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All Your Heart

According to the World Health Organization, heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in the global population. In just one year 2016, they took the life of over fifteen million people. In order to create awareness about these diseases among the public, World Heart Day is observed on 29 September every year. The message of World Heart Day is that at least 80 percent of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided if the main risk factors are controlled. These are high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, and obesity.

While keeping the heart in a good working condition may help increase our longevity, it is equally important to look after our heart in a more holistic manner. It should be healthy, but it should be pure too. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

The heart is the origin of all evil thoughts that lead to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. (Matthew 15:19) The heart is the seat of lust. Jesus said, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) He also said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

The heart is the seat of all emotions. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew 12:34) Our thoughts flow out from the heart through the mouth.

The heart is where we worry. That’s why Jesus has told us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in me.” (John 14:1)

The heart is a kind of writing pad on which we should write God’s commandments so that we are constantly reminded of what God wants us to do. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) But Jesus has reminded us of God’s commandment which says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) God does not want us to have only a healthy heart or a pure heart or a calm heart. God wants us to give him our whole heart.

 

 

 

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Adultery, Crime and Sin

India is changing fast. The right to privacy is now regarded as highly sacrosanct. Gay sex is no longer a crime. Adultery has been decriminalized. People are celebrating this quick march towards a more inclusive and highly permissive society.

Adultery, in fact, had been decriminalized two thousand years ago by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself. The Bible (John 8:1-11) narrates an incident that had occurred one day in the temple of Jerusalem. Jesus had arrived at the temple very early in the morning. Even at that hour, people gathered around him and he sat down to explain the scriptures to them. While he was teaching, a group of aggressive people barged into the place along with a woman. The self-styled judges introduced the woman to Jesus as one who they had caught in adultery, red-handed. They told Jesus that the prevailing law required that she be stoned. “But”, they demanded of Jesus, “What do you have to say?”

Jesus tried to ignore them at first, but their questioning persisted. Jesus finally got up and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After this ruling, Jesus sat down again and did not bother to intervene further. What happened was that the people felt convicted by their own conscience, and left the place one by one, leaving the woman alone.

When it was quiet again, Jesus asked her, “Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” “No, Lord”, she said, “Not one.” Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” He allowed her to go, but added, “Sin no more.”

Even if adultery is not a crime, it continues to be a sin. Even if adultery is not illegal, it continues to be immoral. Of the ten commandments that the God of the Bible gave to his people, the seventh was that “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) God’s laws are eternal and they cannot be struck down.

In the Bible, adultery has often had a wider meaning. Many times, Jesus addressed his audience as a wicked, sinful and adulterous generation of people. (Matthew 16:4, Mark 8:38) Adultery means being unfaithful and disloyal to anyone, God included. Cheating on one’s spouse may not be considered a criminal deed. But infidelity towards God remains a sin and will invoke consequences.

The Father of Lies

The story of Adam and Eve that is narrated in the opening chapters of the Bible (Genesis 2-3) is well-known. Many believe it, many do not. The story is basically simple: After God had created the heavens and the earth, he created the first man Adam and then the first woman Eve. God had created a garden named Eden as a paradise for them to enjoy. Everything was available to them except that God had commanded them not to eat the fruit of a particular tree and warned that if they ate it they would die. Adam and Eve would have continued to taste God’s goodness, but for the entry of the Devil into the story.

The Devil or Satan, who appeared in the form of a serpent, first planted doubt in Eve’s mind and then told a lie that she would not die even if she ate that fruit. Eve did eat the forbidden fruit and so did Adam later. With that lie, Satan led Adam and Eve, and eventually all humanity, to death. God had to send his son Jesus Christ to be the saviour of mankind through his own death on the cross.

Even in the present age, Satan continues to mislead people with his lies by entering their minds. What he says, and the manner in which he says it, convinces people that his lie is truth. He compels them into believing that they would not suffer if they break laws. He entices people to use his methods of deceit and spread lies on his behalf. What he did to Adam and Eve, he continues to try with everyone today. The Bible warns us to be alert and of sober mind as the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. We have to resist him, standing firm in the faith. We should cast all our anxiety on God who cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7-9)

Jesus described the Devil as the father of lies in whom there is no truth at all. (John 8:44) Lord Jesus himself is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Those who know Jesus will know the truth, and the truth will set them free (John 8:32).

 

Sowing the Wind

How do cyclones and giant hurricanes develop in the tropical belt of the earth? Well, not out of nothing. They begin as a tiny vortex in the atmosphere above a warm ocean. The vortex takes in energy from the ocean and grows vertically and horizontally. In its fully mature stage, dense clouds of the hurricane may grow as high as 12 kilometres and its spiral bands may stretch across thousands of kilometres from its eye.

The initial vortex is so small that it may even go unnoticed on a weather chart that shows areas of high and low pressure. Meteorologists use numerical models to predict the development of a tropical cyclone. What they do is to introduce an artificial or “bogus” vortex into an otherwise benign looking atmospheric flow. Then they run the model for several days into the future and watch how the small disturbance grows into a violent storm. They can then predict what path the system will follow and how much strength it will gather.  Their predictions usually come correct and they can warn people in advance and save life and property.

The Bible uses the term “sowing the wind”. (Hosea 8:7) “If you sow the wind”, it cautions, “you will reap the whirlwind!” A violent storm indeed grows out of a small wind, but the reference to wind here is figurative. God’s law of sowing and reaping has a wider area of application far beyond the atmosphere. Just like a small wind will produce a great storm, one grain of wheat that is sown into the soil, is likely to yield an abundant harvest of wheat. Out of wheat we will get wheat, not some other crop.

“Sowing the wind” could be a phrase that is representative of empty, futile work. The result of such a hollow effort could never be expected to be anything concrete or tangible.

“Whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap,” is God’s law for all. “One who sows to his flesh, his sinful capacity, his worldliness, his disgraceful impulses, will reap from the flesh ruin and destruction, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-10)

In fact, in Koine Greek, the language in which the New Testament was originally written, there is only one word “pneuma” that means the wind as well as the spirit. The two are similar.

 

Showing Mercy

Unlike love, mercy is not an emotion. One can love another person without ever expressing it openly. But mercy needs to be shown, it involves action. Unlike love which may not always be available from others, mercy can be asked for. Even a convict against whom the final judgement has been pronounced, can make an appeal for mercy to a higher authority.

“God, be merciful to me this sinner!” is the shortest but complete prayer that anyone can possibly pray. (Luke 18:13) It is echoed throughout the Book of Psalms. It is the petition with which many people approached Jesus and he heard them and cured them of their afflictions.

The concept of mercy was explained by Jesus through his parable of the unmerciful or ruthless servant. (Matthew 18:23-35) Briefly, the parable runs somewhat like this: “There was a king whose servant owed him a huge sum of money and he wanted the money back. The servant was not in a position to return it and he asked the king for time. The king was merciful and he wrote off his massive debt. However, this servant later met one of his fellow servants who happened to owe him a small debt. He grabbed his debtor by the throat, would not listen to his plea, and put him in jail. When the king learnt about this, he was greatly annoyed. He called him and said, ‘You wicked man! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ The angry king ordered that he may be made to repay his debt using coercive means.”

The lesson from this parable is that it is God’s requirement that we show mercy to others, else we will not be shown mercy by God. However, there is another positive law of reciprocity that is also in operation in God’s kingdom. As Jesus has said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)