Monday, December 28, 2009

Zechariah’s Benedictus (Luke 1:67-79)-- Christmas: an act of kindness and redemption for a people in misery

Ang mga Pasko ng 2003, 2006, at 2009 ay may pagkakahalintulad. Pare-pareho silang malapit sa isang pambansang halalan. Sa mga ganitong panahon, ang mga Christmas party ng mga baranggay doon sa aming lungsod ay dinudumog ng mga pulitiko. Nang ginanap ang Christmas party sa aming baranggay noong petsa 22, nagkaroon ng problema sa parking space.

Hindi lang naman mga pulitiko ang nananamantala sa pagkakataon; ang mga barangay leaders rin ay tuso rin sa ganitong mga panahon. Ang pinipili nilang guest speaker ay yung inaasahan nilang makakapagbigay ng malaki-laking regalo sa baranggay pandagdag pondo. Kinaumagahan pagkatapos ng Christmas party, walang nagtatanong tungkol sa mensahe ng ispiker; ang tanong ay kung magkano ang kanilang ibinigay.

Naalala ko ang isang eksena sa jeepney bago magpasko noong taong 2003. Habang hinihintay kong mapuno ang dyip, naupo sa tapat ko ang isang pamilyar na mukha-- mukha ng isang frustrated politician (hindi pa nananalo sa halalan). Nandun yung paggalang ko sa kanya sapagkat bukod sa siya ay matalino, siya rin ay may mga prinsipyong pinaninindigan. Alam ko yun sapagkat nagging guro ko sa sa pamantasang aking pinasukan. Hindi naman siya militante, naaalala kong itinaguyod niya ang isang panukalang magsusulong sa kapakanan ng mga estudyante. Ayon rin sa isang mapagkakatiwalaang saksi, natutuwa ang kanyang mga anak sa tuwing natatalo siya sa halalan sa paniniwalang iiksi ang buhay ng kanilang ama kapag napasok sa pulitika dahil sa kanyang mga paninindigan.

Balik jeepney tayo: tinanong ko siya “sir, tatakbo po ba kayo?”. Sagot niya “oo, sa ticket kami ni FPJ”. Bilang isang kandidato, nakatangap rin siya ng imbitasyon bilang guest speaker sa Christmas party ng isang baranggay. Pero ang problema, hindi naman siya ganun kayaman. Tinangap niya ang paanyaya sa kanyang maging guest speaker sa isang kondisyon: “mampasimbalo tayo, mangiter ak met balet say anapen tayun kanepegan et aliwn satay kuwarta nu ang inggen say naasul tayun kakabatan”
Translation: “magbago na tayo, magbibigay rin ako pero ang dapat nating hanapin ay hindi ang pera kundi ang maiigib nating kaalaman.”

Pagkatapos ng eleksyon , hayun… talo nanaman ang aking mahal kong guro.

Hindi ko narinig ang kanyang talumpati at dahil hindi naman niya pinanghahawakan ang Limang Sola na pinanghahawakan ko, malamang hindi rin tugma ang kanyang talumpati sa mga pinaninindigan ko. Subalit tama siya sa isang punto: mababaw ang kaalaman ng mga tao pagdating sa "tunay na diwa ng pasko". We need the right guest speakers for Christmas. Today, I chose Zechariah, father of John the Baptist.

Introduction to the guest speaker
Isang kaugalian sa mga programa na bago magsalita ang guest speaker, mayroon munang nagbibigay ng introduction to the guest speaker. Karaniwa’y inilalatag dito ang credentials ng panauhin tulad ng kanyang eskuwelahang pinasukan, mga kursong tinapos, mga puwestong kanyang nahawakan at iba pang mga achievements. Anu-ano ba ang mga kuwalipikasyon ni Zechariah upang magbigay sa ating ng mensaheng pampasko?

1. He is the father of the other miracle child in the Christmas narratives- There were two miracle babies in the biblical Christmas narratives. One was conceived by a virgin; the other one was conceived when his parents are in old age and past reproductive stage. He has a personal knowledge and experience in the Christmas story.

Mary even lived at his house for some time: “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home” (Luke 1:56)… they must have shared each other’s stories like their encounters with the angels (though he is mute by that time). Pinag-usapan rin siguro nila ang mga magiging kanya-kanyang papel ni Hesus at ni Juan Bautista sa kasaysayan.

2. He is a righteous man—“Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).

3. Just underwent pruning—Though he is righteous ang productive in God’s service, he lacked the faith to believe the angel’s announcement that he will have a son. It just sounded too good to be true. So for about nine months (his wife’s pregnancy period) he was put under discipline by the Lord. This is an example of a productive vine pruned for even more fruitfulness.
John 15:2 "... every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful"

4. The Benedictus (Zechariah’s song) is part of inspired scripture; It is “useful”, “profitable” for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16); He was so filled with the Holy Spirit when he uttered this song (Luke 1:67)

You see, the people are very much interested in what his child will be. Luke 1:65-66 “The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?"”

But in his song, he spent most of the time talking about the Messiah. For the first seven verses of His song (68-75), it’s about the coming of the Messiah. Only in verse 76 does he start to talk about his child and he does so as he contemplates on the role of his Son John the Baptist in this new age that has dawn—the coming of the Messiah. So Zechariah’s song is more about the coming of the Messiah than the coming of John the Baptist.

Zechariah’s main point: Christmas is an act of kindness and redemption for a people under misery.

v.68: “"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people." We can see that from the two verbs used here: “Come” (visit) & “redeem”

This word translated as Come or visit (episkeptoma) is “often used in a charitable way” (Walter Liefeld, EBC).

James 1:27—“look after” orphans and widows (care for those who are helpless)
Matt. 25:36—I was sick and you looked after me (care for the weak)

The usage of the word episkeptomai in James and Matthew indicates attending to the needs of those who are in misery. So when Zechariah says that “the Lord has come (visited; episkeptomai), he sees Israel in a state of misery, in anguish; and the Lord visits to care for his people.

Same is true for the verb redeem. It is used for God’s actions in behalf of his people. (see Psalm 107:2—and the rest of the Psalm where the redemption of God was experienced by different types of people in misery: those lost in a dessert; those who are languishing in jail; those who are about to die in terrible disease and seamen stranded at sea for violent storm. These are all portraits of people in misery who tasted the Lord’s goodness. They are called the redeemed.

The Lord Jesus affirms his ministry to those who are in misery. Luke 4;18… ‘"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to release the oppressed,”

From what types of miseries did Jesus came for?

1. Christmas is an act of kindness and redemption for a people under physical miseries.
It may come as a little surprise to you, Zechariah’s first thoughts on Christmas is not deliverance from spiritual miseries, but physical miseries, specifically their political problems (v.71, 74). By this time they are under Roman rule. But in Israel’s history there were others who hated them: If you have followed Pastor Jun’s teachings, they were often judged by the Lord for their cruel acts against Israel (Assyra, Babylon, Cush, Edom, etc.). In recent times, you have an Adolph Hitler who was a notorious anti-Semite. But the greatest enemy of Israel is yet to be revealed. I’m speaking eschatology now (end times). Daniel 9:27 mentions a person who would make a covenant with Israel for seven-years (tribulation period) but in the middle of the covenant, he will break it. He will proclaim himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4). He is the anti-Christ himself and he will be the greatest hater of God’s people in history. (Matt.24:15-21;)

Zechariah says Christmas is for this very purpose: to get rid of the miseries of his people caused by their enemies.

The grounds of physical deliverance:
God is faithful to to the covenants he has made in the past.

You must understand that our guest speaker Zechariah is and Old Testament believer. Some concepts we have about Christmas are very true, because as Christians we know the gospel well. We know the truth of the word made flesh who dwelt among us (John 1:14) we know him who was equal with God yet made himself empty—of no reputation and became obedient unto the cross. We know the meaning of Christmas because we have 27 new testament books to expound it to us. But our guest speaker’s bible is the Old Testament. Not even one of the NT books were written during his time.

Yet there are Old Testament concepts of Christmas which are so foreign to us, you won’t find them as themes even in the best Christmas songs. This is where we can glean treasures from Zechariah. He will enrich our understanding of the gospel by showing us unfamiliar Old Testament concepts.

I say again: God’s grounds for sending physical deliverance for his people is because of his faithfulness to the covenants he has made in the past.

The first of these is his faithfulness to the Davidic Covenant. To avoid getting entangled with unnecessary things, let me just simplify that God has promised to King David that the reign of his descendants shall be forever. 2 Sam 7:16: “"Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" But you know what happened, most of the succeeding kings were disobedient. They did not walk in fear of the Lord, therefore their kingdoms are weak and thy were trampled upon by their enemies.

In faithfulness to his covenant and to rescue his people from misery, God gave us Christmas so he could raise a powerful king from David’s line (Matt.1:1); their usage of the imagery horn in very different from how we us it. Ano ba maiisip ninyo kapag sasabihin kong si Randy ay tinutubuan ng sungay? Masama di ‘ba? But in Hebrew idiom, a horn is a symbol of power. As Moses gives blessing to the tribes of Israel, this is what he said as a blessing to Ephraim & Manasseh: “In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox. With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth.” (Deut. 33:17). Horn is a picture of power—this king that God has raised in Christmas is powerful for the deliverance of people.

The second ground for sending physical deliverance is his faithfulness to the covenant with the patriarch Abraham (1:72-73). Abram was comfortable at Ur when God suddenly made this covenant with him See Gen. 12:1-3.
1. To be made a great nation- a nation is a people with a common ancestor occupying a land; Moab is the father of Moabites; Ben-Ammi is the father of the Ammonites.

Abraham live during th time when nations were young. Let me explain. After the flood there were only eight persons alive: Mr & Mrs. Noah; Mr. & Mrs. Ham; Mr. & Mrs. Shem; Mr. Mrs. Japheth. All the genetic variations we have today (singkit; kulot; unat; puti; itim; matangkad; pandak) are from that four couples.

Only after the tower of Bible were various groups scattered according to their language. The initial nations were recorded in Genesis 10.

Abraham lived when the nations were young. He was comfortable living in his home and hith the nation but God suddenly called him asking him to leave and to occupy a land with a nation descended from him. Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob and Jacob begat 12 sons—which now comprises the nation of Israel. Israel therefore is the recipient of promise.
2. To be blessed
3. Protection from enemies- Zechariah’s very concerns
4. To be a channel of blessing

Zechariah is not alone in connecting Christmas with the Abrahamic covenant blessings—even Mary has this concept. When she was pregnant: LK 1:54-55 “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."

~ We who are in Christ are recipients of this blessing too (Galatians 3:14)
~ But there is a problem. God’s promises of blessing in the Davidic and Abrahamic covenants were given for a purpose. Luke 1:74-75—“to enable them to serve without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”
~ People are not ready for that. Even if God grants all the physical blessings provided in the Abrahamic promises, they will not serve God in holiness and righteousness. Unregenerate men cannot do that.
~ So God will not rescue us from physical miseries apart from another form of misery—and that’s spiritual misery. That’s our second point.

2. Christmas is an act of kindness and redemption for a people under spiritual miseries (Luke 1:77-80)
~ Zechariah addresses his baby about his role in God’s redemptive plan… that is to deal with sin.
God wants to deliver his people from physical miseries, freedom from foreign power yet they are in bondage to another power. In Paul’s lingo, he calls it in bondage to sin. All the miseries in the word are a product of sin. Before sin came, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen.1;31). You have a different picture of the creation when you come to chapter 3 when man fall into sin. “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen.3:17)… “"It will produce thorns and thistles for you" (Gen.3:18)… “'from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (3:19). .. Sa tuwing may batang nauulila; sa tuwing may babaeng nagiging balo, sa tuwing mayroon tayong matalik na kaibigan o mahal sa buhay na namatay na o kahit nandun pa lamang sa ICU at binabantaan ng kamatayan, maraming tao ang nagdadalamhati, marami ang tumatangis, sino ang dapat na sisihin sa ganitong mga pighati: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5;12). Sin has brought nothing into the world but misery. It never gave men to happiness; and all it offers is affliction.

In a sense, I am also a prosperity preacher. I believe God’s will for his people is perfect health and prosperity. Yes God will grant us perfect heath and perfect prosperity after sin is totally eradicated. The other side however (those prosperity preachers you see on TV) says that God’s will is health and prosperity now.. now… now. And if you are not, there is something wrong with your faith.

A Christmas message must therefore face the issue of sin for he came to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21). When I was a radio listener of John Macarthur, one of the most unforgettable messages I heard is titled “The Ugliness of Christmas”. It was an unusual title for a Christmas message. Not the title alone but even the message itself is unlike other Christmas message I heard before. It was heavy hamartiology—an exposition of what sin is. He justifies it by saying: “the real beauty of Christmas is to understand the ugliness that it cures” .

I can name two misconceptions during Zechariah’s time:
1. Being biologically descended from Abraham guarantees covenant blessings; It is the very error John the Baptist (our speaker’s son) addressed during his ministry: Luke 3:8-9 “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Jesus says: “"If you were Abraham's children, then you would do the things Abraham did.

2. Mosaic Sacrifices settles the issue of sin.—(Heb. 10:3-4); The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. And so Christ came to sacrifice himself (Heb.10:8-11). There is a body that must be offered so that’s why there is incarnation. So when John the Baptist saw Jesus, he shouted "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1;29)

If you will go on reading, you will arrive at the discussion of the New Covenant which will accomplish two things. First, transformation (v.16) and forgiveness (v.17). sin is therefore dealt with with the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus. By dealing with sin, he also prepares us for the physical blessings. We are now able to serve God in holiness and righteousness all our days.

As Zechariah ends his song, he presents a metaphor about this new age in redemptive history. He describes is as “dayspring; a dawning; rising of the sun”. It indicates that the previous age is characterize by darkness. Our lives, our deeds, our ways are thoughts, our beliefs are darkness. (Eph. 4:18) We were all walking in the wrong way, we were following the wrong path, but because of God’s tender mercies, God sent forth his son to give us light. “"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12);

That’s the story of Christmas: God saw our miseries, both physical and spiritual, so he gave his Son so he can deliver us from all of our afflictions.
---------------------------------------

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ang LEON: Mabangis at Mapagmahal

Hosea 5:14-6:1 (NIV)
For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
like a great lion to Judah.
I will tear them to pieces and go away;
I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.

Then I will go back to my place
until they admit their guilt.
And they will seek my face;
in their misery they will earnestly seek me."

"Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.



Nang mga panahong malinaw pa ang RPN sa aming telebisyon, nakapanood ako ng mga programang isiningit nila mula sa National Geographic. Sa isang programa, ganito ang aking natunghayan:

May isang pangkat ng mga zebra ang payapang kumakain at naglalaro sa may damuhan. Pagkaganda-ganda ng mga stripes sa kanilang mga katawan. Wala silang kamalay-malay na sa may kalayuan, may isang leon ang sumisilip sa kanila. Noong una'y dahan-dahan ang kilos ng leon sa likod ng mga matataas na talahid. Ngunit nang lumaon ay bigla na lang kumaripas ng takbo ang leon papalapit sa mga zebra.

Nang namalayan ng mga zebra na sila ay sinasalakay, sila rin naman ay tumakbo papalayo. Ngunit huli na ang lahat. Lubhang mabilis ang leon. Isang zebra ang kanyang sinakmal. Pumapalag-palag pa ang zebra ngunit hindi tinigilan ng leon ang kanyang paglapa. Tuluyan na ngang naubusan ng lakas ang zebra dahil sa mga pinsalang kanyang natamo. Ang leon naman ay tuwang-tuwa sa kanyang masarap na almusal.

Sa Hosea 5:14-6:1, Inihalintulad ng Panginoon ang kanyang sarili bilang isang leon na sumalakay sa mga bansang Israel at Judah:


For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
like a great lion to Judah.
I will tear them to pieces and go away;
I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.
(Hosea 5:14)

Ang makapangyarihang si YHWH ang sumalakay sa Israel at Judah, kaya naman sila ay lubhang nasugatan at nasaktan. Subalit salungat sa kalagayan ng inosenteng zebra, sila ay karapat-dapat sa parusa ng Diyos. Punong-puno sila ng immoralidad, pagsamba sa mga diyus-diyosan, at kawalang katarungan sa lipunan. Sila ay nagtaksil sa Panginoon. Nararapat lamang na sila ay parusahan ni YHWH; nararapat lamang na sila ay lapain ng mabangis na leon.

Subalit may kakaibang katangian ang leon na ito. Ang karaniwang leon ay hindi titigil sa paglapa sa kanyang biktima hanggang sa ito mamatay. Hinding-hindi na niya bibigyan pa ng pagkakataon ang biktima na mabuhay pa. Ngunit ibahin ninyo ang leon na ito:

Then I will go back to my place
(Hosea 5:15a)

"Then I will return again to my lair" (NET Bible; see also Duane Garret, New American Commentary)

Kapag naibigay na niya ang sapat na sugat at pasakit, ang leon na ito ay babalik sa kanyang lungga. Wala siyang intensyong tapusin ang Israel at Judah. Hindi niya nais patayin ang kanyang bayan. Siya ay babalik sa kanyang lungga sa dahilang:

Then I will go back to my place
until they admit their guilt.
And they will seek my face;
in their misery they will earnestly seek me
(Hosea 5:15)

Siya ay babalik sa kanyang lungga upang abangan ang pagbabalik-loob ng bayang kanyang sinaktan. Sapat ang mga sugat na idinulot niya upang magsisi at manumbalik ang kanyang bayan.

Nang makabalik na ang leon sa kanyang lungga, nag-usap-usap ang kanayang bayan. Ganito ang kanilang usapan:

"Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds."
(Hosea 6:1)


Magbabalik-loob nga ang Israel at Judah dahil sa mga sugat na iniwan sa kanila ng leon. Ang nakakatuwa, ang leon din ang magsisilbing manggagamot nila. Ang leon mismo ang magbibigay-lunas sa kanilang mga sugat.

Samakatuwid, ang mabangis na leon na ito ay mapagmahal rin naman. Ang mga sugat na dulot niya ay hindi para sa ating kapahamakan. Ito ay bahagi ng kanyang paraan upang tayo ay makapanumbalik sa kanya at sa tamang landas.

photo credit: http://standardrgb.com
-------------------------

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Si Obama, Ang Ladlad, at ang Kinabukasan ng LGBT Rights Movement sa Pilipinas

Bagamat ibinasura ng Commission on Elections (COMELEC) ang aplikasyon ng Ang Ladlad bilang isang lehitimong party list group, ang basa ko sa mga nangyayari (nawa'y mali ako), hindi magtatagal ay mabibigyan rin ng akreditasyon ang grupong ito. Kung hindi man sila makakahabol sa Mayo 2010, malamang sa 2013, pasok na sila.

Hindi maikakaila ang patuloy na paglakas ng suporta para sa gay rights movement dito sa ating bansa. Kamakailan ay nagpahayag ng suporta sa kanila ang Commission on Human Rights (CHR), iba't ibang mga bigating pulitiko, at iba pang mga maiimpluwensyang tao.

Malakas rin ang impluwensya ng kulturang kanluran sa atin lalo na ang Estados Unidos. Ang kanilang kasalukuyang Pangulo na si Barack Obama ay nagpapakita ng sigasig upang maisulong ang adhikain ng mga LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender). Ito ay bahagi ng kanyang pahayag:

"that's why I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act." (-Pres. Barack Obama)

Hindi lang mga karapatan ang ipinangako ni Obama sa kanila kundi ang pagtanggap sa kanilang mga relasyon bilang MABUTI at KAAYA-AYA:

"You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman..." (-Pres. Obama) (kasunod ay MASIGABONG PALAKPAKAN mula sa mga tagapakinig)

Ang paglakas ng puwersang LGBT rights sa Pilipinas ay mahahalata sa pananaw ng karamihan. Hindi na nila ito itinuturing bilang kasalanan o paghihimagsik laban sa Diyos na siyang may akda ng dalawang kasarian (lalaki at babae). Sa halip, ito ay ibinibilang na normal at kanais-nais. Isang patunay nito ay ang isang awiting namamayagpag sa himpapawid mula sa Dagtang Lason na pinamagatang Nagmamahal ako ng Bakla.

Ipaabot mo sa kanila ang iyong pagtutol sa kanilang mga pananaw at sila ay sisigaw ng "FOUL !!! Diskriminasyon 'yan". Malaki ang posibilidad na darating ang araw dito sa Pilipinas na kahit kasinganda't kasintalino ka ni Carrie Prejean, katakot takot pa ring mga pag-aalipusta, pangungutsa at pang-iinsulto ang tatanggapin mo dahil lamang ikaw ay tutol sa mga adhikain ng LGBT rights.

Psalm 12:8 "for the wicked seem to be everywhere, when people promote evil." (NET Bible)

Romans 1:32 "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (NIV)

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Singing Songs of Hope Amidst Laments

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
(Lamentations 3:22-24)

The verses above are well-known. Perhaps they are in your list of favorites. They are so popular that I could immediately recall two of the most treasured songs in Christianity:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
(Thomas Chisholm, 1923)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
New every morning.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord.
Great is Thy faithfulness
(Robert Davidson, 1975)

Perhaps you have sang them yourselves on a wonderful morning when the sunrise is breathtakingly beautiful and the fragrance of the trees’ blossoms fill the air as the wind blows gently. Birds tweet sweetly as if they were saying that all is well. Indeed, we should thank God for days such as these.

But could you sing those songs when you wake up in the morning and the sun is covered by dark clouds; the wind blows violently, the branches are broken the blossoms are scattered in the mud. Tweeting is heard no more as birds are nowhere to be found. Could you sing songs about the Lord’s love, mercy, and grace amidst the storms of life?

If we would understand the context of Lamentations 3:22-24, we can, yes we can sing not just when all things are bright and beautiful but also when the days are filled with extreme pain.

The early rabbis were the first ones to call this book lamentations—“loud cries”. The title in Tagalog bibles “Panaghoy” captures the idea perfectly. The book is composed of five laments (1:1-22; 2:1-22; 3:1-66; 4:1-22; 5:1-22). The writer (the scholarly consensus is it's Jeremiah) reflects it himself: “My eyes overflow with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people” (3:48).

Jerusalem was sieged by the enemy; there was famine in the city; the walls were broken and the enemy penetrates. The beautiful city was consumed by flames and the sacred things in the temple were looted.

It was such a very dark period in the nation’s history. Yet they deserved it. Jeremiah’s four decades of preaching and warning fell on deaf ears. They despised the word of the Lord for 40 years and now, they are paying the consequences.

Halfway through the laments, 3:22-24 appears as a ray of hope. Here, God reveals that though he must punish them, he did not abandoned them. I’m drawing three points from these verses:

1. The sustaining power of God’s mercy and love
We are not consumed” because of his mercies. They were suffering much but they were not totally destroyed because of God’s sustaining love. We may go though all the pains but God does not intend destruction upon our souls. Restoration of hearts wounded by sin is what he has in mind (Jeremiah 29:11).

2. The Unending Supply of God’s Compassion
His compassions “never fail” and “they are new every morning”. God’s blessing yesterday was awesome enough. Yet The blessings he give are not drawn from yesterday. He doesn’t give recycled compassion but they are new every morning appropriate for our current situation.

3. The Sufficiency of God in times of Distress
“The Lord is my portion” says my soul (3:24). A portion usually means “landed property, which was foundational to economic stability in ancient Israel” (NET Bible). Jeremiah looked around and everything that he treasured is now gone. The economic glories of the nation and of the people had been reduced to ashes. Yet Jeremiah says he doesn’t need those stuff. All he needs is the Lord so he waits upon the Lord his hope.
-----------------------------------

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

His Presence, Our Protection (Psalm 46)

Nang rumagasa ang bahang dulot ng bagyong Pepeng sa Pangasinan, kinansela ng Guiding Light-Dagupan ang kanyang worship service dahil lubog sa baha ang lungsod at mga karatig-bayan. Nang sumunod na linggo, sa habag ng Panginoon, ako po ang nabigyan ng pribilehiyong mangaral sa likod ng pulpito. Ito po ang buong manuscript ng mensaheng iyon.
------------------------------------------------------------------


His Presence, Our Protection
(Psalm 46)

Agosto ng taong 2001, libu-libong katao mula sa iba't ibang iglesiang Kristiyano mula sa iba't ibang panig ng bansa ang lumuwas sa Quezon City upang dumalo sa isang prayer and healing meeting sa pangunguna ng Don Clowers Ministries (DCM). Sa kagandahang-loob ng DCM, ang mga delegado ay nabigyan ng libreng lodging sa sari-saring budget hotels na malapit sa Araneta Coliseum kung saan ginanap ang naturang pagtitipon. Ang ilan sa kanila ay naka-check-in a Manor Hotel.

Sa loob ng Manor Hotel ay mahimbing na natutulog ang mga delegado-- hanggang sa pagsapit ng alas-4 ng madaling araw kung kelan narinig ang mga sigawan at daing, wala nang ilaw-- at ang lahat ay nagkakagulo. May SUNOG na tumutupok sa hotel at ang bawat isa ay naghahanap ng paraan kung paano makaligtas. Tinangka nilang tumakas sa pamamagitan ng mga bintana, subalit sa takot ng may-ari ng hotel sa mga magnanakaw, ang mga bintana ay may harang na mga iron bars. Kuwento ng isang survivor: tinganggal niya ang isang aircon unit upang siya makapag- hole in the wall.

Tumagal ang sunog sa loob ng dalawang oras. Hindi ko alam ang huling bilang pero halos tiyak ako na ito ay mahigit 70. Karamihan sa kanila ay hindi naman nadampian ng apoy o baga, kundi namatay dahil sa suffocation.

Itong aking kuwento ay bunga ng aking paghalukay sa sa mga news archives, ngunit mayroong isang bagay na sariwa pa rin sa aking alaala hanggang ngayon. Sa isang panayam ng isang TV reporter sa isang Pastor, ang tanong ay "Sa palagay po ba ninyo, itong nangyari ay plano ng Diyos?"

Napailing ang pastor kasunod ay ang sagot niyang "Hindi"

I do not want to withdraw my sympathy for that pastor. You can just imagine the pain seeing the lifeless bodies of members of your flock whom you love so much.

Yet I know from the moment I heard that interview that is was bad, bad, theology. It suggests that God is so helpless that he can't even implement his plan. Such a god is too weak-- that is not the God of the bible.

Kung siya ay talagang masugid na tagasunod ni Don Clowers, hindi nakapagtataka na ganun ang sagot ng pastor. Si Don Clowers ay isa sa mga nagtataguyod sa salot ng prosperity gospel. Nawa'y 'di na kumalat ang aral na 'yan.

Mga kapatid, kung kayo po ang lalapitan ng isang TV reporter at kayo ay kanyang tatanungin, "Sa palagay po ba ninyo, itong si bagyong Pepeng ay plano ng Diyos?"-- Ano po ang inyong isasagot.

Brethren, I have high hopes for you because I know that you are all well-taught. The last sermon you heard from our pastor before Pepeng ravanged our province was about the sovereignty of God over the affairs of the world so that when you tune-in to CNN, you will see the hand of God actively moving over the current events in Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, Iraq, Washington, and anywhere else on earth and in the universe.

Naramdaman ba ninyo ang pagkilos ng Panginoon sa nagdaang rumaragasang baha? O tulad ba ng kamangmangan ng iba, ang tingin ninyo sa nangyari ay hatid ng isang impersonal force na tinatawag nilang Mother Nature?

What we say about God after a calamity is not trivial. It is of immesurable importance. Pagkatapos ng kalamidad na tumangay sa mga ari-arian at mga anak ni Job, kanyang sinabi:

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:21)

Ano ang komentaryo ng bibliya dyan sa sinabi ni Job, "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." (Job 1:22)

The object of this lesson is keep our view of God high-- so that in the midst of calamity, we will not sin with our words.

GOD ASSURES HIS PRESENCE WITH US IN TIMES OF TROUBLE
Ang madalas naming laruin nang ako ay bata pa ay yung shatong/shato-- gamit namin ang dalawang patpat (isang mahaba at isang maiksi). Para mahati namin ang aming sarili sa dalawang koponan, ang ginagawa namin ay yung Impyang (hindi ko kasi alam ang Tagalog niyan eh). Yung mga naglabas ng palad ay magkakakampi. Yung naglabas ng likuran ng kamay, magkakakampi.

Subalit dahil may mga bata na mas mahuhusay maglaro kaysa sa iba, hindi maiiwasan na kung minsan, yung mga mahuhusay ay nagkakataong nagkakasama-sama at yung mga lampa ay nagkakasama-sama rin sa isang koponan. Kapag nakita mo na mahina ang iyong koponan, mapapakamot ka ng iyong ulo at makiki-usap ka sa kabilang koponan:

'Puwede bang amin na lang si ______________"


What's the point?
The point is that you want the best to join your team. But more else could you ask for if the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, the all-powerful God is on your side?

That is exactly what you can find in this Psalm.
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A VERY PRESENT help in trouble.
vv.7- "The Lord of hosts is WITH US..."
vv.11- "The Lord of hosts is WITH US..."

It was the promise given to Moses (Exo.3:12). Remember the parting of the Red Sea?
It was the promise given to Joshua (Josh. 1:5). Remember the conquest of the Promised land?
Because we are in Christ, the same promise is for us: "... and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, GOD WITH US)."

In God's presence we find protection (Psalm 23:4).
In God's presence we find blessing (Gen. 26:3)

THREE METAPHORS FOR GOD'S PROTECTING PRESENCE

1. REFUGE (verse 1)
Naaalala pa ba ninyo yung mga panahong may mga Vietnamese Refugees na naglalayag papunta sa ating bansa? Sila ay sakay ng mga bangkang hindi mo aakalain na makakatawid pala sa dagat.

Ang nangyari kasi, matapos magwagi ang mga komunista sa digmaan, inusig ng pamahalaan ang mga mamamayan na kumampi sa Amerika. Ang mga inuusig ay naghanap ng mga ligtas na lugar kaya't sila'y kung saan-saan napadpad: Malaysia, Thailand, Pilipinas, Hongkong at Indonesia.

Subalit ang inaasahan nilang ligtas na lugar ay mapanganib rin pala. Ayon sa mga ulat, dumanas ng sari-saring mga pagmamalupit ang mga Vietnamese sa mga Refugee camps (lalo na sa Thailand). Malaking bahagi ng tulong na ipinapadala sa kanila ng Amerika ay hinaharang ng korapsyon.

Ang bilang ng mga naitalang namatay sa Refugee camps ay 763.

489 naman ang naitalang dinukot, samatalang 863 kababaihan ang ginahasa.

They were looking for a refuge; a place of safety-- but they did not find it.

May mga naganap rin sa kasaysayan ng Israel kung kailan naghanap rin sila ng REFUGE, pero ang napuntahan nila ay kapahamakan:

ISAIAH 30:1-3
"Woe to the obstinate children,"
declares the LORD,
"to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
heaping sin upon sin;

who go down to Egypt
without consulting me;
who look for help to Pharaoh's protection,
to Egypt's shade for refuge.

But Pharaoh's protection will be to your shame,
Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace.

Contrast this with the refuge we find in God's presence:

Isa.25:4 "You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat"

Psalm 104:18 "the crags are a refuge for the coneys"
I don't know what a coney is (rock badger in some versions), but one thing I know, the life of his saints are more precious in his sight than coneys, sparrows or any other animal (Matt. 10:31)

2. STRENGTH (verse 2)
To proclaim God as our stength in times of trouble is to admit that we are weak., that is we do not have a stength of our own. We are entirely helpless without him.

Madalas ipakita ng Diyos ang kanyang kapangyarihan sa pamamagitan ng ating kahinaan.
Isipin na lang ninyo ang batang pastol na David laban sa bihasang mandirigma, at ang dambuhalang si Goliath.

Isipin rin ninyo ang kakarampot na mga mandirigma ni Gideon.

2 Cor.12:9 ""My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

3. FORTRESS (verse 11)
"an isolated, elevated place where people built a stronghold against the enemy". (Willem Van Gemeren, EBC).

Yet staying in man-made fortresses, no matter how inaccessible and thickly walled, is not an assurance that you are safe.

Remember Edom?
Obadiah 3 "The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, `Who can bring me down to the ground?"... And God destroyed them.

Only in God do we find a fortress where safety is guaranteed

FEARLESSNESS-- The result of our Awareness of God's protecting presence

1. Fearlessness amidst Natural Catastrophes
~ amidst the most horrifying earthquakes:
" Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea" (vv.2)

~amidst the fierciest floods
"though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." (vv.3)

Because there is safety and stability in the city where God dwells (vv.4-5):
"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day."

2. Fearlessness in the midst of man-made catastrophes:

Ang mga kalamidad likha ng tao ay mapanganib rin gaya ng mga natural na kalamidad. Isipin ninyo ang ginawa na at maaari pang gawin ng tao:
i.pagsalpok ng eroplano sa isang gusaling sentro ng ekonomiya
ii. pagpapakalat ng mga liham na may lamang anthrax o bomba
iii. pag-iwan ng mga poisonous gasses sa mga mataong lugar
iv. paglalagay ng lason sa mga baby's food na nasa pamilihan
v. paglason sa ating water supply
vi. pagpapasabog sa mga oil depot (kaya nga pinapalayas na ng konseho ng Maynila yung nasa Pandacan)

But by the mere voice of God, the most powerful human forces will be stoppd (vv.6-9). Kahit magsabwatan pa ang mga makapangyarihan sa ibabaw ng lupa, hindi nasisindak ang Diyos. Pagtatawanan lang niya sila (Awit 2:4).

Do you know how wars are ended? Verse 9 reveals that God's hand is behind the ending of wars. He determines how long will they last, and one day he will end the very last battle in history (Rev. 20:7 ff.)

THE CHIEF END OF GOD'S PROTECTING PRESENCE
The chief end of God's protecting presence is the exaltation of himself-- that is God's glory.

Psalm 46:10 ""Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

CONCLUSION
Matapos ang paglilitis sa Diet of Worms, si Martin Luther ay tinanggalan ng legal rights. Ibig sabihin, walang proteksyon ang batas para sa kanya. Isa kang kriminal kung siya ay iyong bibigyan ng pagkain o bahay na matutuluyan. Kung makakasalubong mo siya sa daan, maaari mo siyang hampasin ng dos-por-dos sa batok o pukpukin ng martilyo sa noo-- at WALA kang pananagutan sa batas. Hindi ka makukulong ni hindi ka magmumulta ng kahit isang kusing. Hindi lang iyon ang panganib na pinagdaanan ni Luther sa kanyang buhay, at tulad rin naman natin, tiyak na dumaan ang iba't ibang suliranin sa buhay niya.

Madalas daw kay Luther na kapag may problema, kanyang niyayaya ang kanyang mga katabi, "Halika, awitin natin ang ika-46 na Awit". Paborito talaga niya ang Psalm 46, kaya nga naisulat niya ang isang himno na pinamagatang A Mighty Fortress is our God.

If by some reason, Luther was inside Manor Hotel eight years ago (of course not to attend Don Clowers' meetings), he would have asked others to sing with him. "Come, let us sing the 46th Psalm".

For even in death, his protection never ceases for those who are truly his: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life... will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39)
-----------------------------------------------------

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Magpakabusog tayo sa Paglilingkod (Nourishment from Christian Service)


Tayo ay madaling gutumin. Hindi pa man natutunaw ng sinangag na ating inalmusal, bumibili na tayo ng palitaw na tinda ni Aling Ansang. Maya-maya lang, pananghalian nanaman—at hindi natin kayang isuko ang ating extra rice. Bago sumapit ang alas-3, napapaindak na ang ating tainga sa kalembang ni Mamang Sorbetero. Ayos lang yan!—kung ‘yan ba ang ating ikalulusog eh…

Sa kanyang pagkakatawang-tao, ang ating Panginoong Hesus ay:
Nagugutom rin: Mateo 4:2
Nauuhaw rin: Juan 19:28
Inaantok rin: Mateo 8:24

Sa limitasyon ng kanyang katawang-tao, meron rin siyang mga pangangailangang pisikal noon. Subalit para sa kanya, mayroong isang bagay na higit na pinahahalagahan niya kaysa sa pangangailangan ng kanyang katawan.

Nang sila ay madaan sa Samaria, ang kanyang mga alagad ay nagtungo sa lungsod upang bumili ng makakain (Juan 4:8). Habang wala sila, Kinausap ni Hesus ang isang babaeng Samaritana. Bunga noon, sumampalataya ang babae na si Hesus nga ang Mesiyas, at ang iba ba ay nakakilala rin sa Panginoon (Juan 4:42)

Pagbalik ng mga alagad daladala ang pagkain, siya ay kanilang inalok: "Guro, kumain po kayo” (v.31) Malamang nag-aalala sila dahil matagal nang gutom si Hesus. Subalit ito ang sagot sa kanila ni Hesus: “Ako’y may pagkain na hindi niyo nalalaman”.

Nagtaka tuloy ang mga alagad. Tanong nila sa isat isa: “may nagdala kaya ng pagkain sa kanya?”

Subalit mas malalim ang gustong ihatid sa kanila ni Hesus. Upang kanila itong maunawaan, nilinaw ni Hesus ang nais niyang sabihin:

vv. 34—“Ang pagkain ko ay ang gawin ang kalooban ng nagsugo sa akin at tapusin ang kanyang gawain”.

Para kay Hesus, ang pagtupad sa kanyang misyon ay pagkain. ‘Yan ang kanyang almusal, tanghalian at hapunan.

John 5:17: "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."
John 17:4: “ I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to”

When we serve God and seek to glorify him, we are not depriving ourselves. Rather we feed our souls. We are nourished by doing what he wants us to do.

Magpakabusog tayo sa paglilingkod sa Panginoon!

photo credit: US Food and Drug Administration
------------------------------------

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Cancer Within

After the six-part series on discernment, I think it is fitting to culminate this month with this video clip from the original Bible Answer Man, Dr. Walter Martin.



"The danger to the church today... is the person who wears the cloth of Christ. The person who wears the white collar or the cross and who stands behind the sacred desk and who is unfaithful to the word of God. That is the ultimate danger to the church. The corrupt and apostate shepherds who infest our theological seminaries and colleges and fill our pulpits across the United States and Canada who know not God, do not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and will stand in the way of anybody that wants to preach it. That is the ultimate danger to the church because it is inside the church. The cancer is within and it eats away and we don't recognize it. Or when we do recognize it, we don't do anything about it because we are afraid that people will be offended.We are afraid that people will call us narrow, bigoted fundamentalists." (Dr. Walter Martin)
--------------------------------
 Walter Martin Books

Monday, September 21, 2009

The One in us vs. the one in them (part 6 of 6: HOLY UNBELIEF-- Insights from 1 John 4:1-6)

The ministry of discernment can be a very intimidating task. Some leave it ONLY for the gifted. But you know what, you may not be especially gifted in this field of ministry, but I want to assure you that you can discern. Yes you can.

1 John 4:4 "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

You have overcome them, not because of anything inherent in you. Our text sets out the reason why: because he who resides in us is greater that those whose resides in them.

Rom.8:14, “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”

The same Holy Spirit who leads you to a holy living will also lead you into holy believing, and if necessary, he will also lead you to holy unbelief.
-----------------------------------------------

The Congregation Test 2: Holy People listen to holy teachers with holy messages (part 5 of 6: HOLY UNBELIEF-- Insights from 1 John 4:1-6)



Spiritual messages from spiritual teachers will be received by spiritual men

John 10:27: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

John 10:5: "But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."

The word of God will come upon his people with great conviction (1 Thess. 1:4-5)

In the process of testing, we should also ask,"What is the church's attitude towards this teaching?"

“if the community we have always trusted, if the church as the historic custodian of truth refuses this prophesy, we should be warned” (Gary Burge, NIVAC)

In the Roman Catholic church, the final authority is Sola Ecclesia- whatever the church says. As evangelicals, we are for Sola Scriptura. Yet it is wrong to think that the church has no value in teaching the truth.

“Those who claim that the church has no value and isn’t instrumental in teaching Scipture are wrong. The church is the pillar and foundation of truth and this “community of God” is instrumental in keeping us in check with the rest of the Christian community.” (Ray Aviles, BARM Public Square)

On his appearance on the June Cain Miller show Dr. Walter Martin pointed out that though he wrote a book on cults (The Kingdom of Cults), he was not the one who classified groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Cristian Science, etc. as cults. He said that it was the Christian Church who classified theses groups as cults.

I could recommend contemporary statement on the essentials of the evangelical faith:
.
Aside from contemporary statements, ancient documents are also helpful: the Heidelberg and Westminster cathechisms; The Apostles creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed.

These are helpful tools for testing the spirits.
Ano ba ang paniniwala ng mga taong banal noon at ngayon?

I have a friend from Grace Communion International (GCI), formerly the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). He is very much into theology; we discuss theological issues once in a while. Recently, GCI has embraced Karl Barth soteriology. What I am trying to do is to show my friend that Barth’s view is far from the evangelical consensus. I’m trying to warn him about the effects of these recent developments within GCI. This will surely affect GCI's standing in the evangelical community. I even think that GCI’s position is worse than Barth’s now, for they mix it with their long-held error of post-mortem salvation.

Test everything. Hold on to what is good. Shun evil.
Let us ask ourselves:
Will godly Christians celebrate this teaching?
If they treasure this doctrine, why would I reject it?
If they abhor this doctrine then why should I accept it?

Godly men will accept truth; and when you offer the same to ungodly men, they will reject it. They will find no beauty in it.

“He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God" (John 8:47)
-------------------------------------

The Congregation Test 1: Worldly people listen to worldly teachers with worldly messages (part 4 of 6: HOLY UNBELIEF-- Insights from 1 John 4:1-6)



In this test, we will ask these questions:
Who listens to them?
Who celebrates when they teach?

They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world,
and the world listens to them. (1 John 4:5 NIV)

For the unspiritual message of unspiritual persons will be received by an unspiritual congregation.

Nasa likas ng makasalanang tao ang ipagbunyi ang masama:
"Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32)

What does John mean when he says “they are of the world”?
Worldliness is opposed to what is heavenly and it appeals to carnal pleasures: envy; self-seeking; sensuality. It is associated with the demonic (James 3:13-15)

False teaching is enjoyed by sensual people; by a congregation hostile to God. Ang mga nakikinig sa mga gurong makasanlibutan ay yung mga kapwa nila makasanlibutan.

Nasa likas ng makasalanang tao ang ipagbunyi ang masama :

"Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:32)

So a rapper can release a perverse album and receive a platinum award.

So an ungodly book like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code could sell 80,000,000 copies.

That’s why they love documentaries such as James Cameron’s “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” which would tell them that Jesus’ bones were found in the Talpiot Tomb. They like those lies very much because if Jesus’ bones were found, that means the resurrection was a hoax. And if Jesus is dead, that means there is no Lord to obey. They could do whatever they want.

John 3:19 says ”men loved darkness instead of light” that’s why they love men from the dark.

Same is true with regards to false teaching.
Minsan, naiisip natin: “Kawawa naman, niloloko sila ng false teacher na ito”. But the bible reveals that they are not innocent. They are willing participants in the crime

2 Timothy 4:3-4: For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

From these verse we glean the following:
a. The demand for false teachers increases the supply. They collect false teachers around themselves
b. They listen to satisfy their itching ears; they want messages which are suited to their carnal desires
c. They deliberately turn their ears from what is true to listen to what is false.

~ What they want is not God. What they want is a BMW, that’s why they hired Kenneth Copeland so that someone will frequently tell them that God wants them to have a BMW.

~ They want to belittle Jesus, and so they hired an executive minister who will deny the deity of Christ. And when that executive minister dies, worldly people in the government will declare a National Day of Mourning in honor of the one who belittled Jesus Christ.

~ They love cursing that’s why they will gladly listen to their Sugong Palamura At habang pinagmumumura ng kanilang pinuno yung katunggali sa debate, nagdiriwang sila kasi mahilig sila sa pagmumura.

~ Who will celebrate at Brian Maclaren’s call for a 5-year moratorium on making pronouncements on homosexuality ? Only worldly people will celebrate that.

~ Who will celebrate Antinomianism? Who will rejoice over a notion that a a thief converted in 1999 can remain as a thief until 2009?

The unspiritual message of unspiritual persons will be receive by an unspiritual congregation.
------------------------------------------

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Creed Test (part 3 of 6: HOLY UNBELIEF-- Insights from 1 John 4:1-6)

In my previous post, we have tackled the need for testing the spirits to see whether they are from God or not. The first test that we have to do according to Apostle John is the creed test— what do they believe?; what are they teaching?

Is it consistent with Apostolic doctrine (Galatians. 1:8-9)?
Is it in harmony with previous revelation (Acts 17:11)?

In our text, John was addressing a particular Christological problem in their day—“a combination of elements, including emerging Gnosticism, docetism and Cerinthianism” (Craig Blomberg, The NT Definition of Heresy, JETS Mar. 2002). This is the reason why he laid down a Christological test.

Yet John does not intend here that the creed test will only be Christological. There are many other things that the Bible lays down as essential tenets of the faith. One helpful tool for this matter is Robert Bowman’s A Biblical Guide to Orthodoxy and Heresy (Part 2: Guidelines for Doctrinal Discernment).

The suggestion of Bruce Demarest and Gordon Lewis is also worthy of consideration. They stressed the importance of using provisional authorities like confessions of faith and historic Christian creeds:

when new in the faith. Like young children under the authority of their parents, Christians wisely depend rather heavily on their received traditions… They function as authorities until we have been able to check out their faithfulness to Scripture for ourselves” (Integrative Theology, Vol.1)
----------------------------------------

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Source of False Teachings (part 2 of 6: HOLY UNBELIEF-- Insights from 1 John 4:1-6)

Apostle John commands believers not to believe every spirit. Rather we are asked to “test“ the spirits. The Greek word is dokimazo- “to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing” (Louw & Nida lexicon). For not everything that glitters is gold; I know at least two store owners in our baranggay who were deceived by nice looking fake 500 peso bills. Same is true when it comes with doctrines. Not everyone who looks like an angel of God is from God.

Our text says that many false prophets have come into the world. “marami”—naglipana—nagkalat kung saan-saan at sila ay naghahasik ng lagim. They are not harmless. In his farewell address to to the Ephesian church, Paul referred to them as savage wolves (Acts 20:29).

They are the initial installments of the final anti-christ. In the end times, someone will emerge to ”oppose" and “exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped”, and shall proclaim himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4). He will be hostile to Christ and to truth. That is the future anti-christ. Yet smaller versions of him are already in the world by means of false teachers, promoting doctrines that are hostile to God.

As to the source of these anti-God ideas, it seems clear to me that here in our text and elsewhere, that such thoughts are diabolical.

1 Tim.4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons”(Yikes!!!)

2 Cor. 11:13-15For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.

—If your idea of demons is drawn primarily from watching horror films (yung mga biglang sumusulpot sa likuran; duguan ang mukha kasabay ng nakakakilabot na sound effects; o di kaya ay yung halimaw na lumalabas sa banga—at sabi ni Matet ay “Takot ako eh,”) then you know very little about demons.

One of the main activities of Satan and his minions is deception. He was present in Eden to deceive Adam and Eve and he would be present in Gog and Magog to deceive the nations. So Scripture testifies that from the beginning of history (Genesis) to the end (Revelation), Satan and his assistants are active deceivers.

These are not merely differences in opinion:
“behind the false prophet or false teacher is an evil spirit. Men simply do not speak out of their own intellectual attainments. Quite unconsciously they are being guided--really misguided--by an evil spirit, a “spirit of error,” (Ray Stedman)

Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) now Grace Communion International (GCI) taught some perverse doctrines during his lifetime: Legalistic observance of Mosaic feasts; Saturday as the only true worship day; dietary laws; WCG’s exclusivity as the true church. He also define God as a family (Father & Son are members). After resurrection, believers become a part of that God-family. And when you finally become a member of the God family, you will not find the Holy Spirit there for he is not a person but a force.

After his death, WCG moved to more orthodox positions on various essential issues of the faith. Yet WCG never declared Armstrong as a false teacher. I have read two books written respectively by WCG/GCI’s current leaders: Transformed by Truth (Joseph Tkach Jr.) and Liberating the Worldwide Church of God (J. Michael Feazell). In both books, it is implied that Armstrong was saved and is in heaven!

I was disturbed. So I asked my WCG friend if he himself is hopeful that Armstrong was saved. He affirmed it.

In defense of Armstrong, he reasoned out that his former shepherd was just uneducated that’s why he fell into such ideas. I replied gently that though we are not the judge of men’s eternal destiny, we should also hold that a man who has rejected the gospel is presumed to be lost. I would add now based on 1 John 4 that the source of Armstrong’s false teachings is not his lack of education. By John's apostolic authority, I believe that Satan gave birth to such dangerous doctrines.

In fact, you can be very educated and still teach anti-God and Anti-christ ideas. Bart Ehrman is a case in point. He is a top scholar. He studied at some of the best evangelical theological schools: Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. He studied under top textual critic Bruce Metzger. Yet he now denies the reliability of Scriptures. He is now an agnostic.

Good education or lack of it is not the source of false doctrines-- demonic influence is.

Photo credit: http://rachidian.blogspot.com
------------------------

Friday, September 11, 2009

Intro: HOLY UNBELIEF (part 1 of 6-- Insights from 1 John 4:1-6)


1 John 4:1-6 (NIV)
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
"

*** *** ***


If you have watched debates, you may have noticed that a debate starts with a proposition. One will be on the affirmative side; another on the negative side. A college debate may have this proposition: “Charter change will be beneficial to our nation”. One will agree with the proposition, one side will disagree. Then the debate happens.

When the Word of God expressed in propositions is preached, we must accept it as it is. We have no right to reject it. We don’t even have the right to propose amendments to the word of God. The word of God is perfect, so to modify it or revise it is indeed to destroy it. Spiritual people are believers. They say “AMEN” to biblical propositions.

But there is also a sense where spiritual men must not believe. The Macarthur Study Bible describes it as “healthy skepticism”—“doubting the validity of what is being said". Aside from John Macarthur, I will quote other respected bible teachers who espouse the same thing:

S. Lewis Johnson: "just as belief is an aspect of spiritual maturity so is unbelief a mark of spiritual maturity. In other words, to believe not certain things is just as significant as to believe other things" (a sermon titled "Test the Spirits")

Ray Stedman "To be a Christian you must be a believer, but it is equally true that every Christian is also called to be an unbeliever. There is a time when unbelief is the only right thing. The very same Scriptures which encourage us to believe likewise urge us not to believe. In fact they not only urge us, they command us not to believe. This is no contradiction, any more than to say that in order to live it is necessary both to inhale and to exhale. These are contradictory things: you cannot inhale and exhale at the same time, but both are absolutely necessary to maintain life." (Life in the Son, Expository Studies in 1 John)

You see, not all propositions are true.
Some are lies such as:


“Ang uling ay kulay puti”

“Ang yelo ay mainit”

“Si Bro. Manny ay guwapo” (I hope my mother will take the affirmative side; How about modifying the proposition by adding the word “medyo”… hahaha)


Not all propositions stated by a teacher/preacher are biblical. There are times when what is being taught has no scriptural basis. Even worse, there are times when a doctrine being stated directly opposes what the bible teaches. There are times when the holy man must withhold his “Amen”, even when everybody are shouting “Amen”. In some circumstances, to believe is evil and to doubt or disbelieve is holy.

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

For the Sake of God's People (part 6 of 6: "God's Power Manifested Through Weak Servants"-- Insights from 2 Cor. 4:7-12)-- with CONCLUSION

” So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
2 Cor.4:12 (NIV)

While God exposes the vulnerability of his servants forcing them to be dependent upon him, he does it for the salvation of souls. In Paul's thought, his sufferings are not just God-given; they are also purpose-driven. And its purpose is for the welfare of God's people..

“I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake (Col. 1:24).

“For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen(2 Tim. 2:10).

The difficult circumstances of a servant’s life are not coincidental; they are not accidents. They are part of the divine plan to accomplish things for those whom they minister to. As God comforts his weak servants, he equips them to comfort others also.

2 Cor. 1:3-4 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Conclusion


Why do you think God should use you?

Is it because you have graduated from a prestigious school?

Is it because you excelled academically?

Is it because you are so talented?


You may not think of your self as a super apostle,

but perhaps you think you are a super musician

or a super exhorter

or a super Cell leader

super intercessor

a super missionary

or a super administrator

or a super teacher

or a super giver

or a super pastor


Do you think God ought to use you because you are a vessel made of gold?

No, his servants are nothing but clay pots—

cheap and fragile.


May this teaching break our proud hearts

and remind us that the real treasure is God’s saving message and we are mere jars of clay.