Archive for the 'Newsletter for January 2010' Category

The Reality of Hell


November 29th, 2009

Luke 16:19-31

A particular story Jesus once told comes to my mind every time I think of life after death. Because it is descriptive and brief, we are able to get a fairly uncomplicated picture in our minds of this subject of hell.

 

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’

But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)

Much of what you just read needs no explanation. It is the story of two men. While alive, their status could hardly have been more different. And when they died, again a contrast. One found himself in heaven; the other, in hell. Our attention falls upon the rich man who is pleading for relief and removal from his torturous surroundings. The scene is unpleasant to imagine, but it is nevertheless real. Neither here nor elsewhere does Jesus suggest this was merely a fantasy.

The man in hell is in conscious torment. He is crying out for mercy. Being “far away” (v. 23) and permanently removed by “a great chasm” (v. 26), he is desperately alone, unable to escape from hell, as we read, “none may cross over” (v. 26). The horror is painfully literal, unlike the jokes often passed around regarding hell. Haunted with thoughts of other family members ultimately coming to the same place, the man begs for someone to go to his father’s house and warn his brothers “. . . so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (v. 28).

This is only one of many references to an eternal existence in hell. The New Testament, in fact, says more about hell than it does about heaven. Here are just a few characteristics of hell set forth in the New Testament:

  • It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).

It is a place where people scream for mercy, have memories, are tormented, feel alone, cannot escape (Luke 16:23-31).

It is a place of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:48).

It is a place of darkness (Revelation 9:2).

It is a place of eternal damnation (Mark 3:29 KJV).

It is a place where God’s wrath is poured out (Revelation 14:10 KJV).

It is a place of everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

The finality of all this is overwhelmingly depressing. We have little struggle believing that heaven will be forever, but for some reason we ignore that hell will be equally everlasting. To deny the permanence of hell is impossible without also removing the permanence of heaven. Each is a reality and each is ultimate finality.

 

 

date
 

True Islamic Morality


November 29th, 2009

 

 

 

What we see portrayed as Islam today is untrue. When people see Muslims they see only the images put in their minds by the rating-hungry media. Yet, what is shown on the news regarding the MAJORITY of the Muslim people is not true! Consider that only 20% of Muslims live in the nations of the Middle East. Consider that the MAJORITY of Muslims, 80%, live in nations outside of the Middle East. Out of that 20% minority living in the nations of the Middle East is a small faction of those people that we are shown in the media (ie: the terrorists, suicide bombers, ranting lunatics, etc.). The truth is that Islam is very different from what the media shows us or would have us believe. To illustrate this fact I wish to consider what I will call Islamic Morality.

 

 

 

Let me begin with stating the fact that Islam FORBIDS the killing of innocent people. The Holy Quran is full of teachings against the killing of innocents. In fact, just the killing of one innocent person is considered to be equivalent to killing of the whole human race according to the Quran’s teachings! Consider this teaching of the Holy Quran:

 

 

 

“So We decreed for the tribe of Israel that if someone kills another person – unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth – it is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind. Our Messengers came to them with Clear Signs but even after that many of them committed outrages in the earth. (Surat al-Maida: 32)

 

 

 

Any true Muslim who believes in Allah (God) with a sincere heart, who scrupulously abides by His holy verses and fears suffering in the hereafter will avoid harming even one other person. That is because he or she knows that Allah is the Lord of Infinite Justice, and will suitably reward him for all his deeds. In one of the Hadiths (teachings of the Prophet Mohammed), our Prophet listed the kinds of people who are not pleasing to Allah, ‘Those who act cruelly and unjustly in the sacred lands, those who yearn for the ways of the ignorant and those who wrongly shed human blood.’ (Bukhari)

 

 

 

Islam demands that people act justly and ESPECIALLY the faithful (Muslims). One of the s most important features of the Islamic understanding of justice is that it commands justice at ALL TIMES and EVEN if the person one is dealing with is very close to one. In Islamic justice the important thing is fairness, that NO ONE should be treated unjustly. In the Quran’s teachings Allah orders the faithful ALWAYS to act justly, even when it comes to their own ENEMIES. No Muslim man or woman can make a spontaneous decision on the basis that the person he is dealing with once harmed him or left him in a difficult situation, or that he is a personal enemy. If the other side is genuinely in the wrong, the Muslim has a DUTY to respond with good and to display the morality commanded by Allah.

 

 

 

When we look at Islamic history we see many examples in which the faithful behaved with complete justice towards other races. Islam grew unbelievably quickly over a wide area, taking in Africa, Asia and Europe. The beauty of Islamic morality was spread by means of these conquests. Islam has spread to all races, nations, social structures and regions, and has brought millions of people together with a bond of BROTHERHOOD the like of which the world had never before seen.

 

 

 

Islamic morality aims at a society built on brotherhood, peace, freedom and security.

 

 

 

That is why all communities that have come into contact with True Islam have given up their oppressive, cruel and aggressive ways, and instead built a society built on peace. Many Western historians have expressed that fact in their works and stated how Islam had deep and positive affects on communities that came into contact with it. In his book The Making of Humanity, Professor Robert Briffault discusses the relationship between Western society and Islam:

 

 

 

“The ideas that inspired the French Revolution and the Declaration of Rights, which guided the framing of the American Constitution and inflamed that struggle for independence in the Latin American countries [and elsewhere] were not inventions of the West. They find their ultimate inspiration and source in the Holy Quran.”

 

 

 

The Muslim is to use soft speech and tongue to call people to the morality of Islam. He/she is NOT to use violence nor kill innocents! Yet, this seems to be ignored by the radical elements in Islam today unfortunately.

 

 

 

True Islam demands solidarity and cooperation between peoples even if they are of different faiths. And it demands that when we help or assist someone that we do so WITHOUT any expectation for something in return.

 

 

 

Islam demands the faithful to do good and to avoid that which is evil. Like the Christian Bible, true Islam also commands the faithful to repay evil with GOOD and NOT with more evil.

 

 

 

Islam commands Muslims to ALWAYS be FORGIVING. We are to show mercy even to those who are our enemies. Surat al A’raf: 199 in the Quran teaches, “Make allowances for people, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant. This is something that people may find difficult, but is an attitude that will be well rewarded in the sight of Allah. People may well be caught up in anger and refuse to forgive a mistake. But Allah has revealed to the faithful that it is better to forgive, and has recommended this morality to them:

 

“The repayment of a bad action is one equivalent to it. but if someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with Allah… “(Surat ash-Shura: 40)

 

Islam commands that the faithful act gently. We are not to be thugs! “It is a mercy from Allah that you were gentle with them. If you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult with them about the matter. Then when you have reached a firm decision, put your trust in Allah. Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.” (Surah Al ‘Imran: 159)

 

 

 

Islam supports the freedom of belief and Islam has a long history of tolerance and freedom of belief. When it comes to matters of belief, Islam offers people complete freedom, and does so in the very clearest language. That has been the case ever since Islam was first revealed right up to today, and it forms the basis of Islamic morality. The verses on the subject are perfectly clear: “There is no compulsion where the unbeliever is concerned. Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false gods and has faith in Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara: 256)

 

 

 

It may surprise many that Islam demands that oppression be shown no mercy. Muslims never remain silent in the face of oppression that they witness, hear, or even learn about second hand. Their compassion, which stems from the morality of the Qur’an, directs them to oppose all tyranny, wickedness and oppression, to defend the oppressed and wage a WAR OF IDEAS on their behalf. Whether they are dealing with their closest friends or strangers with whom they have no relations and no interests in common they behave in a determined manner to prevent such oppression. They see this as an opportunity to win the good pleasure of Allah and implement the morality of the Qur’an. Since a believer’s conscience is a very sensitive thing, his concept of compassion will never permit him to turn a blind eye to the slightest injustice or cruelty. To begin with, he will take his place in the vanguard of that morality by himself avoiding doing anything that might be unfair to or oppressive of anyone else. Whenever he sees anyone else doing so, his conscience will give him no peace until he has done everything possible to put matters right. That is because there is no room in true compassion for ignoring, forgetting or underestimating oppression.

 

 

 

Ignorant people never act until the oppression is at their own doorstep, and is reflected in the Turkish saying, ‘May the snake that never bothers me live for a thousand years.’

 

 

 

This stems from the fact that they forget or deny that in the hereafter they will be brought face to face with all they good deeds and pleasing morality that they encountered in this world. The faithful on the other hand are well aware of this fact, which is why they will even treat someone they have never met with great compassion and try to rescue him from oppression. Even if nobody else supports them they will muster all their forces to prevent wickedness. Even though people who behave rather differently may be in the majority, their lack of conscience and care never rub off on true believers. Muslims know that in the hereafter they will be called to account for what they did to prevent evil. They never forget that they will not be able to get away by saying, ‘I did not see or hear it,’ or ‘I never realized it was going on,’ and that only those who follow the dictates of their conscience will come out of that questioning at all well. As is revealed in the Qur’an

 

 

 

“…he will come to Us all alone. (Surah Maryam: 80) people will be brought into the presence of Allah, put to the test and called to account for their deeds in this world all alone. Those who are found to have behaved well, opposed all forms of cruelty and have fought evil and remained on the path of Allah can expect a suitable reward from Allah for their efforts.

 

 

 

Today it would do people well to discover for themselves the FACTS about Islam and Islamic morality rather than depending upon the media to supply them with such information. But sadly we live in a world that is most often lazy and in which many blindly accept something as being factual even if it truly is not.

 

 

 

Islam must return to what it was intended to be (ie: a faith of peace, understanding, justice, tolerance, and compassion). Over and over again the Holy Quran teaches that God is both compassionate and merciful. We who make the choice to submit ourselves to Him MUST show the same compassion and mercy not only to our loved ones but to our enemies as well.

date
 

Spiritual Journey


November 29th, 2009


 

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. “Your son is

here,” she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times

before the patient’s eyes opened.

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw

the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached

out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old

man’s limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All

through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward,

holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength.

Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest

awhile.

He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was

oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital – the clanking of

the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging

greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.

Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said

nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night. Along

towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand

he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she

had to do, he waited.

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the

Marine interrupted her. “Who was that man?” he asked. The nurse was

startled, “He was your father” she answered. “No, he wasn’t,” the Marine,

replied. “I never saw him before in my life.” “Then why didn’t you say

something when I took you to him?” “I knew right away there had been a

mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here.

When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son,

knowing how much he needed me, I stayed.”

The next time someone needs you just be there. Stay. We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings going through a

temporary human experience.

date
 

What Should We Meditate About?


November 29th, 2009

What are some of the things we might meditate on to get our minds more attuned to God’s way of thinking? Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • God’s astounding creative power as revealed through His creation.

How God is a Father to us.

  • God’s awesome plan as revealed by His Holy Days.

  • Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

  • What the Kingdom of God will be like, both in the Millennium and beyond.

  • Jesus Christ’s perfect example of what God wants us to be.

  • Jesus Christ’s teachings—how can we best live by them?

The blessings that come from obeying God’s laws.

  • The curses that come from disobeying those laws.

  • How to overcome various sins.

  • The many promises in the Bible.

  • The experiences of biblical figures—what can we learn from them?

Read any section of the Bible and ask, What does God want me to learn from this?

  • God’s Word is filled with subjects on which we can meditate. The important thing is that we set aside time to do so, and in so doing learn to see things as God does. As He tells us in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” What a privilege and blessing it is to have many of those thoughts written down for us in the Bible!

 

 

date
 

Perspective


November 29th, 2009


 

Hebrews 12:13; Psalm 91:12

What is perspective?

Well, it's obviously related to the way we view something. The term literally suggests "looking through . . . seeing clearly." One who views life through perspective lenses has the capacity to see things in their true relations or relative importance. He sees the big picture. She is able to distinguish the incidental from the essential . . . the temporary from the eternal . . . the partial from the whole . . . the trees from the forest.

The artist without perspective is, in Shakespeare's words, "weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable." The leader without it is visionless, intimidated, vulnerable, and overly concerned with public opinion.

Perspective, you see, adds a breath of fresh air to the otherwise suffocating demands of life. It opens new dimensions that enable us to cope with the predictable . . . it eases the tyranny of the urgent. Perspective provides needed space.

Perspective encourages the new mother: "Life is more than changing nappy's, warming bottles, and rocking babies to sleep." It helps convince the young medical intern "these long months of training and sleepless nights are worth it all. Stay alert. Your whole future is at stake."

To the struggling businessman who has a tough series of weeks, perspective brings hope and the promise of a brighter day tomorrow.

And who needs perspective more than teachers? Day in and day out, the endless grind of the classroom can drain the river of determination and creativity until it becomes a mere trickle of frustration and discouragement. But let that educator catch a renewed glimpse of the impact his or her life is having upon students and the ultimate difference it will make in their future . . . and the flow of new ideas will likely return in torrents.

Many things help prompt perspective. Quietness. A walk in a forest. Time spent along the roaring surf. A view from a mountain. Poetry. Travel. A stroll through an old graveyard. An evening beside a fireplace. Camping out under the stars. A visit to historical landmarks. Protracted times of prayer. Deep, profound strains of music. Meaningful worship. Meditation upon Scriptures. A leisurely drive at sunset.

On such occasions time stands still. The chips of insignificance fall away as the broad images of truth emerge in the monuments of our minds. We begin to see more clearly as the fog lifts . . . and we are running no longer. Or confused. Or angry. Or overwhelmed. Or afraid.

Could such places of perspective be considered "shelters of the Most High"? When we are there, could we be "abiding in the shadow of the Almighty" which David mentions in Psalm 91?

If so, isn't it about time you found a shelter of perspective in His shadow?

date
 

What and why a Church?


November 29th, 2009

The Bible describes the Church as a loving and zealous community of believers—those who commune and communicate with each other and strive for unity! God wants cooperative coworkers to work together in the gargantuan task He has given His Church.

Consider the circumstances of the early New Testament Church: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44, emphasis added throughout). In the King James Version of the Bible, the English word together appears 484 times. God likes togetherness!

What did Jesus say would be a primary identifying sign of His followers? “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

In the Bible, love includes unselfish actions of service, not only emotions. How can Christ’s disciples serve one another if they don’t know each other and aren’t together? Hebrews 10:25 emphasizes the need of “assembling of ourselves together . . . and so much the more as you see the Day [of Christ's return] approaching.”

The preceding verse, Hebrews 10:24, stresses the need to “stir up love and good works” among one another. Through Christian fellowship with other believers, we do just that—encourage, strengthen, comfort and help one another. God knows that it’s difficult to survive spiritually on our own—that we need the support and encouragement we get from being with others of like mind.

The focus of church services should be about worshipping God and learning more about His Word and how He wants us to live. Paul describes the Church as “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, New International Version). The Church is the primary source through which God’s truth is taught and learned.

But another focus of the Church is on giving of ourselves to one another. Notice this essential evidence of spiritual conversion: “We know that we have passed from [spiritual] death to life, because we love the brethren . . . By this we know love, because He [Jesus] laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:14, 16).

The most common fulfillment of “laying down our lives” is that we give of our time for our brethren.

Members of God’s Church should be striving to become like Jesus Christ, but are far from that perfection. Each member is a “work in progress,” endeavoring to be “transformed” by God and gradually “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 12:2; 8:29).

Every member is at a different point in his or her spiritual progress. Sometimes problems arise just like we read about in the New Testament. But we know that God expects those He has called to His Church to work on themselves and to love, forgive and encourage others.

 

 

 

 

date