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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Ang mga sipi ng Banal na Kasulatan ay kinuha mula sa Ang Salita Ng Dios Biblia. Karapatang magpalathala © 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 ng Biblica, Inc.® Ginamit nang may pahintulot.

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.

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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.

Alam mo na ba na meron sa Bibliya ang Pagpapagaling sa Pamamagitan ng Gamot?: Si Satanas, si Jesus, ang Templo, at ang COVID-19 (Part 2)

Nalungkot ako noong nakarinig ako ng balita na meron mga pastor sa Pilipinas na nagtuturo sa mga simbahan nila na huwag magpabakuna. Ang ibang sinasabi ay medyo kakaiba, tulad ng ang bakuna ay mark of the beast o 666, demonic, o pagiging Zombie. Meron ding sinasabi na may kinalaman sa teolohiya, tulad ng “mas makapangyarihan ang Diyos kaysa sa bakuna,” at pinoprotektahan ng mga Kristianyo ng “dugo ni kristo.” Meron din akong nakarinig ng ganito mula sa mga pastor sa Canada. 
Hindi ko alam kung anu-ano ang mga dahilan nito pero mukhang kinakailangang magbuo ng teolohiya ng pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot.

May sinulat na akong Part 1 noong nakaraan na linggo. Part 2 naman ito. 

“Pagkatapos, dinala siya ng diyablo sa Jerusalem, sa pinakamataas na bahagi ng templo, at sinabi sa kanya, “Kung ikaw nga ang Anak ng Dios, magpatihulog ka. Sapagkat sinasabi sa Kasulatan, ‘Uutusan ng Dios ang kanyang mga anghel na ingatan ka. Aalalayan ka nila upang hindi tumama ang mga paa mo sa bato.’ ” Pero sumagot si Jesus, “Sinasabi sa Kasulatan, ‘Huwag mong subukin ang Panginoon mong Dios.’ ”” ‭‭Lucas‬ ‭4:9-12‬ ‭ASND‬‬

May application ba kaya ang Lucas‬ ‭4:9-12 sa panahon ng COVID-19? 

Kung hindi mo alam ng kuwento, dinala ni Satanas si Jesus sa pinaka tuktok ng Templo sa Jerusalem bilang bahagi ng kanyang pagtukso sa Kanya. Pagdating nila sa itaas, sinabi ni Satanas ng ganito: “Kung ikaw nga ang Anak ng Dios, magpatihulog ka.” May gamit pa siyang talata mula sa Bibliya: “Uutusan ng Dios ang kanyang mga anghel na ingatan ka. Aalalayan ka nila upang hindi tumama ang mga paa mo sa bato.”

Tama ba si Satanas? Meron ba’ng ganyang sinabi ang Kasulatan? Meron sinasabi ng ganyan sa Salmo 91:11-12. Tama ba ang sinabi ng talata na iingatan si Jesus ng mga anghel? Tama din dahil yun ang Kanyang pangako. 

May dalawang paraan na pwedeng gamitin ni Jesus para bumaba mula sa tuktok ng Templo: Pwede syang tumalon (dahil sasaluin sya ng mga anghel) o pwede syang bumaba gamit ang hagdanan. Ano kaya ang pinili ni Jesus? Hagdanan. Bakit? Kasi “Sinasabi sa Kasulatan, ‘Huwag mong subukin ang Panginoon mong Dios.’ ”

Ano ba’ng ugnayan ito sa COVID-19? Balikan natin yun mga nagsasabi na hindi kailangang magpabakuna o susunod sa mga batas laban sa pandemya dahil ililigtas naman tayo ni Lord.

May dalawa din tayong option pagdating sa COVID-19. Pwede naman tayo suwayin ang mga batas laban sa pandemya (dahil sasaluin tayo ng mga anghel). Pwede din tayo maging masunurin sa mga batas laban sa pandemya: Social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay at home, at magpabakuna. Alin kaya ang gusto ni Jesus na piliin natin? Siyempre, “Sinasabi sa Kasulatan, ‘Huwag mong subukin ang Panginoon mong Dios.’ ”

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Akin ang larawan. 

Ang mga sipi ng Banal na Kasulatan ay kinuha mula sa Ang Salita Ng Dios Biblia. Karapatang magpalathala © 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 ng Biblica, Inc.® Ginamit nang may pahintulot.

Alam mo na ba na meron sa Bibliya ang Pagpapagaling sa Pamamagitan ng Gamot? (Part 1)

Nalungkot ako noong nakarinig ako ng balita na meron mga pastor sa Pilipinas na nagtuturo sa mga simbahan nila na huwag magpabakuna. Ang ibang sinasabi ay medyo kakaiba, tulad ng ang bakuna ay mark of the beast o 666, demonic, o pagiging Zombie. Meron ding sinasabi na may kinalaman sa teolohiya, tulad ng “mas makapangyarihan ang Diyos kaysa sa bakuna,” at pinoprotektahan ng mga Kristianyo ng “dugo ni kristo.” Meron din akong nakarinig ng ganito mula sa mga pastor sa Canada. Hindi ko alam kung anu-ano ang mga dahilan nito pero mukhang kinakailangang magbuo ng teolohiya ng pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot. Buti na lang na naunahan ako ng isang FB friend ko si Matt Stone. Pwede mong basahin ang kanyang blog post sa wikang Inglis dito. Karamihan sa mga sumusunod na puntos ay nagmula sa gawain ni Matt.

Siyempre, maraming halimbawa sa Bibliya ng pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng mga himala. Isa ito sa mga malaking gawain ni Jesus at ang kanyang mga alagad sa Bagong Tipan.

So paano ba ang theology of medical healing o teolohiya ng pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot? Tama ba na hindi natin kailangang magpagamot dahil mas malakas ang ating Diyos o ang dugo ni Kristo? Siyempre maraming sinasabi ang Biblia patungkol sa supernatural healing pero meron ba’ng sinasabi ang Bibliya patungkol sa pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot?

Meron. 

Unang-una kailangan tingnan ang Santiago 5:14 “Mayroon bang may sakit sa inyo? Dapat niyang ipatawag ang mga namumuno sa iglesya para ipanalangin siya at pahiran ng langis sa pangalan ng Panginoon.” Nakikita natin sa mga talata nito na meron dalawang dapat gawin kapag may sakit tayo. Una, “ipatawag ang mga namumuno sa iglesya para ipanalangin siya” at ikalawa, magpagamot. Kasi ang ibig sabihin ng “pahiran ng langis” sa konteksto ng Bibliya ay magpagamot. Tingnan natin ang kuwento patungkol sa good Samaritan. Ano ba’ng ginawa nya sa taong binugbog ng mga magnanakaw? Naglagay sya ng langis sa kanyang mga sugat. Ibig sabihin, ok din magpagamot.

Pero hindi lang yun ang patungkol sa pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot sa Bibliya. Maraming ibang mga talata at kuwento patungkol dito. Unang-una, lahat ng nilikha ng Diyos ay mabuti, kaya sa Bibliya may mga iba’t ibang halimbawa ng gamot, may mga doktor, at may mga sumpa kaugnay sa walang gamot.

Lahat ng nilikha ng Diyos ay mabuti. Alam naman natin ito dahil sa sinabi niya mismo sa Genesis 1:31. Kasama doon ang lahat ng mga potensyal na mga hinaharap na mga paggamit. Nilikha ng Diyos mula sa wala pero lahat ng likha natin ay mula sa mabuting nilikha ng Diyos. Ibig sabihin, kahit anong pinagmulan ng ating gamot — hayop, dahon, prutas, o bato — lahat ito ay mabuti. Ang tawag dito ay Doktrina ng Pangangalaga ng Diyos. Nakikita din natin ito sa 1 Timothy 4:4, “Lahat ng nilikha ng Dios ay mabuti, at dapat walang ituring na masama kung tinatanggap nang may pasasalamat.”

Mga sari-saring gamot sa Bibliya. May mga iba’t ibang uri ng gamot sa Bibliya, kasama ang alak, ang pulot-pukyutan, laway, at dinurog na igos.

Alak bilang gamot sa 1 Timoteo 5:23 kung saan sinabi ni Pablo kay Timoteo na “Dahil sa madalas na pananakit ng sikmura mo, uminom ka ng kaunting alak.”

Pulot-pukyutan bilang gamot sa Kawikaan 16:24 “Ang matatamis na salita ay parang pulot-pukyutan, nakakapagpasaya at nakakapagpasigla ng katawan.”

Laway ni Jesus bulang gamot sa Markos 8:22-26 kung saan “dinuraan [ni Jesus] ang mga mata ng bulag.”

Dinurog na igos bilang gamot sa 2 Hari 20:7 “Sinabi ni Isaias sa mga utusan ni Haring Hezekia na tapalan nila ang namamagang bukol nito ng dinurog na igos. Ginawa nga nila ito at gumaling siya.”

Nabanggit din sa Bibliya ang maraming mga halamang gamot. Kasama dito ang Igos (Ficus carica), Nardo (Nardostachys jatamansi), Isopo (Origanum syriacum), Gamot sa Gilead (Commiphora gileadensis) and Mandragora (Mandragora officinarum).

Mga Manggagamot sa Bibliya. May mga doctor din ang binanggit sa Bibliya. Unang-una si Lukas, ang may-akda ng Lukas at Gawa, ay pinaliwanag ni San Pablo bilang “Lucas, ang minamahal nating doktor” sa Col 4:14. Sinabi din mismo ni Jesus sa Markos 2:17 “Ang mga taong walang sakit ay hindi nangangailangan ng doktor, kundi ang mga may sakit.”

Mga sumpa kaugnay sa walang gamot. Moreover, there are many bible passages where lack of access to effective medicine is spoken of as a curse. Nakikita natin ito sa dalawang talata nito:

Jeremias 8:22 “Wala na bang gamot sa Gilead? Wala na bang manggagamot doon? Bakit hindi gumagaling ang sugat ng mga kababayan ko?”

Jeremias 46:11 “O mga taga-Egipto, kahit na pumunta pa kayo sa Gilead para maghanap ng panlunas na gamot, ang lahat ng gamot ay wala nang bisa at hindi na makapagpapagaling sa inyo.”

Ayon kay Stone, may dalawang maari paraan na ginagamit ang Diyos para sa ating kalusugan. Paminsan-minsan, nagpapagaling ng Panginoon ang mga tao sa pamamagitan ng gamot. Paminsan-minsan hindi siya gumamamit ng namamagitan — diretso galing sa kanya ang pagpapagaling (tingnan ang larawan sa ibaba). Dapat nating tanggapin ang tulong sa anumang paraan na pinili ng Diyos.

Ang isang magandang halimbawa dito ay ang kuwento ng pagpapagaling ni Naaman sa 2 Kings 5:1-14. Kung naalala nyo, si Naaman ay Heneral ng mga Kalaban ng Israel noong panahon ni Elisha. May malubhang sakit sa balat si Naaman. Meron siyang aliping dalaga mula sa Israel na nag payo sa kanyang amo na meron propeta sa Israel (si Elisha nga) na pwedeng magpagaling sa kanya. Para gawing maiksa ang kuwento, pumunta si Naaman kay Elisha at ang utos ni Elisha ay kinakailangan maligo si Naaman sa Ilog Jordan ng pitong beses para gumaling. Nakita natin na kahit may propeta ang Panginoon sa Israel, ginamit nya ang paligo sa ilog bilang proceso ng pagpapagaling sa sakit.


MGA IDINAGDAG 10 SET 2021:

Baka meron nagbabasa nito na nagsasabi ng ganito, “Dahil lahat ng gamot na binaggit sa Bibliya ay galing sa kalikasan, natural medicines lang ang dapat natin gamitin bilang Kristiyano. Iwasan natin ang pwedeng bilhin sa botika.” Alalahanin natin na ang mga gamot na nakalista sa itaas ay ang mga gamot na meron sila noong panahon nila. Hindi naman nila pinili na puro natural cures lamang — sa totoo lang wala naman silang mga pinagpilian. Ginamit nila kung anong meron sila. Wala naman sila botika noong panahon nila kaya wala silang option na gamitin yun.


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Pagbabahagi ang ginagawa ng mga kaibigan.

Akin ang mga larawan.

Pwedeng basahin din ang Part 2.

Ang mga sipi ng Banal na Kasulatan ay kinuha mula sa Ang Salita Ng Dios Biblia. Karapatang magpalathala © 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 ng Biblica, Inc.® Ginamit nang may pahintulot.

ECQ na naman! “Kailan ba Panginoon?” o “Nasaan ka ba, Panginoon?”

English

ECQ[1] na naman! Dahil kay Delta Variant ng COVID-19 itinaas muli ang ECQ sa QC. Ito ay para sa ating kaligtasan. Pero, nakakalungkot diba? Akala natin na ok na tayo dahil higit pa sa isang taong nag social distancing, naghugas kamay, nag suot ng facemask at shield, nag stay-at-home pa. At lahat tayo ay ready magpabakuna pag oras natin. Pero mukhang wala sa atin kamay ang solution sa problema nito.

Sa mga ganitong panahon, naalala natin ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa mga Israelita noong Jeremias 29:11, “Alam ko kung paano ko tutparin ang mga plano ko para sa kabutihan n’yo at hindi sa kasmaan n’yo, at plano para bigyan kayo ng pag-asa na magkaroon kayo ng mabuting kinabukasan.” Napatanong tayo kapag naalala natin ito ng “Kailan ba Panginoon?” o “Nasaan ka ba, Panginoon?”

Kinakailangan natin balikan ang konteksto nitong verse sa Biblia upang sagutin ang tanong natin. 
Sa panahon kasi ni Jeremias, hindi maganda ang kalagayan ng bansang Israel dahil sa kanilang mga kasalanan. Ang biling ng Panginoon kay Jeremias ay maipahayag sa mga taong bayan kung ano ang plano ng Panginoon sa kanila. Sabi kasi ng Panginoon na dadahihin sila sa Babylonia bilang parusa ng kanilang mga kasalanan. 70 na taon ang panahon ng kanilang pagkabihag na binigay ng Panginoon sa pamamagitan ni Jeremias. Pero ayaw maniwala ng mga taong bayan at ng mga ibang mga false prophets kaya sabi nila na hindi sila tatagal sa Babylonia. Mga dalawang linggo lamang ang panahon ng pagkabihag doon. 

Kahit pinaparusahan sila ng Panginoon, ok sa Kanya na mawawala sila sa Lupang Pangako for 70 years dahil kapag nasa Babylonia nasa kalooban pa rin sila ng Panginoon. Kahit tayo ay nasa ECQ or anumang antas ng restrictions, nasa kalooban pa rin tayo ng Panginoon!

Unang una, sasabihin ko sa inyo na kahit naniniwala ako na ang COVID-19 ay isang masamang bagay, hindi ako naniniwala na ang COVID-19 ay isang parusa ng Panginoon. Pero naniniwala ako na hindi normal ang pagkakasakit. Noong nilikha ng Panginoon ang sanlibutan hindi pa kasama doon ang sakit (Genesis 1:31). Ang sakit ay dahil sa kasalanan ng mga tao. Kaya may mga sakit ang mundo natin ngayon pero may darating din na panahon kung kailan mawala ang mga sakit sa mundo (Pahayag 21:4). 

Meron tayong pwedeng matutunan mula sa sinasabi ni Jeremias patungki sa mga bagay na hindi normal. 

Medyo kakaiba ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa mga Israelita. Imbis na maghintay lamang ang kanilang pagbalik, dapat makikisalamuha sila sa bago nilang lugar. Magiging bahagi dapat sila ng Babylonia — “Magtayo kayo ng mga bahay at doon kayo tumira. Magtanim kayo at kumain ng inyong ani. Magasawa kayo at nang nagkaanak kayo.”

Hindi tumitigil ang buhay kapag hindi normal ang ating kalagayan. Hindi pwedeng magsabi ng “pag maayos na ang buhay ko tsaka ako ako kikilos.” Sabi sa atin ng Panginoon, “Kumilos na kayo kahit hindi pa ayos ang kalagayan mo.” 

At hindi lang yun. Dapat din “Tumulong kayo para sa kabutihan at kaunlaran ng lungsod sa pinagdalhan sa inyo.” Ano ba’ng ibig sabihin?

  • Maging masunurin tayo sa mga batas patungkol sa pandemya kasi “para sa kabutihan at kaunlaran ng lungsod.” 
  • Mag hugas ang ating mga kamay, mag-social distancing tayo, mag suot tayo ng facemask at face shield, manatili tayo sa bahay kapag kinakailangan, at mag work from home tayo kung pwede. 
  • Magpa lista tayo sa pagpapapbakuna at pag dating ng panahon magpabakuna tayo. 
  • Ipananalangin natin ang mga taong namamahala sa COVID-19 response ng bansa. 
  • Tulungan natin ang mga taong nahirapan dahil sa pandemya. 

Pagkatapos ng sinabi nito, sinabi ng Panginoon, “Alam ko kung paano ko tutuparin ang mga plano ko para sa kabutihan n’yo at hindi kasamaan nyo.” Ibig sabihin, depende din sa atin pagsunod ang pagtupad ng mga plano ng Diyos. 

Meron kasing tao na binabaha ang bahay. Kaya umakyat sa bubongan nya at nagdasal, “Panginoon iligtas mo ako sa baha.” 

Meron dumaan na rescue mula sa baranggay. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

Meron dumaan na taong naka-banca. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

May dumaan na helicopter nang lumalapit sa kanya. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

Sa wakas nalunod sya sa baha at nag-puntang langit. Pagdating nya doon, nag-tanong sya sa Panginoon. “Lord, bakit hindi mo sinagot ang aking hilining sa iyo? Bakit hindi mo ako niligtas sa baha?”

“Ano ba?” sabi ng Panginoon. “Nagpadala ako ng rescue, ng banca, at ng helicopter pero ayaw mong sumakay!”

Minsan kasi naghahanap tayo ng milagro pero ang tugon ng Panginoon ay ang mga normal na bagay. 

Paano ka bang sinasagot ng Panginoon ngayon panahon ng ECQ muli? 

Palaging malugod na tinatanggap ang puna.

Ginagawa ng mga kaibigan ang pag-share. 

Larawan ni Erik Mclean sa Unsplash. 
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[1] Sa mga hindi nakakaalam, ang ECQ ay Enhanced Community Quarantine. ang ECQ ay ang pinaka-mataas na antas ng anti-COVID-19 measures na pwedeng ilagay ng Philippine Government. 

It’s ECQ again! “When, Lord?” or “Where are you, Lord?”

It’s ECQ [1] again! Due to Delta Variant of COVID-19 the ECQ was raised again in Quezon City. Even though it’s for our safetly, it’s sad isn’t it? We thought we were ok because for more than one year we have social distanced, washed our hands, worn a facemask and faceshield, and stayed-at-home. And we are all ready to get vaccinated when it’s our time. But it seems like things are out of our control. 

At times like this, we remember what the Lord said to the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know how to carry out my plans for your good and not for your evil, and plan to give you of hope for a better future” (God’s Word). This makes us ask the question, “When, Lord?” or “Where are you, Lord?”

We need to go back to the context of this biblical verse to answer our question. In Jeremiah’s day, the nation of Israel was in a bad state because of their sins. The Lord’s command to Jeremiah was to reveal to the people what the Lord had planned for them. The Lord said that they would be taken to Babylon as punishment for their sins. The period of their captivity given by the Lord through Jeremiah was 70 years. But the people and the other false prophets did not want to believe so they said that they would not stay in Babylonia. They said the captivity there would only be about two weeks.

Even if the Lord was punishing them, it is ok with Him that they will be gone from the Promised Land for 70 years because when they are in Babylonia they are still in the will of the Lord. Even if we are on ECQ or any level of restrictions, we are still in the will of the Lord!

First of all, I will tell you that even though I believe that COVID-19 is a bad thing, I do not believe that COVID-19 is a punishment of the Lord. But I do believe the illness is not normal. When the Lord created the world, disease was not included (Genesis 1:31). Sickness is due to sin. So while there are diseases in our world today there will also come a time when the diseases of the world will disappear (Revelation 21:4).

We can learn something from what Jeremiah says about things that are not normal.

The Lord said something different to the Israelites. Instead of just waiting for their return, they should socialize in their new place. They were to be part of Babylon: “Build houses and live in them. Plant and eat your crops. Get married and have children.”

Life does not stop when our condition is not normal. It is not possible to say “when my life is in order I will act.” The Lord tells us, “Act now, even when things aren’t perfect.”

And that’s not all. You must also “Contribute for the good and prosperity of the city to which you are brought.” What does that mean?

  • Let us be obedient to the laws regarding pandemics because “for the good and development of the city.”
  • Wash our hands, wear a facemask and face shield, stay home when necessary, and work from home if possible.
  • Let’s make a list of vaccinations and when the time comes we will be vaccinated.
  • Pray for those in charge of the pandemic restrictions, that God may continue give them wisdom. 
  • Find ways to help those who are in need because of the pandemic. 

After saying all of this, the Lord then says, “I know how to carry out my plans for your good and not your evil.” That is, the fulfillment of God’s plans also depends on our obedience.
There was a man whose house was flooding. So he climbed on his roof and prayed, “Lord save me from the flood.”

Soon after that a rescue vehicle came from the local government unit. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

Someone passed by in a small boat. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

A helicopter passed by as it approached him. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

He finally drowned in the flood and went to heaven. When he got there, he asked the Lord.

“Lord, why didn’t you answer my request to you? Why didn’t you save me from the flood?”

“What?” saith the Lord. “I sent a rescue vehicle, a small boat, and a helicopter but you want to get in any of them!”

Sometimes we want a miracle but the Lord’s response is something more normal.

How is the Lord answering you now during this ECQ repeat?

Feedback is always welcome.

Friends do the sharing.

Photo by Erik Mclean at Unsplash.
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[1] For those who don’t know, ECQ is Enhanced Community Quarantine. ECQ is the highest level of anti-COVID-19 measures that the Philippine Government can put in place.

The church post-pandemic will need to pivot, but sometimes pivots don’t work.

That all plants need water is something I have known my whole life but haven’t really experienced until this past few months. Saskatchewan is currently experiencing drought-like conditions and since we are staying at a farm we can see the effects first-hand.

Fortunately the farm has a pivot. A pivot is a large, elevated irrigation system designed to provide water to crops. A pivot is huge! It consists of a large 6-inch pipe about 6 metres off the ground. A series of wheels slowly move the pipe across the field, each rolling at a slightly different pace as it follows an arc across the field. It’s called a pivot because on end of the pipe is fixed to the ground and acts as the point around which the whole thing pivots. A large, elaborate pump supplies water to the pivot from a nearby lake. In the above picture, the white line extending across the field is the pivot. The darker curved lines are the tracks the wheels leave in the field.

Unfortunately the pivot hasn’t been working all that well for the past few years. It has a tendency to shut down automatically for mysterious reasons. After checking everything out multiple times the likely culprit is a problem in the electrical system. So while the pivot is a great idea, especially during times of drought, sometimes it doesn’t work all that well.

Pivot is a word we have seen a lot lately in the realm of ecclesiology. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of churches to evaluate how they deal with crises. Many say that churches need to learn how to pivot during times like this in order to survive. Churches that have a hard time with the pivot have a harder time adjusting to the changes.

Just as an irrigation pivot makes sure water gets to the whole field, so also a church that pivots makes sure the gospel gets to all of society. But sometimes adjustments need to be made. Which raises an issue when it comes to pivoting. Sometimes we need to change a part for it to work. What parts do I need to change or to switch out for something better?

I attended church for the first time last Sunday where there were no more restrictions. The government of Saskatchewan has decided that they will combat COVID-19 exclusively through vaccination. While there, I noticed a couple of pivots:

  • The pivot towards a paperless church that began with the pandemic has been maintained.
  • The pivot towards those little pre-packaged communion wafer and juice sets has now been pivoted away from back to real bread and those little plastic cups.

But I will say one thing. In spite of all my advocacy over the past months for embracing the virtual church, there are some things that are better done together. Specifically, not once while I was singing in the privacy of my own home, sitting in my comfortable easy chair, did I feel the urge to raise my hands but I certainly felt that while singing with the congregation on Sunday.

What things have you changed over the course of this pivot?

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image from Google Maps.

Are there any examples of leadership from a distance in the Bible or is leadership always face-to-face?

Examples of distant leadership in the Bible.

There are many examples of ministry from afar. The Bible itself reflects the reality that much of ministry is from afar because the entire scripture is written. We don’t have direct access to the Biblical writers other than through their writings. This means that it was intended to be read in a variety of locations and often without the presence of the human author.

Old Testament Prophets. There is a distinction in the Bible between the prophet and Prophet. “Prophet” refers to the book written by the “prophet” (VanGemeren, 2010). This means that while the people living at the same time as the prophet were able to hear directly from him or her, the majority of people can access the prophet’s voice through the written Prophet. It is also important to note that these prophets had oracles for many nations other than simply for Israel. How were these messages from God supposed to arrive in these various nations if not through a process of isolation and then presentation? These nations are somewhat isolated from the prophets’ messages, but they were able to access these messages through the Prophets once they were written down.

God’s 450 years of silence. There are also examples of when God is silent in the Bible. Ex 2:23-25. But God still hears when people call on him. The 450 years between the testaments. God is silent but eventually answers.

Jesus in the Grave. Jesus was isolated in the grave, but he still ministered to the souls in hell. That’s why we have a Sabado de Gloria to celebrate Jesus’ ministry to those who had been condemned.[1]

Paul. We don’t know Paul personally. Rather, we know Paul via his writings. That is a form of distant communication. If Paul hadn’t been isolated, he wouldn’t have needed to write the various parts of the New Testament that he wrote, and we would have nothing today to base our faith upon.

Biblically, times of isolation are both normal and essential for the future of the church. Which leads us to this question: Will that also be the effect of the COVID-19 lockdowns that are continuing to happen around the world? Will these lockdowns provide opportunity for us to contribute to the future of the church through writing, recording, or posting online? Will the church continue? Will the church grow? All because of this quarantine? What are we doing to ensure the church lives on? During this time, we long for the return to our buildings, our return to mass gatherings, our return to the way things were. But these are not essential to our existence as Christians. What is essential is that the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ continues to be spread throughout our communities and throughout the world. And this will happen through the crisis and associated quarantine.

Notes:

1 For more on this see Matt Anslow, (April 11, 2020), “Remembering Jesus’ Self-Isolation: Holy Saturday & COVID-19,” Common Grace Blog.

Image by eleni koureas on Unsplash.

Church and Crisis Today: How Philippine Religious Consciousness can better inform how the rest of the world does church?

So, let’s talk about the church. What does church really mean? When it comes down to the idea of how we respond to COVID we have to realize that we’re talking about different aspects to church. We can look at the church as both gathered and scattered. Sometimes the church gathers together and sometimes the church is scattered and spread apart. Sometimes the church has both gathered and scattered aspects existing simultaneously. For example, sometimes a church has a Sunday-morning gathering, a weekly small group – known by various names including cell church, small group, Bible study, the life group, discipleship group, and more – as well as members who spend most of their time in their respective physical communities as well as their workplaces, homes, and selected third spaces. Sometimes the concept is explained using cells with single shell churches meeting Sunday mornings but multiple cell churches meeting anytime throughout the week. What all of this means is that there are multiple ways of understanding the concept of church.

But perhaps the most traditional model is the single cell model of a church that gathers on a Sunday morning in what is often called a congregation. This is actually not a traditional Philippine way of worship. Spain’s introduction of the concept of church to the Philippines involved a lot of reengineering of Philippine society. Spain used a colonial system called reducciones where they would gather scattered people into communities, called Poblacion or plaza complex in the Philippines. Here you have the church, the municipal Hall, and the market with people living in the surrounding blocks. The distance that you could be away from the church was restricted by the sound of the church bell. This is called baja de campana, or under the bell. If you could hear that bell ringing that would call you to mass then you were baja de campana. This identified you as a person submissive to the system. While the term baja de campana isn’t used as much today, this concept is still seen in the Parokya or parish where the church bell and mass are broadcast to the community on loudspeakers.

A New Normal, 500 Years Ago!

While this is normal in the Philippines today, 500 years ago it was a new normal. Prior to this, people lived wherever was convenient to them: Fishermen lived near their favorite fishing cove and farmers lived near their fields.

Spain came in and brought their system for not only colonization but also for evangelization, because the two are not much different.[1] Today we have other issues coming in, including public health concerns such as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. These issues are creating a new normal that governs how society operates. Because of the public health crisis, we have developed this idea of virtual or online or live stream churches, whether these are services that we’re broadcasting, whether it’s praise and worship, that we’re broadcasting, whether it’s a new way of doing church online, or whether we’re just doing the same thing and recording it and broadcasting it, whether we’re using Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube, Vimeo, or other things, and there’s a variety of other ways to interact where does this fit this virtual online church? Is this the church gathered? Is gathering a part of this online community when we’re gathered together on zoom? Is that a gathering? When we’re all watching doing a watch party together? Is that gathering? Is that scattered? Because the church can be gathered scattered? Is this cell a single cell or is it multiple cell? How does this all interact and work with each other? What does it all do?

Then you get to COVID-19 times where people can’t gather together. And we love to gather together. And it’s the gathering together in a sense that it’s the community of believers, in a sense, makes up the church, but we’ve conflated that with the facility within which we gather.

And so, when it comes to the point of gathering together, not being able to gather together for COVID, all of a sudden, the discussion goes to “Oh, well it’s religious persecution,” or some other kind of an issue. As if the only way that we know how to connect with God is inside a church building. But if we look at biblical and church histories of the way people have gathered, we realize that that’s not entirely the case.

It just means that our way of doing things may go through changes, just like the change from walking in the garden, to having to build an altar, to having to go to a tabernacle, to then having to go to a temple, to then doing a synagogue or a church. It’s just part of the transition and there’s been lots of “new normal” over time.

Philippine Religious Consciousnesses and Crisis Today.

Religious Space.

There’s no concept of religious space in the Philippines system because all space is religious space. This helps us particularly when we talk about issues of issues of religious liberty. Do I have the right to practice my religion and if the government tells me not to meet together, does that mean I’m not being able to practice that? these issues are sort of put aside, because there is really no specifically religious space. We’re used to worshiping in a church, but quite often in society, you’ll see a variety of different religious spaces that are used. You know, whether it’s a procession, where you’re going down the street and so the street becomes a religious space as you bring your as you bring your statue around the community. Even there’s what’s called the pabasa. During Holy Week. When the, the story of Jesus passion is, is, is, is sung in various parts of the community and so these homes and these different places become religious space because of the usage. There’s even the Stations of the Cross where religious spaces are temporarily set up in various parts of the community as people go around and pray as they remember Jesus’ passion. So religious space in the sense of here’s where we do religious activities and this space we don’t is not a concept that exists in the Philippines.

The first point we need to remember as we as we try to create a theology of crisis is that any space can be religious space — we don’t need to be fixated on a church building.

Church Leadership and the Filipino Family.

I guess the second point is that typically the pastor is seen as being in charge of the church. They provide leadership there, but what about inside the home? Who is the one who provides leadership there? It certainly isn’t the pastor.

As the story goes, the pastor visited a home at lunch time. In an effort to honour him they mother invited him in to eat. She had prepared a fish for lunch and the kids worriedly watched the pastor through the window as he tucked in to the meal. All of a sudden one of the kids yells, “Mom, he flipped the fish over!”

While the pastor may be a visitor to the house really the leadership of the home is provided by the father and the mother. And this leadership extends not simply to who feeds the kids and who does the laundry but it goes beyond that. Ultimately it is Who sets the rules? and Who shapes the future for the family? It’s the parents.

One way forward in the midst of crisis is to encourage, train, and empower parents to be the spiritual leaders of their families.

Dambana, or the family altar.

The third aspect would be the idea of dambanaDambana is a is an old Filipino word that talks about a place where you encounter the divine, you know whether this is whether this is a space like a, like a building, whether this is an altar. But, but typically within a house, you know a lot of houses have the altar inside their house so there’s this religious space inside the house, that is that is devoted towards the worship of God and the connection proper connection and relationship with God. Quite often, of course in Filipino homes you’ll have a, you’ll have a, an image that’s that is in that spot, but you’ll also notice in many homes you’ll have other religious artifacts such as Bibles and other things that are there. And these are these are just to remind everybody that God is always present with us. And so within, within each house you have this religious space.

We can use these concepts. As we move towards developing a theology of crisis, a theology of lockdown a theology of pandemic. Rather than trying to find theological reasons for convincing the government to let us reopen our church buildings, we can help encourage and empower families to be responsible for their own spiritual development inside of their homes. During this time, and maybe this will expand them beyond that into the time after the pandemic whatever it will look like.

Notes:

1 Vince Rafael talks about this at length in his Contracting Colonialism.

Image by Varun Gaba on Unsplash.

5 Shifts To Make: The Philippine Church Gearing Towards Life and Ministry Post-Pandemic Webinar – A Reaction

I had the privilege to share the stage with Dr. Anthony dela Fuente, who blogs over at Upgazer/The Dawn Treader, the other day. He had been invited by the Theological Commission of the Philippine Council for Evangelical Churches to present a paper at their TheoExpo 2021. His paper was entitled 5 Shifts To Make: The Philippine Church Gearing Towards Life and Ministry Post-Pandemic. I was asked to be the reactor to the paper. The session was livestreamed on Facebook and can be viewed in its entirety here. Please take a look and tell me what you think.