Tuesday, December 25, 2007

From Fact to Law to Truth

Acquiring knowledge follows a certain process that is intuitive or innate to the workings of the human mind. By this, we mean that the mind is able to discern a process or a fact of nature – like gravity, for example. Newton made observations regarding the phenomenon and from there laid down the Law of Gravitation. And so, after centuries of knowing how, more or less, gravity works, we know it to be a universal truth.

But let us consider a more tangible example; for instance, the wetness of water as perceived by the sense of touch and of sight. When water adheres to our hands and fingers, we get that feeling of “wetness”.

That reality or fact becomes a habitual or constant stimulus for as long as the senses and the mind can validate it as the “wetness” previously observed. The reality then – or the fact – assumes a status of being a law or a characteristic of nature that applies wherever or whenever one encounters the fact. Water in the North Pole, though frozen, will have “wetness” once it melts into liquid. And so will water vapor when it condenses on windows and walls.

The fact has now become a law or rule of nature that forms a small part of what we perceive as the reality of nature or life itself. Hence, with or without science, humans can come to the same conclusion that certain substances appear or behave in particular and established ways. The law or rule of nature eventually assumes a quality of universal truthfulness – in space and time. Thus, the “wetness” of liquid water has always been that way and will always be that way on Earth or anywhere else in the Universe, given the same conditions.

Science, however, through Mathematics can provide us with certain criteria as to the physical attributes of liquid water. At certain temperatures, water will be liquid. It can be cold or hot to the touch but the quality of wetness will remain. The density of water may also vary at certain temperatures and pressures. Still the “wetness” – which is actually an inherent physical characteristic of water’s being liquid – would not have changed at all.

Some would say, “wetness” is not a scientific or precise term to describe water’s liquidity. We would have to establish all the physical conditions within which water is found to describe exactly how water behaves, what its precise state is and how it affects our environment. Science then brings fact, law and truth to a level of sophistication or accuracy that is beyond our common view or normal use.

When someone jokes that the “rain is wet”, we laugh because we already know that. It is a fact, law and a truth we take for granted. On the other hand, meteorologists would not be satisfied with such a simple description of rain. They would need to know the atmospheric pressure, temperature, amount of rain and exact weather conditions that brought about the rain in the first place. All for the purpose ascertaining that the present conditions are measured accurately in order to be able to predict possible weather conditions in the future. Wetness then, to scientists, is a subjective quality and has no quantifiable and unique value to scientific observation. In fact, they would prefer to use the term “viscosity” or “fluidity” and proceed to measure it according to certain parameters. Such matters should not be left to unreliable and subjective standards.

Truth then can be seen both in terms of complex science and of simple human awareness. Science emphasizes the utilitarian value or the practical usefulness of knowledge. For many of us, truth or anything close to it (that the latest blockbuster movie currently showing must be worth watching) allows us to make decisions that affect our lives, if not to raise our existence to a higher level, then to simply amuse us.

When Moses wrote his five books, we presume that the things he wrote down were facts, in the first place. He could not have been writing as a fictionist or a mystic speculating on certain things or events. (No truth to the rumor that he got so bored with tending sheep that he thought of forming a new religion.) Having learned from the Egyptians how history is stringently recorded and how precise measurements are used to build structures, he could not have shifted to a sloppy form of thinking and writing that would only confuse his readers. Of much greater value than any scientific or even mere literary usefulness, his stories carry life-preserving and life-enhancing benefits. Hence, from those facts, we are able to derive the laws of God as delivered to Moses and as received and practiced by the Israelites. And as we delve more deeply into the study of the Torah, we are then led to accept – by enlightened faith – that what Moses wrote were true and therefore established the Truth that God wanted for humans to appreciate and acknowledge, as far as His dealing with the Israelite nation was concerned and as far as we Gentiles are able to discern some use from it.

How those facts were used or applied by their receptors in the time of Moses, teaches us how we can also react to the same historical facts. (Although science would readily deny their validity for the lack of measurable evidences, their truthfulness remains valid because of the testimonies of those who witnessed and wrote those facts and are therefore no less reliable than scientific facts. Why should modern science have exclusive right to the reliability of observations?) We may accept them as laws – or mere guidelines – to help us live our lives. We may even reject them as mere suggestions or even impractical ethics that have no use for our times. But certainly, the fact that Adam and Eve died because of sin gives us the first and only reliable teaching or law on why humans die. The fact that they died and the fact that we will also die confirms the law that came from God’s mouth. On the day you eat thereof (Because of sin), you will surely die.” Moses told it as it happened and we know from his testimony that the law was and is sure. The truth applied then and it applies now. (Perhaps, if we could measure sin and death, we would find out they are equivalent in weight or value to the infinite decimal-point. Remove one and you remove the other. No sin, no death. In death, there is definitely no sin. Hence, no death (that is, eternal life in Christ), no sin.)

And so it is with other Old Testament facts that have the potential to become laws; not ceremonial laws like the Passover or burnt sacrifices, for those were “true” or applicable only to the Israelites. We refer to facts that apply to all humans, Jews or otherwise. For instance, the law against murder -- or, as it is put under a new and better law: Love one another. But we have jumped to the New Testament, which is an entirely different matter. Or is it?

(Photo above: Modern Philippine political history began with violent uprising against imperialistic powers. In the late 1900's, military leaders led battles atop horses just as Pharaoh and his soldiers rode in horse-drawn chariots when they chased the Israelites. Simple facts that tell us not much has changed in how humans think and behave.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007


What power has light to overcome the darkness? What blinding attractions to imbue us with bliss?

In the beginning, light dispersed the chaos and the gloom. Tonight, it illumines the thick swathe of endless space with its piercing gaze. A star may be a tiny glint in the sky but it holds the secrets to the Universe and the portals to eternity. Put up a thousand in the vaults of heaven and behold an array of jewels to make the peasant a king and the king a pauper.

Who thought of light that it should keep us spellbound? What mind could fathom the complexity of its essence?

In the beginning, light began its journey. Now, it moves along as before, bringing us all through space and time and showing us a glimpse of what everlasting life must be. This moment may be but a glimmer of cosmic reality but it joins with infinite others to form a string of one living continuum.

The Star of Bethlehem: Was it an angel’s torch to guide shepherds and scholars or an angel’s mirror for the Light Incarnate?

In the beginning, light dispelled fear and death. Today, it emboldens the spirit still through the errant ways that have enslaved and afflicted the many who are lost. A soul may be a small gift everyone possesses but it carries the seed of Divine Life and the hope of Eternal Reunion. Call up a thousand around the Majestic Throne with their heavenly songs to make the sorrowful jubilant and the arrogant humble.

Who then sees the light and remains blind forever? Who then lives and belies the goodness of all creation.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Achieving Ideal Elections

Here are a few suggestions on how we may finally attain the elusive dream of creating a majority of intelligent voters in our electoral processes. The idea is based on the principle that to be able to develop an educated electorate, we must first have educated candidates. It goes without saying that an educated – as in, creative, independent and unbiased -- Commission on Elections must also be established. In the meantime, we can settle for educated candidates, that is, people sensitive to the needs and sensibilities of people.

  1. Limit the use of vehicle convoys and of loud sound systems for campaigning in public places only; such as, commercial places, parks, auditoriums, Barangay-centers and malls.

Rationale: Subdivisions, residential areas, government centers and schools must remain as sanctuaries for people who desire to have quiet privacy and undistracted peace of mind. Blaring campaigns intrude into our homes in the form of noise pollution. Instead of attracting people to appreciate the festive and entertaining effect supposedly conceived by campaigners, it only irritates most people and exhibits apathy for public sensibilities. Besides, an ideal election requires people to choose qualified candidates and the best way that is achieved is for the voters to really get to know these position seekers, not just their names. And that’s all that noisy convoys amount to in general – gaining name recall. There are other ways to achieve that as shown below.

  1. In the last senatorial elections, we were introduced to high-tech, multi-media campaigning, such as through podcasts, YouTube and phone text messages. The best and perhaps the most informative and closest to our elusive quest are those Internet-based virtual campaign materials that included each candidate’s qualifications, his/her stand on vital issues and audio-video clips of candidates expressing themselves.

Rationale: In terms of “getting to know you candidates”, those publicly accessible and practically free close encounters with candidates provided a democratizing step toward our goal of ideal election campaigns. This method is a lot cheaper than printing all those posters and materials. If candidates and the government worked together to institutionalize this, even those who have access only to radio and TV may be benefited by this high-tech-based info.

  1. Developing intelligent voters presumes bringing the whole electoral process to a much higher level. How? By educating candidates and voters of their distinct roles and responsibilities. Going back to the basics of this democratic process involves training the public of all the steps involved. The best tool available for achieving this in the least amount of time is through multi-media. Schools and public forums will remain as the base for electoral awareness but multi-media will have a more effective influence in directing where we will be years from now.

Rationale: Campaigning has become the crux of the electoral process and not selfless service arising from a sincere patriotic fervor and not for any personal ambition or gain. As such, elections are dominated by personalities who have succeeded in perpetuating the old traditional politics. Democratizing access to vital information – and that includes knowing your candidate well – is crucial in our search for ideal and intelligent elections.

We would like to see someday a person who does not crave for public adulation and even shies away from people but who has the heart to serve people – and that is what we are after for, after all – given equal chance to be heard and elected. And that can only be possible if we allow anyone to campaign – make himself/herself known – through the various media outlets available without so much expense and so much dependence on the traditional methods available only to the moneyed and powerful vested interests in our society. Let talent, experience and sincerity overtake showbiz techniques and dirty politicking in our midst and we will rest easy that the people who run our government have our lives and our best interest in their hearts and minds.

Three simple steps which if we work on seriously, we can be on the road to progress, sooner or later. We hope sooner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

First Love, Last Love

I think there ought to be a law that says: First love should be the last love. Consider the following compelling reasons:

  1. As they always say in songs, poems, essays and public-toilet walls, “First love never dies.” So, why go against common sense and suffer for a lifetime?
  2. As they also say, “Love is lovelier the second time around.” So, why look somewhere else or complicate matters. Once you have love, never lose it.
  3. When you grow older, you realize first love’s innocence and freshness has not diminished at all. So, why fight against logic and your memory? Age may take away health but not your youthful feelings.
  4. First love is the mother of all other loves. It taught us the fundamentals of falling in love and opened our hearts to the magic of romance – even if much of it was make-believe. And even if your elementary teacher was your first love (OK, maybe just a crush), it was your first love who truly weaned you out of parental influence. So, why wander so far and lose that first and lasting ecstasy?
  5. First love is often mutual. Why be both second or third or fourth?
  6. In older societies, the first touch or kiss occasioned by first love led to marriage (by desire or by force). Why fight tradition?
  7. Most people married their first love anyway. Why fight statistics?
  8. As they say, “Love conquers all.” So, first love allows us to conquer everything right away. First love makes us winners the rest of our lives.
  9. The Bible says, “The first will be last.” I rest my case.

Exceptions? Laws should not bother with them. We need the law precisely to prevent exceptions. Those who violate the law must not be allowed to love anymore, unless they are able to find their first love. Why should we allow anyone to disobey the law? So, you see, promulgating this law will lead to a harmonious and loving society.

Tomorrow, I will go to my friend who is a congressman and request him to file the bill.

(Photo above: In first-love's fields, we played, we fought and we learned love most of all.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

When Time Becomes Forever

The origin of the Universe is our origin:

Its beginning, our own beginning,

Its ending, our own ending.

Though cast into life in the year of our birth,

The seed that conceived us

Came all the way from Year Zero -- so with our soul and spirit.

The time from our birth to Creation, though seemingly long,

Is but an instant in our mind;

So it is for God – a blinking of an eye.

When we die, the end of the Universe is but a waking instant away;

And time spent in waiting is but a twinkling of a star;

And the lights of the galaxies will all be over too.

We will all be there to see it,

To experience the spectacle as with one eye, as one person --

We all -- from Adam to the last child born.

Physicists claim: We exist in a Universe which remains --

If we imagine an ant on a balloon --

The same wherever you look, the same wherever you stand.

And so, whether we measure time from our birth

Or we reckon it beyond death or fathom it within this moment,

It is but a tiny glimmer, yet, a hopeful vision of eternity.

What we feel, see and know then

Is timeless reality, both compressed and stretched,

Within this vibrant panoply called LIFE.

God alone has the power to travel freely

From the infinite to the finite and back again,

While we, through space, must cross forward from beginning to end.

Or is it that we move from moment to moment --

Ever the present, ever the now --

And that what is before or after does not matter anyhow?

As Christ is the beginning and the end

So is our life, a glorious trek with Him through time.

As He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow

So is our life, a promise of everlasting perfection.

As He promised to be with us to the Earth’s ends,

So we shall live with Him where He now reigns.

Isn’t all this then a proof that He is God

And that He has the power to know

And to control the eternal fate of humans?

Isn’t this glimpse of His real nature

Enough to destroy unbelief?

Enough to show us our folly?

Hence, the mystery of life can be reduced to one idea --

The Universe began when light came into being

By the might of God our Creator.

As Jesus Christ is the True Light Who set all things

into motion,

So by His love, when the world will cease to exist,

We shall

leave time and

live forever. . . .

(Photo above: The fly, like many insects, is said to be able to see forward, sideways, upward, downward and backward all at once as it flies. For such a tiny creature to do so may things without going crazy, boggles the mind. God does have a great sense of humor and, we might add, a lot of wisdom.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

How Do We Make Friends with Mammon?

How do we make friends with Mammon? Let us count the ways:

  1. A friend is one who is your peer or co-equal. So Mammon, first of all, should be treated as such, not as a master or even a slave. Those who treat him as a master (they actually serve those who have the abilities to multiply wealth) fall prey to their own greed for power and more things. Think of all the world’s dictators. Those who treat him as a slave (they spend money as if it were a means to satisfy their desires), on the other hand, lose grip of its power to benefit them and others. Think of the prodigal son.
  1. A friend is one who is there when you need him. But we usually look for what a friend can do for us, not for the friendship alone. Money – not necessarily wealth – has indirect value for all. We all work literally for the money we get. But we don’t need the money; we need food, clothes, a house, education, etc. Those who “need” money are so shortsighted they miss out on the truly important things in life.
  1. A friend does not leave you in times of trouble. How can we apply this to money? Simple, don’t run out of money! Easier said than done. In one way, we can turn to friends (real people) who can bail us out in times of crisis. The best way is to save enough money for the lean seasons. Discipline yourself enough to know when not to abuse your friend Mammon so that he stays when you really need him. In short, if we know how to make real friends, even money will follow.
  1. A friend builds up your confidence in the proper way. Pride often comes with wealth. Many rich people remain humble because their confidence is in their dignity and self-worth, not in having much money. Think of Midas. Yet, even a little money can make some people crazy. Heard of the construction worker who spent all his week’s salary on liquor? Not that much; but it was his family’s support for a week. Self-respect is the mother of self-confidence.
  1. A real friend wants you to have more real friends. Good money attracts more good money. So does bad money. Your values, however, determine how long your legacy to the world lasts. By the way, by good money we mean that which is used for good, not just much money. But remember: Good money blesses the world and gains you many friends; bad money degrades it and leaves you desolate.
  1. Finally, a genuine friend thinks of your own good and not only his own. Most people should realize, like right now, that money has no brain or soul to begin with. Mammon was just a name the ancients used when they began to give him life, power and majesty. (I sort of like the phrase used in the King James Bible to describe wealth and the detestable things that the love of money can bring: filthy lucre. It conjures dirty pirates gaily bearing bloodied treasure chests on shore. Now, that is no ghost story or fairy tale.) Money became a god a long time ago and until now so many people still worship him. Think of all the empires of the world. They call Mammon by other names; but he is still as dumb and as dead as the paper or metal used for making money.
So, you see, Mammon or money -- if you worship him or not – can only do good to you if you do good to yourself at the start. Your friends treat you the way you treat them. And since you are practically dealing with an abstract thing (not really dead, as we said, because gods have a way of acquiring wicked spiritual existence; putting God’s name or the faces of heroes on the money doesn’t seem to exorcize all that evil from the minds of people), it is best to think first of what is good and what is right and then investing your efforts on those things. We said efforts, not money; money comes only when you put in the effort.

You – yes, you who is tapping your wallet – are still your own best friend. So, all that talk about money being able to buy or not to buy happiness simply misses the point: it does and it doesn’t; you can have happiness, with or without money. The question is: Will you live long enough – meaning forever -- to experience real happiness with the true God and not just with a false god?

Be a good friend to yourself and Mammon or money will be a good friend to you. And even if he does decide to leave you, you can turn to your living friends who have benefited from your friendship. Such friends will walk with you to your final destination. For, remember the saying: You really can’t take money with you to your grave. Think of the Pharaohs!

We do not live by “bread” alone but by the grace of the living God. But the god Mammon only lives because we allow him to. Some god is Mammon! But Mammon as a friend -- yes, we can live with that.

(Photo above: The unfinished flyover at the entrance to Baguio City (taken last April) remains today almost as it looked then -- a symbol of the folly of some led about by Mammon.)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Live the Spirit!

Prepare by becoming Me.

I had a dream once and the Lord spoke those words to me.

Every morning, we go through the ritual of preparing for something, like breakfast which is a must-have for most people. Physically, the food we eat becomes us! At work, we prepare for meetings or for other numerous activities. A whole week at home or at work may well be a preparation for a wedding or a big convention abroad. In fact, a whole job may be a preparation for another job with bigger pay and higher responsibilities. The tasks or the work then that we accomplish practically become us. Thus, we become parents by preparing ourselves to become parents. Likewise, the company president got his job because he did things that qualified him to gain that title and to become that officer.

Our whole life, as it is, is one big preparation for the next one – a continuing process of becoming what we should be. Thus, it is important to know how we must do what we need to do now. By imitating the example of Christ, we assure ourselves that we qualify for advancement to “higher grounds”.

Becoming like Christ (becoming Him) in our lives requires following the steps He took to become -- or to prove – Who He really is: The Son of God. His very first step was to be baptized by John in Jordan River. Although He didn’t need to, He did so to “fulfill all righteousness”. By doing so, He received the Holy Spirit Who then empowered Him to do mighty works.

At that moment of baptism, John heard the Father in heaven say to Jesus, “You are My Son in Whom I Am well pleased.” The prophets had foretold that moment when God would beget or “give birth” to His Son by giving Him the Holy Spirit in His fullness. Jesus was thus formally proclaimed by heaven as the Son of God and as God living among humans. Jesus, though human at that point, became the Father -- that is, shared in His perfect divine nature. The process was sealed completely by the giving of the Holy Spirit.

After that, Jesus went to the desert to fast and pray and was tempted by Satan. Was He tempted because He was vulnerable or because Satan knew he had to prevent Jesus from starting His work? Jesus knew the first step is always the hardest and steeled His spirit accordingly. That means He remained steadfast in the Holy Spirit. While Satan quoted and twisted Scriptures to tempt Jesus, Jesus answered with truth by the power of the Spirit.

In short, Jesus’ training for His work as Messiah meant facing the enemy face-to-face. He obviously wrestled with real temptations. His bouts with Satan were not childish games but life-and-death struggles of the human spirit against seductive worldly attractions, things that Satan held at his command.

To a certain extent, new-born believers must go immediately through an intense process of cleansing (sanctification) to put on new habits that will replace the old ones. Like Jesus, triumphant in the first bouts with Satan, one can go confidently walking with God carrying the assurance of protection and wisdom.

Next, Jesus chose His friends and fellow workers. We might say it was so easy for Him, having the eyes of God, literally. How about us who fall into bad company every now and then? Or grow cold in our relationships? He certainly had His frustrations over His disciples but He was patient and compassionate toward them. And His efforts bore much fruit.

We have to choose whom we live and work with carefully. With enough trust in God, we will be led to those whom He knows will enhance or complete our lives. They, like us, will falter in their walk but our duty is to share their burdens and to allow them to share ours. At Gethsemane, all that Jesus needed was company but His disciples were too tired to keep watch. Friendship or companionship is basically that – keeping watch together.

With enough good people to live and carry the load of life with, everything else is adjusting to the problems that may arise and reaping the harvest of doing good and doing well. Many more trials may arise, many more bouts with Satan may bring about sadness, pain and defeat; but becoming Jesus is overcoming this world.

Yes, Jesus did overcome the world. He overcame sin and death. He overpowered all His enemies. Except for those who still resist His testimonies, He has everything under His rule and authority. That is because He sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Yes, that is definitely OVERCOMING THE WORLD! Hence, becoming Jesus is reigning with Him: He rules over our lives while we strive to rule over our own fleshly desires. Defeating Satan continually in our lives leads us to become like Jesus.

Yes, we "become Jesus" by also overcoming the world. We live like He did and work like He does to this day – saving as many souls from the clutches of Satan.

Our preparation may be hard and may take much time; but remember: If we live in the Holy Spirit Who is our gift from the Lord Jesus, the Spirit will do the work in us. Not by our own wisdom and power can we "become Jesus". Ours is simply to submit to His will. Ultimately then, we become Jesus when we live His Spirit!

Jesus became obedient to the Father until death. The first step in our preparation to join the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven is obedience through faith.

Live the Spirit!

(Photo above: Children in Intramuros play "piko", unmindful of people passing by. Do we behave like children when we play or do we play to become children again? Fun is truly ageless.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why We Wear Clothes: A Woman's Woes

The other day, I heard the woman who does the laundry for officers in a Philippine military camp complaining about having to wash and iron clothes day-in and day-out. And to add to her woes, she has to deal with the daily rainfall that prevents her from drying her laundry in time. Trying to console her, I said, “This is all a result of sin. But can you imagine if Adam and Eve did not sin? We would all be naked now and you would have no job!”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Aren’t You Glad There is Internet?

Here are just some interesting thoughts about life online:

  1. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to feel so alone and lonely now since Internet chatting came along?
  2. Aren’t you glad you now have a medium for creative expression and intellectual interaction? Almost everyone has become an artist or a writer just by using simple graphic tools and word processors.
  3. Aren’t you glad people send you funny jokes, photos or videos that really make you laugh?
  4. Aren’t you glad there is YouTube where you can watch old clips of the Beatles, Monkees, Rolling Stones and other bands (or listen to any music for that matter)? We are able to relive our youth more easily now.
  5. Aren’t you glad you can read the news online and give feedback immediately if you want to? Good for our health because we don’t have to harbor strong emotions for so long!
  6. Aren’t you glad you can have jam sessions with friends in LA and Australia simultaneously with just a little time delay and still have so much fun together?
  7. Aren’t you glad there’s Yahoo! to remind you (and others, of course) it’s your birthday?
  8. Aren’t you glad you can talk to people across the globe and exchange photos, files and songs in the comfort of your room? Beats watching a movie where we sit beside people and never even talking to them.
  9. Aren’t you glad you can read about archeology or medicine online for a night and learn as much as, if not more than, you can learn from a semester of college lectures? The only distraction to such studying is the Internet itself -- that is, if you happen to be chatting or browsing at the same time.
  10. Aren’t you glad wi-fi connectivity allows you to bring your pc wherever you want to inside the house or almost anywhere outside of it? Like the car which is the home’s extension (where you can eat, drink and even sleep), the laptop is the brain’s portable extension (which allows us to think more efficiently, to create or produce more swiftly and freely, to be entertained more widely and vicariously, to communicate more instantly and to grow more as a person multi-dimensionally).
  11. Aren’t you glad there is the digital camera which allows you to store memories more economically and more efficiently? No more excuses about not remembering when, where and with whom you spent your last birthday or not knowing what your children or your friends did during a vacation in San Francisco or Boracay?
  12. Aren’t you glad you can learn about the latest happening about a person or a family and get to see pictures within a day or two? Perhaps, no one is born now without somebody from a foreign country not knowing about it or seeing his/her photo. Everyone has become a world-wide celebrity even at birth!
  13. Aren’t you glad you can buy almost anything online and have it delivered to you in a matter of days?
  14. Aren’t you glad your children can play games on the PC while you also play your own games? Not always that good for the health or the family as a whole but it sure helps you to relax at times.
  15. Aren’t you glad lives are blessed and transformed through the inspiring stories and useful articles being passed around via email? Used to be that we needed pastors and counselors to achieve that, if we felt we needed it, which we usually never did.
  16. Aren’t you glad you can open up or even expound your ideas to unseen or faceless people as openly as you want to without having to go through the discomfort of an engaged conversation or a formal speech?
  17. Aren’t you glad that God is more talked about now online than ever before when people didn’t even dare talk about Him outside the church?

Do you think God Himself is glad we are getting closer to becoming a truly, harmonious and interconnected family? Ultimately, how we use our time, our talents and our resources -- with or without technology’s help -- will determine the destiny of humanity.

Enjoy the sight and sound of a morning rainbow, the sea, the sky and the chorus of the wind, waves and pebbles right now!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What is God’s Will?

Is it what happens; that is, what already transpired, with or without our acceptance or agreement to it? Or is it what we want to happen with God’s help and does come to pass? Or, perhaps, it is all of that.

The greater question might be: Are we at all party to the things that occur in the Universe? Or are humans caught in a cosmic maelstrom in which they only have infinitesimal control over a few paltry things, mostly physical and sometimes moral, but that in the entire spectrum of existence we are as helpless as animals and as inconsequential as the atoms that form our bodies?

Certainly, this is a tough matter to tackle with so much of history that we still do not truly understand, let alone know the exact manner in which any particular event took place. Take for instance the Great Flood. Did it really occur? And if it did, did it happen the way the Genesis writer described it in so much detail – from the kind of wood used, the exact number of days it rained, the particular bird Noah sent to search for dry land and the name of the mountain on which the Ark landed?

We now know that several ancient civilizations had a similar Great Flood tradition. The names had somehow changed but the essential story remained. Have we accepted as real history a tale conceived by ancient poets perhaps or is it a well-preserved record of what truly transpired according to Divine will? Are we to say that only modern, scientific people have the skills to deduce or produce reliable historical records?

Or did Noah truly live – an upright man with a wife and three married children? Did he hear the voice telling him to build that Ark and, putting his trust on that voice, did in fact spend the next 120 years building that Ark according to precise specifications which science has somehow proven to be feasible? This explains perhaps why a few over-eager believers have dedicated their lives to hunting the remains of the Ark on a mountain in Turkey. All in the hopes of obliterating all doubts about the story and, it must necessary follow, God’s omniscience?

But why put all burden of the proof on one story or one man alone when we have hundreds of others? Archeology has, for good measure, proven much of biblical history to be valid. Enough to give us a clear view of God’s will.

Hence, the important thing is that one man – whether it was Noah or not -- did hear God reveal a plan – His will – and made it his own and thus “made things happen” according to that plan and, thus, according to God’s will.

Apparently, Noah must have felt a bit embarrassed from having to cut those many trees and building a vessel on top of a hill. More so from the fact that it had never rained on the Earth until that time! What rain is this foolish man talking about? What is a flood? It was apparently a case of a man inventing a concept to justify a future event that did not make any sense to normal-thinking people. Back then, as it is now, Noah would have been the craziest person alive to come up with such a plan.

God’s will, at that point, did not make sense either to Noah or to other people around him. This is probably the main reason why Noah stands among the great Fathers of Faith. He was a man who saw and understood God’s will, made it his own and worked to fulfill it in his life.

In a much smaller scale, we can all be like Noah. With the amount of faith given to us, we all can know what God’s will or plan is in our lives. The difficult task of recognizing and understanding that may take years and years and may even frustrate us eventually. Moses knew what God’s will was – that is, for the Israelites to receive the Promised Land – but ended up spending 40 years in the wilderness and not being able to set foot on it himself. Not because of unbelief on his part but because the other part of God’s will was to teach the Israelites the same principle He was teaching Moses: Trust totally in Me and I will lead you across all difficulties. His will is not something He hands over without preparing us for it. We don’t become responsible adults without passing through proper childhood training.

The Israelites failed miserably. But the good news is: We don’t have to fail.

God’s will is to give us life, to prosper us and to lead us into triumph. Thus, Moses cried to the people between the charging Egyptians and the billowing Red Sea: Fear not and see the salvation that the Lord will do for you today!

Not Pharaoh, not nature, not hunger, not thirst and not despair will cause those who truly trust in God to feel abandoned. Well, perhaps, like Moses, the attitudes of others may lead us to anger and even failure. But that will never prevent God’s will from being fulfilled. A young Joshua will come along to carry the baton forward.

Hence, with or without our faith in God’s will, with or without our acceptance of His terms and with or without our active participation in fulfilling it, God’s will cannot be prevented. Even the rocks will shout and praise God if no one else will!

Yes, so many will merely stand and watch God’s will being fulfilled in the lives of others. They may even participate in trying to prevent it from happening. THAT, is not God’s will. Pharaoh’s army drowned in the sea – THAT, is God’s will. We call it judgment.

Ah, but we now go back to what we said earlier: Are we in control or is God in control? If we believe we are in control, then we deceive ourselves.

God’s will, as some claim, may be predetermined or predestined – whatever that may mean – but it is knowable and doable. He created the Universe for our benefit and not the other way around. God’s will is precisely to bless us with His entire creation that is why we do exist. Scientific knowledge may be good and desirable but it will not tell us God’s will. His ultimate will, therefore, is for humans to come to know the Divine Nature and for us to strive to attain that high calling.

How God worked out the way for us to know and to fulfill His will has been revealed through Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If we listen, we can be like Noah or Moses knowing exactly what needs to be done. And, finally, we can be like the Apostles knowing how things should be done.

God’s will then, if we notice, is essentially to give us Life and that we might have it so abundantly.

(Photo above: Did the Sun simply come as a result of some cosmic accident? Did it suddenly find a way of synthesizing plants to produce fruits? Did the banana result only to be itself or to feed humans and animals? Certainly all these did not come by chance but by the will of a Creator.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Real Power of Prayer

Prayer is the only thing that is easier done than said. We say it. God does it.

Let's pray more people will pray.
(Photo above: Butterfly explosion)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Rain and the Wind: The Good and the Bad News

(Anatomy of an Answered Prayer)

Swirling over the Northwestern Pacific Ocean, as this is written, are three tropical storms (International Names: Saomai, Maria, and Bopha) that formed successively on August 4, 6 and 7 (See photo above from NASA Earth Observatory Website).

Last week, the headlines in Manila ironically splashed with news on the drought in Northern Luzon and the dwindling water supply in Metro Manila and other places. Commentators, in a shrill chorus of complaints, chided authorities for the lack of a water conservation program to address the crisis which occurs annually. The concerned agencies countered with their own official lines, ending with the assurance that the drought problem would end in a month with the arrival of typhoons.

In the meantime, people are encouraged to take shorter baths or, maybe, bathe every other day and wash cars every other week to conserve water. Blessed with abundant water, unlike some nations, Filipinos have always been known to take baths everyday. In fact, some Westerners who come here for the first time acquire the habit when they realize not doing so can be quite unpleasant to the nose. To ask Filipinos to miss a bath is like asking them not to eat. So, most of those who live in cities do not mind warnings of drought or water shortage.

Surprisingly, the news of Typhoon Chedeng (local name for Bopha) did not cause TV networks to raise up people's hopes. On the contrary, they harped on the typhoon’s inability to fill up the dams. They reported that instead of raising water levels, the stored water even dwindled. The spokesman from Pag-Asa Weather Forecasting said that the dams were allowed to flow continuously. Why, the news did not follow up on the issue. Still the agency said that the effect of Chedeng is to suck in clouds from the southwest and bring more much-needed rains. Good news! But being hopeful before a cynical TV network or public is a difficult act; you could end up being blamed for nature’s inadequacy. You want real good news? Look up much higher -- to the sky.

In Proverbs 30:16, the Bible mentions people who are like the “land that is never satisfied with water” or, for that matter, rain. Like fire, it never says, “Enough!” News reporters not only feed us a lot of negative news but they seem never satisfied with a real blessing when it comes. Not even a public acknowledgment to the God Who gave us the rains, at last! And we call this a Christian nation?

The government system with its line agencies could only manage resources – fuel for energy or water, for instance – if they are available and could not therefore be called upon to create air from nothing. Only God can make miracles; governments make do. Or some, perhaps, just simply fail to do their task, justifiably or not. Some dam projects have been shelved indefinitely because of strong public opposition. Thus, with its hands tied, the government – and, it follows, the people -- will have to wait for each rainy season to wipe out any water deficit. God indeed always provides but humans must learn to devise and not divide.

Early on, my friend Imanoel had seen this recurring problem not as a purely political or social problem but as a spiritual one. Most problems are; but people are not so, well, spiritual enough. Anyway, he took the matter into God’s hand again as he did twice before, in 1990 and 1996: He fasted and prayed for rain. Both times, he got his request. Again, last week he was challenged by a friend to go down on his hungry knees for rain, which he did.

So last Saturday, August 4, he fasted and prayed for rain. As before, rains came on the third day. Unlike before, however, he saw three typhoons form over the Pacific Ocean. Not one but three! Is this an effect of global warming? Weather forecasters say it is “unusual” but “not unprecedented”. Whatever it may be, he was able to prove to himself that such answers to prayers could not have been merely coincidental in the sense that it is the typhoon season anyway. For it was exactly on the day that he fasted (together with many other people most certainly) that the first typhoon formed, followed by another typhoon two days after, and finally by a third on the third day.

With eyes filled with joy and wonder, he looked at the satellite photo with those water-bearing cyclones he had yearned for. No, the awesome answer to his prayer and proof of the continuing powerful presence and provision of the Creator. And he felt satisfied, truly satisfied. Hallelujah! Once again, he had unequivocal evidence of God’s faithfulness in these times of unbelief and skepticism.

James 5 mentions the story when Elijah prayed that it would not rain and it did not rain for three and a half years and when he prayed for rain, it rained. Any ordinary man like Elijah can do the same if he has fervent faith. What makes prayers effective is not us but our extraordinary God Who answers them because He "works" for us.

Perhaps, if we had enough faith in God, His creation and the institutions He has established, we can have a more progressive nation. Otherwise, we would become so depraved to the point that even God will not be able to satisfy us or, much worse, we might end up blaming Him as well for all our problems – and that includes ravages brought by typhoons. It has been known to happen.

What was that again? Land that is never satisfied with water, or fire that never says, “Enough!” Murmuring or complaining is as natural and destructive as the howling winds. It is the boisterous part of the process of raising up waters from the ocean and dumping them on the land. It is the noisy clanging of the empty drum of water. Murmuring, like the storm, can kill. An answered prayer, on the other hand, can be as refreshing, reassuring and reviving as the rain that falls on parched land.

Moses once lost his temper at the Israelites’ constant griping at the lack of water in the desert.After forty years of hearing their complaints, he finally let go of anger. He thus struck the rock and water gushed out at Meribah. Now, that -- water in the desert -- is a good story and good news! Was it a miracle? What do you think: Is God real? Does the Earth rotate? More than the “bad” weather, bad people sometimes make life unbearable. Moses knew it so well.

But there is no such thing as bad weather. Every good thing comes from heaven as a blessing from God.

Thank You, dear Lord, for the rains!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

There Is Nothing Hidden From The Sun

Think about what the Sun does to nature and to us humans.

It rises in the morning and signals our day – the time to awake and come out of the cold and dark night. We greet the light and shed the stupor from our muscles and brains; we arise renewed and clear-minded to face life for another day.

That is normally what we do upon waking – or unconsciously do so every time. But what does the Sun actually do to our lives? How far-reaching or compelling is its influence upon us?

Even at night, the Sun reaches us. The Moon reflects the Sun’s light to give us enough light to walk about or just simply sit or lie down in wonder. Is the Moon glorious? Not when it’s hiding in the darkness. It owes its changing appearance of splendor from the Sun King. Otherwise, it’s an arid, desolate and unfriendly place a few humans visit only for its plain, lifeless rocks.

And what if the Moon cannot be seen? Is the Sun totally out of reach? Never. There is Venus soaring visibly and brilliantly from the horizon with reddish Mars, both Sun-reflectors, like all the other tiny twinkling planets. If we only look hard enough, we never lose sight of the Sun’s presence. A ray – even a single tiny shaft -- of light somehow touches our being (we don’t even have to look at Venus or Mars) reminding us silently of the ever-present energy behind the whole massive globe of the Earth.

But what if the clouds obscure all the planets and the stars and we dwell in the total darkness of midnight? How could the Sun still affect us?

A simple illustration would be the waters of the sea and the moisture in the atmosphere which absorb enough of the Sun’s heat during the day and retain it longer than most gases and other solid matter, thus, sustaining life. This process also prevents the extremely low temperatures that exist on Mercury’s constantly dark face.

Furthermore, as it revolves, Earth remains attached to the Sun in its orbit due to gravitational attraction. Yet the Sun plays us like an expert dancer bringing us close or far from the warmth of her heart and providing us with varying lengths of days and, together with the Earth’s tilt, the changing seasons -- a continuing reminder of the Sun’s magnificent influence.

What about the fish that dwell in the abyss? They definitely need no light for they have their own. They seem to need no plants to feed on for they have food down there to satisfy them in the blackest portions of the ocean. Their food? Detritus or decomposed debris of living beings that fall down to the abyss or they eat one another.

The Sun synthesizes proteins in plants with its light and provides food for every living being. What we actually eat is light metamorphosed into complex carbons – electromagnetic energy turned into bio-chemical substances. We are, in our entirety, products of the Sun -- no, children of the Sun. Every single cell carries the energy that once crossed the space between the Earth and the Sun and captured by a complex system of nature whose main purpose is to give and preserve life and, in the process, also to satisfy our various senses.

Nothing escapes the heat of the Sun. Nothing escapes the energy that the Sun generates.

In the presence of the colossal Sun, our planet is but a little more than a speck obeying the commands of the real star of the show, putty in the hands of a magnanimous master. The precision with which changes in our planet conform accordingly to the Sun’s movement (relative to the Earth) is beyond the scope of our scientific knowledge and technology. We are only beginning to comprehend how we benefit from or hang our very own existence on the mere presence of the Sun.

Many years before the Age of Modern Science, a prophet once wrote down this singular statement: Nothing escapes the heat of the Sun. How much we know now that proves beyond doubt the factuality and truthfulness of the statement is presumably enough to prove the presence of a wise Creator Who thought it all out even before He inspired that prophet to write those words.

Who has more knowledge or wisdom, he who sees with the eyes of faith and writes down a fact that he knows did not come from him but revealed to him, or he who seeks much knowledge without faith and concludes that everything works by chance (or by science, which is sometimes synonymous to some) and that ultimately what nature does is a product of “intelligent chance”? Fat chance!

In the end, the main issue in human education is not the amount or the sophistication of what we know but the validity of what we believe as Truth. Yes, science leads us closer to the truth of nature but it can sometimes lead us away from the source of true knowledge.

Psalm 19, from which the statement comes from, begins this way: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech. And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their line (or sound) has gone out through all the Earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

What we might discover without faith may blind us from seeing God’s glory in creation – for we are all blind to God at the start until He shows Himself to us. As such, we come to erroneous conclusions about life and nature. Still the goodness of God encompasses all. For like the Sun whose influence reaches all things, God – Who is definitely greater than the Sun, no, all the stars and galaxies for He created them all – also has everyone in His oversight, power and rule. That is why we worship Him and exclaim, “Yours, O God, is the kingdom, majesty, wisdom, honor and power.”

True faith and perfect knowledge lead us to complete satisfaction and eternal life. Unbelief and limited knowledge, on the other hand, only give momentary pleasure and do not assure us life for they hold no promise of life -- just, well, the possibility of existence. That’s like thinking the Sun will “not shine” tomorrow.

With such overwhelming evidence bearing down on us, whether we are awake or not, how could we still miss the Truth? The real paradox of “God-less science” is that it seeks to discover the limits of the Universe but is totally blind to the infinite proofs of clear and present realities.

(Photo above: Sunset over South China Sea in Luna, La Union.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Caveat Emptor: Harry Potter

I can remember as a child going crazy over Tarzan, Samson, Robin Hood, Hercules, Superman and the Filipino Tarzan Kulafu. Many other heroes both real and fictional kept me fascinated, no, fantasizing even when I was already studying college Calculus. In my fanciful moments, I became the idolized character. I took up his persona as immortal hero: I thought like him, or so I thought. I even tried to talk and walk like he did. And, most pretentious of all, I treated people the way he did.

And so it is that, at all ages, we, I think, model our lives in the mould of our chosen heroes. Those heroes not only had extraordinary or superhuman abilities, they also had noble qualities. Take for instance, Robin Hood. The epitome of the glorified outlaw who was driven to the forest by a wicked ruler, he vowed to serve the oppressed. Excellent in the ancient skills of the hunter-warrior, he saved the day for the peasants with his gang of merry-men in green suits. His hands and his heart were his tools of trade as a social change-agent. His high calling required uncommon virtues and great challenges to the human spirit. Is it possible that rebels today, like the NPA and MILF, are grown-up kids unable to outgrow Robin Hood?

Greatly idealized through comics and novels, those heroes defined adventure – and life itself -- for me in simple and understandable terms. Much more sophisticated than the fairy-tale characters in grade-school, they also gradually lost their appeal as I got immersed in the world’s descending cloud of cynicism, indifference and liberalism.

Thus, when writers like Nick Joaquin redefined our history by calling many of our national heroes “anti-heroes” and Hollywood released counter-cultural films that sometimes portrayed Jesus as less than the perfect person that He is, something happened to our minds and our behaviors in ways society was not totally prepared for.

From music to fashion, from commerce to governance, from education to technology, the counter-cultural tide soon washed away the “civilized” world that took many centuries to form – the one I was born and grew up in. The once stable institutions of government, religion and society itself rocked violently and got displaced from their former foundations. Chaos ensued. And even now, we still reel in the aftermath of these cataclysmic events that keep coming back to haunt us, if not in ginormous (hurray, I’ve used the new word) tsunami waves, then in tiny splashes in the basin.

Are the heroes of the new generation any different from the ones we had then? Are they any better or worse? Or just the same?

Hercules and Superman were both quintessential man-gods caught in the constraining arena froth with human frailty and folly. The former hero showed how much the Greeks had comprehended their own world and conveniently painted that world-view on mythical canvases. The latter hero did the same for our generation, though not worshiped officially as a god but admired as a shallow novelty. Nevertheless, they both provide an alternative world where order could be had in the sanctity and sanity of the imagination. At least, in the child’s mind.

But much in the same way that these characters never grew old or died, they have evolved not only into sophisticated characters but eventually resembled more and more the people that we are. In the process, these heroic stories we now gorge on have been humanized and weaned away from their fabled or mythical aura. All for the same purpose of whiling us away from the painful realities of our existence. The bored pencil-pushing clerk and the over-pressed president both constantly need role-models to lift them up to higher planes of existence, albeit temporarily. To some, the search goes the other way.

Books and movies – the life stories of heroes or villains – do this to us. Harry Potter is then just another phase in the history of recasting for ourselves a symbol that could effectively give some meaning and direction to our lives. Or so it seems. For this time, however, beyond the requisite virtues required of heroes and instead of mere extra-human skills to meet challenges, three kids have been made to harness virtual powers of darkness – black magic, that is -- to fight the wicked enemy. And they are only a few among many who do so blatantly in media.

A series of novels based on the magical secrets practiced by warlocks and witches of ancient and medieval times, Harry Potter has captured the minds of millions of readers and viewers unaware of the dire consequences in store for them. What!? How can it be so?

Superman, for all his mythic abilities, was a mere cartoonist’s daydream founded on childish fantasies and pseudo-scientific notions. Batman, on the other hand, banked on his Bruce-Leean martial skills and McGyverian creativity to defeat his enemies. But this innocent-looking bunch of young magicians utter ancient incantations and magical formulas (some fictional perhaps) once used by devil-worshipers. This is no secret even to those who know the fact that horoscope and feng shui -- although appearing like sciences -- are based largely on superstitions and are mere garden varieties of the same magical arts founded by the wicked spirits of this world. (Note: Although the word “magic” denotes incredible feats, it derives from the ancient practice of astronomy. The “magi” -- learned men -- who came to Bethlehem, charted the stars to find the baby Jesus.)

Here is a case where the lines between fact and fiction blur. Whereas the Potter novels and the movies appear like fiction, their foundation is historically and patently real. Not many know it or really accept that; but ignorance does not change the record. Witch-hunts, the real ones, came about because those culture-crushers bedeviled and plagued society. Glamorizing their practices and feeding our children’s minds with them would be like adding a game in the Olympics where we pit wrestlers against hungry lions.

This subtle onslaught of evil disguised as entertainment is in truth counter-cultural. When people focus on the enticing powers of darkness instead of the re-creative enlightenment of the eternal truths upon which creation has been established, we open the floodgates of destruction. And yet not many even know about it, least of all, shudder at the thought.

The Bible advises us to answer a fool with his foolishness. Let us apply the principle to discover hidden messages behind the name Harry Potter that Ms. Jane Rowling may have unwittingly hidden in her dark, mysterious, mental chambers. Check out these many anagrams and their terrifying meanings:

Her Troy trap (Captivity/Destruction; Remember the Trojan horse)
Her Troy part (Spiritual adultery; Remember Paris and Helen)
Her art to pry (Dark, sinister and mysterious schemes)
Her tarot pry (Occultic practices)
Pry rot heart (Corruption is the game)
Th’ prayer rot (Spiritual decay)
Party to Herr (Connivance with Satan – “Herr” is German for Mister, as in “Der Herr Fuehrer”)
Hr. to try reap (Time to harvest evil)
Hr. to try rape (Time to pillage society)
Thy error apt (Blasphemy/Deception)
Try hero trap (Invitation to idolatry)
Pa, thy terror (Rebellion/Evil worship)
Threat to pry (Enslavement or control of the mind and soul)
Trophy r tear (Bringer of anguish and sorrow)
Pry other art (Prohibited magical practices/Counter-culture)
Terra trophy (The prize - Earth, fr. Latin terra/The goal - world domination)

For such an unassuming name lies numerous deep and horrible thoughts we rarely deal with and yet unconsciously toy with in our mind. Harry Potter awakens detestable desires until they bear fruits of sin. Ostensibly, behind the innocence of three children used for commercial and sinister schemes lie many concepts and images that would truly terrorize the unwary individual. Unless we set our minds free of these enslaving thoughts, we will fall easily into the many snares set by God’s arch-enemy.

Don’t think that these battles against witches and underworld spirits happen only on paper and on screen. In reality, they occur in the mind and in the soul. The media are mere screens upon which evil spirits reflect their powers to entice the untrained. The final targets are the souls of ignorant and weak individuals who are led away from the source of genuine spiritual power from heaven. We think we simply watch entertaining wars between virtual images or spirits? Think again. We unwittingly involve ourselves by cheering those who wield such dark powers, no matter how innocent or noble they seem.

Today, we simply watch but in the future we take sides. Many already have. Many have fallen. And when we eagerly push our kids ahead of us in the fray, how can we expect them to survive? How can the future be any brighter?

Those who die from terrorist attacks still have a chance to save their souls. But this war of real, spiritual terrorism does not spare the soul – it is the main target. Next to false religion, it is the best strategy Satan ever invented in his plot to conquer the world.

Cheap doomsday warning? Perhaps, but it is one we desperately need to remind us and to make us aware of what is happening and what will eventually happen if we persist in walking blindly the dark paths. Some things – like the sea and the mountains -- may be trod innocently and safely by kids and adults without dire effects; but a few things – like the realm of the dead and evil spirits -- God forbade humans from ever entering.

Finally, God warned the early Christians not to revile or to deal directly with angelic beings. We simply do not have the facility and authority to do so. Even the Archangel dared not do it. A “hero” then who puts himself or herself before or above God is not a real hero but an enemy of God.

God alone has the authority to rebuke or judge wicked spirits. (Jude 8-11) For our own good, let us heed the warning.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Unraveling the Mystery of Creation

Is it possible to make something out of nothing? This is what God did in the beginning. But why? Why indeed if not to “make life”? Is there anything worth having. Or giving? If you were God, would you not give it?

Again, the question pops up: Why didn’t He make us like angels? Or why did He not place us in heaven where there is no death at all? The question brings on very interesting thoughts that could help explain the human predicament.

The idea of making something out of nothing seems basically illogical (see the scientists nodding their heads?), for God, in creating, would have to have some kind of resource to use in creating something, a part of Him perhaps or a force that emanates from Himself. In that sense, there may not be such a thing as “nothing”.

Thus, in creating the Universe out of that “nothing”, we can take it to mean that there was no Universe then and God put one into existence. The chaos that resulted from the initial creation was apparently not satisfactory. Hence, the point when God said “Let there be light” was the moment when God “gave of Himself” – God being “light” or the source of it, as we are told. And when He created humans “in His image”, He essentially reproduced Himself.

If God had made us like angels, we would all be mere spirits without bodies. We would be free, glorious and powerful but have no ability to reproduce just like God Himself, in the sense that He created us in His image. God had to create “something out of nothing” – the physical world – to enable Him to accomplish something new, something better perhaps. Furthermore, conditions in heaven required it as we will see.

What that new thing points to is this: Humans, like angels, are children of God. But unlike angels, we have body (from nothing?) and spirit (from God). Likewise, we not only can reproduce; we can rule over angels and over other humans like God does. This was no accident. Behind the heavenly plan are reasons we can try to unravel.

The rebellion that Lucifer had begun in heaven caused a cataclysmic event that led God to consign the rebellious angels down in the “depths of the Earth”. There are two possibilities here: First, that God had created the Universe before the rebellion and, second, that the rebellion occurred before the creation and that He might have created the Universe to serve as a kind of prison for those rebels.

In the first instance, we see a couple of issues. One, why would God allow Satan to dwell in Paradise if He had meant it to be only for humans? But think of it: If rebellion can occur in heaven, how much more on Earth? Why didn’t God just create another world to imprison devils?

These questions miss the point that whether a being exists in heaven or on Earth, spirits have the ability to visit either. Hence, in the Book of Job, we see Satan before God’s throne. Satan may not “live” in heaven but he seems capable of going there. Why should God fear his presence? What harm can he do to angels who know what Satan has done? Hence, the idea of creating another world serves no purpose.

In the second case, we might see the Universe as a halfway house for rebellious spirits who have been bound for a final destination: Hell. The initial chaos seems to support this idea. Yet that did not stop God from creating Paradise on Earth where He put His “new” creation.

With this two creations – one new and the other condemned -- existing at two different levels – physical and spiritual realms -- and yet close to one another, we have what we see “in the beginning” in the Garden of Eden. Paradise was man and woman’s home. God walked with them in the Garden, to show that God related with humans freely on a spiritual level even though they also lived on the physical plane. It comes as no surprise then that Satan, in the form of a serpent, could also interact with humans. Satan certainly knew (and knows) how to manipulate physical realities to suit his schemes.

Yet, we often fail to realize how much God had done in the beginning that proves His power, wisdom, compassion and love in preparing the Universe to benefit humans. The light, the seas, the mountains, the planets, the stars, the plants, the animals, the seasons and His spirit of life in us – all of those He gave plus freedom and the inheritance of heaven itself. Still, many of us dwell on the one negative thing: The forbidden fruit or the downfall of humans. And from that, people proceed to question the wisdom of creation; no, the goodness and the intentions of God. Sometimes, the very existence of God: “There is no God; God is nothing.”

We question God’s wisdom when we should accept His grace and justice in doing what He does and what He has done. He promised to solve the problem (death arising from sin) and did solve it (Christ’s resurrection) and yet we still reject Him. Just as angels rebelled, just as Adam and Eve rebelled and so with countless others, we continue to reject the testimony of His truth.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil therefore showed that even in Paradise, rebellion was a possibility. He has given humans that much respect and trust that they could roam freely in the Garden except around that dreadful tree. Whatever the real case was then, Satan had entered Paradise but not without God providing a way for humans to beware and to be aware. God did not have to ask permission if humans wanted to live or not; but He did give them and us a choice whether to die or not.

Once eaten (or seen, for the sight alone led to a weakened will), the forbidden fruit would give them the real experience of good and evil. That is, just like Satan who tasted the goodness of heaven (good) and rebelled (evil), eating of it gave humans the same knowledge and the resulting punishment -- death. Separation from God (real death) is worse than “dropping out of life” (physical death or annihilation).

How appropriate then that humans, now fallen, corrupted and bound to die, would now live outside Eden and in a world that seemed to match our idea of a prison for evil spirits. For that is what this world is, the kingdom of Satan. The lord of rebels and sinners has enchained us all under his dominion. We live in sin and in constant fear of death because Satan rules over us. (Satan’s worst fear is his own death. To keep us from believing in God, he poisons us with his own dread of death.) Of course, that is true for those who have not taken complete hold of God’s saving grace through Christ. “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Yes, Christ, has prepared a New Earth and a New Heaven. This final creation will be the final home for humans but not rebellious spirits. This corrupted world may well remain as the abode for demons or it could be, as prophesied, burnt in fervent heat and sent to that place of eternal fire. Who would want to remain here then?

The physical world may have come from “nothing”, whatever that means, and will return to “nothingness” but the spirit in us came from God and will remain forever (see the skeptics rolling their eyes?). But God has assigned a place for our souls and spirits, whether we believe it or not. We don’t have to choose. Our actions will determine God’s ultimate judgment. And He does have the right to do so for He created us.
(Photo above: Guess: butterfly or shell? Click on photo for a closer view.)