Photo Journal: Tom & John at Taylor’s Mistake, journal of a proud father


Some time ago we felt like some time on the beach and for a change went to Taylor’s Mistake, sort of around the corner of Sumner Beach in Christchurch. Taylor’s Mistake is a little bay and a surfer hangout. It also offers the option of a nice walk on the cliffs. Tom and I, both armed with a camera went out for a walk and had a blast of a time walking and shooting pictures while the rest was enjoying the beach below.

Tom, adamant that he will become an artists when he’s grown up, loves to draw an shoot pictures. I remember well how my high school arts and arts history classes opened me up for a better understanding of things like angles, lines and composition. And even though I am not a photographer, using these notions have helped me in making better pictures or make not so great pictures look better. (Or, better yet, I like to think that.) so that is what I do when I am out with Tom an the camera, an I am amazed how well he is developing an eye or a good picture.And then again I might just be a proud father. But considering his age (not even six) I was pretty amazed to find the following pictures on his camera:

As you can imagine hopefully, I am proud of my five year old, not only for the walk over the steep cliffs but also because of his incredible pictures.

As the day went on the sun got lower quickly leaving some amazing colors on the water.

All in all it turned into an another amazing family day on one of the many little chunks of paradise around Christchurch and Banks Peninsula.

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New Age Syncretism from a Christian Perspective: False Teachings


Going over some of the materials of the past I stumbled upon some of the materials I had been studying and some of the older notes. It is actually quite amazing to see how my conversion last year came with a completely renewed and different understanding of the Bible (if only because there is no longer room for selective reading and use). One of the things in my old journal regarded the New Age claim that:

Christianity can no longer answer the questions to out spiritual quest. Therefore Christianity will need to accept the teachings of other types of spirituality such as Eastern Spiritual teachings (or as can be seen even pagan spirituality is being accepted by some) in order to get a more comprehensive picture of the meaning of life.

I remember well how I once was listening to a comedy artists that was interviewing Jesus. In the interview Jesus allegedly thought that if He would come back and promote his same teachings that he would find many Christians against him. Setting this remark of against the premise above one could of course wonder whether or not Jesus as God in the flesh would agree with the position that we ‘need to accept’ these different teachings. Does – as is claimed by some (New Age teachers) – Christianity indeed have gaps that can only be filled by other spiritual traditions? Or to say it in other words, is there room to suggest that Biblical teachings allow or even promote New Age syncretism?

The Old Testament

In Exodus we read how God said Himself:

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The people of Israel met their disasters exactly because they worshiped other gods. This reaches a climax in 2 Chronicles 33 where we read:

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

7 He took the carved image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. 8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and ordinances given through Moses.” 9 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.

10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.

Manasseh did just the worst thing imaginable, worse than any other king before him by bringing other gods or better yet religions and/ or systems of worship in the God’s temple thus blocking the way to have his nation reconciled with God. Now what Manasseh did could seem the logical thing to do from a human political perspective: Manassah wanted peace and acceptance for his kingdom. In a spiritual sense however it was completely against God’s will and commands. And similar to how we have been prone to sin ever since Adam and Eve; syncretism has entered the hearts of the people and has been in there ever since despite Manasseh’s later repentance. In fact, a point was reached where repentance was no longer possible, a point where spiritual confusion had grown to be so much that God used the sins of Manasseh as a paradigm for the complete fall of the whole nation

4 I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 15,4).

I think we can safely assume that the Old Testament does not promote syncretism whatsoever.

The New Testament

I guess Paul says it all in his letter to the Colossians:

8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:8-10)

From the letter it becomes clear that even in his time, people were struggling with this issue. But Paul leaves us no doubt, that we do not need other religions or spiritual traditions to ‘fill the gaps.’  In fact when we see the Old Testament we can only conclude that God opposes such syncretism. So did that perhaps change with the coming of Jesus? Au contraire! Should you still have doubts after reading what Paul says, this is what Jesus said about Himself:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus did not say he was ‘one of the ways’ but THE  way, truth and life. And he continues to advise is that we will only know God, by going through Him, not some other teacher or prophet, no, through Him exclusively. Anyone that still thinks that syncretism is possible within the Christian New Age framework should now be at least slightly embarrassed for trying to find alternative ways or a syncretic middle of the road. New Age  syncretism may seem attractive from a worldly political perspective; it will not  give us spiritual progress and peace as claimed. What it will bring is confusion and spiritual delusion: I know, I have been there.  Jesus Christ warned us against such practices:

Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ”, and will deceive many (Matthew 24,4-5).

Several letters of Paul are at least to some extent written to address false teachings (2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians), 2 Peter addresses the matter of false teachers and so do 1 John, 2 John and Jude. In 1 John 4:1-6 John details a way to “Test the Spirits.”

And think of it really: what sense would Jesus death on the cross have had if He had been just one of the many ways to know God, what purpose would his horrible death have served? Why would such a dramatic and horrible course of events have been necessary if we indeed could have reached the same end goal by diligently following  one or the other religion? I can hear some thinking:  by the salvation that came from Jesus’ death was for the people of Israel only. Again I think Jesus’ own words are the best rebuke to such an argument, as that is in my view certainly not how Jesus saw it:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

One of the more recent proponents of such syncretism is Bahaism. On the website we read:

Throughout history, God has revealed Himself to humanity through a series of divine Messengers, whose teachings guide and educate us and provide the basis for the advancement of human society. These Messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Their religions come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.

Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, brought new spiritual and social teachings for our time. His essential message is of unity. He taught the oneness of God, the oneness of the human family, and the oneness of religion.

Bahá’u’lláh said, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens,” and that, as foretold in all the sacred scriptures of the past, now is the time for humanity to live in unity.

Implicitly this appears to be similar to position I read in Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth.” In such a perspective Jesus is but one of great teachers in the history of man and analogue to the blind men trying to identify an elephant by being presented with only part of it, such a position claims that all world religions hold a measure of truth, they must be seen as incomplete, valid for the past ages of human history and for a limited group of people. Effectively what is said here is that all these religions have an incomplete perspective but no worries because I have the complete picture. A certain amount of arrogance or self-righteousness can not be denied. Moreover such a syncretic position can only come from a lack of or superficial understanding of the major religions and the underlying teachings of their founders. World religions do not lead to a same finality are not compatible with each other and are not to be seen as alternative paths to the same ultimate truth.
As a Christian, I refer back to John 14:6 and note that while this may seem like an attractive proposition in the modern day world, it seems to me as incompatible with the absoluteness of the truth of God.  I do agree that the earth is but one country an mankind it’s citizens. It is out of love that Christians go out to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

A final note on religious (in)tolerance

Just so we are very very clear on this. I do not promote in any way whatsoever religious intolerance in any form. At the same time that does not necessarily mean that we cannot disagree on matters. Intolerance or even hatred can in my view only come from a lack of understanding and practice of one’s own religion. As a Christian we will need to be tolerant and caring to all people.Jesus himself taught us to:

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12,31 and Luke 10,27).

From the Parable of the Good Samaritan it follows that according to Jesus’ own teachings ‘your neighbor’ does not not necessarily mean someone with the same belief but ALL people. Tolerance doesn’t require us to embrace our neighbor’s religion, but to respect him for what he is, a human being created in the image and likeness of God. Similar teachings can be found in the Quran (2:62) and  similar teaching can be found in Hinduism and Buddhism.

So let this article not be read as promoting religious hatred and/or intolerance. Instead, it is my belief that tolerance is not achieved by being ignorance or superficiality, but rather by understanding of the other’s faith. From an apologetic perspective I can add that effective apologetic argumentation comes from an understanding of the other’s perspective. Jesus and Paul are a good examples of how this works: your arguments are within the reality and perspective of the other yet without compromising and totally consistent with the ultimate truth.

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We All Like to Reblog (via WordPress.com News)


We All Like to Reblog Have you ever come across a blog post that you enjoyed so much you wanted to easily share it with the readers of your own blog? Sure, you can copy and paste the link and perhaps even a snippet of text with your own comments, but overall it's not a particularly enjoyable experience. We wanted to change this and make sharing other posts with your readers as easy as posting to your blog. Today we're introducing a new like and reblog feature enabled … Read More

via WordPress.com News

An Awesome WordPress.com Success Story — Blog — WordPress.com


When Neil Pasricha started his WordPress.com blog, 1,000 Awesome Things, he decided to highlight one awesome thing each weekday to help him keep a positive outlook.

That was three years ago, and now, the awesomeness just keep rolling on in for Neil: He has not only become a successful blogger and earned three Webby awards, he also can consider himself a critically acclaimed author. The Book of Awesome – Based on 1,000 Awesome Things WordPress blog “The Book of Awesome” went on sale last month and was warmly received by reviewers.

“Now I’m writing a page-a-day calendar, meeting with TV producers, and basically trying to catch my completely spinning head,” Neil says of his success.

All this and Neil has still got 505 more awesome things to blog about!

Congrats, Neil, and we wish similarly awesome success to all our WordPress.com bloggers.

via An Awesome WordPress.com Success Story — Blog — WordPress.com.

Photo Story: The Sister Eveleen Retreat House and Whitewash Heads


As part of the Alpha  course we are following a weekend of seminar sessions was organized.

The weekend sessions took place at the Sister Eveleen Retreat House in Sumner.According to the website:

Sr Eveleen House is a contemplative retreat environment in which many seek to experience God’s presence, find rest and replenishment, listen to their own heart and God’s leading in their lives. Sr Eveleen bequethed this house to the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch in 1939 as a house of prayer and spiritual help. It is owned by the Anglican Church and runs ecumenically. The spiritual ministry at Sr Eveleen Retreat house is rooted in western Christian contemplative spirituality.
Set on Scarborough hill Sumner the retreat house overlooks Pegasus Bay in a stunning natural environment, with a range of coastal and beach walkways.

What an amazing place this turned out to be and the perfect environment for a weekend of Alpha with the Holy Spirit as a central theme. The serenity of the place sort of opens you up completely. Quietly imagining I could be writing books or music there.

Prayer gets a different dimension when you are in such an environment an  could so imagine how contemplative prayer would be an amazing experience there. That day, looking out over the bay with all you could hear was the rushing of the sea; AMAZING.

Now I don’t know about you but I pretty much sure that ever since my childhood days I have been fascinated by rays of light coming through the clouds. I remember vividly one of the pictures of an old illustrated Children Bible and how these rays of light appeared to symbolize the communication of God (the Bible itself speaks of the rainbow as a reminder of the covenant with Noah). It was a sign of God trying to tell you something if only to let you know that He was there right with you. For some reason that always stuck with me, believer or not. And I was not disappointed on that day.

If the weekend was indeed all about God in our life, about being filled with the Holy Spirit than this view seemed most certainly a sign to me that he was there to make the Alpha weekend a success.

Intermezzo

On the way back from Hanmer the day before I was to leave New Zealand to remigrate to the Netherlands, the view below appeared in the mirror of the car and  ended up stopping the car and sitting there almost in the middle of the road to take pictures.The picture below has been on the front of my mind all the time in the Netherlands.

In light of what was said earlier in this post and in hindsight I have often wondered whether this was more than mere coincidence. That question became all the more real when after my return back in New Zealand, for some reason I felt like I needed to drive out for some pictures of the red northwester evening skies. I never saw what you see below when I made the picture but could not believe my eyes when I was developing pictures.

When a face like that, on top of all the other things that were happening and being experienced, looks at you from the skies, well what shall I say. Anyway back to beautiful Sumner and Whitewash Heads.

A Sunday Afternoon Walk

Later on the Sunday afternoon, after the Alpha course I went for a walk up the cliffs: the Whitewash Heads of which I had heard but never been. Again an amazing though tiring experience. Being one of those hurried Dutchies I tend to go to fast uphill and you are always paying the price for it. The walk may have its steep moments but the views most certainly make it all worth while.

A very special Sunday indeed.

Non-smoking the first ten days


Ten days of quitting smoking now and I can not look back on a perfect try. Yep I’ll admit it I have had some cigarettes here and there. In the previous article on this subject I wrote about quitting I ended up getting the patches. When it comes to those there is one important lesson:

DO NOT FORGET TO PUT ON A FRESH ONE IN THE MORNING.

The other day I was ready to give up my attempt completely. I was pretty much sure that those patches did not do anything. I had actually forgotten to change the patch. The lozenges I was provided as a top up I have not been using much considering I am allowed twenty a day. I have not had twenty yet in the past 10 days, all the “potential” side effects seem to be applicable to me. But at the same time I seem to be more committed and through prayer and reading the bible I have stayed committed and no matter what, they do help.

I guess the secret is not to forget to stand up and move on when you fall. And that is sort of what it has been thanking God for every day I managed to keep my hands of the cigarettes completely and equally for the days where I did have a weak moment but did not start smoking again. I seem more determined than ever and I got the best support team one could wish for next to the quit line.

The expected irritability and other withdrawal symptoms have not been as bad as expected and I see now how many of the cigarettes I used to smoke have been associated with specific events: being on the telephone, in the car, after diner, with the coffee in the morning and as a “brain break.”

If there are (br)others (and sisters) out there with stories about stopping I’d love to hear it and perhaps we can all support each other to pull through.

Vatican reaches out to atheists – but not you, Richard Dawkins – Europe, World – The Independent


The Vatican is planning a new initiative to reach out to atheists and agnostics in an attempt to improve the church’s relationship with non-believers. Pope Benedict XVI has ordered officials to create a new foundation where atheists will be encouraged to meet and debate with some of the Catholic Church’s top theologians.

The Vatican hopes to stage a series of debates in Paris next year. But militant non-believers hoping for a chance to set senior church figures straight about the existence of God are set to be disappointed: the church has warned that atheists with high public profiles such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens will not be invited.

The “Courtyard of the Gentiles”, as the foundation is known, is being set up by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the influential Vatican department that is charged with fostering better relations with non-Catholics.

Read the rest of the article via Vatican reaches out to atheists – but not you, Richard Dawkins – Europe, World – The Independent