Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Which is More Important?

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10: 34-37

Filipino tradition revolves around one main theme: family.

Above all else, whether be it the nation, our laws, and even truth itself must yield to the all important bonds of blood-relations. Indeed, each family member is expected to act in a manner beneficial to the family, even if it means treason to his country, blatant disregard of the laws, and concealing the truth.

But as Christians, do we put our family first before Jesus Christ? Do we have the right to call ourselves Christians if we do such thing? If one of our family members steals from the Body of Christ, should we hide it and not rebuke it openly?

I say NO.

But if we put our family first, WHERE DOES GOD FIT IN? As the years pass by, I witnessed how an uncle of mine have toiled, in the prime of his life, for the sake of spreading the Gospel, even at the cost of losing potential material gain for his family.

Regardless of what others think as his predisposition to unfair application of standards, and his strict and unapproachable demeanor, he did not, without permission from the owners, withdrew funds entrusted to his care and give such money as church contributions for the sake of God's glory.

For indeed, taking what is not ours is stealing. What is its difference to offerings coming from bank robberies?

The interior of the church building where his fellow church members gather and where he led as pastor does not show vanity of material elegance and grandeur, but of simplicity: a sign that God's glory is not found in a Church building's stained glasses.

I was a witness as to how he patiently dealt with affluent benefactors close to him. Careful in not offending, he meticulously navigated questions regarding traditional faith healers and the use of their craft in order to extend the life of one so dear to us all. Indeed, he consoled those whose faith cannot sustain their own and for that, I give him credit.

He once asked me if I can contribute to the Lord's work among his fellow church members. At that time, I must admit I was rather apprehensive of making contributions; differences in and concerns of making contributions towards, what I believe, unorthodox Christian beliefs hovered over my mind. I asked myself why he did not toe the line and follow our family's methodistic heritage.

Although I do not know his reason which lead to his faithful decision, his untiring dedication to what he believes as the "right thing to do," despite the material consequences to his family, earned him my respect, and taught me not to measure a Christian by his religious affiliation (i.e., as to how recognized and established the Christian church one is a member of) but by the example of how a Christian leads his life.

The life each of us walk, that is, living in a society where the preeminent position of the family creates political dynasties, where traditions compel us to turn a blind eye on justice for family's sake, where family allegiance is above the nation and our laws (Ampatuan family), and where past achievements of our ancestors tower the humility that Christ had shown in the cross, testifies to the strength and continuing influence of the Filipino tradition, at the expense other more important things, such as our Christian beliefs.

Too many instances have we put our family above all other considerations, even His. The question now is, which is more important?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Doing the Right Thing has Nothing to do With Popular Approval

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

John 6:14-15

The growing acceptance of the voice of the people as representing the voice of God has become widely received. But the danger to the concept of vox populi being equal to vox dei, or the lack of distinction between the two, has been neglected in the passing of time.

In ancient times, the House of Israel, time and time again, violated God's command to the point that it warranted the division of the kingdom of Israel, the eventual destruction of Israel and the exile of the people of Judah to Babylon.

Even before the time of kings, the Israelites committed actions in violation of the covenant they have made with God. From raising the Golden Calf during Moises' time to the events that led to the near extinction of the tribe of Benjamin, the people of Israel has never been a good source of emulation or, much to say, guidance as to what is good and right.

Prophets were sent but beheaded and His servants decapitated, all in the name of a people who were once slaves and in the end, were dragged in chains far away from the land of milk and honey for violating His commands.

As far as righteousness is concerned, there is no such thing as vox populi. It would do all of us well to remember that.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

God Alone is Good. Let No Man Lay Claim to that Which is not His

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good — except God alone."

Mark 10:18 (NIV)

Why does men use the word "good" without regard for the consequence of their claims? For among words that define human nature, "good" is definitely not one of them.

If we believe in the teachings of our faith, we must always be reminded that God's plan started with the "fall of man" into sin; not in the sense that we today commonly consider and quickly recognize as a sin, but merely a failure to comply with the very first command that was given to man.

"You must not eat the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil."

Satan encouraged Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by claiming that by eating the fruit, she will be equal with God, possessing the ability to distinguish good and evil.

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Genesis 3:4-5 (NIV)

Although we Christians aspire to imitate our Risen Lord, I neither believe we have the right claim that we are good nor even say we aspire that which is good (but act for His glory), and most of all, consider ourselves "like God."

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2: 5-8

The danger of false humility lurks in the corner as we profess we do not claim righteousness or being good but implicitly shout, in any arena of life, be it in our private or public lives, that goodness is only found and can be exercised by one person besides God Himself and Himself alone.

So now, I reiterate Apostle Paul's words:

9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."

13 "Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit."
"The poison of vipers is on their lips."
14 "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know."
18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Romans 3:9-18

For if we are good, we can stand on the Throne of Judgment with our head highs, not needing the intercession Christ have died for in the cross. It is better that good abounds in us, so that others may see and God is praised without our individual selves benefitting from from it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Church and Transparency

There is nothing hidden that will not be found. There is no secret that will not be well known.

Luke 8:17

Many churhes here in the United States, even beyond the United Methodist Church, proudly publicize the dates of coming events, and give proper notice to activities and meetings crucial to the growth of the faith and upbringing of its members.

Apostle Paul showed that transparency is crucial to the mission of the gospel, as he poured his personal life as a testament to his Christian belief: his sufferings and joys contained in the letters addressed to the churches he had visited (and had the dismay of its members), all for the sake of furthering the Gospel of Christ.

Our Lord and Savior did not turn away those who came to him, who sought his help and grace, and even allowed himself to be scrutinized by the very same Pharisees that saw to his eventual triumph in the cross. He revealed to us Himself: the message that would, for all time, be the everlasting salvation of our souls from the very destruction that awaits those who do not acknowledge Him.

Indeed, transparency is in the nature of Christian living.

If that is the case, why do I not see the by-laws and the articles of incorporation of the Angono United Methodist Church? You have a website with pictures, names, titles, positions, events and activities.

But where and why are these information critical to the function of the church so elusive and hard to access?

I am sure we are not following the path of the Roman Catholic Church, which, as an institution, did not encourage its members, for a thousand and five hundred years, from accessing the holy scriptures.

Transparency, you say?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mathew 23: The Lord's Rebuke to the Leaders Who Deviate from His Words

Who would have thought that Christ would use the word "snake" to label a priest of God! I wonder how He so abhored the practices of these Pharisees to the point of allowing Himself to utter such rebuke to a man of cloth!

Well, that is what they deserve, according to our Lord, when tradition is more important than the words of God (Matthew 15).

Now, come read this underpreached passage of The Book and see whether Christians should be meek in their tolerance against deviations of the so called leaders of the church to Christ's words.

1 Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:

2 The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. 3 So obey everything they teach you, but don't do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else.

4 They pile heavy burdens on people's shoulders and won't lift a finger to help. 5 Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels [a] for everyone to see. 6 They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. 7 And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers. 8 But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. 9 Don't call anyone on earth your father. All of you have the same Father in heaven. 10 None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. 11 Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. 12 If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.

13-14 You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won't go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in. [b] 15 You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You travel over land and sea to win one follower. And when you have done so, you make that person twice as fit for hell as you are.

16 You are in for trouble! You are supposed to lead others, but you are blind. You teach that it doesn't matter if a person swears by the temple. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gold in the temple. 17 You blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?

18 You also teach that it doesn't matter if a person swears by the altar. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gift on the altar. 19 Are you blind? Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Anyone who swears by the altar also swears by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple also swears by God, who lives there. 22 To swear by heaven is the same as swearing by God's throne and by the one who sits on that throne.

23 You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you're in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either. 24 You blind leaders! You strain out a small fly but swallow a camel.

25 You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you're in for trouble! You wash the outside of your cups and dishes, while inside there is nothing but greed and selfishness. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of a cup, and then the outside will also be clean.

27 You Pharisees and teachers are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You're like tombs that have been whitewashed. [c] On the outside they are beautiful, but inside they are full of bones and filth. 28 That's what you are like. Outside you look good, but inside you are evil and only pretend to be good. 29 You Pharisees and teachers are nothing but show-offs, and you're in for trouble! You build monuments for the prophets and decorate the tombs of good people.

30 And you claim that you would not have taken part with your ancestors in killing the prophets.

31 But you prove that you really are the relatives of the ones who killed the prophets. 32 So keep on doing everything they did. 33 You are nothing but snakes and the children of snakes! How can you escape going to hell?

34 I will send prophets and wise people and experts in the Law of Moses to you. But you will kill them or nail them to a cross or beat them in your meeting places or chase them from town to town. 35 That's why you will be held guilty for the murder of every good person, beginning with the good man Abel. This also includes Barachiah's son Zechariah, [d] the man you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I can promise that you people living today will be punished for all these things!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Zealousness & What Happens to Those who Steal What is God's?

God is merciful and He teaches us, His children, to be merciful too.

But if not for Him, I would hang those who steal what belongs to God in the same passion as Phineas put a spear* through the body of a Moabite princess and a Hebrew prince in full public view who violated God's command for Israelites not to have relations with peoples of other nations.

That means I would hang even my own relatives rather than steal from the Most High.

Goodness gracious, you should be ashamed, repent, and resign immediately!

Woe unto to those who subscribes to Filipino tradition and protect this person, regardless of your position and stature, by keeping silent and letting this pass as if nothing happened, and thus disrespect His words!

May the Lord our God have mercy on that person and those who protect him by keeping silent.

For I have no mercy for all of those involved, whether by stealing or silence.

Thus, the blind will lead their fellow blind and fall into a cliff.

*- Numbers 25

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Dilemma of a Christian Public Servant

It has been pagan tradition to honor men of power and influence, to the extent of according them divine status. In ancient times, the line that separates political and religious matters does not exist. The Chinese considered their emperors the son of heaven; the Egyptians thought of their Pharaohs as the incarnation of the Egyptian deity, Osiris; while the Greeks exulted their heros as demigods.

Indeed, power attracts honor; to have the ability to compel others to obey, to be given legitimacy by the people to rule, and to bear the enormous responsibility of stirring the ship of state is a feat unrivalled by no other; thus, it deserves to be given due credit, be it honor, praise, or respect.

From the Christian perspective, I believe there are two verses which apply to the issue of whether Christians ought to receive honor, praise, and respect although they acknowledge everyday that "all glory, honor, and praise" are to Him alone. First verse, Romans 13:7, states that honor, praise, and respect should be given to whom honor, praise, and respect is due.

More so, Apostle Paul recognizes that public officials are servants of God who were given the "sword" to implement justice to all. They punish does who create disorder in the community and those who do what is right should have no fear at all. Clearly, the verse in question supports the notion that public officials deserve to be given credit when they deserve it.

The other verse in question (perhaps a better word is "verses") can be found in various translations within the synoptic gospels.

The idea of those verses is to do good things without expecting anything in return: that includes praise, honor, and respect. What makes this verse significant is that Christ exhorted this saying to his servants as a caution against how they interpret greatness, that is, greatness from the perspective of the One above (divine) and from the perspective of this world (worldly).

In heaven's eye, the greatest servant is the servant that truly humbles himself. He does not seek worldly gain, fame or power; always lowering oneself, he faces constant ridicule, and the world does not understand him. The life of a servant in Christ is a life full of sacrifices, and a trial of his Christian belief, as it is being examined from the eyes of world, through its values and norms.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a French political philosopher, said Christians are unsuitable for public office because they would be indifferent to worldly matters, focusing their time and energy to things unworldly, that is, anything that does not concern this world, and primarily, the human soul.

Although I do not believe entirely what he says, Rousseau makes a valid point in explaining that it would be hard for Christians to admit that Christ's kingdom "is not of this world."It is for this reason that the principle of separation between church and state has been established by no less than Christ's exhortation of "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

In conclusion, I do not see any conflict between the two biblical concepts provided that the church does not meddle in the business of the state and the state does not intrude upon the affairs of the church.I admit, this consistency becomes blurred especially when political and religious offices are combined into one person, just like the pagan rulers of the past, who were high priests and kings in one.

Christian public servants, if they stay way and do not use God to sanctify the workings of government, can serve God without mentioning His name like automaton, and expose oneself to commit the blasphemy of using His name in vain.

Perhaps one needs to be reminded that the Book of Esther is a book in the old testament, which was included in the Christian canon; but it is a book that did not mention the word "God" even once!

In public service, we do not need to expose our Christianity by word and by utterance: that makes us more professing Christians than fruitful Christians.

It is better to project who we are by our actions and deeds, the evidence that our faith is not dead and that believers become "salt" and "light" in this world for Christ Jesus alone. For action speaks for a man's belief than his words.