The Fall of Traditions

Traditions are a significant part of what makes a culture. It is like one of the colorful threads that weave together to form the pattern that is a nation’s culture. And this culture is also a very significant component of a people’s identity. Sadly, some of these traditions are gradually declining in practice. And some of them are already but a part of history.

Religion is, more often than not, a strong identifier of a nation. In our small town, it used to be that the people cared more about religion and its traditions. I remember those nights, when I was small, when we would pray and sing hymns and praises in honor of a saint. After that, we’ll have a procession from one house to the next with the image with us. We’ll be doing that every night until the days are fulfilled.

Now, I no longer see that happening. Though, I can still hear the prayer leaders singing hymns and praises and praying the usual prayers. But the difference is clearer than a transparent sheet. This time around, they do it in the middle of the afternoon. A time which is hardly any good if you wanted more people to join in.

When I was small, us kids were encourage to go with them, to pray with them, to learn about the traditions of our place with them. Now, it’s just the old people, the prayer leaders, a few people.

Worse still, they’ve reached the point when they no longer send the image from one house to another. Instead, they let it stay in one house and the prayer leaders will just go their. My mother told me it was because they are already getting old and are old enough to reason that they tire easily. It’s not exactly some sound reasoning given that, usually, the houses in our place are hardly even five meters apart. But, yes, they are already old.

That’s just one of those that are gradually nearing non-existence. There also used to be theater in our place. A tale of kings. I’m rather certain I never understood what that story was all about because they used a deeper form of the local dialect and I was too small then to understand such. It used to play around the time of the local fiesta, about the end of May.

Now, I cannot see even a shadow of it. Even if it was a small town production, I know I can give them credit for the costumes and the effort they give to make the play successful. But theater has died in our town.

I have also heard of stories, read some, and watched some on TV and movies about a courtship practice called the harana. It’s when the guy visits a girl’s house with a song to sing to her. The guy throws some rocks into the girl’s window to get her attention and open up, then, he starts singing and playing his guitar while she watched him, and he tries to win her heart with a song.

No, I can never say for myself if those things ever happened because it was already dead when I was born. Or, they never really happened that way.

Perhaps, if I look deeper into the history of the Philippines, I’ll find more of these things – traditions that were once integral to the lives of Filipinos. And if I do, it’ll be sad as it can only mean the undoing of centuries worth of traditions, history, and culture.

Is Religion a Force for Peace?

History is riddled with strife, chaos, and violence that only tell us that religion is absolutely not a force for peace. It is, evidently, quite the opposite. To defend their own beliefs, many people have sacrificed their lives and, sometimes, have become martyrs in their own circles. Pages of history tell of the Crusades, the Holy Wars, and other similar events that people pushed for in an effort to make the world hear that their religion is the absolute truth or, in most occasions, in order to gain political, economic, or territorial control. However, it is also evident that events of the past has not been adequate to make people know better than to force people into their circle.

The Crusades were a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns, waged by much of Roman Catholic Europe, particularly the Franks of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The specific crusades to restore Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, between 1095 and 1291. Other campaigns in Spain and Eastern Europe continued into the 15th century. The Crusades were fought mainly by Roman Catholic forces (taking place after the East-West Schism and mostly before the Protestant Reformation) against Muslims who had occupied the near east since the time of the Rashidun Caliphate, although campaigns were also waged against pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the various popes.

The Great Revolt, which began at Caesarea in 66 CE, was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of the Judea Province against the Roman Empire. It rooted from the Greek and Jewish religious tensions but later grew with anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens.

The Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 AD) against the Roman Empire was the third major rebellion by the Jews of Judaea Province and the last of the Jewish-Roman Wars. Simon bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, was acclaimed as a Messiah, a heroic figure who could restore Israel. The revolt established an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for over two years, but a Roman army of 12 legions with auxiliaries finally crushed it.

During the reign of Emperor Zeno, tensions between the Christian community and the Samaritans in Neopolis grew dramatically. According to Samaritan sources, Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno (who ruled 474-491 and whom the sources call “Zait the King of Edom”) persecuted the Samaritans with no mercy. The Emperor went to Sichem (Neapolis), gathered the elders and asked them to convert; when they refused, Zeno had many Samaritans killed, and re-built the synagogue to a church.

These events are only a few of those that I can cite to give a solid foundation to my conclusion on where religion stands in the sphere of peace. However, it maybe so that I am narrow-sighted and only looked into those tragic events with a religious root. Then again, maybe, religion isn’t the core of the problem. Maybe, religion isn’t to blame. Maybe, it is the people who run these institutions. All the same, the touch of religion is evident and undeniable.

Pure Religion

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”1

As the late Karen Carpenter used to mournfully sing, “Loneliness, it’s such a sad affair.” How true this is for so many in today’s digital world.

Special holiday times such as Easter, Christmas, birthdays and even weekends are joyous occasions for many. For others these are some of the loneliness times of the year… especially for those who are alone, for those who have lost their spouse or a child, and for single adults … all of whom remember happier times and suffer a deep kind of loneliness at these times.

Many Daily Encounter readers have been there. Some are there right now. I’ve been there, too. I know the pain. This is why all of us need to be sensitive to the needs of all in our circle of relationships, remembering that many a smiling face hides an aching heart. We need to reach out to those who are lonely and hurting—invite him, her, or them over for a meal. Call them on the phone or send them an email to let them know you are thinking about them. Ask if there is anything you can do for them. Visit an elderly friend or neighbor. Provide gifts for the children of a family that is in deep need. Provide some food for the hungry.

I had a dear friend whom I met in kindergarten. We went all through grade school and technical college together. We’d been in national service together, too, and even though we’d lived thousands of miles apart, we never lost contact with each other. A while ago my friend fell on hard times, became discouraged, withdrew into himself and took his life. A tragic waste! Sadly, he never let me know of his struggle. How sad it is when, in our hour of need, as adults, we forget to hold hands and reach out for the help and support we need—so we can, as Jesus taught, “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”—and practice pure and true religion!

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, thank you for all your endless blessings given to me. Help me always to be responsible, loving, kind, a burden-bearer, and above all to be Christ-like in all that I say and do. And when I need help, give me the courage to reach out and admit that I have a problem and ask for help. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

from DailyEncounter, 03-23-2008

How to Be Sure You’re a Real Christian (Pt.1)

… without having to be religious.

I walked into a Religious Education classroom in a public school in Australia and with tongue-in-cheek wrote in large letters across the board:

“I hate religion”

“Man, in this class, you’ll get shot,” gasped one student in amazement.

“But I’m sold on real Christianity,” I responded.

“Well, what’s the difference?” several chorused.

“Let me explain,” I replied.

1. Know God’s Purpose

True, Christianity is a religion, but people can be religious without being Christians. Christ condemned the religious Pharisees of his day because they hid their real selves behind a facade of religion and external morality.

It may sound odd, but God isn’t into religion or external morality. He’s into relationships, inspirational living, and reality. That is, he wants us not only to have a right relationship with him, but also with each other and with ourselves. And he wants us to be real—to see and admit what we truly are so he can help us.

Neither is it God’s goal to make us good. It’s to make us whole, for only to the degree that we are made whole will our actions, lifestyle, and relationships be wholesome!

Religion tends to want to fix us from the outside in. God wants to fix us from the inside out. The first can become an impossible burden. The latter is what brings freedom. Christianity is not a set of rules and regulations. It is experiencing divine love, divine acceptance and divine forgiveness.

It helps to realize that God isn’t out to zap us for the wrongs we’ve done. In fact, no matter what we have ever done or have failed to do, he loves us with an everlasting love and has a wonderful purpose for our lives—for this life as well as the next! As Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”1 And again, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”2

2. Man’s Problem

On the outside we may look like we are doing very well, but on the inside everyone of us has a major issue. Seneca, the ancient Roman philosopher, put it bluntly when he said, “We have all sinned. Some more. Some less.” God’s Word, the Bible agrees. It reads, “We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard.”3 Sin, however, is not only doing harmful acts. It is anything that falls short of the standard of perfection that God envisioned for us. This includes nursing grudges and other negative emotions, pride, jealousy, mixed motives, etc. Most of us, too, are guilty of sins of omission; that is, not doing what we know we should and could do.4

Another misconception about God is that he is out to get us or to punish us for our sins. We bring sin’s punishment on ourselves because sin has its own natural consequences. If we try to break the universal law of gravity, for instance, we can’t. It will break us. Neither can we break God’s universal moral law. When we do, it breaks us, and besides its painful effects in this life—suffering, sorrow, sickness and spiritual death—its ultimate and tragic consequence is eternal death or separation from God.5

We are like a burned out or “dead” electric light bulb that cannot respond to its power source. And because we are spiritually dead, we cannot respond to God’s love and power either, without his first “fixing” us. Furthermore, because of our spiritual deadness, it is impossible for anyone to save him or herself. Only God can do this. This is why all the “good works” in the world cannot make us alive to God. Only when we see and admit this, is God able to “fix” us!

source: http://www.actsweb.org/articles/article.php?i=2&d=1&c=1&p=1

Christian Music of Today and Yesterday

It’s been sooooo long since I last wrote here…

And it’s also been long since i had rebirth…

I just wanna share this with you guys…

Read on…

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”1

One of the biggest areas of conflict in today’s church is music. Older generation Christians tend to like the “good old hymns” while the younger generation lean more toward what Joy and I like to call “happy clappy” gospel songs. So whose music is the best for worship?

Allow me to answer in a roundabout way. A few years ago I had the opportunity to preach in the Sunday morning services at an Anglican (Episcopal) church in Perth, Western Australia. It was in the middle of winter and I was so cold that a doctor’s wife loaned me her overcoat. So here I am sitting on the front pew dressed in a woman’s overcoat waiting for the service to commence. The moment the congregation began to sing it hit me like a thunderbolt. “Wow,” I said to myself, “surely the presence of the Lord is in this place!”

When I got up to preach, never in my life had I experienced such incredible liberty with such an overwhelming sense of God’s presence.

Very interesting, too, that in that service was a professor from the University of Western Australia. This lady had recently emigrated from China where she grew up under Mao with the teaching that said there is no God. This was only the second time in her life she had ever been in a church. She told friends who were with me that when I was preaching, she saw me encircled by an aura of rainbow colored light. She also said she now knew that there was a God because she felt his presence so strongly in that service.

So what does this have to do with church music? Everything. It’s not the form of music that matters but the attitude of the heart of those who are singing. When preaching, I can pretty much tell on the first line of the first song whether or not it will be easy or hard to preach in that service because one can easily sense whether God is in the music or not. If God is not in the music, you can be certain his Spirit is not in the rest of the service.

So the question is, is the music from the heart as Paul stated in today’s Scripture? If not, it isn’t worship—no matter how talented the singers may be. To put it another way, is our music a sweet smelling savor to God as an act of genuine worship, or is it nothing more than an obnoxious effluvium as were some of the sacrifices in the Old Testament era where the sacrifices were merely ritualistic and not from the heart?”

got this from DailyEncounter…