“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation
in the knowledge of him,
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope
to which he has called you,
what are the riches
of his glorious inheritance in the saints,”
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power
toward us who believe,
according to the working of his great might.
which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead
and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, ”
As with most of Paul’s phrasing in his letters, his prayers are long, also. He desires for the church the same revelation of Christ that has been given to him, and so he speaks of his prayers for them in the first and third chapters of Ephesians.
He always gives thanks for the believers in the early churches and prays that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory would give them: “The spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him;” Ephesians 1:17
Under this one heading, he explains how the Spirit by which the believers have been sealed (1:13) works wisdom and revelation in them. First, he prays that the eyes of understanding be enlightened so that they may know three things about God, the Father. He builds on each one to bring the believer to see Christ in his glory and the church as the fullness of him here on earth. (1:23)
“The eyes of your hearts enlightened that ye may know (these things)”
1. the hope to which He has called you. 2. the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 3. the immeasurable greatness of his power toward those who believe
1. The hope to which He has called you. Paul has written earlier in this chapter of the dispensation of the fullness of time (1:10)when God shall gather together in one all things in Christ, “having chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (1:4). As new Christians, they were still learning what it meant to be adopted into God’s family (1:5). They did not yet know the wonder and glory of this supernatural birth through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They needed to know and grow in their new birth.
2. The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. This adoption (1:5) that Paul speaks of, brings with it an eternal inheritance. As a recipient, he knows the riches of the glory that God the Father gives to His children. He has experienced this inheritance already. He has spoken of this inheritance in verses eleven and fourteen and is praying that they experience more and more the riches of this spiritual inheritance that they received when they heard the word of truth, and trusted in Christ. They needed to understand this inheritance that begins here in their own life.
3. The immeasurable greatness of his power toward those who believe. Now comes the crescendo of Paul’s prayer as he is explaining how revelation, faith and believing, the calling, and the inheritance, are by the greatness of God’s mighty power. This power he explains, ~ “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” Verse 20.
Itis a lengthy explanation that spreads over two chapters. Paul’s prayer begins in verse fifteen to the end of the chapter, without a period. The same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at His right hand is the mighty power that quickens the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sin (2:1, 5). This is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward those who believe, our eyes enlightened by this power for salvation.
Paul could have inserted a parenthesis in verses twenty to twenty-three in which the roles and purpose of Christ and the church are revealed, but it all fits together. It is a matter of wisdom and revelation, and requires study and meditation, for believers to understand how we are related to Christ and the church; and how we get there. Christ having been raised and seated at the Father’s right hand, is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Verses 21-23 The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, is the only one who can reveal Himself to us. He does this when he opens our eyes to see his Son, head over all things, and given to the church. His body of believers that He brings to life by the power of His Holy Spirit continues to experience His filling, the inheritance in the saints.
Dear Father, thank you for this prayer that you inspired Paul to write, not just to the early churches, but also for us. We pray this prayer for your people everywhere, that we will experience this filling, and together, this fullness of Christ. Pour out your Spirit upon us for new revelation, for we shall never have all the wisdom and knowledge here on this earth. Prepare us for your glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Few people today remember or care to recall the sinking of luxury liner RMS Lusitania, destroyed by German submarine torpedoes in May 1915. It was a catalyst to USA entry into WWI. The 1,198 victims included millionaires and commoners and carried works of art by Monet, Rembrandt, and Rubens. But what may be lesser known is that all who boarded had been warned of enemy attacks on that specific ship. The warnings came from the Germans themselves, posted in major newspapers….
Reporters investigating those who perished and the survivors found that all aboard had scoffed at these wartime warnings. They fully believed that the Lusitania was “too big and too strong” to destroy.
Why should we care about this demolished sinking ship today? It seems that many American Christians are investing emotional and spiritual time and resources into saving the luxurious traditions and lifestyle of the USA. Even though this country is sinking, many root their loyalties onboard a ship that God Himself declares destined to sink into darkness.
Increasingly worldliness – not gross sinfulness – stealthily contaminates our faith and deafens our ears to God’s call.
God warns and exhorts His people throughout scripture to separate themselves from unbelievers, living apart from mainstream world culture and values. We are not to get onboard with the world….
“…friendship with the world is hatred toward God…Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world is an enemy of God” James 4:4
In his book, Love Not The World, Watchman Nee expounds upon God’s ongoing cry for His people to separate from this world. I highly recommend this easy to read book as every line holds liberating truth for the believer…
“Separation to God, separation from the world, is the first principle of Christian living.”
“Do not let us think for a moment that Satan opposes God only be means of sin and carnality in men’s hearts; he opposes God by means of every worldly thing.”
“…everything belonging to the world is under the sentence of death. We still go on living in the world and using the things of the world, but we can build no future with them…”
“…there is a mind behind the system…an ordered system, ‘the world’ which is governed from behind the scenes by a ruler, Satan.”
“Indeed, unless we look at the unseen powers behind the material things we may be readily deceived.”
“How watchful we need to be lest at any time we be found helping Satan in the construction of (his) ill-fated kingdom.”
“The essential character of the world is Satanic; it is at enmity with God. To see this is to find deliverance.”
As Americans, we are at critical junctures in our country, much like watching a slow train crash with precious cargo. The greatest temptation for many of us is to join in the foray, fight for ‘upright morals’ and make a stand for…for what?
We are called to ‘stand’, steadfast in our faith, trusting in Jesus and His word, even upon loss of all and life itself. “He who stands firm to the end will be saved”.
Those souls boarding the Lusitania foolishly denied posted warnings of destruction. With God’s unchangeable and trustworthy ‘warnings of destruction’, we have no excuse to get onboard the world’s course. We cannot and are not called to change it nor can we delay the promised culmination of all nations under the rule of the antichrist.
I press these truths into my own heart, that I may not get onboard the wrong ship and later mourn a missed call, a neglected task or intended purpose for my life from our Heavenly Father.
As the Body of Christ in the world, our choices have eternal value and consequences.
Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.
Dec 23, 2019
If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.
His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.
This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.
Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.
The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.
The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship
Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.
The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)
John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.
To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.
Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.
One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.
He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.
As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.
Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.
When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”
Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.
This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.
The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.
This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.
P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia
I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?
Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.
Despite a global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, some 117,000 people from around the world expressed an interest in committing their faith in Jesus after hearing the Gospel through virtual events hosted by evangelist Nick Hall and his young-adult ministry Pulse during the week of Easter.
Pulse led two major events during the week, namely, Leader Check-In and a Good Friday service that featured several high-profile Christian speakers, including Francis Chan, founder of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, who now lives in Hong Kong.
“I’m guessing this is the strangest Good Friday you’ve ever had,” Chan told viewers during his quarantined Good Friday presentation broadcast in nearly 100 countries, including Japan, China, Nepal, Thailand, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Russia, and was translated into 40 different languages.
“You’re used to being in a church building with a crowd of people celebrating the cross of Jesus, but I actually think that there’s something fitting about you being alone because most of you are watching this by yourself or maybe with your family in just a small group,” he said, noting that being alone can be a golden opportunity to connect with God.
“That’s why there’s something good about you being alone right now. It’s one thing to yearn for Him and scream for Him when everyone else is there because the crowd may move you to that. But this Good Friday [it’s good] for you to have some quiet and some isolation so that the core of your being, not just your lips, the core of your being will connect with Him,” Chan said.
Other speakers featured during the Good Friday service were: renowned apologist Ravi Zacharias, bestselling author Max Lucado, NFL Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy, and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. Worship was courtesy of Christian singers Lauren Daigle, Michael W. Smith, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes.
“We were literally getting smartphone photos from all over the world — from Nigeria to India and China — of families gathering in their living rooms, around 18-inch cathode-ray TVs, laptops and HD screens watching our services,” Hall said in a release shared with The Christian Post about the collective reaction to the event. “The doors to our church buildings may have been closed, but the church has not closed. We are living through a Great Quarantine Revival, and I think God is just getting started.”
At the Leader Check-In event hosted on April 8, ministry leaders and pastors were encouraged ahead of the Easter weekend. Bible teachers and bestselling authors such as Ann Voskamp, Beth Moore, Chan, David Platt, Rodriguez, Priscilla Shirer and Lecrae offered practical advice anchored in the Word of God.
“This Easter may have been the most significant in a century,” Hall said. “The fields have never been more ripe for harvest as people search for hope and meaning during this global pandemic. It may very well be the greatest opportunity we’ve had to share the Gospel — but we will miss it if we don’t care for our pastors and ministers now.”
Summary: The tearing of the Temple curtain when Jesus died holds positive meaning for Christians, the opening of access to God and his forgiveness through Jesus’ atoning death. But there is more significance to the sign than many realize.
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. – Luke 23:44-45 (ESV)
The Rending of the Temple Curtain at the Death of Jesus
Each Good Friday Christians remember the death of Jesus, with the accompanying darkness, earthquake, the rending of the Temple curtain from top to bottom, and more (Matthew 27:51-53; Mark 15:33-38; Luke 23:44-45). The darkness cannot have been a solar eclipse, because the full Passover moon is always on the wrong side of the earth for that to be possible. The darkness may have come from a khamsin dust storm. Both the darkness and the earthquake were widespread. The tearing of the curtain was localized at the holiest place on earth.
New Testament scholars point out that there were curtains in numerous places (18) in the Temple. But the Gospels surely mean the curtain most notable, most impressive, and most significant of them all. This was the curtain that separated the holiest place within the Temple proper (the naos) from the rest of the naos, and the surrounding structures of the Temple precincts. For it to be seen, the 30-foot–tall naos doors would have to be open, as we might expect them to be when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in front of them, and the court of Israel was filled with men in three consecutive waves. These Israelites would have been able to look up and see that the Temple curtain toward the back of the naos had been torn.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. – Matthew 27:51 (ESV)
The Magnificent Temple Tapestry
The curtain contributed to the splendor of the Temple. From Josephus and rabbinic texts we can gain some idea of its appearance. Within that central structure of the Temple, the curtain covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies which was 40 by 20 cubits, or 60’ high by 30’ feet wide.
The curtain is described in Mishnah Shekalim 8:3. (The Mishnah is the oral tradition of Jewish Law, first put in writing about the end of the Second Century AD. It is the foundation of the Talmud.) Some interpret this to mean the curtain had 72 squares joined together. Perhaps the tear happened at the central seam.
Josephus, who had seen the curtain, wrote:
“It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures.” – The Jewish Wars 5:2, Whiston translation
The embroidered heavens on the curtain will surprise some, but this curtain represented the boundary between this world and the heavens. It was as though crossing that boundary brought the High Priest into the presence of God. It was “as though,” because the presence of God was never acknowledged to be in Herod’s Second Temple as it had been in Solomon’s Temple. The Holy of Holies no longer contained the Ark of the Covenant. Still, this was the holiest place from of old, and it was treated as such.
Aftermath of Destruction in Jerusalem, 70 A.D.
This magnificent Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., some 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. That event brought changes to Israel of a magnitude unsurpassed in all its previous history. Before Jerusalem’s destruction the Temple had already become a place of murder, then hunger. When the Roman legions breached the city wall they slaughtered virtually everyone they saw, pretending not to hear calls for restraint from their commanders.
Fire consumed the Temple. Those left alive were made slaves and taken to other parts of the world. Judaism was necessarily re-invented by surviving rabbis at Tiberius. Another failed revolt followed sixty years later bringing more destruction. Not until 1948 would Israel again become a recognized nation living in its own land. (See the magnificent flooring used in the Second Temple.)
Searching for an Answer
The torn Temple curtain brings to our attention two parallel lines of thought, one from Judaism and one from Christianity, each interpreting the ruin of the nation and its Temple theologically. On this much both agree: God had brought about this devastation, not the Romans. Such a thing had already happened some six centuries earlier when Solomon’s Temple was razed by the Babylonians. The prophets said God had brought that about for the nation’s grievous, continuing sin, despite warnings.
But what were the reasons this current Temple had fallen?
From the rabbinic perspective:
“It was destroyed due to the fact that there was wanton hatred during that period. This comes to teach you that the sin of wanton hatred is equivalent to the three severe transgressions: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations and bloodshed.” – Gemara to Yoma 9b
From the Christian perspective: Israel’s leaders had crucified the Messiah. Soon the people followed other leaders instead who incited a war that was not ordained by God. The consequence was this devastation they had brought upon themselves.
We Were Warned
Ancient people took their portents very seriously—Romans had their augurs, Mesopotamians had their sky omens, Greeks had their horoscopes.
Jewish people said God sent warnings about their Temple that went unheeded. Josephus wrote a fascinating passage about this, describing the divine portents that were witnessed at the Temple and in Jerusalem before the end (TheJewish Wars 6:5:3).
Here is a brief summary of Josephus’ Portents List:
A new star and comet visible for a year
Light shining around the Temple altar
Heifer giving birth to lamb in Temple
Massive eastern Temple door opens by itself
Shining soldiers seen in the sky, moving through the clouds
Priests hearing voices in the Temple, “Let us go away from here.”
Jesus son of Ananus incessantly proclaiming the city’s approaching devastation
These seem to be fantastic legends without basis in fact. But a nova (new star) appears in Chinese lists for the year 70 A.D. That may be part of the explanation for the first portent.
Portent three may have involved a malformed, stillborn calf.
The fifth portent is the most incredible of the entire list. Josephus gives the calendar date for it, and the time of day, sunset. About a week away from Josephus’ calendar date a solar eclipse of 77% obscuration occurred at sunset in the year 67. Given the clouds present, and the phenomenon of shadow waves that accompany eclipses, plus the consequences of staring at the sun, the shining soldiers in the sky may be grounded in that eclipse.
Portent 6 brings to mind Ezekiel in the Old Testament. He beheld a vision of the Glory of the Lord departing the First Temple, leaving it desolate prior to its destruction (Ezekiel 10).
Portent four bears some similarity to the tearing of the Temple curtain. Both include a Temple doorway. No Jewish list includes the tearing of the curtain, but might that silence be explained by its coinciding with Jesus’ death? (Second Temple stones discovered beneath the Western Wall)
More Portents from the Talmud
“Forty years before the Temple was destroyed the chosen lot was not picked with the right hand, nor did the crimson stripe turn white, nor did the westernmost light burn; and the doors of the Temple’s Holy Place swung open by themselves, until Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai spoke saying: ‘O most Holy Place, why have you become disturbed? I know full well that your destiny will be destruction, for the prophet Zechariah ben Iddo has already spoken regarding you saying: ‘Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour the cedars’ (Zech. 11:1).’ – Yoma 39b
The crimson stripe referred to above was tied to the scapegoat sent away into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:21–22). It now retained its red color and never faded as before, suggesting that the nation’s sin was no longer being atoned.
Jesus’ Own Warnings
Jesus himself had foretold Jerusalem’s destruction: “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation (Luke 19:43-44).” He wept over the city saying, “Behold, your house is forsaken” (Luke 13:32-35). He warned, when you see soldiers coming, run (Luke 21:20-22)!
And Jesus did still more. In the biblical prophetic tradition he enacted a message in the Temple. Before the first Temple fell, Ezekiel had publicly displayed Jerusalem drawn on a brick, besieged by an army. Jeremiah had publicly smashed an earthen jar representing the future of the nation, the city, and the Temple. Now Jesus “cleansed” the Temple of money changers and sacrificial animals for sale (Matthew 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45–48, John 2:13-16).
Many New Testament scholars understand this event to include a prophetic warning, a micro-destruction pointing to a macro-destruction if no repentance followed. While not a supernatural portent like those found in Josephus and the Talmud, Jesus’ Temple action included a warning of devastation to come.
Was the tearing of the Temple curtain a portent of coming, world-changing disaster upon a nation whose leaders had killed their Messiah? Those who experienced the events of Good Friday seem to have understood it just that way (Matthew 27:51-54, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:47-48).
The tearing of the Temple curtain will remain for Christians a symbol of direct access to God, accomplished through Jesus’ death that takes away sin. But there is more to its message when placed in the context of portents. The torn curtain also tells us that failure to repent brings consequences. This is something that should prompt us to keep thinking.
TOP PHOTO: A model of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem with curtain location inside the naos. (credit: Fred Baltz)
BY JEFFREY P. TOMKINS, PH.D. * | SEPTEMBER 10, 2019
Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world and a top predator on the remote Indonesian islands they inhabit. Their sensory system allows them to detect large prey, such as deer, over seven miles away. Although Komodo dragons are cold-blooded reptiles, they can rapidly increase their metabolism to near-mammalian levels for amazing bursts of speed and even long strenuous runs. Because of their highly venomous bites, all they need is one good chomp on their victim’s leg or foot and the poisoned prey will soon be the lizard’s lunch.
The Komodo dragon’s unusual traits have made scientists eager to sequence its DNA to see what sorts of genes it contains and how it compares to other creatures. This sequencing was discussed in a recent scientific publication.1
When the researchers compared the newly sequenced Komodo dragon genes that were common among reptiles, they found many startling traits specific to the Komodo dragon and many of these genetic novelties were associated with its remarkable mammal-like ability to exhibit high levels of sustained physical activity. Because the gene variations are unique to the Komodo dragon and very different from other reptiles, the genes were deemed to be the result of “positive selection”—a magic evolutionary phrase.2
A creature’s environment has no God-like ability to create new useful genetic information for complex multi-genic traits like those associated with complex metabolic functions. Evolutionists basically substitute the magic words “positive selection” or “natural selection” for something only an omnipotent God can do.
The researchers also used other magic words to explain their non-evolutionary findings as noted in this comment from a press interview in which they stated, “Our analysis showed that in Komodo dragons, many of the genes involved in how cells make and use energy had changed rapidly in ways that increase the lizard’s aerobic capacity.”2 In this case, the term “changed rapidly” means the genes were so different and unique that the idea of random mutational processes combined with the mystical paradigm of nature supposedly “selecting” for them could not account for the great differences observed.
It’s also highly noteworthy that the researchers reported actually throwing out data in their selection analysis where the variation was deemed “unreasonably high.”1 The data was actually manipulated to show less variability and, therefore, more in line with the evolutionary model. The stark reality is that these genes—specific to the Komodo dragon—were engineered to produce their unique God-given traits. No sign of evolution existed in the data even though the researchers cherry-picked it to favor evolution.
The bigger evolutionary (phylogenetic) analysis the researchers did comparing the Komodo dragon DNA to other reptiles, birds, and mammals also made no evolutionary sense—the patterns and groupings were totally different than predicted by standard evolutionary models. By all accounts, the data showed that Komodo dragons were created uniquely with their own specific God-given engineering.
1. Lind, A. L. et al. 2019. Genome of the Komodo dragon reveals adaptations in the cardiovascular and chemosensory systems of monitor lizards. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 3: 1241-1252. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0945-8.
2. Guliuzza, R. 2010. Unmasking Evolution’s Magic Words.Acts & Facts. 39 (3): 10-11.
3. Gladstone Institutes. 2019. Komodo dragon genome reveals clues about its evolution. Phys.org Posted July 29, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.
1. It didn’t start with the divorce of Henry VIII.
Actually, it started in the very first centuries of Christianity when Romans settled Britain and Christians came as soldiers, administrators and traders. The first mention we have of English Christianity comes from Tertullian who wrote in 200 AD that “parts of England were conquered by Christ.”
Very soon, Christians in Britain developed their own way of worshiping the triune God, involving attention to the beauty of the created world and missions. The Celtic church in England differed with Rome over many points of worship, and in the fourteenth century Oxford priest, John Wycliffe, called the pope “a poisonous weed” and denied transubstantiation. All of these differences with the Roman church were centuries before Henry VIII.
2. By the fourteenth Century, England had developed a distinctive spirituality.
It was rooted in the synthesis of doctrine and prayer taught by two Christian greats: Augustine of Hippo—the great theologian whose Confessions are an extended prayer—and Benedict of Nursia, whose monasteries modeled the Christian life as work amidst liturgical prayer. By the fourteenth century, English Christianity had long been influenced by both Augustine’s “pessimistic” emphasis on sin and Benedict’s “optimistic” stress on joy in common life.
3. Anglicanism is not just for the English or for Americans.
Today the majority of Anglicans are in Africa and other regions of the Global South. Each province uses its own culture to worship God with the Book of Common Prayer and the orthodoxy of the Thirty-Nine Articles.
4. There are more Anglicans in church on Sunday morning in Nigeria than in all the British Isles and North America combined.
5. With a membership of about 85 million, Anglicanism is the third-largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
6. Anglicans consider their way to be a via media.
This means the “middle way” between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. They think they have the best of both—the worship of the catholic tradition of the undivided Church of the first millennium, plus the emphasis on preaching and justification by faith from the Reformation.
7. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer is widely regarded as the most beautiful worship in the English language.
The “sombrely magnificent prose” (Eamon Duffy) of the Book of Common Prayer has attracted legions of admirers all around the world. It reflects the liturgical genius of Thomas Cranmer, but it also provides moderns access to the worship of the early church. Cranmer, and the many other hands that produced the Book of Common Prayer, were adapting a basic catholic pattern of worship derived from the first few centuries of the Church that then developed over the course of the Middle Ages.
8. Anglicans worship not only with liturgy (ordered prayer that changes every Sunday of the seasons of the church year), but also with sacraments.
These are the two Dominical (commanded by the Dominus, or Lord, of the Church, Jesus) sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, and the five “sacraments of the church”—confirmation, Holy Orders, marriage, absolution, and healing of the sick.
9. Anglicans believe that in the Eucharist, they receive the real body and blood of the risen Christ.
This differs with the Catholic view of transubstantiation, which holds that the substance of the bread and wine are changed so that they are no longer bread and wine. Anglicans believe the bread and wine remain as bread and wine, but that in a mysterious way, the body and blood of Christ are also conveyed through the sacrament.
10. While Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) was the English Reformation’s greatest liturgist, Richard Hooker (1554-1600) is widely regarded as its greatest theologian.
His Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity are a comprehensive treatment of life and worship on the via media.
During this season of COVID-19, fear has become rampant throughout the earth. People are isolated and scared, and Satan is feasting, creating havoc in hearts, minds, homes, families, and nations worldwide. As Christians, we must take back our rightful authority that Jesus died to give us.
We trample snakes by rebuking fear and standing firm on faith. When the temptation to fear is all around us, we must remember that fear literally gives the Serpent authority in our lives. The Bible says that the way to “stand firm against him” is to “be strong in your faith” 1 Peter 5:9 (NLT). Faith gives us back the keys of authority when the world around us is festering with fear.
Standing strong in faith during these scary times can be difficult, but there are 10 ways we can safeguard our choice of faith. We become motivated to claim faith rather than fear because it is our faith that pleases God: “And without faith, it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
Guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Your heart is the tender soil for thoughts of good or evil to grow. When the enemy tries to plant seeds of fear, worry, anxiety, etc., we rebuke them instantly. Only allow God’s seeds of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control to take root. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Stand firm in faith. (1 Corinthians 16:13) Faith protects us from the enemy’s schemes and places us in the center of God’s perfect peace. Our faith demonstrates to God and the world that we trust His provision, plan and power. When the circumstances around us swirl with disorder and animosity, we have every right to claim God’s peace. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
Listen to the prophets. (2 Chronicles 20:20) God does nothing without revealing His plan to the prophets first. No prophet knows everything, but God gives them each a partial view of His Kingdom Plan. We seek prophets who have an excellent track record of speaking God’s heart in order to calm our fears.
Capture your thoughts. (2 Corinthians 10:5) We must play an active role in standing firm in faith by capturing thoughts of fear that are not of God. This habit may take a few weeks or even months to form, but the complete peace we gain is worth the effort.
Rejoice, pray, and give thanks. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) We can move from fear to faith simply by praising and thanking God through prayer. The enemy can’t attack worship, so our thanksgiving is the key to rising above the negative waves in life.
Read your Bible. (Joshua 1:8) The Bible is a living source of God’s encouragement and strength. (Hebrews 4:12) During times of stress, reading verses from the Book of Psalms can be particularly reassuring.
Stay in community. (Hebrews 10:25) When we are bombarded by fear, we need to purposely surround ourselves with faith-filled Believers. Just knowing we aren’t alone is enough to fill us with a peaceful confidence that will sustain our faith.
Pray in tongues. (1 Corinthians 14:2) (If you’ve been given this Spiritual Gift – 1 Corinthians 12)Many times we don’t know what to pray, but the Holy Spirit does. Speaking in tongues may feel strange at first, but it can be done in secret, allowing the powerful presence of God to disperses all fears.
Speak the name of Jesus. (Philippians 2:10-11) The name of Jesus spoken in complete faith of its authority will rebuke ugly thoughts of fear. Remembering that Jesus overcame death on the Cross gives us a hope and confidence that we are on the winning side. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
Remain in God’s love. (Jude 1:21) Love disperses all fear. (1 John 4:18) God loves us so much that He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins, so He can have a relationship with us. (John 3:16) When we immerse ourselves in His love, our worries, anxieties, and fears have no chance to survive.
Christians often think that what we believe is what matters most in how we live. And while what we believe is certainly important, it turns out that the thing we most shape our lives around is what we desire. Augustine put it well when he wrote in his Enchiridion, “For when there is a question as to whether a man is good, one does not ask what he believes, or what he hopes, but what he loves.”
The thing we most shape our lives around is what we desire.
Advertisers are well aware that our desires shape our decisions more than our beliefs do. I remember being in Leningrad in 1986, before the term glasnost (roughly translated as “openness”) had been coined. We snuck one of our Russian friends into the hard currency store. These were stores that took only Western money and allowed only Westerners to enter. On one wall of the store was a huge cigarette advertisement. It must have been 30 feet wide and 10 feet tall. There was a beautiful picture of a man kayaking down a rushing mountain river amidst thick green forest growth. In the bottom right corner, there was a picture of a pack of cigarettes. Our friend had never seen an advertisement of this sort. The only billboards I saw in the Soviet Union at the time were propaganda signs for the Communist Party.
“You see, Arkosha,” I explained, “The picture of the kayaker evokes a mood or a desire to be a certain kind of person. Then that mood or desire is associated with the brand of cigarette. The design of the ad has the aim of getting me to think, I am an adventurous sort of person. I should smoke Marlboro.
Arkosha was dumbfounded. “Do you mean that Americans will really buy things because of this?” he asked. He could not believe it.
“We fall for it all the time.”
You can see that Augustine is right when he says that what we love tends to lie deeper, and be more important, than what we believe. No one thinks consciously that a certain brand of cigarettes gives you a more adventurous life than another brand. If someone claimed to present evidence for this assertion, you would laugh. Yet our desire for such a life can lead us to associate the two. Who and what we want to be affects our decisions.
If our desires are so deeply influential, it is important for us to pay attention to how they fit into the Christian story. Many of us, to be honest, are conflicted about what we want. On the one hand, we think that pursuing or even thinking about our own longings is a selfish thing. It is a mark of the self-oriented life that Jesus calls us to reject. On the other hand, Jesus stated that He came to give life abundantly. In other words, He is offering us the life we most deeply want.
When I pay attention to my longings, I find that they are somewhat tangled and unstructured. Many are tied to my immediate circumstances. I want things to go well. In essence, my basic desire is that all the events in the universe will cooperate with my plans. That is, my car will not break down, my writing projects will get done, my family will not get sick, and I can take a little unhurried time each day to sip coffee and talk with my wife. When I am honest, I see that I want my life to be a bit like a perpetual vacation. These are my selfish desires. They are not terribly bad on their own, but they reflect my preoccupation with self.
If I peel back my vacation desires, however, I find a deeper level of desire at work. I want a meaningful life. I want what I do to make a difference for God’s kingdom and for the lives of those around me. I want to be a person of integrity and generosity. I want to experience God more deeply. I want relationships that are not merely surface friendships. I want hope for my future.
These desires are not self-focused the way desires for a vacation are. After all, these are longings for the very goals God has for my life. My deeper desires and God’s desires for me run in parallel. There are many passages of Scripture that illustrate this convergence. One clear example is found in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus proclaims to the crowd, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Note that Jesus is appealing to our desires. We all want relief from being weary and heavy-laden. We want to exchange our weighty burdens for His light ones. We want rest—rest for our souls! Who would say no to this kind of life? Yet, this is the life that God Himself wants to produce in each of us. Our deeper longings are those that precisely match God’s goals for our life.
We should not turn away from our desires: They are God’s means of wooing us to Himself.
We can see, then, that we should not turn away from our desires: They are God’s means of wooing us to Himself. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis recognizes our fundamental human desires as God-given. He writes that they turn our attention to God and our ultimate destiny of living with Him forever:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
Our desires, Lewis proposes, are gifts and tools that God employs for our own good and joy and fulfillment.
Not every desire leads us in God’s direction, however. I mentioned they can be tangled. I have surface desires and those that are deeper, but I have to admit even the deeper ones are often convoluted, including some buried in my soul, which push God away. I want the life yoked to Jesus that exchanges my heavy burden for His light one, but I also want to be on my own—to live my life my own way. I have a resistance to depending on Him for my well-being. Jesus invites me to come, but often I do not.
This conflict, I think, is what moves people to be rightly suspicious of what they yearn for. We know we are double-minded. We want God, but we also want to be on our own. As Paul cried out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). The answer is not to suppress our desires or pretend they don’t matter, but rather to discipline them. And we discipline our self-focused desires by cultivating our God-given ones. Then, as I more clearly long for the life God wants for me, the grip of my self-focus will weaken.
But how do we cultivate God-focused desires? I find two practices especially helpful. The first is the practice of giving thanks: I begin by thanking God for anything that crosses my mind. As I start, my thoughts are often trivial and uninspiring. If I consciously thank God for the trivial things, however, I notice that I quickly move to the big things in my life, for which I am deeply grateful. I may begin by thanking God for the pleasant weather. Soon, I am pouring out my gratitude for my family, my work, and the ways God meets me every day. My attention is turned from shallow preoccupations to the deep gifts that mark my life. I recognize God’s hand in concrete ways. The psalmist’s call to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) becomes real to me in new ways. I do taste and see His goodness!
The second practice is to reflect on the promise of life in Jesus. This involves thinking about His promises over and over again. I chew on them slowly: He promises rest for my soul (how I long for this rest!); He promises a light burden (how I long for a burden that is light!); He promises that I do not navigate my life alone (how I long to be yoked to Him as I walk through life!).
About 30 times in the Gospel of John, the word life is used by Jesus or about Jesus. He is the bread of life. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the way and the truth and the life. He brings life to us abundantly (John 6:35; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 10:10). Jesus calls us into an experience of His life. It takes time and attention for me to recognize this for what it is—the supernatural life given by God. As I meditate on the many facets of the kind of existence He promises, I see God’s goodness in my own life: I experience His care and mercy and feel His gentle hand holding me.
These practices—of giving thanks and of reflecting on His promise of life—focus my attention on God’s goodness towards me. As my attention is focused, my desires are awakened. Out of sheer gratitude, my heart aligns with the heart of God. Out of celebration of His gift of life, my longing for Him untangles.
In his great spiritual autobiography Confessions, Augustine prays, making an observation about God’s work through our desires: “You rouse us, giving us delight in glorifying you, because you have made us with yourself as our goal, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Our delights and desires, then, are God’s means of leading us to Himself. We will remain restless in our self-focused, undisciplined desires until we see that our deepest longing leads us to God Himself.
Everyone’s talking about a “new normal” when the coronavirus saga is over. But that makes me wonder, so what was the “old normal”? What did we believe in and rely on that we shouldn’t any more?
What will you do when the Covid-19 restrictions get lifted?
Of course, this is going to be a gradual process. But as the restrictions get lifted one by one, we will have more and more freedom to do what we have not been able to do in the past two weeks.
What will you do when that happens? Will you rush down to the first bubble tea shop you can find? Will you head for the nearest fast-food outlet or hawker centre where you can finally eat there and then? Will you make an appointment for that much-needed hairdo? Or will you make a beeline for your favourite mall, knowing that you can finally indulge in some shopping that doesn’t involve home delivery?
I must confess that some of these things came to mind first as I read about the restrictions being lifted. I’ve been looking forward to having an unhurried cup of kopi at my neighbourhood coffeeshop, with some half-boiled eggs and kaya toast, of course. But I realise there’s something I’ve been missing even more—being able to greet someone, give him a smile, and have a little chat . . . not through a mask nor Zoom.
A friend of mine, journalist and author Nicholas Yong, penned a short but wonderfully whimsical piece about what he would do “When All This Is Over”. He writes:
When all this is over, the first thing I will do is take a long, long walk. I will greet everyone I meet along the way and shake their hands, and grab their forearms, and look into their eyes. No more fear in my heart, lurking just beneath the surface. No more social distancing or alternative greetings: I want to talk to people the way human beings are meant to . . .
When all this is over, I will hug the ones I love, and even the ones I don’t. And though it is a miraculous and wondrous thing, I don’t ever want to talk to the people who matter most through a video screen again. Whether they are next door or a million miles away, I will meet them and tell them, face to face, just how much they mean to me. I’ve missed you, I will say. I thought of you every day.
Nicholas has been tracking the whole saga as a journalist. Yet it’s the personal touches that have left the biggest mark on him:
But when all this is over, I know what I will remember most. A bag of groceries left at the door when I was in quarantine and couldn’t leave my flat. A homemade meal delivered to me, just because a friend did not want me to feel all alone. And most of all, the simple text messages saying ‘Just checking in. How are you?’
When all this is over, I will treasure the little things with all my heart. Because it is the little things that make up the big things, and I never want to take them for granted again.
Over the past weeks, we’ve been hearing phrases like, “Life will never be the same again after Covid-19”, or, “There will be a new normal”.
Granted, many of us will be struggling with what this means for us in our daily lives. Perhaps many of us will be working or studying at home more. Perhaps we will have to remember to wash our hands more often. Perhaps we will have to be careful when meeting in large groups—such as in church. We will have to change the way we work, move, and interact with people.
But when the Circuit Breaker finally ends, and when all this is over, what will we do?
In the book of Haggai, God reminds the Israelites that they had neglected God and His house while seeking their own comfort (Haggai 1:2–4). That was why, He said, they never seem to be satisfied with what they did (v. 6). God told them: “Give careful thought to your ways” (v. 5).
When all this is over, will we continue to focus on our own needs, concerns, and desires? Or will we, as Christians, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness? (Matthew 6:33) Will we be grateful for what we’ve taken for granted and learn to give what we have been receiving? Will we give a passer-by a big smile, visit a lonely relative, buy something for a neighbour in need, and tell them that we miss them and care just as God cares for us?
Lord, thank You for being with me throughout this time. As the restrictions get eased, may I go back to “normal life” with a new perspective of Your heart and a new commitment to put You first in my life—to love You and to love others, just as You have loved me.
Leslie Koh spent more than 15 years as a journalist in The Straits Times before moving to Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s found moving from bad news to good news most rewarding, and still believes that nothing reaches out to people better than a good, compelling story. He likes eating (a lot), travelling, running, editing, and writing.