Sunday, September 15, 2019

3 Principles of the Kingdom in Mark 4-5

Principle of Invisible Action
Jesus was asleep on a pillow and it felt and looked like he didn't care, but He is in control. Like the seed sown that grows regardless of human feeling or knowledge, the work of the Kingdom is independent of human cognizance.
Sometimes, answer to prayer, miracles don't seem happening. But, what seems to be the case is only a matter of subjective perception. God knows what he is doing.

Principle of Tangible Flow of Power
The physical flow of power through CONTACT is evident in both OT and NT (Moses' rod, Elijah's mantle, Elisha's bones, Disciples' kerchiefs, oil...). Jesus perceived power leave His body. ...

But it was faith that Healed her

Principle of Order, Unity, and Seriousness

God is not a God of confusion.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Spirit as Witness in the Work of Salvation

One’s lifetime is insufficient to capture in words the extent of the Spirit’s work towards the salvation of any individual. The Spirit was involved not only in the creation of the world (Gen.1:1,2; Psa.104:30) but also is involved in the creation of every human being that comes into the world (Psa.139:7,13-16). But, more importantly, it is through the Spirit that the believer is regenerated (born again) and becomes a new creation in Christ.
“According to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit.3:5)
Jesus said to Nicodemus, a Jewish teacher: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” As Nicodemus began wondering what “born again” meant, Jesus explained, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5, 6). 
Jesus declared Himself to Nicodemus as the “He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13). The significance of this revelation in relation to our salvation is very significant. “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.…. flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption” (1Cor.15:47-51). The final salvation will be realized when God who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwells in us (Rom.8:16). Then, the body sown in corruption will be raised in incorruption  and that which is sown a natural body will be raised a spiritual body (1Cor.15:42-44). The whole creation waits for this unveiling of the sons of God, this glorious liberty of the children of God, this redemption of our bodies (Rom.8:19,21,23). It is impossible to think of Christian salvation without the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. In fact, “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit” (1Cor.12:3). 
Among the various roles of the Spirit (that include witness, calling, conviction, conversion, regeneration, intercession, confirmation, sending, outworking, gifting, direction, supervision, guidance, teaching, and perfection), the role of the Spirit as witness is one. In this article, we will mainly concentrate on the work of the Spirit as the divine witness in the world. This we do while inarguably affirming that the Spirit’s other roles are all equally important in the salvation work of God.

1. Witness of Christ
2. Witness of Sonship

WITNESS OF CHRIST
The Holy Spirit is the primary witness of Christ in the world. “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth” (1John 5:6). 

Witness of Christ in the Old Testament Period
The Spirit’s testimony of Christ overflowed since the beginning of the world in words of prophecy, symbols, patterns of tabernacle, and the living experience of the people of God in the Old Testament period.

“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev.19:10)

“Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” (1Pet.1:10,11)

“But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, ….The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning.” (Heb.9:7,8)

But, sadly, there were many who ignored and hardened their hearts against the voice of the Spirit (Heb.3:7,8) 

This testimony of Christ was inscribed in words through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as Christ Himself declared: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).  The primary role of the Spirit as the witness of Christ who moved the prophets to speak and to record the testimony of Christ is clear from the following scriptures:

All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] (2Tim.3:16)

For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2Pet.1:21)

The Spirit-inspired written word of God is ‘living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” because it is the Spirit who bears witness through His word and “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb.4:12,13), even as David confessed: “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” (Psa.139:12).

Jesus made it very clear about the people of the Old Testament that they were without excuse because “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31).

Sadly enough, many Jews resisted the witness of the Spirit and identified themselves with the crucifiers of Christ rather than with the Crucified One. “You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:51,52). Resisting the Holy Spirit tantamounts to a rejection of Christ, in fact the murder of Christ, and nothing is more sinful than the rejection of the Holy Spirit. There is no forgiveness for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt.13:32).


Witness of Christ Today
Prior to His death and resurrection, Jesus promised that when He ascended to the Father, He will send the Holy Spirit who would testify of Him.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” (John 15:26)

After His resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they had received power from above. When the Holy Spirit comes on them, He said, they would receive power and be His witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the world (Acts 1:8). In other words, the disciples could not be Christ’s witnesses without the infilling and empowerment of the Spirit. A crucial element of the Spirit’s witness in both the ministry of Jesus and the ministry of the disciples was the Spirit’s confirming of the Gospel message by signs and wonders (Mark 16:20).

But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt.12:28)

“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38)

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit... (Heb.2:3,4)

The disciples preached the gospel “by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1Pet.1:12). 

Though the message of salvation is presented in verbal form through the ministry of preaching, it is the Spirit who strives with each individual in an intimate yet inexcusable manner. The word through the Spirit is near to each individual, in his mouth, in his heart (Rom.10:8). It is the Spirit who proves the world “to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). This intimate witness of the Spirit is stronger than any other source of knowledge (reason, experience, or human testimony - books, media, tradition, school, etc), because the testimony of the Spirit is clearer, surer, and irrefutable.  

“It is the Spirit who testifies…. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.” (1John 5:6,9)

When an individual turns to the Lord, he is set free from the darkness and blindness of sin and enters into the liberty of the children of God.

“Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2Cor.3: 16,17)

When someone receives Jesus as Lord and savior, he is baptised by the Spirit into the body of Christ and is made to drink into the Spirit of God (1Cor.12:13). Such a believer who is Spirit-filled and Spirit-led can be used by the Spirit as a witness of Christ in the world.

WITNESS OF SONSHIP
One crucial thing to note about salvation-knowledge is that this faith is not sustained by any rational philosophy or empirical proof whatsoever. Any faith founded on human philosophy or empirical evidence is bound to falter. Instead, true salvation-faith is based in the true power of the Spirit of God.

“My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1Cor.2:4,5)

This is a solemn truth of Scriptures that the assurance of faith is only possible because of the internal witness of the Spirit of God. The communion of the Spirit (2Cor.13:14) in the spirit of the believer is the highest evidence of the salvation of God in him. Apart from the Spirit, there is no other way for a person to be sure of his salvation.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Eph.1:13,14)

No mortal human nor corruptible thing can function as the guarantee of eternal inheritance in the same way that no grain of dust can function as a pledge for a palace of gold. The eternal Spirit of God, God Himself in us, is present as the promise of our eternal inheritance.

The word “inheritance” is very important. It signifies our position as heirs of God through Christ. The Spirit of Christ, the Son, sent into our hearts, therefore is the only and greatest guarantee of our eternal inheritance. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom.8:15-17)

This internal witness and communion is a crucial doctrine of the New Testament. It assures us that we belong to God and that God is the one who makes us stand firm in Christ:

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2Cor.1:21,22)

It also assures us that we live in Him and He in us: “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit” (1John 4:13).

It also assures us that when we depart from this mortal frame, there is another glorious body that God has prepared for us. This realization is the reason by which the true disciple regards as rubbish every glittering object of this world and sets his eyes on the redemption of the body, the resurrection from the dead after the manner of Jesus Christ (Phil.3:7-11). This realization is what makes the true disciple groan and long for God, for that true immortality for which God has fashioned each one of us.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling,... we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2Cor.5:1-5)

We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies… the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans…  (Rom.8:23, 26,27)



Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Is Pentecostalism a mystical movement?

Image result for mysticism
There are some who are trying to contend that Pentecostalism is a mystical movement or tradition. I disagree with this notion. Pentecostals call themselves Pentecostals since they regard their experience as the same as the experience of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. It would certainly be amiss to label the apostles and the early Christians as mystics. The Pentecostal experience of Holy Spirit is considered as the truly New Testament normal Christian experience of a believer. Paul expected the Ephesian disciples to have this experience (Acts 19).
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

The Pentecostal worldview does not attempt at any demythologization nor cessationalization of the Biblical worldview. Angels, spirits, demons, visions, supernatural signs are as real as cups and chairs and cars. It is quite different from the materialistic view of the universe. It is also opposed to the occultic view of reality that Pentecostalism regards as based on "deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim.4:1). In fact, any nature-idolizing ideology (even if it were naturalistic materialism) is no less deceptive (cf. C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters).

If one begins labeling Pentecostalism as a mystical tradition, then it wouldn't be far from when people begin labeling any spiritual encounter as "mystic" - which is too broad a defining scope for mysticism. Mysticism involves claims of trans-rational subjective experiences of the "ultimate" which are heavily colored by the religious ideology of the experiencer and privileged to him/her alone. In contrast, Pentecostalism does not involve any claim of that sort. In fact, Pentecostal teachers regard human self-attempts towards mystic experience as dangerous and make it important for one to differentiate between hallucinations, demonic deceptions, and real spiritual experience. Regarding the mystic experience, William James had noted as early as 1902 in his Varieties of Religious Experiences:
Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with air, stimulate the mystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming to; and if any words remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense. Nevertheless, the sense of a profound meaning having been there persists; and I know more than one person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a genuine metaphysical revelation.
There have been further research done on the similarities of LSD and mystic experiences:

From Epistemics of Divine Reality (2007, 2011)
At this juncture, it is important to make a differentiation between revelation and mysticism. Revelation, as in the case of miracles, visions, dreams is not a human initiative, at least theologically speaking (though lasting effects like the drenched fleece of Gideon warrant the theological standpoint), and so must not be labeled as mystic experience. However, mystic experiences originating in meditation and use of drugs may be easily explained as induced by some psychologically altered state due to stress, anxiety, or chemical imbalance in the body. Hallucinations can easily occur to physically ill, weak, or strained people. The ‘saintliness’ of a person, in addition, must not be taken as the standard of evaluating the genuineness of the experience. As was seen, William James saw that the mystic experience did have positive effects in the lives of the mystics; however, his conclusion was that the striking differences of mystics regarding theology, often out of their allegiance to diverse traditions, lends them no credulity for absolute truth. Their mystic experiences only possess pragmatic value that is ‘relatively in favor of all these things,’ i.e., their traditional religious suppositions. Thus, there are pantheist mystics, monist mystics, and monotheistic mystics all different from each other and proving that mysticism, originally, has no intellectual content. James also points out the existence of diabolical mysticism as witnessed in delusional insanity and paranoia. Thus, mysticism cannot be the source of absolute knowledge regarding either reality or divine reality. At the most, it is subjective, relative, diversified, and perhaps life-changing, yet devoid of genuine knowledge. Therefore, mysticism is unreliable.




Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Some Similar Hebrew and Hindi Words

קֶרֶן • (kéren) and किरण(kiran) both mean "ray of light"
נהר (nahar) and नहर (nahar) mean "river". Nahar also means river in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu (نهر)
הֵיכַל (hekal) and هيكل (haikal) in Arabic mean temple. The word is used for temple in Hindustani literature.
מֵאִירָה (Meira) means "illuminates" and मीरा (Meera) means prosperous

Monday, July 22, 2019

Approaching Truth

Contrary to the postmodern and deconstructionist skepticism regarding the possibility of encountering truth hermeneutically (which, as has been observed, is self-skeptical as well since deconstructionists need to use the medium of language whose efficiency they doubt), Jesus said "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." This might appear too simplistic an understanding of truth; nevertheless, it's undefeatable. Do the deconstructionists believe that they "know the truth and the truth has set them free"? Is it really the truth that they are believing in?

1. Arundhati Principle. (Arundhatīdarśananyāyaḥ (अरुन्धतीदर्शनन्यायः)) The proximate star (or landmark) principle. Arundhati (Alcor) is the smallest star in the Ursa Major, almost invisible. Someone who knows the star can help his friend see it by first pointing to the brightest star closest to Arundhati. Once the friend is able to see the brightest star, it becomes easier to then point to the fainter Arundhati in its proximity. Similarly, distance from truth can make it difficult for some to see it. But, there are brighter truths that are quite visible to the human mind which can serve as proximate guide to seeing the fainter star. Some of these brighter truths might be as simple as parables and illustrations. We use the Arundhati principle almost every time we try to show directions to a place. "After you reach the cantonment area, you will see a big blue house. The little spices shop is just beside it."

2. Proximation principle. As one draws closer, the object of knowledge becomes more clearer and several previous assumptions regarding it begin to fade away gradually. The truer assumptions gain confirmation. Many questions also get answered. A distant reflection of water may turn out to be a mirage. A distant twinkling of faint light might turn out to be a large town. It is not uncommon for those who are far from God to have many assumptions regarding Him, some even doubting His existence. But, as we draw closer to Him, He draws closer to us. Similarly, as one gains more insights of scriptural truths, several notions get clarified and truth is known through ap-proximation.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Tragedy of a Lured Prophet (1 Kings 13)

1 KINGS 13 gives us the narrative of a prophet whose prophecies were accompanied by signs and wonders.

However, he was lured by another old prophet into doing what was forbidden to him. He was forbidden to eat and drink in that place. But, the old prophet said that the Lord had told him to feed him. The narrative describes the ensuing events that unraveled the error of the prophet lured by lies and his subsequent tragic death by a lion. The lion didn't eat him nor hurt his donkey. Interestingly, the old prophet who lured this young prophet seems to go unpunished. On the other hand, he wisely observes that the young prophet's prophecies will come true and instructs his sons to bury him when he dies along with the young prophet. Subsequently, when the prophecies did come true, and Josiah was turning over the tombs in Bethel, the old prophet's body was honorably left because it was placed together with the young prophet's body in his tomb. Seems shocking.

But, the young prophet erred grievously. He had a two-fold word from the Lord and it was accompanied by two signs. The two-fold word constituted a prophecy related to the false altar worship practiced at Bethel and secondly, the command to the prophet not to eat at Bethel. Both words were equally immutable. God's word has plenary truth-value. The young prophet allowed an inconsistency factor into his system of faith by allowing the old prophet's lie to turn him from the divine command. But, God's word is not inconsistent. If the prophet would not be punished for violating God's command privileged to him, so may not Bethel be punished according to his prophecy against its false worship and violation of God's written command to the people of Israel. However, for whatever reason (open to speculation) he chose to believe the antithetical privileged testimony of the old prophet (a lie) and suffered the consequences for his turning away from faith.

If he himself didn't believe God's command to him, why should people believe in the prophecy concerning them? The teacher and preacher of the word is doubly accountable.

Do Religious Conversion themselves have any evidential value?

While the reasons behind religious conversions may be considered for any potential evidential value, the conversions themselves do not possess any intrinsic value apart from their rationale.

Conversions may have various motivations. There might even be a mixture of various motivations behind them. Conversions prompted by lure or coerced by means of fear or force do not possess intrinsic value. Similarly, conversions backed by diplomatic motives are neither real. Real conversions are governed by strong epistemic values of justification.

King Solomon's turning towards the religions of his non-Jewish wives by itself does not constitute an invalidation of his previous privileged claim of a personal visitation of the Lord in which he received the gift of wisdom. It does not prove that the religions that he turned to in his later years were superior or more advanced or similar to his previous faith. Similarly, King Saul's turn to spiritist involvement in the forbidden practice of contacting the dead doesn't establish spiritism in any way as a valid alternative to the prophetical movement. On the other hand, the medium's terror at seeing Samuel demonstrates the superiority of the prophetical movement. When the prophet Balaam refrained from cursing the Israelites and instead blessed them, it may have seemed that he stood in support of them. But, the New Testament reveals that his heart was covetous.

In any claims of conversions, the motives and the rationale behind them must be thoroughly investigated.

One prominent example of conversion is that of Paul. He wasn't swayed in any way by the preaching of the apostles or the testimony of Stephen's vision at his stoning. He was an uncompromising Pharisee and persecutor of Christians until he had a personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Following this experience, he underwent several persecutions for the sake of the Gospel. There was no political, social, mainline religious, or economic benefit or advantage from this conversion. The primary rationale behind his conversion was his empirical encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus.

In modern times, we have testimonies of such dramatic conversions in people like Sadhu Sundar Singh (who came to be known as the apostle with bleeding feet), Gulshan Esther, and Karamchand Hans.

But, even as neither the testimonies of the disciples, if Paul had heard them, nor the testimony of Stephen had any evidential value for Paul, such privileged testimonies might not have any evidential value for any other person than the experiencer.

Also, Jesus said that even if a dead were raised and sent to testify, it would not be evidence enough for the Jews who did not take the testimonies of Moses and the prophets seriously. For the Ethiopian Eunuch to whom Philip preached the Gospel, a simple reading of Isaiah and a testimony of Jesus was sufficient evidence for faith.

But, obviously, for Paul, Sundar Singh (who had previously torn and burnt the Bible), and Karamchand (who previously beat his mother for professing faith in Christ) Christian preaching itself was insufficient. They were given a personal physical encounter.

Solomon too had a personal vision. But, he turned away. So, Paul places safeguards when he says: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Gal 1:8)

And, he confesses: "But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Cor.9:27)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Poetic Similarity in Rabbi Eliezar (1st c), Meir Ben Isaac Nehori (11th c), Quran, and Kabir (15th c)

Rabbi Eliezar (around 100 AD)
"If all the seas were of ink,
And all ponds planted with reeds,
If the sky and the earth were parchments
And if all human beings practised the art of writing-
They would not exhaust the Torah I have learned,
Just as the Torah itself would not be diminished any more
Than is the sea by the water removed
By a paint brush dipped in it." [1]

Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai (around 1050 AD)
“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,
And ev’ry man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.” [2]

Quran (632AD)
And if whatever trees upon the earth were pens and the sea [was ink], replenished thereafter by seven [more] seas, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. (Quran 31:27, Quran.com)

Kabir (around 1500 AD)
Saat samund masi karun,
Lekhani sab banraye.
Dharti sab kagad karun,
Hari gun likha na jaye


(Were I to make of the seven seas all ink,
And of every stalk of forest a quill;
Were I to turn the whole earth into paper;
Yet, this would not suffice writing the virtues of God).

-----
[1] Derrida, Of Grammatology, Trans. G.C. Spivak. p.16
[2] The Love of God, https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Love_of_God/.
A Poem to make your heart sing. http://thefreepressonline.co.uk/news/3/466.htm



Sunday, May 26, 2019

Giving until it hurts - excerpts from William Barclay and Mother Teresa

William Barclay, Gospel of Mark (1956)
THE GREATEST GIFT (Mark 12:41-44)
12:41-44 When Jesus had sat down opposite the treasury, he was watching how the crowd threw their money into the treasury, and many rich people threw in large sums. A poor widow woman came and threw in two mites which make up half a farthing. He called his disciples and said to them, "This is the truth I tell you--this poor widow woman has thrown in more than an the people who threw money into the treasury, for all of them threw their contributions in out of their abundance, but she out of her lack has thrown in everything that she had, all she had to live on."  
Between the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women there was the Gate Beautiful. It may well be that Jesus had gone to sit quietly there after the argument and the tension of the Court of the Gentiles and the discussions in the cloisters. In the Court of the Women there were thirteen collecting boxes called "The Trumpets," because they were so shaped. Each of them was for a special purpose, for instance to buy corn or wine or off for the sacrifices. They were for contributions for the daily sacrifices and expenses of the Temple. Many people threw in quite considerable contributions. Then came a widow. She flung in two mites. The coin so called was a lepton (Greek #3016), which literally means a thin one. It was the smallest of all coins and was worth one fortieth of one pence. And yet Jesus said that her tiny contribution was greater than all the others, for the others had thrown in what they could spare easily enough and still have plenty left, while the widow had flung in everything she had.  
Here is a lesson in giving: 
(i) Real giving must be sacrificial. The amount of the gift never matters so much as its cost to the giver, not the size of the gift, but the sacrifice. Real generosity gives until it hurts. For many of us it is a real question if ever our giving to God's work is any sacrifice at all. Few people will do without their pleasures to give a little more to the work of God. It may well be a sign of the decadence of the church and the failure of our Christianity that gifts have to be coaxed out of church people, and that often they will not give at all unless they get something back in the way of entertainment or of goods. There can, be few of us who read this story without shame. 
(ii) Real giving has a certain recklessness in it. The woman might have kept one coin. It would not have been much but it would have been something, yet she gave everything she had. There is a great symbolic truth here. It is our tragedy that there is so often some part of our lives, some part of our activities, some part of ourselves which we do not give to Christ. Somehow there is nearly always something we hold back. We rarely make the final sacrifice and the final surrender. 
(iii) It is a strange and lovely thing that the person whom the New Testament and Jesus hand down to history as a pattern of generosity was a person who gave a gift of half a farthing. We may feel that we have not much in the way of material gifts or personal gifts to give to Christ, but, if we put all that we have and are at his disposal, he can do things with it and with us that are beyond our imaginings.

Mother Teresa, National Prayer Breakfast (Feb 1994)

 Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good to us – to save us from our selfishness in sin. He gave up everything to do the Father’s will – to show us that we too must be willing to give up everything to do God’s will – to love one another as He loves each of us. If we are not willing to give whatever it takes to do good to one another, sin is still in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it hurts.
It is not enough for us to say: “I love God,” but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.
It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in His image for greater things, to love and to be loved. We must “put on Christ” as Scripture tells us. And so, we have been created to love as He loves us. Jesus makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and He says, “You did it to Me.” On the last day He will say to those on His right, “whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me, and He will also say to those on His left, whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for Me.”
When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Jesus is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst of everyone, poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to us. This is the meaning of true love, to give
until it hurts.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Image of the Beast that Will Come to Life (Revelation 13)

And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (Rev 13:15)
One advantage of prophecy is that it can be verified in history. While the Genesis account of creation is disputed by many in the scientific community (with some theologians attempting to demythologize it), prophecy resists such attempts. Thus, the strongest of evidences for the Messiahship of Jesus did not come from science [it could not] nor from the miracles He did, but from the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding Him. However, the sheer irony of all this is that while prophecy helps to unfold the meaning of events to the believer, the prophecy itself includes a clause regarding disbelief in the same (which also needs to be fulfilled). Thus, while many disciples were able to see the Messianic prophecies as fulfilled in Jesus, there were many others who could not see this, thus fulfilling the prophecy (though volitionally rejecting it) that they would despise and reject the Messiah.

A similar situation is predicted in the book of Revelation. When the anti-Messiah (the beast) will appear, prophecies will become historically verifiable, which would actually mean that this verification can serve as an apologetic tool for faith. However, the prophecy tells us that instead of believing in God, people would increasingly turn away from God. In other words, the prophecy includes a clause that makes disbelief in it the verification of it. When people would increasingly turn away from God, this would prove that the prophecy was true. But, if it is so, then the prophecy cannot function as an apologetic aid for those who will to turn away from God.

The biggest problem of evolutionism is the issue of how life can originate from a mere collocation of atoms, even if those atoms were (by chance) placed in the right sequence. The either-DNA-or-protein-first problem continues to haunt evolutionists though there are hypotheses that this is resolved by the RNA world hypothesis. Yet, that hypothesis is also not problem-free. It seems that a phenomenon of some kind of genius giving "life unto the image" can be a staggering event for humanity. To the intellectuals, it could suggest a very advanced level of scientific achievement that an image (a rightly sequenced pattern) could not only come to life but also be able to communicate and make intelligent decisions. Probably, this would not be at a level of the much theorized battery powered AI robots (breath of life is not the same as battery-run).

Yet, this would only lead more to the worship of the beast, rather than worship of the living God. No wonder, elevation of the beast, as having originated from the beast, is characteristic of idolatrous worship.

Rom 1:23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Rom 1:25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 
The idea of "beast" being used for humans is a reduction that signifies a corruption of the divine image. Without God in the picture, man is not much different from the beasts
I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? (Ecc 3:18-21, emphatics mine)
The modern rebel that Chesterton referred to, at least, had some moral sense of not being a beast though scientifically affiliating with beasthood: "The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts."

But, the forthcoming beast-worshiper will be morally dissolute as well.

Rom 1:24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Rom 1:26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
Rom 1:27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Rom 1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Rom 1:29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Rom 1:30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Rom 1:31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Rom 1:32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Rev 16:9  And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.
Rev 16:10  And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
Rev 16:11  And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
Rev 16:12  And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
Rev 16:13  And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Rev 16:14  For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Divine Basis of the Great Commandment

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The essential Christian ethic is love. The commands such as "Do not murder", "Do not bear false witness", and the like are by virtue of this essential principle.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
So, while particulars such as "Do not murder", "Do not steal", etc do not apply to God (who is One and there is no other distinct god(s) to kill or steal from), the universal essential principle of love must find its basis in Him; otherwise, it becomes invalid and non-essential. The Scriptures, however, makes it quite obvious that the Triune God is the supreme foundation of the Great Commandment.

While one may not find a big issue in God's exemplification of the second command to love one's neighbor as oneself (Jesus incarnated as flesh and blood and became our Good Samaritan), one can also clearly see in the Scripture that the Triune God exemplifies the first command to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart..."

One may ask, "How can that be possible, since there is no God above God? How can God love God will all His heart...?" The answer is that Jesus did refer to the Father as "My God", as in "My God and My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). Similarly, the Father refers to the Son as God when He says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom." (Hebrews 1:8).

Similar verses that affirm love within the divine community fill the pages of the Gospels.