Thursday, July 6, 2017

#AltheaChapter18

30 days ago, the husband and wife tandem of Jason and Christine Joy gave me the privilege of participating in the well-conceptualized 18th birthday celebration of their daughter Althea. They were so kind to include me as one of the 18 guests who delivered messages of wisdom to the debutante.

This blog post is a slightly edited version of the message I delivered that night. It was a feeble attempt to go along with the party's "book" theme. Also, I antedated it to June 6, the day it took place.


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There was band in the early 1990s called After Image. It's most popular member is the vocalist Wency Cornejo, son of news anchor and broadcast journalist Mel Changco. One of the signature songs of the band was entitled Next in Line. If I remember things right, Wency wrote it right after graduation. It was a realization that he has moved to adulthood. He had new responsibilities in his hands. But there are also lots of uncertainties. So the first line of the song asks, "What has life to offer me when I grow old?". In other words, Cornejo was then asking “What will happen in the next chapters of my life?”

Turning 18 is truly an exciting chapter in one's life. It means you will now be considered as an adult capable of making wise decision on your own. That is why you are given the right to vote and sign contracts. Yet there are also many uncertainties from here and beyond. So it is also a legitimate question for you to ask, "What has life to offer me when I grow old?".

My first word of advice is do not fall into the trap of thinking you can control your future by sheer talent and determination. No, we do not have control over that. We don't even know what will happen tomorrow (James 3:14).

Job did not foresaw that in the next chapters of his life, he would lose all his donkeys, sheep and camels. He did not foresaw the death of all his sons and daughters in a calamity. He did not foresaw that he would soon suffer from painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.

And there was Joseph. Joseph did not foresaw that in the next chapters of his life, his brothers will sell him into slavery. He did not foresaw that he would soon be falsely accused of frustrated rape and find himself in prison in a foreign land.

My second advice would be, imitate what is common to these two men: Job and Joseph. They had unwavering trust in God in the midst of their afflictions. They held on to their integrity because they know fully that God "rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). The winds may blow strongly, the earth may shake violently, but we have a rock-solid foundation that cannot be moved by any force-- and that foundation is Jesus Christ.

My third word of advice, make the most of every chapter that the Lord gives. We do not know the length of this book we are living. Some books are long; some books are short. The most important thing is to please God in every page. When the last chapter of our life comes and we read the very last page, it will be the start of a brand new story. You will be back in chapter one,  this in Volume 2 of your life. It will be a story so glorious because “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Bible in the Hands of the Common Man (According to Manalo's Iglesia ni Cristo)

It has been long rumored that Iglesia ni Cristo members are discouraged, even prohibited, by their leaders from reading the Holy Scriptures. We have a primary source that seems to point to that direction. This is from page 57 of the late EraƱo Manalo's book The Fundamental Beliefs of Iglesia ni Cristo.

In page 57, this question was asked: "Why is a messenger (Felix Manalo) necessary to preach the Gospel when the Bible can just be read by anyone who knows how to read?"
Their answer: "Because the Bible is hidden in mystery"-- they're implying of course that only their messenger could see through the mysteries.

The next question asked is: "If those who are not sent by God study the Bible diligently, will they be able to understand and see God's will which he has hidden in mystery?"
The answer they gave is basically saying that you will only contribute to the confusion in religion if you will study the bible by your self. Only a messenger could handle the Bible safely.

This is directly opposite to what Evangelical Christianity we teaches: the perspicuity (clarity) of Scriptures even to the common man. For this reason, we encourage everyone to feast on reading and studying the God-breathed Scriptures.

Then in the next Q&A, they teach that if you will listen to non-INC preachers, your destiny shall be destruction. These is one of the ways cults control their people. They keep the Bible away from away from their members so they will not see the light. They can only believe what their ministers tell them. They scare them of punishment  if they dare to open their minds to other viewpoints.

This is what we ought to realize: though INC members may posture themselves as if they are knowledgeable in the Bible, the truth is they are ignorant about its message because their leaders kept the source of light away from them. May we find opportunities to bring the eternal lamp of the Holy Scriptures to these folks so that some of them may see the glory of Christ as revealed on its pages.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Original CRI Position on Justification

I watched this for the first time today but its transcript I have read a long time ago. A copy of the transcript was sent to me by the Christian Research Institute (CRI) circa 1999. The Original Bible Answer Man Dr. Walter Martin defended the Protestant position of Sola Fide against Roman Catholic position represented by Jesuit scholar Mitch Pacwa. It was then my first time to learn about the Council of Trent, the difference between imputation and infusion, and the word "justification" itself. This was CRI's position in 1999, that's 10 years after the death of its founder.

But gone are those days. The CRI lead by Hank Hanegraaff now champions the view of the Eastern Church that faith and works should not be polarized and uses James 2:24 as a proof text.

Skip John Ankerberg's long introduction. Begin at 33:30.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Treasures We Ought to Gather (Matthew 6:19-21)


A screen shot on The NIV 50th Anniversary app by Tecarta.
In the Holy Scriptures, we meet men of God who are well-to-do.

Abraham was abundant in livestock, silver and gold (Gen. 13:2). Before he was given a son, his frustration was the absence of an heir except his servant Eliezer (Gen.15:2-3).

When there was a severe famine in the land, Isaac was compelled to migrate in the land of the Philistines. There the Lord blessed his endeavors in agronomy and animal husbandry. On his first year of farming alone, his cropped yielded a hundredfold. It was like investing a hundred thousand pesos and by the end of the year, he earned a million. He grew so wealthy that the Philistines envied him. Eventually, their leader begged Isaac to move somewhere else because Isaac "have become too powerful". Perhaps they feared the great number of his servants could be transformed into a private army thus a treat to them all. (Gen. 26:12-15)

Then there was Job. After surviving the great test, he was made richer than before. He accumulated 14,000 sheep + 6,000 camels + 1,000 cows + 1,000 donkeys.

If we could spend more time going through the Scriptures, I'm sure we could find more of such servants of God who were well-to-do. I therefore conclude that one could be wealthy and godly at the same time. We can condemn the "health-and-wealth gospel" as a false teaching without demonizing those who are blessed with the skill of growing wealth.

Aside from giving us accounts of godly people who were wealthy, the Holy Bible also encourages diligence (Prov. 10:4), enterprise (Prov. 31:16), investments (Luke 19:22), and saving for future needs (Prov. 6:6-8).

But there is a kind of wealth-gathering that is harmful to our souls so Jesus instructed his audience to stop1 it. I see three things from our text:

1. IT IS A SELFISH FORM OF WEALTH GATHERING


NIV: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth... "
ESV: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth..."
HCSB: “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth..."

What's common in the translations above? They all point to a self-centered kind of wealth-gathering2. Selfishness is never ever God's intention to those whom he has entrusted wealth. Rather, what he wants them to learn is to do various good deeds and to be kind to those in need (1 Tim.6:17). He also wants them to know that wealth spent on doing good unto others is never wasted for it earns better rewards in the life to come (1 Tim. 6:18).

2. IT IS A VIEW OF POSSESSIONS THAT HAS NO ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

There are two kinds of treasures in the Lord's teaching. First, are the treasures on earth. The second one is treasures in heaven. What is being corrected here is the zealous collection of the first kind of wealth without giving value to the second kind. It is a view of possessions that ignores eternal and spiritual things. It is focused only on things that are visible to the physical eyes. We will identify this as materialism: "The theory or doctrine that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life."3

Materialism is foolish because:
i. Our earthly possessions won't last forever. They could be ruined or stolen (Matt. 6:19)
ii. Upon death, we cannot bring them with us (1 Tim. 6:7)
iii. It leads to the practice of various evil deeds (1 Tim. 6:9-10)
iv. It is contrary to the very essence of the Christian faith which values unseen things above all (2 Cor. 4:18)

3. IT IS A SYMPTOM OF MISPLACED LOVE AND DEVOTION

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Whom are we suppose to love above all? To whom are we suppose to offer our most passionate devotion? Of course you know very well that it should be unto God. We are to love him with all our hearts, souls and minds (Matt. 22:37). But if that love and devotion is dedicated to earthly treasures, it just shows that we are offering our worship to created things, not the Creator. Preoccupation on treasures that will not last is a symptom of misplaced loved and devotion.

It is vital that we understand what the word "heart" means in 6:21. Most of the time, we understand it to mean as the muscle inside our chest that pumps blood all-over the body. But for the ancient Jew, it could mean "the center or focus of man's inner personal life. The heart is the source, or spring, of motives; the seat of the passions; the center of the thought processes; the spring of conscience.4" And this is what was intended here.

The heart is the center of our personality. It encompasses the mind, emotion, and will. The heart dictates what will come out of the mouth (Matt. 12:34-35). An evil heart moves a man to do all sorts of evil acts (Mark 7:21-22). No wonder the wise father counseled his son to guard the heart, for it is the wellspring of life. It is the starting point of all our acts (Prov. 4:23).

When Jesus said "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also", what he meant was whatever you adore above all shall control your life. D.A. Carson puts it this way: "... the most cherished treasure subtly but infallibly controls the whole person's direction and values.5" (EN5)

  • Where do you go when you have the freedom and the time?
  • What do you do when there are no restraints?
  • What do you imagine when you think nobody knows what you imagining?

All these are determined by what your heart treasures.

Sometimes we think we can give half of our hearts to the Lord, and the other half to the world. But it doesn't work that way. The heart cannot be in two places at the same time-- it can only stay at the
place where its treasure is.

So how shall I start storing treasures in heaven? The good news is this: the Lord takes notice of every good deed done in His name. We can start by taking to heart what is already here in the current chapter we are tackling. The Lord rewards...
  • publicly unknown help to the needy (Matt. 6:4)
  • publicly unknown prayer (Matt. 6:6)
  • publicly unknown fasting (Matt. 6:18)
And once he sees your deeds done in his name, he will never forget them (Heb. 6:10). They will never be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). These are the treasures we ought to gather. Go and start filling your vault in heaven.

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ENDNOTES:
1. Daniel Wallace observes that the grammatical construction in Matt. 6:19 "either expresses a command to stop an action already in progress or establishes a general precept". (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics; Zondervan, 1996). Charles Quarles surveyed Matthew's Gospel and concludes that Jesus intended the former nuance. He remarks "Several features in Matthew suggest that Jesus observed that His disciples were too focused on earthly treasures and that His prohibition called them to change their priorities" (see Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ's Message to the Modern Church; B&H Academic, 2011)

2. D.A. Carson, "Jesus is concerned about selfishness in misplaced values." (EBC Volume 8, 1st edition; Zondervan, 1984)

3. American Heritage Talking Dictionary (The Learning Company, 1997)

4. Owen Rupert Brandon ("Heart" in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1st edition; edited by Walter Elwell; Baker Books 1984)

5. D.A. Carson, ibid