Should Christians Celebrate Jewish Feasts?

The New Testament doesn't prescribe the celebration of the Jewish Feasts for the Church. The statement in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 actually intends to say that since the Passover is over and we are the Unleavened Bread (1Cor.5:7), we must celebrate sincerity and truth in our daily life (a leaven-free life).

With regard to the Old, the Book of Hebrews states that it was ready to disappear before the New (Heb.8:13). In his epistle to the Colossians, Paul mentions that Christians do not need to observe the feasts and festivals since their purpose is over (Col.2:16,17). The feasts were only shadows of the reality, that is Christ, to come. One doesn't need to go back again and again to the sign posts after having followed them, crossed them, and reached the destination. One doesn't keep gazing at a picture the whole day when the real person is close by.

Now, while some may choose to celebrate the feasts (which is not prohibited), one must not teach that the feasts need to be celebrated (as if it was mandatory), for that violates the Spirit of freedom, the New Man, and the Perfection of the New Covenant. We can look back to the feasts as having typical significance for Christ. However, observing them or not observing them doesn't make any difference to one's position in Christ. The Law can neither control us, nor curse us, nor condemn us.

See Also
Feasts of Israel
Feasts: Typical Significance
Three Purposes of Feasts
The Lord of the Sabbath
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Educating Your Church for Biblical Literacy


Forthcoming in ChristianTrends Magazine

ONE must be careful before making any blanket statement about the state of teaching ministry in the church;for certainly there are churches that emphasize on teaching and there are churches that emphasize other things such as evangelism, worship, holiness, or social service. So, let me take a more general approach and leave it to the reader to consider if the necessary emphasis on teaching exists in his context or not; and, if not, what he or she can do to bring it to the front.

The Ministry of the Word in Historical Retrospective

For the Apostles, the ministry of the Word had no substitute. When the early church fell into a controversy related to food-serving, the Apostles drew a very clear line of definition around their calling. They were marked off by God not to serve tables but to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:2); not that they were not willing to serve tables when needed (John 13:14), but because they were not supposed to let go off the priority of the ministry of the Word for anything else in the Body of Christ. One of the most important reasons for this was that doctrine and discipleship belonged together. The Great Commission was about discipleship and teaching (Matt.28:18-20). So, it is not a surprise that ability to teach was an important qualification for someone aspiring to be a leader in the church (1Tim.3:2; Tit.1:9).

As history progressed, or digressed, the Word began to lose its prominence in the church and gradually was secluded to new structures called the monasteries. Also, undue importance was being given to non-revelatory influences such as Aristotelianism in the line of Scholasticism. Martin Luther (1483-1546) didn’t favor such emphases and wished for the purity of theological education. During the Reformation, training of the clergy became an important issue as Protestant clergymen were required to be experts in the languages, especially the biblical ones, and possess tools and keen abilities for interpretation of texts, for reasoning, and for countering the opposition of the Catholics. Consequently, a Protestant clergyman was considered to be the most educated person in the village during those times. The Catholics saw the threat and responded with the Council of Trent establishing the innovation of theological seminaries dedicated solely to theological training (See George Marsden, The Soul of the American University).

But, soon the spirit of liberty and protest fell prostrate before the skeptic influences of modernism and liberalism. The Enlightenment did infuse a hope of utopia, but it was a very humanist one, so much that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) predicted that this utopia could only be obtained through the murder of God and freedom from the Christian doctrine of moral absolutes. In his Parable of the Madman, he pronounced that God was dead and was being buried in the churches. It was not a matter of surprise that churches in Europe began to get empty.

But, that was not the story everywhere. In England and in America, revivalism was breaking out with stronger emphasis on faith and scripture. Men like John Wesley (1703-1791), Charles Finney (1792-1875), and Evan Roberts (1878-1951) spearheaded movements emphasizing deep experiences with God. The Missionary Era also began with William Carey (1761-1834) sailing towards India and setting up a base from where began a prolific movement of Bible translation into the vernacular languages. Missionaries gave themselves to inventing scripts for languages that had no script so that the locals could read God’s Word in their own languages. Also, a few seminaries were set up for the training of church workers. But, not even these were immune to the attraction of the secular powers (universities) that had already begun to renounce theology as the queen of the sciences and had turned to scientism instead. Some began to jokingly talk about seminaries as cemeteries.

Again, it is not proper to make a blanket statement about the global Church. The early part of the 20th century already witnessed the Pentecostal outpouring and revivals in Azusa Street. Movements began to separate from the mainline denominations and newer training centers, though little ones, began to emerge with strong emphasis on faith, grace, and scripture. Indigenous movements also sprung up with rigorous emphasis on Bible study in the church. It is not right to say that the church was devoid of teaching material. The turn of the 21st century witnessed a surge of teaching ministries all over the world that produced incredible amount of media and literature on understanding scriptures. What might not have been met by resources at the local church level was being met by ministries serving globally. It also became the age of radio and television. One key instrument encouraged at the local church level was the institution of the Sunday School. Of course, the temptation could be for parents to forego to the church their responsibility of spiritually nurturing their children; but, the Sunday School (wherever it could be possible) did serve in the area of teaching.

Modern Church Education

In modern times, we are flooded with teaching material all around. There is an abundance of magazines, journals, books, television programs, CDs, VCDs, and an almost infinite resource of information on the internet that inundates the globe. Of course, there is one drawback that a larger amount of the material is in the English language. However, one cannot deny the fact that there are people from almost every major linguistic group who can access these materials and pass it on to others in their group through various means of communication. Another drawback could be the abundance of heresies also prevailing. This is where the two-edged training of church leaders as well as training of congregations to follow the Berean model of evaluating teaching must come into place (Acts 17:11). In some countries (especially the non-secular or extreme-secular ones), training of leaders is not very feasible. However, training of congregations is not impossible. In fact, in modern times there is a great need for emphasis upon the education of the lay with theological tools necessary for the interpretation and application of scripture. In response, there are also a number of faithful attempts by reputed theological institutions offering courses by distance (or modular) mode to meet this growing need. Again, it is not a thing unseen that trained leaders also sometimes fall to the trap of cheap degrees offered by fake institutions and lead their church members into the same error. The lure for the easy doctorate and the dilution of education principles is a huge problem. The lure is severe when prominent leaders fall into the snare. At the couple of colleges where I serve, we make it a serious priority to sift the chaff from the grain, to standardize education, and to set up a model for others to follow.

There is certainly no substitute for a theologically educated church. A church that boasts of highly educated laity but cannot boast of a theologically educated laity makes a very poor show of performance. To be useful to the world and be highly in demand of the world is one thing; the more significant thing is to be useful in the hands of the Master. A church that is biblically illiterate is an example of poor church government. Modern secular governments emphasize on the right to education of all citizens and make provisions for the same. How much more shouldn’t the church emphasize on the right to education of all Christians and also make provision for the same? We must not forget Christ’s injunction that loving Him implies feeding His sheep (John 21:17).

Steps To Emphasize Upon Church Education

While a number of possible methods can be employed, a few are suggested below:
    1.        The 2 Timothy 2:2 Model: In 2Timothy 2:2, Paul instructs Timothy to pass on what he has learnt from Paul to faithful men who would be able to pass it on to others. This a four generational model of impartational learning: (a) Paul to (b) Timothy to (c) Faithful Men to (d) Others. Church elders must become mentors of young people in their congregation (Tit.2:2-8). In fact, there is nothing more illustrious than faith that is passed from one generation to the other (2Tim.1:5).
    2.        Doctrine and Good Works: In his pastoral epistles, Paul again and again emphasizes on the connection between sound doctrine and good works. In fact, the absence of good works is equal to a denial of faith and blasphemy of doctrine (1Tim.6:1; Tit.1:16; 1Tim.5:8). One must not forget that the one act of the Good Samaritan had more lessons to teach about the principle of love than a hundred hours of teaching delivered in the temple by the priest who passed by the injured man that day.
    3.        Connecting with Seminary: There is nothing more helpful in this regard than connecting one’s church with a seminary for mutual benefit. A church can support theological education in a seminary as well as benefit from the services of the seminary. Some possible areas of connection could be hosting students for practical ministry in the church, sponsoring candidates, sponsoring seminary development, promoting theological learning at the church by encouraging lay to take up courses at the seminary, forwarding theological disputes to seminary panels for solutions (Acts 15:2), attending seminars at the seminary, etc.
    4.        Promoting Good Christian Literature and Media: Though it may not be helpful for every church to have a book stall or a library (but, if it’s possible, it is highly recommended), subscription to certain teaching magazines can be promoted in the church. Also, it will be highly good to encourage gift subscriptions and the passing on of read materials to others. Again, the Berean model is highly recommended here for evaluation of soundness in biblical teaching.
    5.        Regular Bible Study Hours: Usually, these in-week hours cannot be attended by everyone in the church, which should not be lamentable seeing that variety of jobs cannot always agree on a common time. However, it is strongly advisable to maintain a weekly Bible Study Class in the church or in a house (life, cell) group gathering of believers in an area. It is recommended that each Bible Study include the study of biblical doctrines, biblical characters, life principles, and times of meditation and discussion. No godless chatter or disputes must be allowed in such classes (1Tim.1:3,4; 6:3-5; 20; Tit.2:1; Eph.5:3,4,19,20).
    6.        Homilies: The pastor must not just focus on the emotional needs of the congregation; he must also focus on the spiritual and the intellectual needs of them. A sermon charged with emotion will evoke applause, laughter, and tears; but, these responses will die away like a flame devoid of fuel. However, a wholesome sermon (message) will be intellectually understandable (1Cor.14:19), spiritually empowered (Acts 1:8; 1Cor.2:4), and practically compelling (Acts 2:37).
    7.        Children’s and Youth Clubs: A host of literature and media programs are available, particularly designed for the young ones. Modern missiologists have understood the importance of kids who fall in the 4-14 Age Window. The advertisers target them, the secular forces target them; but, the church often remains indifferent. We will lose them if we don’t reach out to them. It is important that churches have faith-empowering programs and ministry opportunities for the young ones. The areas of monthly involvement could be as varied as Christian arts, worship, graphic designing, community development, social outreach and charity, construction programs, drama, prayer events, and a whole array of possible involvement areas.

Of course, the list above is minimal. But, it is hoped that it will provide enough impetus for any church to grow organically “into Him who is the head-- Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15-16).
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The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus - Video Teaching



NOTES

Rom 6-8 talkng about a root human problem that psychology alone cannot solve. The solution is the Law of the Spirit of Lifw

Rom. 7: One explanation: It is the state of the unredeemed.
Another (Keswick Theology): It is the state of the Carnal Christian.

++++The Mind Loves the Law
- I know that the Law is spiritual (Rom.7:14)
- I agree that the Law is good (Rom.7:16)
- I delight in the Law (Rom.7:22)

- No mind that loves the anti-law; it may hate that the Law is preventing it from doing certain things; but, it doesn't prefer something against the Law. For instance, no sane mind would like the following commands:
1. Thou shalt tell lie
2. Thou shalt murder
3. Thou shalt commit adultery
4. Thou shalt covet
Because it knows that such laws are self-destructive.
Immanuel Kant: Starry heavens above, and the moral law within.
Rom. 2:14,15

But, a debased mind tries to create a system that would in someway justify sin.
Rom.1: Bad Myths (Plato - Censor). Cultural customs, human invention, can be anti-Christian
- Justify adultery, justify murder...
, infant marriages...(Doctrines of men)
Rom.1: God gave them up.
Homosexuality... justified.. Laws that make it legal.

-But when mind is challenged rationally, it is stunned by its foolishness like a man who is living in a dark room on whom suddenly shines a bright light.
E.G. Nathan to David (Sin with Bathsheba),
The man who went to a brothel and found his own wife.

Children: They know what is just and unjust:
School- If you don't discipline the bad guy but mistreat the good ones, it will create tension and anarchy. If you discipline the guy who did wrong, the others will recognize fairness and justice, there will be order.

++++++
So, the Mind Loves the Law
++++++But the Flesh Serves Sin
"With the Flesh I" WHO? I... my will, intellect, (self-responsibility and freedom involved)
Rom.8:5, 8

How does that happen?
Rom.7:15 - I do not understand!!!!!
But, at least I know two things:
1. It is not me (because my inner man - mind- loves the Law) (Rom.7:20).
2. It is sin that dwells in me

But, it is not like being possessed by some demon or something (in such no will involved)
- What I hate that I do (Rom.7:15)
- The evil that I will not to do, that I practice (Rom.7:19)

PROBLEM: I do not find how to perform the good (Rom.7:18)
PROBLEM: Mind set on the flesh cannot fulfill the law of God.


Rom7:25 says that the mind serves the Law, but the flesh serves sin.
But, the mind that is set on the flesh becomes a captive to sin as well (loses life and power)
Rom.7:23 - Another law brings mind into captivity to the law of sin.

FREEDOM: Rom.8:2

IT IS LIKE:
Eg. A Bird that is flying:
Law of Aerodynamics
Law of Gravity

Flies- When it got life (sensation, power)
Falls- When it is dead

----------------------------

Rom.8:2 : the Law of the Spirit of Life has freed us.. (Not my life, but the Spirit of Life..
1. Eternal Life is not like a candy that a mother gives to her son. (It is not gift in that sense.).
2. Eternal Life is Faith-Received (Not once saved forever saved, but according to the Spirit of Life). Eternal Life is not Apart from Christ. If you don't have Christ, you don't have life.. That's all...

(That is another big debate. One person asked, If we are born-again, how is possible to be unborn? Misunderstanding about the Life of God.) Jesus said that the Fountain of Living Water is the Spirit...
(He who does not have the Spirit doesn't belong to Christ Read. Rom.8:10- Body dead, Spirit is Life)

It means that you lose faith, you stop living according to the Spirit, the moment the flesh is alive, you are dead (Rom.8:13)

Rom. 8:3-4

--------------------------
WHAT MUST I DO?
1. BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE SAVED (HELMET OF SALVATION) Rom.6:11 - Reckon Yourselves Dead to Sin.......... But ALIVE!!!!!! (Analogically, You are married to Christ, not to Sin!)
1Cor.6:19,20- Spirit in Temple Body (If Christ in You, body is dead.. You belong to Him).

2. MORTIFY THE DEEDS OF THE FLESH (Rom.8:13; Col.3:5)
What does it mean????
I can fight an external enemy.. I can kill a snake.. But, how the deeds of the flesh????
Some say "STARVE IT" don't feed it (Rom.13:14)

ANSWER: FAITH: (THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH)

1. FLEEING FAITH
----Actually means... FLEE!!!!! (2Tim.2:22). You can only starve it by running away from it. As strength of temptation is in your being closer to the temptation.
It loses power in distance and death. Married man communicating with other woman more than wife creates problems. Man whose flesh found pleasure in liquor is more in danger in times of tfouble near it.

Jesus taught, "Lead us not into temptation". Does your flesh like to indulge in a little "harmless pleasure"? That "harmless pleasure" is the logic of sin? It is very appealing and the mind becomes sooner blinded by it.

There is a plant in Himalays.. Smell even a few kms away cause death. very fatal.

You say, "How can I flee"
Story of Gehazi... His mind went after.....
Story of Joseph

RUN.. FLEE...

DANGER: Instinct is to run!!!! jump off!!!! If not.. SENSES NOT WORKING (HEB 5)
Danger of Frog in the water that is boiling...

Conscience seared..... You can only flee when your conscience is pure. But, conscience is not enough. FEAR IS NEEDED (what kind of fear.. Fear of falling into sin.. Filial fear... Sin hurts God and your relationship with God).


2. TRUSTING FAITH
----FLY INTO HIS ARMS OF LOVE
What composed the most intense moments of His life and where did He win the greatest battles... On His Knees. IT MEANS PAIN (Heb.5:7; 12:4)

SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

----DRAW NEAR TO THE THRONE OF HIS GRACE (Heb.4:16)
----THROUGH THE SPIRIT: LIFE & POWER TO FLY (Rom.8:13,14). OF COURSE, YOU CAN'T DO IT THROUGH THE SPIRIT UNTIL YOU'RE FIRST LIVING IN THE SPIRIT, PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT, WALKING IN THE SPIRIT.

Praying in tongues.. In the Spirit. The Bible says, speaking in tongue edifies.

3. OBEYING FAITH.
BEAR FRUIT TO GOD (Rom.7:4).. Yield your members to Christ as instruments of righteousness.
Obedience of the Spirit. PRESS FORWARD. FOCUS ON THE FINISHING LINE, NOT ON THE CALLS OF THE WORLD AROUND. DON't LIVE FOR SELF, DON't LIVE FOR THE WORLD, LIVE FOR GOD.

DO YOU WANT TO LIVE OR TO DIE?
IS SIN KILLING YOU DAY BY DAY AND YOU SENSE DEFEAT?

GAL.2:20...
CRUCIFIED BUT ALIVE
LIVING BUT NOT I BUT CHRIST LIVING IN ME
LIVING BY FAITH...

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The Purpose of the Lamp: To Help See Even If Noticed Never

It's not good if people keep gazing at a lamp rather than use its light to do the work they are supposed to do. A candle is not meant to be seen as much as it is meant to be in a place from which it helps things to be seen. A man of God is not placed on the stand for people to applaud and fawn over him; he is placed there by God in order to give light to the world that they be able to see the truth and live. It doesn't even matter if the world doesn't notice the candle at all, only if its light has helped men and women to walk without stumbling.


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Let Not the Honor of Man Prevent You From Experiencing the Power of God!

One of the greatest hindrances to faith is the fear of being rejected or of losing honor in the sight of men. Jesus said to the Jews, "How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44).

Let's take the case of a young man who is being blessed by the simple truths regarding the things of God shared by a man of God who is known well as a man full of faith and of the Spirit. However, one day he meets a worldly wise man who appears to be very noble and has good knowledge of theology and philosophy. When asked of his opinion about the former minister, this theologian remarks that all such teaching is folk theology. If this young man falls prey to the despising attitude of this worldly wise man he has allowed water to fall on the little sparks that were catching fire in his heart.

Why?

Given that quite a many of these simple ministers have erroneous opinions, it is also certainly not the case that quite a many of the worldly wise men do not have erroneous opinions. The more intellectually disposed world is more anti-faith disposed as well. But, the fear of being despised and counted as one of the simpletons or folk-religionists is much enough for many to just keep off from the despised camp.

So, what is the result? The simpletons tell us what they found out in the Word of God and how they put it into practice and saw results. They even quote many stories from their own experiences. On the other hand, the worldly wise men talk difficult, over the head things and continue to despise the simpletons. Looking at the Pharisees, it seems that spirituality and theology are not for the common man. But, what do we learn from Jesus?

He was a simpleton in the eyes of the world. He spoke in parables and His words flowed deep into the hearts of the common people. He touched the sick and healed them. He drove out demons. He preached the Kingdom of God and called men and women to repentance. He raised the dead. He didn't set up a University, but He made disciples and showed them faith, becoming a model to them. The high-minded ones didn't like Him. Some may have found things of practical interest in Him; but, then they found out that if they appreciated Him, they would lose prestige and honor among the big guys; so, they chose to look great (while remaining miserable in their personal lives).

But, the fishermen and the sinners whom these intellectuals thought to be the common ones, became the ones struck every corner of the world with the lightning flashes of the Gospel.

I understand Peter was too simple; but, he walked on water. If you wish to live like Christ lived and live like He wants you to live, look at Him, listen to Him, and don't allow the fruitless high-mindedness of humans stop you from seeing the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
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Dying to the Elemental Principles of the Universe (Col.2:20)

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-- "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using-- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col 2:20-23 NKJ)

Paul is referring here to an essential principle of Christian doctrine: Commandments that relate to perishable things are basic to the material world, but not basic to the Kingdom of God. In such a sense they are relative to the world but are not absolutely absolute.

1. These commandments concern things which perish with the using; therefore, they cannot be imperishable. Thus, for instance, customs related to washing of hands and feet before sitting for dinner may apply in one culture but they don't apply in another.
2. These commandments are according to the commandments and doctrines of men; they are not based directly on the nature of God. They may relate to the nature of the world (e.g. considering the environment, ecology, and climate of a region), but they don't matter to the environment of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, for instance, there are dietery customs on earth, but these are relative only to the ecology of the world. In the absolute sense, dietery customs have no significance (There are no dietery laws in heaven). One must not confuse customs enacted as a matter of convenience with absolutes that cannot be compromised with matters of convenience.
3. These commandments indeed (practically) have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion. When these customs and commandments refer to a religious doctrine, they may have the appearance of wisdom (may look very cogent and logical). But, elevating these to the status of religion (or spiritual discipline) doesn't elevate them essentially; for, essentially they are elements of the universe alone.
4. These may have appearance of false humility. Abstaining from certain foods or things natural to the body are not actually practices of humility. For instance, a person who chooses to use the old type-writer when he can get a modern computer is not practicing humility. Such humility is false. Similarly, one is not proud if he is wearing a costly garment (Note that Jesus had a seamless robe and yet He was the meekest of all). Humility is a spiritual attitude.
5. These commandments may have the appearance of a neglect of body. One must remember that neglect of body is not a Christian virtue at all. The Bible is positive about the human body. The New Testament compares a man loving his wife with him loving his own body (Eph.5:28). Ascetic methods like growing long hair without grooming them, not washing for weeks, and the like are only attempts to neglect the body, but they don't strengthen the spirit in any way.
6, But, all of these have "no value against the indulgence of the flesh." For, as a matter of fact "with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." (Rom 7:25 NKJ). In other words, carnal methods cannot fulfill the Law of God.

A person who has known Christ doesn't spiritualize natural elements, because he knows that salvation is not from beneath but from above. His affections are set on things above, not on things below (Col.3:1,2,3).
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Recognizing Palestinian Statehood: How Essential Is It to the Peace Progress?

The State of Palestine is one of the states with limited international recognition. As of 27 September 2013, 134 (69.4%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognised the State of Palestine. But, Israel doesn't recognize it. In fact, the recent UK MPs' vote on Palestinian State recognition was rejected by Israel as an hindrance to any prospects of peace between the two sides (The Free Press, Oct.14). Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) felt that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to blame for it. "A cold wind is blowing toward Israel from every corner in the world, but they refuse to deal with the hard facts and are bringing a diplomatic storm," he said (The Jerusalem Post, Oct 14). It seems that only the United States remains as a strong supporter of Israel. Back in 2011, President Barack Obama told Abbas that the US would veto any United Nations Security Council move to recognise Palestinian statehood (The Telegraph, Sep 22, 2011). The US and a number of European countries still do not recognize the statehood of Palestine and are not supportive of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (NY Daily News). The Guardian has, however, opined that support for Palestinian statehood is a growing international trend, especially in wake of more recent events. It said:

Netanyahu’s government - and the Labour opposition - campaigned openly against the vote. But several hundred Israeli doves called for recognition on the basis that only the creation of an independent Palestinian state can guarantee Israel’s own future in the region.

Future parliamentary votes in Ireland, Denmark and Finland, but especially in France – a fellow security council member – are likely to confirm the shift of public opinion across Europe. Most other governments, sooner or later, will likely follow suit. The goal is to preserve the viability of the two-state outcome to the Palestine-Israeli conflict when no other solution to the impasse is in sight. (The Guardian)

On 15 November, 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), in Algiers, declared the independence of the State of Palestine, claiming sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and designating Jerusalem as its capital. Since then an increasing number of countries began to lend it recognition and support. On November 26, 2012 the United Nations' General Assembly urged "all States, the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination, independence and freedom" (A67/L28). Subsequently, the Palestine Authority adopted the name "State of Palestine" ordering foreign ministries and embassies around the world to start using the title instead of the former "Palestinian National Authority" (Al Jazeera, Jan 8, 2013).

From the Christian side, support for Palestinian statehood have been reiterated by both the Catholic Pope and a number of Protestant leaders (ICN, JPost).

Growing consensus seems to favor Palestinian statehood as crucial to the peace process. But, Israel doesn't want to acknowledge that. It feels that the world is turning cold towards it. Back in 1948, when the State of Israel was formed, this "cold" world was warm towards her, to the chagrin of the Arabs. But, now the winds seem to have changed. Will this lead to peace? The majority believe the answer to be "Yes". But, the deeper sentiment relates to questions of justice and injustice. One root dispute centers around the City of Jerusalem (Wiki) and is subject of the debate whether the City could be the capital of two states (Wiki). Perhaps, Obama may be judicious in stating that "genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.” (NYT, Sep 21, 2011).
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व्‍यवस्‍था के लक्षण

1. नीव: प्रेम. व्‍यवस्‍था का नीव प्रेम है। (Matt.22:40)
2. श्रोता: पापी. व्‍यवस्‍था पापियों के लिए दिया गया (1Tim.1:9)
3. कार्य: पाप को प्रगट करना. व्‍यवस्‍था पाप को प्रगट कर देता है (Rom.3:20)
4. आंतरिक गवाह: विवेक (Rom.2:15).
5. सक्षमता: दोषी ठहराना. व्‍यवस्‍था दोषी ठहरा सकता है परन्‍तु दोषमुक्‍त नही कर सकता (Gal.3:10)
6. प्रभाव: मृत्‍यु. अक्षर मारता है। वह जीवन नही दे सकत (2Cor.3:6; 1Cor.15:56; Rom.7:9,10))


नोट: यीशु मसीह व्‍यवस्‍था को रदृद करने नही आया। (Matt.5:17). यथार्थ, अनुग्रह की आज्ञाएं व्‍यवस्‍था की आज्ञाओं से अधिक सख्‍त है (Matt 5:19,20)
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मै कैसे जान सकता हूं की कोई अवसर ईश्‍वर की ओर से है या नहीं

1. अकसर यह स्‍पष्‍ट रहता है। परन्‍तु यदी संदेह है तो सतर्कता की आवश्‍यकता है, क्‍योंकि जो कुछ विश्‍वास अनुसार नही वह पाप है। (Rom.14:23)
2. अकसर लक्ष्‍य तो नेक होता है परन्‍तु जरिये सही नही होते (Jer.48:10).
3. यदी कोई अवसर हमें परमेश्‍वर की आज्ञा का उल्‍लंघन करने का प्रलोभन देती है तो वह प्रलाभन है, अवसर नही (James 1:13).
4. यह परमेश्‍वर की परीक्षा करने का कर्म नही होना चाहिए। यह सोचना की मै छलांग लगाता हूँ, परमेश्‍वर तो संभाल ही लेगा, ईश्‍वर की परीक्षा लेने की मनोभावना है (Matt.4:6,7).
5. यह किसी मनुष्‍य के विचार, यहा तक की भविष्‍यवाणी पर भी आधारित नही होना चाहिये। याद रखें की पुराने नियम में एक नबी ऐसी ही गलती करके विनाश का पथ चुन लिया (1Kgs.13:16-24). पौलुस से हम सीख सकते है। जब उसने परमेश्‍वर से बुलाहट प्राप्‍त की तो मनुष्‍यों का राय नही चाहा (Gal.1:16).
6. यह अभिलाषा द्वारा चलाया जाने वाला नही होना चाहिए (James 1:14,15).
7. यह परमेश्‍वर के दासों के आंखों में धूल झोंक कर काम करने का मार्ग नहीं होना चाहिए (Heb.13:17; Acts 5:3,4, 9,10).
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The Parables of Sadhu Sundar Singh

Sundar Singh (1889-?) was born into a Sikh family in Punjab. At that time, the British were ruling over India and Christian missionaries ran English medium schools into which many well-to-do families sent their children for education. Sundar Singh was sent into one such school.

Sundar hated reading lessons from the English New Testament which was read as a daily textbook in the Mission School where he went. Of course, at the beginning he did like the teachings of Christ; but, he abhorred the fact that the New Testament was given too special a preference.

When Sundar was 14 years old, his mother, who was a model of piety for him, died. Sundar's life was shaken. He began to grow bitter against Christianity and the teachings of Christ. In a rage of anger, one day, while he was in his early teenage years, he got hold of the English New Testament and set it to fire  (Later, after he had came to know Christ, he grievously mourned this act as a grave sin). But, Sundar had no peace in his heart. He sensed a deep vacuum within.

One night, three days after burning the Gospel, Sundar lay in distress in his room. He still didn't know the truth. He cried out to God in his misery calling on Him to reveal Himself to him if He was there. But, if not, Sundar was determined to end his life by throwing himself in front of the train that passed close by his house at 5am every morning. Early in the morning, a bright light filled the room, and Christ gave His vision to Sundar. Sundar saw the nail-pierced hands of Jesus. He was not expecting that Christ would be the true God who would answer his prayer. Later, he wrote:
I do not believe in Jesus Christ because I have read about Him in the Bible - I saw Him and experienced Him and know Him in my daily experience. Not because I read the Gospels, but because of Him of whom I read in the Gospels, have I become what I am. Already before my conversion I loved His teaching; it is beautiful. But my doubts were not swept away until I became aware that Christ was alive. (TLC)
After this experience, Sundar knew that Christ was alive and He is God. He immediately went to his father and told him of what had happened with him. His father, however, didn't want his son to publicly embrace Christ. Against his father's wish, Sadhu cut off his long hair (one of the symbols of being a Sikh) and was baptized in 1905 in an English Church in Shimla. Soon, persecution arose. Sundar was even poisoned, but he escaped miraculously. He joined a Christian training center for a short time; but, soon became disinterested. He saw that the Western method of bearing testimony had no relevance for the Indian context. To him, the Gospel had to be given to the Indian in an Indian cup.

Sundar donned the saffron robe (the robe of the Sadhus, holy men in the Indic religions), and traveled mainly barefooted throughout India, preaching Christ wherever he went. He also climbed the Himalayas and went into Tibet many times where he was persecuted and tortured but was each time delivered miraculously. He came to be known as the Apostle with Bleeding Feet. The Sadhu had many mystical experiences in his quiet times of prayer and recounts some of the visions in some writings.

In the summer of 1929, he made his final trip to Tibet and was never seen again.

This post updates the parables of Sadhu Sundar Singh. (Wiki, CCEL, Sadhu Sundar Singh)

The Parables


One day when I was in the Himalayas, I was sitting upon the bank of a river; I drew out of the waters beautiful, hard, round stone and smashed it. The inside was quite dry. The stone had been lying a longtime in the water, but the water had not penetrated the stone. It is just like that with the people of Europe; for centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity, they are entirely steeped in its blessings, they live in Christianity; yet Christianity has not penetrated them, and it does not live in them. Christianity is not at fault; the reason lies rather in the hardness of their hearts. Materialism and intellectualism have made their hearts hard. So I am not surprised that many people here do not understand what Christianity really is. (GOSS)

Sometimes during sickness the faculty of taste in the tongue is interfered with, and during that time, however tasty the food given to the sick person may be, it has an ill taste to him. In just the same way sin interferes with the taste for spiritual things. Under such circumstances My Word and service and My presence lose their attraction to the sinner, and instead of profiting by them he begins to argue about and to criticize them. (AMF)

Many who are immersed in sin are unaware of its load, just as one who dives into the water may have tons of water upon him, but is wholly unaware of its weight until he is choked in death. But he who emerges from the water and seeks to carry some away soon finds its weight, however little he takes up; and he who, finding the burden of his sin, comes to Me in penitence will freely receive true rest, for it is such I come to seek and to save (Matt.xi.28, Luke xix.10). (AMF)

Once I was sitting upon the shore of a lake. As I sat there I noticed some fish who came up to the surface and opened their mouths. At first I thought they were hungry and that they were looking for insects, but a fisherman told me afterwards that although they canbreathe quite well under water they have to come up to the surface every now and again to inhale deep draughts of fresh air, or they would die. It is the same with us. The world is like an ocean; we can live in it, carry on our work and all our varied occupations, but from time to time we need to receive fresh life through prayer. Those Christians who do not set apart quiet times for prayer have not yet found their true life in Christ. . . . (GOSS)

A mother once hid herself in a garden amongst some densely growing shrubs, and her little son went in search of her here and there, crying as he went. Through the whole garden he went, but could not find her. A servant said to him, “Sonny, don’t cry! Look at the mangoes on this tree and all the pretty, pretty flowers in the garden. Come, I am going to get some for you.” But the child cried out, “No! No! I want my mother. The food she gives me is nicer than all the mangoes, and her love is sweeter far than all these flowers, and indeed you know that all this garden is mine, for all that my mother has is mine. No! I want my mother!” When the mother, hidden in the bushes, heard this, she rushed out and, snatching her child to her breast, smothered him with kisses, and that garden became a paradise to the child. In this way My children cannot find in this great garden of a world, so full of charming and beautiful things, any true joy until they find Me. I am their Emmanuel, who is ever with them, and I make Myself known to them (AMF)

Have you ever seen a heron standing motionless on the shore of a lake? From his attitude you might think he was standing gazing at God's Pow er and glory, wondering at the great expanse of water, and at its power to cleanse and satisfy the thirst of living creatures. But the heron has no such thoughts in his head at all ; he stands there hour after hour, simply in order to see whether he can catch a frog or a little fish. Many human beings behave like that in prayer and meditation. They sit on the shore of God's Ocean ; but they give no thought to His Power and Love, they pay no attention to His Spirit which can cleanse them from their sins, neither do they consider His Being which can satisfy their soul's thirst ; they give themselves up entirely to the thought of how they can gain something that will please them, something that will help them to enjoy the transitory pleasures of this world, and so they turn their faces away from the clear waters of spiritual peace. They give themselves up to the things of this world which pass away, and they perish with them. (GOSS)

The heat and the sun's rays, falling upon salt water, cause evaporation, which gradually becomes condensed into clouds, which again descend in the form of sweet, fresh water. The salt, and all the other things in the water, are left behind. In the same way the thoughts and desires of the praying soul rise to heaven like clouds ; then the Sun of Righteousness cleanses them from the taint of sin by His purifying rays. The prayer then becomes a great cloud which falls in showers of blessing, life, and strength upon the earth below. (GOSS)

I was talking once with a very learned man, a psychologist, who assured me that the wonderful peace which I experienced was simply the effect of my own imagination. Before I answered him I told him the story of a person who was blind from birth, and who did not believe in the existence of the sun. One cold winter day he sat outside in the sunshine, and then his friends asked him: 'How do you feel now?' He replied: 'I feel very warm.' 'It is the sun which is making you warm ; although you cannot see it, you feel its effects.' 'No, he said, 'that is impossible; this warmth comes from my own body; it is due to the circulation of the blood. You will never make me believe that a ball of fire is suspended in the midst of the heavens without any pillar to support it. 'Well,' I said to the psychologist, 'What do you think of the blind man? 'He was a fool!' he answered. 'And you,' I said to him, 'are a learned fool! You say that my peace is the effect of my own imagination, but I have experienced it.' (GOSS)

The cross is like a walnut whose outer rind is bitter, but the inner kernel is pleasant and invigorating. So the cross does not offer any charm of outward appearance, but to the cross-bearer its true character is revealed, and he finds in it the choicest sweets of spiritual peace. (AMF)

During an earthquake it sometimes happens that fresh springs break out in dry places which water and quicken the land so that plants can grow. In the same way the shattering experiences of suffering can cause the living water to well up in a human heart. (GOSS)

A newborn child has to cry, for only in this way will his lungs expand. A doctor once told me of a child who could not breathe when it was born. In order to make it breathe the doctor gave it a slight blow. The mother must have thought the doctor cruel. But he was really doing the kindest thing possible. As with newborn children the lungs are contracted, so are our spiritual lungs. But through suffering God strikes us in love. Then our lungs expand and we can breathe and pray. (GOSS)

Although fish spend their whole life in the salt water of the sea, yet they do not themselves become salty, because they have life in them; so the man of prayer, though he has to live in this sin-defiled world, remains free of the sinful taint, because by means of prayer his life is maintained. (AMF)

A woman was traveling along a mountain track, carrying her child in her arms, when the child, catching sight of a pretty flower, made such a spring out of its mother’s arms that it fell headlong down the mountain side, struck its head upon a rock, and died on the spot. Now it is perfectly clear that the safety and sustenance of the child were to be found in its mother’s bosom, and not in those fascinating flowers which were the cause of its death. So acts the believer whose life is not a life of prayer. When he catches sight of the fleeting and fascinating pleasures of the world he forgets My love and care which are far greater than those of the mother, and, neglecting that spiritual milk which I provide for him, leaps out of My arms and is lost. (AMF)

Just as the bee collects the sweet juice of the flowers and turns it into honey without injuring their colour or fragrance, so the man of prayer gathers happiness and profit from all God’s creation without doing any violence to it. As bees also gather their honey from flowers in all sorts of different places and store it in the honeycomb, so the man of God gathers sweet thoughts and feelings from every part of creation, and in communion with his Creator collects in his heart the honey of truth, and in enduring peace with Him at all times and in all places, tastes with delight the sweet honey of God. (AMF)

Now in very cold countries a bridge of water is a common sight, because when the surface of a river is frozen hard the water beneath still flows freely on, but men cross over the icy bridge with ease and safety. But if one were to speak of a bridge of water spanning a flowing river to people who are constantly perspiring in the heat of a tropical clime, they would at once say that such a thing was impossible and against the laws of nature. There is the same great difference between those who have been born again and by prayer maintain their spiritual life, and those who live worldly lives and value only material things, and so are utterly ignorant of the life of the soul. (AMF)

Once there was a man who noticed a silkworm in its cocoon; he saw how it was twisting and struggling; it was in great distress. The man went to it and helped it to get free. The silkworm made a few more efforts, but after a while it died. The man had not helped it ; he had only disturbed- its growth. Another man saw a silkworm suffering in the same way, but he did not do anything to help it. He knew that this conflict and struggle was a good thing, that the silkworm would grow stronger in the process, and so be better prepared for its new stage of life. In the same way suffering and distress in this world help us to get ready for the next life. (GOSS)

The world is like an ocean. We cannot live without water, it is true, but it is also true that we cannot live if we allow the water to engulf us, for there is life in water and also death. If we make use of water we find that there is life in it, but if we are drowned we find death. In this world we are like little boats. A boat is only useful on the water; for there it conveys men from one shore to another. But if we drag it overland, through fields, or into a town, we find that as a vehicle it is utterly useless. The place for a boat is on a river or on the sea. But this does not mean that the water must be in the boat. For if it is in the boat, the boat will become useless; no one would then be able to steer it over the water. It would fill with water, sink beneath the waves, and whoever was in it would be drowned. The boat must be in the water, but the water must not be in the boat. (GOSS)

People do not believe, because they are strangers to the experience. Once when I was wandering about in the Himalayas, in the region of eternal snow and ice, I came upon some hot springs, and I told a friend about them. He would not believe it. ' How can there be hot springs in the midst of ice and snow?' I said: 'Come and dip your hands in the water, and you will see that I am right.' He came, dipped his hands in the water, felt the heat and believed. Then he said: 'There must be a fire in the mountain.' So after he had been convinced by experience his brain began to help him to understand the matter. Faith and experience must come first, and understanding will follow. We cannot understand until we have some spiritual experience, and that comes through prayer. ... As we practise prayer we shall come to know who the Father is and the Son, we shall become certain that Christ is everything to us and that nothing can separate us from Him and from His Love. Temptations and persecutions may come, but nothing can part us from Christ. Prayer is the only way to this glorious experience. (GOSS)

There are many who long for heaven yet miss it altogether through their own folly. A poor begger sat for twenty-one years on the top of a hidden treasure chamber, and was so consumed with the desire to be rich that he horded up all the coppers that he received. Yet he died in a miserable state of poverty, utterly unaware of the treasure over which he had been sitting for years. Because he sat so long on the same spot a suspicion arose that he had something valuable buried there. So the Governor had the place dug up and discovered a hoard of valuables, which afterwards found its way into the royal treasury. (AMF)

I and the Father and the Holy Spirit are One. Just as in the sun there are both heat and light, but the light is not heat, and the heat is not light, but both are one, though in their manifestation they have different forms, so I and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, bring light and heat to the world. The Spirit, which is the baptismal fire, burns to ashes in the hearts of believers all manner of sin and iniquity, making them pure and holy. I who am the True Light (John i. 9, viii. 12), dissipate all dark and evil desires, and leading them in the way of righteousness bring them at last to their eternal home. Yet We are not three but One, just as the sun is but one. (AMF)

Some years ago in Tibet I heard a story about a King who wished to send a message to his people. He entrusted the errand to his servants, but they would not do as he wished. The King, who loved his subjects, now resolved to take the message to them himself in order to be convinced of their difficulties. He could not go there as a king, for he wanted his subjects to speak to him freely of all their sufferings and distresses. So he changed his garments, left off his royal robes, and dressed himself like a poor man. Then he went right among his people and said to them: 'I have been sent by the King in order to learn about all your difficulties.' The poor and the distressed had confidence in him and told him all their anxieties, and he saw how he could help them. But there were also some proud people who could not bring themselves to believe that such a poor man was really the King's messenger, so they were rude to him and chased him away. Later on the King came to his subjects at the head of his army in all his royal state, and the people could hardly recognise him again nor believe that it was the same person. They said: 'Then he was a poor man and now he is King.' The proud who had despised him were punished and thrown into prison, but those who had been good to him were honoured and their wants relieved. Even so is it with the Word of Life who became man ; His people did not see His Glory, and they crucified Him. But the days are coming when we shall see Him in His Glory, and we shall know that He is the same Jesus Christ who lived like a poor man for three-and-thirty years upon this earth. (GOSS)

Once when I was travelling about in the Himalayas I saw something which made the love of God very real to me. In a Tibetan village I noticed a crowd of people standing under a burning tree and looking up into the branches. I came near and discovered in the branches a bird which was anxiously flying round a nest full of young ones. The mother-bird wanted to save her little ones, but she could not. When the fire reached the nest the people waited breathlessly to see what she would do. No one could climb the tree, no one could help her. Now she could easily have saved her own life by flight, but instead of fleeing she sat down on the nest, covering the little ones carefully with her wings. The fire seized her and burnt her to ashes. She showed her love to her little ones by giving her life for them. If, then, this little insignificant creature had such love, how much more must our Heavenly Father love His children, the Creator love His creatures! (GOSS)

In grafting a sweet tree on to a bitter one, both feel the knife and both are called upon to suffer in order that the bitter may bear sweet fruit. So, too, in order to introduce good into man’s evil nature, it was necessary that first of all I Myself and afterwards believers also should suffer the agonies of the cross, that they might in future for ever bear good fruit, and thus the glorious love of God be made manifest. (AMF)

With our eyes we can see many things; we can see the drops which are used to heal our eyes; they are in a glass. But when they have been put into our eyes we see them no longer. We feel that they have done us good, but we see them no more. So a person can say : I have medicine in my eyes and cannot see it. When Christ was in Palestine in human form many people saw Him ; but to-day when He lives in our hearts we cannot see Him. Like a medicine He cleanses our spiritual faculty of sight from every kind of sin. Although we cannot see Him, He redeems us ; we know this, for we feel God's Presence in our lives. We cannot say that we feel this with the bodily senses; this consciousness is no emotion, no agitation; when I say feeling I mean that we become aware of Christ's Presence in a real and inward way. (GOSS)

The polar bear lives among the snow, and he is the same colour as the snow. The skin of the Bengal royal tiger looks like the reeds and grasses of the primeval forest. So those who live in spiritual communion with God like the saints and angels have a share in Christ's nature, and become transformed into His likeness. (GOSS)

If Christ lives in us, our whole life will become Christlike. Salt which has been dissolved in water may disappear, but it does not cease to exist. We know it is there when we taste the water. Even so the indwelling Christ, although He is unseen, will become visible to others through the love which He shares with us. (GOSS)

The planets have no light in themselves. They shine with light which they have borrowed from the sun. Christians are like them. In themselves they have no light, but they shine with light borrowed from the Sun of Righteousness. (TLC)

Just as the sponge lies in the water, and the water fills the sponge, but the water is not the sponge and the sponge is not the water, but they ever remain different things, so children abide in Me and I in them. This is not pantheism, but it is the kingdom of God, which is set up in the hearts of those who abide in this world; and just as the water in the sponge, I am in every place and in everything, but they are not I. (AMF)

Take a piece of charcoal, and however much you may wash it its blackness will not disappear, but let the fire enter into it and its dark colour vanishes. So also when the sinner receives the Holy Spirit (who is from the Father and Myself, for the Father and I are one), which is the baptism of fire, all the blackness of sin is driven away, and he is made a light to the world (Matt. iii. 11, 14). As the fire in the charcoal, so I abide in My children and they in Me, and through them I make Myself manifest to the world. (AMF)

I do not believe that the union of Catholics and Protestants would accomplish a great deal. When you mix two colours you get a third ; so if Catholics and Protestants unite you will have to be prepared to see a host of new sects and varieties arise. I do not believe in unions which are artificially engineered. External unity is futile. Those alone who are united in Christ are really one in Him and will be one in heaven. (GOSS)

The forgiveness of sins does not mean full salvation, for that can only come with perfect freedom from sin. For it is possible that a man should die from the disease of his sin, though he has received full pardon for it. For instance, a man had his brain affected owing to an illness of long standing, and whilst thus affected he made an attack upon another man and killed him. When sentence of death was pronounced upon him, his relatives explained the circumstances and appealed for mercy for him, and he was granted pardon for the sin of murder. But before his friends could reach him with the good news, indeed while they were on the way, he had died of the sickness by reason of which he had committed the murder.

What advantage was this pardon to the murderer? His real safety would have been to be cured of his disease, and then he would have had real happiness in his pardon. For this reason I became manifest in the flesh that I might deliver penitent believers from the disease
of sin, from its punishment and from death; thus taking away both cause and effect. They will not die in their sins, for I will save them (Matt. i.21), and they shall pass from death to becomes heirs of eternal life. (AMF)

To many people life is full of peril, and they are like that hunter who caught sight of a honeycomb on the branch of a tree overhanging a stream. Climbing up, he began to enjoy the honey, quite unaware of the fact that he was in peril of death, for in the stream beneath him lay an alligator with open jaws waiting to devour him, while around the foot of the tree a pack of wolves had gathered waiting for him to descend. Worse still, the tree on which he sat had been eaten away at the roots by an insect and it was ready to fall. In a short time it did fall, and the unwary hunter became the prey of the alligator. Thus, too, the human spirit, ensconced in the body, enjoys for a short time the false and fleeting pleasures of sin gathered in the honeycomb of the brain, without a thought that it is in the midst of this fearsome jungle of the world. There Satan sits ready to tear it to pieces, and hell like an alligator waits with open mouth to gulp it down, while, worst of all, the tiny unseen insect of sin has eaten away the very roots of the body and life. Soon the soul falls and becomes an everlasting prey to hell. But the sinner who comes to Me I will deliver from sin, from Satan, and from hell, and will give him eternal joy “which none shall take away from him” (John xvi.22). (AMF)

Mischievous boys, when they catch sight of sweet fruit on a tree, pelt it with stones, and the tree without a murmur drops upon them, instead of stones, its charming fruit. For the tree has no stones to throw, but what God has given it, it gives without complaining. Be not cast down by ill treatment, for the fact that men fling abuse at you is full proof that yours is a fruitful life. (AMF)

My soul is like an ocean. On the surface there may be waves and tempests, but deep down there is undisturbed calm. (AMF)

Sources


The Gospel of Sundar Singh by Friedrich Heiler (GOSS)
At the Master's Feet (AMF)
"The Living Christ", Indian Christian Theology, Vol.I by R.S. Sugirtharajah and Cecil Hargreaves (eds) (TLC)
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Few Characteristics of Mosaic Law

Few of the Characteristics of the Mosaic Law were as follows:

1. Ground: Love. It was based upon the Great Commandment: the Commandment of Love. (Matt.22:40)
2. Subjects: Sinners. The Law was given for the lawless (1Tim.1:9)
3. Function: To Expose Sin. The Law exposed sin, what it is. (Rom.3:20)
4. Internal Witness: Conscience. The human conscience bore witness to the justness of this Law (Rom.2:15). We must remember that the conscience is not just an effect of social learning. It is a justifier and judge in the epistemics of morality. The apprehension there is not just rational, but apodeitical and intuitive. However, when salt loses its saltness, there is nothing with which to salten it again.
5. Ability/Power: To Condemn. The Law could only condemn humans; it could never justify them. (Gal.3:10)
6. Effect: Death. The Law killed; it could never give life (2Cor.3:6; 1Cor.15:56; Rom.7:9,10))


Note: Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it (Matt.5:17). In fact, the Commandments of Grace are tougher than the Commandments of the Law (Matt 5:19,20. See Also GRACE ABOVE LAW)
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Tabitha Dorcas, A Woman Full of Good Works (Acts 9:36-42)

The New Testament doesn't tell us much about Tabitha (her name means "gazelle") except that she was a disciple and that she was full of good works and charitable deeds.

We are not told how old she was, whether she was married, what job or business she did (we are told what Lydia did for a living, but we are not told what Dorcas did), whether she was beautiful, and whether she was rich or poor. Those things don't matter to those within the New Covenant. The most important thing relates to discipleship and one's life and testimony in Christ.

Dorcas may not have been a preacher, a woman with notable signs and wonders following her ministry. She didn't write a book nor was she any entertainer. However, the Bible praises her for the qualities that it finds in her.

1. She was a Disciple (Acts 9:36)
The first distinctive of Dorcas was that she was a believer in Christ and was a sincere follower, a learner, a disciple of Christ. Jesus said that discipleship involves self-denial and cross-bearing. So, Dorcas knew what things needed to be denied in order to follow Christ. Remember Joppa as the same place where Jonah tried to run away from God. But, here was someone who was not known as a prophetess but certainly as a disciple of Christ.

2. She was Full of Good Works (Acts 9:36)
It is one thing to do a few good works, it is quite another thing to be full of good works. Dorcas's life overflowed with good works. The Bible tells us that we are the workmanship of God in Christ created unto good works. These good works were ordained for us from the foundation of the world (Eph.2:10). Thus, you may find situations in your life where there is an opportunity to do a good work that someone else won't have. It might be an elderly person at home that you have been entrusted with. It might be a widow that you know or an orphan boy or girl among your relatives. It might be a husband or a wife that is sick, or even who is off-track but deserves goodness because Christ loved us and gave His life for each one. Sometimes one may have the opportunity to even be a Good Samaritan. Every day presents us with opportunities to do good works. Are we full of them? There is no sense thinking, "I want to do good works" while ignoring and being deaf and blind to opportunities for the same around us that we only need to extend our hand and grab (Tit.3:1).

3. She was Full of Charitable Deeds (Acts 9:36)
She gave a lot. A person may spend for himself or even spend for others. There are some who give gifts to the rich. That is not charity. The Bible says that one who gives gifts to the rich will become poor. Charity is love in action. It is to give away what could use for oneself in order to help the other. It is a shame if you have Lazarus at your gates while you move around in your Mercedes. The Bible anticipates us to be charitable (1Tim.6:18). It tells us that if we close our ears to the cry of the poor, when we cry our cries will not be heard. Joppa might be a port where hundreds of people visited everyday. Most of the time, business would be in the mind of people. However, Dorcas found opportunity to give away and help those in need. Surely, what we invest in people has an eternal reward. But, blessed is the person who gives not in order to receive, but out of love and lovingkindness. The Bible tells us that our gifts of charity and alms reach up to heaven (Acts 10:31). Also, the Bible wants us to be impartial in our charity as the Father above is.

4. She was in Fellowship with the Disciples (Acts 9:38)
We are told that it was the disciples who sent for Peter when they knew he was around. This tells us that Dorcas was associated with the Local Church and community of disciples. They didn't just bury her. Even in her death, she was precious to the family of God.

5. She Made Coats and Clothes for the Widows (Acts 9:39)
She took away time to work with her own hands to do something for the widows. She didn't just say, "I'll give them the cloths, let them make their coats!" Her generosity had an intense touch of love. It was not just the coats but the love woven into those fabrics that couldn't make the widows hold back their tears. The coats were not just a symbol of charity. They were emblems of deep love, and precious time spent for each of the widows. I have a feeling that Peter wasn't called to raise up Dorcas. But, perhaps the tears of the widows compelled compassion. I am reminded of Jesus meeting the widow of Nain and being moved by her tears. How different is this little unknown Tabitha from the well known King Herod! Herod knew that nobody would mourn his death and so ordered that when he died, all the prominent men of the city must be killed so that there would be some mourning around. In those days, they even hired mourners. But, the scene in Acts 9 is totally different. The tears of the widows were not tears of bereavement, but tears that testified of Dorcas' love for them.

Of course, Peter had to remove all the women weeping there, in order to pray. However, we are also told that when Tabitha was raised, he presented her to them and the disciples.

6. She was a Woman of Deep Honor (Acts 9:40)
We are told that as soon as Tabitha opened her eyes and saw Peter, she sat up. Of course, she needed help to stand up. But, her very act of intuitively sitting up reflects the deep respect and honor that was inbuilt in her heart. She had self-honor and she also had respect for an elderly brother and man of God.

Faith, good works, charity, communion, fellowship, love, and honor: how distinctive to find them all in this disciple of Joppa!

But, then we are told that she became sick and died. How could this have happened to a person like her? The Bible doesn't tell us that people of God will not get sick. Even Elisha became sick (2Kgs.13:14). We are certainly told to call the elders to pray for us when we get sick (James 5:14). Nevertheless, a child of God must not see sickness or illness as a misfortune. Nothing in this world, no suffering, can compare with the glory that God has in store for His own. But, then when we stand before Him on the that Final Day, will the Word be able to testify that have been full of Good Works? (1Jn.5:2,3,4,7).
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Religion and Culture: Differences (Table)



NOTE: This is not a dogmatic stance, but only an hypothetical exploration attempting linguistic clarification.

Culture and Religion are not the same, though they are very close. There are various theories that suggest a model of relationship between them. One of them tries to see Religion as the soul of culture. This view doesn't consider the fact that there could also be non-religious cultures. Perhaps, one may quote the Pirahas as an example of such a culture. (Wiki) Of course, this doesn't rule out the fact that some kind of belief-system may be involved in a culture.

Another view looks at Religion as an organic part of Culture, but in such a manner that it affects the other parts.

We suggest here that the elements that can be altered through religious effect are religious elements, and the basic elements that religion may use (e.g. language, art, science) for its own purposes are cultural. Of course, there are cases where the usage takes on religious flavors; however, the basic "culture" is still distinguishable from the adoptions. Purely cultural elements are essentially different from the religious ones. Culture and Religion can be identified separately from each other if we keep this distinction clear. The cultural elements must not be confused with the religious elements. Thus, people having differing beliefs can still follow one culture and only disagree with regard to religious elements or belief-related elements (such heterogeneity is intense in metropolitan cities); however, there usually is a particular spirit of the age and world view in general. Also, certain cultural traits may be identified as grammatical directives of a particular culture providing the functional rules for interpreting the meaning of symbols within or from its context.

Hypotheses

Let’s introduce the following two hypotheses as the formula for identifying and distinguishing elements of culture from elements of religion (in religion, also including anything of a religious nature, including ideological elements):
  • Any element that is grounded on a belief-system of a metaphysical nature is religious.
  • Any element that is grounded on nature and the natural, even if it were an imitation of it, is cultural.
On the basis of the above two hypotheses, let’s preliminarily suggest the following table of elements of culture and religion (noting also that some elements mentioned here may not necessarily be present in every religion or culture):

Table of Differences

ELEMENTS OF CULTURE ELEMENTS OF RELIGION/FAITH
Science/Reason Beliefs/Faith
Entertainment Worship
Taboo Sin
Society Community
Progress/Development Salvation
Shame Guilt
Aesthetics Ethics
Arts Morals
Relatives Absolutes
Language-Grammar Scriptures/Rites/Rituals
Communication Prayer
Life-style Life-values
Dynamics Fundamentals
Change or Transition Reformation
This-Worldliness (Secularity) Spirituality
Vocation/Profession Calling/Concern
Market/Shop Temple/Shrine 
Throne/Scepter Altar/Sacrifice

Principle1: If anything has the characteristics of culture and is relative, it falls under culture and not under religion.
Principle2: Changes in culture don't necessarily imply change of religion; change of religion doesn't necessarily imply change of culture.


Objections

Now, certainly objections are bound to arise against differentiating the cultural from the religious for the following reasons:

1. Traditional definitions of culture included religion as a part of culture. In fact, theologians such as Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923) maintained that culture is the soil of religion and Paul Tillich (1896-1965) believed that religion is the soul of culture. To Troeltsch, transplanting a religion from its cultural soil to any other culture would mean fatal to it. However, for sure, the soil theory doesn’t stand the test of anthropological studies. For instance, Buddhism took root in India, but is more at home now in China, Sri Lanka, Korea, and Japan than in India. Similarly, Christianity took root in Palestine, but "is" (?) more at home now in the West. As far as the soul theory is concerned, identifying a religion with a culture can pose problems in modern pluralistic experiences; for instance, it is possible that people sharing the same Western culture may be having a variety of different religious beliefs.

2. One of the most influential definitions of culture was given in the book Primitive Culture (1871) by Edward Tylor who defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” Of course, Tylor saw culture and civilization as synonymous in this opening definition of his book. However, later scholars have found such a definition to be too general and much inclusivist. In addition, there is also the debate about whether anthropology can be best studied as one of the humanities or as a science. Various responses to Tylor’s definition tend to either look at culture in terms of its external elements (e.g. artworks) or in terms of the internal mental states (psychological behavior) of individuals sharing a culture. But, again perhaps the width of Tylor’s definition can be narrowed down by not treating culture and civilization as fully synonymous.

Richard Niebuhr’s (1894-1962) five-fold classification of the relationship between Christ and Culture does certainly point to the fact that the religious can be distinguished from the cultural. Niebuhr’s classification saw the following ways in which Christ encountered Culture:
  • Christ against Culture (Antagonistic). In this model, Christ is seen as against human culture, especially the pagan one. This approach looks at culture as anti-Christian.
  • Christ of Culture (Accommodating/Agreeing). In this model, Christ is seen as not against culture but conformable and interpretable by its context.
  • Christ above Culture (Augmenting). This model doesn’t see culture as against Christ, but it also doesn’t see culture as being equal with Christ. It is based on Thomas Aquinas’ bifurcation of Grace and Nature; divine revelation is superior to human reason.
  • Christ and Culture in Paradox (Absurdity). This model was represented by Augustine (Two Cities), Martin Luther (Two Governments) and Soren Kierkegaard (Faith as Absurd) who saw in the relationship between Christ and culture a paradoxical tension between faith and reason. In essence, culture is this-worldly and impermanent, but Christ is from above and eternal.
  • Christ Transforming Culture (Altering). A more Calvinist and Reformed view sees culture as divinely instituted (God gave language and the first skin garments) and historically developed; at the same time culture is seen as tainted by human sinfulness and redeemable or transformable by the presence of Christ.
For anthropologists, however, taking the evolutionary and a-theistic approach to religion and culture, religion may be looked at as something that grows out of culture (evolving from animism on to more philosophical forms of religion). Such attempts tend increasingly towards religious relativism and the discouragement of absolutes. But, the evolutionary approach is not necessarily fool-proof. In fact, more recent studies point out that monotheism, not animism, explains several historical facts that are intractable on the evolution of religion hypothesis. Certainly, one can clearly notice that the elements of religion are distinguishable from the elements of culture.

Religion and Culture - Relationships

Case 1: Customs and Manners Knowledge of the culture within which a religion originated plays an important role in the cultural retention of certain aspects of a religion. However, in process of time as historical understanding develops, prior misunderstandings may be clarified. For instance, look at the paintings below:

Última Cena - Juan de Juanes
by Joan de Joanes, c. 1562
Manuel de Araújo Porto-Alegre - A última ceia
by Manuel de Araújo Porto-alegre, 1840

The artist, in the first painting, attempted to keep the original cultural elements like dress forms, vessels, etc intact within the painting; however, wherever knowledge of elements went missing (for instance, table customs and manners), he supplied it from his own cultural heritage. In the second painting, however, we find the Lord's Table to more resemble the middle-eastern format (e.g. persons reclining on couches with a shorter table in the middle; also, it's not the wafer but a middle-eastern bread that is shown).

Case 2: Dress Forms and Tools
But, in cases where such historical understanding of origins may be vague or none, the cultural form is retained. For instance, there have been historical attempts to trace the origins of Aryan religion in Europe. One attempt sees relationship between the Hindu Agni and Ignus (Latin, Fire), Mithra and Mithra (Persian, Friend), Varuna and Ouranos (Greek, Heaven). However, such historical tracings are absent in the Indian narratives; consequently, the cultural forms are very local. However, where historical knowledge is present (as in Hinduism that spread to South Eastern nations), the original forms remain intact. Thus, we see that the Indian Hindu deities are adorned in the cultural dress forms (saree, dhoti); similarly, the biblical angels appear in white dress with harps and trumpets. Also, the heavenly warriors appear with swords (not with machine guns and bayonets). In other words, while cultural forms may change, cultural elements historically fixed in religion don't appear to change.

Goddess Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma
Guido Reni's Michael

Case 3: Language
The Scriptures of Christianity were written in Hebrew and Greek. However, globally now, translated versions are the ones in use and language is not a dogmatic element of worship. In fact, the New Testament was written not in the Jewish tongue but in the more popular Greek tongue (embracing a form of cultural globalism of the day). But, in a few other religions, the original language plays vital role. For instance, in Islam, Arabic is considered as the heavenly language and in Vedic Hinduism, Sanskrit is considered as the language of the gods (See Wiki).

Further Notes from Discussion at Philpapers

Rationale for Differentiation:

1. When I put Science or Reason in Culture, I point out to the non-dogmatic nature of culture, which is open to change. This doesn't mean that religion doesn't embrace or is not born in cultures. It only tries to separate the one from the other. For instance, the gods and goddesses of Hinduism are still always portrayed as wearing Sarees and Dhotis (General Hindu Dress). It might be considered an offence to portray them in Western clothes. This talks about the stagnancy of "religion's culture". However, Hindus don't necessarily wear only sarees and dhotis. They don't find wearing jeans or western coats as offensive. But, in a ceremony where religion (its stagnancy) is dominant, for instance during a Hindu marriage, what one wears can be an ethical issue. Similarly, modern armies use guns and bombs, but the gods and goddesses of religion may still be only pictured with swords and arrows. That depicts the difference between what culture is by itself in historical development and how religion differs from it in its conservative holding to the "original culture" in which it originated. Another example would be the dynamics of linguistic development versus the language-culture of religion. For instance, in Islam Arabic is considered to be the divine language. However, modern Arabic has a dynamic history of development and modern Arabic is not totally the same as the Arabic of the 4th century. Similarly, in Vedic Hinduism, Sanskrit is considered the language of the gods; but, in modern times Sanskrit is no longer used for conversation. It is taught in the schools but never used. That talks about the dynamics of culture versus culturalism of religion and should highlight that their difference. Religion will have to use cultural elements for sure, because it is always born in some culture or the other. However, cultures don't remain stagnant; they progress, inter-change, embrace new patterns. But, there is a kind of dogmatic stance, an absolutist aspect to religion in general. There are many such examples that can be cited in this regard. However, it also seems that certain cultural practices (e.g. Birthday Cakes and Candles) will remain unchanged and may even be absorbed by other cultures due to their simplicity and appeal. Yet, the difference between what is cultural and what is religion will be evident in that the cultural element, unlike the religious one, doesn't have metaphysical issues attached to it.

2. When I put Altar/Sacrifice in Religion, I only indicate that wherever such ideas are found, these are not cultural symbols but religious symbols.

3. When I say culture is about aesthetics, but religion is about ethics, I mean that cultural context plays an important role in what is considered beautiful or valuable and what is not (for instance, in some cultures a long neck would be considered beautiful and in some cultures girls are fed to make them look stout because leanness is considered unattractive). However, religion/ideology is very prescriptive, more in the ethical sense because it gives the rationale about why an action is wrong and why it is right and describes the consequences, in religious/ideological/philosophical terms. For instance, one cannot say "In modern American culture, homosexuality is not wrong." One can say that most Conservative Evangelicals believe homosexuality is sin; and, many liberals and atheists consider homosexuality to be okay. In this case, ethics is certainly not a cultural but an ideological/religious issue.

4. When I put entertainment in culture and worship in religion, I am using the terms only as exemplary symbolic representations. Culture contains entertaining elements like dance, arts, drama, and music. Religion will use these elements and give them a particular form (for instance, church music or Hindu bhakti bhajan). In some cultures, religion even becomes the patron of some form of arts. For instance, the god Shiva Hinduism is called the god of dance. But, those are religious attempts to claim cultural elements. Shiva has only a particular form of dance; and for sure, the orthodox dance-system doesn't approve modern dance or non-traditional dance forms (even the Western). Yet, one sees as fact of matter that the common man (not the traditionalist) would be more attuned to modern and popular art-forms and appeals of entertainment than to the traditional.

See Also

Culture and Religion
29 Ways to Cultural Change According to Raimon Panikkar
Christianity and Culture
Religion and Culture: Problems in Definition
Discussion Page at Philpapers

Last updated on November 6, 2014
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