Can't Alone!

Your Word works deep within dividing my spirit and soul,
My heart cries out for mercy, for I can't alone.
These passions within, these cravings and desires
Must pass through the altar of Your Holy Fire.
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This Tiny Little Life

This tiny little life,
Shorter than a span,
Sooner to disappear
Leaving nothing in hand.
But when this journey's over,
I wish this to be said
That I've been faithful
To my Master's command.

Lord, speak for Your servant hears!
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Doulos - On Guitars - Domenic Marbaniang


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Metaphysical Emotions: Emptiness, Anxiety, Boredom, Rootlessness, Bewilderment

Excerpt from Epistemics of Divine Reality, p.227, 2007
Metaphysical sensations involve the accompanying sense of the paradoxical, which gives rise to metaphysical emotions. The various paradoxes are the paradoxes between reason and experience, viz., transcendence-immanence, infinity-finitude, immutability-mutation, necessary-contingent, and unity-plurality. The inability of reason and experience to solve the paradoxes generates negative emotions. As has been already seen, neither reason nor experience, which are in reality, by combination, the source of the problem, can bring about a solution. For that would mean in each case to lift oneself by one’s own bootstraps. The only solution reason brings in is the rational which nullifies the empirical, ultimately leading to non-dualism. The ultimate that experience can do is the relativizing of truth to the chagrin of reason. The dissatisfaction of any such solution is bound to generate emotions that are negative; for man is not just conscious but emotionally conscious. The negative emotions that accompany the turbulent condition of Being-as-care’s (to borrow Heidegger’s notion of the existential human as Dasein) failure to harmonize the rational and the empirical, may be identified as void or emptiness, anxiety, boredom, rootlessness, and bewilderment.

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_________________

Spirituality and the Meta-emotions


Emptiness- The epistemic experience of void resulting from the self's failure to experience the Love of the Spirit through Faith.
Often caused by a turning towards the things of the world (sensations) or towards the things of the self (narcissism)
Anxiety - The epistemic experience of uncertainty resulting from the self's failure to experience the Hope of the Spirit through Faith.
Often caused by trying to find certainty in the present through mere mental reasoning or sense-experience.
Boredom- The epistemic experience of lag resulting from the self's failure to experience the fullness of joy in the Spirit through Faith.
Often caused by not feeding the passion for God and His work.
Rootlessness- The epistemic experience of aloneness resulting from the self's failure to experience the peace of Divine Fellowship in the Spirit through Faith.
Often caused by a disconnection from prayer and meditation on God's Word.
Bewilderment- The epistemic experience of confusion resulting from the self's failure to experience the goodness of God in the Spirit through Faith.
Often caused by attempts to reconcile worldliness with spirituality. Leads to sin, bitterness, and confused anger.

© Domenic Marbaniang, April 2011
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Preacher, Are You Known in Hell?

‎"Preacher, if you are not known in hell, I won't give a hill of beans for you. I don't care about your eloquence, I don't care about your Bible knowledge, I don't care how far you have travelled--if you are not known in hell, to me you're a zero, plus zero, plus zero."

~ Leonard Ravenhill (Only Glory in the Cross, Sermon)
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You Are My World!



I SEARCHED  for peace,
Peace You are!
I searched for joy,
Joy You are!
I searched for happiness,
Happiness You are!
And, all the goodness that I sought
Is fulfilled in You;
You are my World!

They called me from the depths,
And drew me in chains,
They cast me into bitterness
Into anger and shame;
I thought I must hold on
To them and to You,
And all the while they pulled me away
Far away from You.
Then, in my sinful darkness I realized;
You are my World!

Take away my light,
Take away my life,
Take away my health,
Send me to hell;
But, Lord, please still be my only World!
The world is a disgrace,
A dark and haunted place;
I seek freedom that's found
In Your Holy Embrace;
Lord, You are my World!

Snatch me from the world,
From its wild and hungry fire;
Bath me with Your mercies,
Give me my desire --
It's You!
Dip me in Your ocean
Of true love and forgiveness;
Draw me in Your bosom
And hide me in Your place --
In You!

I've walked the lonely garden,
When all along You were there;
I've rolled in sin and passion,
When all along You stood there;
Your arms did await my return,
Though knowing, I lay unaware;
Then, in my darkest hours,
I realized in all the world,
You are there!
Lord, You are there!
You still are there!

Wrest me from these blinding forces,
Heal me by Your grace,
Restore me in Your infinite mercies,
Lord, to behold Your glorious face!
What do I have now in the world to be mine;
I've squandered my passions and have sunk in the mire!
The world may have lured me,
The devil may have ensnared,
But, it's my heart, Lord that has wandered,
And has wallowed in disgrace;
But, this prodigal returns
To the Gates of Splendor...
Oh, I'm covered with rags and worms...
But, yet I'll return to You, my Father,
For You alone, Lord, are my World!

I've grieved You O Lord, not once nor twice,
But, time and time again!
Still, in all the world, I have nowhere to go,
For, You alone are my Resting Place!

Deal with me, as with one of Your servants,
Deal with me, as with one of Your slaves,
May I only sit at Your courts;
But, O my Father, cast me not away from Your face!
Lord, You are my World!
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Footprints of a Pilgrim by Ruth Bell Graham - Preview at Google Books


Footprints of a pilgrim:


the life and loves of Ruth Bell Graham
Front Cover



Thomas Nelson Inc, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 174 pages

Footprints Of A Pilgrim is Ruth Bell Graham's life story told in her own words (weaving together her prose and poetry) with added tidbits and anecdotes from her family (husband Billy and her children Gigi, Anne, Franklin, Ruth and Ned) and many of her friends (including Barbara Bush, Lady Bird Johnson, Jan Karon, Patricia Cornwell and others). With snatches of insight and glimpses of grace, Footprints Of A Pilgrim tells the story of a life (a very full and special life) complete with memories of joy, pain, brokenness, and healing. Also included are many never before published pictures which illustrate the remarkable journey of Ruth Bell Graham, as a child of a missionaries in Quingjiang, China in 1920, until today at her home in Little Piney Cove, Montreat, North Carolina.

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Bas Tu



© Domenic Marbaniang, 2005, 2011
LYRICS
YOU ALONE

Bas tu... jeevan mera; tere bina bhi jeeyung kaise Khuda
You alone are my Life; How can I live without You O God

1. Himmat mera, Bal tu mera, Jyothi meri,
Sapna mera, mera sab kuch tu hi hein. O...Bas Tu
My Confidence, You are my Strength, my Light,
My Dream, You are my everything O.. You alone....

2. Aandhiyon mein bhi darunga nahi,
Niraasha mein bhi, gareebi mein bhi,
Aur Ameeri mein bhi. O...Bas Tu
Even in the storms will I not fear,
Even in discouragement, even in poverty,
And in abundance also, O.. You alone....

3. Aag mein chalun, jal se hokar mein chalun,
Ghor andhakaar se bhari tarayi se hokar mein chalun. O...Bas Tu
Though I walk in fire, though I walk through water,
Though I walk through the valley filled with thick darkness, Yet O..You alone
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Mental Freedom or Bondage (Rom.8:7)

‎"The fleshly mind is enmity against God: for it is not obedient to the law of God, neither can be." (Rom.8:7, Tyndale).

It's one choice which renders one strong or impotent. A fleshly mind is a mind not set free by the Truth. It is ruled by desires, with passion confused. The mind of the Spirit is ruled by the Sword of the Spirit.
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The Rainbow



WHEN the gentle sky sobs her tears,
You paint your bow and calm her down;
When some distant flower has lost all cheer,
You spray your colors and remove her frown.
Your inverted smile on heaven's face
Reflects on earth with boundless grace;
We're filled with bliss, with hopes of tomorrow,
When on the sky, we behold your rainbow.

You beam your arc over sunshine and rain,
And pass sunny pleasure through the prism of pain.
See, little children, they jump and dance
When they see rain notes on your colored staff.

© Domenic Marbaniang, April 2011.
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On Prayer - Quotes by Ruth Bell Graham

"Satan fears prayer because God hears prayer."

"Men of God, whose prayers are recorded for us in the Bible, never read a book on prayer, never went to a seminar on prayer, never heard a sermon on prayer. They just prayed."

"Start praying where you are, as you are, about whatever concerns you, about whatever is lying most heavily on your heart, about whatever is irritating or frustrating you at present."

"Be pointed. Be persistent. Be patient. But pray."

"One of the greatest blessings I ever received was having my mother come to live with us following the death of my father, Dr. L. Nelson Bell. During that time, I began to realize that for some Christians who are (like Mother was) confined to a wheelchair, handicapped in speech, and unable any longer to read or to watch television, God has reserved the greatest ministry of all—that of prayer."

"According to the Bible, God responds to our sighs, our tears and our murmurs. Even our longings can be interpreted as prayer."

"A good time for family prayers might be after the evening news on television. At this time, not only could we pray for our families and friends and local problems, but we could bring to the Lord the various crises and events portrayed on the screen."

"If each evening, as the newscast concluded, a great wave of prayer across the world could ascend to God on behalf of those in trouble and those making trouble, what a difference it might make! We could pray by name not only for individuals involved, but also for each network newscaster and commentator. The greater the diameter of our knowledge of human needs, the larger will be the circumference of our petitions."

______________________
"I'm not sure that you can say Mother has a best friend, because she doesn't confide in friends much. Really, the Lord is her best friend. I know that is unusual, because most of us--and that includes me--felt as if we need a human set of ears that we can cry or complain to--even though the Bible teaches us to trust God and to lean on Him."
-- Ruth Graham, Ruth's daughter

______________________

© Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Source: BGEA
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I Stand at the Edge of A Cliff


I stand at the edge of a cliff,
Lord, how many times I've been brought here!
The winds sway me and the bottom pulls me down;
I turn cold and numb, and can fairly clutch me on.
I stand on, confused and bewildered,
Not knowing, now, where to go.

But, my anchor is cast upward,
Though it's not always that I can see the rope.
The winds sway me and the bottom pulls me down;
I turn cold and numb, but You still clutch me on.
So, I stand on, confused and bewildered,
Yet knowing that You know where to go.

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2011
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Systems of Offences and Leaders of Change

Domenic Marbaniang

Published in the CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN, Bangalore, March 2011

Text: Matthew 18:1-14

This excerpt from Christ’s earthly conversations has an intense outflow of emotions and light. The question that is posed is significant. But, far more significant is Christ’s elaboration of the problem at hand. He begins by answering the question of true greatness and then tracks down into an agonizing analysis of the world-problem that nips that same greatness in the bud. For, the child is certainly the sacred model of greatness, but the child is sooner going to reach the age when he has to look back to his childhood for a recovery of that child-like innocence again. At this 4/14 Window Pre-Summit, I believe it is apt to reconsider the roots of our world that shape the consciences of the next generation.


True Greatness

When the disciples asked Jesus “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus did not point at Alexander the Great, or to Augustus Caesar, or to Plato or Aristotle. He brought in a child into the midst of them and said “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Of course, the question was not “Who is the greatest on the earth?” but “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” For, earthly greatness could never be an issue for man. It is blatant, though ephemeral. But, the true disciple searches for what it really means to be great in the kingdom of God, for a greatness that spans true eternity. And, the divine answer could only be found in the lips of the divine Master.

By Christ’s verdict, the child is the model of true greatness. The child epitomizes the kingdom virtues of simplicity (unsoiled by culture), credulity (unblocked by sophism), dependency (untainted by ambition), innocence (uncorrupted by sin), tenderness (unhardened by offences), and pliability (untempered by willful convictions).

The very reason the question of greatness is asked demonstrates the rootedness of the world-problem. The question of greatness would never have been posed unless the child-likeness was already destroyed in the first place. The problem of inequality, indifference, rejection, and all injustice lies at the root of this world-problem that Christ now brings to light.

The conversation here significantly focuses on the value and experience of a child. Of course, some have interpreted the rest of the passage as talking of the least of the disciples; but, the context here does centrally focus on the world-experience of God’s child. The parable of the lost sheep doesn’t speak of a disciple being lost, but shows the importance of the one little sheep among the ninety-nine. The Father is not willing that any of these little ones be lost. And, isn’t it true that lostness and rootlessness is an experience that falls on the kids of our generation in the 4/14 Window?


Worlds in Conflict

Two worlds are in conflict in this passage: God’s world versus man’s world.

In God’s world, the child is regarded with honor, respect, dignity, greatness, and significance. Despite, the theological contentions within the spectrum of the Calvinist-Arminian debate, the child’s position is secure in the world of God. The universality of sin cannot be denied; however, the universality of the child’s tender nature also cannot be ruled out. The world in all its manifold deception still can’t generally tolerate offence against little children. How much more would God stand for them?

In man’s world, the child is unwelcomed, unwanted, unaccepted, unrecognized, oppressed, tempted, and snared into evil. In fact, often times, the human modes of welcoming a child into the world are so much tainted by sinful culture that the true place of the child is lost into a corner (completely different from the place God gives them). Christ breaks out “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin!” (v.7) But why is the world such an offensive system? In fact, the world as it is cannot be regarded in the singular anymore. It is a system of systems and a world of worlds. We do not live in a universe, but in an ideological pluriverse. The worlds are systems of thoughts, relations, and functioning that are both in conflict with each other and with God’s world. We may divide the world-influencers into three groups:
  1. World-Views: These are ways in which we perceive the world. They are the ideologies and philosophical theologies that stay rooted at the base of any world-system. Casteism, Communism, Humanism, Talibanism, Hindutva, Fascism are all examples of world-views that influence human values. When Christ brings in the child and sets him in the midst, He demonstrates the conflict of God’s world-view with the world-view of the general world at hand.
  2. World-Systems: These are ways in which our particular world functions in this pluriverse. It is the cultural setup of any world-machinery into which a child is forced to fix in. The Nazi government, Taliban government, Communist government, Caste-system, etc are examples of world-systems that influence human conduct. Usually, cogs within a machine are bound to submit to the laws of that machine; however, it is also possible that in a multi-interactive cultural setup, exposed to a plurality of world-views and systems, individual world-systems could spring into being. These may look as a minority and strange, but one must understand that every human is a dynamic entity that imbibes and constructs her own cultural mind-world of meanings and values. It is not slantingly that the Scripture annunciates, “GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen.6:5). This is not to incriminate every world-system as totally evil, but to show that any world-system that doesn’t subscribe to God’s kingdom principles is routed for self-destruction. It is in this sense that we may understand the exclamatory “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin!” (v.7)
  3. World-Leaders: These are the agents that lead the world-system on the principles of particular world-views. They are humans. Christ declares, “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” and “woe to the man through whom they [i.e. offences] come!” (vv.6,7).
A world-system is a world-game with its own rules, codes, language, and modus operandi. It is aimed to be completely self-sufficient, self-contained, closed, and rational. In a world-system that is thoroughly evil, evil is not felt, because of the smooth modus operandi. Evil itself is a rational principle of operation in that machine. It is like a closed space shuttle speeding at a uniform velocity. The astronauts inside wouldn’t be able to say whether the shuttle is moving or is at rest, since it is detached from all coordinates of reference outside. That is why, for instance, stoning to death, a practice in some cultures, would appear an evil to outsiders, but to those within that particular culture, it would appear quite necessary. Similarly, until the Renaissance movement struck the cords of the Indian conscience, sati and child marriage were not considered evil. Some interference and clash of worlds was necessary in order to begin the reformation. An evil world-system permits oppression, promotes oppression, practices oppression, and profits from that oppression; but, is incapable of perceiving it as oppression. It is thoroughly infested with evil; therefore, it is subject to the predication of a “Woe!”

Any rescue can only be holistic when it rescues one from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. We can’t just keep trying to save people from being crushed under the giant wheel of destruction; we need to jam the wheel itself (cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer), and certainly the biblical way. We must work at the grass root level; but, we shouldn’t forget the ideological roots behind all surface evils as well. Isn’t there a reason why in some cultures, beggary is non-existent, while in others beggary is prevalent and religiously endorsed? Why is it so that in particular contexts, red spits of chewed pans stain walls of government offices, while in other contexts offices are as clean as could be? Why are there so many uncared street children lying on the platforms and footpaths in some cultures, while in others such people groups are never around? Care, compassion, cleanliness, and conscience are all strongly influenced by the world-system we try to conform to. The world-system is based on a general world-view and is led ahead by world-leaders. The Bible is very specific: one leader can lead a whole nation into hell. Historically, that has happened. One shouldn’t marvel why the Northern Kingdom of Israel so greatly differed from the Southern Kingdom of Judah before the end of their monarchies.


Historical Examples

The Cult of Moloch – Child-sacrifices are rarely heard of today. However, they were widely prevalent in ages past. The cult of Moloch of Canaan was one such cult in which children were offered up as sacrifice for the betterment of the land and community. The ritual was cruel; however, the people considered it necessary and indispensable to their system. The religious world-view that they had influenced their world-system (cult, culture) and was strongly led on by leaders (priests, elders, rulers).

King Manasseh of Judah – 2 Kings 21 records one of the most oppressive periods in the history of Judah. King Manasseh’s sins are recorded in the words: “He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD , provoking him to anger” (v.6), “Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end-besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (v.16). Manasseh is not only an example of someone who did evil but of someone who led the whole nation astray into occult religion, sin, oppression, and violence. His influence was so widespread that it is said: “the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites” (v.9). The anti-faith world-view into which he strayed led him to build a world-system which rebelled against the principle of heaven and sank the nation into the helpless whirlpool of wickedness. God’s wisdom could no longer look sensible to them. The occult that they now subscribed to demanded the sacrifice of their own sons.

Adolph Hitler – The man who plunged the world into World War II. His charismatic weaving of the Nazi governmental fabric on the principles of Nazi philosophy was so apt that it left almost no loophole for an overthrow. He was a leader of a bad change, constructing a system in which the conscience of his men was deeply altered. There is one story of an SS officer who was standing by watching the Jews being brought into a concentration camp. One woman, with her four children walking hands in hand, looked at him and asked, “Look at these little beautiful faces. Can you really have the heart to kill them?” The SS officer answered nothing. Children were usually immediate gassed in Hitler’s concentration camps. They were useless. That evening, he returned back to his home and normally played with his own children without feeling a bit stricken over what had transpired during that day. Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University has called this the “Lucifer Effect”, a process in which the saintliest person can be turned into a devil, when his mind is guided along avenues of impersonalization, dehumanization, and deindividuation of others. One can’t regard ideologies slackly; not at all those systems that are being built over them.

One can give examples from Communism, Talibanism, Cults, Occults, and several socially evil systems. However, if there can be leaders of evil change; there have been and must also rise up a leadership of good change in the world. If a leader can lead a nation into hell, a leader and a synergy of many leaders can certainly lead this nation into a better world. Unless we are able to penetrate the ideology and culture with a transformative outlook and function, we cannot expect lasting changes.

Challenges

The two main challenges simply put are:
  1. To identify the ideological bases of a particular offense system. It is not just enough to treat the symptoms. The root of the disease must be identified. If we are not willing to acknowledge the ideological problem, chances are that we are drifting with it. If we do not stand to expose it, we are no longer functioning as God’s children of light.
  2. To eliminate the problem on Kingdom principles. The Kingdom principles are the ones that Christ practiced. It is not silver and gold but bold witnessing, the call to repentance and a ministry of healing and deliverance that can emancipate the society and individuals from the clutches of oppression. The purpose of the anointing is to bring deliverance (Lk. 4:18). Unless we are spiritually confronting the forces of evil, we are not really functioning as the ambassadors of Christ in this world. We can never transform the world unless we have learnt the significance of right communication and implementation of Kingdom principles in the place where we set our foot.

This might seem easy to say and difficult to do; but, to have said itself will have accomplished and brought to light a massive need of the church.

Solutions

Christ gives us the solutions:
  1. Confrontation and Elimination: He said “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” (Matt.18:8). It is important to decide if we would allow the whole system go to hell, or initiate a transformative work that heals the whole body and brings lasting deliverance. Elements of culture that are destructive and false must be confronted with the light of the Gospel and loving practice of truth.
  2. Saving the Little Ones: Christ calls us to go out and save the little lost sheep. We are glad that there has been a great movement towards ministry among children in these days. We realize that if we can save the little ones at their tender age, when they are highly vulnerable, we have saved them for eternity. It is only a heartless shepherd who would leave his hundredth sheep to die just because he got ninety-nine more. Every little child of this world is precious in the eyes of God. They must be brought back into God’s fold, into the place and culture of true greatness. For, our “Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matt.18:14).

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2011


Quotes

Jo-Ann Tsang, "Moral Rationalization...."
Evil organizations. One avenue through which these situational factors become implemented is “evil organizations.” Darley (1992, 1996) described how structures imposed on a situation by an institution such as a corrupted corporation or military can propel individuals unknowingly into a spiral of immoral actions.These institutions have situational factors such as obedience and routinization already in place, obscuring the moral ramifications of unethical actions. It is not until some disaster occurs, and the individual is made aware of the immorality of his or her actions, that the need for rationalization arises. Darley stated that at this point of initial awareness, if the individual chooses the path of rationalization and cover-up, he or she is transformed into an evildoer. The Nazi government in Germany can be seen in terms of an evil organization. It constructed euphemisms and elaborate systems of routinization and obedience to disguise the nature of the “final solution.” Yet, although some members of the Nazi party may have started out oblivious to the relevance of morality in the Holocaust, because of the extremely immoral nature of this event it is probable that almost all perpetrators eventually became aware of the violation of moral principles. This set the stage for rationalization among the Nazis, transforming many normal, law-abiding citizens into agents of evil. 
Despite factors that can work to obscure the relevance of moral principles, oftentimes morality does become salient. What affects what an individual will do once he or she reaches this awareness of moral relevance? Once moral principles are salient, the presence of other motivations will be influential in determining whether one chooses to uphold morality or to rationalize away moral principles.

Last updated on Dec 6, 2014
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The Priority of God's Work

Domenic Marbaniang
Published in REVIVE, Kumbanad, March 2011.

Text
Haggai 1:1-4, 9


In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.’ “Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house….”
In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar’s army plundered Jerusalem and burnt God’s temple to the ground. The tragedy was already foretold by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. God had delivered His people into the hands of their enemies because of their sky-reaching transgressions. But, He didn’t leave them without a promise. Jeremiah had prophesied that after 70 years of captivity, Babylon would be punished and the people would return to the Promised Land. Accordingly, Cyrus captured Babylon in October 539 B.C., and in 538 B.C. issued the decree to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. Consequently, about 50,000 Jews returned to Palestine under the leadership of Zerubbabel and laid the foundation after two years in 536 B.C. The Book of Ezra records the scenario of this mega event in these words:

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:11-13)

However, this joy was very short-lived, for soon the adversaries of Judah raised such a great storm of opposition that crushed down all their excitement for the temple of God. Consequently, the rebuilding work came to a standstill and the temple area looked all lifeless, listless, and ruins altogether. This continued for 16 years until, God sent two of His prophets Haggai and Zechariah to prophesy to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. In 520 B.C., Haggai began to prophesy in order to persuade the people to return back to their original calling, the purpose for which they had returned to Jerusalem.

There were two chief problems that God underlined with regard to the lethargy of the Jews:

1. Their delusion with regard to time. They said, “The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built” (Haggai 1:2). They had not only given up working for God, but had developed a rational argument for such a lifestyle. They lived as if there was so much of time yet, and that the work of God could be done at a more plausible and convenient time. God confronted this mindset and demanded of them an explanation for the same. He commanded them to consider their ways. What was it that they had started out from Babylon for? Why had they arrived at Jerusalem? Why were they in this land at such a time?

The tragedy was that they were using up God’s allotted time of work for anything else than God’s work. 16 years after the foundation had been laid, there was no temple yet. Of course, they had begun well, amidst great songs of praise and tears of joy; but, now, all of it was dust and ashes. The fire had gone out of the holy altar. The hands of the servants had grown feeble and slack. The temple of God had been abandoned. Does he who runs the race receive the prize for starting out well, or does he for ending well? How often isn’t it the case with God’s people that they have started on the work of Christ’s kingdom with all flare of excitement, with such immense zeal and enthusiasm, but the invasion of the world into their lives has dampened all of it down to a mere selfish and fruitless living. God calls us to work. Jesus said that we must do the work of Him who sent Him as long as it is day; for a night is coming when no one can work (John 9:4). Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians saying “Redeem the time for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). We cannot live careless and listless lives while the whole world sinks in sin and darkness, while the temple of God is left unbuilt. We need to get back to where He has placed us in the building up of the Body of Christ, the temple of the living God (Ephesians 4:11,12,16).

2. Secondly, their shift of focus from the temple to their own houses. God asked “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:2). How different was their way from that of David who said “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent” (2 Samuel 7:2), and also “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10). God testified about the Israelites saying “my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house” (Haggai 1:9). How different was even this from the passion of Solomon who first gave himself to building the temple of God, and only then to build his own house. But, the tables had turned in the returning Jews’ case. They had transferred the love that rightly belongs to God to their own selves, families, and businesses.

Hadn’t Jesus laid the great condition for discipleship: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38). We know the sad case of the rich young ruler who sorrowfully left Jesus because of one such costly demand of him. Discipleship has a cost, and it doesn’t always mean a posh personal lifestyle. It means a life of self-sacrifice, to deny the self (Matthew 16:24). It was with great sadness that Paul wrote to the Philippians about people in ministry saying “everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21). He could only find in Timothy a true servant attitude, who in his very young life wholly committed himself to the Body of Christ taking “genuine interest” in the welfare of the children of God, rather than in his own comfort.

But, the Jews at Haggai’s time had no time for these. They built palaces and paneled houses while the temple of God was a heap of ruins. And, God rebuked that. But, how had this lethargy and lukewarmness crept into their spirit?

The Book of Ezra reveals three alarming forces:

1. The world’s proposal for ministerial partnership. In Ezra 4:2, we see the unsaved and unbelieving people of surrounding areas coming to Zerubbabel and proposing to build the temple along with them. Of course, Zerubbabel didn’t allow that, though later on the enemies did manage to get into the Holy chambers in Nehemiah’s time. But, sadly the Church of Jesus Christ hasn’t been safe from such adulterous and idolatrous luring. Several times, she has turned her eyes towards aliens, to their colorful robes, to their customs and rites, and to the things that the world adores. The result: the defilement of ministry and the ruining of God’s temple. Therefore, had Paul warned to be careful how we build upon the foundation, Who is Christ; for no other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1Corinthians 3:10,11). In His letters to the seven Churches in Revelation, Jesus warns several times to disconnect ourselves from those who are strangers to God’s ways. But, how are we attracted to the plurality of pluralism and the irresponsible attractions of syncretism? We continually see the Church falling prey to the powers of secularization, to the extent that it is almost difficult to differentiate between her and the world. The worldly waters of godless University affiliations, media hypes, power mania, flickering trends, and natural philosophies heave heavy upon the boat of salvation. Some have given in to dishonest practices, natural to the sinful mind, in order to pull on their Spiritless machinery of ministry. God calls us to repentance, to a life of separation; separation by the Cross of Jesus Christ that rends us away from the world, to build His temple not according to the wisdom of the world but according to His pattern in heaven. It is a high and holy calling. Let’s pursue that in purity of dedication and resolve.

2. The world’s counsel towards ministerial discouragement. In 4:4-5, the enemies of God hired counselors to discourage the people of God from doing His work. Discouragement is a powerful tool of the devil. The Choir leader of Solomon’s temple, Asaph, narrowly escaped the jaws of this monster. In Psalm 73, he records his story of discouragement, of how he had turned bitter and frustrated when he watched the prosperity of worldly people, while he felt his life not as materially successful as theirs, despite His faithfulness to God (Psalm 73:12,13). But, the problem of evil met its end as soon as Asaph entered the sanctuary of God (v17), for then he realized what ultimate reality is all about. What the world pursues is wind, lusts that pass away. He recommits himself to seek God as his everything in both heaven and earth. To a man of God who has realized the excellency of  the knowledge of Christ and His power of resurrection, all the “highly-valued things” of this world are as rubbish (Philippians 3:8-10). He lives by the motivation of the love of Christ.

3. The world’s use of brute political force to ban God’s work. In the rest of the part of Ezra 4, we see their conspiracy and false accusations against the people of God. They accused them of being a nation within the nation (an accusation that some have leveled against Christians in this country as well). They accused them of being a national threat, and so tried to get the ministry legally banned.

But, Haggai and Zachariah prophesied and encouraged the people to start the work. God said “Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house.” When God is with us, who can be against us? The leaders were encouraged and began the work, and the prophets stood with them (Ezra 5:1-3). God turned the political powers in favor of His people. In 516 B.C. the temple was finished and dedicated.

Let us commit ourselves strongly to the priority of God’s work. Hell may hurl at us its winds and its flames, but the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ. We also have this promise in these last days: “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house” and “From this day on,” i.e. the day from when the work is resumed, “I will bless you” (Haggai 2:9,19). May this be that day!

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2011
Published in revive, Kumbanad, March 2011.
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On Being a Star

You need tougher stuff to remain a Star, though a distant invisible one; most so called Stars are misunderstood fireworks; they blaze and disappear sooner from our skies. But what crackle they make in all their pompous display.

Celebrities and icons, upheld and adored by myriads.
How sooner does your vigor die, your fire go away;
Perhaps, an overdose of heroine, or some fear of rejection;
You burn with your stardom as fireworks up in the sky.

Retain your calm, get underframes of truth and grace,
Despise not others, do good and learn good to praise.
For, if you stick to passion, it'll eat you anyway;
But, if you stick to wisdom, it'll keep you all the way.
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