Archive for December, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace
among those with whom he is pleased.
Luke 2:14

My kids Lucy and Elias

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Now we come to the most contentious part of this contentious issue. We have seen that the Bible teaches Adam was the son of God, the people of Israel were the son of God, the son of David was the son of God and that Jesus Christ fulfills each of these so that he is the true and everlasting son of God. But there is another sense in which Jesus Christ is the Son of God that is completely different.

Jesus Christ has a relationship with God that is utterly unique. No other person shares this closeness of relationship. We have already seen in his baptism that God spoke these words, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Certainly this was in fulfillment of Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” But God doesn’t merely say that Jesus is his son, he says that he is his “beloved son.” This is a special relationship.

It is this unique relationship of love between Jesus Christ and God that makes his coming so remarkable. The most famous verse of the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not  perish but have eternal life.” The verses following say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18). We truly see the love of God because he sent his only son. If Jesus Christ was merely a man like any other man God’s love is not so clearly seen. But he loves the world so much that he sends his son.

We see the same depth of love in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but  gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The idea here is that God gave us the greatest thing (his son) and therefore will most certainly give us all lesser things. What this means is that in God’s eyes there is nothing greater that he could give to mankind than his son. Jesus Christ has an utterly unique closeness to God.

John put it this way, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God  but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). God is love and we know this because he sent his only Son to give us life.

As the son, Jesus Christ uniquely knows God. The Christ said in the Injil, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). Knowledge of God comes through the revelation of the son.

The son knows the Father uniquely because he uniquely shares his glory. As mentioned in a previous post, both Muslims and Christians call Jesus Christ the Word of God. And we both acknowledge that God can do anything he wants (after all, he is God!). In the Injil he reveals that he sent his word to the world. His word took flesh. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The Word of God made flesh is the Son. And this son has glory. He has always had this glory (of course the word of God would be full of glory!). Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you . . .”

The key for us is that if we want to honor God we must honor the Son. For Jesus Christ says in the Injil, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:22-23).

It is the birth of the Son that we honor at Christmas. The angel Gabriel told Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32). This Christmas let us honor the one who is uniquely the Son of God, the one miraculously born from a virgin. For in honoring him we honor the Father.

Part 1: Adam Is the Son of God
Part 2: The People of God (Israel) Are the Son of God
Part 3: The Son of David Is the Son of God

Part 4: Jesus Christ Is the Son of God
Part 5: Jesus Christ Is God’s Unique Son
Part 6: Believers Are Sons and Daughters of God

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This is a great video of an Arabic Christmas Carol. It brings together things that don’t seem to fit and yet are true of our Savior. Certainly some of you will watch this and think that this could never happen, that God could never do this – you may even think it is blasphemy. I simply ask each of you to remember that God is God and he is in the heavens and does as he pleases. Who are we to tell him what he can and cannot do? Then consider how utterly unique Jesus Christ is in his birth (who else can claim to be born of a virgin?!).

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It is hard to not have stereotypes, but it certainly is important to try. Some Americans feel fear when they see Muslim women who wear the veil. Others feel pity. Others feel anger at the suppression of her rights. Husna Haq explains why you shouldn’t feel any of those for her. She writes:

I knew I was in trouble the moment I sat down. I’d just taken a seat next to an elderly Asian woman on the D-line train, on my way to a college class last year. She immediately stiffened. I began reading a book. She started twitching and looking around the train. We passed the first stop. She took out her pocket Bible, reading rapidly aloud as she rocked back and forth, clearly agitated. I felt awful, but I didn’t know how to calm her. Before we reached the next stop, she gathered her bags, hurried down the aisle, and quickly took a seat next to someone else.

I’d just scared a sweet, elderly woman with my petite, head-scarf-wrapped frame, and I felt like a monster. I was upset that my hijab – a strip of cloth, a head scarf – had become so loaded with negative connotations that it inspired such distrust.

Her hairdresser told her she didn’t need to wear it in America. “My hairdresser was trying to liberate me from hijab. But for me, hijab is liberation. It is the freedom to assert my identity and live according to my values.”

Read the whole thing.

HT: E-baad-E news

Related Post
Muslim in America

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Oh My God

I’ve only seen the trailer, but I hope I will be able to see the movie. The premise of the movie is simply someone going to 23 different countries asking the question, “What is God?”

Hugh Jackman is in the video and states that if you put a bunch of religious leaders (Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, etc.) at a table he “can’t see them having an argument.” This sentiment sounds great as people try to build bridges between people of different religions, but it is empty and won’t work. They would have arguments (read the New Testament and see how Jesus argued against the religious leaders of his day). My point is that arguments don’t negate peace. In fact, I believe that true peaceful dialogue between people of different faiths depends on having people who will be honest enough to tell someone else that he or she is wrong, but to do it in a respectful, honorable, and loving way.

I’m not offended when someone tells me wrong if he has first listened to me and sought to understand me. I welcome such honesty. It gives me freedom to say what I was already thinking, “You’re wrong!” :)

Another thing that looks interesting is that the filmmaker doesn’t just ask religious experts. I like the idea of asking regular people about their concept of God.

HT: Ibtisam B.

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Last Sunday Switzerland shockingly approved a national ban on the building of minarets (these are the towers on mosques where they do the call to prayer). This is like having a national ban on church bell towers. It is amazing that such a thing could happen in Europe. What good does this promote? Will not having minarets lesson religious fanaticism? Hardly. And this comes from a nation whose constitution supposedly guarantees freedom of religion.

This is not a step toward peace. If you’ve read my blog you know I don’t subscribe to a kind of religious plurality where I believe everyone is right. But I do believe in a religious plurality where everyone is free. Free to worship as they like. Free to worship where they like. Free to build places of worship. Free to change their religion. Free to tell others why they believe what they believe.

Banning the building of minarets will only make Muslims in Switzerland feel more like they are outsiders. It will encourage them to disengage with their non-Muslim neighbors. It will encourage non-Muslims to continue to fear Muslims and refuse to get to know them. It will give Muslim fanatics more fuel for their fire (The west is anti-religious and is out to destroy Muslims). It will give non-Muslim fanatics more fuel for their fire (Muslims are scary terrorist and we must stop them).

You don’t need to be able to read the poster below to know that it does not promote understanding, love or peace. It promotes fear and peace does not prosper in fear.

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