quite different tune - that of the evil one (19);
  • that by knowing Jesus they know the truth in a very special way (20);
  • Then he summarizes it all by saying that they were ‘in’ Jesus.

    Their job was much easier than ours. In those days there were not too many things to know. Even those who could read would not have many things to read. We, on the other hand, are deluged with things to know. The TV and the radio and a million books take care of that. So it is hard for us to really concentrate on things like these and make sure they are really deeply imbedded in our thinking. But we must make the effort to get them there and hold them there.

    We have eternal life - the life of the ages. A whole new worldview opened up with the appearance of Jesus in the lanes and houses of Galilee. The Kingdom has come, with him as its Crown Prince. It is a kingdom that is unlike any other there has ever been. Not only is it a kingdom we can, and should, enjoy now but it is one that will take care of us after we have died out of this earthly life. We will be in heaven, briefly, before we are resurrected, as Jesus was, to partake in the new heaven and the new earth. What it will be like we do not know in any detail but we have his word for it and may rest in that with great confidence.

    He then gives us a sharp reminder that we must not live in sinfulness by his positive statement that we do not continue to sin. What happens if we do he does not say but the prospect would not be good. We do all sin, as he said in his first chapter, but we must not live with a fixed tendency to sin. That is idolatry. Beware.

    He then says that, presumably provided we do not disbar ourselves by idolatry, we are the children of God, members of the family of faith. That you will probably not fully understand until you are overseas, away from home, and have to rely on your brothers and sisters of the faith. Then you will realise what the power of a worldwide family is.

    In knowing your fellows of the faith you will have some slight idea of what it means to be ‘in Jesus’, part of the body of the Messiah.. You will come to understand that much of the world is quite antagonistic to you because of your faith. Some of you who read this will understand that very much better than I, in my comfortable Western country ever can, even although I lived for a few years in a country where Christians are not very welcome.

    In summary then, his 4 messages are:
    We have eternal life
    Continuing in sin is not possible for us
    We are in the family of the Messiah
    That all our thinking is to be centred on Jesus

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