Monday, December 23, 2013

Anti-Christian sentiment and the fulfillment of scripture

I am amazed by the blindness of many on current global events, particularly concerning Islamic terrorism. As the world gets ravaged by Islamic terrorism, the response seems to be that these acts have nothing to do with Islam. Even further, the response to those that do point out Islamic ideology as a the key problem is that violent teachings in Islam are no different than violent teachings in the Bible. Case closed. I've addressed this woefully misled analogy with doctrinal comparisons. Many more well versed and written have also addressed this argument, particularly Raymond Ibrahim. For the sake of argument, let's say that was the case. So then was the murder of millions of Jews justified because God called Israel to eradicate the Canaanites? Is crime against whites justified because of the history of slavery? Yet this is the argument of many concerning Muslim persecution of Christians or violent jihad in western countries.

I recently posted a video of an interview on BBC regarding the Islamic issue in the UK. Andrew Neil shows a documentary and discusses the issue of Muslim organizations saying one thing to the western audience and another to the Muslim audience. I point out that this double talk is taquiya, a deceptive tactic to fool the host country of it's true intentions. Both Muslims and non-Muslims spoke on the double-talk of Muslim leaders in the UK. An old college acquaintance who holds liberal views commented: "kind of like Christians hiding in Rome back in the day..."

My response: Did Christians practice a type of Taquiya in Rome to avoid persecution?
Absolutely not. There is no doctrine in the Bible that says Christians should deny their faith to avoid persecution. In fact, Christians rather faced persecution and martyrdom than deny their faith (Matt 10:33). It is for that same reason that Christians are persecuted today: for not denying their faith. In contrast, the purpose of Taquiyya in Islam is to deceive those in power that they are peacefully coexisting until they increase in number, able to overthrow the host country. We know this by the Quran and the hadith, Muhammad's companions testimony of what he said and did. Hadith 4:269 Narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah: The prophet said, "war is deceit." In fact, Allah is called the best of deceivers! (Surah 3:54; 8:30) The God of the Bible is not a man that he should lie, nor should we. Jesus does not call us to physically war with our enemies. We know that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:12).
The second thing that's wrong about your argument is the implication that Muslims are persecuted in the west. Muslims have been welcomed into western countries and given full freedom to practice their religion as it should be. We have also given financial and military aid to Muslim countries who still consider us enemies, not because we are exploiting them, but because Western democracies are contrary to Islam. We actually see that many Islamic terrorists were wealthy and succeeded in a western country while they trained to carry out terrorism; Osama Bin Laden, the underwear bomber, the Times square bomber, Anwar Al-awlaki, Nidal Malik Hasan, the Boston marathon bombers…wether they be from Pakistan or the UK, the glue that connects them is Islam. The more a Muslim is living out the example of Muhammad in accordance to the Quran, the more he/she is likely to engage in Jihad. The more Muslimized a country is, the more intolerant they are of other religions and women, etc. We see this happening in European countries where Muslims are setting up 'sharia zones' where even non-muslims need to comply with Islamic law. Clearly not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims. It is an indisputable fact that over 90% of terror attacks are in the name of Islam. It's time that the Muslim community get serious about addressing what their Quran says or we need to further investigate the mosques and what they are teaching for everyone's sake, Muslim and non-Muslim. 
Bayard Atwood: 
So are you honestly trying to tell me that the Christians in Ancient Rome did not have to hide their beliefs and practices? If so you are delusional, I have been to the crypts, I have even seen the oldest known depiction of the Madonna and Child in the crypts. Why would they practice their faith is secret in the crypts if they didn't have to hide? 
Your brand of Christianity is as off base and filled with ignorance and hate as the Muslims you are attempting to persecute. I don't think Jesus would like what y'all have tried to do with his teachings.
Mr. Atwood didn't address any points made in the video, nor did he respond to any of the points in my response.
My response: Your equation of Muslims practicing taquiyya to Christians having underground churches is a poor analogy and I pointed out why at length. What is my brand of Christianity anyway, Bayard Atwood, and how is it filled with hate? Those are strong accusations and I'd like you to substantiate your claim with scripture. I certainly don't hate Muslims and do not persecute them. I am a follower of Jesus and he told me to love my enemies and defend the poor and needy. He's told me to call all to repent and believe the Gospel. Jesus was not a free lovin hippie. He said he is the only way to heaven and people are offended by that. I would suggest you read the gospel of John and the book of Acts to see what the CHristian church is. 
Bayard Atwood: 
I don't need scripture. If you attack and persecute anyone who is not part of your group it is out of hate usually born of ignorance. As far as quoting scripture would you like me to quote the Hebrew texts? The Talmud? Or one of the many versions of the bible which was put together in a castle in France in the 1100's? 
It is very simple, actively persecuting another person for any reason is based in hate that's plain and simple and I don't need a collection of stories to make that point. Jesus preached love and acceptance and I'm sure you can find many examples of that, I however cannot find a single instance wherein he preached it was acceptable to be hateful and ignorant. To be a Christian means you follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah or Christ. Plain and simple. That's just the New Testament so quoting the Old Testament is completely irrelevant since that belongs to the Jewish faith and it is their Testament. To believe otherwise is simply Non or Un Christian but its very definition. Have you ever wondered why Jesus never once quoted scripture? Not once in his entire body of teaching did he ever quote scripture. There's a very good reason.
My response: 
You have not shown how I 'persecute' Muslims or how I hate them. And instead of looking at scripture, you willfully hold onto your misconceived notions of Christianity. Jesus quoted scripture many times, most notably to the devil as he was tempted in the wilderness. In Matthew 19, he quotes Genesis 2:24 that marriage is for one man and one woman for life. He quotes Isaiah 61 that he is the one to free captives, and bind the brokenhearted. He said he came not to destroy the law but to fulfill. He quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 saying “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ "This is [the] first and great commandment.
"And [the] second [is] like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
"On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40) My dear, let it be publicly known that you are in error. It is plainly written and you will have no excuse on the day of judgement. You claimed that my 'brand' of Christianity is hateful but you're the one who's a hater. I challenge you to read the Bible not just make conjectures. 
No response afterwards.
This is a very typical exchange with secular liberals. Notice he didn't address any points made in the video with a counter argument. I doubt he even watched it at all. Actually, his main reason for commenting on my facebook timeline was to attack my Christian faith--which he would never do with another religion. Another tactic of secular liberals is to to make the bold claim that Christians are bigoted or engage in hate speech with no proof. It gets better after I engage Mr. Atwood further in a private dialogue:

Me: Bayard Atwood, This man grew up in the middle east as a Muslim and he shares the same views as me regarding Islamic terrorism. Is he also 'racist' against Muslims? Do you think he holds these views out of hatred for Muslims? Out of ignorance? Clearly, no. He is speaking the truth about the way many Muslims raise their children--to hate Jews, Christians, and the West. He points out that these views come from the Quran. He also used taquiyya while in the Muslim Student Association to present Islam as peaceful to western audiences while speaking true intentions to the Muslim audience: raise money to support Islamic terrorism against Israel and the West. 
I also didn't get an answer as to what my 'brand' of Christianity is as opposed the true Christianity. Please answer as you seem to be an expert on Christianity. 
To claim that I am hateful and ignorant without evidence is slanderous and inflammatory. I used to think just like you, but I implore you to examine the evidence rather than just throw out insults.
(I then included a video of Walid Shoebat sharing the same views on Islam).
Bayard Atwood: 
To actively persecute an entire religion based upon the extremist minority is hateful and ignorant. The same way the Taliban and Al Queda operates. It really is that simple. 
I still haven't found any sermon by Rabbi Jesus in which he said it was okay to hate and persecute anyone. Do you really think one can truly enter the kingdom when ones heart is heavy with hate? What you are espousing is religious bigotry plain and simple. To so obviously hate and call for persecution of an entire religion based on the actions of a few is wrong and it only serves to feed the ignorance and hate on the other side who would cite Christians as the "enemy" to be wiped out. The last time we as a species saw such bigotry was Nazi Germany and millions upon millions of people were executed simply because of their faith. Does this now mean that every single person who is German or of German ancestry is automatically a Nazi? No. To believe so would be the height of ignorance. That doesn't necessarily stop some people from believing so though and that's sad. I feel bad for you and hope you one day find the peace you desperately seek. You can't and won't find it in hatred. I urge you to open both your mind and your heart to find peace.
Again, no response on the video or the points I made. Just a sweeping accusation that I hate Muslims and I actively persecute them. It's interesting that he says, "The last time we as a species saw such bigotry was Nazi Germany and millions upon millions of people were executed simply because of their faith." Really? The last time? How about the millions of people being slaughtered today for their faith in Christ in Muslim and Communist countries? Does this now mean that every single person who is German or of German ancestry is automatically a Nazi? Of course not, but it was necessary for us to identify and deconstruct the ideology that led to such persecution. This is what I'm doing with Islamic ideology.

My response: So to point out the reality that most terror attacks are perpetrated by Muslims is hateful? To point out Islamic texts that justify subjugation of women and non-muslims is hateful? You say I am actively persecuting an entire religion. Persecute: "to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically :  to cause to suffer because of belief" Meriam-Webster dictionary. I certainly do not persecute Muslims nor do I hate them. I don't call for the deportation or eradication of Muslims. I don't call for the burning of Qurans. I don't give death threats or physically injure people because they are Muslim. I do not cause Muslims to suffer because of their belief. Your claim that I actively persecute Muslims is completely false and shame on you for spouting such slanderous nonsense. I care about Muslims' well being and their basic human rights. In order to protect human rights, we need to be honest about the the very real persecution going on in the world:
Many Muslim women are actively persecuted for not being Islamic enough. If they date a western man or become too westernized, their families kill them to salvage their family honor. This is called honor killing and is becoming prevalent in many western countries. Unfortunately, honor killing is sanctioned by Islamic texts. This is a human rights issue that Muslim and non-Muslim communities need to actively address. However, discussing this issue is 'Islamophobic' and 'racist.' 
Islamic sex grooming is also a growing problem in western countries with large Muslim populations. Muslim men are targeting young non-Muslim girls to befriend them and then sexually abuse them. Why is this so prevalent among Muslim men? Because Islamic texts dictate how women, particularly non-Muslim women should be viewed and treated. If we are to deal with this issue we need to honestly look at what influences these Muslims  to carry these acts out. To whitewash the fact that it's mostly Muslim men that do this will not solve the problem. 
The persecution of Christians and religious minorities by Muslims in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, etc is today's holocaust and yet few address it for fear of 'insulting' Muslims! Many will also say, "well didn't the Christians persecute?" as if it justifies what's going on. Certainly throughout history, Christian populations have carried out egregious acts, but that doesn't justify Christian persecution, just as German persecution shouldn't be justified or persecution of whites because of history, right? 
As I pointed out in the link above, there are former Muslims that attest to what I'm saying about Islamic texts. They are being honest about their upbringing as Muslims and what Islamic texts say. Just as there are many self-professed Christians that do not read the Bible, there are many Muslims who do not read the Quran. They are content to recite prayers and fast on ramadan to express their muslim faith. However, the reality is that there is a growing population of Muslims that are turning to the fundamental teachings of Islam to express their faith and it is largely centered on violent jihad. Walid Shoebat's testimony about Islam is not because he hates Muslims. I can show you many testimonies of former Muslims that still have Muslim family and love them dearly. Do you honestly think they're being hateful and racist? The problem of Islamic terrorism is not just a small minority but a growing problem. Muslims and non-Muslims need to address it. It's not hatred, it's just reality. 
You say I have a 'brand' of Christianity apart from the teachings of Jesus. You said Jesus never quoted the Old Testament and I gave several examples to show that's simply not true. You may have a general understanding of Christianity but It is clear that you don't know enough to make the kind of claims you've made.  This is where the study of scripture is so important. What does the Bible teach about peace and violence? How do we reconcile the Old and the New covenants? Jesus does love, but he also calls us to turn from our sin and follow him. He said he is the only way to heaven and many people, including you, are offended by that.
Jesus said, ""You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
"that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:43-45. In their legalism, the Jews broke the law against those they accused as law breakers (unlawfully persecuting Jesus, the adulterous woman, those healed on the sabbath, etc.). The purpose of the law in the OT was to show us that we are all law breakers, just as all of us have broken the speed limit (read Galatians chapter 3 for example). We cannot attain God's righteous standard by our actions. Only God can atone for our transgressions through the Messiah Jesus.  That is the only true peace we can attain and I pray you find that. 
Grace and Peace,
 Bayard Atwood: 
That is such an uninformed reading of the texts I won't dignify it with a response. To not understand the historical and socioeconomic reasons behind the writings, written at best 100 years after Jesus passed and by Christian Apologists is to be truly ignorant of the meaning. If you examine the New Testament you will find such things are most likely additions not said originally by Rabbi Jesus. 
Again to call for persecution of another faith based upon their religion is bigotry. How many domestic terrorists involved in school shootings, or bombings in the US on US soil identify as Christian? 
Hitler was baptized Christian. 
Again I'm trying to put this in the absolute simplest terms: both Christianity and Islam have splinter factions that are batshit crazy and have corrupted ideas of their faiths and are willing to go to extremes to fight an imaginary war. To participate in either and to call to actively hate and persecute the other based upon a few is nothing but hateful. To use an ancient text out of current context is to participate in a very one sided argument with nobody able to win. It is a fools  errand at best and madness at worst. 
May you eventually find the peace you so desperately seek. Perhaps you should also actively campaign against every Christian who participates in acts of terror against anyone else, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Atheist, Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto etc. You are on the wrong path, there is no "war" there is no need to engage in hate and bigotry. I honestly pity you. Your misguided attempts at "education" are simple masquerades of hate aimed at inciting the ignorant and fearful, attempts to propagate such things are indeed hateful at their basest nature. Hatred and War is not the central theme to the "Good News" of the Gospels. I do so honestly pity you. 
We'll have to agree to disagree. 
Have a good life.

 Again, no response to the link I posted or the points I made about Islam. His only order of business was to attack my Christian faith and the integrity of scripture. He utilizes the taxi cab fallacy in which he refuses to use scripture to analyze Christian beliefs, but then uses scripture to make his own points on what I should believe as a Christian. Even more egregious is his lack of evidence for his claims that 1. The Gospel accounts were written at least 100 years after Jesus and therefore fabricated. 2. That there is also widespread Christian terrorism and 3. That Hitler was a Christian, therefore Christianity is equally guilty of terrorism. I would like to know how many people commit acts of terrorism in the name of Christ. Does Christian doctrine commands Jesus' followers to persecute non-Christians? The answers to these kinds of questions are necessary in order to substantiate any claim about any ideology. However, at this point, I know that Mr. Atwood is not here for any reasonable argument, so instead of another detailed response, I just ask him again: how have I called for the persecution of Muslims? No response of course and he has since blocked me from facebook.

Was Hitler a Christian? Absolutely not. He's as much of a Christian as U.S. president Barack Obama! Although Hitler was baptized into the Catholic church as a baby, and later appealed to the church in Germany, his actions against Christians clearly proved he is not Christian. He developed a plan to infiltrate, subvert, persecute and finally eradicate Christianity from Germany and eventually the world. ''The Persecution of the Christian Churches,'' summarizes the Nazi plan to subvert and destroy German Christianity, which it calls ''an integral part of the National Socialist scheme of world conquest.''

Funny that the slow systematic subversion of Christianity is something we see in this country now under the Obama administration. Obama claims to be a Christian, but he does nothing to stand against the Christian holocaust going on today. Obama claims to be a Christian, but he betrays Israel, who Christians hold as God's people with rights over Jerusalem and the land of Israel. Obama claims to be a Christian, but he supports gay marriage, abortion, and a healthcare system that forces Christians to act contrary to their religious convictions. Obama claims to be a Christian, but he looks to purge God out of the military and label Christians as 'extremists.' Actions speak louder than words.

As much as I am amazed by these events unfolding, I really shouldn't be surprised. The Bible says that all Christians living Godly lives will be persecuted and that evil will wax worse and deception rampant (2 Timothy 3:12-13). That in the last days people would mock the coming of the Lord (2 Peters 3:3-4) That all people know there is a God but willfully suppress the truth to live in sin (Romans 1:18-21) That all nations will be obsessed with Jerusalem and try to force Israel to divide her God given land (Zechariah 12:1-3; Joel 3:2) That the nations surrounding Israel will work together to try to destroy her as a nation (Psalm 83). These prophecies and many more are the reasons why my faith is trustworthy and no matter how much I'm rejected or persecuted, none can pluck me from my savior's hand!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Secret thoughts of an unlikely convert

The issue of homosexuality and the church has been very prominent in the news again lately and it hasn't been pretty. There are many from the church that are really bigoted against gays or have abandoned what the scriptures say about homosexuality in order to "embrace" the gay community. Jesus could embrace the sinner without condoning the sin (John 4:17-18; John 8:10-11; Luke 19:5-10). Most notable is the controversy surrounding the Catholic Church and most recently, the closing of Exodus, International, a Christian gay conversion therapy organization. I would argue that these organizations are not Christian, as they have strayed from the teachings of Christ. Not that there aren't Catholics that are truly born again, but I would challenge any Catholic to demonstrate the biblical foundation for Catholic dogma such as mass, infant baptism, the infallibility of the pope or the idolization of Mary, the mother of Jesus. To be Christian is to follow Christ, and to follow Christ is to follow His Word (Psalm 56:10; 119:50; John 1:1; 6:63; 8:31; 8:37, 8:51; 15:4). We can do a whole study on this but I'm sure you get my point. My foundation for my worldview and all things Christian are the scriptures.

I recently came across a testimony from a woman on Desiring God. Rosaria Champagne-Butterfield earned a PhD in queer theory, owning property with her long time partner and being a public advocate for queer issues. Through research on the Bible and the religious right, she slowly made steps to give up her homosexuality and follow Jesus. Intrigued and curious about her spiritual journey, I decided to read her book, "the secret thoughts of an unlikely convert."

Like me, her conversion was a multifaceted process. Unlike me, she didn't know the Lord before, nor was she seeking the Lord. The Word of God drew her in, and as she described, "became bigger than me." It started when a local pastor wrote her a letter challenging her presuppositions. It wasn't hostile but haunted her as she could not answer his questions.

I've been asking my secular friends these questions and I get nothing but evasion tactics. "How do you know that's true? Can you show where it says that in the Bible? Where do your get your notion of rights apart from God?" Their reticence reveals that they don't know why they believe what they believe and they have a poor understanding of the Bible and what Christians believe. I find even those who grew up in a Christian home have a poor understanding of Christianity. They were not truly born again spiritually nor did they read the Bible. They went through the motions of sitting in church or learning the Bible as "stories" without connecting it to history. Indeed, the Bible is comprised of documents that accurately identify people, places and events.

Rosaria Champagne-Butterfield writes an honest testimony that beckons straights, gays, Christians and non-Christians alike. She rightfully accuses the Church of alienating the queer community and gives clear biblical reasons why one needs to turn from the homosexual lifestyle to follow Christ. The key to opening her heart to the truth of the Gospel was Pastor Ken and his wife's approach in dialogue:

Ken and Floy did something at the meal that has a long Christian history but has been functionally lost in too many Christian homes. Ken and Floy invited the stranger in--not to scapegoat me, but to listen and to dialogue…Ken and Floy didn't identify with me. They listened to me and identified with Christ. Pg. 295

Of course, this doesn't mean the dialogue was always smooth sailing. The Gospel is offensive to people because it exposes the fact that we are not "good people." We are all guilty of breaking God's law and equally deserving of God's wrath (Psalm 14:1-3; Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 30:12; Psalm 36:2; Luke 18:11). Rosaria came out of that encounter asking herself the most important questions: "Does God exist? If God exists what does he expect from me? How do I communicate with him? How do I know him and what he wants? What if God is dead? Do I have the courage to face the truth either way?" (Butterfield, pg. 304, emphasis mine). Like Rosaria, I am the product of Post-modern academia, the philosophy that there is no absolute truth. Truth is subjective, identity is subjective. Never mind that this idea is self-refuting (via the law of non-contradiction), the goal is for people to believe what they want to believe wether it's true or not. Rosaria's acknowledgement that there is in fact absolute truth led to honest soul searching and I hope that anyone who reads this is willing to do that. Ask yourself: "is truth independent of what I believe or feel?" If so, how is truth knowable?" One of my favorite apologists, Sye Ten Bruggencate, engages people solely with truth claims or the presuppositions that undergird people's beliefs. His most adamant contenders are college youth who assert "no one can know anything."  This is a direct result of our education system today that tells us our experience determines truth and that no one can really know anything. This is in itself, a truth claim and therefore proves itself false.  To add fuel to the fire, these same people that assert no one can know truth are adamant in asserting that the Bible is not true! In accusing Christians of being 'judgmental,' they themselves are being judgmental. Such is the folly of refusing God's truth.

It took 2 years of searching the scriptures and her own heart before Rosaria considered stepping inside a church. Please note: church does not save you. God did a work on her heart before being a church member. Rosaria confronts scripture's stance on homosexuality She prayed from her heart that if Jesus was in fact the risen Lord that he change her heart and shape her into the woman He wanted her to be. This is that faith the size of a mustard seed that enables one to come to God admit we need his help to change:

I prayed for the strength of character to repent for a sin that at that time didn't feel like sin at all--it felt like life, plain and simple. I prayed that if my life was actually his life, that he would take it back and make it what he wanted it to be. I asked him to take it all: my sexuality, my profession, my community, my tastes, my books and my tomorrows. (Butterfield, pg. 485)

I similarly surrendered my identity to Christ, all the while admitting not wanting to change! The truth of God's word became bigger than my lesbian identity and I took a step of faith to obey him regardless of how I felt. I often have to revisit this truth regarding all sin. We have all sorts of inclinations but that doesn't mean we should do them, even when no one is looking.

I highly recommend this book for those who are seeking the truth, Christians who are unsure about how to minister to the queer community and for those in the queer community who are genuinely interested in the testimony of a person who lived a homosexual lifestyle.


Tracheostomy update

I recently spent four days in the hospital to try decanulation. Monday they removed the trach and I hastily posted a picture of my taped up stoma on facebook! But I didn't feel like I was breathing well, despite having an oxygen saturation (SpO2) of 99% Sure enough, they scoped me and found a polyp in my windpipe where the trach was. Wednesday in the OR they also found much scar tissue where the stoma is, making me feel like I was breathing through a straw. 

Needless to say, they did a lot of work opening the windpipe and I will go back in 3 months to see if there's more "excavation" to be done, or if I can safely be decanulated. Keep me in prayer. 

A thing that I notice about the hospital in contrast to the nursing home is that people are much more considerate. It's not the actual people, who are far more diverse, but how the floor is managed. You can tell the hospital staff is trained to knock gently on the door--what a concept! Here, people just come right in or knock like Con Edison coming to check your meters first thing in the morning! Nursing home staff are so used to working with severely disabled, institutionalized people that you just become another body to clean. Your body parts become inanimate objects that need to be moved out the way to get the job done. I hope the increasing number of young people in nursing homes will prompt change in how service is delivered and the ratio of staff to patients. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Don't waste your life! In light of the George Zimmerman case

Please don't get it twisted! I do not follow Jesus because I tragically fell off a roof and need to find meaning in it. I follow Jesus because His Word is alive and grabbed hold of me.

I rarely think about the accident but recently thought of my former co-workers. How have their lives been affected by my accident? Do they know Jesus?

This country is on edge waiting for the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. Regardless of the outcome, two things are certain. One, Trayvon Martin is dead and cannot choose Christ. His eternal destiny is sealed. Two, George Zimmerman is alive and so has an opportunity to repent and choose Christ. According to the atheist worldview, our lives are just random occurrence, therefore the notion of justice is absurd.  

When challenged on the issue of injustice in Luke 13, Jesus responded: "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all [other] Galileans, because they suffered such things? "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all [other] men who dwelt in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." In other words, we are all equally deserving of death.

God created us and has the right to take our life in any way. I know that seems incredibly unfair, and I too have been challenged by this. Job struggled with this even after recognizing that God had the right to take his children (Job 1:18-21). God did not respond with the whys, but with asking Job how dare he question the God who created everything? In his suffering, Job learned amazing truths about God that he probably wouldn't have had he not suffered. Such has been my experience.

Elizabeth Eliot drew my attention to Psalm 16:5 "The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot." and 1 Timothy 6:15, Jesus being the only sovereign, the blessed controller of all things.

On monday, I go to St. Luke's Roosevelt to be decanulized (trach free!) I am more nerve racked than excited. If there is anything I want people to get out of my experience is to evaluate their lives in light of Christ and to prepare for that time when they will stand before him. I'm praying for George Zimmerman to be saved. I'm praying for my old co-workers and friends to know Jesus and be saved. Nothing else matters.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On the porch of life

I miss porches. Living upstate, I lived in houses with porches. I didn't have to worry about crazy people or stray bullets. I could sit outside with my morning coffee or evening wine and enjoy my community. Say hi to neighbors. Listen to birds or crickets chirp. Contemplate over blossoming trees or falling leaves. My favorite was an enclosed porch that allowed discreet observation. A back "porch" fire escape allowed for even more discreet conversations. Granted, there were things I did I shouldn't have, but I still long for the peace of mind this environment gave. I'm hoping to get a bit of that back. I see my self enjoying the vibrant green of house plants and soothing cups of tea. Quiet time in the Word or hospitality with neighbors. Maybe even a pet! I realize how much I live vicariously through my friends with pets! I never thought twice to care for them as my own. Caring for animals probably gives me the most joy. But even with all of this, life isn't going to be magically delicious. I still can't walk or hold things as I could. I can't play guitar anymore. I live with horrendous nerve pain. Even a perfect body is in the process of death. Sickness and suffering is inevitable. Just go to a nursing home and the reality will hit you.

The apostle James said, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Everything good comes from God! Every bit of sunshine, water, life and breath. Laughter, wisdom, the joy of children. Everything that grows and sustains us, all come from God's providence. Our biggest problem in this country is that although God's goodness is obvious, we do not praise him and give thanks (Romans 1:21). Instead, we glorify ourselves as god. Make no mistake, God is still on the throne. I have been on the precipice of this life and eternity and God was very merciful, letting me live this way. I want to use the brief time I have here to put the spotlight back on him! I want to share the joy of knowing that this life is brief but eternity of perfection is only with Jesus Christ the Messiah, the prophesied king of Israel!

Yes, there are things I look forward to but most of all being with the Lord. Give thanks to the one who makes everything possible. Seek him while he may be found.  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What about now?

I'm still enjoying tea. I recently turned 33. Things with my trach are still going fairly well. I have some  granulation tissue above the fenestra so my doctors want to put in a button trach soon. We'll see how it goes. It's hard for me to plan definitively too far in the future after all I've been through and continue to go through in this condition. As pastor J.D. of Calvary Chapel Kaneohe says, "I have plans, but my plans don't have me."

This place is full of hostility and I look forward to the time I can leave.  But there's so many whom I've grown to love that must continue to endure here. How then, can I glory in leaving? No matter where I go, there will never quite be the peace I seek, not for me or others that I love. A brother in Christ named Saeed has been held in a prison in Iraq for almost a year. He's been threatened and beaten and tortured to get him to deny Christ. How, then, can I glory in being comfortable? Not that it's bad to enjoy things but I want to keep a proper perspective. Jesus said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

The Lord has been been really speaking to me in this area. One thing this institution has ministered to me is that I still need the Lord to change my heart in a lot of areas! I cannot have righteousness apart from God. I cannot do what he asks apart from his spirit. I need to be in constant fellowship with him, abiding in him (John 15:5).

I have no idea what God has in store for me. I'm thankful to enjoy learning new things and having new opportunities to glorify God where ever I am. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ultimate Proof that the Bible is True

Why does anything at all exist?
It may be hard to believe that God exists because he is not seen, but the existence of God, an all powerful, eternal, immaterial creative being, is the best explanation to the existence of anything.

Science comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning 'knowledge.' Science is the method in which we collect and organize knowledge about the universe through observation and experiment. From observation, we know that everything that begins to exist has a cause. If you believe this universe came from nothing, how come we haven't observed anything else come from nothing?

We also know from observation that the universe is expanding and therefore, has a beginning (Thomas Hubble). If the universe consists of all time space and matter, the cause must come from an all powerful, eternal, immaterial being which describes the God of the Bible.

How do we know the Bible is true?
To validate the claim that the Bible is truly the word of God, there must be sure evidence of it. Could God authenticate his message to us? Besides the internal consistency, historical and archeological accuracy, the Bible has fulfilled prophecies that never fail, and codes in the original texts that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that the text is supernaturally inspired: *

It is unique and wonderful that our Christian heritage is the bedrock of western freedom to believe or disbelieve. However, that doesn't mean that the scriptures are only true for those who believe. Truth is true wether you believe it or not. This truth--that there is a God and it is the triune God found in the Bible-- is prophetically, logically, historically and mathematically proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Grasping this truth is so important that your eternal destiny depends on it. God didn't create hell for people, he created it for the devil and his angels. People go to hell for willfully choosing to reject God and his truth.

*Just as a side note, we do not need to understand any bible code to understand the Bible or that it is divinely inspired. There is more than enough evidence in creation to know that there is a God and his word is verified through prophecy. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

surgery, tea and my father's business

Tea has been especially helpful after I had surgery last tuesday. I ended up in the OR a second time on wednesday to insert a #4 fenestrated shiley trach. Initially, they put in a button trach to hold open the stoma while the inside of my trachea could heal without reacting to a plastic tube. Unfortunately, it could not stay in, and I had serious mucous plugs to contend with. Thank God my father stayed to watch and care for me until I stabilized that evening and Dr. Guardiani was close to do damage control. Usually, an intern is on call overnight but has no idea the specifics of your case. My father even had to stop him from reinserting my trach the wrong way! 

Again, Roosevelt Hospital did not have the appropriate catheters to suction me with and my father had to bring some from Beth Abe, as well as cath kits. Bonus of being a quad. The good news is that the upper portion of my wind pipe is open and I can speak. If it continues this way for several weeks as the trachea heals, it's a good sign I can be decannulized!

Back to tea for a sec...right off the bat I know I like raw pu-erh tea better than ripe. I like the astringency and 'greeness' of it. I found the ripe pu-erh less pungent and dynamic than I imagined it would be. 

Today I tried one of the oolong teas I got from Yunan Sourcing: "Imperial Tie Guan Yin of Anxi" Autumn 2012. It smells and tastes wonderfully floral! I was surprised how big the leaves opened up! Definitely a fan. I don't see myself getting too intricate in this tea business. I enjoy tea and will continue to try new ones as I find them but I really need to be about my heavenly father's business. Lately, that has been being ready with an answer for those who oppose even the notion of my heavenly father (1 Peter 3:15). People will bob and weave on the issue of relativism because it's self-refuting and once I point it out, it's embarrassing for them to pursue it. My father pointed out that people really are displaying their hatred of the Gospel when they react the way they do. It's amazing how people avoid critically examining their own beliefs. They can't possibly imagine any other reality besides the one they were taught: that reality is simply what you believe it to be. This notion is absurd and self refuting! I had to learn a bit of philosophy to understand this, which I'm not a fan of, but it is helpful when speaking of the metaphysical. The statement: "what's true for you isn't true for me" is a self refuting statement according to the law of non-contradiction. If the statement were actually true, having it not true for someone else would be impossible! 

Another absurd statement: "You shouldn't judge!" It's funny how secular people will rip scripture out of context when being righteously judged for their sin. Someone recently said this to me, bringing up Matthew 7:1. I explained that Jesus isn't saying that we shouldn't judge at all, in fact, he gives a few examples of how we should judge in the rest of the chapter. Jesus is speaking of judging apart from God's standard. I went further to say, "if you feel I shouldn't judge, why are you judging me? Why judge anyone at all?" She responded by saying she didn't judge me, only thought my ideas were skewed. Having any kind of opinion requires judgement. In fact, our days are filled with judgements as we walk, drive, or decide anything! I asked a few times how she knows right from wrong, where do we get our notion of rights? My generation is the post-modern generation, where we've been taught that morality, our identity and even truth itself is relative. When asking these crucial questions, they squirm and revert to insults. 

The bottom line is there is overwhelming evidence that there is a God who created the universe, who's eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, personal and creative. Only the Bible describes this kind of God and attests for it's accuracy historically, scientifically, archeologically, and textually. Paul is dead on when he reasons that people suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-21). They refuse to believe because they want to deny God and hold onto their sin (John 3:18-20). 

Unfortunately for them, God exists wether they believe or not and they are accountable to him wether they believe or not. Truth doesn't change with feelings/belief. It's better to follow the truth now then to face eternity in damnation for rejecting it. The body of Christ will not face the great tribulation, but we will probably see some pretty dark days before the rapture. Our economy is failing, and Christian persecution, even in the west, is on the rise! Not to mention possible nuclear war with Iran who really wants to destroy us along with Israel! The Obama administration says it stands with Israel but actions speak louder than words. Israel is still God's land and those who seek to divide it will get burned. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

the beginning of a beautiful relationship...

I noticed that I was drinking a lot of tea to soothe my throat or my aching belly. So it became the norm every morning and evening. I reminisced the days as a child having tea parties with friends or just me and my dolls. "I need a tea set!" I thought. I began to search different types of tea sets. While exploring Google communities, I came across a "tea lovers" community. What the hay? I joined the community and found there's much more to tea than I thought!

I used to work at a high end coffeeshop in Ithaca and became fascinated by the art and science of brewing coffee. So many factors contribute to the quality of the brew, from the way the beans are produced, roasted, the temperature of the water, humidity and the pressure applied just to name a few. I never saw coffee the same again and made it a point to learn all I could. God had different plans for my life, but I still have the same fascination to learn things like this.

One of the teas my father got me was Pu-erh tea from Numi. Reading about it's production and health benefits, I decided to try loose Pu-erh tea. If you are new to Pu-erh tea, this is a great introduction. It was suggested that I see Yunnan Sourcing for the best selection of Pu-erh teas and it indeed is. I got a recent sample of raw and ripe Pu-erh to compare to a several year old raw and ripe Pu-erh. I also got a couple different oolongs to compare. After much anticipation of the package, I received my first shipment of Pu-erh tea yesterday! I'll be honest and say I have no idea how these varieties will taste. I'm completely new at this and learning as I go along. 

The first sample I'm trying is 2012 Yunnan Sourcing "Shang Chun" Raw Pu-erh. The first thing I noticed pulling it out of the package is how much it looks like ganja! It smells sweet but not "skunky." The first "infusion" was just for rinsing any impurities from the tea leaves. The next infusion was for 30 seconds to try. Then 1 minute. Then 3 minute. The liquor, or color of the tea, was a clear golden color. I can't control the temperature of the water, as I'm getting hot water from a machine, but I've read it's best not to have it boiling. Immediately, the taste reminded me of green tea: light, vegetal, astringent. It goes great plain, with honey and I imagine would make a great iced tea. I'll try to note other nuances as I go through the sample. Then, I'll compare it with the older raw sample.

 This way of making tea is a bit laborious so I got loose tea that would be easy to measure out from MightyLeaf. They have a decent variety and a well organized website to choose by ingredient, caffeine content or region. I also got a small Gaiwan style tea set for two. I'm usually in my room alone, but I also like sharing tea with others. Come have tea with me soon! 

Lastly, I was amazed to learn that there are "tea rooms" places that serve mainly tea and restaurants that serve afternoon tea! It is mainly served with small sandwiches, scones and jams. Here is a list of the best tearooms in NYC. Of course, it needs to be accessible for me, so I searched for accessible tea places through Yelp.  I'll write reviews as I go along. Make sure you call ahead and confirm their entrance is accessible! I've learned that generally, the lower parts of Manhattan are less accessible. Even if the restaurant entrance is accessible, their rest room is not. You have to make sure there's someplace you can go to cath if you need (like a large library or chain store like Barnes & Nobles.) Happy tea time! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Where will you be in Eternity?

What is the meaning of life and what happens when I die? Why did God allow me to survive this way? Wouldn't it be more compassionate to have me die? If God is loving, why does he allow anyone to suffer? Being close to death and seeing how fragile my body is as a quadriplegic, if anyone should ask these questions, it's me. 

King Solomon wrote that God has put eternity in our hearts and this is certainly true for all people (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Just as we understand right and wrong by our God given conscience, we long for something beyond the finality of this life. As children, we just see what's in front of us. We want to be gratified now and then, having little to no sense of our limited time here. It gets easier as we get older, but we still  are never satisfied with all we acquire in our lifetime. We want to be remembered, we want to leave a 'legacy', we want to stay younger longer, and increasingly, defy mortality. Across all cultures are stories of a 'next life.' Although the West is increasingly secular and hostile to notions of heaven or hell, we cannot escape the idea that there is more than this life.

Steve Berger writes on his blog: "Many times we can’t quite articulate this feeling. Songs, books, movies and visual art tries to capture it. Many come close, but most fall short. The problem is the authors, writers, painters and actors don’t know the Scripture. They know and recognize the longing, but they don’t know and recognize the Savior."

In a post-modern society where we are taught that truth is relative, very little people are searching for the truth about life after death. But the Bible answers all the questions surrounding the meaning of life: Why am I here? What is right and wrong? What is my purpose? and what happens when I die? 

In an atheistic worldview, we have evolved by chance and so everything is arbitrary, without real purpose. Sure, an atheist can choose to live morally, but according to his worldview, that can be no better than one who chooses to live immorally, for all choices are subjective. Bertrand Russell, an atheist philosopher admits: 

"That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built."

Other atheist philosophers like Nitzsche and Sartre also admit that life is meaningless without God. The only way atheists can live happily in their worldview is to live inconsistently. We see that the wealthiest populations are the least happy and have the highest rates of suicide. Solomon had it right centuries earlier when he declared emphatically "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" (Ecclesiastes 1:1) Solomon was the richest, wisest man of all time and had plenty of time to ponder the meaning of life. He first pursued all the pleasure he could. He realized that no matter how much you enjoy, you still crave pleasure like a bottomless pit. The eye is not full of seeing, the ear, not full of hearing (Ecc 1:8). 

We are constantly striving for global peace. No war. No famine. No injustice. Really, we want to return to Eden. Only then will our souls be satisfied. King Solomon got it right when he said: 

"I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him." (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

There is no purpose to life if everything stops at the grave. We all long for eternal peace and that can only come when we have peace with God. Jesus said, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly." How do we clean our sinful hearts? How do we obtain peace with God to enter into his eternal Kingdom? Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." One is born again through faith in Jesus Christ and calling out to him to be saved. The apostles testify, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36; John 14:6; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Tim 3:5; Acts 10:43; Psalm 2:12; Prov 30:4)

In my difficult circumstance, God has answered my questions concerning who he is as revealed in the Bible. Through my condition, God is glorified as many can see how I've changed and my joy. It's still difficult but I have a peace that's beyond what the world can give. It was by God's plan that I would come back to the Bronx where my family is, be reunited with my father, have him close so he can advocate for me in this institution, and be restored to the Lord, growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is a painful circumstance, with eternal purpose to bring others to himself (Romans 8:28; Isaiah 6:10; Psalm 138:8; Proverbs 19:21 Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 3:11; Revelation 17:17). 

Where will you be in eternity? Tomorrow is not promised to anyone and if you feel God speaking to your heart, please listen. You can have your questions answered at:

God Bless