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Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The uniqueness of the Christian concept of God is that of the Triune nature of God – that God is One being with Three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The church is the body of God’s work on earth. Though few people have questions about the role of God the Father and Jesus Christ in the church today, there seems to be some confusion about the role of the Holy Spirit in the church today. One of the points of contention in some churches is that of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and its related issue - the filling of the Holy Spirit. The Pentecostal/charismatic churches believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate event after conversion. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Baptist/Brethren etc. churches that believe in the complete cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The key then is to understand what the baptism of the Holy Spirit really is and then the meaning of what it means to be filled in the Spirit will also be revealed. What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? What is the filling of the Holy Spirit? Before we look at the answers to these questions, there is an important hermeneutical rule that needs to be addressed. It is the lack of knowledge of this rule that prevents an accurate exegesis and therefore the existence of wrong teaching that pervades certain churches. Historical vs Didactic There is a difference between historical accounts and didactic letters. Historical accounts focus on a collection of experiences. Didactical accounts focus on teachings. The New Testament contains both genres of content. The book of Acts is mainly an experiential, historical account. Even then it is not an account of ALL the things that happened historically. It is just a collection of some of the things that happened in the first century as collected by Luke the physician. In general, we don’t formulate theology or theological principles from experiences. Instead, our experiences should be evaluated in the light of theological principles. Hence, any argument for any doctrine should come primarily out of the letters or out of the didactic parts of the historical narratives and not out of the experiences themselves. Any doctrine that is purely formed out of inferences from experiences should be treated with suspicion. For example. if you read the historical account in the book of Acts and then formulated your doctrine of the gift of tongues, as some churches do, then you will come to the conclusion that every time there was the expression or presence of the Holy Spirit mentioned, there was the use of the gift of tongues. But this is simply not true because when you read 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and 14 you find out that the gift of tongues has a much lesser role in the church. At the same time, even though the Gospels are primarily historical accounts, we can obviously formulate theological doctrines from the didactical parts of it. So, for example, the majority of the doctrine of hell arises out of the teachings of Jesus in the historical accounts of the Gospels. Only in cases where there is no guidance in the didactical accounts should anyone look at historical examples to infer doctrine. Thus, for the questions on the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit, we turn to the epistles and to the didactic parts of the historical books first, and then evaluate the experiences in the historical accounts based on established doctrine. Baptism of the Holy Spirit The charismatic churches believe that it is a separate event because of the examples in the book of Acts that seems to indicate it as a separate event. So what is the baptism of the Holy Spirit from the didactical portions of scripture? The term “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” occurs 7 times in the New Testament. In the first four occurrences, John the Baptist is speaking about Jesus and predicting that he will baptize people in (or with) the Holy Spirit: Matthew 3:11: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Mark 1:8: “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Luke 3:16: “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” John 1:33: “He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” ’ From these verses, the conclusion that we can draw is that Jesus is the one who will baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit. The next two passages refer directly to Pentecost: Acts 1:5: [Here Jesus says,] “John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 11:16: [Here Peter refers back to the same words of Jesus that were quoted in the previous verse. He says,] “I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” From these two passages, we understand that Baptism in the Holy Spirit happened on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 and 3000 people were converted. (Acts 2:14). All six of these verses use almost exactly the same expression in Greek, with the only differences being some variation in word order or verb tense to fit the sentence, and with one example having the preposition understood rather than expressed explicitly.9 The only remaining reference in the New Testament is in the Pauline epistles: 1 Corinthians 12:13 (NIV): “For we were all baptized in one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” The Greek text of this verse is similar to that of the other six verses. Paul says ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι … ἐβαπτίσθημεν (“in one Spirit … we were baptized”). The only difference is that he refers to “one Spirit” rather than “the Holy Spirit” – but when you look at the context, there is no question that he is indeed referring to the Holy Spirit when he says “one spirit”. Otherwise, all the other elements are the same: the verb is βαπτίζω and the prepositional phrase contains the same words (ἐν, plus the dative noun πνεύματι from πνεῦμα). This verse says that Baptism in the Spirit happens in order to add a person to the body of Christ. Question: When does a person become a member of the body of Christ? Answer: At conversion. Baptism of the Spirit, therefore, happens when a person is added to the Body of Christ, and that is at conversion. Now that the doctrine is established using the didactic portions of the scriptures, we can then explain the experiential in light of the didactic. The Baptism of the Spirit occurred for the first time on the day of Pentecost (for it was still future when Jesus spoke of it in Acts 1:5, and Peter mentions it as happening first at Pentecost in Acts 11:15–16). The Pentecost and the accounts of the works of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts reflect the transition of the old covenant and the new covenant. Even though the disciples were being drawn to God throughout the previous 3 years, they do not receive this full new covenant empowering for ministry until the Day of Pentecost, for Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). The Filling of the Spirit Most of the other mentions of the interaction of the Holy Spirit and believers are about the Filling of the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit is that fullness that a believer experience of the Holy Spirit who is already within him. At conversion, the Holy Spirit (God) enters into a human being in an inexplicable metaphysical union. Once the Holy Spirit enters a person, He does not leave. John 14.16 This is different than in the Old Testament where the Holy Spirit would come upon a person for a specific task and then leave once that task was completed. For example. Judges 6:34 But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. However, since the example of Jesus, in whom the Holy Spirit was permanent, a similar relationship can be expected for the followers of Jesus. John 1:33 ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him [Jesus], this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ This entrance of the Holy Spirit in a person is seen at the baptism of the Holy Spirit, ie. at conversion, as explained above. Having received the Holy Spirit at conversion, it is then imperative to maintain a daily relationship with the Holy Spirit who is inside of us. Essentially this is called the filling of the Spirit in which the Holy Spirit has complete control over our lives while we have zero control. However due to our humanness men do to our sin circumstances the Holy Spirit does not have complete control i.e. we are not continually filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit who was already inside of us. The Holy Spirit is not a prescription, such that we take a 2 mg dose of the Holy Spirit today and a 4 mg dose of the Holy Spirit tomorrow. Instead he is a person. Therefore he is either inside us or outside us. The Filling of the Holy Spirit is not whether the Holy Spirit is in us or outside of us. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is what determines whether he is in us or outside of us. Once He is in us, He can be stifled such that we don’t live in His fullness. The usual example I gave is that of a red tablet in a glass of water. There is a period after which the red tablet is dropped into the glass of water where the water is not completely red. But in a few moments, the red tablet dissolves causing the entire water to turn red. Many Christians live in the phase of having the Holy Spirit within us and yet not experiencing his fullness within us. The characteristics of a person filled in the Spirit are: 1. Increasing Christ-likeness. Galatians 5.22-23.The Holy Spirit desires to have extensive influence and control in a believer’s life. This continuous filling by the Spirit produces a certain character – that of Jesus – called Sanctification. Filling of the spirit results in control by the spirit leads to maturity. Luke 4.1. With increasing maturity comes increasing revelation of further areas that need to be under the control of the Spirit. When we respond and allow the spirit to take more control of these areas, we become more mature and more spiritual. It is a slowly progressive process. 2. Worship The Holy Spirit always exalts Jesus. John 16.14. Thus when you are filled constantly you will have a love for Jesus. Romans 5.5. 3. Relational Submissiveness. Ephesians 5:21. Spirit control affects all the relationships of life so that proper harmony will be experienced between husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees. Self-control, on the contrary, will disrupt that harmony. 4. Victory over sin: Galatians 8.5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 5. Service: The desire to serve especially by spreading the message of Jesus to people. Acts 2:4—2:41; 4:31—5.14; 6.3—6.7; praying – 4.24; giving – 4.34 Passion for souls – something will burn within you. Empowering for ministry is a sovereign act of God whereby he possesses someone for a special activity. Whenever God has needed to use somebody for his purpose, He first fills them with the Spirit. There are numerous examples in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament Luke 1.15; Acts 2.4; 4.8, 31; 13.9. On our own strength, we don’t have the power to do His work. Without the Spirit leading worship will be a performance, sermons would be an oration, prayers would be mere eloquence, fasting would be a stoic appreciation of your sacrifice and evangelism would be a futile show of the ability to convince. Here then are some differences between the Baptism and the Filling of the Spirit: How can a person be baptized by the Holy Spirit? By coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Rom 10:9; John 1:12 How can a person be filled by the Holy Spirit? There is no example in all Scripture of any believer asking to be filled by the Spirit. (Eph 1:17) 1. Dedication of Self. Since the filling of the Spirit involves control, we need to completely and continuously dedicate our selves to God for His use and control. It depends on submission to God’s will – Eph 5.17. If we rebel against the will of God, then the Spirit does not have control over us. The more we come under the will of God, the more the Holy Spirit fills us. 2. Spirit-filling involves not grieving the Spirit (Eph 4:30). What is it that grieves Him? Sins of any kind. The filling is from within. He is a person who is on the inside but suppressed from having complete reign by our desires/sin/lifestyle. 3. The Spirit-filled life is a life of dependence (Gal 5:16). God wants us to depend on Him for our every need. The Spirit comes with power for any life situation. The Filling of the Spirit happens the more we empty ourselves, confess our sins, and surrender our desires. It is a cycle. My hope is that everyone gets to a Baptism of the Holy Spirit and every such person would live in the daily filling of the Holy Spirit. References Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1994 Photo by kaleb tapp on Unsplash

The 70/30 Rule of Satisfaction

The 70/30 Rule of Satisfaction

I was chatting with my cousin today on job satisfaction and other life issues. As we were talking I stumbled on a realization about the reality of satisfaction. Here's my theory: 100% is an impossible number to obtain to be satisfied. We can never be 100% satisfied with anyone or anything. So, I arbitrarily chose a lower number. I wonder if we can be satisfied only 70% with anyone or anything? What if, the most anyone can be satisfied is around 70%. Then, anything beyond this is not the general reality. This obviously has wide implications. Some examples follow: a. When I look for an employee, is it realistic for me to expect someone who fits all the criteria 100%? No, it is not practical. If I can get someone who fulfills 70% of the criteria as long as the critical ones are fulfilled, I should choose to be content. b. If you are working at an office or any job: Expecting to have 100% job satisfaction is unrealistic. If we stand back and see the big picture: if we can get 70% of the perfect workplace, the perfect boss, the perfect co-workers, then we should be satisfied. c. When you get married, is your spouse about to fulfill 100% of your dreams? Absolutely not! If you can get about 70% compatibility and agreement, it is probably the most we can get. (the same with family members). d. When you have children, will they listen to you and obey you 100% of the time? Even if they did that initially, it is just a matter of time before their individuality and personhood cause a drop in their compliance. e. With friends (or any other relationship), will anyone be 100% compatible with anyone else? Unlikely. Having a realistic expectation in every relationship will help in two ways: 1. It will help us to be content with what is reality. Contentment is a choice. So we can choose to be content with 70% compatibility and compliance. Alternatively, I can choose to be unhappy by focusing on the 30%. So, Paul can say, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12) 2. It can help us to avoid disappointment and therefore jeopardize relationships. When our expectations are lower, then disappointment is also lower. If I get into any relationship knowing that the most I will be satisfied is 70%, then anything in that relationship that doesn't gel with me, I can easily attribute it to the 30%. (For a sermon on contentment, see here: Mud Pies) Thus, a. Once you realize that your employee won't be the perfect employee fulfilling 100% of the role, then employers can account for it in other ways, other than placing unnecessary pressure on the employee and in the company. b. Once we know that any person can only find 70% fulfillment in a job or in an employer, that will prevent him/her from quitting her job or getting frustrated. Instead, they will work around the 30% that cannot be fulfilled. c. Once we realize that we can have only 70% compatibility with our spouses (at best), then we won't put unnecessary pressure on the relationship or look outside the relationship in the futile effort to get the elusive 100% satisfaction. For those who are looking for spouses, expecting to have a potential spouse to be 100% compatible is unrealistic. d. Once we realize that we can have only 70% compliance from our children, then we won't treat them like robots (that would give 100% compliance). Rather, we will treat them like people with minds and personalities of their own. e. Once we realize that we may only get 70% similarity in viewpoints and thinking (at best) with friends, neighbors, and colleagues, then we are free to disagree and yet continue the friendship. At the end of the day, my own views and personality change over time. Thus over time, I am not 100% compatible with myself! How then can I expect to be fully compliant with another unique individual? Aiming for a lower number, like 70% and choosing to be content with that, is more realistic and likely to result in more successful (and compatible) relationships. #relationship #compatible #friendship #family #realistic #spouse #wife #husband #content #happy #choice Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayer?

Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayer?

I was recently asked a question: "Recently a person we know died of Covid, leaving behind a young family. I have no answer for that heartbreak. Jesus healed people instantly. We seem not to have that power. What are we missing here?" Why doesn't God answer my prayer? This is a very hard question. Behind the question is desperation, sleeplessness, hopelessness, emptiness, grief, even anger. If God is loving why does it seem like he doesnt hear me. If God is our Father, why do I suffer? Jesus healed a lot of people. Whoever he wanted to heal, was healed. Yet, he did not heal everyone in Israel. He did not heal every blind person and every demon possessed person. He did not heal every sick person he encountered. In his hometown, “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith”. (Matthew 13:58). There were sick people in Nazareth, but they were not healed. The broader question is: Why is it that the prayer of Jesus gets answered and our prayer (to heal) does not get answered sometimes? A couple of points: 1. Does it have to do with power? Is it possible that Jesus had more power and therefore he performed more miracles? If that is so it can mean that we can never perform the level of miracles that Jesus did. But this is not true. Jesus himself said that his disciples would do more miracles than he did. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father - John 14:12 This is because the same Spirit in Jesus that performs miracles has also been given to us to perform those miracles. (When Jesus went back to the Father, the Spirit came down and lives with us.) 2. Maybe it has to do with the reasons for unanswered prayer. There are numerous reasons for unanswered prayer: Sin - Isa 59:2; Disobedience - Zec 7:13; Selfishness - Jas 4:3; Injustice - Isa 1:15-17; Lack of faith - Jas 1:6-7 etc etc. Jesus obviously did not have any of these issues. 3. But the main reason I think for the difference in the prayer of Jesus and our own prayer is regarding the issue of God’s will. When Jesus prayed (or did anything for that matter), everything was according to the will of God. There was never a time when Jesus prayed for healing or commanded healing that was outside of the will of God. Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19 When Jesus performed a miracle or prayed for a miracle, it happened since it was the will of God. Since we are NOT completely in tune with God, some of our prayers are not according to the will of God. Our prayers that are according to the will of God get answered. Our prayers that are outside of the will of God don’t get answered. The best example that ties all this together is the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was the one time that Jesus, because of the spiritual consequences, asked if the cup of separation can be removed from Him. Yet, he asked for God’s will. His human mind preferred another way. But God’s will was that Jesus should die on a cross for the sake of humanity. His prayer “not my will, but yours be done” (Matthew 26:39) shows the pattern we should follow in prayer. Since we don’t know if the request we make is God’s will or not, this should be the prayer we make. Additionally, God’s will in this situation shows us His immense Love for us. Like Paul said, He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is not that He cannot. (He is Omnipotent) The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is not that He doesn't love us. (His scars are proof of his love) The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is because it is not His Will. Ultimately the faith we have during prayer is NOT that our prayer will get answered in the affirmative. Our faith rests on the God who is omnipotent and loving. Because we know that he is Omnipotent, we know that he is able to answer any prayer that we pray. Because we know that he is loving, we know that he wants the best for us. Final thought If the Father did not fulfill the prayer of his only begotten Son when he was dying, God is not obligated to answer even one prayer of ours. ANY prayer of ours that he answers is a bonus. Thankfully, He answered the most important prayer we could make - prayer for salvation, so that we can avoid his wrath and go to heaven. References: Unanswered prayer - Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009) Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

The Birth of Twins - A Glance at Death

The Birth of Twins - A Glance at Death

A fleeting glimpse into death and the afterlife "Death" The idea behind the word is morbid and the mood it evokes is somber. It brings an air of finality and reeks of separation. Since there is no right time to talk about it, now is the time. In the last several months I have heard about or seen the death of several people close to me. One, the mother of a friend who was in her 60's, another friend in his 40's and my cousin in his early 30's. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the coronavirus pandemic has brought the topic to the forefront. The virus has thus far claimed more than 500,000 lives, (including a cousin in his 40's) such that most people know someone or know of someone who died of the illness. My goal is not to examine the different religious views on death and the afterlife. Yet, I will briefly mention the atheistic/humanistic view since it is in stark contrast to the Christian view that I want to discuss. The atheistic/humanistic view is a nihilistic view of life similar to the Buddhist view of Nirvana. When death happens, it is all over. Nirvana is what is left when you blow out the candle. There is no existence, no relationships, no heaven, no hell, and no afterlife. Many people today unconsciously subscribe to this view as if it is the most peaceful view. This is obviously not a new idea. John Lennon, in his 1971 ballad, “Imagine” sings that we should imagine no heaven or hell, instead, imagine a life on earth that is blissful. This, like John Lennon said, is not reality. It is pure imagination. Life on earth is not blissful. It is burdensome and tedious. Yes, there are some fleeting moments of happiness sandwiched between the routines of burden. From the time each of us grew out of the new-born stage, life, from a human viewpoint, has never been truly blissful. Of all the views, the atheistic/humanistic view is the most hopeless. It is one thing if we all were born into palaces with no pain or discomfort throughout life and then at death, we disappeared into oblivion and the candle was blown out. But that is not the case. Much of the developing world suffers from physical and economic problems, the developed world suffers from mental and emotional issues. A virus that is 120 billionths of a meter has reminded us that even the bravest or wealthiest or most privileged person in the world can be brought to their knees by microscopic enemies. Then, there is the issue of relationships here on earth. In the atheistic view, every relationship - acquaintances, friends, siblings, parents, children - every relationship disappears at death. There is no chance of ever seeing your loved one again. Is this blissful? In the age of Covid-19, death and separation are tragically seen too commonly. Jim Harris, received his late wife's ashes through the window of his car to maintain social distancing rules. He delicately clutched the wooden box with tear-filled eyes. In contrast, of all the philosophical and religious views on death, the most hopeful is the Christian view. I hope to explain the Christian view of death and the afterlife with an illustration, ironically, of birth. Specifically, the birth of twins. Death is like the birth of twins. A set of twins are together for almost 9 months. They grow together and seem more connected to each other than to anyone else. Life is perfect. They are warm, comfortable, and satisfied. Life is bliss, so to speak. Yet, they were made for another place and the cocoon they are in will never fully satisfy. Both of them were created for life outside the womb. They were never created for life with the womb as the destination. Life in the womb was always going to be a journey until they reach their destination outside. In the midst of their happiness and togetherness, one day, one of the twins is gone. The firstborn twin is dead from the womb, so to speak. Life was so sure, so comfortable, so certain and peaceful. But now, one twin is gone. If the second twin could talk, it would talk about the grief it feels. His best friend, his lifelong companion is no more. Life is not sure anymore. But the twin went to a better life, a fuller life, a much more abundant life than could be imagined in the womb. In comparison to the life outside the life in the womb seems so constricted, so shallow, and so limited. When the other twin is also born, they both will realize that the time of separation was extremely small compared to the life that is ahead. They will also realize that they can have a much fuller relationship than the one they had in the womb. [Further resources: Study on Heaven or a Sermon on Hell] We are all on a journey. This life is not our destination. In the 1970s, country crooner Jim Reeves sang, “This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through…” The longer we spend on earth, the more comfortable we might become. Yet, our lack of complete fulfillment in this life indicates that there is something else and some other place for which we were created. As CS Lewis argues from longing: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” None of us are created to exist on earth as the destination. We were all made for a different place, a better place. When the time comes, we each must exit the womb and make our way to the destination. Many have gone before us. We grieve when we think of those we love who have already gone. Life is not the same without them. But when we get on the other side, we will realize that this is where we were meant to be in the first place and our time on earth was just a journey to get us here. Life on the other side is real life and what we thought was a good time on earth, will seem to be tortuous and forgettable. How can life on earth be remotely happy with pain, sorrow, sadness, sin, and grief? But the Bible gives us a keyhole glimpse into heaven: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 Once we get on the other side, we will also realize that the time of separation from those who went before us is extremely small compared to the life ahead. We will also realize that relationship with God and people can be on a much deeper level than could have ever been experienced while on earth. Unlike any other worldview, the Christian faith emphasizes the certainty of the blissful eternal afterlife for those who believe in Jesus. …whoever believes in (Jesus) shall have eternal life’. John 3:16 If there is no afterlife and no heaven, then there is no hope in the face of death. But, in the Christian worldview, death is not death but the birth of a life that we were meant to live – a life where life is truly bliss and relationships are the most fulfilling. This hope in the face of death exists because of the resurrection of Jesus and his eternal words of comfort: Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19). His resurrected life guarantees our eternal life and a joyous reunion with those who went before us. What a glorious hope! #death #afterlife #heaven #nirvana #happiness #bliss #resurrection #life #atheism #buddhism #eternalLife #resurrectionofJesus #birth #twins Picture of Jim Harris: Daily Mail, US Edition 4/24/2020 Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash

The Lure of Comfort Giving

The Lure of Comfort Giving

Do we need to rethink our concept of giving? Throughout the centuries, people of God have been encouraged to give back to God. It intuitively feels like the right thing to do - God has given us his blessings and we give back in return. This particular discipline is called tithing. The command in times past was to give ten percent of whatever you had back to God. In those days, it meant material goods, but it also included money. Over time, with wealth not being counted by the number of animals one had or the amount of agriculture one harvested, monetary giving became the norm. Thus, in the matter of giving back to God, ten percent of one’s money became standard. In the New Testament, of course, the concept of the ten percent tithe is not commanded. Instead, just as a child would give without limit (and without keeping tabs) to his parents, so also, we are to give whatever we can to our Father in Heaven. Yet money is not the only possession we have. Money is not the only gift that God has given us. We also have an objective and a subjective gift available to us – time and energy. Though we talk about giving money to God, we rarely ever emphasize the giving of time and energy to God. Doesn’t God deserve our time and energy just as we give Him our money? (Of course, there are numerous people that could care less about giving God money either). How good of a parent would one be if they gave money to their kids but did not spend a single minute or spend an ounce of energy on them? We would rightly conclude that they are less than adequate parents. If you are a good father or mother, you will spend time with your kids, energy for your kids, and, of course, spend money on your kids. Needless to say, there are many people who, having received good gifts from God would obediently choose to give money to God, but unwittingly never think of giving God their time or energy. Even if we went by the ancient rules, ten percent giving to God would be a definite 2 hours and 24 minutes every day and an arbitrary amount of energy in a day. [For a couple of sermons on investment including time, money and effort, see here: Retirement Planning] But I want to take this further. Is it fair for us to base our giving on ancient rules? Let me examine this under each category: 1. Time When I was a kid, since we stayed just outside the city limits, we did not have running water. For a few years, we had to get water for our daily use from outside. My brothers and I would spend about one and a half hours every day after school to get water for the house. Today, simply by having running water, I have saved 90 minutes every day and have that time available for use. Living a normal life in the past occupied a large amount of time. For example, the mode of travel in the distant past (during the time of Jesus, for instance) was walking. Getting from point A to point B would take hours and days. Everything took time to do. Today, because of the progress of living, we have many extra hours every week to do whatever we please to do. 2. Energy In the past when people didn’t have resources that we enjoy today, they used their energy for basic living. I remember visiting my grandparents’ home in rural Kerala, India during our summers hols. They used to gather and stack firewood to make food. Making food to sustain the family was a task that required a lot of effort. There would be several people involved to ensure that three full meals were placed on the table. Getting the water, chopping the firewood, bringing the raw food materials, and then cooking it with rudimentary equipment. Just in the matter of food, with the increased amenities today we have lots of energy to spare. Think of all the other ways that we are saving our energy for basic living. 3. Money Most of the people during Bible times that gave their money to God came from poverty-stricken cultures and backgrounds. Yet, they freely gave. Acts 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Most of the common people living today live in significant wealth when compared to the common people in the Bible (even if we adjust for inflation and the cost of living). Yet, in terms of giving, we give the same percentage back to God. True, giving a percentage means that you are giving proportionally more to God. But it is also true that we have proportionally more money available for personal use with the remaining 90% than someone who lived in the first century. (or 2000 BC, for that matter). What do we do with the extra time, money, and energy that we have saved due to the advancement and amenities of life? Our giving today does not account for the resources saved due to life advancement. We use the extra on ourselves. We have bought more things, spend our lives on getting more activities and spend our time on vacuous things that have minimal eternal value. And then, probably inadvertently, we continue to pat ourselves on our backs since we are giving God the amount that we think will pacify Him. [For a sermon on Money, see here: Two Classes] I suggest that with the proportional gain in time, money, and effort that we have today, rather than spending it on temporal idiosyncratic wants, we should invest it back into God’s service that has eternal value. Not because we have to, but because we want to, because we love Him, because He has given us everything already and because we would rather invest our resources on eternal things rather than temporary fleeting lures. As GK Chesterton said, "If my children wake up on Christmas morning and thank Santa for the gifts in their stockings, do I have no one to thank for putting two feet into mine?" Then maybe we will change from comfort giving to sacrificial giving. #time #giving #money #effort #energy #tithe #advance #gratitude Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

A Christian and Pro-choice

A Christian and Pro-choice

I sat in my medical school OB/GYN class in shocked silence as the professor flippantly described the details of an abortion procedure. He might as well have been talking about clipping your toenail. On the surface pro-choice seems like a great concept. When I walk into a store and I am looking at 500 kinds of cereal, I have the choice to pick any cereal I want. It seems right for me to have that choice, but does abortion as a choice conflict with a Christian worldview? Here are several factors to consider. 1. Humanity Is the fetus a human being? Does the fetus have a soul? I once asked this question to a Christian pro-abortionist and he, after a few seconds, shook his head. No, it does not have a soul, he said. Really? If the fetus is alive, it has to have a soul, doesn’t it? Or, was he suggesting that a fetus can be alive but not have a soul? When is the baby alive? A baby's first heartbeat is heard just 16 days after conception. SIXTEEN DAYS! Slightly more than 2 weeks. By the time a mother realizes that she is pregnant, the baby has a heartbeat. What else is it other than a living being? What non-living thing has a heartbeat? If it is a living being, doesn’t it have a soul? Abortions of 20-week old fetuses are legal in the USA. Here is an MRI Scan of a 20-week old fetus: 2. Other Such Decisions Pro-choice for a woman is the decision to take the life of another human being, no matter how it is worded. In that instance, the comparison should then be made with other instances of killing humans, not in other instances of choosing cereal. Here are two other instances of a human taking the life of another human: in war or in burglary (eg. home invasion). The law justifies killing another human in those instances. Specifically, I intend to consider the innocence of the offended party – the person that was killed. a. A key difference between burglary and abortion is that the aborted human being (fetus) has no choice whatsoever in the matter. A burglar, if he is not killed, can be tried for breaking the law. He had the choice to break in or not. He chose to break in (thus broke the law) and got killed for it. He is not innocent in the matter and paid for it. b. In case of war killings, there are also certain rules within which human killing is permitted - the Geneva convention protocols. If innocent people are killed even during a war, the offender will have to face a tribunal or give answers to explain how such a dastardly event happened. For example, in 1968, American troops killed 300 Vietnamese civilians, known as My Lai. Even though they were in a war, was the killing of innocent civilians a crime? Absolutely! In 2022, Vladimir Putin ordered a missile strike on a mall in Ukraine deliberately attacking innocent civilians. Even in war where human killing is permitted to an extent, there are specific laws that prevent the killing of those that are innocent. The innocence of the victim, therefore, is a key factor in this scenario. Of all the people that can claim innocence, no one can claim more innocence than a child, let alone an unsuspecting fetus. If abortions were performed even under war rules, they would be tried for war crimes because the action was done against innocent victims. 3. Ownership A second argument that pro-choice enthusiasts make is that a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body. The argument goes that a woman’s body is her own and she can do whatever she wants, just like she can do whatever she wants with the piece of toast that she is eating. It is hers, she bought it, owns it and can do whatever she wants because of her ownership of it. Similarly, they contend that a woman owns her body and therefore she has the freedom to do what she wants with it. However, from a Christian perspective, is this true? The Bible has two opinions about the ownership of a person’s body. Firstly, it says that in a married relationship each person‘s body belongs to the other person so that they cannot do what they want with their own body. In a sense when a Christian couple gets married, the physical union between the couple gives ownership of the other person’s body. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife (1 Corinthians 7:4). Secondly, when a person becomes a Christian, their body belongs to the Lord. And the Bible removes any inclination of doubt when it reiterates that the body does not belong to a person. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). So a Christian woman cannot do whatever she wants with her body however frivolous it may seem, especially so when it involves the killing of a human being. Contrary to a self-centered living, the Bible entreats us to live for Jesus Christ and NOT for ourselves. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:15). 4. Pro = Anti? Another phrase I have heard is that pro-choice does not necessarily mean pro-abortion. That is, that pro-choicers can be anti-abortionists. I am baffled by this viewpoint. I consider myself quasi-intelligent and I have not found anyone who can reasonably explain to me how pro-choice is not pro-abortion, unless you are talking about the choice to pierce your ears. 5. The Excuses Then we have the videos of the buying and selling of aborted baby parts. There is no denying the veracity of the videos. These were not actors or cartoons pretending to sell baby parts. These were actual people who were employed by Planned Parenthood. One of the most ridiculous excuses I have ever heard when these videos were released was that the videos were edited! Yes, the videos were edited to make it shorter for content for viewability but they were not edited to make up something that was not there! That excuse shows more than anything else, the absolute blind denial and refusal to consider reason or morality. Here are all the videos: Center for Medical Progress Here is one of the videos: 6. What is abortion medically? This is the assessment of the most commonly done abortion procedure, called dismemberment. This is how a former abortion provider, Dr. Anthony Levatino, describes it: A dismemberment abortion involves reaching into a woman’s uterus with forceps and “grabbing whatever is there. Maybe you rip off a leg, which is about four inches long,” then you pull out “an arm, the spine. The skull is the most difficult part. Sometimes there’s a little face staring up at you.” He understandably called it “an absolutely brutal procedure, in which a living human being is torn to pieces.” Texas Court Case Exposes The Gruesome Reality Of Dismemberment Abortion Watch the reactions of people who find out how an abortion is done. The Abortion Procedure We wouldn’t even think of doing that to animals and yet how seared is a human conscience to inflict this on another human being. 7. Natural Cousins of Abortion An extension of the pro-choice philosophy is the Nazi philosophy, which has its basis on natural selection by Charles Darwin. The classic example of this is the abortion of Down syndrome babies in the Netherlands. “We haven’t come this close to Nazi before,’ said Dr. Stefan Paas, in response to the new law forcing mothers to abort Down’s syndrome babies. A moral duty to abort: Handicapped children cost money, so parents: abort or face a fine [Huffington Post] There are numerous examples of people who would have been aborted based on medical advice, whose parents chose not to – and who ended up being fathers and mothers, and husbands and wives and brothers and sisters and friends and colleagues and … humans. One such example is famed singer Andrea Bocelli. Bocelli revealed in the past that his parents were advised to abort him because doctors predicted the future famous singer would be born with a disability. It was immediately apparent at birth that Bocelli had poor eyesight and he was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. But, thanks to his parents’ disdain for medical “advice”, he still lives and sings. Abortion is thus closer to the Holocaust than to a woman choosing to have her eyebrows waxed. Just for comparison: Number of human beings killed in the Holocaust: 6 million Number of human beings killed from 1973 due to Roe v Wade: 60 million – the heart-wrenchingly sad equivalent of 10 Holocausts. Yes, TEN. [http://www.numberofabortions.com/] 8. Is Abortion progress? The abortion law of 1973 was based on the thinking that a fetus was just a clump of cells until the 28th week. Science has shown us that that thinking is outdated. As outdated as thinking that cigarette smoking does nothing to the body. A fetus at 7 weeks is not a clump of cells: this mother shared the picture of her miscarried fetus. A neonatologist today would instantly identify the fallacy that a pre-28th week fetus is just a clump of cells. Abortion is thus anti-science and anti-progress. Finally, science is catching up with reality and the truth. Science Is Giving the Pro-Life Movement a Boost [The Atlantic] 9. The Agony of the Choice I do not in any way intend to mitigate the potential agony of a mother who has to decide what to do with the fact of her pregnancy. Maybe the pregnancy was not planned. Maybe it rose out of a series of sinful choices. Maybe it arose out of a terrible event – even rape or incest. Several facts are indubitable. There is no question that the mother faces an arduous task to decide between two possibly bad choices. There is no question that at the center of the choice is a (tiny) human being. There is no question about the innocence of this person. There is no question that any person deserves life by default. Life, any person would agree, is a right. The basis of pro-choice is humanistic secularism. Not any religion and definitely not the Christian faith. Jesus came to give life. John 10:10. For a mother. Also for a fetus. Anush A John

A Stammering Monkey

A Stammering Monkey

In the recent past, I stumbled upon a British stuttering support website, as I looked for possible ideas to overcome stuttering for my three-year-old son, who we discovered in the last few months had begun to stammer. On this website, some of the comments that were written by sufferers of the condition were extremely heartbreaking. Some sufferers said that they would rather die and that waking up every day and meeting people is torture. You see, what is normal activity for a person, like breathing or swallowing, for a stammerer is so stressful and shameful that it changes his/her personality. The more you try not to or the more you think about it or the more people notice it or the more stressful the situation – the stammer gets impossibly worse. This blog is mainly as an encouragement to those who stammer. I have stammered from as far back as I can remember. I have been laughed at at school and my cousin once, when we were kids, called me a stammering monkey. (In return, I did call him a fatty!). Stammering controlled so much of my life that during my school days, I could go to school and not speak one word to anyone for a whole week. Not one word. It was easier and less painful to be quiet than to struggle to say something. You could never tell a joke because you always messed up the punchline. You could never tell a story because people stopped listening to the story as they were trying to either not laugh at you or pretend to ignore the elephant in the room. So you came off as an extremely serious, un-fun person and subsequently, was never invited for anything and lost most social contact. And slowly, for me, the fear of stuttering paralyzed my entire outlook. But by the grace of God, I decided that I was not going to take this lying down. I decided to give my life completely to Jesus Christ and let Him lead it in a way that I could never begin to dream. I wanted to fight fire with fire and decided, of all things to become a speaker. At age 10, I gave my first sermon – of course, I stammered through it. I studied at a Christian school (Clarence High, Bangalore, India) that had daily “assembly”. The entire school would gather for 15 minutes for a hymn and a small devotion. Once a year, the graduating class – the 10th grade – would conduct the assembly. When I was 15 and part of the graduating class, I was chosen as the speaker to give the devotion for the annual assembly. 25 years later – I have received one Doctorate and a Master's in India, and three Doctorates in the US in three different areas – dentistry, medicine, theology. Education in India is dependent on your score – nothing else. But in the US, personality has such a high value in addition to your score that interviews are done to screen out people like me that remained at the social fringes – never mind that my stammering forced me to those fringes. For several years now, Baltimore Magazine has listed me as a top Maxillofacial Surgeon in Maryland. In addition, I have a sermon podcast that so far been downloaded in 50 countries and a radio broadcast that reaches more than 215 countries every weekend. I look back many times and wonder how on earth all this came about. How did this stammerer get anywhere? Am I trying to brag? Of course! I AM trying to brag. But not about me, but about the Lord Jesus who ‘is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory’. (Ephesians 3:20-21) There is no cure for stammering. The only way to “solve” stammering is by learning how to deal with it. Nevertheless, thankfully, at the end of earthly time, the problem of the stammering monkey will be completely rectified: ‘The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear’. (Isaiah 32:4) #graceofgod #overcome #preach #resolve #speak #stammer #stutter #persevere #dream Photo by laura martin on Unsplash

A Christian and Alcohol

A Christian and Alcohol

Over the years I have heard many arguments for and against the use of alcohol by Christians. So I thought I would study the matter systematically. In so doing, I have attempted to be as objective as possible. There are two parts to this post: 1. Arguments for the use of alcohol 2. Arguments against the use of alcohol A. Introduction Both sides agree the drunkenness is wrong. The question is "Can somebody drink a little bit?". One side says you should not, the other side says you can. Are these two questions opposed to each other? Could it be that both questions are correct? The question is not can a Christian drink alcohol. Of course, the Christian can drink alcohol – there is no direct command against it. The real question is: considering the weight of the pros and cons should a Christian drink alcohol. If a Christian is trying to fully please God in all that they do – should he or should he not. When people usually have discussions about this topic, the discussion usually degenerates into a nonsensical, pointless, futile effort. The reason I believe this is the case is that the argument and counter-argument is usually point-by-point. By doing a point by point argument it is impossible to convince a person one way or the other, because there is no direct command one way or the other. I believe in lieu of a point-by-point argument the way to look at this matter is similar to the arguments that look at the existence of God. When we look at the arguments for the existence of God, there is not one argument that will definitely convince a person that God exists. The Leibnizian cosmological argument or the poetic argument or the argument from fine-tuning by themselves are not enough to convince a skeptical seeker that God exists. But when all the arguments are taken as a whole, it is more PROBABLE than not that God exists. Similarly, taking the arguments for or against the use of alcohol point by point is completely futile. Instead, I believe a person should take the entire argument FOR the use of alcohol versus AGAINST and consider not whether there is conclusive evidence for or against, but rather: is it more PROBABLE than not that one is better than the other in our effort to please God? And then, do accordingly. Can a Christian drink alcohol? Should a Christian drink alcohol? Based on the arguments for an against, I will leave the conclusion to your own biblically influenced, God-honoring conscience. B. Arguments for the use of alcohol 1. The Bible only condemns drunkenness. Romans 13:13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. (See Galatians 5:19, 21; 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Corinthians 5:11) In Paul’s lists of leadership characteristics, he says: 1 Timothy 3:3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. (See 1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7). Just because someone drinks alcohol in moderation, it does not necessarily mean that it will lead to excess or drunkenness. This is a common refrain I have heard. Advocates against the use of alcohol point to alcoholics and assume that every person who drinks in moderation will end up as an alcoholic. This is not true – the statistics of alcohol abusers are much lower than those who drink alcohol in moderation. 2. Christian freedom. The Christian faith, in the New Testament, as opposed to Judaism in the Old Testament (or any other religion, for that matter) is not about following rules and regulations, especially about food and drink. Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 3. The purported health benefits of alcohol. Every now and then there is a random study that points to the health benefits of consumption of 1-2 four-ounce glasses a day of wine. a. Reduces Heart-Attack Risk. Moderate drinkers suffering from high blood pressure are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack than nondrinkers, per a 16-year Harvard School of Public Health study of 11,711 men, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 2007. b. Lowers Risk of Heart Disease. Red-wine tannins contain procyanidins, which protect against heart disease. Wines from Sardinia and southwest France have more procyanidins than other wines, per a study at Queen Mary University in London, published in Nature, 2006. c. Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Moderate drinkers have 30 percent less risk than nondrinkers of developing type 2 diabetes, per research on 369,862 individuals studied over an average of 12 years each, at Amsterdam's VU University Medical Center, published in Diabetes Care, 2005. d. Lowers Risk of Stroke. The possibility of suffering a blood clot-related stroke drops by about 50 percent in people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol, per a Columbia University study of 3,176 individuals over an eight-year period, published in Stroke, 2006. e. Cuts Risk of Cataracts. Moderate drinkers are 32 percent less likely to get cataracts than nondrinkers, per a study of 1,379 individuals in Iceland, published in Nature, 2003. f. Cuts Risk of Colon Cancer. Moderate consumption of wine (especially red) cuts the risk of colon cancer by 45 percent, per a Stony Brook University study of 2,291 individuals over a four-year period, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005. g. Slows Brain Decline. Brain function declines at a markedly faster rate in nondrinkers than in moderate drinkers, per a Columbia University study of 1,416 people, published in Neuroepidemiology, 2006. (1) B. Arguments against the use of alcohol 1. Destructive Nature. The Bible clearly warns about the destructive nature of alcohol. Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler… Proverbs 21:17 He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich. Proverbs 23:29- 35 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things And your mind will utter perverse things. And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast. “They struck me, but I did not become ill; They beat me, but I did not know it. When shall I awake? I will seek another drink.” Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc: a. Alcohol and crime Alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes today, and according to the Department of Justice, 37% of almost 2 million convicted offenders currently in jail, report that they were drinking at the time of their arrest. Alcohol, more than any illegal drug, was found to be closely associated with violent crimes, including murder, rape, assault, child, and spousal abuse. About 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking and … about half of all homicides and assaults are committed when the offender, victim, or both have been drinking. Among violent crimes, with the exception of robberies, the offender is far more likely to have been drinking than under the influence of other drugs. b. DUI More than one million people are arrested annually for driving while intoxicated, which is the third most commonly reported crime in the United States. Drinking and drugged driving is the number one cause of death, injury, and disability of young people under the age of 21, and nearly 40% of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related. Every day 36 people die and approximately 700 are injured in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. c. Alcohol and Violence in College Each year, more than 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. 95% of all violent crime on college campuses involves the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim, or both. 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim, or both. d. Alcohol and Domestic Violence Among victims of domestic violence, alcohol played a role in 55% of the cases, while drugs played a role in only 9% of the cases; for spousal violence, alcohol was a factor in 65% of the cases, versus only 5% for drugs. e. Alcohol and Child Abuse Nearly 4 in 10 child victimizers reported that they had been drinking at the time of the crime. (2) Sometimes people bring up the argument of the addictiveness of coffee (in the next section) to compare the addictiveness of alcohol. I think that is a silly argument and that is why I put it in this section because I’m not sure there are individuals and families that have been destroyed because of the use of coffee. 2. Addictive potential The Bible seems to suggest that the use of anything that has addictive potential should be avoided. 1 Corinthians 6:12 … All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. The addictive nature of alcohol and the resulting effect on society is mind-blowing. Alcohol is the most expensive of all addictions with an estimated annual cost of $166 billion. (This is more than smoking, drugs, gluttony, and gambling). (3) 3. Stumbling block Mature Christians should avoid causing others to stumble in the use of their own freedoms. Paul talks about a common task as eating meat, and therefore by extension any of the things we do. Romans 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. A study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) shows that almost 10% of people in America have a history or are connected to someone with a history of alcohol abuse. (4) More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems. (5) Thus, for about 10% of the people you meet, you can be a stumbling block, because of the use of alcohol. 4. Constant Clarity 1 Peter 4:7 (NIV 1984) says: The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. And 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ‘pray without ceasing’ When you combine these two verses together, one should not be in any elective position where the mind is not clear – so that you can be in a position to pray at any time, indeed always. I specify elective - because there are times for medical reasons that you have to use narcotics that can cloud your senses and your mind. Even one glass of wine can lower your inhibition and reduce your clarity. Having a lowered inhibition prevents us from practicing self-control, causes us to act in ways we wouldn’t otherwise, lowers the resolve to resist temptation, and can sully our judgments. A photographer captured various people after 1, 2, and 3 glasses of wine and the lowering of inhibition is self-evident. (6) The lowering of inhibition is a disaster waiting to happen and there are innumerable examples of people who do things they would not otherwise do, simply because their inhibitions were lowered. In today’s highly public culture, this can be significantly detrimental in numerous ways and can result in the simplest of mistakes that can result in life-altering consequences. For example, Mark Asay, 53 was convicted of killing Robert Booker and Robert McDowell in 1987 and on August 24, 2017, was executed at Florida State Prison. This was his last interview about the circumstances that led to that incident: (7) It takes just one mistake to ruin the rest of our lives. One mistake when we were not fully aware. 5. Documented Health concerns Even though I mentioned some health benefits present in alcohol, the most evidence remains for the negative effects of alcohol. The following diseases are attributed to the use of alcohol. a. Breast Cancer Just ONE alcoholic drink per day—even a teeny one—increases the risk of breast cancer, says the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research fund that looked at 119 studies involving 12 million women globally. Although a typical alcoholic beverage contains 14 grams of alcohol, the report finds that even a small glass of wine, beer, or spirits (one with as little as 10 grams of alcohol) is tied to a 5 percent increased cancer risk in pre-menopausal women and 9 percent in post-menopausal women, indicating there may be "no level of alcohol use that is completely safe" when it comes to breast cancer, per Ann McTiernan, one of the study's lead authors. (8) That is, even if taken in ‘moderation’. b. Multiple Cancers There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others. Current estimates suggest that alcohol-attributable cancers at these sites make up 5.8% of all cancer deaths worldwide. The seven sites are liver, colon, rectum, breast, oropharynx, larynx, and esophagus. This is true even if taken in small amounts, ie, in moderation. (9) c. Numerous other diseases In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that alcohol contributed to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions. (10) If your body were the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), why would anyone want to intentionally harm that body? One may argue that if even one drink is so harmful, why did Paul ask Timothy to take a little bit for his illnesses? My counter to that argument is that with the existing diet, culture, available medication, and health – it was probably true that a small amount of alcohol at that time was beneficial for the stomach. But two thousand years later, with a different diet, culture, available medication, and health advances in health, it is not necessary to drink wine for ‘stomach benefits’. People who used that verse to argue for the use of alcohol and it’s ”beneficial effects” should also resort to the medical recommendations that were prevalent at that time. 6. The law of diminishing returns This is a law in economics which states that in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production while holding all others constant will at some point yield lower incremental per-unit returns. (11) What does this mean for substance use? It means that to get the same effect, all other variables being constant, a person will need more of the same substance. So, for a cocaine addict, if 1mg of cocaine gave him the desired effect, as time goes on, more is needed to maintain the same effect. Even though it is true that not all people who drink in moderation end up becoming alcoholics, it is true that almost 100% of the alcoholics started off in moderation. This likely resulted from the law of diminishing returns causing a person to consume more and more alcohol for the same initial effect resulting in eventual alcoholism. 7. The next generation A 1999 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that children of substance-abusing parents were almost three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children of parents who are not substance abusers. (12) Children who are allowed alcohol by their parents are TWICE as likely to become binge drinkers than those who are banned from booze (13) It is hard for us to predict what kind of adults our kids may develop into. Is there the slightest possibility that our kids, watching our “moderate” consumption of substances, can progress to full-blown addiction in their futures? If the answer is yes, is it worth that risk? Yes, as a Christian you can drink alcohol, but as a Christian, should you? References: 1. http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/8-health-benefits-of-drinking-wine, accessed July 10, 2017 2. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol-drugs-and-crime, Accessed July 10, 2017 3. Tom Van Riper, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/2006/10/02/addictions-most-expensive-biz-cx_tvr_1003addictions.html, Accessed July 10, 2017 4. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics 5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Data Spotlight: More than 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems, 2012; http://archive.samhsa.gov/data/spotlight/Spot061ChildrenOfAlcoholics2012.pdf, Accessed July 10, 2017 6. http://mentalfloss.com/article/78600/photographer-captures-subjects-after-glass-or-two-or-three-wine 7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4821604/Florida-executes-man-racist-double-homicide.html. Accessed August 25, 2017 8. http://www.wcrf.org/int/research-we-fund/continuous-update-project-findings-reports/breast-cancer 9. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13477/abstract 10. World Health Organization (WHO). Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health. p. XIII. 2014 ed. Available at: http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/msb_gsr_2014_1.pdf?ua=1(link is external). Accessed July 10, 2017 11. Samuelson, Paul A.; Nordhaus, William D. (2001). Microeconomics (17th ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 110. 12. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol-drugs-and-crime, Accessed July 10, 2017 13. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5313225/Kids-likely-booze-parents-let-drink.html (Accessed May 19, 2020) #addiction #alcohol #cancer #conscience #drunkenness #freedom #inhibition #pray #stumblingblock #temptation

The Puzzled Church

The Puzzled Church

I have enjoyed doing puzzles from the time my aunt sent to me a 500 piece puzzle of the Sound of Music back in the 1980s. As I think about it the church itself is like a puzzle. For the following (at least) 5 reasons. Uniqueness of Every Piece In a puzzle, every single piece is a unique piece and fits in only one place. There are many pieces that look like each other but when it comes down to it every piece can fit in only one place. God has created everybody uniquely. If every single human being has a unique physical imprint, they also have a unique spiritual imprint. And each person is useful and necessary in the church as the church is being built. Jeremiah 1:4-5 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you…” Parts in the Whole One piece is not the whole puzzle. The whole puzzle is made up of numerous pieces, and every piece needs its immediate neighbor and its extended neighbors and all the other pieces in order to make one complete picture. There is no lone-ranger Christian. Every Christian needs the other. He needs his immediate neighbors, his distant neighbors and every other Christian to complete the entire universal church. John 10:16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. Equality of the Components Some pieces get there first and some pieces get there later. As humans in a local church we may look largely similar but depending on when a person comes to Jesus Christ they may look vastly different. A person who became a believer 20 years ago - and has allowed the Word of God and the Spirit of God to continually change him - will behave significantly different then someone who became a believer last week. This is possible only if the old believer did not continuously rebel against God and submitted to (what is called) the sanctifying work of God-in which the Holy Spirit continues to change that person from the inside out. So it is not that one piece is better than the other. Just like in a puzzle every single piece is as important as the other piece, so also in the church every single piece is as important as the other piece. But some pieces, because of the will of the puzzle maker, get there earlier and sol are more useful in the building up of the puzzle than other pieces. Eph 4:11-13 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Continuous and Progressive It is a continuous, progressive work. No substantial, meaningful puzzle is done immediately. The larger, complicated puzzles are done in stages and over time. As it turns out, God tends to do work in stages and progressively. He could’ve made all of creation in a blink of an eye. But He chose to do it in stages, slowly, each successive stage building up on the previous one. For whatever reason, the maker of the puzzle chooses to do one part of the puzzle first - it may be the edges of the puzzle or it may be another predominant section of the puzzle or a part of the puzzle that has similar colors for example. Regardless of where the puzzle starts, the puzzle continues to build on what was previously completed. From the moment it starts it is a continuously, progressive work with each piece building on the previous pieces. This also means that at no point until the very end, is the puzzle complete. And therefore, at no point can anybody look at the church criticize the incompleteness of the church. Ephesians 4: 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Also, God is faithful and the Church that He starts building, he will complete. Phil 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. The Big Picture The puzzle does not make sense for any of the pieces because they don’t see the big picture. Only the person doing the puzzle knows the big picture. Many times, we as humans apply what we think is logical to the church and try to examine and interpret how God grows the church. There is a certain amount that we can understand but there is a large amount that we don’t understand because it is beyond our human brains. Just like the intention of the puzzle maker cannot be grasped or recognized by the puzzle pieces, even though as human beings with the Spirit of God, we may understand certain things about the mind of God, there are many things that we will not fully understand about God and His church. (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10). Thus it is impossible for any human being to coherently criticize the workings of the church. Of course, there are times when things go wrong because the church, unlike inanimate puzzle pieces, are made up of sinful humans with free (albeit, imperfect) wills. Unbeknownst to us, there is a pattern to the picture even though the end result is not immediately visible. We may have a vague, hazy view of the church (and spiritual matters in general). 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. The clear view will come sometime in the future - when the puzzle and the church is complete. #church #heaven #humanignorance #workofgod

One Week that Changed the World

One Week that Changed the World

This is a concise account of the events that unfolded in the last week of the life of Jesus, commonly known as Passion Week. It starts slow and then peaks in its gruesome reactions on Friday and then explodes with the glorious and inevitable outcome on Sunday. Monday Jesus leaves Bethany hungry and goes into Jerusalem again. On the way, he denounces a barren fig tree for its barrenness. He enters the Jerusalem temple and cleanses it for the second time. He heals the sick in the temple to the ire of Jewish authorities and children cry “Hosanna” to Him. In the evening he returns to Bethany. Matt. 21:12–22; Mark 11:15–26; Luke 19:45–48. Tuesday Today is a busy day. Jesus leaves Bethany again and heads to Jerusalem for his last day of public ministry and his last day in the Temple. On the way, the disciples notice that the fig tree had withered. He says a last series of parables to the Pharisees and the people on the way to Jerusalem. Matt. 19:30-20:16; 21:28–22:14; Mark 12:1–12; Luke 20:9–19 At the Temple, the authority of Jesus is challenged. The Jewish authorities try to trap Jesus politically and religiously – Jesus appropriately counters them and then proceeds to pronounce woes against them. Matt 22:15-40, 23:1-39; Mark 12:13-34, 12:38-40, Luke 20:20-40, 20:45-47 The Jews reject their Messiah. John 12:37-50 In the evening, Jesus takes his disciples to the Mount of Olives. They sit on the Mount and face the city of Jerusalem. Jesus warns his disciples of the events of the end times. Matt. 24; Mark 13.; Luke 21:5–38; 12:35–48 He also gives 4 parables concerning readiness: Matt. 25:1–13; Matt. 25:14–30; Luke 19:11–28. It is night already. Jesus takes his disciples to Bethany and leaves Jerusalem one last time. Wednesday Today is a quiet day. Jesus stays at Bethany and enjoys an early Sabbatic rest day. But it is the calm before the storm. For, tomorrow will be a different day. Tomorrow the plan that had been brewing in the omniscient mind of God will be unveiled. Tomorrow the dreaded immeasurable agony will begin. Almost as a sign of things to come, Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, meets with the Jewish leaders and agrees to betray His Master, for the paltry sum of 30 denarii, the price of a slave. But today, the Master rests. He will need every last ounce of human energy to get through the week. Matt. 26:1–5, 14–16; Mark 14:1, 2, 10, 11; Luke 22:1–6. Thursday Jesus comes to Jerusalem for what will be a long, unending day. He asks his disciples to prepare for the Passover Meal at the home of John Mark’s parents. Matt 26:17-19, Mark 14:12-16, Luke 22:7-13 He celebrates the 3-part Paschal Meal with the Twelve disciples during which He washes their feet. Matt 26:20, Mark 14:17, Luke 22:14-16,24-30, John 13:1-20 Jesus points out Judas as the betrayer, after which Judas promptly leaves to prepare for the betrayal. Jesus warns his disciples that they would desert Him and informs Peter that he would deny Him. They seem appalled at the possibility and are saddened that that could happen. Matt 26:21-35, Mark 14:18-31, Luke 22:21-38, John 13:21-38. He institutes the Eucharist. Matt 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:17-20, 1Cor 11:23-26 The time is quickly upon them, so Jesus gives His disciples last-minute encouragement and calls the soon-to-desert-and-deny disciples as “friends”. He promises the Holy Spirit as their constant companion and then proceeds to pray for them. John 14-17. Thursday Evening In the late twilight of that gloomy day, Jesus leaves the city of Jerusalem, crosses the Kidron valley to reach the north side of the Mount of Olives to a hiding place where he often retired – the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, he begs his disciples to pray with Him, but they are sleepy and let Jesus suffer alone. Matt 26:30,36-40, Mark 14:26,32-42, Luke 22:39-46, John 18:1 Finally, the time has come. Judas leads a band of soldiers and identifies Christ with a kiss. He is arrested by His enemies and forsaken by His friends. Matt 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-52, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:12-14,19-23 He is taken first to the house of the ex-High Priest, Annas, father-in-law to the current High Priest. Then he is taken to the High Priest, Caiaphas, who along with the Sanhedrin condemn Him. It is here that His verbally loyal disciple, Peter, denies Him. Not once, but thrice. Jesus turns and looks at him – a look that drove a spear into his heart, reminding him of the prior caution and at that time the rooster crows. Matt 26:57-75, Mark 14:53-72, Luke 22:54-65, John 18:15-18,24-27 Thursday did not really end. Friday The rooster had crowed. It was early morning on Friday. Since a death penalty could not be proclaimed during the night, it had to be ratified again during the day. So on Friday morning, the Sanhedrin meets again and proclaims the death penalty. Ordinarily, the entire Sanhedrin would be present for such an important sentence. But in that hastily-convened session, neither Joseph of Arimathea nor Nicodemus was present. When Judas saw that the sentence was ratified, he, overcome with remorse, hung himself. Jesus then goes back and forth from the Roman procurator and the Jewish ruler since neither of them has the fortitude to release Him or the conscience to condemn Him. First to Pilate, then to Herod, then back to Pilate. Pilate, contrary to his historical nature and egged on by his wife’s dream, feebly attempts to wash the guilt from his soul. But the Jews force him and eagerly volunteer to carry that guilt. Jesus is mocked, has his beard pulled out and flogged with whips made with bone and metal. He is forced to carry his cross and walk through the streets of Jerusalem. He leaves the city through the east gate. A Jewish devotee hurrying to the temple at Jerusalem at the same time is forced to carry His cross. The bevy finds its way to the Place of the Skull and Jesus is crucified with two criminals on either side. The crucifixion takes place around the time the trumpets herald the morning sacrifice in the Temple. After three hours on the cross, there are three hours of darkness from Noon to 3 pm. It is as if the Father could not watch the agony of His Son. But in the midst of that agony, the Saviour invites a repentant criminal into His home. With the authority of the One who is pre-existent and the Author of life, Christ gives up His life with the triumphant proclamation that His work was finished. The agony of Human life, the torment of human death, and the torture of celestial separation are finally over. The body of Jesus is taken down and placed in a new tomb, sealed and guarded to prevent anything from happening to the body over the next three days. Little did they know. Saturday Good Friday leads to hopeless Saturday. The Middle Eastern sun had set so quickly on Friday that the motley mourners did not have time to anoint the Body. The burial was hurried in order to keep the Sabbath that started at 6 pm on Friday night. They then spent the Sabbath in preparing the spices and couldn’t wait to come back to the tomb on Sunday morning to complete what they didn’t. The body of Jesus “lay in the tomb”. The tomb was “secured” that day at the behest of the Jewish authorities with two stones covering it. The ‘great stone’—the Golel—to close the entrance to the tomb and probably leaning against it for support, a smaller stone—the Dopheq. Where one stone lay on the other, the Jewish authorities on the Sabbath, affixed the seal, so that the slightest disturbance might become apparent. The disciples who fled eventually slowly found their way back to the upper room where they had just shared a meal with Jesus. But that seems like a long long time ago. The news had spread through Peter who stayed for the trial and John who stayed until the very end – yes, their Master was dead. There were many times in the past when death came close but did not touch Him. But now, John reports, blood and water came out from the side of the dead Christ. Now, huddled together in the Upper Room once more, their thoughts turn to the events of the past day. They had more questions than answers. What of God? Of Christ? Of the words He had spoken, the Deeds He had wrought, the salvation He had come to bring, and the Kingdom of Heaven, which He had promised? Was it all just a dream that came crashing down on a cruel cross? The future was bleak, their meaning of life, hopeless. Perhaps the worst day in their lives and undoubtedly, in the history of the world. But, completely unbeknownst to them, beyond the realm of the physical, The Sacrifice had been approved and a rumble of immense power was about to burst forth. Sunday A closure was needed. The mourners were not able to adequately anoint the body and appropriately bid farewell. Also, it was a custom for relatives and friends of the deceased to visit the tomb on the third day – when decay was supposed to start setting in – to make sure that its occupant was really dead. In mourning, it was also thought that the spirit hovered over the body until the third day, when it finally departed. There seems to have been two groups of women who separately went to the tomb, but the first to reach there was Mary Magdalene. On seeing the stone rolled away, and without going inside to check, she reports to Peter and John her suspicion that the body of Jesus was taken away. The next group of women then come to the tomb wondering how to roll the stone away. On coming, they see the tomb open and empty with the two angels sitting inside. They receive a message for the disciples to hurry north to Galilee and that Jesus would meet them there. Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene goes to Peter and John and reports the news. They run to the tomb and see the linen strips (that wrapped the body) and the napkin (that wrapped the head) neatly folded. It is as if the user was in no particular hurry. John on seeing just the wrapping without its occupant believed. They see neither angels nor Jesus. Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb and now looks inside and sees the angels. As she explains her suspicions to them, she senses another presence close to her. No, it was not the gardener as she assumed. Her eyes open to see the risen Christ when He spoke her name. She was to inform the other disciples that she saw Him. The Jewish authorities attempt a frantic cover-up when they discover the missing body. In the early afternoon of that day, Jesus meets with two other disciples on the way to Emmaus – a town close to Jerusalem. These two disciples return the same evening back to the Upper Room, where the Eleven disciples and others were gathered. That evening He appears to those in the Upper Room, sans Thomas, and, to prove that he can relate to them, eats a piece of broiled fish. (The following Sunday, as they had gathered again – this time with Thomas, Jesus appears again to give proof to Thomas of the fact of the resurrection. He later appears to them by the Sea of Galilee). No matter who looks at it, no one in the history of mankind has been able to explain away the Empty Tomb. When the news spread about the resurrection, all the authorities needed to do was to open the tomb and show the rotting corpse of Christ. They couldn’t, for the tomb was vacated. There is no better proof of the greatest event in history than that of the Empty Tomb. It would have been so much easier if the resurrected Christ then proceeded to appear to Pilate, Herod, the men who whipped him, the men who spat on him, the men who pulled out his beard, the man who pierced him, the men who drove in those nails and all the others. But He didn’t. He left that job to his disciples. He has similarly left his Church the task of revealing Him to the nations. Video Clip: Most, Garabedian (director), 2003, USA, Eastwind Films

23:56

23:56

I am at a crossroads in my life. I have always had many interests and somehow found the time and energy to pursue them, but I think in this phase of my life, that balance of trying to do multiple things will be challenging, if not impossible. In my heart of hearts I would like to spend about 6 to 8 hours every day in the presence of God – reading his word and listening to Him. This is also tied in to any ministerial opportunity that God gives me to preach His Word or write… At the same time I have a wife and three children who are in phases of their lives (at least my older two children at age nine and eight are), when having a father figure is important. I love my family and want to spend as much time as I possibly can with them, knowing full well that in a few short years, those opportunities will pass away. I barely have time to talk even once a month to my parents and siblings. Forget about my extended family. At the same time due to my profession, I need to both work full-time and, in addition to working, have to constantly update myself with surgical and medical knowledge, because it is, after all, a dynamic field. Over all of this, my temperament dictates that instead of sitting around for relaxation, I should do something for relaxation. Thus, my hobby interests would be to learn a new instrument and learn a new language and learn photography and travel the world and … Does God want me to spend time in His presence? Absolutely.
Does God want me to be involved in ministry? Yes.
Does God want me to spend time and relate to my family? Of course.
Does God want me to work and update my surgical/medical knowledge? I have to.
Does God want me to pursue non-passive hobbies? He created me that way. As Henry David Thoreau said, ‘It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?’. I hope to be busy doing something that has eternal value. 23:56 hours in a day is just not enough. #time #priority #preach #ministry #balance #family #hobbies

A Worse Denial

A Worse Denial

Peter was one of the more flamboyant disciples that Jesus had. His heart was on his sleeve at all times. If he thought something, he said it. The filter between his mind and his mouth was, indeed, very very thin. There would be spurts of brilliance as God impressed upon his heart; and then there were other periods of mediocrity as he spoke his own mind. He gets praise for his brilliance and often flak for his falls. No other fall of his was greater than that on that cold Thursday night, as his Lord was undergoing a farce trial in the inner audience chamber of the High Priest’s Palace. His colleague, John, and he had come together to the Palace. Through the influence of John, Peter obtained access to the inner court of the Palace, but instead of staying with John who tried to get as close to Jesus as possible, Peter slowed down. Instead, Peter found himself in the company of those who were warming themselves around a charcoal fire, outside and below the inner chambers. It was in this particular setting, that the infamous story occurred. He seemed to be out of place and vaguely familiar to some of the people who had seen Jesus and his crew. When asked about his affiliations with Jesus, who was now falsely accused, Peter denied. Not once, but three times. The third time with curses. And it was not like he had no time to ruminate what he had said. He had about an hour between the 2nd and the third denials. The third time, therefore, was a deliberate, calculated statement. Since Jesus had already warned him about the impending fiasco that was playing out, after the third denial, the cock crowed, as predicted. Jesus then turned and looked at Peter – and the flood of remembrance and despair drowned his soul and he was bitterly disappointed. After this scene, we find Peter only after Jesus was raised from the dead – such was the fall of the once close friend. Regardless, this was a lesser evil. You see, Peter actually had 3 options that night after Jesus had predicted his denial. One option was to stay as close to Jesus as possible. The second option was the one that Peter took – staying in the vicinity of Christ, but not that close. The third option, was for him to have gone back home in fear of denying Him. For the numerous believers who, for the last 2000 years, have critiqued the actions of a fickle Peter, there are many who have “safely” taken the third option. Yes, there is no overt denial of Him in front of others, but there is the subtle denial of Him behind everyone. It is better to fall like Peter did and come roaring back, than to fall unseen in the shadows of self-righteous complacence and remain in defeat. Those who sneer at his public failure are many times guilty of keeping their faith in the closet. Luke 22:61-62 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. #denial #Peter #trialofJesus #witness Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash