Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-48 (New International Version)
Love for Enemies

43"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[b] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 5:43 Lev. 19:18
  2. Matthew 5:44 Some late manuscripts enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you

Every time I consider how my day to day living can reflect Christ working in me, I struggle with the above passage.  I find it insanely difficult to love my enemies.  Perhaps it’s my nature to be more “reactive” in my treatment of others… people who are friendly to me, I will naturally be nice to them.  Friends who are generous, I always remember their kindness and generosity in my heart and try to return the kindness.  All this unfortunately, falls starkly short of what God requires of us. 

Having a more vindictive nature than most, it’s a natural reaction for me to plot and scheme ways of executing revenge on those who have aggrieved me.  In situations where I’m unable to “exact revenge”, I harden my heart and cut off any concern I may have for the aggressor.  For e.g., the girl who used to bully me in kindergarten, when she died when we were in primary school, everyone thought it was “sad”.  I thought (and still do) it was “good riddance”.  I probably would’ve felt sadder for a stranger who died in some traffic accident than her.

And so today while I consider what it means to love my enemies, I conclude it’s not enough to disengage them from my life.  I need to actually care about how they fare and not have a “if you die, that’s your problem” attitude.  Maybe that’s what an older friend meant when he told me long time ago that we need to forgive, even if we don’t forget.

Why does Easter move around our calendar so much?

Got this from someone in the cellgroup…

———————————————

Why does Easter move around our calendar so much?
– By Quek Tze-Ming
Easter is the time when we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection. Unlike Christmas
(the other important day in the Christian calendar), which is fixed on
December 25, Easter seems to float around the Sundays of April randomly,
occasionally making an appearance in March (it fell on March 23 in 2008) or
as late as April 25 (this will happen in 2038).

Why is this? The answer is found in the difficulty of calculating a date
based on both the solar and lunar calendars.

According to the gospel accounts, Jesus was killed on or around the time of
the Jewish Passover. He was raised three days later, on the first day of the
Jewish week (Sunday).  So Christians wanted to have their feast day around
the same time as Passover, which was fixed to begin on twilight on the 14th
day of the month of Nisan (Heb: Aviv; see Lev. 23.5).

Got this so far? Now come the disputes.
First, in the mid-second century, Christians in the province of Asia
celebrated Easter beginning on Nisan 14 itself, rather than the Sunday
following, which was the practice of most Christians outside of Asia. This
became known as the Quartodeciman controversy (in the Latin Vulgate of Lev.
23.5, quarta decima = 14). The early father Melito of Sardis was a notable
Quartodeciman. This difference in practice led predictably to bouts of
name-calling, with threats of excommunication and harassment.
Quartodecimanism died out, but it was the first of a whole series of Easter
controversies.

Second, by the third century, some Christians were becoming unhappy with
relying on the Jewish community to determine the date of Easter. The First
Council of Nicaea (325 CE) decided that the calculation for the date of
Easter would be "independent" of Jewish calculations of the Passover.
Because the Council came up with little that was actually useful in
computation, it took centuries for a common method to find acceptance
throughout Christendom. Thus, while the Alexandrian tables eventually became
normative, a Roman 84-year cycle introduced at the end of the 3rd century
continued to be in use in the British Isles as late is 931.

So what is the rule now? What eventually came to be accepted was this:
Easter falls on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal
(or spring) equinox, which is the spring day when the length of the day and
the length of the night are exactly the same.

This is why Easter moves around our Gregorian (solar) calendar so much,
because the calculation depends on both the solar and lunar year. A solar
year (the length of time it takes the earth to move round the sun) is 365
days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds. But a lunar year is 354.37 days.
Even for those who are mathematically inclined, calculating one (solar:
equinox) against another (lunar: full moon day) is seriously complicated.
You would think this is complicated enough, but that didn’t stop even more
fiddling around!

You see, the problem was that BOTH the astronomical full moon and the
astronomical equinox were not days but moments in time, and they vary. The
astronomical equinox can occur on either March 20 (as it did at Nicaea) or
Mar 21 (so 2007). The astronomical full moon can be observed happening on
different days depending on where you were standing on earth. All this
reliance on observation made planning ahead well nigh impossible.

So the church fathers decided that the full moon used to determine Easter
would not be the astronomical full moon, but an Ecclesiastical Full Moon
(EFM), calculated as the 14th day of the lunar month (determined by
formula). Easter was defined as the Sunday after the first EFM that falls on
or after March 21 (whether or not that date is the astronomical equinox).
Got it? So Easter is the Sunday after a notional full moon following a
notional equinox!

Using the formula and tables, Easter can fall on 35 possible dates between
March 22 and April 25 inclusive, with the cycle of dates repeating itself
after exactly 5,700,000 years. The most common date for Easter is April 19,
occurring 3.9% of the time.

In practice, we get our Easter dates from the Catholic church, which has
compiled tables based on the ecclesiastical rules. All the Easter observant
churches in Western Christendom use this table, or the calculation behind it
(the Eastern Churches have liturgical calendars based on the Julian
calendar). The calculation of Easter is one practice that the Protestant
church still gets its cues from the Roman Catholic church. It is a practice
based on conciliar decision and church tradition that the Reformation did
not touch. Perhaps it was too difficult to understand, reform, or offer an
alternative!

In this period leading up to our Resurrection-celebration, it is appropriate
for us to end by meditating on these lines from the old Quartodeciman,
Melito of Sardis:

I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed
over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and
carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ.

Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins,
and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the
passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am
your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I
am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you
the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand.
– Peri Pascha 102-103

Bible Reflection of the Day – 29 March 2009

Romans 8:31-39 (New International Version)

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a] 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a Friend We have in Jesus

Sang this song at church today – What a Friend We have in Jesus.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

I always thought that the focus of this song was that Jesus is our Lord and Friend.  During the sermon however, the speaker shared that the words of this song were taken from a poem titled  “Pray Without Ceasing” by Joseph Scriven.  Scriven’s mother was quite seriously ill in Ireland at that time and Scriven was unable to visit her (he was living in Canada) as he did not have enough money.  The title of the poem struck me and so I went to re-read the words of the song, and I suddenly saw this from a whole new angle… not that Jesus isn’t our Friend but perhaps the point Scriven was trying to get across was that we should “pray without ceasing”.

Christian History

I’ve been attending this class on early Church History every Saturday with my cellgroup.  During our class last Sat, the facilitator spoke about the importance of journaling our Christian journey, which is something I’ve tried to do before though I kept losing the slips of paper… and even the last blog I had… was shut down after a while.  So I decided I’m going to put my thoughts from each lesson on this main blog (instead of creating a sub-blog which I did the last time).  After all, being a Christian isn’t a separate part of my life… so it makes sense to put whatever I want to record down on this blog.

Our "homework" from last Sat was to write about our Christian life journey thus far.  Here goes…

I come from a non-Christian family and my dad is really quite against Christians.  He feels that churches are out to brainwash people into worshipping a God that doesn’t exist.  He also feels that the Christian’s giving of money as part of our offering to God a scam by the church to cheat people of money. 

When I was in Pri 2, I got to know this girl called Grace.  She used to invite me to join her at her church’s Junior Sunday School’s activities – games day, camps, etc.  I wasn’t very keen initially but there was something different about this friend of mine.  Though she would get bullied or taken advantage of by other classmates, she never seemed to bear grudges against them.  So I eventually went for some of the camps and accepted Christ in Pri 4.

What led me to accept Christ as my Saviour was how the Christians I met reacted to situations differently from my non-believing extended family.  Instead of bearing petty grudges and returning tit for tat, they had more tolerance for people’s shortcomings and were willing to look for the good in people instead of naturally assuming the worst in people.  Having seen for myself this difference made me want to find out more about the God they believed in.

My parents were still apprehensive about me attending church so I didn’t go on a regular basis till I was in Sec 2-3.  Growing up in Senior Sunday School was fun.  My dad used to say that I’m not allowed to be baptised or have a "permanent religion" till I was 21… and so I followed his instruction and got baptised when I was 22. 

Over the years, there were times when I walked more closely with God, and there were times when I struggled with why certain things turned out a certain why.  I came to realise eventually that regardless of the circumstances that befall me, God is the only constant who works in ways that are beyond my imagination.  It is only at the end of every trial that I look back and see His hand in the big picture.

So that’s my Christian life story thus far.  Not spectacular but thankfully, I’m still hanging on.

Whose Inner Circle

2 Peter 2

False Teachers and Their Destruction

1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

I knew an ex-colleague who attended (not sure if she still does ‘cos I lost touch with her) New Creation Church and she would sometimes tell me during lunch that if a Christian is truly faithful, that Christian will be blessed by God and will enjoy material riches.  I found that extremely disturbing ‘cos that is a totally distorted view of the bible.  It’s like Gold 90.5FM’s commercial – hearing only the good things.  The bible talks about God having plans to prosper us… but the bible also talks about standing firm when our faith is tested.

I could go on about how skewed the prosperity gospel is but this post isn’t about that.  This post is about an alarming thing a friend showed me just now.  The pastor of New Creation Church has a website… and in it, you can donate money to his ministry and get this – YOU GET A PARTNERSHIP CARD!!  Even more astounding is that your partnership is ranked based on the amount of money you donate.  Ranging from USD10 to USD500 per month, you get to be anything from a "Destined to Reign Partner" to a "Joseph’s Inner Circle Partner".  Pardon my language but WHAT THE $*@&^#?

image Firstly, since when does a ministry belong to a person?  Shouldn’t it be Jesus’ ministry that we focus on?  Secondly, how could someone be ranked based on the amount he donates?  Thirdly, why on earth would any God-fearing believer want to be part of "Joseph’s Inner Circle"?!?!?!?  I think we all want to hear the Lord say that we’ve been a good and faithful servant and not, "Congrats, you were part of Joseph’s Inner Circle".

I think what bugs me most about the website is that focuses strongly on Joseph Prince instead of Jesus our Lord and Saviour.  I have to say that I’m totally disgusted and repulsed.  

John 15:4-5

4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

My Virtual Family…

Met some really old friends for supper last night – my Kor, Bengz, JT and YM.  I’ve known Kor since Junior Sunday School (probably when I was 8 or 9) and the rest I got to know during secondary school.  We hardly get to meet up nowadays… esp. since Kor is living in Aust. 

Meeting up on the occasion that he was back in Singapore was a good thing.  When I got home, I kinda missed the good ol’ days when we would hang out in the PC Clinic at church, youth choir practice, or during rehearsals for this musical our church put up, or just idling randomly.  Life during school days was good ‘cos of them.

Anyway, I’m happy to see that everyone’s doing pretty well.  🙂

Today also happens to be the day when my “ex-lao gong” hits 30.  Heehee.  So Happy Birthday Zounds!  Here’s wishing you many more happy 30s.  😛

Christmas Isn’t Christmas

That’s one of my favourite Christmas carols.  Hope you liked the random video I pulled from youtube.  🙂

So how did you spend Christmas?  I had a lovely time this year.  Started with Christmas service in church, followed by a Christmas potluck with my cellgroup, having drinks with friends at Balaclava on Friday, a mini family gathering on Saturday and culminating in a crab makan session on Sunday.  I’m blessedly happy to be in company of friends and family.  It’s been really nice having Iceman in church the past few Sundays too.  I think 2008 has been a great year.  🙂

You know, JLC should be renamed Just Loving Christmas.