How to surmount unusual disasters and tragedies

Ocean Disappears As Hurricane Irma Sucks All Sign Of Water Away From Beaches

HAVE YOU NOTICED how the calamities and disasters of late are becoming more unusual and bizarre? The high-magnitude earthquakes occurring in greater frequency during the last decade.1 The fierce storms that cause severe floodings, on one side,2 while sucking dry some shores, on the other.3 The ensuing famines as reflected in the rising rates of hunger and poverty.4 News of such disasters can already be disheartening to observers. How much more is it for the surviving victims and their affected loved ones?

But even if we are nowhere near the calamity-stricken places, we also face problems of our own. Our daily troubles may not be as catastrophic as those captured in media reports but they can also be devastating and seemingly insurmountable. In fact, we also find ourselves in uncertain situations that test the limits of our inner strength and confidence.

When problems hit us where they hurt the most, how must we cope? As members of the Church Of Christ, what should we always remember in the face of the obstacles we never thought we would go through?

 

Our hope is greater than our troubles

God is our hope. Life’s tragedies can be unimaginably difficult, but the help that comes from God is far greater than any unusual disaster. The Bible tells us:

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us.” (Eph. 3:20 The Message)

What God can do is far beyond the sphere of our limited knowledge, capacity, and imagination. His power is infinite and wondrous. No problem cannot be solved by God’s help.

Not only do we have God to rely on; we also have His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to give us “the strength to meet and overcome every difficulty and circumstance” (Phil. 4:13 Last Days Bible). Rather than panic or cringe in fear, let us take courage in believing that God can and will help us even in ways no one could guess or expect.

 

God’s help: felt and experienced

Experience has proven how wondrous God’s promised help can be. Thankfully recounting how God rescued the Israelites from their fierce enemies, the Psalmist said, “If the LORD had not been on our side when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us alive in their furious anger against us” (Ps. 124:2-3 Good News Bible).

Enemies are not just people; even situations of circumstances that run counter to our favor can be as menacing and overwhelming. But as what the early servants experienced, “the LORD … has not let our enemies destroy us. We have escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap,” for, indeed, “Our help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth: (Ps. 124:6-8 GNB).

That is also the experience of the faithful Christians in the first century led by the apostles. Through all the persecutions, distresses, and difficulties they suffered, they found God’s grace sufficient, His loving-kindness more than enough, and His mercy always available regardless of the situation. And with the power of Christ that dwelt in them, they overcame their weaknesses and emerged strong—truly able, truly powerful and truly drawing from God’s strength (II Cor. 12:9-10 Amplified Bible 2015).

 

Learning from our overwhelming burdens

When Apostle Paul confidently asserted on behalf of his fellow Christians then, that they were glad and well-pleased with sufferings, it was not as if the trials they faced were light and easy. In fact, during the apostle’s missionary journey to Asia, what he and the brethren went through completely overwhelmed them. “The burden was more than we could bear,” said Apostle Paul, stressing that they even told themselves, “this was the end.” Nevertheless, because God saved them from imminent death, the apostle realized that such overwhelming experience taught them a valuable lesson: to trust not in themselves but in God (II Cor. 1:8-10 Phillips Translation).

 

What it means to trust in God

Trust in God cannot be faked. Those who truly trust in God are the ones who (1) fear, (2) revere and (3) worship Him (Ps. 31;19 Amplified Bible).

To fear God is to hate evil Prov. 8:13). God-fearing Christians, therefore, renew their lives completely. They don’t lead sinful lives.

To revere God is to be obedient to His will, for those who are reverent before Him live in responsive obedience (Phil. 2:12 MSG). They don’t just pick and choose which commands to obey. They follow all of God’s teachings uncompromisingly.

To worship God, His servants gather themselves together to sing hymns, offer prayers, give offerings, and hear His words inside the temple or house of worship (I Cor. 14:26, 15; Heb. 13:15-16; Ps. 5:7; Isa. 2:3). Those who trust God don’t forsake such meetings for worship (Heb. 10:25).

Therefore, those who trust in God renew their lives completely, keep on obeying His commands responsively, and fulfill their duty to worship Him constantly. In so doing, they have the assurance that God’s help will always be available for them, especially when they need it most.

 

God is waiting for us to ask for His help

When terrifying things happen, it will be a terrible thing for us not to approach God and ask for help. The Lord God expects His people to call on Him:

“I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask. I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look. I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored me. I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on me, People who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way.” (Isa. 65:1-2 MSG)

Let us not disappoint God as done by those who ignored Him. Doing so will not help us get through our troubles but will only make things worse. No matter how severe our hardships are, we must keep on worshiping God, obeying His commands, and renewing our lives. For, when we prove hat we fully trust and take refuge in Him, we will be able to surmount any unusual tragedy or disaster in life:

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, … God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Eph. 3:14-20 MSG)


By MARLEX C. CANTOR

Based on the lesson taught by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, during his pastoral visit to the Local Congregation of Muntinlupa, Ecclesiastical District of Metro Manila South on September 30, 2017

 

Endnotes

1Tyagi, H. (2014, October 25). Worldwide Surge in ‘Great’ Earthquakes Seen in Past 10 Years. Retrieved from www.nbcnews.com

2Loria, K. (2017, September 26)). This Hurricane Season Has Been Exceptionally Bad—And It’s Not Going To Get Any Better. Retrieved from futurism.com

3Meyjes, T. (2017, September 10). Ocean Disappears As Hurricane Irma Sucks All Sign Of Water Away From Beaches. Retrieved from metro.co.uk

4Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. (2017, September 13). Cred Crunch Newsletter, Issue No. 48 September 2017-“Disaster Data: A Balanced Perspective”. Retrieved from reliefweb.int

Moses and Aaron ask the King of Egypt to free the Israelites

SO MOSES AND AARON went to Egypt and gathered all the Israelite leaders together Aaron told them everything that the LORD had said to Moses, and then Moses performed all the miracles in front of the people. They believed, and when they heard that the LORD had come to them and had seen how they were being treated cruelly, they bowed down and worshiped.   

Then Moses and Aaron wen to the king of Egypt and said, “The LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘Let my people go, so that they can hold a festival in the desert to honor me’.”SO MOSES AND AARON went to Egypt and gathered all the Israelite leaders together Aaron told them everything that the LORD had said to Moses, and then Moses performed all the miracles in front of the people. They believed, and when they heard that the LORD had come to them and had seen how they were being treated cruelly, they bowed down and worshiped.

“Who is the LORD?” the king demanded. “Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD; and I will not let Israel go.”

Moses and Aaron replied, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us. Allow us to travel three days into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t do so, he will kill us with disease or by war.”

The king said to Moses and Aaron, “What do you mean by making the people neglect their work? Get those slaves back to work? Get those slaves back to work! You people have become more numerous than the Egyptians And now you want to stop working!”

That same day the king commanded the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen: “Stop giving the people straw for making bricks Make them go and find it for themselves. But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before, not one brick less. They don’t have enough work to do, and that is why they keep asking me to let them go and offer sacrifices to their God! Make these men work harder and keep them busy, so that they won’t have time to listen to a pack of lies…”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you are going to see what I will do to the king. I will force him to let my people go In fact, I will force him to drive them out of his land.”

God spoke to Moses and said, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as Almighty God, but I did not make myself known to them by my holy name, the LORD. also made my covenant with them, promising to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they had lived as foreigners. Now I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians have enslaved, and I have remembered my covenant. So tell the Israelites that I say to them, ‘I am the LORD; I will rescue you and set you free from your slavery to the Egyptians. I will raise my mighty arm to bring terrible punishment upon them, and I will save you. I will make you my own people, and will be your God. You will know that I am the LORD your God when I set you free from slavery in Egypt. I will bring you to the land that I solemnly promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as your own possession. I am the LORD.’…”

Then the LORD said to Moses “Go and tell the king of Egypt that he must let the Israelites leave his land…”

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “If the king demands that you prove yourselves by performing a miracle, tell Aaron to take his walking stick and throw it down in front of the king, and it will turn into a snake.” So Moses and Aaron went to the king and did as the LORD had commanded Aaron threw his walking stick down in front of the king and his officers, and it turned into a snake. Then the king called for his wise men and magicians, and by their magic they did the same thing. They threw down their walking sticks, and the sticks turned into snakes But Aaron’s stick swallowed theirs. The king, however, remained stubborn and just as the LORD had said, the king would not listen to Moses and Aaron.

The wise ‘Small Four’

THE TERM “SMALL FOUR” is derived from a passage in the Bible which states: “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise” (Prov. 30:24 New International Version, emphasis ours). The “small four” refers to four creatures or animals. Despite their smallness, they are extremely wise. What are these four small things and why are they extremely wise?

“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.” (Prov. 30:25-28 NIV)

The four small things are the ants, coneys, locusts, and lizards. Although they have certain weaknesses and disadvantages, they also have certain good qualities. It is important to have those qualities in order to improve our living condition especially in these trying times.

 

Ants  

“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” (Prov. 30:25 NIV). Ants are not only known for their industry—they keep going and going looking for food while they can. Ants cannot gather food during winter or even the rainy season. Hence, they store up food in the summer.

Ants display foresight—the ability to think ahead and to envision possible future problems or obstacles (Microsoft Encarta, 2009). A person who has foresight knows the value of time. The Bible itself shows how important time is: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Eccles. 3:1 NIV).

Time is one of those precious resources given to us. A person who knows its worth will not waste it. No one can regain lost time. The young generation should consider this and learn foresight from the ants. In the near future, the children of today will marry and start their own family. Are they prepared for such a great responsibility? Someday, their parents will be gone. Can the children of today be able to stand on their own feet once that happens? Thus, the youth are given this biblical advice: “Listen, my son, be wise and give serious thought to the way you live” (Prov. 23:29 Today’s English Version). Wise children are those who give serious thought to the way they live. They do not waste their precious time on wicked things that only prevent them from attaining their noble goals and aspirations in life. As early as possible, the youth should learn diligence and hard work.

 

Coneys

“The coneys, a race without defenses, yet they make their home in the rocks” (Prov. 30:26 New Jerusalem Bible). Vulnerable as they are, coneys make their home among the rocks.

Coneys are resourceful enough to turn their disadvantage into an advantage. They use the softness of their bodies to insert themselves easily between rocks, where they can find their home and protection.

We humans have our own sets of weaknesses and disadvantages. We should not make these an excuse not to be able to improve our living condition. Let us also strive to overcome them; do our best to improve our own abilities. But most especially, let us seek refuge in the “Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness.” The Bible states: “With God Who is our shelter and refuge. In the Christian era, the strength from God is felt through the power that Christ gives. Apostle Paul experienced this:

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor. 12:9-10 New King James Version)

We should find strength and protection from our Lord God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is sufficient for all our needs. When we are weak, that is the time when the strength that God gives through Christ is all the more felt in our lives.

 

Locusts

“Locusts have no king, but they are able to work together.” (Prov. 30:27 Easy-to-Read Version)  

One locust does not pose a threat to anyone. But when locusts arrive in swarms, they are a force to reckon with, as the ancient Egyptians in Moses’ time witnessed. The plague of locusts devoured “everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees … in all the land of Egypt” (Exod. 10:13-15 NIV). However, it is not the destructive behavior of locusts that we should imitate. Rather, it is their working together as a group. This is called teamwork and collaboration.

As there is strength in number, there is strength in unity. We can achieve greater things by always upholding the spirit of unity (Eccles. 4:9, 12).

Take note also that locusts have initiative—“no king, but … work together”. One should have this quality to succeed in life.

 

Lizards

The Bible states that “a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces” (Prov. 30:28 NIV).

Lizards are everywhere. They live not only in ordinary houses. They can also be found in kings’ palaces. This shows the lizards’ determination despite their physical imperfections.   

Therefore, setbacks or negative experiences can be turned into positive ones. Apostle Paul teaches: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting  into his plans” (Rom. 8:28 Living Bible).

All that happens to us, including painful experiences can work for our good. We may have different imperfections and handicaps but we should not lose hope. We should have the determination to work hard to prove ourselves and achieve our goals in life. Various “rags-to-riches stories” serve as testimonies to the significance of having determination—firmness of purpose, will, or intention (Microsoft Encarta, 2009).

Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise. We can all benefit from the wisdom of the “small four”: the ants’ diligence and foresight, the coneys’ resourcefulness, the locusts’ teamwork and collaboration, and the lizards’ determination. So it is wise—and it pays—to be diligent, hard-working, and persevering.


By FRANKLIN T. BUNAG

 

MEN OF INTEGRITY

Joshua and Caleb

THEY WERE THREATENED TO BE KILLED WITH STONES BECAUSE THEY REPORTED THE TRUTH AND REMAINED FIRMLY BELIEVING IN WHAT GOD CAN DO FOR HIS PEOPLE. BECAUSE OF THIS, THEY WERE DEEMED WORTHY IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
“The land we went to explore is very good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he … will give us that land where much food grows. Don’t turn against the Lord! Don’t be afraid of the people in that land! We will chew them up. They have no protection, but we have the Lord. So don’t be afraid of them.”
PROLOGUE

After being saved from slavery in Egypt and receiving the Ten Commandments, The Israelites were on their way to the promised land—the land of Canaan. So, God commanded that the land be explored. After choosing 12 tribal leaders from Israel’s camp in Paran desert—two of them are Joshua and Caleb—and giving them instructions, Moses sent them as 12 spies. The men returned to the camp after 40 days of exploring the land 
(Num. 13:1-25).

THEY CAME BACK to Moses and Aaron and all the Israelites at Kadesh. This was in the desert of Paran. The men reported to them and showed everybody the fruit from the land They told Moses, “We went to the land where you sent us. It is a land where much food grows! Here is some of its fruit. But the people who live there are strong. Their cities are walled and large. We even saw some Anakites there. The Amalekites live in the southern area. The Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the mountains. The Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan River.

      Then Caleb told the people near Moses to be quiet. Caleb said, “We should go up and take the land for ourselves. We can do it.”

      But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people. They are stronger than we are.” And those men gave the Israelites a bad report about the land they explored. They said, “The land would eat us up. All the people we saw are very tall. We saw the Nephilim people there. (The Anakites come from the Nephilim people.) We felt like grasshoppers. And we looked like grasshoppers to them.”

      That night all the people in the camp began crying loudly. All the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron. All the people said to them, “We should have died in Egypt. Or we should have died in the desert. Why is the Lord bringing us to this land? We will be killed with swords. Our wives and children will be taken away. We would be better off going back to Egypt. They said to each other, “Let’s get a leader and go back to Egypt.

      Then Moses and Aaron bowed facedown in front of all the Israelites and gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh were among those who had explored the land. They tore their clothes. They said to all of the Israelites, “The land we went to explore is very good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land. He will give us that land where much food grows. Don’t turn against the Lord! Don’t be afraid of the people in that land! We will chew them up. They have no protection, but we have the Lord. So don’t be afraid of them.”

      Then all the people talked about killing them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the Meeting Tent to the Israelites. The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people ignore me? How long will it be before they believe me? I have done miracles among them. I will give them a terrible sickness. I will destroy them. But I will make you into a great nation. It will be stronger than they are.

      Then Moses said to the Lord, “The Egyptians will hear about it! You brought these people from there by your great power.

      The nations have heard about your power. If you put to death your people all at once, the nations will talk. They will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring them into the land he promised them. So he killed them in the desert.’

      Show your great love. Forgive these people’s sin. Forgive them as you have from the time they left Egypt until now.”

      The Lord answered, “I have forgiven them as you asked. But, as surely as I live, I make this promise. As sure as my glory fills the whole earth, I make this promise. All these men saw my glory. They saw the miracles I did in Egypt and in the desert. But they disobeyed me and tested me 10 times. So not one will see the land I promised to their ancestors. No one who angered me will see that land. But my servant Caleb has a different spirit. He follows me completely. So I will bring him into the land he has already seen. And his children will own that land.

      Not one of you will enter and live in the and I promised to you. Only Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun will go in.”


(Quoted from Numbers 13:26-33; 14:1-13, 15-16, 19-24, 30 of the International Children’s Bible)

Illustrations by MARCO GILBERT LARDIZABAL

No reason for despair

THE PREVALENCE OF HOPELESSNESS and of people resorting to criminal acts when they find themselves in dire straits can be interpreted as lack of trust in God. Sadly, many think that  believing in what God can do in times of difficulties is an idea that has become outmoded or has lost its usefulness.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures” is how some people justify their aberrant behavior—saying adverse circumstances force them to commit their misdeed. Others, on the other hand, succumb to hopelessness and misery. More than 300 million people suffer from depression, the World Health Organization says.

But despair has no place in the lives of God’s faithful servants. They believe that God Who parted the Red Sea to deliver the ancient Israelites from the Egyptian army, made water gush out of rocks to quench their thirst, and performed other works of wonder is the same God Whom they can rely on to make miracles in their lives.

Apostle Paul says: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (Eph. 3:20 The Message)

Nothing is impossible with God. He can do anything in our wildest imagination, far more than we could ever request. His power has not diminished through the ages, for He neither faints nor is weary (Isa. 40:28). Though we may not see today the same kind of miracles He performed during the olden times, God’s omnipotence remains evident in the lives of His chosen ones today, the members of the Church Of Christ.

The Iglesia Ni Cristo is God’s modern-day miracle. Facing seemingly insurmountable odds, this Church bucked the trend and made astonishing feats where others have lagged and failed. From its modest beginnings and preached by a man seen to be bereft of earthly virtues, the Church has spread far and wide—with congregations in 142 countries and territories, and members from more than 130 races and ethnicities.

Some might point out that other religious organizations have also started small and grown extensively. But what make the Iglesia Ni Cristo feats truly remarkable are the enormous odds stacked against it. It emerged in the Philippines at a time when Catholic beliefs were already widely entrenched within the archipelago and Protestantism had deeply taken root—the surrounding were simply too hostile and not conducive for the growth of the then budding Church. Compounding the problem was the eruption of the Second World War, and the subsequent foreign occupation of the Philippines.

The Church survived those testing times—flourishing and growing by leaps and bounds despite the unfavorable setting. Such expansion remains unabated even now when the so-called Religious Recession has afflicted majority of Christian-professing groups. While many churches are experiencing significant drop in their membership and clergy, the opposite is happening to the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Multitudes of converts are being added continually, hundreds of ministers are being ordained yearly, and scores of new houses of worship are built annually.

Members of the Church Of Christ have proven true in their life what Apostle Paul taught: God can do beyond what His people could ever imagine or request. The uninterrupted triumphs of the Iglesia Ni Cristo in its 104-year journey are nothing less than miraculous and bespeak God’s infinite power and glory—as He fulfilled His promises to the Church in these last days (Isa. 41:9-16; 43:5-6, 46:11-13; 62:11-12  ). It is He, the omnipotent God, Who made the impossible possible, the unachievable achievable.

“Because I have the strength to meet and overcome every difficulty and circumstance, through the power that Christ gives me.” (Phil. 4:13 Last Days Bible)

Hence, true Christians in desperate times cling tightly to God. When life gets tough and burdens become too heavy to bear, they turn to their Creator:

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father …” (Eph. 3:14 MSG)


Dennis C. Lovendino
God’s Message Magazine 2018

Random Notes

‘Cappuccino Catholicism’

In choosing a place to stay or use for various functions, people prefer one that suits their liking. However, when it comes to worshiping the Lord God, should people still be the ones to choose where to worship Him? God Himself states, thus:

“You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling. To that place you  must go …” (Deut. 12:4-5, New International Version, emphasis ours)

How about others? What do they say about where the Lord God could be worshiped?

“VATICAN CITY—It might be called Cappuccino Catholicism.

“Young Catholics told their Church elders on Saturday that the faith should be spread in the places where they like to hang out, such as coffee bars.

“‘We would like the Church to meet us in the various paces in which she currently has little or no presence,’ reads part of a  12-page document written by some 300 young Catholic delegates from around the world, who met for a week at the Vatican.’

“‘The Church should try to find creative new ways to encounter people where they are comfortable and where they naturally socialize: bars, coffee shops, parks, gyms, stadiums and any other popular cultural centres,’ it said.

“The delegates met in Rome to share their ideas and concerns with Vatican officials ahead of a synod, or meeting of bishops, in October, on the theme of ‘Young people, the Faith and Vocational Discernment’.

“At a news conference presenting the paper, which will feed into a larger working document to be used by the bishops, participants said they wanted their Church to be more open and transparent and less severe.”


References

Pullella, Philip. (25 March 2018). The Catholic Church—coming to a Starbucks near you? Retrieved from http://www.gmenetwork.com

A solution to the scarcity of saints in our times?

 

The Catholic Church had a abundance of saints during the Middle Ages. Sainthood then required three ways for one to be declared a saint, namely, “a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize the veneration as saints.”

The early Catholic Church canonized many martyrs who died for the faith during the Roman pesecutions. There were many monks and hermits who lived heroically and ther were others venerated by the common folk without Church approval but eventually listed as saints.

The saints canonized at the present time are very few and some of them did not live during our time.

The present pope has approved a new path to sainthood which is a “heroic act of loving service.” This new path does not specify that the candidate for sainthood should be a member of the Catholic Church.

So, we can expect more of those who lived during the contemporary period to be canonized as saints.


Source: http://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-approves-new-path-sainthood-heroic-act-loving-service

The fault in the stars

The (mis)guidance given by
horoscopes, lucky charms,
and other divination tecniques

By MANDY A. NEPOMUCENO

HOROSCOPE COLUMNS are a familiar section in newspapers and astrology-related books and magazine articles are a glut on the market, while talks and programs about them even pepper the television and radio. A city study suggests that over 90% of adults around the world know their zodiac signs; there is even a thriving astrological community online (Nicholas Campion, Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West: Prophecy, Cosmology and the New Age Movement. Routledge, 2012).

There are also people, old and young alike, men or women, in various nationalities and cultures who perform rituals or acquire ornaments or knickknacks, believing that those can enhance their fortune and “charm” luck to their side. Truly, the allure of these things endures even in this age of technology. It is one thing to know or read about them; to believe in them is another. A ready justification is always that it is “a bit of fun.” Still, there are people who take charms and “readings” very seriously. For them, these give meaning to otherwise random events in their lives. They rely heavily and even make important life decisions based entirely on predictions or amulets, putting their entire trust even when addressing the biggest, most profound issues. And if disappointments come, they blame the fault in their stars, while frantically searching for another trinket they believe would be more effective and powerful.

Should someone who truly believes in the Almighty God and the Lord Jesus Christ also be found owning a lucky charm or engaging in the practice of astrology? Is it just harmless fun to engross oneself in them or are they potentially dangerous to one’s soul?

 

A treacherous paradox

Astrology, a divination technique, is the belief that the stars and planets strongly influence our lives. People who are into it claim that to understand its appeal is to get comfortable with paradoxes: It feels simultaneously cosmic and personal; spiritual and logical; ineffable and concrete; real and unreal. (Julie Beck, “The New Age Of Astrology,” 18 January 2018, The Atlantic). Aside from astrology, there are also dozens and quite possibly hundreds of methods of prediction that fit into the category of divination. Since earliest times, some people have gazed into the skies to predict their future—from the Babylonians and Egyptians in 2000 BC to the Greeks and Romans in 200 BC (James Herschel Holden, A History Of Horoscopic Astrology, 1996).

In the same vein, lucky charms are prevalent in most world cultures, and have been for eons. They might be a lucky pair of socks, or a piece of jewelry; whatever the item, or even in the arrangement of living spaces according to what they claim as mystical energy levels—some people turn to them to help achieve a goal.

What makes them appealing to others is their promise to supply answers for both the “big” and “little” questions people regularly face. For instance, from giving character analyses to providing daily advice, those beliefs claim to offer a systematic approach by which people can make order in their lives (www.equip.org/perspectives/divination). These become even more seductive because some people claim that they work! Thus, to naively and outrightly proclaim that they do not work will never get anyone to give them up.

What needs to be shown is how offensive those are before the Almighty God. The Bible proclaims, thus:

“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.” (Deut. 18:10-12 New International Version)

Those beliefs are insulting to God because they attribute to planets and stars and other things the power that belongs to God alone and because they try to find His will by means other than what He has appointed. Throughout the Bible we are taught that God Himself, not the stars, will guide us in our life’s journey and big decisions:

“Our God is merciful and tender. He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us and to shine from heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow of death, to guide our steps into the path of peace.” (uke 1:78-79 Good News Bible)

The Almighty God reveals to us that the key to receiving His blessings is obedience to His commands, not in performing vain rituals or obtaining any fancy object:

“The holy God of Israel, the LORD who saves you, says: ‘I am the LORD your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go. If only you had listened to my commands! Then blessings would have flowed for you like a stream that never goes dry. Victory would have come to you like the waves that roll on the shore.” (Isa. 48:17-18 GNB)

All forms of divination, thus, should be rejected. Trusting in them instead of in God’s providence is a gross violation of the first and greatest commandment. Apostle Paul urged believers to test everything and hold fast to that which is good (I Thess. 5:21) and not to be deceived by empty philosophy (Col. 2:8), false prophets (Matt. 7:15), or any belief that can potentially lead people away from the Lord God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Those things have the same jarring ramification: to lead people into embracing false doctrine, thus distorting their understanding of God’s revealed truth. Hence, believing in horoscopes and the like, and even in lucky charms, is hardly an innocent and harmless activity.
They are, in fact, very dangerous, that is why they should be avoided at all costs. We should not go there. Not even for curiosity. Nothing at all about them is “lucky.”

 

No luck needed

There is a reason the word “luck” does not appear in the Bible (an exception is the paraphrased The Message, which uses it as slang or to mean “blessing”). Luck and belief in divination certainly would not help anybody escape from condemnation of God. Prophet Isaiah even spoke with derision to those who believe in such:

“Keep on, then, with your magic spells and with your many sorceries, which you have labored at since childhood. Perhaps you will succeed, perhaps you will cause terror. All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by.” (Isa. 47:12-14 NIV)

What we need is to trust in God, not in those things. Those who trust in God and in what He can do are not “disturbed by unusual sights in the sky” (Jer. 10:2 GNB). We should seek guidance not from heavenly bodies, but from our heavenly Father who has made everything:

“I depend on God alone; I put my hope in him. He alone protects and saves me; he is my defender, and I shall never be defeated. My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my strong protector; he is my shelter. Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge.” (Ps. 62:5-8 GNB).

The Almighty God leads us, not toward destruction and condemnation, but toward our salvation:

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:3-4 New King James Version)

What we need then is not luck, but the truth. The truth is the words of God (John 17:17). The truth that will lead us to salvation is spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ:

“So Jesus spoke again: ‘In very truth I tell you, I am the door of the sheepfold.

“I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe’.” (John 10:7, 9 Revised English Bible)

The sheepfold or flock where people should come into or enter is none other than the “Church Of Christ” (Acts 20:28 Lamsa Translation). Our aspiration to be safe, secured, and protected should lead us not to divination methods but to the true Church Of Christ, which is guaranteed with redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ. The correct path is not in or among the stars; rather, the right path is Christ, and to walk in Him is to obey His commands, one of which is to enter His Church.

 

 

 

What the stars say

The Bible has much to say about the stars. Most basic to our understanding of the stars is that God created them. They show His power and majesty. The heavens are God’s “handiwork” (Ps. 8:3; 19:1 NKJV). He has all the stars numbered and named (Ps. 14:7:4). However, it should be clear to us that God forbids His people to give credit or fear the constellations and conjunctions of stars and planets which have no power of themselves but are governed by Him. He derides their vain confidence, who put their trust in anything but in Him, condemning also such, which serve no use, but to delude the people and to take them away from depending only on Him.

The stars should awaken our wonder at God’s power, wisdom, and infinitude. We could use the stars to keep track of time and place and, more importantly, to remind us that God is faithful and almighty. All the while, we acknowledge the Creator of the heavens our wisdom comes from God, not the stars (James 1:5). The Word of God, the Bible, is our guide through life (Ps. 119:105) Our savior is His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 5:31). We do not need psychics, horoscopes, lucky charms, Ouija boards, feng shui, magical statues, guaranteed novenas, or any other divination because, as Apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 12:9, God’s grace is enough.

Miracles and Graven Images

Are miracles attributed to graven
images a manifestation of God’s power?

It is not the Almighty God’s power that is behind the miracles purportedly manifested by graven images of saints, because He Himself declared that “I will not give My glory to another. … Nor My praise to graven images” (Isa. 48:11; 42:8 New King James Version).

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” (Exod. 20:3-5 NKJV)

Even in the Christian Era, “God’s anger is revealed … against all the sin and evil of the people” who “know God, but they do not give him the honor that belongs to him … instead of worshiping the immortal God, they worship images made to look like mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles … they worship and serve what God has created instead of the Creator himself” (Rom. 1:18, 21, 23, 25 Today’s English Version).

According to the apostles, these alleged miracles with graven images fall under the workings of the devil: “The Wicked One will come with the power of Satan and perform all kinds of false miracles and wonders, and use every kind of wicked deceit” (II Thess. 2:9-10 TEV).

Such miracles will also be used by preachers in order to attract people, but according to the Lord Jesus Christ, “For false Messiahs and false prophets will appear; they will perform great miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s chosen people, if possible” (Matt. 24:24 TEV).

People should therefore be wary, rather than afraid, of these supposedly miraculous idols because the Lord God said, “Their ways are futile and foolish. They cut down a tree and carve an idol, and decorate it with gold and silver and fasten it securely in place with hammer and nails, so that it won’t fall over, and there stands their god … It cannot speak, and it must be carried, for it cannot walk. Don’t be afraid of such a god for it can neither harm nor help, or do you any good” (Jer. 10:3-5 Living Bible). For being wickedly deceived by “false miracles and wonders,” idolaters will not be saved, but instead they “will perish because they did not welcome and love the truth” (II Thess. 2:9-10 TEV).


Source: God’s Message Magazine, April 2018

THE VALUE OF COMPLETE OBEDIENCE

 

The Fall of Jericho

Though it seemed impossible to conquer the city of Jericho, the Israelites, led by Joshua, completely followed God’s instructions. By faith and complete obedience, the walls of the city fell down.

PROLOGUE

Before receiving instructions from God on how to conquer the city of Jericho Joshua saw the commander of the army of the Lord standing some distance in front of him holding a sword. Joshua ell to his knees and bowed down to the ground. After asking the commander what to do, Joshua took off his sandals. Meanwhile, the people of Jericho had been locking the gates in their town wall because they were afraid of the Israelites. No one could go out or come in (Josh. 5:13-15; 6:1).

The fall of Jericho

THE LORD SAID TO JOSHUA:   With my help, you and your army will defeat the king of Jericho and his army, and you will capture the town. Here is how to do it: March slowly around Jericho once a day for six days. Take along the sacred chest and have seven priests walk in front of it, carrying trumpets. But on the seventh day, march slowly around the town seven times while the priests blow their trumpets. Then the priests will blast on their trumpets, and everyone else will shout. The wall will fall down, and your soldiers can go straight in from ever side. Joshua called the priests together and said, Take the chest and have seven priests carry trumpets and march ahead of it.”

Next, he gave the army their orders: March slowly around Jericho. A few of you will go ahead of the chest to guard it, but most of you will follow it. Don’t shout the battle cry or yell or even talk until the day I tell you to. The let out a shout!”

As soon as Joshua finished giving the orders, the army started marching. One group of soldiers led the way, with seven priests marching behind them and bowing trumpets. Then came the priests carrying the chest, followed by the rest of the soldiers. They obeyed Joshua’s orders and carried the chest once around the town before returning to camp for the night.

Early next morning, Joshua and everyone else started marching around Jericho in the same ore as the day before One group o soldiers was in front, followed by the seven priests with trumpets and the priests who carried the chest. The rest of the army came next. The seven priests blew their trumpets while everyone marched slowly around Jericho and back to camp. They did this once a day for six days.

On the seventh day, the army got up at daybreak. They marched slowly around Jericho the same as they had done for the past six days, except on this day they went around seven times. Then the priests blew the trumpets, and Joshua yelled:

Get ready to shout! The LORD will let you capture this town. But you must destroy it and everything in it, to show that it now belongs to the LORD. The woman Rahab helped the spies we sent, so protect her and the others who are inside her house. But kill everyone else in the town. The silver and gold and everything made of bronze and iron belong to the LORD and must be put in his treasury. Be careful to follow these instructions, because if you see something you want and take it, the LORD will destroy Israel. And it will be all your fault.

The priests blew their trumpets again, and the soldiers shouted as loud as they could. The walls of Jericho fell flat. Then the soldiers rushed up the hill, went straight into the town, and captured it. They killed everyone, men and women, young and old, everyone except Rahab and the others in her house. They even killed every cow, sheep, and donkey.

Joshua said to the two men who had been spies, “Ragab kept you safe when I sent you to Jericho. We promised to protect her and her family, and we will keep that promise. Now go into her house and bring them out.”

The two men went into Rahab’s house and brought her out, along with her father and mother, her brothers, and her other relative. Rahab and he family had to stay in a place just outside the Israelite army camp. But later they were allowed to live among the Israelites, and her descendants still do.

The Israelites took the silver and gold and the things made of bronze and iron and put them with the rest of the treasure that was kept at the LORD’s house. Finally, they set fire to Jericho and everything in it.

After Jericho was destroyed, Joshua warned the people, “Someday a man will rebuild Jericho, but the LORD will put a curse on him, and the man’s oldest son will die when he starts to build the town wall. And by the time he finishes the wall and puts gates in it, all his children will be dead.” The LORD helped Joshua in everything he did and Joshua was famous everywhere in Canaan.


(Quoted from Joshua 6:2-27 Contemporary English Version)
Illustration by Nestor G Malgapo Sr.