Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why Is Jesus Delaying HIS Second Coming?

            Would you agree with me that mentioning the word “delay” while discussing Christ’s second coming is tricky? “Delay” comes into play only when a particular action has not occurred at the time it was to have occurred. In other words, “Delay” refers to an earlier time at which a particular action was supposed to have taken place.

            So if we use the word “delay” from the human perspective or if we ask, “Why is Jesus’ second coming delayed?” we imply knowledge of the [exact] date and time of the Lord’s second coming (Parousia). But the Bible categorically asserts that no one, not even one, other than God the Father, knows the precise date and time of the Lord’s second coming. Hence, we ask the question from God’s perspective, “Why Is God the Father or Jesus Delaying HIS Second Coming?”

            The delay of Christ’s second coming is a topic of interest to many. Unbelievers, skeptics, and even some honest Christians may use this so-called delay as an opportunity to slander or be skeptical about the Christian faith or the Christian anticipation of the Lord’s second coming.

            Even C.S Lewis was not spared from this malady of skepticism, for he termed Christ’s reference to HIS return as an embarrassing verse in the Bible. With reference to Matthew 24: 34, C.S Lewis said, “Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”1

            So how do we understand these passages that seem to suggest that Christ would return within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses?

            Dr. William Lane Craig helps us to understand these passages better, “What about those passages where Jesus seems to speak as though his return might occur within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses? I think that it is probably the case that when you read these sayings in their original settings that they were not intended to indicate that Jesus would return within the lifetime of those who were hearing him. I say that on the basis of a passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus gives the charge to the twelve disciples to go on a mission preaching throughout the towns of Israel. This passage actually sharpens the problem for us. It makes it more acute. And by doing so I think it gives us good grounds for thinking that these sayings in their original context didn’t have the implications that they might appear to in the context in which we find them today. In Matthew 10 it says he sends the disciples out to the cities of Israel, to preach and cast out unclean spirits, and heal people of every disease. And he says, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles. Do not enter a city of the Samaritans. Go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” So this is a tour of preaching that is only going to be through the cities of Israel. He describes what will happen – how the disciples will be persecuted and encounter opposition, and so forth. Then in verse 23, we find this astounding statement, “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another, for assuredly I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”[3] So here it sounds as though the second coming of Christ, the return of the Son of Man, is going to occur before the disciples even complete their preaching tour of the towns of Israel. And yet we know that didn’t happen. Luke goes on to talk about how they returned from this preaching tour and Jesus continues to work with his disciples. What this suggests to me is that in the original context in which these saying were given, they didn’t have the implication that they appear to have to us today who read them in a quite different context. In the original context, these things did not mean that Jesus was going to return during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses anymore than this saying in Matthew 10:23 meant that the parousia was going to occur before the disciples had gone through all of the towns of Israel on their teaching tour.

            So we need to remember what kind of literature the Gospels are. The Gospels are compilations of the sayings of Jesus. Very often, these sayings of Jesus will appear in different literary contexts today than they did in the original contexts in which they were given. I think we have good grounds for thinking – based on his parables about the long delay, based upon his sayings that no one knows the time of his return – that in their original context these sayings were not meant to imply that the parousia would take place within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. It might. But, not necessarily. Every generation needs to be prepared to be the last.”2 (Emphasis Mine).

            Having resolved the skepticism about passages that seem to suggest that Christ should have returned already, let us focus on the mindset of those Christians who may be disgusted and frustrated with the quantum of evil they encounter in this world. They hope that Christ would return soon and save them from pain and suffering.

            As we wait for Christ’s second coming, we wonder whether Christ would return in our lifetime or not. Subsequently we contemplate the quantum of pain our next generation / our children and their children would have to undergo if Christ delays HIS second coming. The more we think of the delay of our Lord’s second coming, we cannot help but feel sad. However, we wait in eager hope that the Lord Jesus would come one day and save us from the misery of a life we are living.

            Does the Bible motivate us to think that Christ’s return is imminent (possibility of happening soon)? It seems that the imminence of the Lord’s second coming is portrayed in the following verses:

            1. Christ urged HIS disciples to be ready for HIS return (Mathew 24-25).

            2. Christ’s second coming is at hand (Romans 8: 19-25; 1 Corinthians 1: 7; Philippians 4: 5).

            3. Paul’s statement that we await our blessed hope (Titus 2: 13) requires that the next event in God’s plan is the coming of the Lord. On the other hand, if Paul had said that the next step is the great tribulation, then we would have been inundated with fear and apprehensiveness.

            But there are certain other biblical passages that compel us to think that the Lord’s second coming need not be imminent. Consider the parables of the nobleman who went to a distant country (Luke 19: 11-27), the wise and the foolish virgins (Matthew 25: 5), the talents (Matthew 25: 19). These parables inform us that there would be a long delay in the return of our Lord.

            Moreover, certain events are to be fulfilled before the Lord returns. The gospel should be preached to all nations (Matthew 24: 14), great tribulation should occur (Mark 13: 7-8), coming of the man of sin and rebellion (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-10), powerful signs in heaven (Matthew 24: 29), salvation of Israel (Romans 9-11) etc. Studying these signs would lead us to think that the second coming of our Lord is not imminent i.e., it would take a very long time until the Lord returns again. 

            So there is no delay in the Lord’s second coming. It’s just that the timing for the Lord’s return is not right as yet.

            The Lord will return when we least expect HIM to (Matthew 24: 44, Acts 1: 7). God’s timeline is radically different from our expectations (Cf. 2 Peter 3:8-10).

            Let us not get too worked up thinking that our generation would be the last generation and that Christ would surely return in our lifetime. But let us continue to be patient and eagerly wait and hope for the Lord’s second coming.

Endnotes:

1http://merecslewis.blogspot.in/2014/01/the-most-embarrassing-verse-in-bible.html, accessed on 19th January 2017.


2http://www.reasonablefaith.org/q-a-was-jesus-wrong, accessed on 19th January 2017.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Happens If Christians Engage In Sex Before Marriage?

            The Bible mandates Christians to not engage in any sexual activity with the person of opposite sex, before marriage. But Christians are as imperfect as anyone, so it is quite possible that someone somewhere would engage in premarital sex. The question then is this, “What are the consequences for Christians if they engage in sex before marriage?”

            This powerful “sticky note” analogy depicts the damage inflicted upon the Christian during his/her casual sex escapades, “Casual sex is rampant in many societies. There is, in truth, no such thing as “casual” sex, because of the depth of intimacy involved in the sexual relationship. An analogy is instructive here. If we take a sticky note and attach it to a piece of paper, it will adhere. If we remove it, it will leave behind a small amount of residue; the longer it remains, the more residue is left. If we take that note and stick it to several places repeatedly, it will leave residue everywhere we stick it, and it will eventually lose its ability to adhere to anything. This is much like what happens to us when we engage in “casual” sex. Each time we leave a sexual relationship, we leave a part of ourselves behind. The longer the relationship has gone on, the more we leave behind, and the more we lose of ourselves. As we go from partner to partner, we continue to lose a tiny bit of ourselves each time, and eventually we may lose our ability to form a lasting sexual relationship at all. The sexual relationship is so strong and so intimate that we cannot enter into it casually, no matter how easy it might seem.” (Emphasis Mine).1

            There are secular studies that speak against premarital sex. They reveal the likelihood of greater divorce rates and adverse health related behaviors for those who engage in premarital sex.

            Recent research reveals that students who had NO sexual contacts are out of harm's way than those who have had sexual contacts, “A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the first ever of its kind, examines a large and diverse array of high school students’ health behaviors according to their self-reported sexual activity…The report’s two major conclusions are quite stark: The virginal students rate significantly and consistently better in nearly all health-related behaviors and measures than their sexually active peers…”2

            Women who had NO sex partners before marriage are highly unlikely to divorce, “That women who married in the 2000s were least likely to divorce if they had no sex partners before marriage, at a rate of approximately 6 percent. That’s almost divorce-proof. Even just one sex partner before marriage moved up a woman’s chances of divorce within five years of marriage to one in five chances, at a 20 percent rate.”3

            Presence of secular studies arguing against sex before marriage is a bonus. But for a Christian, God and HIS Word are of utmost value than any pertinent information presented by secular research (either for or against).

            The Bible mandates Christians to not engage in sex before marriage (Exodus 22:16-17; Deuteronomy 22:28-29; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10: 7; 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4 et al.). So premarital sex is a definite no-no for a Christian.

            In their work, Purity Under Pressure, Neil T. Anderson and Dave Park emphasize the following consequences for premarital sex from the Christian standpoint. Here is an excerpt from their work:4

            Sex before marriage has the potential for STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), pregnancy and abortion, which are despicable in God’s sight.   

             Self-destructive behavior - As a Christian, when you engage in premarital sex, you are consciously sinning against God.  This can lead to a perpetual cycle of self-destruction.  You develop low self-esteem, low self-worth, and diminished expectations of yourself.  In many cases, the devastation that comes from giving a holy thing (your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit) to an unholy cause, (physical gratification outside of marriage) will lead to feelings of emptiness, embarrassment, and confusion.  You begin to question everything about yourself and the world, as you know it…Many students’ grades drop and they lose interest in things that they once enjoyed…

            You develop “soul ties” - Your soul joins with the soul or souls of those you have had sex.  We will call these “soul ties,” because your soul is actually being tied or entangled together with the soul of the person you had sex.  Think of it this way, when you get on an airplane you are usually allowed a piece of carry on luggage to keep items you will need during the flight accessible.  Soul ties can be considered carry-on luggage.  It is unwanted, hindering, emotionally draining baggage that attaches itself to your soul everytime you sexually involve yourself with someone outside of marriage…

            You get involved with the wrong crowd- 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “bad company corrupts good morals.” Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can hang around sexually active people who drink and not be influenced by their actions. 

            Bad reputation - The word is out.  You have had sex.  You quickly get labeled “easy,” “loose,” or “a sure bet.”

            Insecurity / Loss of trust - You become jealous and begin comparing your body to other girls’ bodies.  You are always worried some other girl will steal your boyfriend from you.  Life becomes very stressful. You don’t even trust yourself to do right and control your own body, how can you trust someone else?  After having sex I was a wreck.  Whenever I would go out with my boyfriend I would accuse him of starring at other girls.  Though at times he was looking, many times I was just overreacting out of insecurity.

            Object of Rumors/Gossip - Many times pre-marital sex causes you to become the subject of rumors.  “Did you hear about so and so?”  “I heard they did this and that on the corner of here and there.”  Who needs that drama?  You certainly don’t.

            Emotionally Unstable (a.k.a. Fatal Attraction) - You develop irrational responses to ordinary situations.  Crying, fear, stress, depression, apathy, isolation, and hopelessness crowd your mind and cause your emotional growth to be stifled.  You have no clue what you want anymore.  One minute you are in love, the next minute you are disgusted by the very sound of his voice.   

            So to conclude, here’s what Christians ought to do if they have lost their virginity before marriage, “…is there hope? When a Christian engages in premarital sex, or when one who has lost his/her virginity comes to Christ, the Holy Spirit will convict of the sin, and there will be grief over it. However, it’s important—even vital—to remember that there is no sin beyond the reach of the blood of Jesus. If we confess, He will not only forgive, but will cleanse us from “all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Furthermore, in addition to the forgiveness (which is in itself glorious), God restores. Joel 2:25 tells us that God is able to restore the years that the locust has eaten, and that’s what premarital sex is—a locust that consumes our sense of self, our self-esteem, and our perception of forgiveness. Scripture also tells us that, when we come to Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), so one who engaged in premarital sex prior to conversion is recreated by God into a new person; the old is gone, the new has come.

            Finally, we know that, as Christians, we’re being renewed by the Holy Spirit each day we walk with Jesus. Colossians 3:10 tells us that our new self is being renewed day by day after the image of its Creator. There is no sin without hope. The power of the gospel is available to all who trust in Jesus for forgiveness.”5

Endnotes:

1https://www.gotquestions.org/premarital-sex.html

2http://thefederalist.com/2016/11/29/cdc-study-says-teen-virgins-healthier/

3http://thefederalist.com/2016/06/06/report-to-divorce-proof-yourself-dont-have-premarital-sex/

4https://purityunderpressure.com/purity-under-pressure-book/


5https://www.gotquestions.org/premarital-sex.html

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Has Multiverse Killed God? (The Christian Response To Multiverse)

            Multiverse posits the presence of infinite number of multiple universes with different physical laws from ours. Multiverse may have been a consequence of inflation that operated early in our universe or from quantum mechanical processes. But the undeniable fact remains that our universe is delicately fine-tuned.

Fine Tuning Of Our Universe

            In order to understand multiverse, we should understand the remarkably precise fine-tuning of our universe.

            In his book “The Brief History of Time,” scientist Stephen Hawking alludes to the fine-tuning of our universe, “"The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life ... For example, if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium or else they would not have exploded.”

            Our universe cannot sustain life without the finely tuned laws and constants of physics and chemistry. For instance, the force of gravity is determined by the “Gravitational Constant” (G=6.673 x 10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2). If this constant varied by just one in 1060 parts, life on earth would cease to exist.

            Similar fine-tuned precisions are observed in the fundamental constants and quantities of our universe. Scientists agree that a tiny alteration to any of these numbers would render life, stars, and planets to not exist.

            Christians and other theists believe that God architected the fine-tuning of our universe. This is the Fine-Tuning Argument - a modern variation of the “Teleological Argument.” 

Bring On The Multiverse

            But the naturalist or an atheist, who does not believe in God, counters the fine-tuning argument by arguing, “Our universe is just one of untold trillions of universes. Ours is just one of the lucky ones with the right parameters for life. True, we can't see or otherwise detect these other universes, but they must be out there because that solves the fine-tuning problem.”1

            Does the multiverse render God as non-existent, for if an infinite number of universes came into existence by chance, and if the fine-tuned universe of ours is one such, then God, by all means, is knocked out of the equation, isn’t it?

Digging Not Too Deep Into Multiverse

            Max Erik Tegmark, Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has organized all multiverse models into four different levels. The higher numbered levels are more speculative than the lower numbered levels. The multiple universes, he reckons, “might have different initial conditions (Level I); different physical constants and particles (Level II); or different physical laws (Level IV).”2 (The level III multiverse corresponds to the many-worlds hypothesis formulated by Hugh Everett in 1957.)

            Alexander Vilenkin, the J. Bernstein Professor of Evolutionary Science, is the most active proponent of the level II multiverse. The level II multiverse is invoked by some cosmologists to explain away the fine-tuning of our universe.

Multiverse Does Not Kill God Rather It Demands God

            Multiverse does not exist. Even if it exists, God should be a part of the equation.

            First, many scientists (Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark, Alexander Vilenkin, Stephen Weinberg, Martin Rees, Leonard Susskind, Roger Penrose, John Polkinghorne) agree that our universe is remarkably fine-tuned. So it is wise to NOT deny the fact that our universe is fine-tuned.

            Second, multiverse is NOT a proven theory. Many secular scientists doubt and deny the existence of multiverse. Prominent cosmologist George Ellis (who is arguably the cosmologist who knows more about cosmology than any other single living person and who does not subscribe to Intelligent Design) believes that it is impossible for us to observe any regions of universe, especially if level II multiverse does exist. In other words, George Ellis highlights that multiverse is empirically untestable, “The trouble is that no possible astronomical observations can ever see those other universes. The arguments are indirect at best.”3 

            George Ellis also explains that string theory cannot predict the multiverse, “But string theory is not a tried-and-tested theory; it is not even a complete theory. If we had proof that string theory is correct, its theoretical predictions could be a legitimate, experimentally based argument for a multiverse. We do not have such proof.”4

            Third, George Ellis states that multiverse cannot explain the deep issues related to our existence, “Scientists proposed the multiverse as a way of resolving deep issues about the nature of existence, but the proposal leaves the ultimate issues unresolved. All the same issues that arise in relation to the universe arise again in relation to the multiverse. If the multiverse exists, did it come into existence through necessity, chance or purpose? That is a metaphysical question that no physical theory can answer for either the universe or the multiverse.”5

            Fourth, do not believe that multiverse exists. As William Lane Craig explains, our universe, if it were a part of multiverse, should exhibit highly improbable events, “I think that if we were just one random member of a world ensemble of worlds or universes, that we would be observing a very different kind of universe than we in fact do… It should include all sorts of improbable and absurd events that don’t happen, because in an infinite ensemble of worlds, if you can get events so improbable as the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant, the low entropy state, and so forth, then you should also get highly improbable events like a perpetual motion machine and rabbits wearing pink bow ties and so forth, because those are less improbable than the finely tuned constants and quantities…but if we are just a randomly ordered member of this ensemble, such that the probability is that somewhere these constants would be finely tuned, then things that are even less improbable ought also to be appearing conjointly. And yet, we see a rationally ordered universe, and that cries out for some sort of explanation. In addition to that, a much smaller inflationary patch would be sufficient for our existence rather than the large universe we see. And it is overwhelmingly more probable that if we were just a random member of a world ensemble, we should be observing a much smaller inflationary patch than what we do in fact observe. And I think this is really the Achilles’ heel in this multiverse hypothesis—that if we were just a member of a multiverse, randomly ordered, then it is overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly more probable we ought to be seeing a very different kind of universe than the rationally ordered world that we do in fact see.”6

            Finally, even if multiverse does exist, God would have created it, “God would still be the one who established the laws of quantum mechanics, who created the quantum vacuum and the space and time, the arena in which all these reactions take place. So, as I say, once you have a transcendent source of all space and time, matter and energy, then he’s free to create any sort of physical reality he wants.”7

            William Lane Craig argues that the fine-tuning of our universe is neither due to physical necessity nor chance, hence fine-tuning is due to design. Therefore, the belief that God created the multiverse gains credibility, “…the best hope for the multiverse hypothesis is theism: God could have created a World Ensemble brimming with deliberately finely tuned worlds…In conclusion the multiverse hypothesis does nothing to eliminate the need for a creator and designer of the universe. Whether or not a multiverse exists, one needs a transcendent, personal creator and designer of the cosmos.”8

            The multiverse does not exist. But if it exists, then God could have created it. God alone offers a plausible explanation as to how the multiverse came into being. Hence, God is necessary for belief in the multiverse.

Beware

            Beware of the comics, TV shows and movies that smuggle devious notions into our minds. Multiverse has been invading and capturing our minds through comics, TV shows and movies. Recently, Dr. Strange, the movie based on Marvel comics, introduces the idea of multiverse into the minds of multitudes of unsuspecting masses.

            Do not believe all that you read in the books and watch on TV or theatre. Literature, dance and drama have a ridiculously high potential to sneakily import deceptive thoughts into our minds, but without adhering to the laws of logic, says Dr. Ravi Zacharias.9 Let us be cognizant of this fact and respond meaningfully.

Endnotes:

1http://www.evolutionnews.org/2016/12/dr_strange_intr103335.html

2http://space.mit.edu/home/tegmark/PDF/multiverse_sciam.pdf

3http://www.public.asu.edu/~atpcs/atpcs/Misc/DoesTheMultiverseReallyExist.pdf

4Ibid.

5Ibid.

6http://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/did-god-create-multiple-universes-robert-lawrence-kuhn

7 Ibid.

8http://www.reasonablefaith.org/has-the-multiverse-replaced-god

9http://rzim.org/just-thinking/living-an-apologetic-life/ 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How Can We Be Good Christians This New Year? Who Is A Good Christian?

            It is almost traditional that we resolve to be better every New Year. But unless we understand what it means to be a good Christian, how could we be better Christians this New Year?

The Heart Of Good Christians: God Hates The Wicked Heart

            We could take resolutions to intensify our relationship with God. So we could resolve to pray more or fast more or increase our giving. But before we undertake such seemingly spiritual resolutions, let us examine whether our heart is in the right place or not. 

            God abhors the dishonest motive of a Christian heart.

            God hates Christians who are spiritually proud. God hates those who strive to gain popularity before men for their religious deeds. So God hates those who perform the following religious rituals for all the wrong reasons:

            1. Give much to their church or to the needy (cf. Matthew 6: 1-4).

            2. Pray wonderfully well (cf. Matthew 6: 5).

            3. Fast (cf. Matthew 6: 16-18).

            4. [Unjustly] judge others (cf. Matthew 7: 1-5).     

            5. Prophesy, drive out demons, perform signs and wonders (cf. Matthew 7: 21-23).

            While we should rightfully strive to give more, pray more, fast more often, and eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, we should ensure that we do not perform these spiritual deeds with dishonest motives e.g. to make more money or to be recognized / praised by men. 

The Heart Of Good Christians: God Loves The Humble Heart

            A cursory reading of the Sermon on the Mount would reveal that God loves those who are humble about their spirituality i.e. those who are not proud and feel sufficient of their spirituality. God loves those who mourn for their lack of spirituality, their sins and the sins of others.

            God loves the meek. In the words of John Wesley the meek are those who, “…hold all their passions and affections evenly balanced…They shall have all things really necessary for life and godliness. They shall enjoy whatever portion God hath given them.”1

            God loves those whose hearts are pure (those who love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength) and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. God loves the merciful; we are not to think more highly of ourselves, but to think of ourselves with sober discernment (cf. Romans 12: 3).

            This is who we should desire to be.  But it’s not easy!

Good Christians Overcome Satan

            The enemy of our souls, the devil, is actively striving to destroy the Christian, “Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5: 8b, NET).

            The greatest need for any Christian, who desires to love the Lord more and to grow stronger in HIM, is to defeat the devil every hour. If we are strong in the Lord and in HIS mighty power (Ephesians 6: 10), we would grow spiritually – in our relationship with God.

            In Ephesians 6, the Bible reveals a strategy to overcome the devil. In order to defeat the devil, we should integrate the following:

            A. Truth of God’s Word: to understand Christ, who is the epitome of truth, and defend the truth of God’s Word.

            B. Righteousness of God imputed upon us: to grow in holiness.

            C. Peace that transcends all understanding: to be at peace at all times and in all circumstances however difficult it may be.

            D. To live by faith in Christ: to remove all material aspects out of our realm and to focus only upon God always.

            E. Salvation so graciously offered to us: to share Christ and constantly work out our salvation.

            F. Pray: to pray for ourselves and the needs of people around us.

Good Christians Understand Their Specific Calling

            Christians are called to different spiritual vocations. Some Christians are called to be prophets, some called to be evangelists, some to be pastors, and others to be teachers (cf. Ephesians 4: 11). Similarly the Bible teaches, “For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12: 8-10, NET, Emphasis Mine).

            Good Christians, by spending time with God to understand HIS mind, would understand HIS specific calling for their lives.     

Conclusion

            In essence, a good Christian constantly desires to grow more in the Lord – to love HIM more and to allow HIM to transform his life so that he lives according to HIS will and pleasure. A good Christian is humble about his spirituality and constantly desires to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Furthermore, he strives to understand and fulfill the specific purpose for which he was created.

            In a general sense, these should be on our bucket list for this New Year and always: to be poor in spirit, meek, pure, merciful, and to hunger and thirst for righteousness, so to grow in our love for our dear Lord and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Let us desire to be strengthened in the Lord and in HIS mighty power, so that we can defeat the devil at all times. Moreover, when we read the Bible and pray, the precious Holy Spirit would impress upon us the need to grow in specific spiritual fields.

            One year or one life time is not sufficient to grow in our spirituality or to be better Christians. Hence, we should pray that this desire constantly remains in us and burns as wildfire in us, so that the mighty anointing of our Lord would be upon us always.

            Every New Year is a reminder for us to grow more and more in the Lord. May we treat this New Year as an occasion for us to be better Christians and may our lives glorify our dear Lord always.

            May the good Lord bless and keep you in HIS presence this New Year and always.

Endnotes:

1http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/wesleys-explanatory-notes/matthew/matthew-5.html (last accessed on 29th December 2016.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Celebrating Christmas The Biblical Way

            Decorating homes, distributing goodies, get-together with friends and family, and getting drunk are some of our favorite means to celebrate Christmas. Over the years we have been habituated to practice these celebration routines. But are we celebrating Christmas the right way – the Biblical way? Is there a biblical way to celebrate Christmas?

            The Bible reveals the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So it is plausible that the Bible also reveals the manner in which we should celebrate the birth of our Lord.


Unbelief to Belief

            The gospel of Matthew reveals Joseph’s transformation from unbelief to belief. Prior to the revelation of Christ’s birth, Joseph planned to divorce Mary. But after Christ’s birth was revealed to him, he believed the message of Christ’s birth and took Mary as his wife, “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Matthew 1: 18 - 24, NIV, Emphasis Mine).

            Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as your God and Savior is the most appropriate way to celebrate Christmas.

Bless God: Praise & Glorify HIM

            The sight of the child Jesus in the temple invoked Simeon to bless God, but what does it mean to bless God? Pastor John Piper expounds the meaning of blessing God, “My thesis is that in the Scripture when God "blesses" men they are thereby helped and strengthened and made better off than they were before, but when men "bless" God he is not helped or strengthened or made better off. Rather (with C. A. Keller in THAT, I, 361) man's blessing God is an "expression of praising Thankfulness" (ein lobendes Danksagen), when the OT speaks of blessing God it does not "designate a pro­cess that aims at the increase of God's strength" (THAT, I, 361). It is an "exclamation of gratitude and admiration" (THAT, I, 357)…They do not mean that we make God larger or higher. So to bless God means to recognize his great richness, strength, and gracious bounty and to express our gratitude and delight in seeing and experiencing it.”1

            J.I Packer in his most famous work, “Knowing God,” explains that to bless God is to praise, exalt and worship HIM. When we praise, adore, thank and love God, we are in fact blessing God.

            The shepherds, after having seen the birth of the Lord, praised and glorified God, for what they saw was what was told to them, “The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” (Luke 2: 20, NASB).

            Similarly, every aspect of our Christmas celebration ought to praise and glorify God. In other words, drunkenness as a means of celebrating Christmas is not an option for Christians.

            Significantly, we cannot bless God if we do not know HIM. Simeon knew God well; HE was able to recognize the precious Holy Spirit’s voice in HIM that directed him to the child Jesus. Likewise, this Christmas, let us desire to grow in our knowledge of God. One lifetime is not enough to know God. So let us make the best use of our life by knowing God.

Go Tell It

            The gospel of Luke includes the narrative of the angels revealing the birth of our Lord to the shepherds. The shepherds responded to the birth of our Lord Jesus by spreading the news of Christ’s birth, “When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” (Luke 2: 17, NASB).

            Similarly, we are to spread the word of Christ’s birth to all in our domain. Caroling is a wonderful means to spread the news of Christ’s birth to unbelievers. Moreover, the Christmas season offers us a grand opportunity to invite our non-Christian friends into our homes to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Fulfillment of Hope

            The narrative of Simeon’s encounter with child Jesus emphasizes another interesting phenomenon. For Simeon, the sight of child Jesus was the fulfillment of his hope in God, “Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: a light, for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32, NET).

            Hope is the only lifeline for many around us. They hope for a better life – spiritually and materially. This Christmas, may we be the channels of blessing for them to realize their hope.

            God will certainly fulfill our hope in HIM. The greatest hope we have in God is for us to spend our life with HIM unto all eternity. God will most certainly fulfill this hope when we believe and remain in Christ always. May our celebrations reflect our hope in God.

Conclusion

            If our Christmas is all about decorating our homes, distributing goodies and meeting family and friends without blessing God, sharing HIM with others, praising and glorifying HIM, and being a channel of blessing those who are deprived, then our Christmas celebrations cannot be biblically appropriate.

            This Christmas
            Believe in Christ
            Bless HIM
            Share HIM
            Grow in HIM
            Fulfill the hope of the deprived
            And know that HE will fulfill our hope in HIM.

            I pray that you and your family enjoy a blessed Christmas.

Endnotes:

1http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-does-it-mean-to-bless-god (last accessed on 22nd December 2016.)  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Child Pornography: When Will This Horrendous Evil End?


          It is no longer wise to blindly trust our children with their school teachers, doctors and nurses, law enforcement personnel, pastors and priests, for our children may not be safe with them. Consider the capture of these very people when a huge international child porn ring was busted in Canada, “What was most alarming was that many of the arrests were of people who worked with or closely interacted with children. Among those arrested were 40 school teachers, nine doctors and nurses, six law enforcement personnel, nine pastors and priests and three foster parents.

            In one particularly horrific example of those arrested, police found over 350,000 images and over 9,000 videos of child sexual abuse in the home of a retired Canadian school teacher. Some of the images were of children known to the man and he was also charged with sexually abusing a child relative.”1

            Child pornography is growing at an alarming rate, “Child pornography has become more prevalent and larger than we would ever like to imagine. It is said to be a $3 billion dollar industry globally, generating massive amounts of money for people willing to exploit young children…Child pornography has been expanding virally on the web for years and the material is only getting worse. In 2008, Internet Watch Foundation found 1,536 individual child abuse domains. Every week there are over 20,000 images of child pornography posted on the web (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 2003). Furthermore, U.S Customs Services estimates that illegal child pornography is offered by approximately 100,000 websites.”2

            Child sex trafficking is an allied industry to child pornography and prostitution, “63% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online.”3 Intriguingly, childhood traumas such as sexual abuse, substance abuse, and domestic violence force children into prostitution. 

            What motivates man towards this evil?

            Money is a huge motivating factor. It is said that “a pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and exploits an average of 4-6 girls.” This is a huge amount of money for a vulnerable man to resist.4

            The world we live in today encourages “free thinking.” (Free thinkers are those who form their own opinions instead of accepting the conventional norms.) A consequence of free thinking within this context is to recognize porn as a legitimate profession or as a means to satiate one’s carnal desires. Once the freethinker endorses porn, there is very little that separates him / her from entering into the horrendous evil world of child porn.   

            How do we Christians respond to child porn?

            First, prayer is our first natural response. We pray that…

            (1) Criminals would recognize this horrendous evil and repent of their sins.

            (2) Parents would have a strong relationship with their children. In many instances, the adverse relationship between parents and their children forces children to take rash decisions that are detrimental to their own mental and physical health.

            (3) Our children should be protected against all harms and dangers. If the father and the mother are employed, then it is quite possible for the child to spend long hours in solitude. This is a sure opportunity for the child to voluntarily and innocently dabble into dangerous domains.

            (4) Our homes should provide stability and security for our children and we should pray against every form of child abuse in homes.

            Second, as much as we pray, we should also act proactively. Our children should be informed of the potential dangers. For instance, our children cannot meet anyone alone unless approved by the parents. They should be informed of the prowling presence of sex predators who may lure them into meeting them alone.

            Finally, we should believe our children if they object to being in the company of people whom we trust. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Hence, if our child is uncomfortable with the behavior of certain people, then we ought to respect our child’s wishes.  

            Will this horrendous evil end?

            The prognosis for any evil is grim. If we consider this from a theological perspective, man will continue to sin as long as he has the freedom to reject God. As per God’s creational intent, man will always have the freedom to reject God. Hence, sin and evil will continue to exist.

            Therefore, as much as this is a bitter pill to swallow, we need to come to terms that child porn will continue exist. (The authorities will crack down on child porn, and they may succeed in busting the various child porn mafias, but as long as man possesses the innate potential to be depraved, child porn and other evils will, very minimally, continue to exist.)

            This is not to assume a defeatist position. But this is rather a pragmatic position to adopt. This evil could only be minimized if the authorities relentlessly crack down the evil of child porn, child sex trafficking and child prostitution. However, we cannot think that the sole responsibility of cracking down on this horrendous evil lies only with the governing authorities. Every family ought to be the precinct of utmost stability and security for the children.

Endnotes:

1http://fightthenewdrug.org/400-children-rescued-hundreds-of-adults-arrested-after-police-take-down-child-porn-empire/

2Ibid.

3https://www.wearethorn.org/child-trafficking-statistics/


4Ibid.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What Happens To Superstitious Christians?

            Wikipedia defines superstition as a belief in supernatural causality. Merrriam-Webster defines superstition as a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.

            Some people are scared or superstitious of certain numbers. There are buildings in the USA that do not have the 13th floor because of the superstition associated with number 13. Many buildings in China skip the 4th floor. Japanese fear the number 9. Italians are superstitious about Friday the 17th. Some fear the number 666.1

            Then there are those who knock on wood or think that it’s bad omen if a black cat crosses their path or if they walk under a ladder. Brazilians consider a wallet or purse dropping to the floor as bad luck.2 Egyptians consider owl as an unlucky bird, for sighting or hearing an owl apparently brings bad luck.3 Astrology, black magic, divination, voodoo and sorcery are also categorized under superstitions.

            Christians are not immune to superstitions, for some Christians practice superstitions. For instance, some Christians consult astrology (horoscopes / star signs, numerology, tarot) or knock on wood or avoid the number 666.

            So what are the consequences for a Christian if he/she practices superstitions?

            For the sake of this discussion, let us categorize superstitions into “lesser superstitions” and “greater superstitions.” The lesser superstitions could be the rather harmless beliefs of walking under a ladder or fear of numbers or the fear of a black cat. The greater superstitions could be the potentially harmful practices of astrology, black magic, voodoo and the likes.

            Without an iota of doubt, the greater superstitions would destroy the Christian since it leads him away from Christ. The Bible condemns the practice of [greater] superstitions because their practice would certainly usher the devil’s rule into our lives. “Scripture condemns those who practice astrology (Deuteronomy 4:19), magic, divination and sorcery (2 Kings 21:6, Isaiah 2:6). Idolatry is also forbidden, and no one who practices it will enter the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:27). These types of practices are extremely dangerous because they open the minds of the practitioners to the influence of the devil. First Peter 5:8 warns us to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,”” says Gotquestions.org.4  

            The lesser superstitions are seemingly harmless. Some wonder, “How would it hurt us if we knock on wood or ignore a certain number or avoid a black cat or avoid walking under a ladder?”

            Christians who practice the lesser superstitions reveal two potentially dangerous attributes. First, they reveal a detrimental form of naivety predicted on a bankruptcy of deep thought about their supposedly harmless practices. They do not think through their practices. Second, they reveal their intrinsic spiritual immaturity - a byproduct of ignoring God - whom they profess to believe and love.

            Consider the apparently harmless superstition of knocking on wood. Christians either say ‘knock on wood’ or ‘touch wood’ or they would literally knock on wood when speaking of a prospective good happening to them or their relatives or friends.

            Apparently, the superstitious practice of “knock on wood” has a questionable origin, “…many pagan groups and other cultures—from Ireland to India to elsewhere in the world—worshipped or mythologized trees. Some peoples used trees as oracles, some incorporated them into worship rituals and some, like the ancient Celts, regarded them as the homes of certain spirits and gods.

            Authors Stefan Bechtel and Deborah Aaronson both suggest two connections between knocking on wood and these spirits in their respective books, The Good Luck Book and Luck: The Essential Guide.

            The first possible origin of knocking on wood is that it's a much more laid-back version of the ruckus that pagan Europeans raised to chase away evil spirits from their homes and trees or to prevent them from hearing about, and ruining, a person’s good luck.

            The other origin they suggest is that some of these tree worshippers laid their hands on a tree when asking for favor from the spirits/gods that lived inside it, or did it after a run of good luck as a show of gratitude to the supernatural powers. Over the centuries, the religious rite may have morphed into the superstitious knock that acknowledges luck and keeps it going.

            “In either case, you are seeking protection against envy and anger,” Bechtel and co-author Laurence R. Stains* write. “The envy of evil spirits and the anger of the gods, who take a dim view on mortals bearing too much pride and who get especially annoyed when they're responsible for your run of good luck and you're not grateful.””5

            Whatever the case may be, Christians are to trust, ask and hope in God to bless them. Knocking on wood offers zero returns.

            Blessings are from God and God alone. If God blesses us, then no force on this universe can prevent or repeal that blessing away from a Christian’s life.

            When Christians knock on wood, they imply a disbelief in God. This disbelief in God could grow gradually, for the devil needs only an infinitesimal space in a Christian life to destroy him.

            Significantly, Christians who knock on wood reveal a deep ignorance of God. If they had only known that God blesses those who love HIM [and even those who do not love HIM], they would realize that there is absolutely no meaning in knocking on wood. Ignorance of God is a potential danger, for ignorance of God is predicated on an impoverished understanding of the Bible – a lack of Bible knowledge. When God is ignored in a Christian life, he could practically jeopardize himself while facing problems in life.

            Superstitions, in any form, would harm the Christian spiritually. So why practice superstitions when we can trust in God to bless us?  

Endnotes:

1http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/09/130913-friday-luck-lucky-superstition-13/

2http://distractify.com/old-school/2014/10/21/very-superstitious-1197796927

3http://diply.com/trendyjoe/strange-superstitions-from-around-the-world/59005

4https://gotquestions.org/superstitions.html

5http://mentalfloss.com/article/50079/why-do-we-knock-wood

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Jesus’ Tomb Opened! New Revelations & Significance

            Yes! In a historical occasion, the [empty] tomb of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was opened for a 60-hour period (October 26th to 28th, 2016). The protective marble slab placed over the limestone rock on which the actual body of Christ was laid by Joseph of Arimethea (before HIS resurrection) in the year 1555 AD was temporarily removed for restoration and cleaning. This tomb is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.

WHY THE HOOPLA?

            This is a once-in-a-lifetime-event! This tomb may never be re-opened until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            The tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most revered site in the Christian world. The limestone rock that was revealed (when the marble slab was temporarily removed) was the very place where Christ’s body was laid.

            Those who were in the tomb were enthralled, “"I'm absolutely amazed. My knees are shaking a little bit because I wasn't expecting this,” said Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic's archaeologist-in-residence. "We can't say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades."”1

            It seems to be an archaeological marvel that the location of this tomb has not shifted over time.  Notwithstanding that, viewing the Holy Rock upon which the Lord was laid would indeed be a glorious moment for every Christian who loves the Lord.  

WHAT’S THE HISTORY?

            Considered a brilliant and a morally serious public intellectual, Eric Metaxas, who is a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at Large for the King’s College in New York City, offers a glimpse of the history surrounding this tomb, “According to the historian Eusebius of Caesarea, the Roman emperor Hadrian, about 100 years after Jesus' death and resurrection, had a temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite built over the site of Jesus' tomb. This was not by accident.

            Two centuries later, the emperor Constantine had the pagan temple demolished and in the process, discovered what was believed to be the tomb of Jesus. Constantine ordered a church to be built around the tomb.

            The church we see at the site today is not the original. That one was damaged by earthquakes and fires. It was repaired but later demolished by a Fatimid caliph in the early eleventh century and then rebuilt again and damaged again, so forth and so on.

            Yet the pilgrims kept coming, so much so that in the 16th century the burial bed in the tomb was covered in marble to keep people from taking home souvenirs.”2

WHY SHOULD WE BE SURE?

            How sure are we that this is the [empty] tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ?

            Dr. William Lane Craig presents a compelling defense blended with history to demonstrate the credibility of this tomb, “…how credible is the claim that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre does contain the very tomb in which Jesus was laid? The site was identified in the year 326, when the Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of relics from the time of Christ. She asked the residents of Jerusalem where the site of Jesus’ tomb was, and they directed her to a spot where a pagan temple now stood. We might be justifiably sceptical that the people in Jerusalem at that time would have known where Jesus’ tomb once was and suspect that out of deference to the Emperor’s mother they pointed to some site. But, in fact, there are pretty good reasons to think that the historical memory of where Jesus’ tomb had stood still persisted in Jerusalem.

            In the first place, the site they identified stood within the city walls of Jerusalem, whereas the Gospels state that Jesus was crucified and buried outside the city walls. In contradiction to the Gospels, the residents in Jerusalem pointed to a site within the walls. It was later discovered that the walls of Jerusalem had been expanded a couple hundred years earlier, and when the original walls were excavated, it was found that the identified site did, in fact, lie outside the original walls of Jerusalem!

            Second, the pagan temple that stood on the site had been there since 110, when it was built by the Emperor Hadrian. So the memory that this was the site of Jesus’ tomb appears to go back to within 80 years after Jesus’ crucifixion in the year 30. Helena commanded the temple to be razed and the ground to be excavated. And digging down, lo and behold, what did they uncover but a tomb! The memory that the temple had been built on the site of Jesus’ tomb seemed to be historical.

            Coincidence? Maybe; but a good number of scholars think that the tomb which lies enshrined within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is, indeed, the tomb of Jesus.”3

WHAT NEW REVELATIONS?

            The very fact of the tomb’s survival of the 1927 earthquake is a great revelation. The tomb “survived centuries of damage, destruction, and reconstruction of the surrounding Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City,” says Nat Geo.4

            The original limestone bed was found intact, “When the marble cladding was first removed on the night of October 26, an initial inspection by the conservation team from the National Technical University of Athens showed only a layer of fill material underneath. However, as researchers continued their nonstop work over the course of 60 hours, another marble slab with a cross carved into its surface was exposed. By the night of October 28, just hours before the tomb was to be resealed, the original limestone burial bed was revealed intact.”5

            Even the original limestone cave walls were intact, “In addition, researchers confirmed the existence of the original limestone cave walls within the 18th-century Edicule, or shrine, which encloses the tomb. A window has been cut into the southern interior wall of the shrine to expose one of the cave walls.”6

            The opening of Christ’s tomb revealed an aspect of peace - although we hold to different religious worldviews - we could still live in peace and respect those outside our religious worldview, “Outside the Edicule, Thephilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, stood watching the events with a serene smile. "I'm glad that the atmosphere is special, there is a hidden joy," said the patriarch. "Here we have Franciscans, Armenians, Greeks, Muslim guards, and Jewish police officers. We hope and we pray that this will be a real message that the impossible can become the possible. We all need peace and mutual respect."”7

WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE?

            So what if Christ’s tomb was opened? How does it matter to us now?

            The greatest significance is that the opening of the tomb is a reminder to every Christian that Christianity is a faith rooted in human history, “It is just one more manifestation of the fact that when it comes to the life of Jesus we are dealing not with fairy tales or legends but with history,” said Dr. William Lane Craig.8

            The tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ was empty!  The empty tomb represents salvation of those who believe in the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus lived among us, died a gory death on the cross, and was raised again to save those who believe in HIM, “The events that began on Good Friday and culminated on Easter Sunday took place, not in some mythological time, but in human history.

            Think of Luke's gospel and its companion volume, the Book of Acts. Luke names specific Roman emperors and governors, not Zeus and Hermes…his description of the riot at Ephesus in Acts 19 included details that only someone intimately acquainted with the city could have known.

            It could hardly be otherwise. We are saved by a historical act: the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

            And one day, that history will culminate in his return in glory. We know this because the tomb that was opened last month was empty.”9

Endnotes:

1http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/jesus-christ-tomb-burial-church-holy-sepulchre/

2http://www.christianpost.com/news/opening-the-tomb-of-jesus-171757/

3http://www.reasonablefaith.org/excavating-the-tomb-of-jesus

4http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/jesus-christ-tomb-burial-church-holy-sepulchre/

5Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/10/jesus-tomb-opened-church-holy-sepulchre/

8http://www.reasonablefaith.org/excavating-the-tomb-of-jesus


9http://www.christianpost.com/news/opening-the-tomb-of-jesus-171757/