Book Review: “Who Is Jesus According to the New Testament?” by Dr. Isabelo F. Magalit

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I was so happy that OMFLit published this very controversial book that addresses the Iglesia ni Cristo church. This is a very bold move not only from the publisher but also from the author, Dr. Isabelo F. Magalit. Their are books already published about INC but this one is something that is very unique. Written by one of the sharpest mind in the evangelical scene, reading this booklet for me, will give a deer in the headlight for a INC member. This book didnt tackle all of that is need to tackled about this cult but it struck nerve in a few topics it has raised. Another thing its a short read and the price is very affordable that you will want to buy one to give to an INC member or to your congregations library.

“Who Is Jesus According to the New Testament?” in its few opening pages discuss salvation by faith alone. Then further Dr. Magalit allows it to mix with the main theme of the book, which is the the deity of Jesus. Read it twice to throughly absorb it and everytime I read it, my jaw drops. Dr. Magalit presented his case with precision. This may not be a silver bullet but it does penetrates.

“Who Is Jesus…?” I think should bag one of the best release of OMF in 2014! If you are one of those people who came to MIBF without taking this book home, I will tell you, You missed alot! Big time! But if you want not just to reach out our Iglesia ni Cristo friends (tip: buy multiple copies) also to equip yourself with biblical knowledge on the deity of Christ, go get it now. This short book by Dr. Magalit will be a staple to the local apologetics book scene for years to come. Highly recommended!

Marianito “Nitoy” Gonzales is a 30 something blogger who wears many hats. But his passion is to preach the gospel and make God know to all men. He blogs at Delighting Grace (http://delightinggrace.wordpress.com). You can reach him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

Finding the “True Church”: Delighting Grace Interviews Conley of TrueIglesia.org

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There have been lots of apologetics resources concerning the group Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC). But I came across at this webcomic http://www.trueiglesia.org. I find it very helpful for us Christians who wants to share the gospel to our INC friends. I had an e-mail interview with its creator, Conley, and we talk about his ministry and how to reach the INC for Christ:
Delighting Grace: First of all, its a pleasure chatting with you about your ministry that has a heart for INC members. So how did you get interested in reaching out this group?
Conley: Like the comic describes, I studied the INC while in the US and that’s also where I created the website.  There is a significant INC presence in the San Francisco Bay area and I can even walk a couple of miles to get to the nearest one here in Mountain View.  My subsequent trip to the Philippines during July was primarily to strengthen relationships with some churches I would like to partner with in future evangelistic efforts.  I hope to move to the Philippines permanently so that I can study the various sects that have sprung up there and publish resources to respond to their claims.  My trip wasn’t entirely unrelated to the centennial, but I didn’t have a chance to spend much time interacting with INC members over the course of the month.
Delighting Grace: Why a webcomic to reach the member of this church? As I read your webcomic, you made mentioned Comicon and for sure I think you love comicbooks.
Conley: A Filipino I had met on a previous trip suggested that I make a comic to keep the attention of the younger members.  It really did turn out to be a good idea.  Due to the format, I honestly think it’s one of the gentlest responses to the INC that exists on the web.  I do enjoy comic books myself, although I have never actually been to Comic Con.  Regarding the creation of the comic, I wrote the storyboard, my wife made the illustrations, a Pinoy brother at my church in California translated, and several other members of my church edited. It was a church effort, which is a huge blessing.
Delighting Grace: Is their a culture and language barrier as far as communicating to them the gospel and orthodox Christianity? Its pretty obvious that most INC followers are Pinoys. Maybe some non-Pilipino believers may have encountered this group and wants to share God’s love to them?.
Conley: Yes, there are some significant cultural and language barriers inengaging INC members at several levels. First, part of what has given INC doctrine so much success is largely that it relies on English-based equivocation, which easily goes undetected by those who speak English as a second language.  An example: the phrase “ends of the earth” refers to the distant parts of the globe while the phrase “ends of the world” refers to a future time.  The INC says that the words “earth” and “world” are synonyms, so therefore certain verses in the Bible that talk about the “ends of the earth” are referring to a future time — specifically a time when the INC would be founded.  The fact that the INC uses English translations of scripture to make these arguments makes it difficult for ESL people to catch the fallacy.

Another language barrier exists in their rhetorical vocabulary.  They don’t think that they “interpret” things, which is silly since that word simply means to ascribe meaning.  They equate “understanding” with “believing” and say that someone who doesn’t believe doesn’t understand.  I’ve had to learn how to avoid these problems words in order to avoid unnecessary hangups.

Coming from the other side of things, there’s a large cultural barrier in working with evangelical churches in the Philippines to try to share the gospel with the INC.  In the US, it’s perfectly permissible to go outside of a large event (like the centennial) and pass out tracts.  In the Philippines, that wouldn’t be considered as appropriate.  Additionally, few Filipino evangelicals are willing to engage in a polemic and speak out against false faiths.  Part of this is fear of persecution, but a lot of it is simply an eastern form of respect.  There are good sides and bad sides to that aspect of the culture.
Delighting Grace: Do you still have communication with them? How are they now?
Conley: I’ve since managed to speak with a couple of the INC members I met during my studies.  Unfortunately, not much has changed, but we can pray that God will send someone to water the planted seeds.
Delighting Grace: Can you give us tips on how to share the gospel with these friends of ours?
Conley: Here’s some tips on how to share the gospel to an INC member:
Personal preparation:
1. Read and know your Bible.  I can’t stress this enough.  INC members make the error of paying lip service to the Bible while they rarely read it.  It’s easy to think that we are better than them on this account, but ask yourself: how often do you really read and study the Bible?  Do you know it well enough that you could tell me the theme of Galatians or be able to characterize John as compared to the other gospels?  Knowing a few verses isn’t the same as reading and knowing scripture.
2. Pray for INC members.  This is an area where I fall very short.  We must acknowledge that it’s only God who can change the heart and part of acknowledging that is by going to him in prayer.
3. Be bold and have a heavenly perspective.  I know that many Filipinos are intimidated by the INC or even afraid of persecution, but if we believe the promises of Scripture, there is no reason to fear.  (Hebrews 13:5-6; Matthew 5:10)

When evangelizing:
1. Focus on helping the other party understand, not on winning an argument.  Too many times I see Christians present the truth to INC members in a way that is harsh and isn’t really focused on helping them.  We should by no means compromise on the truth, but a gentle response turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1) and causes people to listen.

2. Focus on gospel issues, not on tangential issues.  I see many Christians focus on disproving INC prophecies or criticizing the behavior of certain ministers.  There is certainly a time and a place for this if done appropriately, but I worry that people focus on these things just to tear down the other party and then are left in a situation that isn’t conducive to building a positive case for the gospel.  If instead you focus on their view of Jesus, you can give them a true Jesus.  If you focus on their works righteousness, you can give them Christ’s righteousness.  These things can cut to the heart in a way that talking about the meanings of Hebrew words or newspaper headlines cannot.

3. Focus on scripture, not on human philosophy.  Faith comes through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), not though some other means.  Make sure your defense is based on the Bible and not own your own way of reasoning to truth.

4. A very practical tip: I personally think that Hebrews 1:10 is one of the best verses you can share with an INC member.
“8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;”

In this verse, the Father clearly and directly says that the Son created the universe, something they reject.  The INC tends to get distracted by verse 8, where the Son is called God — they have arguments to say that’s mistranslated, but very few have ever considered Hebrews 1:10.  They will try to go to other passages, but if you can keep them focused on this one, they will have no choice but to face the fact that Jesus is the creator.
Delighting Grace: Thank you, Conley. Please invite them to you website and also your social media accounts.
Conley: You read the comic and learn more about this ministry at trueiglesia.org.  In addition to the comic, the site has nearly 100 published articles that may be helpful for anyone struggling with particular contentions that come up in INC discussions.  We also have a Facebook page with over 50,000 likes (facebook.com/trueiglesia) and a twitter account (twitter.com/trueiglesia).  During the day in the US, I’m available in our chatroom at trueiglesia.org/chat.

Delighting Grace: Any last words for our readers and of course our Iglesia ni Cristo friends?
Conley: To my brothers in Christ: be bold, regardless of how other faiths treat you.  Some people are goats and some people are sheep, but remember that Paul was a sheep even while he persecuted the church. There are many in the INC who are just like he was, a sinner destined for grace.
To my friends in the INC: I hope that as time progresses we can have some healthy dialogue that hasn’t really existed in the past.  As always, I would encourage you to read the Bible.  If you have not read the book of John before, I’d encourage you to start there.  May God bless you.

 

Leading Kids to Christ: Delighting Grace Interviews EvanTell

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photo courtesy of pixabay.com

We are on the last four months of the year and having a blog theme about children is quite a challenge. Now we will focus on another aspect of this theme which is sharing the gospel to children. So I asked Sarah Bowler of Evantell to tell us something about child evangelism.

Delighting Grace: How important is child evangelism?

Sarah Bowler: Studies indicate that as many as 85% of all Christians came to faith between the ages of four and fourteen. That’s a powerful testimony to the importance of children’s evangelism and shows that to be a children’s worker is a high calling.
Additionally, those who come to Christ as children have the blessing of living their whole lives with the joy and peace that come from knowing Christ, as well as the opportunity to influence many others through the course of a lifetime.

Delighting Grace:  Is there an appropriate age that we can say this is the right time we can share the gospel?

Sarah Bowler: All children vary and may come to an understanding of the gospel at different ages, so there is not a particular age that is the so called “right time.” Some will understand the gospel at a much younger age than others.
Try to ascertain where a child is spiritually and begin from where they already are in their understanding. For instance, with young children or children who have not heard any of the gospel before, I often begin by telling them how much God loves them. I might start by giving specific examples such as how God created the world we live in or gives us food to eat. As their understanding grows, you can then take it to the next level by talking about the way God showed he loved us most—by dying for us.

Delighting Grace:  Is it hard to evangelize a child?

Sarah Bowler: On one hand, it is encouraging to know that the gospel message by which we are saved is simple enough that we can explain it to a child. However, children’s evangelism should be approached cautiously, because children can easily be confused by unclear gospel presentations, not understand what they are doing, and thus not actually trust Christ as Savior.

Delighting Grace: What if this kid is the only member in his family that received Jesus. Do you think the kid will have issues to his family because of what he did?

Sarah BowlerYes, it is possible that there will be some hard issues to face with a child’s family, particularly in countries that may be more harsh toward the gospel. I will say, though, that I’ve heard manymore positive stories in which a child who trusted Christ then went on to lead his or her whole family to Christ.
Recently, one of our EvanTell employees visited his home country of Vietnam on a missions trip to work with children and equip believers in evangelism. On a previous trip, he had helped lead some children to Christ. This time many adults in that same village came to listen to the gospelon his return trip because they had witnessed the testimony of Christ at work in the lives of those children.

Delighting Grace: What are the different ways to share the gospel to children?

Sarah Bowler: One of my favorite tools is the Good News Wristband (http://bit.ly/Z7kj2k), which is a gospel bracelet with 5 colors that each correspond to a Bible verse and specific part of the gospel message. Talking about what each color means is an easy way to share the gospel. I also love that it is easily adaptable. If I don’t have the bracelet, I could use construction paper, crayons, or colored beads to tell the same story.

Another fun tool is our CrossTalk tract (http://bit.ly/1rMRSUm), which unfolds in the shape of a cross as you read through the gospel message.
There are several good methods out there, but the key thing to any gospel message is that it contains three things: (1) Our sin separates us from God; (2) Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead; and (3) We must trust Christ alone for salvation.

Delighting Grace: If a kid comes up to you and say “I want to share Jesus to my friends. Can you help me?” what will you tell a child if he wants to share the gospel?

Sarah Bowler:  First, I would offer encouragement and let them know what a great thing it is to share Christ with their friends. Then, I’d probably go over a simple way they could share Christ, perhaps using one of the techniques above.</em>

As you talk with the kid, ask questions while you share your method to make sure that he or she is understanding what you are saying and also has a clear understanding of the gospel message him or herself.

Delighting Grace: If a Christian wants to reach out to kids for Christ, how do they start?

Sarah BowlerI’d suggest taking EvanTell’s free online Seedlings Training for children’s evangelism(http://bit.ly/1tu2CGX). Seedlings is great for anyone who is a children’s worker in a church, or simply knows children (grandparents, parents, caregivers, etc.)

Delighting Grace: Thank you for your time Sarah. Last question: How can we learn more about your ministry or receive evangelism materials?

Sarah Bowler: You can find out more about our ministry by visiting evantell.org or following one of our social media outlets: twitter.com/EvanTell, facebook.com/evantell, pinterest.com/evantell.mTo purchase materials, visit our evangelism warehouse—http://act111.christianbook.com/.

Words of Discouragement Part 5 (Isaiah 36 and 37)

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We are now in the conclusion of our topic discouragement. Last week we saw how Hezekiah took this matter by consulting the right people and coming to God for help. Now lets watch what God did for Hezekiah and his kingdom.

“Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.”Isaiah 37:36-38

This is the result of the right move done by Hezekiah v

Words of Discouragement Part 4 (Isaiah 36 and 37)

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What are the right response to discouragement? We find two of them in Isaiah chapter 27:

He consulted the right people.

“And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. It may be the Lord thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the Lord thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left. So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” Isaiah 37:1-7

We go to people we trust. Fellow Christians, pastors, mentors, classmates and friends. Those people are willing to listen to our discouragement, give advice, encourage us and lift us up in prayer. Are you discourage? Then do what King Hezekiah did. Find refuge to the right people.

Hezekiah consulted the matter to God.

After going to the right people, King Hezekiah went to the temple and poured his hearts out. We ask Christians should have this kind of response. We should go to the one who is sovereign and mighty.

“And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord, saying, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O Lord, and hear; open thine eyes, O Lord, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God. Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only.”Isaiah 37:14-20

Hezekiah acknowledge the sovereignity of God and ask for God’s action. In times of discouragment, have we come to God for His wise counsel? We are limited, God is not. Search the Scriptures to find comfort. Pray to God and ask Him to make you more dependent to Him. If its concerning His children welfare, God will make a move for His glory and our victory.

Next week we will conclude our study on Discouragement.

(To be continued next week…)

Words of Discouragement Part 3 (Isaiah 36 and 37)

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Let us look at the last two ways discouragement sets in to our life.

By twisting our right decisions.

Doubts may set in our mind when we hear this kind of discouragement. Hezekiah made the right decision to removed the idols that plague his kingdom’s spirituality. But Rabshakeh twisted it and made it look like a bad move by the King. Had this happened to you? Someone sneer or blame you for the right things you stand for? Discouragement can do that.

“But if you say to me, “We trust in the Lord our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”?
Isaiah 36:7

By attacking our credibility.

Now its personal. This is when it hits home. Nothings more painful than the discouragement that attacks our credibility. We may have built our reputation for years. We may have shown our very best. But this discouragement makes us like crumbling building. And when the dust clears, we feel we didnt accomplished anything. Discouragement wins!

“Thus says the king: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern,”Isaiah 36:14-16

Next week lets tune to a more positive side of our lesson by looking at how do we respond to discouragement.

(To be continued next week…)

Words of Discouragement Part 2 (Isaiah 36 and 37)

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This week we continue our look at different ways we get discourage. Our next in the list of ways that we get discouragement is:

By bringing up our limitations. 

“Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?” Isaiah 36:8-9

Taunted by Rabshaken, we see that the Israelites are short in numbers to protect themselves thats why they cling to the Egyptian. Knowing our limitations brings insecuries. We might say “If only I’m tall enough, I might get the basketball scholarship” or “If only I’m pretty enough I could be accepted in a group.” Limitations drags us down.

By humiliating us.

“Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” But the Rabshakeh said, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?” Isaiah 36:11-12

Next week we will continue this study with #4 and #5 of the methods of discouragements that is thrown at us.

(To be continued next week…)