Thursday, January 27, 2022

Mentiri Spiritui Sancto | Lie to the Holy Spirit

"Then Peter said, "Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself." — Acts 5:3 (NLT) 


Image by Sammy-Sander from Pixabay


The Bible passage today reveals a terrifying lesson from a married couple named Ananias & Sapphira. They were among the believers who at that time “were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:32). The believers listened to the apostles who with great power testified about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:33-34). People came and put money from the sales of their land or homes voluntarily at the Apostles’ feet. They submit to God and His work.

When we believe in Jesus, He cares not only of our afterlife future but also the life we live on right now. He provides. On the other hand, when we really believe in Jesus, we become generous with our possessions. It doesn’t dominate our lives anymore, but God and His will. Nevertheless, we must question it in our hearts, how serious was Ananias & Sapphira’s sin that God had to put them to death.

It was weird that when everyone was so sincere and devoted to God, these two were not. I am not a theology expert to explain. Meanwhile I have been contemplating on a verse that Jesus once said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt 6:24). Based on this reference, next might be the reasons why “they agreed to cheat and keep some of the money for themselves” (v.2, CEV) which ended their lives.

First, they loved it more than God. It had become their idol. To be more specific as in Matthew 6:24, it was the opposite of love, they hated God. Ananias and Sapphira might want to be recognized as one of the generous rich people who gave their possessions up for others. They did it for themselves not for God. Maybe they were struggling before selling it even holding grudge that they had to do it to be able to be considered good. Actually, they didn’t have to sell it. As Peter said, “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (v.4, NLT). 

Second, they despised God. The Oxford dictionary explains the word ‘despise’: to dislike and have no respect for someone or something. The word of God and the preaching of the Apostles about the tremendous sacrifice of Jesus Christ for saving themselves meant nothing to them. They did not even respect the Holy Spirit who was at work so greatly during this early church development. That’s why lying in front of these great Apostles of God was not a problem to them. Miracles and wonders were made, but they apparently were not in awe. They were not afraid of God’s power. On the contrary, a true follower of Christ will have true sadness when disappointing God. Our friend Fr. Fransiskus Diaz told us once about godly sorrow - that is when we feel so sorry for our behavior towards God. 

No one noticed the hypocrisy of this couple. They looked religiously decent. But Peter who was filled with the Holy Spirit knew. It's hard but true. That not every one at Church is a real Christian. That's why Jesus gave a parable about the weeds and wheat in the same field (Matt 13:24-30). The farmer (Jesus) plants wheat but the enemy (the Devil) sows the seeds of weeds among the wheat. In his early church God needs to give an example to all, of what they have to be aware of. The death of the two seized the whole church with fear (v.10). God did not allow Satan's work to succeed at His church. 

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is an example of a manipulative behavior towards the Holy Spirit, marked by hypocrisy and insincerity. It was Satan who played at the backside. They used God for their own purpose while they submitted to Satan’s purpose. Peter said to him, "Ananias, why did you let Satan take control of you and make you lie to the Holy Spirit by keeping part of the money you received for the property? (v.3, GNT)

Let’s be careful with our motivation. Submit to God, not to anything else. May God help us all.


 Reflection on Acts 5:1-11 by Desire Litaay 
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Monday, January 24, 2022

Omnia Communia | Share Everything

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." —Acts 4:32(NIV)


Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels
 

 

The early believers lived together. They lived as one heart, one mind, and one soul in service, fellowship, prayers and witnessing. Their oneness makes them willing to sacrifice for their brothers and sisters. They support each other not only spiritually but also materially. Everyone's property belongs together and no one is in need.

It is interesting that "no one claimed that any of their possessions was their own." Now we live in a culture where people value privacy very much. Many people don't want to be disturbed because they are having their quality time. "This is my time to watch movie, this is my time for bla..bla.." etc. Meanwhile, many people are also proud of their ownership: "This is my life,… this is mine, this is the result of my hard work" Often we see on social media many people showing off their possessions. We see them as successful because we are used to measure things by "what people get, receive or have." Yet everything becomes invalid after death. Living only to hunt and defend property will be in vain after death. Why don't we become human beings who measure everything by "what can I give or share?"

Reading the way of life of the early church makes us realize that we don't have to feel a loss about giving up or share what we have in order to become God's disciples. Driven by the love of Christ, the early church was willing to sell its possessions to be presented for the continuation of God's work, one of which was diakonia (34-35). Everything we have is a gift from God. We have no right to claim everything is ours before God, the Owner of Everything. Service and togetherness to be a disciple of God is a special thing. Let's imitate the way of life of the early church who felt worthy to sacrifice everything they had for the sake of togetherness and mission of the Church.

 


Reflection on Acts 4:32-36 by Fransiskus Diaz, SVD.

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Fiducia | Boldness

"And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word... After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness." — Acts 4:29&31 


Photo by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash



Reflecting on the historical accounts by St. Luke, on the Acts of the Apostles, I think it's more appropriate to be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:4-5 & 8 recorded previously:
 
"And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, '...you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.'"

As in the days of the early Apostles, it was the power of the Holy Spirit working through each of the apostles that they were able to face intense persecutions, including imprisonments, floggings and martyrdom. For many the Gospel was boldly preached in Jerusalem, in all Judea, Samaria and even the far reaches of the earth along the Roman roads which criss-crossed the powerful Roman empire that straddled continents.

Since the time after Christ's first Coming, Death & Resurrection, the Holy Spirit has fanned the flames of evangelism across continents and eventually brought about the Christianisation in many parts of the European continent. Subsequently, resulted in the Christianisation of ex-European colonies, countries like the Philippines, where Roman Catholicism is a major religion or even small countries like Singapore where selfless missionaries left the comforts of homes and loved ones to board ocean-going ships that landed them onto our shores and established the first Catholic outpost 200 years ago. And so as the ministers and missionaries of other Christian denominations such as the Anglicans, Methodists and countless others.

I truly believe that the current storm of Covid-19 has been permitted by God to allow His Bride on earth, ie, His sons and daughters-in-Christ, to rise up and show a hurting world that salvation can only be found in One Name, ie. Jesus Christ, not in the vaccines nor technological advancements. In fact as Augustine had written, "Our heart is restless until it rests in you." St. Augustine's life exemplified the Parable of the Prodigal Son, as he had spent the early years of his life as an atheist with numerous flings, and broke the heart of his Christian mother until the Spirit of God convicted his heart through a formidable bishop St Ambrose. He finally turned away from sinful living and devoted himself wholeheartedly into a religious life and became one of the greatest theologian in church history, and in AD395 became the bishop of Hippo.

Each of us, no matter how far or distant we may think we are from God, has the power to rise above our circumstances and become bold witnesses of His Grace, with the help of the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete.

I will close with this Worship Song of Love to the Holy Spirit – Come Holy Spirit

Verse 1
Come Holy Spirit, fall on me now
I need your anointing, come in Your power
I love You Holy Spirit
You captivated my soul
and everyday I grow to love You more

Chorus
I'm reaching for Your heart
You hold my life in Your hand
Drawing me closer to You
I feel Your power renewed

Nothing compares to this place
Where I can see You face to face
I worship You in spirit and in truth

Ending
I worship You in spirit and in truth (3x)




Reflection on Acts 4:23-31 by Chris Tan