MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE

Rahab welcomes the spies sent by Joshua

She knew the risk of hiding the Israelite spies. But because she made the right choice and believed in the Lord God of Israel, she and her family were saved.

JOSHUA CHOSE TWO MEN AS SPIES and sent them from their camp at Acacia with these instructions: “God across the river and find out as much as you can about the whole region, especially about the town of Jericho.”  

The two spies left the Israelite camp at Acacia and went to Jericho, where they decided to spend the night at the house of a prostitute named Rahab.

But someone found out about them and told the king of Jericho, “Some Israelite men came here tonight, and they are spies.” So the king sent soldiers to Rahab’s house to arrest the spies.

Meanwhile, Rahab had taken the men up to the flat roof of her house and had hidden them under some piles of flax plants that she had put there to dry.

The soldiers came to her door and demanded, “Let us have the men who are staying at your house. They are spies.”

She answered, “Some men did come to my house, but I didn’t know where they had come from. They left after sunset, just before it was time to close the town gate. I don’t know where they were going, but if you hurry, maybe you can catch them.”

The guards at the town gate let the soldiers leave Jericho, but they closed the gate as soon as the soldiers went through. Then the soldiers headed toward the Jordan River to look for the spies at the place where people cross the river.

Rahab went back up to her roof. The spies were still awake, so she told them:

I know that the LORD has given Israel this land. Everyone shakes with fear because of you. We heard how the LORD dried up the Red Sea so you could leave Egypt. And we heard how you destroyed Sihon and Og, those two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River. We know that the LORD your God rules heaven and earth, and we’ve lost our courage and our will to fight.

Please promise me in the LORD’s name that you will be as kind to my family as I have been to you. Do something to show that you won’t let your people kill my father and mother and my brothers and sisters and their families.

“Rahab,” the spies answered, “if you keep quiet about what we’re doing, we promise to be kind to you when the LORD gives us this land. We pray that the LORD will kill us if we don’t keep our promise!”

Rahab’s house was built into the town wall, and one of the windows in her house faced outside the wall. She gave the spies a rope, showed them the window, and said, “Use this rope to let yourselves down to the ground outside the wall. Then hide in the hills. The men who are looking for you won’t be able to find you there. They’ll give up and come back after a few days, and you can be on your way.”

The spies said:

“You made us promise to let you and your family live. We will keep our promise, but you can’t tell anyone why we were here. You must tie this red rope on your window when we attack, and your father and mother, your brothers, and everyone else in your family must be here with you. We’ll take the blame if anyone who stays in this house gets hurt. But anyone who leaves our house will be killed, and it won’t be our fault.

“I’ll do exactly what you said,” Rahab promised. Then she sent them on their way and tied the red rope to the window.


Quoted from Joshua 2:1-21 Contemporary English Version)

 

David & Goliath

FAITHFUL, NO MATTER WHAT

For a young shepherd boy, fighting a giant battle-hardened warrior might seem daunting, almost insurmountable task. But David faced and defeated Goliath because of his faith in what God can do for him and His people. 

DAVID OBEYED HIS FATHER. He got up early the next morning and left someone else in charge of the sheep; then he loaded the supplies and started off. He reached the army camp just as the soldiers were taking their places and shouting the battle cry. The army of Israel and the Philistine army stood there facing each other.

David left his things with the man in charge of supplies and ran up to the battle line to ask his brothers if they were well. While David was talking with them, Goliath came out from the line of Philistines and started boasting as usual. David heard him.

When the Israelite soldiers saw Goliath, they were scared and ran off. They said to each other, “Look how he keeps coming out to insult us. The king is offering a big reward to the man who kills Goliath. That man will even get to marry the king’s daughter, and no one in his family will ever have to pay taxes again.”

David asked some soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and stopping him from insulting our people? Who does that worthless Philistine think he is? He’s making fun of the army of the living God!”

The soldiers told David what the king would give the man who killed Goliath.

David’s older brother Eliab heard him talking with the soldiers. Eliab was angry at him and said, “What are you doing here, anyway? Who’s taking care of that little flock of sheep out in the desert? … You came here just to watch the fighting, didn’t you?”

“Now what have I done?” David answered. “Can’t I even ask a question?” Then he turned and asked another soldier the same thing he had asked the others, and he got he same answer.

Some soldiers overheard David talking, so they told Saul what David had said. Saul sent for David, and David came. “Your majesty,” he said, “this Philistine shouldn’t turn us into cowards. I’ll go out and fight him myself!”

“You don’t have a chance against him,” Saul replied. “You’re only a boy, and he’s been a soldier all his life.”

But David told him:
   Your Majesty, I take care of my father’s sheep. And when one of them is
dragged off by a lion or a bear, I go after it and beat the wild animal until it lets the sheep go. If the wild animal turns and attacks me, I grab it by the
throat and kill it.
   Sir, I have killed lions and bears that way, and I can kill this worthless Philistine. He shouldn’t have made fun of the army of the living God! The LORD had rescued me from the claws of lions and bears, and he will keep me safe from the hands of this Philistine.

“All right,” Saul answered, “go ahead and fight him. And I hope the LORD will help you.”

Saul had his own military clothes and armor put on David, and he gave David a bronze helmet to wear. David strapped on sword and tried to walk around, but he was not used to wearing those things.

“I can’t move with all this all this stuff on,” David said. “I’m just not used to it.”

David took off the armor and picked up his shepherd’s stick. He went out to a stream and picked up five smooth rocks and put them in his leather bag. Then with his sling in his hand, he went straight toward Goliath.

Goliath came toward David, walking behind the soldier who was carrying his shield. When Goliath saw that David was just a healthy, good-looking boy, he made fun of him. “Do you think I’m a dog?” Goliath asked. “Is that why you’ve come after me with a stick?” He cursed David in the name of the Philistine gods and shouted, “Come on! When I’m finished with you, I’ll feed you to the birds and wild animals!”

David answered:
 You’ve come out to fight me with a sword and a spear and a dagger. But
I’ve come out to fight you in the name of the LORD All-Powerful. He is the
God of Israel’s army, and you have insulted him too!
   Today the LORD will help me defeat you. I’ll knock you down and cut off
your head, and I’ll feed the bodies of the other Philistine soldiers to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a real God.
   Everybody here will see that the LORD doesn’t need swords or spears to save his people. The LORD always wins his battles, and he will help us defeat you.

When Goliath started forward, David ran toward him. He put a rock in his sling around by his straps. When he let go of one strap, the rock flew out and hit Goliath on the forehead. It cracked his skull, and he fell facedown on the ground. David defeated Goliath with a sling and a rock. He killed him without even using a sword.


(Quoted from I Samuel 17:20-50 Contemporary English Version)

Helping Those In Need

The second most important commandment

HOW FAR would you go to help a friend, a neighbor, or even someone you don’t know who is in dire need of assistance? Undoubtedly, varied are the ways to show one’s concern for the poor, the marginalized, and those struggling in life. As members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), it is our Christian duty to demonstrate our love and compassion to someone in need for God to abide in us (I John 3:17).

 

Loving our fellowmen

The Bible, in no uncertain terms, makes clear that the most important commandment is to love God with all one’s heart, strength and soul (Mark 12:28-30). For this reason, we joined the Church Of Christ because we truly believe that it is only in this Church where we can render proper reverence, service, and worship of God. In having done so we will receive salvation on Judgment Day.

Moreover, to ensure our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ taught the second most important commandment that we should fulfill:

“The second most important commandment says: ‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is more important than these. The man replied, ‘Teacher, you are certainly right to say there is only one God. It is also true that we must love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and that we must love others as much as we love ourselves. These commandments are more important than all the sacrifices and offerings that we could possibly make.” When Jesus saw that the man had given a sensible answer, he told him, ‘You are not far from God’s kingdom.’ After this, no one dared ask Jesus any more questions.” (Mark 12:31-34 Contemporary English Version)

Hence, according to Christ, loving our fellowmen is the second most important commandment. As Christ’s servants, such genuine and altruistic love must be manifested in our lives—it is something we should not avoid doing.

 

Manifestations of love for humanity

We can show such love for our fellowmen, especially the needy and impoverished, by doing humanitarian work. This is the reason the present Church Administration encourages us to be mindful of the plight of many less fortunate people who need help, sharing or giving material resources as much as we can or extending varied expressions of charity. This in accordance with Christ’s teaching as elucidated in His parable about the Good Samaritan, thus:

“A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to receive eternal life?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?’ The man answered, “Love the Lord our God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind”; and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.’ ‘You are right,’ Jesus replied; ‘do this and you will live.’ But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor? Jesus answered ‘There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Take care of him,” he told the innkeeper, “and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him”.’ And Jesus concluded, ‘In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by the robbers?’ The teacher of the Law answered, ‘The one who was kind to him.’ Jesus replied, ‘You go, then, and do the same’.” (Luke 10:25-37 Good News Bible)

The Church Of Christ today remains unwavering in its commitment to our destitute and disadvantaged fellowmen, in fulfilment of Christ’s mandate. This was recently highlighted by its walk-for-a-cause campaign, the Worldwide Walk to Fight Poverty. It aimed to raise awareness of the miserable condition of millions of our fellowmen gripped by abject poverty and to help them alleviate their sorrow and suffering. This and other charitable acts and projects initiated by the Church worldwide are made more significant in the light of unusual catastrophes, disasters, and tragedies that continue to occur on a daily basis. Indeed, there is no end in sight to extraordinary occurrences affecting many people today that call for each off us to prove our concern and compassion for others for the good of humanity.

 

Biblical precedents

God’s early servants fulfilled His commandment to love and help their fellowmen. Job helped the poor, the orphans, and the widows (Job 29:12-13). Apostle Paul showed his charitable act by bringing “contributions of charity and offerings” (Acts 24:17 Amplified Bible). In addition, a disciple of Christ named Tabitha was “rich in acts of kindness and charity which she continually did” (Acts 9:36 AMP2015).

Presently, the Church Of Christ, under the leadership of its Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, continues to extend its help across the globe to the poor and needy, members and nonmembers alike, through acts of benevolence and generosity especially to the victims of disasters and calamities.

 

The blessings

Those who help the needy and are concerned about the poor—not withholding their love for fellowmen especially when they have the means to do so—are not on the losing end because God lays I store His blessings for them:

“ … You must never have bad thoughts about a person that needs help. You must not refuse to help him. If you don’t help that poor person, then he will complain to the Lord against you. And the Lord will find you guilty of sin. Give the poor person all that you can. Don’t feel bad about giving to him. Why? Because the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do.” (Deut. 15:9-10 Easy-to-Read Version)

“Happy are those who are concerned for the poor; the LORD will help them when they are in trouble. The LORD will protect them and preserve their lives; he will make them happy in the land; he will not abandon the to the power of their enemies. The LORD will help them when they are sick and will restore them to health.” (Ps. 41:1-3 GNB)

Above all, eternal life will be received by God’s servants who obey His commandment taught by Christ to care for the needs of others, especially the poor. The Bible made this very clear:

“Once a man came to Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me concerning what is good?’ answered Jesus. ‘There is only One who is good. Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.’ ‘What commandments?’ he asked. Jesus answered, ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; respect your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ‘I have obeyed all these commandments,’ the young man replied. ‘What else do I need to do?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me’.” (Matt 19:16-21 GNB)

by ROLAND A. AGUIRRE

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

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

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.