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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

THEOLOGY FROM AN ASTRONAUT

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When I was the last man to
walk on the moon in December 1972,
I stood in the blue darkness and looked in awe
at the earth from the lunar surface.
What I saw was almost too beautiful to grasp.
There was too much logic, too much purpose -
it was just too beautiful to have happend by accident.
It doesn't matter how you choose to worship God ....
He has to exist to have created what I was privileged to see.
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Astronaut Gene Cernan
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

PSALM 52

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Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
 Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
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 You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
 You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
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 But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
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The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
 “See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”
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 But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
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 I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

AMOS - A PROPHET FOR THE HERE AND NOW

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Amos was not a "professional" prophet, but a common man utilized by the Lord to deliver His Word to His people. "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet ... but the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.' And now hear the Word of the Lord!" (Amos 7:14-16). He had no special training; he was not a graduate of the School of the Prophets (variously referred to as "bands" -- I Samuel 10:5, 10, and "companies" -- I Samuel 19:20, and "sons of the prophets" -- I Kings 20:35); nor was he descended from or related to any prophets.
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He was not even a citizen of Israel (the northern kingdom), but rather of Judah (the southern kingdom). Nevertheless, God sent him to Israel to proclaim the Word to the people of the northern kingdom. He was not a man of wealth, yet was sent to warn the wealthy; not a man of luxury, or one who was lazy, yet sent to those who were both. All of this was designed to separate the MAN from the MESSAGE. There was to be nothing about this man which would attract a personal following. It was the message God desired the people to focus upon, not the messenger!
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Amos did most, if not all, of his prophetic work (the totality of which probably did not last over a year or so --- Amos 1:1) in the city of Bethel (Amos 7:10), where he was denounced by Amaziah the priest and forbidden to preach further in Israel.
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"Someone has described Amos as 'the first Great Reformer.' He was not of the school of the prophets, who by this time were disposed to cry what the people wanted ..... There was not in Amos the sympathy, warm love, and feeling of the statesman or citizen, but a cold sense of justice and right. He was the stern prophet of justice and righteousness. Hosea's spirit was summed up in the word lovingkindness; Amos' is summed up in the one word justice" (Homer Hailey).
"The dark days in which he lived called for a man of sturdy moral fiber and fearlessness. Such was Amos. His character, molded in the harsh terrain of the wilderness of Tekoa, enabled him to stand before the priest and the people, proclaiming the word God had given him" (Expositor's Bible Commentary). "At the call of God he left his home in Judea as a mere layman to proclaim a hostile message in the proud capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Without any status as a recognized prophet, he braved the prejudice of the Ephraimite public to carry out faithfully his commission from God. A man of rugged convictions and iron will, he could not be deflected from his purpose even by the highest functionary of the Samaritan hierarchy" (Gleason L. Archer, Jr.).
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This was a time when the fortunes of the northern kingdom (Israel) had reached one of their highest points of prosperity and peace. Jeroboam was able to extend his borders almost to those of the old Davidic kingdom. There was also peace with the southern kingdom (Judah). "After a long period of conflict during which Judah was in many respects subservient to Israel, there was now a spirit of co-operation and mutual enterprise resulting in a flow of trade and commerce between the two kingdoms" (New Layman's Bible Commentary).
It was a time of great economic well-being and national strength. The increase in wealth also led to extensive building programs. The simple brick of earlier days gave way to buildings of hewn stone and ivory decorations. They had "winter houses" and "summer houses" (Amos 3:15). They had "houses of ivory" (Amos 3:15), and "houses of well-hewn stone" (Amos 5:11). They reclined on "beds of ivory" (Amos 6:4); sprawled on couches; ate and drank to their fill; anointed themselves with the finest oils; were surrounded by music (Amos 6:4-7). In short, they were "at ease in Zion" (Amos 6:1).
"Concurrently with the increased wealth there was an associated rise in those social evils which characterized the prosperity of Solomon's reign; the rich became very rich and the poor became even poorer" (New Layman's Bible Commentary). "As their economic well-being and national strength continued to foster their security, an internal decay was eating at their vitals" (Expositor's Bible Commentary).
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There was a complete lack of social concern in the land. The rich would stop at nothing to increase their profits, including economic exploitation of the poor. Even the legal system was corrupted, and the poor had no recourse even in the courts. "The rich enjoyed an indolent and indulgent existence, urged on by the rapacity of their wives who demanded more and more luxuries" (New Layman's Bible Commentary).

"Back of all moral, social, and political corruption there lies a basic cause: Religious decay and apostasy" (Homer Hailey). The people were religious, but they were far from being spiritual. Their religion consisted of external acts --- they were putting on a show for God, but He was not fooled. "They prided themselves in their expensive 'church buildings.' They boasted of the numerous sacrifices which they offered, and of the fact that they offered them exactly as the Law prescribed ('legalism'). They gloried in their perfect attendance record at the worship services. They were well pleased with their efforts to sing praises to the Lord. But, by way of contrast, Amos rejected the idea that quantity, numbers, and external show was really religion!" (Willis). Some have criticized Amos for being a preacher of a "social gospel." However, "God made it clear that the heart of religion was to love God with all the heart, and to love one's neighbor as himself. Without these two elements, any number of external acts are meaningless to God" (Willis).
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"The prophets had degenerated into time-servers, blinded with the complacency of the nation. Religion certainly flourished in the nation but it was a religion that was completely divorced from reality. There was a great deal of activism and outward show with crowds thronging the shrines at the times of the great festivals. Ritual was elaborate, but there was no true life and no evidence that real spiritual values had any place, and Yahweh was patronized with a presumption bordering upon arrogance" (New Layman's Bible Commentary).
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"Extravagant religious ceremonies and rites were manifested on every hand. Tithes were offered every three days; free-will offerings were abundant and the amounts advertised (Amos 4:4-5). Religious fervor was high, but true spiritual devotion to God was utterly lacking" (Homer Hailey). "It was a religion which was empty in content, though full of ritual. Amos insisted that God had no time for ritualistic religion without heart" (New Layman's Bible Commentary).
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Edited from an essay by
Al Maxey
zianet.com 
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Monday, April 25, 2011

A MUSLIM PRAYER FOR PEACE AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

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MERCIFUL GOD,
You made all of the people of the world in Your own image and placed before us the pathway of salvation through different Preachers who claimed to have been Your Saints and Prophets. But, the contradictions in their teachings and interpretations of them have resulted in creating divisions, hatreds and bloodshed in the world community. Millions of innocent men, women and children have so far been brutally killed by the militants of several religions who have been committing horrifying crimes against humanity, and millions more would be butchered by them in the future, if You do not help us find ways to reunite peacefully.
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IN THE NAME OF GOD,
 THE COMPASSIONATE, THE MERCIFUL,
 look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the controversial teachings of arrogance, divisions and hatreds which have badly infected our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; reunite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish Your purposes on earth; that, in Your good time, all nations and races may jointly serve You in justice, peace and harmony.
 (Amen)
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From the
Movement For Reforming Society
Main Canal Road
Near Fatehgarh Bridge
Moghalpura
Lahore, Pakistan
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

JESUS AND PILATE



Pilate finds no fault in Jesus but
the crowd screams "Crucify him!"
and Pilate the coward gives in.
It nears the end.
Day 43 of THE LENTEN SERIES is here:


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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

THE HOUR OF HUMILIATION




The horrible hour of the humiliation of Christ
 by the guards and others.
A lesson in forbearance and
the meaning of dignity.
Day 42 of THE LENTEN SERIES is here:

Saturday, April 16, 2011