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Posts Tagged ‘grace’


Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), bishop and Doctor of the Church is best known for his Confessions (401), his autobiographical account of his conversion. The term augustinianism evolved from his writings that had a profound influence on the church.

Augustine was born at Tagaste (now Algeria) in North Africa on 13 November, 354. His father, Patricius, while holding an official position in the city remained a pagan until converting on his deathbed. His mother, Monica, was a devout Christian.
At the encouragement of Monica, his extensive religious education started in the schools of Tagaste (an important part of the Roman Empire) and Madaura until he was sixteen. He was off to Carthage next in 370, but soon fell to the pleasures and excesses of the half pagan city’s theatres, licentiousness and decadent socialising with fellow students. After a time he confessed to Monica that he had been living in sin with a woman with whom he had a son in 372, Adeodatus, (which means Gift of God).

Still a student, and with a newfound desire to focus yet again on exploration of his faith, in 373 Augustine became a confirmed Manichaean, much against his mother’s wishes. In his thirties, his spiritual journey led him away from Manichaeism after nine years because of disagreement with its cosmology and a disenchanting meeting with the celebrated Manichaean bishop, Faustus of Mileve.

Passing through yet another period of spiritual struggle, Augustine went to Italy in 383, became a pupil of Ambrose. At the age of thirty-three, the epiphany and clarity of purpose which Augustine had sought for so long finally came to him in Milan in 386. He was baptised by Ambrose in 387 much to the eternal delight of his mother, “..nothing is far from God.”
After the death of his mother Augustine now returned to his native Tagaste. He was ordained as priest in 391.

For the next five years Augustine’s priestly life was fruitful, consisting of administration of church business, always the defender of truth and a compassionate shepherd of souls. At the age of forty-two he became coadjutor-bishop of Hippo. From 396 till his death in 439, he ruled the diocese alone. At that point the Roman Empire was in disintegration, and at the time of his death the Vandals where at the gates of Hippo. He died on 28 August, 430, in the seventy-sixth year of his age. Saint Augustine is often depicted as one of the Four Latin Doctors in many paintings, frescoes etc., “Unhappy is the soul enslaved by the love of anything that is mortal.”
Saint Augustine’s books, essays and letters of Christian Revelation are probably more influential in the history of Catholic Church than any other Christian writer since St. Paul. He represents the first Christian philosophy of history. He also wrote of the controversies with Manicheans, Pelagians, and Donatists which helped lead to his ideas on Creation, Grace, the Sacraments and the Church. There is a massive collection of his writings and they also include: Soliloquies (386-387), On Grace and Free Will. (426) Retractions (426-427) and Letters (386-430).(ack: C.D. Merriman/ Jalic Inc.)
benny

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The Aztecs believed in after life. They sacrificed the first born to the Sun in a belief that souls of the dead occupied the starry heavens. These souls according to them kept the best place for their fathers and for the siblings. Thus each Aztec warrior took pride that the perfect fruit of his loins had found his perfect bliss.Of course they had also reserved their place in heaven. On the All Soul’s Day the believers climbed to the top of a volcano in order to have a foretaste of it. They stood hand in hand around the crater to celebrate life. It was a mystery which admitted only the Aztecs.
On the twelth year after this rite was made an important event in their calendar, they climbed to their sacred spot.
On top of the mount they ate and drank according to the custom and at the wave of the High Priest’s staff they began their sacred rite.
But they were not alone.
There was a tribe of pygmies who lived nearby and whose custom was so different from theirs. Hearing some strange rumors they slipped unnoticed to enjoy the spectacle.
As the Aztec warriors danced in frenzy flames of fire seemed to descend and each warrior was transported in spirit to commune with his soul above. The pygmies missed what happened before their eyes. All they saw were their straw sandals and their belts of hemp. Pointing to their own shoes of finest vicuna hides and plumes of exotic birds they sniggered. ‘Such beggarly material!’one exclaimed and another said they were dirt farmers from the plains.
They did not see the Aztecs! They wondered where they could have run to.
One controlling his laugh said, ‘If all I had for my shoes such sorry sandals I would also jump into the deepest hole.’
The pygmies were disappointed. After returning to their own camp they narrated how the Aztecs had commited mass suicide for shame of their unfortunate circumstances.
Is it not how we speak of things we do not understand? As humans how we can measure God except in human terms?
We are least equipped to know God in his divine form. Even so we draw ridiculous assumptions according to human wisdom. It is not the Writ but what our reason can digest we pontificate. Instead of taking the simple meaning to words we weave clever philosophy. ‘The earth he has given to the children of men(Ps.115:16) is a verse that pleases some TV pastors. It is a license to add to their wardrobe the most expensive and abuse the poor circumstances of their flock so blatantly.
Before the cameras and under lights they behave like prima donnas and speak words calculated to bedazzle the congregation. All these for what? For some gold and silver! We lay so much importance to our body and its appetites. What we dismiss is the best part of our being. Our soul must speak for us here and now. God is love. Can we also love others? Can we also forgive as He has?
Our souls must also speak for hereafter.
In the Fable ‘What Price Grace’God forgave the foolishness of the pastor for his human failing. Grace covered his soul from being lost. The flesh profits nothing and what is for the earth to the earth shall go. My belief is that the Lord God shall purify my soul till is fully resored after my term on earth is ended.
But one world at a time. If I cannot prove my credentials in this world who shall entrust me with a world to come?
benny

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A Fable :What Price Grace? ©
One pastor having misled his flock by heretical teaching wanted to put a stop to it. Not from any sense of guilt but he had made millions and besides was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had made people believe white was black,- that in his case was making God pass for the Angel of Disobedience. Now in his battle with cancer all his illgotten gains went into his physician’s fees and the undertaker’s bill.
Before he died he had utmost satisfaction that he made peace with God. Only that he didn’t specify exactly who heard his confesson or pardoned his wicked life. God or Devil?
When angels came to the throne of God the Ancient of the Days said, ‘He made peace with me or I forgave his foolishness from the day he climbed the pulpit.’
Angels read out his life and his work and said the dead man’s flock was still going strong and was perverting his Word. Angel Gabriel was certain that the megachurch of the late pastor was still a Coven of Wickedness. ‘O Lord God you only have the dead carcass. The soul of the dead is still waxing eloquent.’
God called Satan and said, ‘You have your man. Do what you will.’
God who had forgiven was the god of the living so He set things in motion to clean up the Church.
benny

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The New Jerusalem

Rev 21:10-14 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. vs.14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

In previous posts regarding the Church,whose builder is Jesus Christ, I had stated the churches of the world were built on Peter the Man. These carried the inherent flaws of man,-his pride, ambition, superficiality and guile. The story of Adam clearly shows how he was beguiled by Satan. He could not walk with God since he was afraid. Satan had deflected his mind first and thereafter his body also followed. It is the case with his churches. Adamic nature of man produced only divisions. His church and his city are not man made or on a rock that was half and half. Jesus expressed his will. (St.Matt 16:18-19,23)

Only that the Rock he had in mind had to be transformed as clear as crystal.

The vision of John the divine is after the similitude of man. So we need to see it as a narrative from the standpoint of Man.

The rock is like jaspar and as clear as crystal. Peter the man who minded the things of man has become jewel and do mind the things of God.

The Scriptures is like a play where God Holy Spirit and Man hold the stage of eternity at any time or age. There are exits and entrances for angels prophets, kings of the world. Parts are written for women,wicked and good alike. Notwithstanding such a cast plays subordinate role to the Triune God.

Good theater is when the personages that make up the cast carry the story forward. This way each of us is part and parcel of it.

We see God in the Old Testament as the Judge beginning with the calling of Abraham out of Canaan:Jerusalem was the visible center of His people where law and its obedience instilled in people to make a distinction of godly and gentile peoples. Law in itself didn’t make any one perfect but gave the people of God a context and a standing in reference to Him.

Second Act begins with the Advent of Christ. In sending the Son God made man to live and walk under grace. There was a kind of freedom that made people fall on Him than on dead works of Law. Both are for Adamic man and the only difference implied is in the way he viewed Law: law written on stone tablets were inward and on his will to fulfill the requirements of Law. On the other hand man under grace relied on His mercy and His Will. With the outpouring of Holy Spirit (revelation) focus on Man becomes clearer. He is of the House of God and the people would see God among them.

Raison d’etre of churches of the world holds such a fellowship as the bedrock but in practice churches have proved to be the biggest recruiting centers for Satan. A simple example of Catholic Church would suffice. With such rampant child abuse does Vatican do the one thing that is needed? Disband all her hierarchical pomp and circumstance to make bishops truly shepherds of the flock and oversee their parishes accountable to their wards? Vatican is an amalgam of State and Church that has got her arithmetic wrong. In matters of Church they have applied cold logic of a state protecting its instruments of power. In matters of State they acquiesced and diluted or misplaced the very principles of Christ, in securing advantage for her See. Thus the Church survived in the Nazi Germany and during the time of Franco.

Can State and Church co-exist? The New Jerusalem shall be a proof that nothing is impossible for God. The New Jerusalem will have Children of Israel, nations and those who are washed by His blood.God and Church of Christ make State and Church as one. The Millennium vision of the Prophet (Isa.11:6-9) speak of Lamb and the wolf coexisting. God the Judge and the Church of Christ shall be one House.

The New Jerusalem is unlike the old where so much blood has been shed. In 70AD the Imperial Rome defiled the city of Peace. Many wars fought there since that time make it unfit for the work of Christ who is also called the Prince of Peace. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Here we have revelation and work where the Church minds the things of God.

benny

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Gen 4:3-6 2 Ti 3:16-17

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

How should one read the Scriptures?

With our rational mind of course. We are humans and as such if my understanding can not follow it rationally I am likely to go wrong. is it not? Rasputin the mad monk of Tsarist Russia belonged to a sect that held on literally to the Romans vs.1 Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? He committed sin on the basis of the Pauline verse. He indulged in orgy so God’s grace may abound. He sinned so he may find grace! He made Grace as a medium for cleaning up his lust for flesh. Did it cure him? No he died of it.

Take this verse:

And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell (Matt 18:9)Even though blind cannot one sin?

I cited these extreme examples to show there are areas where literal interpretation or common sense cannot do work properly. In interpreting Bible especially.

As a Christian I believe the Scriptures is God breathed. If I accept the account of Genesis where God breathed into man what am to infer? I have that spirit, is it not? Spirit of man can be understood by man and things of God are better understood and followed through by His spirit. If I try to understand by the spirit of man I do not think the Bible would have held much interest to me. Instead the Book has been a source of great delight to me and many passages have on several occasions served me in the manner these were meant to do: teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness(2Ti 3:17). It has taught me in the past when I was more likely to go wrong and also prevented me at times from following certain course of action. The third aspect of training is what I expect- and it is for my lifetime, so my life may not be drawn off the rails when I least expect it. Samson was confident of his strength but he found he had become like any other when the Philistines came upon him. There are such instances I could learn from. Even so there are great areas I cannot make sense literally or spiritually. I leave these aside since there are enough lessons my life in flesh can learn. So I do not dismiss the book as of no meaning.

The story of Cain and Abel is a story and it can be understood at different levels. The moral of the story is plain as day and it is provided in the vs 7. Considering that Jesus refers to it Mt.23:35 it must have held certain significance to him. Abel is qualified as righteous because he pleased God with his sacrifice. God found favor with his offering while He did not favor that of Cain.Cannot God exercise free will that we often appropriate for ourselves to justify our actions? The consequence of God’s preference outs Cain’s nature. He murdered Abel stealthily.

God is Spirit.It is spirit of foreknowledge that Simon Peter could use when he identified correctly who Jesus was.

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.(Matt 16:17)

We have that spirit of God and it is what keeps us falling into the hands of the Evil One. The Scriptures being God inspired we grow in His knowledge by correctly handling the Word.

Since the Scriptures is to be understood spiritually let me see what the story of Cain and Abel teaches us. God clothed man with skins since he felt shame in his nakedness. I think this act prefigures the atoning work of Jesus. Abel must have spiritually discerned how to find favor with God.

In trying to understand the Bible I find certain helpful tips. I find St. Paul’s instruction to Timothy very useful. Of this I shall come back by and by.

While studying a text ask yourself:

Does this passage belong in spirit with rest of the Bible? From the selected text of Cain and Abel let me point out the following;

Abel’s offer of fat portions from his flock echoes in the sacrifice of OT priests. God clothing Adam and Eve with skins also bear the truth in the Pauline epistle: without shedding of blood there is no remission or redemption.

Does the passage teach some needful or useful lesson?

Does it rebuke some trait that you have carelessly allowed to remain? Such a trait could be standing in your relationship with God and man.

This means you need to read the Bible in the right spirit and meditate over the passage. After all the main thing is how you may get the best out of your reading. If you handle the word of God correctly, as Paul writes to Timothy you are being trained in righteousness.

Benny

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Grace describes man’s response to the world without and to God.

What we owe God?  In Christ we have become new creation. We have put on Christ. Grace must show something new that is a life on a higher plane. This aspect is between us and God who has chosen to be partakers of His glory. Grace gives us a new awareness.

Grace also gives new responsibility towards our family and community.

When we consciously cultivate the Christian virtues we are making  grace given to us to abound.2 Pe 1 :5-8(NIV)

5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the world of theatre actors playing a role try to get into the skin of the character they play. It is necessary to understand the character so they will sound convincing. The  audience as a  result is helped. This analogy  is of course awkward since it only explains a make believe world. For a Christian putting on the nature of Christ is in ernest and is his entire life. Therefore a Christian who has put on Christ must get to know what Christ typifies: love, brotherly kindness etc.

The i in CHRiST must be where it is placed and not try to make look like this: i CHRST

The qualities that St. Peter writes about are not works but fruits of grace. In the gospel of John we read that grace came with Jesus while the law is associated with Moses.

Regarding works any Christian who thinks like the Pharisee in the parable of Pharisee and the Publican would be distracting others from Christ. If salt has lost its savor what good is it? If others do not see Christ but you,  it belongs to works.

Finally a question arises: in a world Jesus Christ is just a name and not worshiped or revered as in the century when the Church was valid (and the works of the apostles were very much seen as manifestation of God) how do we reveal Christ? If one asks now how Christ looks like probably the answer would be ‘Mel Gibson.’

You see how perceptions, taste, emphasis and worship change with time. I do not think putting on Christ should be held in a literal sense.

Historical Jesus and the prince of Peace are sure to mean different for all believers. But the Son of Man who is our Savior cannot two persons; neither can the man of Sorrows who sits on the right hand of God can be two different persons.  Jesus who is the life and resurrection is only one, coequal with God in the trinity. The Word bears witness to us and it is what is our template. Our ministry as Christians are  to fill within these. Works may help you to fill out some but it will never fit. Like the leaven of the old woman it should fill the whole lump. only grace can do that work.

benny

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Turning the other cheek principle of Jesus Christ well illustrates the process of making an unmerited hurt to something better. It is indeed of an higher plane.  By submitting to the unjust action you have warded off natural human reaction. It is human response to react in the same manner to an action. Iron sharpens iron and hatred draws hatred and if a kick in the shins is given who would not kick back? If one can stop reacting from the guts to a hurt, one is in control of himself.

Grace can only work with those who are in control of one self.

Fruits of grace are shared but you change your old ways by having  taken a conscious decision. If you give water to drink when your enemy is thirsty it is said you win him over. You crushed his enmity and won a friend as well.  Grace is positive. Grace is potent that it can change person’s attitudes and thinking as well.

Grace is process of life where decisions are consciously taken and the effects serve a Christian to rise higher as a pelican will use the thermal. It is said God has made us sit in heavenly places. Grace makes you climb ever higher. Changing and impacting others in a positive way.  Next I shall discuss the difference between the works and grace.

benny

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