Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Goliath's Name Found On Pottery

More archaeology! Researchers have found a pottery fragment at a mound near the Israeli city of Tell es-Shafi, a mound widely accepted to be the site of the ancient Philistine city of Gath.

Gath, by the way, was one of a confederacy of five Philistine cities that gave Israel no end of trouble in Old Testament times. The pottery fragment had an inscription in an ancient Semitic script reading "alwat" and "wlt," which researchers believe to be Philistine spellings of the name of Goliath.

The full story can be found at Yahoo, here.

What makes this find even more intriguing is that the Bible clearly states Goliath was from Gath:

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. (1 Samuel 17:4)

This is a spectacular find, because it is the first extra-biblical evidence to suggest that Goliath actually existed. Granted, it does not "prove" the Biblical story to a skeptic's satisfaction, but it certainly adds a lot of credibility to the Biblical account - Goliath is proven to be a Philistine name, and the name is connected with his Biblical hometown!

The shard dates from 900 BC, well after Goliath would have lived, but that doesn't detract from the value of the find at all.

I liked this quote from NineMSN:

"I haven't found Goliath's skeleton with the hole in the centre of his forehead, but it's the first archaeological evidence form a Philistine site which lends strong credibility" to the story...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ancient Church Found in Israeli Prison

Prisoners digging in part of their prison compound have uncovered what could be the oldest existing Christian church.

The find is quite incredible, as indicated by pictures taken at the site.

The picture at left (from Reuters) clearly shows the ancient Christian use of the fish as a symbol, as well as Greek script at right. I wish I could read it - the time will come, God willing...

At right (AP photo) here is another mosaic found at the site. Again, I really can't read Greek, but the last four letters of the third line read theos - God in English.

Archaeologists believe the church, found near the town of Megiddo (Armageddon) dates from the third century AD. This estimate is based on pottery fragments found at the site, as well as the style of Greek used in the mosaics. Furthermore, the use of the fish as a symbol as opposed to a cross indicates an earlier date.

The full story may be found here.

Why is this important? Well, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code has been the hottest bestseller of the last couple of years, and will be released as a major movie next spring. Central to the storyline is the idea that Christ was not actually divine; rather, He was a mere mortal, Brown claims, marrying Mary Magdalene and fathering a child before He died.

Brown introduces his book with an assertion to the effect that although the story itself is fiction, it is based on historical fact. Obviously, a denial of Christ's divinity is serious, and Brown makes the astounding claim in the novel that Christians prior to the fourth century did not worship Christ as God. He states that the Church only began teaching that Christ is divine at the Council of Nicaea, and that the Emperor Constantine pushed this idea onto the Church. In short, according to Dan Brown, the reason we worship Christ as God today is because Constantine won out at Nicaea.

How does this find fit in? One of the mosaics clearly refers to Jesus as God - and the church dates from before both Nicaea and the reign of Constantine!

So, as James White pointed out at his blog today, the dating of this site is yet more blatant proof that Brown has no historical credibility whatever. If you want a closer look at the issue, I recommend Dr. White's running series on the Da Vinci Code (start here, and then read Parts I, II, III, IV, and V).

And yes, I am happy I finally figured out the pictures function!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Poor kitties...

As Erin and I are moving across the country shortly, we had to answer the question of what we would do with our bratty little pets, Felix and Willow.

We decided, on the advice of several friends and family, to ship them by air. This would allow Erin and I the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely, all-expenses-paid nine-day drive across Canada - without the dubious pleasure of their company. Just imagine - two cats (and a litterbox) cooped up with you in a little Grand Am for a 4500 km drive...

They aren't the best-behaved cats in the world either. Erin says Willow, who was her cat before we met, is morally depraved because she was raised by a single mother. And as we bought Felix just before we were married, he was conceived out of wedlock. Not a great start.

Willow frustrates me because she has not grasped the most elementary of feline instincts: covering the stuff she leaves in the litterbox. Not that she doesn't try; but she ignores all the litter provided for that purpose, choosing instead to paw at the unyielding plastic sides of the box and the very solid floor outside of it. Now, I won't comment on her intelligence, other than to point out that this is an instinct, not a learned behaviour, and that she doesn't even have that figured out...

Felix, for his part, styles himself as a cheetah or jaguar on the hunt, and tears around our small apartment accordingly. Erin can't wrap herself in a blanket in his presence, because he'll attack anything that moves underneath it (elbows, toes, etc.) And when, at 0200 hours, he is bored, he beats on our bedroom door or a closet. Thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump until you chase him and lock him up. For five or six months now, we've squirted him, soaked him in the sink, doused him in the shower, yelled at him, smacked him, and locked him up - he just won't learn.

I've finally figured him out. He isn't a bad cat; this would imply a standard of behaviour. He's not immoral, in other words. He's amoral - that is, he has no sense of right and wrong whatsoever, and coupled with a total inability to make even the simple connection that Pavlov's dog accomplished ("Event A leads to event B") between his behaviour and the unpleasant consequences that follow, he drives me insane.

But, other than threatening to barbecue him or holding him under the tap in the bathtub, I have been unable to truly have my revenge upon these cats. Until today.

See, I finally made the arrangements to ship them. And because of flight times and connections, the trip will take no less than 11 hours - six hours of that a layover in Montreal! That's a bad enough arrangement for a human traveller. They'll be in cages in cargo compartments.

I really do love them, and I pray they make it safely. But I just can't help a little vindictive satisfaction when I ponder the LOOOOOOONG day they'll have 25 November.

Have a nice flight!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Can Salvation Be Lost? (Part III)

Christianity is not a religion of works; it is the religion of grace. Ours is not a faith where we make ourselves worthy of salvation; ours is a faith in God’s granting us salvation because of Christ’s worthiness. It’s not what we do; it’s what He did.

So does this mean that a Christian can do whatever he likes, and he’s safe?


Even Paul recognized that there would be those who would ask this question:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)

“God's grace has covered all my sin - I'm in the clear!!” There are many who call themselves Christian and take God's grace as a licence for immorality. Paul, in this passage, says NO! We have “died to sin, he says” - a true believer has put his sinful nature to death. The chains of sin have been broken in the life of a true Christian. To continue to serve sin would be proof that one is still sin's slave - and no man can serve two masters.

Yes, Christians are saved by grace. It is a gift of God, completely undeserved, totally unearned by human behaviour. God's grace does NOT depend on how good we behave. BUT -- Paul also says we are saved by grace THROUGH faith. God's grace works through genuine faith. And James, in his letter, tells us what true, saving faith looks like. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” he says (2:17). A faith that does not reveal itself through actions is no faith at all. It is a dead faith. It is a false faith. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (2:14) No!

So many Christians I know have a firm understanding of the relationship of works to faith. They say, correctly, that true faith will show itself by good works. Why is it so hard to go one more step and see the application of this Biblical truth to the question of salvation? A saved person will prove his salvation by his faith, and thus by his works and the fruit of the Spirit.

So though grace does not depend on good behaviour, good behaviour certainly depends on grace. Or, in other words, we are unable to honour God without His grace - and if His grace is in our lives, that grace WILL produce good behaviour. Genuine faith produces genuine fruits in a person's life. Jesus said, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:18-20)

We have a similar saying these days: “If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” A true Christian will be identifiable by his fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. A true Christian will prove it by his lifestyle.

A person who says he holds to “once-saved, always saved,” and thinks he can sin without consequence, provides serious grounds to doubt whether he is saved at all. A saved Christian will have the Holy Spirit – he will have been regenerated, had his heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh. The Spirit will, over time, change the person to be more and more like Christ. And so a truly saved Christian abhors sin; he hates evil, detests wrongdoing, despises that part of his nature that tends toward sin. A true Christian fears sin and works to avoid it - not because he fears punishment and hell, but because sin is repellent to him. A “Christian” who thinks sin is of no consequence does not have God's view of sin - and this begs the question: has he truly repented, if he doesn't appreciate just how horrible sin is?

Now, this doesn’t mean that a Christian who stumbles is lost and is not saved. As long as we live in this world, we will have a sinful nature and will feel its effects. Christians will struggle with sin, and temptation, as long as they have a sinful nature - remember James' words? He who claims to be without sin lies. But a true Christian will not persist in a lifestyle or pattern of sinful behaviour. For a saved Christian, sin will always result in conviction by the Holy Spirit, and will always lead to repentance. An unrepentant sinner cannot be a Christian.

So we see that the Biblical position – that held by the Reformers – is the “middle ground” between two extremes: one which holds that one’s own efforts to keep himself in a “state of grace” is vital for salvation, and the other which claims that salvation merely requires belief in Christ and that sinfulness doesn’t matter anymore afterward.

A true Christian will watch for sin in his or her life, continually confessing it to God and praying for His grace to fight it. A true Christian strives to live a truly holy life, not to earn or keep one’s salvation, but because sin offends him or her, because it is repugnant and disgusting to him or her. True Christians, that have been washed in the blood of Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, love Christ their Saviour like a bride loves her bridegroom. No girl wants to be filthy and repellent to the man she loves, and no Christian wants to appear soiled and dirty with sin before the Bridegroom of the Church.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) THIS is the Christian motivation for holiness – love, not fear of the loss of one’s salvation. And this heartfelt, abiding love for Christ, this disgust for sin, this deep respect for God’s holiness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit – and a mark of a saved Christian.