Kapag pinagtatawanan tayo ng Diyos: Isang pagtingin sa ating mga sistemang pulitikal mula sa liwanag ng Awit 2

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Ito na siguro ang pinakakinatatakutan ko. Marami akong ginagawa sa publiko — nangangaral, nagdadasal, namumuno, nagtuturo — ngunit bago ako tumayo sa harap ng isang grupo ay mayroon akong takot na pagtatawanan lang nila ako o na kutyain nila ako. Kaya isipin ang aking pagtataka kapag nalaman kong pinagtatawanan ako ng Diyos? Ano ang tungkol sa mga bagay na aking ginagawa na nakakatawa sa Diyos? Kasama ba dito kung saan ko inilalagay ang aking tiwala? Ang konteksto ng pagtawa ng Diyos sa Bibliya ay medyo tiyak, gayunpaman. Hindi ako tinatawanan ng Diyos kapag nagkamali ako. Ang kanyang pagtawa ay nakatutok. Alamin natin ang higit pa sa pamamagitan ng pagtingin sa Awit 2.

“Bakit nagsipagtipon ang mga bansa sa pagpaplano ng masama? Bakit sila nagpaplano ng wala namang patutunguhan? Ang mga hari at mga pinuno sa mundo ay nagsama-sama,at nagsipaghanda sa pakikipaglaban sa Panginoon, at sa hari na kanyang hinirang. Sinabi nila, ‘Huwag tayong pasakop o sumunod man sa kanilang pamamahala!’”

Gustung-gusto ng mga bansa na lutasin ang mga problema. Bumuo ng mga asosasyon, bumuo ng mga kaalyado, makiisa sa iba. Ang makabuo ng mga plano, may mga layunin, may mga pangarap. Lumilikha sila ng mga platform na nagbabalangkas kung paano nila makakamit ang tagumpay. Minsan pa nga sila ay nagbabalak at nagpaplano. Kung minsan ay gumagamit sila ng mga ideolohiya na kinakailangang itulak ang ilang mga tao sa mga palawit. Minsan minamanipula nila ang mga istrukturang panlipunan para sa kanilang sariling layunin.

Ang lahat ng pagbabalak, pagpaplano, at paninindigan na ito ay tila sa isang dulo — pagsalungat sa pamamahala ng Diyos. Marami tayong nakikita sa banal na kasulatan, kabilang ang sa Tore ng Babel at ang mga pangyayaring nangyari noong si Saul ay napiling hari ng Israel. Parang tayo bilang mga tao ay gustong gumawa ng mga bagay sa sarili nating paraan — kaya hindi natin maisip kung ano ang magiging hitsura ng ating iba’t ibang bansa na lubusang magpasakop sa pamumuno ng Diyos! Marahil ito ang humahantong sa susunod na talata:

“Ngunit siyang nakaupo sa kanyang trono sa langit ay natatawa lang, at kumukutya sa kanila.”

Ano ang partikular na tinatawanan ng Diyos dito? Pinagtatawanan niya ang mga “walang kwentang pakana,” “tumayo,” at “magkasamang mga plano laban sa Panginoon/Mesiyas.” Bakit siya tumatawa? Dahil hindi talaga namin alam ang ginagawa namin! Minsan tumatawa din tayo di ba? Noong pinamumunuan ko ang isang grupo na nagtanim ng mga punongkahoy sa gubatsa Northwestern Ontario, naghanap kami ng isang kasamahan namin (George) ng bukal sa gubat. May narinig ang isa sa aming mga treeplanters tungkol dito at nagpasyang tumulong. Kaya’t gumugol siya ng ilang oras sa pag-shoveling sa bukal, nililinis ang lahat, atbp. Ngunit nang makita namin ni George ang kanyang ginawa ay natawa kami dahil sa halip na ayusin ang mga bagay, mas lalo pa niyang pinalala ang mga bagay.

Tawa lang ba ang tugon ng Diyos? Hindi. Lumilitaw na ito rin ay nagpapagalit sa kanya (naiintindihan naman natin).

“Sa galit ng Dios, silaʼy binigyang babala, at sa tindi ng kanyang poot silaʼy natatakot. Sinabi niya, ‘Iniluklok ko na ang hinirang kong hari sa kanyang trono sa Zion,2:6 Zion: o, Jerusalem. sa banal kong bundok.’”

At sa palagay ko hindi tayo dapat magtaka na ang Diyos ay magagalit, na nakikita na ang mga tao ay nagbabalak laban sa kanya. Ngunit ito ay humahantong sa akin na magtanong kung paano ang mga bansa ngayon ay nagbabalak laban sa Diyos? Tiyak na umiiral pa rin ang ilang mga pamahalaan na naghihigpit sa mga kalayaan sa relihiyon para sa kanilang mga tao — ngunit ang mga bansang ito ay tila mas kaunti ngayon.

Gaya ng isinulat ko dito at dito ang marka ng halimaw/hayop ay paglalagay ng tiwala sa gobyerno kaysa sa Diyos. Sinasabi nito na sa lahat ng problemang umiiral sa mundo — kahirapan, katiwalian, kawalan ng kapayapaan at kaayusan, digmaan, mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao, atbp. — malulutas lamang sa pagkakaroon ng tamang pamahalaan. Walang anumang puwang para sa Diyos na kumilos.

Ito ay isang napapanahong talakayan sa buong mundo. Habang inaanunsyo ang halalan at umuusad ang mga panahon ng kampanya, mabilis na bumabaling ang salaysay sa kung Sino ang pinakamahusay na kandidato? Sino ang maaaring gumawa ng pinakamahusay na trabaho sa pangangalaga ng bansa? At medyo madalas ang mga pag-uusap na ito ay nauuwi sa mga linya ng relihiyon, na may mga parirala na nagtatanong kung alin sa mga partido/kandidato ang pinili ng Diyos? At kapag natapos na ang eleksyon, minsan nagagalit ang mga sumusuporta sa natatalo. Nakita natin iyan kamakailan sa Canada, USA, at sa ibang lugar.

Ibinigay ng Diyos ang kanyang sagot dito — sinabi niyang iniluklok niya ang kanyang sariling hari, hindi sa alinmang makalupang trono kundi, sa “trono sa Zion, sa banal kong bundok,” ang pinakaluklukan ng sansinukob. Pagkatapos ay ipinahayag ng Diyos ang isang utos na naglalarawan sa Haring ito nang kaunti pa (vv 7-9):

“Sinabi ng hari na hinirang ng Dios, “Sasabihin ko ang sinabi sa akin ng Panginoon: ‘Ikaw ang Anak ko, at ngayon, ipapahayag ko na ako ang iyong Ama. Hilingin mo sa akin ang mga bansa sa buong mundo, at ibibigay ko ito sa iyo bilang mana mo. Pamumunuan mo sila, at walang sasalungat sa iyong pamamahala. Silaʼy magiging parang palayok na iyong dudurugin.’ ”

Masakit diba? Pagkatapos ng lahat, mahal natin ang ating mga bansa (o kinamumuhian ito sa palagay ko — parang wala naman sa pagitan, diba?) kaya kapag naririnig natin ang mga ito ay sinira at nawasak tayo ay nag-aalala. Ang totoong nangyayari dito ay ang pagsalungat sa pamumuno ni Hesus ang nadudurog. Alam natin ito dahil ang pagdurog ay hindi ang huling salita sa Awit na ito.

Isang magandang bagay sa salita ng Diyos ay laging may pag-asa. Palaging may ilang paraan para magsisi tayo sa ating mga kasalanan at pumasok sa isang ipinanumbalik na relasyon kasama ang Diyos. Ang Awit 2 ay nagpapatuloy:

“Kaya kayong mga hari at pinuno sa buong mundo, unawain ninyo ang mga salitang ito at pakinggan ang mga babala laban sa inyo. Paglingkuran ninyo ang Panginoon nang may takot, at magalak kayo sa kanya. Magpasakop kayo sa hari na kanyang hinirang, kung hindi ay baka magalit siya at kayoʼy ipahamak niya. Mapalad ang mga nanganganlong sa Panginoon.”

Ito ang pag-asa na ipinakita sa atin. Tinawag tayo upang kumilos nang matalino. Kami ay binigyan ng babala. Hinahamon tayong maglingkod sa Panginoon, magpasakop sa kanya — humalik sa anak, kumbaga — upang sa huli ay pagpalain tayo. Sa tingin ko, mahalaga na ang mga salitang “nanganganlong” at “mapalad” ay ginamit nang magkasama dito dahil ito ay isang bagay na ipinangako ng mga bansa, hindi ba? Nangangako sila ng pagpapala. Ang mahusay na musikal na Hamilton, sa pagkukuwento nito sa unang bahagi ng kasaysayan ng USA, ay binanggit ang Micah 4:4 nang sabihin nito, “Ang bawat tao ay uupo sa ilalim ng kanilang tanim na ubas at puno ng igos.” Ito ay isang malinaw na pag-uugnay ng estado ng bansa sa mga pagpapala ng Diyos. Ngunit ang isang bagay na marahil ay hindi natin napagtanto hanggang sa huli na ang lahat ay ang mga pagpapalang nauugnay sa pagkakakilanlan sa isang bansang estado ay hindi magtatagal. Ang mga isyung panlipunan gaya ng BLM, CRT, #metoo, MMIWG, Truth & Reconciliation, Orange Shirt Day, mga pamamaril na may kinalaman sa lahi, at iba pa ay nagpapakita sa atin na ang mga pagpapala, kapag umiiral ang mga ito, ay tila umiiral lamang para sa ilang piling tao. Sinasabi sa atin ng Diyos sa Awit 2 na kung talagang gusto natin ng pagpapala, dapat tayong magkubli sa kanya.

Sinasabi ba ng Diyos na huwag bumoto sa halalan? Hindi. Hinihiling ba niya sa atin na iwasang harapin ang mga problema ng mundo sa ating paligid? Hindi rin. Hinihiling ba niya sa amin na umatras mula sa pakikilahok sa mga sistema at istruktura ng lipunan? Hindi rin. Ang ginagawa niya ay hinihiling sa atin na ilagay ang ating tiwala at pag-asa sa tamang lugar — matatag kay Jesus. Ang ibig sabihin nito ay kahit sino ang manalo, bilang mga tagasunod ni Jesus kailangan pa rin nating magtrabaho at manalangin para sa ikabubuti ng lungsod (gaya ng akmang sinasabi ng Jeremias 29:7). Anuman tayo, kailangan nating magkaroon ng kamalayan na ang mga istruktura at sistema ay nangangailangan pa rin ng pagsasaayos upang ang lahat ay makaranas ng kanlungan kay Hesus. Maaari tayong makilahok sa paggawa ng mundo na isang mas magandang lugar ngunit ang pakikilahok na iyon ay kailangang nasa ilalim ng pangangasiwa ng Banal na Espiritu.

Hindi maganda ang pakiramdam ko kapag pinagtatawanan ako ng mga tao. Ngunit kapag ang Diyos ay tumawa, binibigyan din niya tayo ng pagkakataong gawin ang mga bagay nang tama.

Ano sa tingin mo ito? Nakikita mo ba ang iyong sarili na nagtitiwala sa iba kung saan dapat kang nagtitiwala sa Diyos? Ipaalam sa amin sa seksyon ng komento sa ibaba.

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When God laughs at us: A look at our political systems in light of Psalm 2

Basahin mo sa wikang Tagalog.

It’s perhaps my greatest fear. I do a lot of public things — preaching, praying, leading, teaching — but before I stand up in front of a group I have this fear that they will just laugh at me, that they will mock me, or that they will make fun of me. So imagine my surprise when I find out that God laughs at me at times. What is it about the things that I do that is funny to God? Could it be where I am placing my trust? The context of the laughter is pretty specific, however. God doesn’t laugh at me when I screw up. He doesn’t laugh at my mistakes. His laughter is pretty specifically focussed. Let’s find out more by taking a look at Psalm 2.

“Why do the nations gather together? Why do their people devise useless plots? Kings take their stands. Rulers make plans together against the Lord and against his Messiah  by saying, ‘Let’s break apart their chains and shake off their ropes.’”

Nations love to solve problems. The form associations, develop allies, unite with others. The come up with plans, with goals, with dreams. They create platforms that outline how they will achieve success. Sometimes they even plot and plan. Sometimes they adopt ideologies that necessarily push some people to the fringes. Sometimes they manipulate social structures for their own ends.

All of this plotting, planning, and standing appears to be to one end — opposition to the rule of God. We see this a lot in scripture, including at the Tower of Babel and the events that happened when Saul was chosen king of Israel. It seems like we as people want to do things our own way — so much so that we can’t even imagine what it would look like for our various nations to be entirely submitted to God’s leadership! Perhaps this is what leads to the next verse:

“The one enthroned in heaven laughs. The Lord makes fun of them.”

What specifically is God laughing at here? He is laughing at the “useless plots,” “stands,” and “plans together against the Lord/Messiah.” Why is he laughing? Because we really don’t know what we are doing! Sometimes we laugh too don’t we? Once, years ago, when I was leading a tree planting crew in Northwestern Ontario, a colleague (George) and I went looking for a spring in the bush. One of our treeplanters heard something about it and decided to help. So he spent some time shovelling out the spring, making everything clean, etc. But when George and I saw what he had done we laughed because rather than fixing things he actually made things worse.

Does God only respond with laughter? Nope. It appears it also makes him (understandably) angry.

“Then he speaks to them in his anger. In his burning anger he terrifies them by saying, ‘I have installed my own king on Zion, my holy mountain.’”

And I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that God would be angry, seeing as people are plotting against him. But it does lead me to ask the question of how nations today plot against God? Certainly certain governments still exist that restrict religious freedoms for their peoples — but these countries seem fewer and far between nowadays.

As I have written here and here the mark of the beast/animal is putting trust in government rather than God. It’s saying that of all the problems that exist in the world — poverty, corruption, lack of peace and order, war, human rights violations, etc. — can only ever be solved by having the right government. There is never any room for God to act.

This is a very timely discussion worldwide. As elections are announced and campaign periods progress, the narrative quickly turns to who is the best candidate? Who can do the best job at taking care of the country? And quite often these conversations turn along religious lines, couched in phrases asking which of the parties/candidates is God’s choice? And once the elections are over, those who support the losing side sometimes get angry. We have seen that recently in Canada, the USA, and elsewhere.

God gives his answer to this — he says that he has installed his own king, not on any earthly throne but, on Mount Zion, the very seat of the universe. God then announces a decree that describes this King a little more fully (vv 7-9):

“You are my Son. Today I have become your Father. Ask me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your own possession. You will break them with an iron scepter. You will smash them to pieces like pottery.”

It seems a bit harsh. After all, we love our countries (or hate them I suppose — there doesn’t ever seem to be an in between does there?) so when we hear of them being broken and smashed we worry. What is really happening here is that it’s the opposition to the rule of Jesus that is crushed. We know this because the crushing isn’t the last word in this Psalm.

One good thing about God’s word is that there is always hope. There is always some way that we can repent of our sins and enter into a restored relationship with God. Psalm 2 continues:

“Now, you kings, act wisely. Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, or he will become angry and you will die on your way because his anger will burst into flames. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him.”

This is the hope that is presented to us. We are called to act wisely. We are warned. We are challenged to serve the Lord, to submit to him — to kiss the son, as it were — so that in the end we will be blessed. I think it’s significant that the words “refuge” and “blessed” are used together here because that it one thing that nations promise isn’t it? They promise blessing. The great musical Hamilton, in its recounting of the early history of the USA, cites Micah 4:4 when it says, “then everyone will sit under his own vine and his fig tree.” This is a clear connecting of the nation state with the blessings of God. But one thing we perhaps don’t realise until it’s too late is that the blessings associated with identification with a nation state don’t ever end up lasting. Societal issues addressed through movements such as BLM, CRT, #metoo, MMIWG, Truth & Reconciliation, Orange Shirt Day, racially-motivated shootings, and others show us that the blessings, when they exist, only apparently exist for a chosen few people. God is telling us in Psalm 2 that if we truly want blessing then we should take refuge in him.

Is God telling us not to vote in elections? No he isn’t. Is he asking us to avoid addressing the problems of the world around us? No he isn’t. Is he asking us to withdraw from participation in social systems and structures? No he isn’t. What he is doing is asking us to place our trust and hope in the right place — firmly on Jesus. What this means is that regardless of who wins, as Jesus followers we still need to work and pray for the good of the city (as Jeremiah 29:7 so aptly states). Regardless of who we are, we need to be aware that structures and systems are still in need of renovation so that all can experience the refuge in Jesus. We can participate in making the world a better place but that participation needs to be under the supervision of the Holy Spirit.

It doesn’t make me feel good when people laugh at me. But when God laughs, he also gives us a chance to do things right.

What do you think of this? Do you find yourself trusting others where you should be trusting God? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Ang bakuna at ang Tatak ng Halimaw: Bakit ang pagtuon sa iba pang tatak ng Bibliya ay mas kapaki-pakinabang sa ating buhay Kristiyano.

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Kamakailan lamang ang ilang mga Kristiyano ay nag-aalala tungkol sa pagkuha ng isang bakuna sa COVID-19 sapagkat naniniwala silang ito ang “Tatak ng Mabangis na Hayop” (AKA ang Tatak ng Halimaw). Hindi ako magpo-post ng mga link sa mga taong ito dahil hindi ko nais na palawakin ang kanilang platform ngunit ang ganitong uri ng pag-iisip ay hindi bago. Naalala ko ang pakikipag-usap ko sa isang kaibigan mahigit 30 taon na ang nakakalipas na nag-angkin na ang tatak ng halimaw ay ang mga code ng UPC na matatagpuan sa halos lahat ng mga produktong mabibili mo sa tindahan. Ang iba ay inaangkin na ang RFID chips ang tatak. Kapag napagtanto namin na si Juan ay nagsusulat ng isang liham sa mga taong buhay noong ika-1 siglo, at samakatuwid ay kailangang maunawaan at nauugnay sa kanila, nakikita natin na wala sa mga interpretasyong ito ang totoo sapagkat ginawa ang mga ito gamit ang teknolohiya na hindi pa natuklasan noong ika-1 siglo (ang parehong mga barcode at RFID chips ay binuo noong 1973). Maaaring sabihin ang pareho para sa mga bakuna, na hindi natuklasan ni Edward Jenner hanggang mga 1798.

Maraming isinulat ng mga iskolar na nagpapakita na ang pagbibigay kahulugan sa mga bakuna sa COVID-19 bilang tatak ng halimaw ay mali (narito, dito, at dito halimbawa). Nais kong lapitan ang isyu mula sa ibang pananaw, at iyon ay sa katunayan mayroong dalawang biblikal na halimbawa ng mga tatak na mailalagay sa kanang kamay at / o sa noo. Ang unang tatak ay isang magandang tatak.

Ang Exodo 13:9, na pinag-uusapan ang pag-alala sa araw na umalis ang Israel sa Ehipto, ay nagsabing, “Ang pistang itoʼy katulad ng isang tatak sa inyong mga kamay o sa inyong mga noo na magpapaalaala sa inyo na dapat ninyong sabihin sa iba ang mga utos ng Panginoon, dahil inilabas niya kayo sa Egipto sa pamamagitan ng kanyang kapangyarihan.”

Sinasabi ng Ezekiel 9:4, “at sinabi sa kanya, ‘Libutin mo ang buong lungsod ng Jerusalem at tatakan mo ang noo ng mga taong nagdadalamhati dahil sa mga kasuklam-suklam na mga ginagawa roon.’”

Marahil ang pinaka-makabuluhang ibang talata ay matatagpuan sa Pahayag 14:1 kung saan mababasa natin, “Pagkatapos, nakita ko ang Tupa na nakatayo sa bundok ng Zion. Kasama niya ang 144,000 tao. Nakasulat sa noo nila ang pangalan ng Tupa at ng kanyang Ama.” Ang talatang ito ay kaagad na sumusunod sa talata na nagsasalita tungkol sa tatak ng halimaw.

Makikita natin na ang unang marka ay ibinibigay sa mga nakikibahagi sa mabuting gawain ng Panginoon. Naaalala nila ang Kanyang mga gawa sa pagliligtas, nalulungkot sila sa mga bagay na nagdadalamhati sa Kanya, at nakikilala sila kasama ng Kordero at Kanyang Ama.

Pagkatapos ay ihinahambing ito sa isang markang nakalagay sa noo ng mga nanunumpa ng katapatan sa ibang direksyon – sa “halimaw.” Nakita natin ito sa Pahayag 14:9-12 kung saan magkakasabay ang pagkakaroon ng marka at pagsamba sa hayop.

Tulad ng isinulat ko ilang buwan na ang nakakalipas, “Napaisip ako tungkol sa tatak ng mabangis na hayop at nagtaka ako kung ang pagkakaroon ng tatak sa iyong noo at kanang kamay ay sa esensya ng pagkakaroon ng pananampalataya sa pamahalaan bilang magandang balita kaysa kay Hesus bilang magandang balita? Ang genre ng ebanghelyo sa Bibliya, pagkatapos ng lahat, isang pampulitika na binuo ng Roman Emperor upang ipakita kung gaano sila kahusay.”

Kaya ngayon na natukoy natin ang dalawang tatak na ito kailangan nating tanungin ang ating sarili kung ano ang hitsura ng mga markang ito?

Mayroong maraming mga listahan ng iba’t ibang mga tatak ng Espiritu, ang pinakatanyag – tinawag na prutas – sa Galacia 5:22-23 – “Ngunit ang likas na espiritwal ay nagbubunga ng pag-ibig, kagalakan, kapayapaan, pasensya, kabaitan, kabutihan, katapatan, kahinahunan, at sarili -kontrol. Walang mga batas laban sa mga bagay na tulad nito.” Ang ugnayan sa pagitan ng bunga ng Espiritu at ng tatak ay nagmula sa ideya ng pagbubuklod ng Banal na Espiritu, kung saan ang Banal na Espiritu sa pamamagitan ng Kanyang personal na presensya ay permanenteng kinikilala at sinisiguro ang bawat naniniwala sa katawan ni Cristo. Tinalakay ito sa Efeso 1:13. Ang mismong tatak na binanggit sa itaas ay sa katunayan ang pagkakaroon ng Banal na Espiritu sa buhay ng mga tao. Sa gayon ang kanilang mga aksyon – kanilang prutas – nagsisilbing ebidensya ng tatak.

Ang Galacia 5 ay talagang mayroong dalawang listahan. Ang isa (vv 19-21) ay isang listahan nga mga “sa ninanasa ng laman” at isinama ang “sekswal na imoralidad, kalaswaan, kahalayan, pagsamba sa mga dios-diosan, pangkukulam, pagkapoot, pag-aaway-away, pagkasakim, pagkagalit, pagkakawatak-watak, pagkakahati-hati, pagkainggit, paglalasing, pagkahilig sa kalayawan, at iba pang kasamaan. Binabalaan ko kayo tulad ng ginawa ko na noon: Ang mga namumuhay nang ganito ay hindi mapapabilang sa kaharian ng Dios.” Dalawang bagay na dapat tandaan. Ang mga ito ay “makilala” at ang mga gumagawa ng mga halatang bagay na ito “ay hindi mapapabilang sa kaharian ng Dios.” Mukhang kumonekta ito nang malapit sa katangian ng isang tatak (makilala) at mga resulta nito (hindi mapapabilang sa kaharian ng Dios).

Sa madaling sabi, sa halip na ang bakuna (o anupaman) na tatak ng halimaw, ito ay talagang mga bunga ng ating buhay na naghahayag kung saan nakasalalay ang ating katapatan. Ang mga tatak ay tagapagpahiwatig ng katapatan at pagkakakilanlan. Ang bunga ng espiritu ay nagpapatunay na tinatakan tayo ng Espiritu ngunit ang mga epekto ng masamang kalikasan ay nagpapakita na tayo ay minarkahan ng tatak ng hayop. Sa gayon, kung nakilala natin ang ating sarili kay Cristo at mananatiling tapat sa kanya kung gayon wala tayong tatak ng halimaw kundi ang Kanyang tatak.

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The Vaccine and the Mark of the Wild Animal: Why focussing on the Bible’s other mark is more useful to our Christian lives.

Basahin sa Tagalog

Recently some Christians have been worried about getting a COVID-19 vaccine because they believe it is “the mark of the animal” (AKA the mark of the beast). I won’t post links to these people because I don’t want to further their platform but this kind of thinking is not new. I remember talking with a friend over 30 years ago who claimed that the mark of the beast was the UPC codes found on almost all products you can buy in the store. Others have claimed that RFID chips are the mark. When we realise that John was writing a letter to people alive in the 1st century, and therefore needed to be understood and relevant to them, we see that none of these interpretations are true because they are made using technology that hadn’t yet been discovered in the 1st century (both barcodes and RFID chips were developed in 1973). The same can be said for vaccines, which weren’t discovered by Edward Jenner until about 1798.

Lots has been written by scholars that show that interpreting the COVID-19 vaccines as the mark of the beast is wrong (here, here, & here for example). I would like to approach the issue from a different perspective, and that is that there are in fact two biblical examples of marks that are to be placed on the right hand and/or the forehead. The first mark is a good mark.

Exodus‬ ‭13:9, talking about remembering the day Israel left Egypt,‬ says, “This ⌊festival⌋ will be ⌊like⌋ a mark on your hand or a reminder on your forehead that the teachings of the LORD are ⌊always⌋ to be a part of your conversation. Because the LORD used his mighty hand to bring you out of Egypt,” ‭‭

Ezekiel‬ ‭9:4‬ ‭says, “The LORD said to that person, ‘Go throughout the city of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan about all the disgusting things that are being done in the city.’”‭‭

Perhaps the most significant other verse is found in Revelation 14:1 where we read, “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” This verse is immediately following the verse talking about the mark of the Beast.

We can see that the first mark is given to those who share in the Lord’s good work. They remember His saving works, they grieve over the things that grieve Him, and they are identified with the Lamb and His Father.

This is then contrasted with a mark placed on the foreheads of those who swear allegiance in the other direction — to the “beast.” This we see in Revelation 14:9-12 where having the mark and worshipping the beast go hand in hand.

As I wrote a few months ago, “It got me thinking about the “mark of the animal” and I wondered if having the mark on your forehead and right hand is in essence having faith in government as gospel rather than Jesus as gospel? The gospel genre in the Bible is, after all, a political genre developed by the Roman Emperors to show how great they were.”

So now that we have identified these two marks we need to ask ourselves what do these marks look like?

There are several lists of various marks of the spirit, the most famous — called fruit — in Galatians 5:22-23 — “But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against things like that.” The connection between the fruit of the Spirit and the mark comes from the idea of the sealing of the Holy Spirit, where the Holy Spirit by His personal presence permanently identifies & secures every believer in the body of Christ. This is discussed in Ephesians 1:13. The very mark spoken of above is in fact the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people. Thus their actions — their fruit — serve as evidence of the mark.

Galatians 5 actually has two lists. The other (vv 19-21) is a list of the “effects of the corrupt nature” and includes “… illicit sex, perversion, promiscuity, idolatry, drug use, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild partying, and similar things. I’ve told you in the past and I’m telling you again that people who do these kinds of things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” Two things to note. These are “obvious” and those who do these obvious things “will not inherit God’s kingdom. This seems to connect pretty closely to the charateristics of a mark (obvious) and its results (not a part of God’s kingdom).

In a nutshell, rather than the vaccine (or anything else) being the mark of the beast, it is actually the fruits of our lives that reveal where our allegiance lies. The marks are indicators of loyalty and identity. The fruit of the spirit confirm that we have been sealed by the Spirit but the effects of the corrupt nature reveal that we have been marked with the Beast’s number. Thus, if we have identified ourselves with Christ and remain loyal to him then we don’t have the mark of the animal but His mark.

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash.

Scripture is taken from GOD’S WORD®.
© 1995, 2003, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society. 
Used by permission.

Magpakalalake tayo! Let’s be men! Understanding how the power of manliness comes through joining God on his mission.

Let’s be men!

Today there are lots of phrases designed to help men be men, ranging from the rather tame, “Man up!” to the more crass “Grow a pair!” In the Philippines we say, “Magpakalalake ka!

Did you know that this term is used in the Bible? Try and guess where. You may be surprised. It isn’t used as a command for Jesus’ followers to emulate. It’s not used to stir God’s people to serve Him in a more faithful way. In fact it is used by a group of people who are so inspired that they defeat God’s people and capture their most important religious artifact. 

The story is told in 1 Samuel 4. The scene opens on a battle between Israel and the Philistines where Israel ends up losing. As a way to ensure that they win the next battle, they quickly run home to get the Ark of the Covenant. When the Ark arrives the men of Israel “shouted so loudly that the earth rang with echoes.” This causes the Philistines to be afraid and they say,

“A god has come into ⌞their⌟ camp.” They also said, “Oh no! Nothing like this has ever happened before. We’re in trouble now! Who can save us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every kind of plague in the desert. Be strong, Philistines, and act like men, or else you will serve the Hebrews as they served you. Act like men and fight.”

What was the result? “The Philistines fought and defeated Israel!” I don’t know about you but this is very surprising to me. This story seems to be saying that if men are men that they can do the following:

  • They can defeat ancient Israel, God’s chosen people. 
  • They can chase everyone back to their own home. 
  • They can kill 30,000 enemy soldiers.
  • They can kill the priests that God has annointed and cause the death of their father, the nation’s leader.
  • They can capture the Ark of the Covenant and take it home as the spoils of war. 
  • They can keep themselves from being slaves of their enemy.
  • They can defeat the God of Israel!

This raises a lot of questions, doesn’t it? One of the key aspects to interpreting the Bible is “if you have a question, keep on reading.” If we keep on reading we will find out more.

When we keep on reading, we find out that the battle was in fact a part of God’s judgement against the evil things that Israel had done over the years. Perhaps the best sum up that we have of how Israel was acting during that time is in Judges that reads, “In those days Israel didn’t have a king. Everyone did whatever he considered right” (God’s Word). Even their priests are described in 1 Samuel 2:12 as “good for nothing,” which is pretty bad, they are also said to have “no faith in the Lord.” God saw what they were doing and pledged to fix things. He gave a sign to Eli, the High Priest, that this would all happen. “What is going to happen to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you: Both of them will die on the same day” (1 Samuel 2:34; see also 1 Samuel 3:13).

In 1 Samuel 5 we read that the Philistines placed the Ark in their own god, Dagon’s temple. This resulted in Dagon’s humiliation. In addition to that “The Lord dealt harshly with the people of Ashdod. He destroyed them by striking the people in the vicinity of Ashdod with tumors.” In an effort to appease the LORD, the people shuffled the Ark around from city to city. Finally they had enough and sent the Ark back to Israel. 1 Samuel 6 tells the story of the Ark’s return to Israel. So in the end, manning up didn’t really work out all that great for them.

There are other accounts in the Bible of how when people banded together, they were able to do the impossible. Genesis talks about the tower that people started building in what was to become Babylon (a name that eventually stands for humans grouping together against God). God, when he saw that they were going to be very successful, ensured that they wouldn’t be able to finish it. He said, “Now nothing they plan to do will be too difficult for them.” He confused their communication systems because he knew that his plans for them were much greater than their own. It wasn’t until Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit removed the language barriers, that God’s purposes are fully revealed. Rather than building a tower to reach the heavens (ie. their own kingdom), God wanted them to build his kingdom, which in the end is a much better kingdom. We know this because Babylon eventually stands for humans grouping together against God and we see it’s animal-like nature every day. I have written about that here and here.

So what does trusting God as men look like?

The enmity between Israel and Philistia continued for generations. One of the most famous encounters we know as the story of David and Goliath, where Israel emerges as the victor. What is interesting about the story of David and Goliath is that Goliath is the epitome of the man’s man — big, strong, famous, and arrogant. David, on the other hand, is just a kid. Even King Saul says, “.”

Paul’s claims to fame that reads almost like a manly bucket list of fame and adventure in 2 Corinthians 11:21-28:

  • Hebrew? Check.
  • Israelite? Check.
  • Abraham’s descendant? Check.
  • Christ’s servant? Check.
  • Worked hard. Check.
  • Been in prison because of Jesus? Check.
  • Been beaten? Check.
  • Faced death? Check. 
  • Beaten with 39 lashes. Check x 5.
  • Beaten with clubs. Check x 3.
  • Almost stoned to death. Check.
  • Shipwrecked. Check x 3.
  • Drifted on the sea for a night and a day. Check.
  • Faced dangers from raging rivers, from robbers, from my own people, and from other people. Check.
  • Faced dangers in the city, in the open country, on the sea, and from believers who turned out to be false friends. Check.
  • Gone without sleep, been hungry and thirsty. Check.
  • Gone without proper clothes during cold weather. Check.
  • Daily pressure of my anxiety about all the churches. Check.

What’s interesting is that Paul doesn’t give us this list to show us that he grew a pair or manned up. Rather he says something rather odd and seemingly unmanly. He says “If I must brag, I will brag about the things that show how weak I am.” Paul then goes on in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 to say, “Satan’s messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited. I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me. But he told me: ‘My kindness  is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.’ So I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ’s power will live in me. Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It’s clear that when I’m weak, I’m strong.”

Paul’s appeal for healing and Jesus answer can help us find answers on how best to be men. Jesus’ “No!” may seem unfair at first until we look closer. We need to remember how Jesus expresses his own masculinity. First of all, Paul’s appeal for healing and Jesus answer can help us find answers on how best to be men. Jesus’ “No!” may seem unfair at first until we look closer. We need to remember how Jesus expresses his own masculinity.

First of all, Jesus himself was a man who gained victory through his weakness. His cry of anguish in the garden of “take this cup ⌞of suffering⌟ away from me” is also answered by his “However, your will must be done, not mine.” He knew that he could achieve victory for himself in his own power but that the victory God wanted through him was achievable only through God’s power because it was so much bigger than just for him.

Secondly, Jesus’ answer to Paul is that he will provide the strength for Paul’s struggle, because Jesus’ dream for Paul is far bigger than Paul can accomplish.

So what should we do instead? It’s clear that the call to “be a man” is powerful enough to cause us to do impossible things. We can defeat the enemy. We can build a tower that reaches to the heavens. It’s also clear that the impossible things we can accomplish are not necessarily good in the end nor are they necessarily what God wants us to accomplish. To truly be men we need to join God on his mission and await his power so that we can help him accomplish it!

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do!

Image by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash.

Of Governments and Hope: Where should I look for hope?

The Bible doesn’t really have all that great a view of governments. Certainly we are to obey governments but that’s not what i mean. The bible’s best option for human governance is always presented as being God.

We see this throughout the story of Israel in the Old Testament. Israel is freed from Egypt because Egypt’s government had enslaved them. God then led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

We see this in the story of Israel’s first king — Saul — a move that God saw as being a rejection of his rule, and even the most cursory of reads of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles shows us the failure of this system.

We also see this in the choice of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to use the term “gospel” when identifying their story type; gospel or good news being the term Roman Emperors used to describe their own ascension to the throne. The four are in essence saying, “Jesus is a better emperor than Rome’s!”

That’s why government in the Bible is often referred to as an animal (most translations maintain the archaic expression “beast,” but as I’ve said here and here that that leads to strange interpretations). What this means is that we shouldn’t be surprised when the government tears us to pieces. The example in Canada at the moment is the whole Indian Residential School system (which I have written about here, here, and here) but I am sure we can come up with countless other ways governments around the world mess things up. Some organisations —such as Transparency International, Amnesty International, and Wikileaks — exist merely to evaluate the level of mess that governments make. Of course in the Biblical examples we also see some animals that have fatal wounds but don’t die, perhaps indicating domesticated governments who aren’t as powerfully bestial.

This is of course the danger of identifying any human political theory or system with God’s way. One recent Facebook conversation I had highlighted this. My friend pointed out the abuses that more leftist firms of government were guilty of, including the top echelons becoming rich while the rest remained poor. Of course the same could be said for rightist governments and their billionaires. Apart from this there are the similarities between parties on a vast range of issues — their differences are often highlighted but their end policies often end up being the same.

Regardless of the level of wildness in government, it is clear that something else is needed. So what’s the solution? I see at least two:

Lamb of God. The Bible describes Jesus as being more like a lamb than an animal. Certainly He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, but in the context of the animal or beast language used in some parts of the Bible, Jesus as lamb is contrasted. No one in the created world — animals included — is found worthy to get God’s plan rolling: “” Eventually it is the lamb who was slain who is able to open the seals.

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” It’s the phrase “has become” that I would like to focus on. How does this process happen? There are some that view eschatology as something God does at the end of time. Our only tole as humans is to be the cause of the end because of our unbridled wickedness.

But I wonder if that is indeed the way things are meant to happen? If our wickedness brings about the end, is it possible for us to work together with God in the transformation of the kingdom?

Certainly God has included humans in his plans. Jesus did after all commission his human disciples (including us) to make disciples of all nations. Whose disciples are these to be? Jesus’ disciples of course. What will these disciples do?

Disciples are filled with the spirit, whether that means being empowered to do the work of God, to a way to cope with the troubles of the world without using addictions.

Disciples reconcile people to God and to each other. Paul talks about the ministry of reconciliation that we have on earth. This reconcilition imitates what God through Jesus began. He then says that “has given us this ministry of restoring relationships” as well.

Disciples bear fruit. We often interpret this to mean make disciples but fruit in the Bible more often than not refers to a personal transformation. This is best exemplified in lists of comparisons, most famously enumerated in Galatians 5, but also found elsewhere.

Disciples continue Jesus’ Isaiah 61/Luke 4 tasks of proclaiming Good News, forgiving others, giving sight to the blind, and freeing the captives.

Unfortunately the church hasn’t always been successful at fulfilling these tasks. What’s also unfortunate is that I have not always been successful at fulfilling these tasks. We have a lot to work on, both corporately and as individuals, in the process of working together with God for the transformation of our societies.

I wonder what we should work on first?

Feedback is always appreciated.

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