The Utmost

The utmost is the Christian God who abhors sin, and fully practices the rule of justice.  People ought to plead with him to have their iniquities forgiven.  It doesn’t matter if these iniquities are large or small.  To be truly liberated people should do so through his grace.  Only then will they find joy, peace, courage, and hope in life.  God is most compassionate and truly understands us.  So be blessed in all these riches by him.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), a Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader of the Civil Rights Movement said, “Human progress is neither automatic or inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”  Sins not only have to be confessed by our leaders, but they have to set the example of how to live a Christ-centered life.  .

When people think about youthfulness they reflect on the chronological age of the young.  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), a German philosopher envisioned youth differently when he wrote, “Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.”  To Schopenhauer youthful living takes different forms in the life of the Supreme Being.

Temporal Enjoyment

Temporal enjoyment might well lead to provocation, God’s punishment, and hardening of our hearts.  Alphonsus Liquori (1696–1787), an Italian Catholic bishop, spiritual writer, and theologian said, “What grieves me more in my past offenses, O my loving God, is not so much the punishment I have deserved, as the displeasure I have given You, Who are worthy of infinite love.”  Liquori regretted his offenses in not loving God as he should.

Why would people allow themselves to descend so low that there’s no hope of God’s mercy?  In Christian teaching to be eternally damned is a dreadful curse that could happen to a soul.  Still there are those who prefer to do evil instead of honoring God.  Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), a politician, diplomat, and First Lady of the United States wrote, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”  Roosevelt clearly gives us a reason for living successfully by using light as a symbol.

Christianity believes that non-believers ought to repent of their sins, come to know the one true living God, love his fellowmen and women, and serve God faithfully.  This apparently is what lighted candles mean to Christians.  Light dispels darkness that threatens to tarnish souls.  And forgiveness is a free gift, so why don’t we seek it?  But people must do so with repentant hearts, and walk victoriously in Christ’s ways.

Trusting God

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.  Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

–Gal 3:6-9

God is always at work in our lives.  Situations come and go, but God directs our paths.  Joel Osteen (b. 1963), pastor and televangelist said, “I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God open up new doors.”  Jeremiah 11:1-5 urges us to obey the terms of God’s covenant and be his people.  Of this nature is the love of God.  1 Peter 2:1-5 tells us to rid ourselves of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.  For those who have tasted the Lord is good.  On the theme of love, Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), a retired South African Anglican bishop and social rights activist reminded us: “You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”  We therefore have to accept – not some, but all of our family members, even when it seems they have problems.

God’s View of Us

God loves us all.  In the world some give the impression that they have a special place with him.  These individuals could be self-righteous.  Albert Einstein (1879–1955), a German-born theoretical physicist wrote, “Before God we are equally wise – and equally foolish.”   But we could enhance who we are if we heed the advice of Voltaire (1694–1778), French Enlightenment writer, who said: “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”

It ought to be remembered that our talent is God’s gift to us.  We have to recognize God is wiser than humans, and his weakness is stronger than ours (1 Cor 1:25-26).  That’s why believers should speak the Word of God with the strength he provides (1 Pet 4:11-12), and they will be blessed.

Be a Blessing

The Lord is always with us and we should have no fear (Isa 41:10).  It’s him who gives us strength and power (Isa 40:28-31).  Joel Osteen said, “When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance.”  But should believers pursue these blessings?  Saint Teresa of Calcutta (1910–1997), an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun wrote, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is in the friend of silence.  See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … we need silence to be able to touch souls.”  Trusting and loving God is a process that takes time.  The Word of God is right, true, and faithful (Ps 33:4-6).  With dedication to God’s Word believers could say like Joyce Meyer (b. 1943), a Christian author and speaker: “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.”

Islam in Brief

Islam (1.6 billion) – monotheistic with Allah as God, considers itself the true religion with Muhammad as its Prophet.  Muslim beliefs are in the Five Pillars – repeating the creed, reciting prayers in Arabic, giving to the poor, fasting from sunrise to sunset, and making a pilgrimage (hajj) in one’s lifetime to Mecca.

Muhammad (570–632) was born in Mecca in Western Saudi Arabia.  So Mecca is the site of the Great Mosque and in its courtyard lies the most sacred shrine called Ka’aba- a stone building that contains a Black Stone that Muslims believe was sent from Heaven, by Allah.  When Muslims pray five times a day they face the Ka’aba, and declare the “shahada,” the Islam Creed –  “I bear witness that there is no god but (the One) God (Allah), and I bear witness that Muhammad is God’s messenger.”  Muslims profess there is one transcendent, supreme being Allah.  The Qur’an Muslims’ holy book is arranged in 114 sections called “suras” which literally  means word of God.

Shia Muslims

Shia Muslims account for approximately 15 percent of the total Muslim population in the world. Shiaism has the greatest influence in the contemporary world in Iran where nearly 90 percent of Muslims are Shiite, but Shia are also the majority in Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen. The division between the Shia and Sunni is rooted in disputes over the proper succession of leadership after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E. The Shia maintain that the rightful successor of the Prophet was his cousin and son-in-law, Ali. Shia especially revere a succession of scholars (called Imams).

Sunni Muslims

The followers of Sunni Islam … make up approximately 80 percent of the Muslim population in the world. The Sunni are the majority in most Islamic countries outside of Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Bahrain. Sunna—translated variously as the “trodden path,” “the way,” “example,” or “habitual practice”—refers to the example or path of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers….The Sunni maintain that the Muslim community was to select the Prophet’s successor (caliph) to lead…Sunni are typically seen as putting more emphasis on the power of God and his determination of human fate, and are often understood to be more inclusive in their definition of what it means to be a Muslim. The Sunni tradition has placed great emphasis on the role of religion in public and political life, with great weight placed on the Shariah (Islamic law) as the standard of a broad range of social issues—marriage, divorce, inheritance, commerce, and so on.

The Islamic interpretation of the Bible overlaps in many cases with those of Judaism and Christianity, and some accounts in the Qur’an are almost similar to those  in the Bible.

Reference

Library of World Religions and Faith Traditions

https://www.patheos.com/library

 

 

Christianity in Brief

Christianity (2.2 billion) – Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  God the Father and Holy Spirit complete the Trinity.  This religion major problem is “sin.”  Christ came to earth, died, and resurrected to save mankind.

Christians learned in the New Testament that the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary telling her that she would give birth of a son, who would be called Jesus.  Joseph to whom Mary was betrothed was about to put her way privately since he never had a relationship with her.  But an angel appeared in a dream telling him he should not do so because Mary’s pregnancy was by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph obeyed this advice and continued to be with Mary.  Jesus entered the world by being born in a manger of a stable, for there was no room at the inn in Bethlehem.  While at the stable Three Wise Men followed a star in the east to his birth place bringing him gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.  But they didn’t return to Herod because they too were warned not to do so.  Since Herod wanted to slay this new born child whom he saw as a threat to his kingdom, so they fled to Egypt.

Not much more is known about Jesus’ early life.  Later his parents brought him to Bethlehem for the census. As a young child of twelve at Passover they went to Temple. Unknown to his family he was left for three days behind.  Joseph and Mary discovered he was missing, and returned to the Temple to find him disputing with Doctors, who were alarmed at his knowledge for such a young child.  There’s little else known about how he was raised.  But Christians were again introduced to him at 30 – the start of his ministry, when he was baptized by his cousin John the Baptist in the River Jordan and the sky opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.

Jesus chose Twelve Disciples to follow him. He was an iterant preacher who went around preaching the coming of God, forgiveness of sins, healing the sick, raising the dead, and refuting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  He was met with opposition from the Roman officials and leaders of the Temple because his teachings undermined the status quo of the society.  Jesus was deemed an outcast, arrested by governmental officials, tried, and crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate.  He is believed to have risen from the dead.  And this is the foundation on which the Christian faith is based.  Christianity therefore teaches about the perils of sin, judgement, resurrection, and salvation.  Roman Catholics believe in purgatory, heaven for those saved, and hell for sinners whose sins aren’t forgiven by God.

Jesus is viewed as the Son of God.  He is said to have instituted the Eucharistic rite during the Last Supper with his disciples at an Upper Room in Jerusalem – the night before he was betrayed by a kiss from Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples.  He built the Church on Peter, another leading disciple and apostle.  The beginning of the Christian Church is said to be on the Day of Pentecost – 50 days after Easter, when there was the gushing of a mighty wind and tongues of fire as the disciples were huddled together in one place.  This outpouring was interpreted to be the descent of the Holy Spirit on believers to continue the Christian ministry in the world.