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St. Augustine And The Heretic.

Aurelius Augustinus of Tagaste, North Africa was won over from his dissolute ways when he and a friend of his were holidaying and they heard a neighbor child singing a refrain,’ Tolle Lige, Tolle Lige,”(Take up and read, Take up and read). He took it up as divine guidance and read from the book of Romans wherein St. Paul’s admonition,” make not provision for the flesh,” made a deep impact to win him over from his hedonistic way of life. At that moment his friend who also heard the child did not think it anything special.
That moment nevertheless was a turning point: one going on to become the father of medieval Roman Catholicism and the other, a heretic. When the latter was at the death- bed the saint went to see him. The heretic resisted a last minute conversion saying that while Aurelius found God whose grace was irresistible he found quite something else. When the venerable Bishop asked him to spell out what he meant he merely quoted his friend’s dictum:” In essentials, unity; in non- essentials, liberty and in all things charity.” When pressed further he said, ” Allow me to die as a heretic; we both were searching for the same- we both, so I believe, found what we searched for. Heresy or liberty? Neither you nor I have time to convince the other as to the opposite. So I shall not, either in this life or in any other.”
Time presses us to shape our belief-systems in the indistinct runoff of certainties and what seem coincidences. These also switch roles. Thus what seeemed a sure thing proves to be flash in the pan. History is replete with such paradoxes.
benny

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“We’re going to show you how to get wealth and use it for the building of his kingdom,” Ephren Taylor shouted to the congregation one morning in 2009. It was all part of what he called his “Building Wealth Tour,” which crisscrossed the country touting his investments and financial advice.
But according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, what Taylor was actually peddling was a giant Ponzi scheme, one aimed to “swindle over $11 million, primarily from African-American churchgoers,” that reached into churches nationwide, from Atlanta to Houston.
But Taylor has disappeared, hiding out from lawsuits, federal charges and angry, mostly African-American, investors in at least 40 states.
I mentioned Atlanta first. This is where Pastor Eddy Long was introducing Ephren Taylor to the congregation at the New Birth Baptist Church in Atlanta. This was Pastor Eddie Long’s home turf and he was selling him.
“Everything he says is based on the word of God,” Long pledged to the members of his megachurch. But Taylor wasn’t a visiting minister. He was a financial adviser, one who claimed to have made his first million before he turned 18. And he promised he could do the same for his fellow Christians.It would seem Pastor Long was an interested party either to fleece his own congregation or trying to make them all multimillionaires. Is the pulpit the place for hawking Mammon’s goons or goods? In the New Testament Jesus made whipcords and drove moneychangers out of the temple. Now that wealth has got into the hearts and mind of pastors they even hobnob with scammers and scalpers. I wonder what makes them think if one lays hands on the Word one ought not think anything less than the language of billions? How can they build a congregation? Here we see they have led their flock astray and driven them into desperate situations.

Taylor was busy in Houston where Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church was another hunting ground and there also he found souls whose life savings were for taking.
“He quoted scriptures,” said Lillian Wells, who met privately with Taylor in 2009 after hearing him speak at New Birth.
Wells said Taylor convinced her to invest her entire life savings in a North Carolina-based real estate venture called City Capital Corporation, which he claimed was turning around homes in inner cities. In exchange, she was promised a 20 percent return on her money.
But, Wells said, when she wanted to recoup her initial investment, Taylor disappeared. “I couldn’t get a hold of anybody,” Wells said. “You just can’t get them. That’s it. You just couldn’t get anybody.”
With her retirement savings gone, Wells is now trying to save her home from foreclosure. She said she’s not sure if she will ever get her money back, but she wants to see Taylor held accountable.
“We’re suffering because of what he did.
In God we trust. But don’t ever trust those who speak of building wealth in His name. God doesn’t need fools to create wealth for His children, least of all pastors who are not qualified for it.
benny

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Roman road system

Via Appia is the crowning achievement among transportation network of the ancient Mediterranean world, extending from Britain to the Tigris-Euphrates river system and from the Danube River to Spain and northern Africa. In all, the Romans built 50,000 miles (80,000 km) of hard-surfaced highway, primarily for military reasons.
The first of the great Roman roads, the Via Appia (Appian Way), begun in 312 bce, originally ran southeast from Rome 162 miles (261 km) to Tarentum (now Taranto) and was later extended to the Adriatic coast at Brundisium (now Brindisi).
Their numerous feeder roads extending far into the Roman provinces led to the proverb “All roads lead to Rome.”

Via Appia today
The Roman roads were notable for their straightness, solid foundations, cambered surfaces facilitating drainage, and use of concrete made from pozzolana (volcanic ash) and lime. Though adapting their technique to materials locally available, the Roman engineers followed basically the same principles in building abroad as they had in Italy..
The Roman road system made possible Roman conquest and administration and later provided highways for the great migrations into the empire and a means for the diffusion of Christianity. (Of this I shall come to by and by.)
In 73 BC, a slave revolt (known as the Third Servile War) under the ex-gladiator of Capua, Spartacus, began against the Romans. Slavery accounted for roughly every third person in Italy.
Spartacus defeated many Roman armies in a conflict that lasted for over two years. While trying to escape from Italy at Brundisium he unwittingly moved his forces into the historic trap in Apulia/Calabria. The Romans were well acquainted with the region. Legions were brought home from abroad and Spartacus was pinned between armies. Many men escaped into the mountains. Only a thousand Romans died. Six thousand of the fleeing slaves were captured by Pompey’s troops and crucified along the Appian Way, from Capua to Rome. Spartacus’ body was not found.
It was Rome’s brutal message to any one who thought of overstepping the limit.
The road that the Romans built like the Silk Road will lose its importance in time. But what it carried across endures long after these physical,geographical realities.
Note:
In 1919 the Spartacists took their inspiration from Spartacus. Spartacus was an idea.
The Spartacist’s had extreme left wing political views. This group split from the SPD (Independent Socialists) in frustration at the SPD’s role within Government. The leaders of the Communist party were Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht. The aims of the Spartacist’s were outlined in their Manifesto:
The Spartacist Manifesto 1918
The question today is not democracy or dictatorship… Rather, it means using all instruments of political power to achieve socialism, to expropriate the capitalist class, through and in accordance with the will of the revolutionary majority of the proletariat.
On January 1st, 1919, members of the Spartacist movement rose in an attempted revolution. Initially this move was opposed by both Liebnecht and Luxemburg, the leaders of the movement. The newly formed Weimar Government reacted promptly, and brutally. The army was deployed to bring the revolution to an end, and these were aided by the Frei Corps, a paramilitary group consisting of former servicemen. Order had been restored to the streets of Berlin by the 13th of January. Both Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht were killed whilst in police custody.( http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk-spartacistuprising)
To recap:
Like real people roads also carry their significance. The Silk Road was a highway for exchange of ideas, transfusion of cultures between east and the west. In the concluding post I shall write about via Appia as a facilitator of European history.
(To be concluded)

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II
trade carried ideas,culture route-religions,Buddhism, Christianity and Islam

This region along the Silk Road was taken over by Alexander the Great of Macedon, who finally conquered the Iranian empire, and colonised the area in about 330 B.C., superimposing the culture of the Greeks. Although he only ruled the area until 325 B.C., the effect of the Greek invasion was quite considerable.

By the third century B.C., the area had already become a crossroads of Asia, where Persian, Indian and Greek ideas met. This `crossroads’ region, covering the area to the south of the Hindu Kush and Karakorum ranges, now Pakistan and Afghanistan, was overrun by a number of different peoples. After the Greeks, the tribes from Palmyra, in Syria, and then Parthia, to the east of the Mediterranean, took over the region. They had adopted the Greek language and coin system in this region, introducing their own influences in the fields of sculpture and art.
The most significant commodity carried along this route was not silk, but religion. Buddhism came to China from India this way, along the northern branch of the route. The Eastern Han emperor Mingdi is thought to have sent a representative to India to discover more about this strange faith, and further missions returned bearing scriptures, and bringing with them monks and it is pertinent to note that the Himalayan Massif, an effective barrier between China and India made Buddhism in China more derived from the Gandhara culture by the bend in the Indus river, rather than directly from India.
Christianity also made an early appearance on the scene. The Nestorian sect was outlawed in Europe by the Roman church in 432 A.D., and its followers were driven eastwards. From their foothold in Northern Iran, merchants brought the faith along the Silk Road, and the first Nestorian church was consecrated at Changan in 638 A.D. This sect took root on the Silk Road, and survived many later attempts to wipe them out, lasting into the fourteenth century.
The height of the importance of the Silk Road was during the Tang dynasty, with relative internal stability in China after the divisions of the earlier dynasties since the Han. The 754 A.D. census showed that five thousand foreigners lived in the city; Turks, Iranians, Indians and others from along the Road, as well as Japanese, Koreans and Malays from the east. Many were missionaries, merchants or pilgrims, but every other occupation was also represented. Rare plants, medicines, spices and other goods from the west were to be found in the bazaars of the city. After the Tang, however, the traffic along the road subsided.
It was at this time that the rise of Islam started to affect Asia, with the Moslems playing the part of middlemen. The sea route to China was explored at this time, and the `Sea Silk Route’ was opened, eventually holding a more important place than the land route itself.
But the final shake-up that occurred was to come from a different direction; the hoards from the grasslands of Mongolia.
(to be continued)

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Rise of humans on the earth is a chronicle of mass migrations. Among these a road is surely a consequence of choices people make to reach their destination. In times of famine they sought places where food was in abundance. Later trade between peoples connected by roads. Road is the straight line between two points where geography has a say. In terms of geography we consider unfordable rivers, lakes and insurmountable mountains as features that stretch roads about. Of these we shall look at two roads in particular. These serve as locus for entire history of Europe and Asia to fan out. It brought about changes that none could have realized. Silk Road is one and the other is Appian Way which includes Roman road system as one whole.

The region separating China from Europe and Western Asia has Taklimakan desert, known as `Land of Death'; caravans throughout history have skirted its edges, from one isolated oasis to the next. The land surrounding the Taklimakan is equally hostile. To the northeast lies the Gobi desert, almost as harsh in climate as the Taklimakan itself; on the remaining three sides lie some of the highest mountains in the world. To the South are the Himalaya, Karakorum and Kunlun ranges, which provide an effective barrier separating Central Asia from the Indian sub-continent. Only a few icy passes cross these. Coming from the west or south, the only way in is over the passes.
On the eastern and western sides of the continent, the civilisations of China and the West developed. The western end of the trade route appears to have developed earlier than the eastern end, principally because of the development of the empires in the west, and the easier terrain of Persia and Syria.
In the west, the Greek empire was taken over by the Roman Empire. It is often thought that the Romans had first encountered silk in one of their campaigns against the Parthians in 53 B.C, and realised that it could not have been produced by this relatively unsophisticated people. The Romans obtained samples of this new material, and it quickly became very popular in Rome, for its soft texture and attractiveness. They reputedly learnt from Parthian prisoners that it came from a mysterious tribe in the east, who they came to refer to as the silk people, `Seres’. The Parthians quickly realised that there was money to be made from trading the material, and sent trade missions towards the east just as Rome sent their own agents out to explore the route, and to try to obtain silk at a lower price. In short this trade route to the East was seen by the Romans, as a route for silk rather than the other goods that were traded.

The name `Silk Road’ itself does not originate from the Romans, however, but is a nineteenth century term, coined by the German scholar, von Richthofen. The description of this route to the west as the `Silk Road’ is somewhat misleading. Firstly, no single route was taken; crossing Central Asia several different branches developed, passing through different oasis settlements. The routes all started from the capital in Changan, headed up the Gansu corridor, and reached Dunhuang on the edge of the Taklimakan.
In addition to silk, the route carried many other precious commodities. Caravans heading towards China carried gold and other precious metals, ivory, precious stones, and glass, which was not manufactured in China until the fifth century. In the opposite direction furs, ceramics, jade, bronze objects, lacquer and iron were carried. Many of these goods were bartered for others along the way, and objects often changed hands several times. There are no records of Roman traders being seen in Changan, nor Chinese merchants in Rome, though their goods were appreciated in both places. ( To be Cont’d)

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“Didn’t the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (LK24:25-27)

Crucifixion and burial of Jesus of Nazareth must have made quite a stir to the small coterie who ministered unto his needs and looked up to him as sent from God. Cleophas and his companion were not his apostles but were quite close to those who walked with him during his earthly ministry. Now they were traveling to Emmaus on the first day of the week and they were so seized with the latest events. Death of the Lord and rumors regarding his resurrection indeed perplexed them.

They had heard of the version of the women who had early that morning seen the vision of angels. The two had not yet sorted in their hearts if it were true or not. The absence of the body was quite perplexing to them to say the least. Perhaps they had reasoned out why. It must have run thus: the Roman guards must have spirited away the body in the cover of night lest it should be used as holy relics. The least the Imperial Rome wanted was a new cult emerging from the crucifixion and burial of one whom the Jews themselves had found a malefactor.

Jesus joined them as they walked towards Emmaus. Yet they did not recognize him. They had looked for Messiah and their understanding of the scriptures was not enough to reveal the identity of the third presence. The Scriptures is replete with the prophets predicting the death and resurrection of Messiah. Cleophas and his fellow traveler were apparently well acquainted with these passages(Ac.2:22-32). But it did not make them connect with the presence of the risen Christ.

The Jewish nation indeed looked for the advent of Messiah. Only that they hoped it would reinstate the nation about Jerusalem. They hoped for a Priest King and not a Servant-King (Mt20.28). Much we may have read about Jesus as meek, lowly and as a teacher. But our mind can grasp its significance only by the spirit of God. (2 Pe1:20-21) It is an essential component in understanding the Scriptures. Jesus during his earthly life faulted the teachers of law because legalism colored their mind and they could not see Jesus as fulfillment of Messianic predictions. Similarly Cleophas and his companion were perplexed by the strange happenings since their Jewish mindset prevented them from the true significance of the events and the identity of the Presence.

God is a spirit and Jn. 4:23-24. God is worshiped in spirit and truth. It is how a Christian ought to read the Scriptures. We read in the same passage that ‘they are the kind of worshipers God seeks’.(vs.23NIV) Jesus of Nazareth suffered in his body, and death was only as far as it related to the body. In his spirit there was no corruption. The passage where he reveals the wounds ‘Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself’.(Lk24:37) was with regards to the person. He died for our sins while his Spirit was the same. Jesus Christ the same, today and forever. The transfiguration(Mt.17:2-9) came during his earthly ministry to prepare him for the death. The outpouring of Holy Spirit on all flesh (Ac. 2.) was the other visible manifestation that came as a result of resurrection.

The will of God concerning the body of Jesus of Nazareth is found in the book of Psalms (40:7) -‘A body hast thou prepared’ and the prophets who predicted the death and resurrection touched on the physical person.

We read that there were two momentous events that only related to the Spirit. What God the Spirit records on these two manifestations are to grasped spiritually. Jesus had to die and go to the father so Spirit may be received by all through faith. The first event indicated death of the body: God the Son must taste death once for all mankind. Second was how that event would prepare mankind to be joined to the spiritual reality of the risen Christ, the Church.

He was aware of his ministry so he could say,’I am the Resurrection and life.’Jn 11:25

Word was made flesh and death of it must make reading of Word a spiritual experience. It is as spiritual as Lord’s supper we partake as a memorial of his death. Reading the Word is a sacrament that every child of God may partake on every day basis. Death and Resurrection of Jesus work their way into our lives so what we read from the Scriptures quickens us. Jn 11:25. ‘I am the Resurrection and life’. Easter celebrates the risen Christ. He is also life as he tells before the raising of Lazarus. It is of this abundance of life his words hold that Cleophas and his companion later testified. Breaking of the bread sure enough made their eyes open.

To recap: In this passion week we need to fix our mind on the significance of the death of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the manifestation of divine will. It was necessary to provide a quickening spirit with which the Word becomes real to us. Reading without the spirit of God working in a Christian’s life is like seeking him among the dead. ‘Christ is indeed risen!’

He for once died for our sins and was exalted to the right hand of God.'(Ac.2:33). He conquered death so every child of God may also overcome the terror of death.

When we read therefore we are reading with the aid of Holy Spirit so the dry as dust words are endowed with power and we can justly divide the word of truth(2 Ti 2:15) The way he broke bread with the two did something to them.’They recognized the resurrected Lord.Lk24:31) Later the experience made them realize with what force the scripture touched them.’Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way… ‘ The Emmaus experience made them effective witnesses of the Risen Christ.
(Reprinted from Guide to His Word-obi4b.wordpress.com of April-21)
benny

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Religion is for man. Quality of religion is such an abstract quantity that makes no sense unless it is shown in practice.

Religion requires a base from which anyone may show off the merit of belief-systems that he subscribes to. Man is one such. He or she may demonstrate its color and other qualities. It is said of Cicero that even as a child his fame was such parents of his schoolmates came to see for themselves the pupil who carried such an excellent  report. Religion is now debased that each one chatters the quality of his or her religion and we see no one ever showing the proof in their lives. Megachurches hold thousands of listeners where the preacher gives his performances. One would think he has some serious personality problems that he requires so many lights on him and he needs to show his best side, in terms of his looks and morals, in order to keep the crowd’s attention. Take any religion and you see those who preach too loud so often are farther from demonstrating the merits. Speaking doesn’t mean proof. Love thy neighbor as thyself. One may speak of it every hour and it doesn’t demonstrate one is proving love that he so vigorously declaims. Praying five times a day  for this reason means nothing.

Idiots are everywhere in churches or in mosques and they are degenerate idiots who preach in order not to fulfill the very demands of their religion.

2.

Man as a social animal needs to belong and he often continues the traditions of his parents without questioning whether the merits of their belief were proved in their own lives. Churches over the years have been getting leaner. Is it because people have found religion had not filled their pockets with cash or larders with goods? No. Those who were placed in positions of trust to lead the children of men into ways of righteousness have misled their flock. Out of their own personal ambitions or out of their stupidity. He who preaches his infallibility and also hides evil priests is a Satan’s disciple.  Protestant and Catholic churches are not freed from this. How can such evil men lead the men to better themselves? Or Mullahs who preach hate and use children in the name of Jihad to pull chestnuts from fire for their own ends? Christianity and Islam alike have failed in their practice.  Take religions from all over the world. Do they make the Earth a better place?

It is not the fault of religion which are ideas but men who have lapsed in their thinking. They have fouled up the earth with their stupidity. No more proof is needed as to this than seeing the environment pollution around us. Recently an astronaut seemed to have observed the Earth has changed for the worse. In Hebraic tradition of Creation God gave Adam domination over the Earth and the Rule is still valid. Aren’t we all guilty of flouting it? Christianity has always given an undue emphasis to man, his soul and his obedience to body of men whose merits for commanding such honor have not been always proved beyond doubt. Think of all the witch hunts throughout history. How the Church has treated women for witches? Their sins? They loved the earth and worshiped the spirits they didn’t understand. We say we understand our spirits and yet we do not follow them. What difference is then between organized religion and paganism? Will slaughtering suspected members of the cults help? If pagans let nature cure their ills the Churches relied on their own cure miracles and their members, the so called  physicians try their cure.  In a way it has been detrimental in developing a respect for environment.

Now the Earth cults are gaining ground but how much responsible are they? Many of them may have genuine desire to live close to the nature but do they have a cohesive and positive plan based on universally acknowledged facts to reclaim the Earth from deteriorating  any further? I do not see any such body that holds the credentials. There are many cult groups each flexing his  muscles in his own fashion. Private revelations and gifts are not the answer but a clear scientific temper that can enthuse all men to respect his own hearth and backyard; who dares to claim his or her moral soundness for the good of all. Neither Pope nor a shaman has it in himself to speak of religion without his credentials of humanness. Science speaks for discipline and education.  If these cannot make a man to think for himself what is the purpose of science?

Religion is for man. Is man for such religions that are short of proving with deeds?

3

Overheard: Thank God! I am an atheist!

An atheist is a silly man who denies God but cannot understand how close to Him he is nevertheless. It is to be proved with his life and from his context with all things living.  If his humanness cannot make him rise above some contrary beliefs or atheism he is foolish indeed. Merely mouthing the tag of his non-belief proves his foolishness.  Religion and lack of it should not hold unearned influences. Neither should Science.

benny

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