Thursday, August 21, 2014

Grace Above Law

One important thing that we must remember about God's grace is that the Grace of God in Jesus Christ has not nullified the Law of God. Grace is not against God's Law. In fact, Jesus said that He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it (Matt.5:17).

We have noted earlier that the commandments of Grace are tougher and more demanding than the commandments of the Law. The Bible tells us that the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came with Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Jesus ushered in the era of Grace. Not that grace was absent in the Old Testament; but that grace could only be available even in the Old Testament because of the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the earth. And, when Christ came Grace came in reality, for until then everything was only shadows (Col.2:17). Therefore, it says, "Grace and truth came with Jesus Christ".

The commandments of Grace, therefore, supersede the commandments of the Law. Grace teaches us true righteousness (Tit.2:11,12; Matt.5:20).

Thus, certain things that were allowed in the Old Testament (like divorce, swearing, polygamy, and  tit-for-tat ethics) are not allowed anymore in the New Testament (Matt.5:31,34, 38,39). Most of these things were allowed because of the hardness of human hearts, but God never originally intended them so (Matt.19:8). However, in the Age of Grace when His Grace transforms our hearts, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves and to pray for our enemies, we are called not to resist evil people but turn our left cheek to someone who slaps on our right (i.e. severely insults and humiliates us). The demands of Grace are higher than the demands of the Law.

The commandments of Grace spring from the spirit of the Law not the letter of the Law. Thus, while the OT command only said, "Do not murder" and "Do not commit adultery", the command of Grace tells us to not even get angry with our brother without cause and tells us looking at a woman lustfully is equal to committing adultery (Matt.5:22,27).

The essence of the command of Grace is Love (Rom.13:8,10; Gal.5:14; James 2:8).

The good news is that this Love is poured into our hearts through the Spirit in the New Testament; therefore, the commandments of God are no longer burdensome or impossible (Rom.5:5; 2Cor.12:9; 1 John 5:3).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Christ the Mediator Between The Believer and Events

The mediatorship of Christ, as we saw earlier, is not only between man and God but also between man and man. He comes in between every relationship. He is the Lord of all. In Him, relationships find true meaning and purpose. He comes between parent and child, sibling and sibling, friend and friend, wife and husband and we only relate to each other through Him.

The same applies to our relationship with things, treasures, situations in life, and time. He comes between as Lord and mediator in all things. He stands between the storm and the believer, between an event and the disciple. Nothing happens by accident when Christ rules over a situation. He comes between me and the trains or buses I need to board or have boarded. He comes between me and diseases. Therefore, I cannot just do what I like and go where I want but must do all things in Him and through Him. When He is Lord, He controls all things, supervises all that things - even our connections and people we meet. And when we ask anything in prayer in His name, there is no chance for chance, because all things are by Him, through Him, and for Him - He answers our prayers. In fact, the dispensations of history will come to an end only in Him (Eph.1:10). When He stands in the middle, He leads the way without fail.

Atheism in India

Atheism is disbelief in a personal God. It is not very popular in India, despite the various ploys of inroad it has attempted throughout history.

There are various kinds of atheisms in India. Some of these are dead, as far as systems are concerned; others live in compliant modes. For instance, charvaka atheism died away as a system, but yoga, samkhya, and Vedanta took accommodative modes.

The six heterodox schools (Charvaka, Jainism, and 4 schools of Buddhism) were labelled nastik or non-believing because they rejected the Vedas. However, these also have no place for the Supreme Personal God in their systems. Jainism considers a plurality of spirits to be eternal, and matter to be evil. Buddhism considers the human spirit as an aggregate of the 5 skandhas; in fact, it disbelieves the spirit as being real according to the doctrine of anatta.

Samkhya looks at Purusha and Prakriti as the eternal principles in a form of dualism. Vedanta regards the spirit as all that is and the one without an other (non-dualism); everything else is a delusion; thus, only the self eternally exists according to it. God, as the wholly other, doesn't exist.

However, neither the popular Hindu nor the tribal, following his various belief-systems, is willing to accept such atheistic doctrines. Thus, some sort of worship is vital in popular Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Of course, magic has made some inroads as well, quite contradictorily to the concept of theism (Theism can't allow any power apart from God nor able to supersede God, since God, by definition, is the Supreme One).

There are a few antisupernaturalists who regard science as the enemy of the concept of God and of creation. But, their impact doesn't seem to be as strong among the 4/14 Window group who have already formed faith before entering High School. We don't count godless lifestyles here. It is possible that one believes in the supernatural and still lives a godless life. The demons do - they believe in God and yet are godless.

We also don't mean that most Indians are monotheists. We only mean they are not atheists. Atheism is too tasteless for them; and quite impractical as far as philosophy of life is concerned. Atheism has no inspiring story to tell.

The Modern Local Church

The modern local church is no longer the same geographical entity as it was in the Early New Testament period. Usually, especially, in an average Christian populated area, there are many churches, independent of or affiliate to some national or international body, that distinguish themselves from other churches in the locality. More churches are cropping up. One asks the question, “Does this mean that the Church is divided?”

Perhaps, it is not right to hurriedly answer that many churches means a divided Christianity, especially in the modern context. There is certainly the strong recognition that we are one in faith and belong to the same Universal Body. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t divisive and competition minded people. Yes, there are. But, such were also present in the early church and there was the wrong attitude of competition among Jesus’ disciples as well when they argued who was greatest among them, an attitude that Jesus rebuked.

In modern times, literature ministry, radio and television outreach, seminary outreach, and Christian music have gone beyond denominational boundaries in uniting people in faith and worship. Of course, comparative tendencies do exist; but, there is generally an openness to mutually benefit spiritually from each other.
The only big problen  is denominationalism and cultic-personism or hero worship; and, when it is an –ism, it is certainly an evil. But, provided an ism attitude doesn’t exist, perhaps there is no reason to fear that different churches can be a big problem; especially when one is able to look at local church simply as the local church and the various “churches” within the area as different gatherings. For instance, in this view, the Church at Bangalore is the community of Christian believers in that city; however, this doesn’t necessitate that all of them gather together in one location and be organized into one local body. It certainly doesn’t seem very feasible and it doesn’t seem that the New Testament anticipates that. There were many churches (gathering communities) in Galatia (Gal.1:2). Also, all believers in Jerusalem could not meet in one house; they certainly met at different places. However, in modern times, there is certainly the need to network and inter-serve with other groups.

Again, the New Testament church is not a centralized organization. The only Lord is Jesus, and the Administrator is the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn't encourage His disciples to try to dictate or centralize all churches under their rule. However, apostles who planted churches in various places had spiritual authority and rights in doctrinal and administrative matters, as Paul demonstrates in his letters to the Corinthians (1Cor.4:21; 7:1; 2Cor.13:10; 1:24). But, the apostle was like a spiritual father there and shows an example of self-giving and Christ-centeredness. Also, Peter and the other apostles didn't interfere with Paul's work. Certainly, it was not they but Christ who called him to ministry (Gal.2:9). Jesus said that the disciples should not forbid someone from doing God's work, because He that is not against us is with us (Luke 9:50). That is the ruling principle.

Every local unit must be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating. However, this doesn’t mean that ministries cannot organize themselves globally. As we saw, Paul set rules for local churches. However, the local church must remember that she has only one Lord. It is very wrong and carnal even today to say "I belong to Paul" or "I belong to Peter".

Of course, not everyone claiming to be God’s minister is God’s minister; there are also agents of devil camouflaging as angels of light. Similarly, not every one saying “Lord, Lord” truly is either known by God or belongs to Him. Believers are called to be vigilant about these issues and be faithful to the Gospel.
It is not always feasible to try to combine all local gatherings into an ecumenical organization. The church is not an organization. When God calls a person to ministry and gives him/her people to care for, he/she must be faithful to what God has entrusted him/her with (Gal.1:15,16). The harvest is great and there is need of many laborers. The fish catch is much and we need friends to help us. The sheepfold is large and God needs many shepherds after His own heart.

We must learn to cooperate and work together. We must learn to forego competition and learn complementation. We must learn to be faithful to our calling and work for the salvation and edification of souls. We must also beware of anything that tries to destroy the unity of the Body, the temple of the Lord.

1. Denominationalism is evil because it is divisive in spirit.
2. Various gatherings, some may have labels and names, can help effectively carry on the spread of Gospel if each functions faithfully as a ministering family and look to other ministries mutually serve.
3. Gatherings must watch against defectors. They might be very unstable and unfaithful.
4. Churches should not market themselves to draw people from other congregations; they must focus on the harvest to win lost souls.
5. Ministries must focus in places where Christ is not known.
6. Ministries must watch against false apostles, teachers, and prophets.
7. Each church must aim at reaching out to the world with the message of the Cross. They can do that by assisting various ministries, helping other churches, having a media outreach team, and such many other ways.
8. We must cooperate with and complement each other; not compete with each other.
9. Be connected with other ministers in prayer and fellowship.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tithing

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house (Mal 3:10 NKJ)

God instituted tithing for the material support of the work of God. In the Old Testament, the Levites who served the Lord were the recipients of the tithes (Num.18:21; Heb.7:5). In the New Testament, Christ the High Priest anoints and appoints servants (full-time workers) who are to be supported by tithes and offerings (1Tim.5:17,18; 1Cor.9:6-11,13,14).

Tithe Predates Its Institution in the Law
Abraham gave tithe to Melchizedek, the Priest of the Most High God. (Gen.14:20)
In Abraham, Levi gave tithe to Melchizedek (Heb.7:9,10)

Tithe Was Instituted in Moses’ Law to Support the Work of the Temple
The Firstborn belong to the Lord (Num.3:13)
The Levites were taken by God in place of all firstborn from all the 12 Tribes of Israel (Num.3:12,41)
When the number of Levites were less than the number of firstborn, the other tribes had to give 5 shekels per firstborn as redemption price to Aaron and his sons (Num.3:46,47,51)
To the firstborn belongs the double portion, his birthright (Deut.21:17).
To the Levite belongs the tithe (one tenth) of all income; it is their inheritance, their right (Num.18:21; Neh.10:37).
Tithing is instituted so that there will be food in God’s house (Mal.3:10)

Note: The Scripture refers to giving the due financial portion when talking about giving double honor to the elders [full-time ministers of God’s Word] (1Tim.5:17,18).

A person who claims to be part of the Covenant and does not pay tithes is actually a robber of God, a looter of God’s house (Mal.3:8,9). Isn’t that more serious than robbing from fellowmen? (Exo.22:2-4).

Tithing Continues in the New Testament Because the Ministry of the House has not Stopped
Jesus stated that tithing must not be neglected; but, must be done along with justice, mercy, and faith (Matt.23:23)
The Book of Hebrew tells us that even Levi of the Old Testament paid tithes to Melchizedek, the anti-type of Jesus (Heb.7:9,10).

Now, some may wrongly object that all believers are a priests unto God, so why tithe?

But, priesthood of all believers differs from full-time calling to the exclusive ministry of the Gospel (Rom.1:5; 2Cor.5:18). And those who minister in this work are given the commandment to live from this work (1Cor.9:14), i.e. be supported by those who benefit from their ministry. Paul exclusively practiced tent-making in many cases; however, he was certainly supported by churches in the work (2Cor.11:8). Paul explained it by saying that he took wages from other churches; but, since he wasn’t serving them in person directly while taking wages from them, but using these wages to serve the Corinthian church, it amounted to robbery.

But, the thought of not being burdensome to the infant Corinthian church didn’t seem to be helpful anyway. The Corinthian church more readily gave to those false apostles who came there just for money (2Cor.11:20).  Of course, Paul could boast of preaching the Gospel free of charge (2Cor.11:7); for certainly the Gospel was the free gift of God. But preaching it does involve expenses. Paul is an exceptional case. Jesus Himself didn’t do carpentry to support His ministry (Luke 8:3). Also, when He called His disciples, He called them out of their vocational practices (Matt.4:19).

But, what does tithing have to do with New Testament ministry? Can’t one just give a little of one’s substance, say 1 or 2 percent or even less and keep the rest for himself?

Such arguments show how ungrateful one is to the gift of God and how irresponsible one is towards the work of the Kingdom.

Some are afraid that the ministers of God will get rich and use the money for themselves. Again, how closed-minded this is. Aren’t we forgetting the Scripture that says that the worker deserves his wages? Even Jeremiah the prophet, in such torturous and anti situations had resources enough to buy a land for himself when God commanded him so (Jer.32:7-12). He was symbolical of the blessings that God promised to give to Israel, that they would possess lands and build houses (Jer.32:15). Certainly, it is crucial that the man of God is not greedy for money (1Tim.3:3). However, it is disastrous when people are afraid that those who serve Christ will financially prosper. It looks as selfish as wanting the firstborn (for whom the Levites were substituted) to have nothing for themselves, and not giving the firstborn his birthright.

When one gives, one must give by faith as unto God, or else such giving is not accepted before God (Heb.11:4).

We must remember that the commandments of Grace are tougher and more demanding than the commandments of the Law. If one has doubts, a glance at the Sermon on the Mount will prove it. The commandment of Law only said “Don’t murder”; the commandment of Grace says, “Don’t even get angry with your brother without a cause!” The commandment of Law only said, “Don’t commit adultery”; but the commandment of Grace forbids to even look at a woman with lust. The Old Testament permitted divorce; the New Testament doesn’t, except in the case of adultery. The Old Testament permitted slavery and polygamy; the New Testament doesn’t permit them. Christ didn’t come to do away with the Law, but came to fulfill it (Matt.5:17,18). In other words, what was intended in the Old Testament is brought to surface in the New Testament. The OT prescribed many things like divorce because of the hardness of human hearts (Mark 10:5); but in the NT age of Grace, the original intent of God’s heart is revealed to us (Mark 10:6-9). So, Grace doesn’t mean freedom from the Law; it only means freedom to fulfill and excel above the Law.

A true NT believer doesn’t just give tithes, according to the letter of the Law; he gives more than tithes (but never less), according to the Spirit of the Law. Note that Jesus appreciated the widow who gave 100 percent of what she had, even when she could have argued that she barely had enough for herself (Luke 21:2-4). It is impossible to excel this widow in giving. However, it is sad that those who have enough for themselves and for generations to come are afraid of giving even 1 percent to God!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Civil Disobedience, Law, and Justice

CIVIL OBEDIENCE obligatorily relates to Justice. Civil obedience is mandatory when the laws are just. However, civil obedience is not mandatory when laws are unjust. In fact, civil disobedience is obligatory when laws are unjust. The officers and judges during Hitler's reign might have argued that they were obeying their laws; however, since those laws were not just; therefore, they were guilty of crimes against humanity. Similarly, we find civil disobedience in the Bible when Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego refused to bow before the golden image (Dan. 3:14-16), when Daniel opened the windows and openly prayed in defiance to a law prohibiting the same (Daniel 6:10), and when the Apostles refused the authorities' command to stop preaching the Gospel.
But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Act 4:19-20 NIV)
The Formula:

  • Law+Justice+Obedience = Peace & Order
  • Law-Justice+Obedience = Crime & Destruction
  • Law+Justice+Disobedience = Anarchy
  • Law-Justice+Disobedience  = Resistance

Evidently, the state of civil disobedience is a state of unrest and struggle. There can only be peace when the laws are just and people obey just laws. However, civil disobedience to unjust laws certainly signifies peace within the heart, where resolve submits to conscience. (Rom.2:15) When, from the fountain of a pure conscience, just actions follow, peace prevails within, and peace flows without.
Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Psa 119:165 NIV)

However, when the heart is allowed to be hardened in compliance to godless authority and laws, judgment comes (2Chr. 36:14-16).


Some Quotes

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

"Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt."
― Mahatma Gandhi

"Civil disobedience is the assertion of a right which law should give but which it denies...Civil disobedience presupposes willing obedience of our self-imposed rules, and without it civil disobedience would be cruel joke....Civil disobedience means capacity for unlimited suffering without the intoxicating excitement of killing....Disobedience to be civil has to be open and nonviolent....Disobedience to be civil implies discipline, thought, care, attention...Disobedience that is wholly civil should never provoke retaliation....Non-cooperation and civil disobedience are different but [are] branches of the same tree call Satyagraha (truth-force)...."
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe. ”
― Arundhati Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire

“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law”
― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, August 15, 2014

ISIS against IESOUS: Eradication of Christians in Iraq?

Islamic State
The UN headquarters building in Baghdad after the Canal Hotel bombing, on 22 August 2003 (Wikipedia)
News Excerpts

ISIS on Christians: 'There is nothing to give them but the sword'

Catholic Online, August 8, 2014 (Warning: This page contains graphic images!)

The Islamic State has warned Christians, possibly for the last time, saying "there is nothing to give them but the sword." Across Northern Iraq, Christians are huddled in refugee camps, trapped in the desert, or trapped in their homes, waiting for death.

"Our people are disappearing," Canon Andrew White, head of the Anglican Church in Iraq "It looks as though the end could be very near," he told the BBC.

A week ago, Christians were warned to either leave the city of Mosul and other areas under Islamic State control, or they would have to pay a tax or be put to death. Today, nobody has heard from those Christians and nobody knows what is happening to them.

Are they being quietly "put to the sword" as this militant strain of Islam asks they be?

The Human Rights Watch reported on July 14 that homes in Mosul were painted with red letters to indicate Christian homes. Other homes of Shiite Muslims were also adorned.

Emboldened ISIS Barbarically Slaughtering Christians In Iraq as Obama Plays Golf

BY RACHEL ALEXANDER , CP OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR, Christian Post. August 11, 2014

The Christian genocide taking place in the Middle East currently has reached alarming levels. Last week, the jihadist terrorist group ISIS, which means the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – although it is unrecognized as a nation – took over Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in Iraq, warning Christians to "leave, convert or die." They are systematically beheading children. It is a part of an unprecedented, recent effort by the ISIS to extinguish Christians from northern Iraq. In 2003, there were about 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. After the Iraq War, that number dropped to as low as 200,000.

ISIS captured Mosul in June, so Christians there fled to Qaraqosh, population 50,000. ISIS warned Christians in Mosul to leave by July 19th. The houses of Christians in Mosul were painted with the letter "N," meaning Nasare, the Muslim word for Christians, which comes from Nazareth, Jesus's hometown. Their property was confiscated, including jewelry and wedding rings – sometimes chopping off their fingers to get them. Their churches were bombed, which has been caught on video. Catholic Online has compiled some of the more graphic photos of the barbaric, torturous executions. Many Christians were crucified due to the humiliation of Christ's crucifixion. There are reportedly no Christians left in Mosul.

Within the past few months, ISIS has taken over Fallujah, Tikrit, and Tel Afar in northern Iraq. Composed of radical Sunni Muslims, ISIS is also terrorizing Shia and some Kurdish Muslims. Besides eradicating Christians, its goals include removing the Shia Muslim population. Next, it is going after certain Kurdish Muslims, marching toward Erbil, the Kurdish capital of Iraq.

ISIS Swallowing Iraq: 'They're Beheading Children'

Chris Mitchell, CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief, CBN, August 14, 2014



ERBIL, Kurdistan -- Islamic terrorists in Iraq are beheading children and burying people alive, and it won't stop there....

Over the past week, the army of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also known as IS (Islamic State), swallowed up swaths of Iraq like a pervading darkness.

In just one day, tens of thousands of Christians fled from towns like Qaraqosh and Bartilla, about 25 miles away. Most came to the town of Erbil with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

"America is at a crossroad," says Retired Gen. Paul Vallely, who has more than 15 years of experiencce in special operations and other military ops. He shared his insight on the chaos in Iraq and how it will impact America, on The 700 Club, August 11.

"They take everything from the house, from the store, everything," one refugee told CBN News. "They hate Christian especially. We don't know why."

The choice was leave or die.

"They say if anyone don't [sic] become like Muslim, we['re] going to kill them, each one, from baby to women to old man," he said. "We don't have anything here," one woman told CBN News.

"They bombed the churches and already took our houses," she continued. "We have nothing here. No money. No ID. No travel documents."

Dr. Sarah Ahmed, with the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, called the attacks "a genocide."

"What's happening now to the Christians, to the Yazidis, to the minorities is -- in the last couple of days mostly to the Christians -- is a genocide," she told CBN News. "What's happening is what happened 200 years ago to the Jews [sic]."

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism.

Dr. Ahmed relayed stories she'd heard of the barbarism of ISIS.

"That ISIS was shooting the kids and people, and they were laying them on the ground and they bring tractors that they walk [drive] over them in front of their families," she said. "They take women out of their houses so if a family had three daughters, they would take one."

UN Accuses ISIS Militants of 'Barbaric' Sexual Violence; Says Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq Has Reached Its Highest Level

STOYAN ZAIMOV , CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER, Christian Post, August 14, 2014

The United Nations has declared the highest level of humanitarian emergency in Iraq and has accused Islamic State militants of carrying out "barbaric" acts of sexual violence against women and teenage boys and girls belonging to Iraqi minorities.

U.N. special representative Nickolay Mladenov said that the declaration by the UN of a "Level 3 Emergency" in Iraq would "facilitate mobilization of additional resources in goods, funds and assets to ensure a more effective response to the humanitarian needs of populations affected by forced displacements," BBC News reported on Thursday.

The Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, has taken over significant territory in Iraq and Syria, capturing major cities, carrying out violent attacks on minorities, including Christians, and forcing close to 1.2 million people to flee their homes.

Militants have been accused by humanitarian organizations of violent acts such as beheading children and carrying out "savage rapes."

"We are gravely concerned by continued reports of acts of violence, including sexual violence against women and teenage girls and boys belonging to Iraqi minorities," Mladenov and Zainab Hawa Bangura, the special representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said in a joint statement.

"Atrocious accounts of abduction and detention of Yazidi, Christian, as well as Turkomen and Shabak women, girls and boys, and reports of savage rapes, are reaching us in an alarming manner."

Bangura and Mladenov added that close to 1,500 Yazidi and Christian persons may have been forced into sexual slavery.

The U.N. officials strongly condemned the targeting of women and children, identifying such acts of sexual violence as "grave human rights violations" that can be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity.


"And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language,`Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' So I said,`Who are You, Lord?' And He said,`I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (Act 26:14-15)


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