Thursday, December 8, 2016

What Happens To Superstitious Christians?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Jesus’ Tomb Opened! New Revelations & Significance

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

WHY THE HOOPLA?

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S THE HISTORY?

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

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

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

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

WHY SHOULD WE BE SURE?

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT NEW REVELATIONS?

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

5Ibid.

6 Ibid.

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

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


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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Why Should We Trust The Old Testament? The Old Testament Is Not A Myth

            The Old Testament is rejected by a few for various reasons. Some reject it because they cannot comprehend an angry God - a God of wrath (e.g. Canaanite massacre, Levitical punishments etc.).  Others reject it because of the miraculous narratives such as the Red Sea parting, Jonah living in the whale, talking snake etc.

            However, scores of Christians believe in the Old Testament. How do we defend the reliability of the Old Testament?
   

CHRISTIANITY IS SECURE (EVEN IF OLD TESTAMENT IS MYTH)

            First things first; those who reject Christianity (because they reject the Old Testament) should understand that their skepticism of the Old Testament offers no valid reason to reject Christianity.

            Christianity cannot go bust even if the Old Testament is a myth. This is not to concede that the Old Testament is a myth. But this is an assertion that there are no valid reasons to reject Christianity under the pretext that the Old Testament is hocus-pocus.

            Dr. William Lane Craig, in response to a question disputing the credibility of the Old Testament, asserts that the core of Christianity is predicated on the facts of God’s existence and Christ’s resurrection; hence questions about Old Testament’s credibility should not impact the integrity of Christianity, “The unreliability of certain Old Testament narratives would have no impact upon the truth of theism or the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The questions you ask are thus “in-house” concerns to be debated among Christians. Should we accept the Old Testament as inspired throughout by God? To what extent does inspiration imply scientific or historical reliability? These are, I think, open questions to be discussed. But they should not be obstacles to belief in mere Christianity and, hence, faith in Christ.

            So I would encourage you, Jason, simply to bracket these questions until you have made up your mind about (1) whether or not God exists and (2) whether or not He raised Jesus from the dead in vindication of his radical personal claims. If you answer either of these questions in the negative, there’s no reason to be concerned about your questions. On the other hand, if you do answer these questions in the affirmative and become a Christian, then you can proceed to explore your questions further. Don’t get hung up on them now. They’re not deal-breakers.”1

            There are reasonable evidences corroborating God’s existence and Christ’s resurrection. Hence, Christianity is secure.

DOUBTS ABOUT OLD TESTAMENT CANNOT DISCOURAGE AN UNBELIEVER

            Do not fail to comprehend the other significant assertion made by Dr. Craig. He asserts that the topic of Old Testament’s reliability concerns the Christians and should be discussed “in-house.”2 The unbeliever need not be concerned about the reliability of Old Testament.

            The unbeliever should, in principle, be concerned with the facts pertaining to God’s existence and Christ’s resurrection. The unbeliever should believe in Christ because God exists and that God raised Christ from the dead. Hence the onus is on the unbeliever to sincerely study these evidences with a humble and a seeking heart. 

OLD TESTAMENT IS RELIABLE: AFFIRMATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

            It is imperative that the New Testament (authored after the Old Testament) affirmed the reliability of the Old Testament. The reliability of the Old Testament would have been greatly undermined if the New Testament had not affirmed the Old Testament or if it had not quoted the Old Testament.

            “Answers in Genesis,” a Christian apologetics ministry, highlights the New Testament’s affirmation of the Old Testament, “The New Testament writers did not doubt that the Old Testament prophets spoke for God. Peter and John saw the words of David in Psalm 2, not as the opinion of a king in Israel, but as the Word of God: “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David” (Acts 4:25, NIV). Similarly, Paul accepted Isaiah’s words as God speaking to men: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers” (Acts 28:25).

            The New Testament writers were so convinced all the words of the Old Testament Scripture were inspired by God that they even claimed, “Scripture says,” when the words quoted came directly from God. For example, “The Scripture says to the Pharaoh” (Romans 9:17).

            Clearly, the Lord Jesus Himself believed the words of the Old Testament were God-breathed. In John 10:34 (quoting from Psalm 82:6), He based His teaching upon a single phrase: “I said, ‘You are gods.’” In Matthew 22:43–44 He quoted from Psalm 110:1 and emphasized a single word, “Lord,” to reveal Himself as the Son of God.”3

OLD TESTAMENT IS RELIABLE: TRANSMISSION, ARCHEOLOGY & FULLFILLED PROPHECIES

            Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace, who was once an atheist and a cold case detective, has adeptly summarized the case for the reliability of the Old Testament by considering the accurate transmission of the Old Testament text, the availability of archeological discoveries, and the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies:4

            “(1) The Old Testament Has Been Faithfully Transmitted

                        (a) Careful Masoretes Subscribed to an Incredibly High Standard

                        (b) The Dead Sea Scrolls Confirm the Transmission Process

                        (c) Ancient Sources Confirm the Early Canon of the Old Testament

                                    i. Prologue to Ecclesiasticus

                                    ii. Philo

                                    iii. Jamnia…

            (2) The Old Testament Has Been Verified with Archeology

                        (a) Findings from Neighboring Cultures

                                    i. The Ebla Tablet

                                    ii. Archaeological digs in the city of Bogazkoy, Turkey

                                    iii. Archeological Digs in Sargon’s Palace in Khorsabad…

                        (b) Extra-Biblical confirmation of Biblical events

                                    i. The campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak

                                    ii. The revolt of Moab against Israel
                                    iii. The fall of Samaria…

            (3) The Old Testament Has Been Confirmed by Prophecy

                        (a) Accurate Predictions of Ancient Historical Events

                                    i. Babylon Will Rule Over Judah for 70 Years

                                    ii. Babylon’s Gates Will Open for Cyrus

                                    iii. Babylon’s Kingdom Will Be Permanently Overthrown…

                        (b) The Old Testament Accurately Predicts The Coming Messiah…”

OLD TESTAMENT IS RELIABLE: HISTORICAL RELIABILITY

            While studying the reliability of the Old Testament, the work of Dr. Kenneth A. Kitchen, a preeminent scholar in defending the historicity and the reliability of the Old Testament, cannot be ignored. Dr. Kitchen is also an Egyptologist (the study of the archaeology and language of ancient Egypt).

            History affirms the credibility of the Old Testament. Dr. Kitchen highlights the following historical aspects to defend the reliability of the Old Testament:

            “Primeval History: Shared memories represent one proof of the reliability of the OT. Far antiquity saw the passing of countless human generations, but they kept a living memory of momentous events. For instance, other cultures told stories that are strikingly similar to Noah's Flood. This is indirect proof for the reliability of the OT…

            Patriarchal History: With Abraham we enter the era of the patriarchs (ca 2000-1600 b.c.). Historical records are more plentiful from this point on in history. The patriarchs herded sheep and cattle, ranging from Ur (modern Iraq) down to Egypt. Data from Ur during this era record large flocks of sheep, which fits with OT depictions. Archives from Mari mention Haran, where Abraham once lived. From the time of Abraham down to Jacob, Canaan was a land of independent "city-states" like Shechem, (Jeru)salem, and Gerar. These population centers were sustained by pastures, frequented by local herdsmen and visitors like Abraham and his descendants (Gn 37:12-13). Egyptian "execration-texts" provide extrabiblical evidence of this practice…

            Historical Israel: … We have discovered ration-tablets from Babylon for the banished Judean king Jehoiachin and his family for 594-570 b.c. The well-documented Persian triumph in 539 b.c. enabled many exiles to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem and its temple, just as the OT says…”5

DO NOT FEAR

            Christians need not fear or suspect the reliability of the Old Testament.

            For instance, the detractors of Christianity claimed, for many years, that the Old Testament is mythological. Their claim was predicated on their belief that writing was not existent in the time of Moses (cf. Julius Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis). However, R. K. Harrison’s work “Introduction to the Old Testament” and discoveries in archeology proved that writing existed even before the time of Moses.6 So it was not the Old Testament that was proved to be a myth, rather the belief that there was no writing in the time of Moses was proved to be a myth.

            Therefore, considering all the evidences that are in the public domain establishing the reliability of the Old Testament, Christians can confidently trust the Old Testament.  

Endnotes:

Websites cited were last accessed on 24th November 2016.

1http://www.reasonablefaith.org/problems-with-the-old-testament

2Ibid.

3https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/is-the-old-testament-reliable/

4http://christianapologeticsalliance.com/2013/12/10/case-reliability-old-testament-bible-insert/

5http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/february/closer-look-historical-reliability-of-old-testament.html

6http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=860

Thursday, November 17, 2016

War & Christians: How Should Christians Wage War?

            This is a turbulent period for Christians. The enemy is active and prowling to destroy us. The enemy is exceptionally powerful than the individual Christian or the Christian community. This enemy has destroyed innumerable Christians; he cannot be ignored or discounted. A vulnerable church or a vulnerable Christian will be totally destroyed by this enemy. 

            We cannot remain passive; we should actively fight this enemy. Unless we remain vigilant, we could be destroyed. The threat is real.

            There is no middle ground in this war; we cannot escape the clutches of this enemy. We either win or lose this war.

Deadly Deception

            This enemy is incredibly powerful and extremely deceptive. His power and deceptions are beyond compare.

            He owns remarkable intelligence about us. He knows our vulnerabilities to precision. He has his eyes all over us.

            Deception is the most effective weapon in his arsenal. His deception is significantly dangerous since it could be very subtle. His deception is highly effective since it is employed during our weakest moment.

Prime Target: Christianity

            The enemy targets Christians primarily. This is not to say that he would not harm the non-Christians. If non-Christians could be used to destroy Christians, this enemy would gladly use them in any manner whatsoever.

            This enemy targets the strong and the weak Christians. The more mature and strong Christians could be complacent about their maturity and strength. Hence they may ignore the enemy and even think that this enemy cannot defeat them at any cost. Their complacency could be their downfall.

            The weak Christians would not be aware of the enemy’s deadly potential. They will always be an easy prey to this enemy. They will be seduced to fall into his deadly embrace. Unknowingly, the weak Christians would offer themselves as a means to destroy their stronger counterparts. (My reference to the weak Christians is not a pejorative remark. It is germane to this theme. I sincerely hope and pray that every weak Christian would become stronger and mature in the Lord.)      

Beware

            He will attack us when we least expect him to. The attack is most deadly when it catches us by surprise. He will hurl his best weapons against us; even through our near and dear whom we trust the most.1 We cannot be smug and complacent about this enemy or those around us.

            I am not sorry to say this, but if our relative or friend is not a strong Christian then he/she is a potential tool in the hands of the enemy. Beware of such a person. I am not saying that we should passionately suspect all those around us, who are not too keen on growing in the Lord. But we should be diligently vigilant. 

Embrace Hate; Abandon Love, Meekness & Humility

            This war, for a Christian, is a reality. We cannot think that we cannot wage this war. The Bible mandates this war at all costs.2

            We cannot be meek while contending with this enemy, for if we are meek, we will be destroyed. Abandon humility. If we are humble with this enemy, he will not only destroy us, but he will destroy our family and everything that we have.

            When this enemy hurts us, we cannot show our other cheek. In fact, we should not allow our enemy to reside in our vicinity or to lay his little finger upon us.

            We are to sincerely and passionately hate this enemy. Hate him with all our might, hate him with all our power, and hate him with all that we have.3

            We need to be on fire to burn this enemy. We should strive to eliminate this enemy. We need our weapons and all the protective gear that we can marshal to fight this enemy.4

Can This Enemy Be Defeated?

            Christianity is not a powerless or a vain faith in the triune God. God who created this world is more powerful than anything and everything. So this enemy can be absolutely defeated.

            Christians should follow a certain protocol while fighting this enemy. First, we should identify the enemy and understand his potential. Second, we should know how to fight this enemy and fight him. Finally, we should persevere in the battle to defeat this enemy.

Enemy’s Identity

            The enemy is the enemy of our souls. He is the one who can separate us from the Lord, if we are weak and lukewarm towards God. Satan is this enemy.

             The Bible reveals the true character of Satan. Please read your Bible diligently to understand Satan. Many essays and books have been authored about Satan. Please read them. I have authored a few essays about Satan as well.5

How To Fight The Satan?

            Fight him with truth.6 We need to live in the truth if we are to fight the evil one.

            Fight him passionately. In order to fight Satan with passion, we should love and obey the Lord our God with a greater passion. The Lord should be real in our lives. Our relationship with the Lord should be the most significant aspect of our life.

            Fight him with prayer and fasting. God’s incomparable power will be ours only if we fast and pray.

            Outside of Christ, there is no victory over Satan. Unless we remain in the Lord, we cannot overpower Satan.

            Persevering in this battle is not child’s play. It is very difficult to fight Satan. We may have to face failures during our warfare with Satan. These failures cannot deter our warfare with Satan. We need to face and accept these failures if we are to win the battle.

            Worldly desires cannot impede our fight with Satan. We may lose our health, our families, our jobs, our savings, our comforts, even our reputation, all for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, ““I have come to bring fire on the earth—and how I wish it were already kindled!...Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! For from now on there will be five in one household divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”” (Luke 12: 49-53, NET). 

            Why, we may even lose our lives in the process. We cannot worry about our lives while we battle Satan. Losing our lives during this battle does not imply a loss, for all the lives that were lost in this battle glorified God.

            Do not believe those who say that there is no Satan. They are liars. They are the sons and daughters of Satan; they are Satan’s stooges.

            Know this; Satan is able to inflict damage upon our lives because God has allowed him to do so. In other words, God is in control. Because God is in control, HE can and will deliver us, if not in this world but in the world to come.

            In God alone we trust. But trusting in God comes at a price – the price of our time and effort. May we dedicate our time and effort into knowing God, loving HIM more, and living a glorious life for HIS sake.

Conclusion

            C.S. Lewis, in his work “The Screwtape Letter,” wrote “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them…” I am not advocating an unhealthy interest in Satan but my sole intent is to remind us of our attitude and response to the enemy of our souls. 

            God, who was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the blazing furnace, is with us. HE will guide, guard and lead us to a victory over the evil one.

Endnotes:

1cf. Job 6: 9

2Ephesians 6: 10-18

3Proverbs 8:13; Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9

4Ephesians 6: 10-18

5These are the essays authored by me:




4. Could Genuine Born Again Christian be Demon Possessed: http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2014/07/could-genuine-born-again-christian-be.html


6cf. Ephesians 6: 14  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How To Die In Peace?

            Some Christians may be absolutely terrified by the prospect of death. How could they overcome their fear?  

            Death, to a Christian, is the gateway to heaven. If death leads a Christian to heaven – a place without injustice, evil and suffering, then one could wonder why a Christian should fear death.

            Apostle Paul did not fear death (Philippians 1: 21). Christ’s disciples did not fear death for they voluntarily chose death over life. Andrew, the brother of Peter, preached the gospel of Christ for two days after being scourged and nailed to the cross.1

IS FEAR OF DEATH A SIN?

            Hebrews 2: 14-15 says that we should not fear death, “…that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Emphasis Mine). The Bible does not mention the fear of death as a sin.

            Would we be genuine Christians if we fear death? Fear of death is not a criterion to decide the authenticity of one’s Christianity.2

DANGER IN FEAR

            If those who were with Jesus abandoned HIM, what prevents us from abandoning the Lord? Christ’s disciples abandoned HIM because of their lack of faith in HIM (cf. John 6: 61-62, 66).

            Those who fear death could recant their faith under persecution. This is the most significant danger of being fearful of death.

CHRISTIAN MARTYRS

            Instances of Christians not recanting their faith in the Lord and dying for HIM reinforce the possibility of Christians not fearing death. Other than those mentioned in the Bible, there are many instances where Christians have offered their lives for the sake of the Lord Jesus.

            Czech priest, Jan Hus, did not recant his faith in Christ and was executed.3 Eritrean refugee, Elsa, did not recant her faith in the Lord Jesus while being persecuted.4 We could go on and on.

HOW DO WE NOT FEAR DEATH?

            We possess a theoretical knowledge of death, but death is a virtual unknown to the living. Hence, the “fear of unknown” is a possibility. But is it a valid possibility?

            If Christians have offered their lives voluntarily, it is obvious that the “fear of unknown” could be overcome. How do we overcome this fear?

            It is possible that those Christians who fear death do not believe that they would be with the Lord upon their death. If one’s faith is in question, the understandable need is to strengthen their faith in Christ.

            How do we strengthen our faith in Christ? Love for the Lord is the only means to strengthen our faith in Christ.

            Christians do love the Lord; else they would not be Christians to begin with. But how do we increase our love for the Lord so to not fear death?

            Immersing ourselves in the knowledge of God’s Word is an important prerequisite to love the Lord. Have we read and studied God’s Word to an extent that HIS Word remains in our mind always (cf. Deuteronomy 11: 18)?

            Studying the Bible and prayer goes hand in hand. Prayer intensifies our relationship with God. Prayer is an act of not only speaking with God, but being constantly vigilant to receive God’s counsel into our lives. The precious Holy Spirit counsels us always. We only need to receive HIS holy counsel into our life.

            If we fear death, let us not worry, for we have a way forward. That way forward is for us to plunge into studying the Bible and praying to the living God.

            God is the only one who can remove the fear of death from our lives. HE would replace that unholy fear with love. When we are utterly certain of HIS love for us, we would instinctively love HIM more than ever.

            If we fear death, we should also talk to our pastor or an elder of our church or a godly person whom God has placed in your life.

            Some Christians may not fear death per se, but they may fear loneliness or a painful sickness that could lead to death. In this instance, they do not fear death; rather they fear the possibility of severe pain in their lives.

            The best testimony I have heard in this very context is that of Mabel. Here is the story of Mabel as narrated by Dr. William Lane Craig, “I saw an old woman strapped in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discolored and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to the side, dropped one eye and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly. I also learned later that this woman was 89 years old and that she had been bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone for 25 years. This was Mabel.

            I don't know why I spoke to her. She looked less likely to respond than most of the people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said, “Here is a flower for you, Happy Mother's Day!” She held the flower up to her face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke, and much to my surprise her words, though somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. She said, “Thank you, it's lovely, but can I give it to someone else? I can't see it you know, I'm blind.”

            I said, “Of course,” and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one and stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, “Here, this is from Jesus.”4

            It was then that it began to dawn on me that this was not an ordinary human being. . . . Mabel and I became friends over the next few weeks, and I went to see her once or twice a week for the next three years. . . . It was not many weeks before I turned from a sense that I was being helpful to a sense of wonder. And I would go to her with a pen and paper to write down the things she would say. . . .

            During one hectic week of final exams, I was frustrated because my mind seemed to be pulled in ten directions at once with all of the things that I had to think about. The question occurred to me, what does Mabel have to think about? Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it is day or night. So I went to her and asked, “Mabel, what do you think about when you lie here?”

            And she said, “I think about my Jesus.”

            I sat there and thought for a moment about the difficulty for me of thinking about Jesus for even five minutes. And I asked, “What do you think about Jesus?” She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote, and this is what she said,

            I think how good he has been to me. He has been awfully good to me in my life, you know. . . . I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied. . . . Lots of folks would think I’m kind of old-fashioned. But I don't care. I'd rather have Jesus, he is all the world to me.

            And then Mabel began to sing an old hymn:

            Jesus is all the world to me,
            My life, my joy, my all.
            He is my strength from day to day,
            Without him, I would fall.
            When I am sad, to him I go.
            No other one can cheer me so.
            When I am sad, he makes me glad.
            He’s my friend.

            This is not fiction. Incredible as it may seem, a human being really lived like this. I know, I knew her. How could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled, and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain without human company and without an explanation of why it was all happening – and she laid there and sang hymns. How could she do it?

            The answer, I think, is that Mabel had something that you and I don't have much of. She had power. Lying there, in that bed, unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk. . . , she had incredible power.5”

            We need that power to not fear. That power is not in us. That power is God’s power. God alone can bless us with that power in our lives. God would enable us to be powerful if we look to HIM constantly by praying and studying HIS Word.

            We study the Bible when we are not suffering from any painful sickness. But when we are sick, we can pray to God. When we seek God, God will pour HIS power into our lives, so that we can remain peaceful.

            Let us trust in God always. God will enable us to be powerful Christians. Amen.   

Endnotes:

Websites cited were last accessed on 10th November 2016.

1http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/killing-jesus/articles/how-did-the-apostles-die/

2http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2015/03/fear-of-death-are-you-genuine-christian.html

3http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/galleries/4-amazing-stories-of-martyrdom-and-costly-discipleship.aspx?p=3


4http://www.christiantoday.com/article/persecuted.christians.in.eritrea.the.guards.offered.to.let.us.go.but.only.if.we.renounced.our.faith.in.jesus.we.said.no/84990.htm

Thursday, November 3, 2016

How Do Atheists Encourage The Dying & The Suffering? (Evaluating Atheism’s Response To Pain)

            How does atheism respond to pain? Does atheism offer meaningful comfort to those in pain? This is a critical aspect to consider so to validate the truth claim of atheism.

            Atheists claim that their worldview is factual. Christians and other theists, by positing God’s existence and value, passionately deny this truth claim.

            A mere propositioning of a truth claim does not confirm the proposition as truth. Hence a statement that atheism is true does not necessarily confirm it to be as true. A truth claim ought NOT to be systemically contradictory i.e. atheism as a worldview should not contradict itself.

            If atheism cannot console atheists, it contradicts itself. Learning how atheists console or encourage those in pain will crucially determine atheism’s constructive relevance in painful situations and meaningful value to those in pain. If atheism is not of value to those in pain, then it would considerably weaken and negate atheism’s truth claim.

            At the other side of the coin is theism and most especially, Christianity, which asserts that the chief end of man is to enjoy and glorify God. When a Christian enjoys God’s presence, he, most certainly, will not voluntarily be in a permanent state of depression1 or sadness. (Depression or sadness may be a temporary phenomenon in a Christian life.) Therefore, Christians would predominantly be peaceful and joyous for they are constantly experiencing and enjoying God’s presence in their life.

            Suffering challenges God’s intent for a man to be joyous. But it is the sovereign God who allows suffering upon the vulnerable man (cf. Job 1: 10; Isaiah 5: 5). Hence, it is incumbent upon God to offer peace and comfort to those believers who are in pain, yet call upon HIM (Philippians 4: 4-7).

            If atheism is factual, it should ensure that its adherents are peaceful and joyful in all situations of life; even the suffering atheists should be peaceful. But peace is not the default attribute of a person in suffering – be it a theist or an atheist.

            Since peace is not innate in man, peace that leads to joy should be offered by an external source greater than man. But atheism ignores or chooses to be blind to the most powerful external source that can ever be – God. Therefore, learning how atheists console and encourage each other would be a valuable means to discern either the truthfulness or the deceit of atheism.

            Atheism operates within the paradigm of rejecting God and enabling man. So instead of asking how atheists console each other, we could ask what atheism offers to its adherents that would be valuable and meaningful for encouragement and consolation of the atheist in pain.

            For the sake of this discussion, I have considered an article from Huff Post written by an atheist striving to write comforting and meaningful words of consolation to a suffering theist.2  

YOU ARE LIVING THROUGH YOUR OFFSPRING

            When the theist lost her father, the atheist strived to console her by saying that she is the epitome of her father and that she should be encouraged about it, “…we're alive through our offspring. You are physically an embodiment of your father's biological and genetic essence. This includes everything from how you look to many of the behavioral and personality traits you have. In other words -- and this is not an exaggeration -- your father is literally alive through you, as mine is through me. For me, knowing that is incredibly powerful and comforting.”3

            If the departed person was a parent, spouse or a friend who loved us deeply and unconditionally, then how does the knowledge of he/she living in me comfort me? I know I live, but then I loved the departed person because he/she loved me unconditionally. When that person is dead and gone, I would miss his love for me.

            (A Christian, on the other hand, knows that God lives in him and that he/she is the image of the living and loving God. God’s love for us far exceeds that of any other person’s love. Hence Christians go to God during times of bereavement, for only God satisfies the yearning of our souls.)

WE BECOME A PART OF THE EARTH THAT GIVES RISE TO NEW LIFE

            The comforting atheist continues to console the suffering theist, “I know that we continue to exist through the earth…As part of this huge reservoir of terrestrial carbon, we die and become part of the earth, which gives rise to new life, as it once gave rise to us. That is also very powerful to me in a more collective, worldly sense.”4

            When we die, our physical bodies decay; this is what this atheist refers to as becoming a part of the earth. But earth does not produce new life! Humans are born of humans. The earth, other than the fact that it provides a habitat for our existence, does not play any role in the birth of a baby. So this consolation is meaningless.

            (A Christian believes that upon death his body would decay but his soul would exist in the presence of God. The knowledge and the reminder that I and my loved ones would be living in God’s presence after death will be greatly encouraging and satisfying.)

AFTER DEATH, WE GO BACK INTO THE PRE-BIRTH PHASE5

            In other words, atheism believes that we cease to exist after death. If that were to be factual, this life is all that we have to make sense. But this life does not make any sense. I see evil thriving and evildoers prospering; justice seems to aid only the rich and the powerful. The evil in this world is depressing.

            There is no consolation in ceasing to exist, especially when atheism offers neither a solution nor justice for the prosperity of evil and the suffering of the good. Hence, the knowledge that evil would be unpunished and justice would never be rendered to the suffering people of this world, which is the entailment of atheism, greatly intensifies the depression.

            Non-existence is more painful to consider than existence. If you are offered an option between life and death would you not choose life over death? Anyone would choose life over death, if at all that option is offered to them. In other words, existence is exceedingly superior and greatly desirable than non-existence. If this be the case, how would non-existence console an atheist?

            Atheism has no proof that we cease to exist after death – let’s not even go near the validity of the “Near Death Experiences!” Atheism’s primary proof is that there is no news from the other side of life; hence atheism considers an impossibility of life after death. Silence from the other side of life does not necessarily mean a lack of proof. Hence the belief that we do not exist after death is based on conjecture predicated on pure flights of atheistic fantasy.

            (Christianity relies on the objective truth of the Bible and believes that God would annihilate the Satan and punish the evildoers thereby serving justice. Moreover, the knowledge of the fact that a perfect heaven (sans evil) awaits a Christian is good enough to forget the perils of evil in this world.)

WE'RE PART OF A MULTIVERSE AND MAY EXIST IN SEVERAL UNIVERSES SIMULTANEOUSLY

            The comforting atheist says that we could continue to exist in other universes, since we are a part of multiverse. Atheism rejects Christianity for the lack of satisfactory evidence. But atheism does not offer satisfactory evidence of a multiverse or humans’ existence in the multiverse to anyone, let alone an atheist, while asserting that we are a part of a multiverse and may exist in several universes.

            Cosmologist George F. R. Ellis, virtually known as an eminent cosmologist who knows more about cosmology than any single living person, strongly debunks the idea of multiverse.6

            Speaking at the conference to debate whether string theory is science, theoretical physicist David Gross asserted that multiverse is not even a potentially testable theory, “…Much more troubling, he says, are concepts such as the multiverse because the other universes that it postulates probably cannot be observed from our own, even in principle.”7

            On one hand, atheism demands satisfactory evidence for the presence of God, but on the other hand, atheism believes in a concept that is bankrupt of evidence. Therefore, atheism contradicts itself, for any consolation predicated on our existence in the multiverse is meaningless.

            (Christianity offers greater evidence for its veracity than atheism or even the multiverse theory. Death to a Christian is the gateway to heaven or an eternal life with God. The belief that we would live when we die is a stunning consolation to anyone in death bed or in pain, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…” (John 11: 25, NASB, Emphasis Mine).)

ATHEISTS LOOK TO PEOPLE FOR COMFORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT

            Both the atheist and the theist have people to comfort them. But people cannot satisfy the longings of our soul. Our intangible soul longs for enduring comfort and answers when we are in pain.

            While in pain, loneliness adds greater pain if there is no proper comforting mechanism. When I am lonely, only a perpetual source of comfort would save me.

            There are moments of acute loneliness in our lives. I could be alone while in company of people or when am in my vehicle or when am in my bed (there may be a spouse or a child by my side, but I still am alone when I am in bed and pondering over my pain and problem at hand.)  But by rejecting God, the atheist deprives himself of the source of perennial comfort and encouragement.

            (The Holy Spirit is the perennial comforter of Christians (John 14:16). A Christian, when he prays to God, is comforted mightily by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the soul of a Christian who remains in Christ will be at peace and will yearn for God more than people.)

CONCLUSION

            Meaning to life ought to be discovered and not invented. The sovereign and transcendent God, who creates and sustains, can alone offer credible meaning to life.

            When atheists reject God, they bankrupt themselves of the overarching meaning to life and begin a series of fictitious inventions of comfort that are utterly hopeless. When one loses sense of the real meaning of life and death, there remains only emptiness harshly revealed through vain and empty words of apparent consolation that is devoid of any sense or true meaning to console a person in pain.

            Can the atheist comfort those in pain? They surely can utter words that they think would bring comfort to the others. But do those words offer comfort? No, not by any chance!

            Does Christianity offer true comfort? Yes!

            Those who go to God would be comforted. True comfort is found in God alone, for the Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28, NASB)

Endnotes:

Websites cited were last accessed on 3rd November 2016.

1We are not considering depression linked to medical problems.

2http://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/atheists-death_b_4134439

3Ibid.

4http://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/atheists-death_b_4134439

5http://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/atheists-death_b_4134439

6https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-the-multiverse-really-exist1/

&

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-the-multiverse-may-be-the-most-dangerous-idea-in-physics/


7https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-string-theory-science/