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Sandy Citro

Is Christianity Tolerant?

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The prevalent view out there is that Christianity is intolerant. It stems from the exclusive claims that our God is the only one true God and that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Therefore, the supreme virtue these days is the virtue of tolerance where everyone must embrace each other and no one is allowed to judge others as wrong.

However, this raises a few questions. Is Christianity the only worldview that is exclusive? Does having an exclusive worldview necessarily mean that one is intolerant toward others? What is tolerance anyway?

If we investigate honestly, we will find that all worldviews are actually exclusive. They are exclusive in the sense that they would deem other worldviews that are opposing to their worldview as unacceptable. Even those who claim that all religions are the same are actually exclusive, because they will claim those who disagree with them as unacceptable. However, having an exclusive worldview and being intolerant toward others are not necessarily together. It really depends on what the worldview actually teaches and it also depends on the person having the worldview himself or herself.

Furthermore, the definition of tolerance has changed in the past few decades. So, it is worth looking again at what we mean by tolerance before we answer the question whether or not Christianity, or any other worldview for that matter, is tolerant.

Glory to the Newborn King

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What is Christmas to you? To many people, Christmas is a holiday season. It is a time to spend and catch up with family. To others, it marks another shopping season. To some of you who are of Christian persuasion,
Christmas is about the birth of baby Jesus – cute, cuddly, baby Jesus, held by Mary, watched by Joseph, and with the shepherds and/or the wise men around.Unfortunately, to many people, Jesus is no more than a cute little baby that was born to bring a level of warmth and kindness into this world. Like a picture of a kitten that pops up in our screen in the middle of our busy day at work. Nice, refreshing, but that’s it, you go on with your work again.

To some Christians, Christmas is about the coming of a saviour. This is much closer to reality because that’s who Jesus is. Even his name means ‘God saves.’ However, I want to invite you to see Jesus as more than just a Saviour. He actually came as a king…the King of kings. The word ‘Christ’ is a royal term. Jesus is the Messiah King whose arrival was prophesied many years earlier. He came not just to save us. He came to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. He saves us so that we can enter His Kingdom. We must never understand Christmas as less than this.

In 1739, Charles Wesley wrote the Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and the lyrics aptly describe what Christmas is about.

Hark the herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise. Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!”

Merry Christmas and may everyone bow down to this King of kings!

The blessing of wisdom

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Apostle John begins his gospel with this:

“In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

The ‘Word’ here is the Greek word ‘Logos’ which in Greek carries the meaning of the principle of divine reason and creative order. However, in John, Logos is not just a power or an attribute of God. Rather, Logos is actually another entity besides God the Father who incarnated in the human person of Jesus Christ. So, this is an amazing picture of the truth of Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God, who was there from the beginning, and who was the agent of all creation.

To the Israelites who were familiar with Old Testament writings, this might have brought to their mind the picture of the personified Wisdom in the writings of King Solomon in the book of Proverbs. In chapter 8 verses 22 to 31 especially, Solomon pictured Wisdom in a very elevated way: that God possessed her at the beginning of His work, that she was beside God as God created everything, and that she was a glad witness of God’s amazing creative work. By giving us this picture, Solomon wants us to appreciate the grandeur and the supremacy of Wisdom in such a way that we want to pursue her.

For us, though, who live in this side of history, we know that Jesus is the full embodiment of God’s wisdom. So, for us to pursue Wisdom means we pursue Jesus because He is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life. And the great news is that Jesus promises us whatever Lady Wisdom promised in Proverbs to those who listen to her, and more.

The Wisdom of Disciplined Living

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I know a guy from my hometown. Let’s call him Rio. Rio got into the business of selling phone cards. For some of you millenials, generation Z, i-Generation, or whatever you call it, you might not know what phone cards are. They are basically phone credits to be used to make interstate or overseas phone calls at cheaper rates.

Anyway… Rio started well. He was selling them retail and wholesale as well. One particular client, let’s call him Amin, bought some phone cards for reselling. Amin managed to buy more and more cards in subsequent orders, giving an impression that he is doing really well. One day, Amin called and made a huge order of phone cards. But this time, Amin said that he would pay for the cards later. He promised that he would pay them after he sold them to another seller. Thinking that Amin could be trusted, Rio sent the cards to Amin. Unfortunately, since then, Amin was no longer contactable and he was nowhere to be found. Rio realised he had been scammed, and he lost millions of Rupiah.

This is what exactly Solomon warns us against in chapter 6, or at least the first section of chapter 6. It is very tempting to invest in someone who promises a quick return. The temptation is very real, especially when we imagine that we don’t have to work so hard to earn the money. Proverbs chapter 6 is warning us against such dodgy investment and
exhorting us instead to work hard like the ants and to earn our money. Furthermore, as Christians, we are actually exhorted to have good work ethics. Jesus himself says He is working because His Father is still at work. So, let’s glorify God with our hard work.

The Wisdom of Pursuing Wisdom

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Everyone of you can probably remember a time when you receive a good wisdom from your parents. Perhaps it was when your dad gave you advice on relationship as you sit down with him waiting for the fish to eat the bait at the end of the line. Perhaps it was when your mom taught you how to forgive as you cried alone in your room after somebody crushed your heart.

In Proverbs chapter 4, King Solomon recalled his time with his father, King David, when he was still very young. And he remembered one very important wisdom that his father taught him: “Get Wisdom!” Yup, you read it correctly. The most important wisdom is the instruction to get wisdom. Perhaps, to be clearer, what king David meant was that as a young man, Solomon had to make it his priority to get wisdom, even if it means paying hefty price for it.

Then, once you get wisdom, you have to keep it in your heart as if your life depends on it, and then you must guard your heart with all vigilance because your heart is the well-spring of your life. If your heart is bad, your whole life will be bad. If your heart is good, your whole life will be good.

So, as a church, let us encourage one another to pursue wisdom with everything we have, and to guard our heart with all our might.

The Wisdom of Trusting in the Lord

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all fathers! As a head of your household, you have a heavy responsibility put upon your shoulders. Your role is crucial to the physical, emotional, and especially, spiritual well-being of your family members. Bear it well, and God will honour and reward you. In Deuteronomy 6, as Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, Moses gave this
command to the people:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command
you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way,
and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of
your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

The goal of parenting, according to those verses, therefore, is to teach your children to love God with all their heart, soul, and might. It must be done by example and by
consistent teaching.

As we look at Proverbs 3 today, it becomes clear that wisdom is not primarily about right behaviour or ethics, although they are important. For Solomon, wisdom is ultimately and primarily about having the right relationship with the LORD, which will then overflow to our relationship with ourselves and with others. Therefore, the best wisdom that a father can give to his children is the wisdom of loving God, trusting God, and obeying Him.

May God bless you as you impart the wisdom of trusting in the LORD to your children. Again, Happy Father’s Day!

What is Wisdom?

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As we are studying the book of Proverbs, it might be good to ask, “What is Wisdom?” According to Wikipedia, wisdom is ‘the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.’

So, wisdom is pretty much a correct application of sound knowledge based on proven experience and proper common sense. So, Solomon writes PROVERBS so that we basically know what to do, what decisions to make in every juncture of our life.

Now, two things WISDOM is not.

Firstly, WISDOM is not KNOWLEDGE. Wisdom is not the same as the amount of information you have in your head. Knowledge is important. Without knowledge you don’t know what you don’t know. But wisdom is the ability to put that knowledge into practice and to gain benefit from that knowledge. If you have to choose between the two: It is better to have little knowledge but know what to do with it than to have much knowledge but not know what to do with it. Although of course, if you can choose both, choose both: Much knowledge and much wisdom.

Secondly, WISDOM is not just Applied Knowledge. In the Bible, the Hebrew word ‘Hochmah’ (חכמה) for wisdom does not simply mean ‘wisdom’ as we know. The word ‘Hochmah’ also includes the skill or the technical skill. For example, in Exodus 35:35, God has given two men, Bezalel and Oholiab, the ‘skill’ to do the all the art work needed to be done in the Tabernacle. The word for skill there is the same word ‘Hochmah.’ So, it is not just applied knowledge. It also includes the skill to put it into practice.

Therefore, Solomon wrote Proverbs so that not only will we grow in our wisdom and know what decisions to make in different situations in life, but that we will also grow in skill, in our capability in applying that wisdom, in actually carrying out that decision properly. As we study Proverbs together, let that be true for all of us at CrossCulture.

 

Mother’s Day

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I came across this famous quote by Tenneva Jordan.

“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”

I grew up with four other siblings. I remember as I grew up, my mom said that she did not like to eat almost anything. Now I know that she actually loved all those stuff. She just let us (and my dad) have them all, and she simply ate whatever left. It’s amazing how a human being can sacrifice like that. I see the same pattern with Maria now, so I have been encouraging her to eat.

Talking about mothers being special, there is one passage in the scripture that talks a bit about this. It is Proverbs 31:10-31. Verse 10 says this: “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” And looking at the description in the rest of the passage, you know that this is not just a woman. She is a mother. A very competent mother, she is.

Proverbs 31 seems to put so much pressure on mothers. However, this passage actually describes the beauty of a husband and a wife who are encouraging one another, fulfilling each role in a way that builds up one another, instead of competing with one another. This proverb is actually a recitation of a word of a mother to her son (Proverbs 31:1). So, this is not a father giving a burden to his daughter about how to behave as a woman. Rather, it is a loving advice from a mature reflection of an experienced mother who wishes the best for her beloved son. So, this passage applies both to wives and husbands too.

My hope is that as we look at this passage, if you are a mother, you are encouraged by the very vital role that God gives to mothers. And if you are a husband, you are encouraged to treasure your wife as Christ loves the church.

Happy Mother’s Day!

God meant it for good

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Adam and Eve sinned and banished from ‘paradise.’ Death began to reign over the earth. Their son killed their other son because his fruit and vegetable offering did not go well. The good creation beginning quickly deteriorated into chaos and mayhem. Cain’s descendants were not good role models either. Human beings were so evil that God sent the flood to ‘restart’ the world with Noah and his family. After the flood though, Noah got drunk and the hangover did not look good at all. The peak of human wickedness was at the Tower of Babel when they decided to challenge God directly. God did not want them to destroy themselves like that. So He intervened. He dispersed them and confused their languages. The situation seemed to be hopeless and irredeemable until one day… God chose a man, named Abraham.

The promises of land, people, and blessings were given.

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

We are starting a new series today on the life of Joseph: “God Meant it for Good.” The call of Abraham provides a crucial context to what’s going to unfold in the coming weeks. In Genesis 12:1-9, we learn that God is the God who initiates, communicates, and promises. He crafts the plan, He declares His purposes, and He ensures their fulfilment. Abraham needs only to respond, to trust, and to obey.

May you start your new year with a new appreciation toward and a proper response to God’s character and His faithfulness.