Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Birth of the Long Awaited Messiah (Matthew 1:1-17)

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.


Matthew's "Boring" Introduction
It takes some perseverance to read all of the Holy Scriptures. It's not easy reading through the rituals of Leviticus, or the census figures of Numbers, or the strange visions Ezekiel. Any person who embarks on reading the Bible from cover to cover must have some degree of determination.

Genealogies with strange names are some of the less exciting portions of the Scripture yet Matthew introduces his gospel with one. In the few writing workshops I attended, we were told to learn how to compose a good introduction. Potential readers would discontinue reading if you have a crappy first paragraph.

Why then did Matthew begin with a boring genealogy? The answer is that it is boring only to the modern readers. For Matthew's audience, it is the most exciting thing that could be heard. It proclaims that Israel's long awaited Messiah has finally arrived!

Our lack of excitement over these verses indicates that our modern idea on the meaning of Christmas is distant from the ancient Jewish concept of the Messiah. A first century Jewish reader of Matthew would have had his heart thumping upon reading verse 1: "This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham". It calls to mind two important covenants in the Hebrew scriptures: the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

But before we get into discussing these covenant, we have to tackle foundational matters.

The Promised Seed who will Crush the Serpent's Head
The first two chapters of Genesis give us an account of how the world came into existence. God made everything in six days. Man was the crown of creation for he was made in God's likeness and image. All things were beautiful and perfect: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen 1:31)

The third chapter tells us about the entry of sin into the world. Adam and Eve chose to believe the serpent's lies. They rejected God's word. That single act ruined the world which used to be all bright and beautiful. Child-bearing became painful, even life-threatening. The ground was cursed therefore a man must go through painful toil so he could provide for himself and his family. The ground that used to yield only what was useful to man now also yields not just useless stuff but also things that would hurt him (thorns and thistles).

Then the worst of it all, the entrance of death and things associated with it, like suffering, sickness, murder and wars (Gen 3:19). All the heartbreaks and heartaches that you experienced as an individual and even the whole world in general is all because of sin's entry into the world.

Yet along with all the sad news contained in chapter 3 is a great promise. This is the first ever Christmas-related verse:

"And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15)

This verse is also known as the proto-evangelion or the first announcement of the gospel. An offspring of Eve would one day give Satan a fatal blow that would crush his head. The mastermind of sin's entrance into the world would be defeated in the end. The wait for the victorious Messiah started in the garden.

With this foundation in the background, we could now proceed tackling the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

Christmas and the Abrahamic Covenant
Genesis 12:1-3 is the primary verse on the Abrahamic Covenant: 
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.[a]
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.[b]
Abraham, who was then called Abram, was asked to leave the comforts of his home country to go and live into the unknown somewhere else. Along with it are promised personal, national and universal blessings. In faith, he obeyed.

This covenant also effectively narrowed down the puzzle into one nation. I mean, all the nations in the world came from Eve. From what nation will the serpent-killer come from? With God's dealing with Abraham, Israel is now identified as the home country of the Messiah. For from Abraham came, Isaac. And from Isaac came Jacob. And from Jacob came the 12 tribes of Israel.

A Scripture-informed Jew understood the connection between Abrahamic covenant and Christmas. For instance, Mary the mother of Jesus said:
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
(Luke 1:54-55)

Furthermore Zechariah, the father of the other miracle child (John the Baptist) in the Christmas narratives regarded the birth of the Messiah as a fulfillment of the oath made by God before Abraham that He will be against Israel's haters and oppressors (see Luke 1:71-75)

Christmas and the Davidic Covenant
I have said earlier that the puzzle has been narrowed down into a nation. It has been further narrowed will further be narrowed down into one tribe in Genesis 49:1 & 10 when Jacob said that the scepter will not depart from Judah. David was from that tribe. While reigning as king, God made a covenant with him. The most relevant promise in the covenant is found in 2 Samuel 7:16-- "... your throne will be established forever."

When the Angel Gabriel gave the word to Mary that she would be the bearer of the Messiah, he said He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

So it turns out that the genealogy that is uninteresting to us brings so much excitement to the original Jewish audience of Matthew, for it traces the lineage of the newborn-king and connects him to the great promises made by God to Abraham and David.

Doubting Jesus as the fulfillment of the evangelion?
Some may ask, "Whatever happened to the promise crushing of the serpent's head?". This is a legitimate question since we could still see so much evil and suffering all around in the world.

John the Baptist, the one who introduced Jesus to the public as the "Son of God" and "the Lamb" (John 1:34-35) sent representatives to Jesus one day to ask this question: "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Luke 7:19). Imprisoned (and eventually beheaded), perhaps he started to entertain doubts because Jesus hasn't been making any political progress.

And at the Emmaus road, there's a couple of men who hoped that Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel but were then frustrated when they witnessed how he was sentenced to death and eventually crucified (Luke 24:20-21).

Jesus told them: "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"

Excited about the sequel of the story
Some promises of God were fulfilled on Jesus' first coming. The reason why there is still sin, pain, evil, suffering and grief in the world is because the completion of the promises is yet future. To put it in another way, Christ's first coming is Part 1 of the story. It was exciting and the climax was when Jesus rose from the dead proclaiming his victory over sin. The sacrifice has been made. The atonement is powerful. “Death has lost it's sting!”

Yet the best is yet to come. And since Part 1 of the story was so much engaging, it should move our hearts to be excited about the sequel. He shall return! We shall soon see the fatal blow upon the serpent's head.
"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." (Romans 16:20)
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:10)
Do you believe these? If you don't, I would like to say this to your face, “"How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:20)

May the promises fulfilled in the incarnation of Christ give us the faith to wait for his return. And while waiting, may we live pleasing lives before our Present and Future King.


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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Mr. Enoch, how to be you po?"

From the free stock photos of pixabay.com

Key verses: Gen. 5:21-24, Heb. 11:5-6, Jude 14-15

"How to be you po?" is a common remark by social media users addressed to persons they admire or look up to. In effect it means "How do I emulate you?" or “How can I be like you?”. Suppose a good public school teacher received a plaque with the words "Most Outstanding Teacher 2017" engraved on it, and then she posted photos of the awarding ceremony, one of her admiring students may post this comment: "Lodi, How to be you po?”In response, the outstanding teacher would then give tips on how to excel in one's work.

Our ultimate model of godly living is Jesus Christ himself. The Father predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of His son (Rom. 8:29). Yet the Bible also encourages us to learn from the life of the faithful and imitate them (Heb. 13:7).

We have a long line of heroes worthy of emulation.
Among the dead,
  •  We have notable Old Testament saints
  •  We have New Testament standouts
  •  We have luminaries from church history
Among the living,
  •  We have contemporary inspirations
  •  We have ordinary Christians inside and outside of the local church whose lives spur us toward love and good deeds (Heb.10:24).

Out of that long and rich roster, I have chosen Enoch for today's blog post. One may ask: "Why Enoch? What's so remarkable about him?" There are two reasons for this:

First, the Genesis account of Enoch's life is one of the earliest hints of death's defeat, perhaps second only to the protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15). The most telling effect of man's fall in Eden is the penalty of death (Gen.3:19; Rev.21:8). The protoevangelium is the first announcement of the gospel. It says that in the future, one of Eve's offspring will give the serpent a fatal blow to the head thereby destroying Satan and his works. That is the first hint of death's defeat.

For the next hint of death's defeat, we have to go to the genealogy in Genesis 5. There's a clause that repetitively appears at the end of each person's life account: "then he died". Adam died (v.5); Seth died (v.8); Enosh died (v.11); Kenan died (v.14)... We could go on and on with the genealogy, and we can find this clause again and again: "then he died". It continues to our very own ancestry; that's why your great grand father and your great grand mother are no longer around. They lived, then they died because of the penalty of sin imposed at Eden.

The hint of death's defeat is found in Genesis 5:21-24. The refrain "then he died" is not found here:
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
It is further made clear in Hebrews 1:5,
"By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away."

The other remarkable thing in the life of Enoch is how he was commended by the Holy Scriptures. Hebrews 11:5c says, "For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God."

This saying is almost an axiom, "You cannot please everybody." Some will find delight in you. Yet some will also be unimpressed with you, or worse, some will be hostile to you. Enoch identified whom he cannot afford to displease, and that is God. So should we. We can afford to offend everybody as long as we know that the One who sits on the throne is pleased.

Because we believe pleasing God is the only thing that matters, we go to Mr. Enoch and ask him: "Mr. Enoch, how to be you po?"

From the limited biblical data we have, here I present this list on how to be like Enoch.

FIRST, to be like Enoch, you have to be consistent in your walk of godliness.

The key fact here is that he walked with God 300 years.

The ideal path of spiritual growth is an ever increasing progress in sanctification. But because of carelessness in playing with sin, our growth is derailed by our inconsistencies in many areas of Christian life. We fall, we rise again, only to be entangled again and fall by the same sin or another.

Enoch's life is an evidence that a consistent Christian walk in a period of 300 years is achievable. It may be tough and difficult, but it is doable. We should also take into account that our lives are much shorter. We will not even live half of 300 years. If Enoch could sustain a life of holiness for 300 years, then you could consistently pursue righteousness till 70 or 80 depending on the length of your earthly life.

One may say, "it is much easier to live a holy life in Enoch's day. For the modern generation, there is just so much evil influence around that it makes it difficult." But it is wrong to think Enoch was living in some golden age of holiness and morality on earth. We could cite two pieces of evidence:

1st, the Bible's description of the The Pre-Flood inhabitants of the world is this: "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." (Gen.6:5)

2nd, when Enoch prophesied (Jude 14-15), the content of his message was mainly judgment against wicked acts and wicked words indicating that the people around him are evil in their words and deeds. It was the message Enoch received from God because it was the need of the day.

So what can we conclude then? We conclude that even if we are living in an age of rampant evil, a consistent walk in godliness is doable.

SECOND, to be like Enoch, you have to find delight in fellowship with God.

The phrase "walked with God" indicates friendship and intimacy. If walking with someone is not a delightful experience, would it last 300 years? No way! Relationships are broken when at least one party no longer find delight in it. The same is true with our relationship with God. We will not walk with God if we find no delight in his friendship and intimacy.

Do you enjoy spending time with God? Do you find delight in feasting on his word? Do you find pleasure in prayer? Is there joy in your heart when you worship him? Without delight in God's presence, you will never be like Enoch.

THIRD, to be like Enoch, you should submit your will to God in which way to go.

For two people to continue walking together, there should be an agreement on which way to go (Amos 3:3). They cannot walk together if they insist going to opposite directions. They will just quarrel so we could not count them as two less lonely people in world 😞

In walking with God, it will not be the Almighty who will adjust to your wills and desires. He is Lord; you are not. You submit to Him! Find delight in submitting to him knowing he is the all-wise God. He knows the best destination for your journey with him.

FOURTH, to be like Enoch, you have to be a man of faith.

When the author of Hebrews understood the fact that Enoch pleased God, his conclusion was faith must be present in Enoch. For in the theology of the author, it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). His logic goes like this:
  1. It is impossible to please God without faith
  2. Enoch pleased God.
  3. Therefore, Enoch was a man of faith.

Enoch's faith consists of two components (verse 6):

  • Belief in God's existence.
  • Belief that he rewards those who seek him.

The world lives for power and gold. If you don't possess power and gold, the world will brand you as a loser. They will think you're living a miserable life. But if you are a man of faith, you are fully convinced that as long as you are seeking God, you will never be left empty-handed. He rewards men of faith.

FIFTH, to be like Enoch, you have to be a bearer and herald of truth (Jude 14-15).

The revelation Enoch received was scarce. He didn't have a copy of the New Testament. He didn't even have a copy of the Pentateuch. We have a fuller and richer deposit of truth. We have more protection against sin (Psalm 119:9,11). We have a fuller and richer message to share (Hebrews 1:1). We have all the tools that were unavailable in Enoch's day.  If Enoch was faithful bearer and herald of truth with the little amount of revelation he received, then you should be a more faithful bearer and herald of the full revelation we possess.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread (A Sample Prayer for the Lord's Followers, 6)


You may have had noticed that none of the petitions mentioned so far are concerned with the disciple's personal needs. They are all God-ward in focus: God's name, God's kingdom and God's will. So our prayers should not be motivated by self-centeredness but by a desire to exalt God.

"Give us today our daily bread"-- this is the first petition focused on the disciple's personal need.Yet even this request must be grounded upon the desire to glorify God. We want to feed our body that it might have the energy, strength and vitality to advance causes that are related to the first three petitions:

  • the cause of hollowing God's name
  • the cause of expanding his kingdom
  • the cause of fulfilling God's will

We can understand this better if we have a correct view of the human body:
1. Since God is the Creator of all, every human body belongs to him (Psalm 24:1-2)
2. God's ownership of the human body has a richer sense among us Christians because we have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
3. The human body must be used to glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:20; Colossians 1:16)
If these three principles are clear in our minds, then it will be easy for us to see that taking care of the human body must have a God-centered focus. There are just so many shallow reasons to be health conscious like having the abs to impress the girls or having the curves to attract the boys. The only reason that matters is so that we can have the strength and vitality to serve God.

This petition also reminds us that our very survival depends on God. The word "bread" here is symbolic of all our physical needs. These are necessities, not luxuries: food, shelter, clothing, and for the sick, medication. And if ever we have so much in life to cover these needs, let us not forget that these blessings are from the Lord's hand (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Your Will Be Done (A Sample Prayer for the Lord's Followers, 5)

In a world where selfishness reigns, praying for the Lord's will to be done is radical. The knees bow before the Sovereign ruler and the heart submits it's wills and desires to Him who knows what's best. Let us learn this discipline from someone who actually prayed "Your will be done."

Clothed in the frailties of human flesh, he was then thinking about the horrors and pains of his impending crucifixion, plus the experience bearing the weight of sin when he himself is sinless. So he prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42). For our lives to be consistent with this petition...

  • We must prioritize God's will over life's necessities (John 4:34)
  • We must strive to do whatever is pleasing to the Father (John 5:30 and 8:29)
  • We must be obedient to God even if it means suffering for him and dying for him (Philippians 2:8)

"On earth as it is in heaven"
In heaven, there is no rebellion. In heaven, all the angels obey. So we long for the same thing to be true on earth when men submit to God's will without reservation.

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Your Kingdom Come (A Sample Prayer for the Lord's Followers, 4)

We just know there is something terribly wrong in this world. There is pain, sickness, suffering, poverty, calamity, crime, injustice, deception, wars, and many other things. Man has proposed different solutions: education, change in government, economic reforms, etc., yet all these had apparently failed.The petition "Your kingdom come" comes from a heart that longs for the end of all the wrong things in this world.

In a sense, God has always ruled. He owns this planet and all it's inhabitants are his subjects (Psalm 24:1). Yet there is also a sense in which darkness reigns (1 John 5:19). The good news is the rule of the evil one will not last forever. It will be cut short (Rev. 11:15).

The early church went through some of the toughest times in history. So one of it's prayers was "Marana tha" (Our Lord,come!; 1 Corinthians 16:22b). The petitions "Marana tha" and "Your kingdom come" are very similar, for both are expressions of the longing for all the wrong things to end upon the return of the Messiah. I fear that the modern church has become too comfortable in this present world that it no longer prays these prayers with as much earnestness as they did in the early church. We could only say these petitions with sincerity if we are putting our hopes on the the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior (Titus 2:13). We look forward to the day when all earthly miseries end. No more death. No more grief. No more crying. No more pain (Rev. 21:4).

Professor Charles L. Quarles puts it this way:
"Praying for the coming kingdom prevents the disciple from being so focused on this present life that he neglects to prepare for the next. Praying for the coming kingdom empowers him to live selflessly now with the awareness that enormous reward awaits Him in the future. Praying for the coming kingdom reminds the believer that God’s work is not finished and that the best is yet to come."1

FOOTNOTE
1. Sermon On The Mount: Restoring Christ's Message to the Modern Church (B&H Academic)

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Hallowed Be Thy Name (A Sample Prayer for the Lord's Followers, 3)

When Israel was just an infant nation, God gave them a document written on two tablets of stone. This document was the foundational law of the new nation that is to be known as one belonging to God. It is best known as the Ten Commandments1 . One of it's articles is this: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exo. 20:7)

It has long been ignored by men in the modern world. God's name is mentioned in the most disrespectful, even blasphemous was in television, movies, music and the society  in general. Not so the  ancient Jews. They took the command seriously, so serious that when they read Sciptures and come across the name YHWH, they would not say it. They would instead substitute “Adonai” (Lord God). Somehow in the progression of time, they inserted the vowels of Adonai into the consonants of YHWH. This tradition of being careful about the Lord's name has been carried over into English translations of the Bible. For instance in Psalm 110:1, YHWH was not actually used. In it's place is “LORD” in all caps.

However, the Jews missed this: honoring the name of the Lord is not simply ascribing sacredness to it's letters,  or to how it is said. It is honoring God for who he is.

UNDERSTANDING WHAT HALLOWING HIS NAME MEANS

1. Understand that God's name is holy.
”Hallow” is an archaic English word which means “to regard as holy”. When people refer to such things as “holy week”, they mean it is no ordinary week. They also refer to the bible as a “holy book” and they mean that it is a sacred book unlike the other books. Therefore, to hollow God's name is to regard him as the One and Only and that there is no one like him.

2. Understand that one's name may either refer to your honorable standing or to your shameful reputation.

In 1 Sam. 18:30, it was reported that among the nation's war heroes, it was David who behaved most wisely so “his name became highly esteemed.”. John Macarthur remarks: "The fact that his name was esteemed meant he himself was esteemed. When we say that someone has a good name, we mean there is something about his character worthy of our praise."2  This good name should be highly desired by men “ A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (Prov. 22:1)

When applied to God's name, it makes people trust in him once they understand his excellence: "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10)

3. Understand that the opposite of hallowing God's name is to profane it.

Charles Quarles wrote: "Honoring God’s name as holy is the opposite of profaning God’s name”3 .

The following verses confirm Quarles' statement:

  • "Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. (Lev.18:21)
  • "Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. (Lev.19:12)
  • “They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.” (Amos 2:7)

And so there is a great deal of inconsistency on our part if we pray “hallowed be thy name” while at the same time we live a life of profanity.

4. The Lord's zeal for the honor of his name is precisely the reason why blesses us.

Take a look at these verses:

  • For the sake of his name, he leads and guides (Psalm 31:3)
  • For the sake of his name, he delivers and forgives sin (Psalm 79:9)
  • For the sake of his name, he dispenses mercy to sinners (Jeremiah 14:20-21)
And so this should encourage us that as long as we seek to honor God's name, God will also see to it that we will be blessed.


FOOTNOTES:
1R.C. Sproul, The Prayer of the Lord (Reformation Trust Publishing)
2John Macarthur, Alone With God (Victor Books)
3Charles Quarles, Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ's Message to the Modern Church (B&H Academic)

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

We Call Upon "Our Father" (A Sample Prayer for the Lord's Followers, 2)

We call upon our Father in heaven. Addressing God this way was a new thing in the ears of Jesus' Jewish hearers. Though there are several Old Testament texts where "father" is mentioned in relation to God, they were only analogies NOT direct addresses.  A typical Jewish prayer that time would be filled with much acknowledgment of God's great character and attributes like his omnipotence, lordship, glory, etc., but calling upon God as Father was uncharacteristic to a Jewish faithful. It might have even sounded familiar and presumptuous to Jesus' opponents. But it surely sounded personal and gracious to his followers  (see D.A. Carson, EBC 1st edition)

Believers are children of God by adoption (John 1:12). We should never think of God as someone inaccessible. He delights in hearing us because we have this special relationship with him. Being a good Father, he knows how to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11). For these reasons, we too should find delight in having an intimate relationship with our Father in heaven.


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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Introduction: A Sample Prayer for the Lord's Followers (Matthew 6:9-15)

He had  just instructed his disciple on how NOT to pray:

  • they should not pray for public display with the intent of gaining approval from men (Matt. 6:5)
  • they should not use meaningless and repeatitive words in praying. (Matt.6:7)

What follows is an instruction on how his followers should pray (Matt.6:9-15). "This, then, is how you should pray:" Jesus begins this teaching.

What others do is they memorize this prayer and this is what they repetitively recite when they pray. Of course there is benefit to our souls when we memorize this just like the benefits we get when we memorize other portions of Scripture. But even a beneficial thing may become worthless if we just recite these things outside the Lord's intent. When our Lord said, "This, then, is how you should pray", his intention was to give us an epitome of a good prayer so that we might learn how to express what is in our hearts and thus please the Lord who hears us.


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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 Eraño 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.