Ghost Month

Ghost month. A period of time when the gates of hell are opened, allowing ghosts and spirits to enter our world. It is a time for them to feast on the food and drink offerings made for them.

Ghost Month Offering

At the height of the month, the ghost festival (the 15th day of the seventh lunar month), it is believed deceased ancestors visit the living. Around this time, people will offer food and drink, burn incense, joss paper (paper money), and various other things to the ghosts to alleviate their suffering and hunger. Also, a wash basin is provided for ghosts to wash themselves.

As we watch on from a distance, grandparents invite their grandchildren (toddlers and such) to follow their lead, worshipping their dead ancestors. Store owners pack tables full with various goods in hope of appeasing any mischievous spirits. People stand over a brazier burning mounds of joss paper…

It’s depressingly sad. I wish I could tell them there was another way, there is no reason to be scared…

Deuteronomy: life’s best…

Cover to Cover

Reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-32:47

Focus: Deuteronomy 30:11-20

The society we live in finds itself dissatisfied with rules, structures, and anything else really that limits their “freedom”. Human nature has never been satisfied with any of these settings and have always sought to break out from them so that they might break new ground and find a new experience of life which they could not have under the old, restricted “regime”. And yet, the cycle continues as these new experiences find themselves subjected to the need for order, structure and form…seriously, after millennia past we still haven’t learnt.

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Leviticus: forever free…

Cover to Cover

Reading: Leviticus 23:1-25:55

Focus: Leviticus 25:1-55

We live in a world where the rich are only getting richer, and the poor are only getting poorer. Over the generations, the status of families and businesses have overpowered and domineered over those who simply have not been able to keep up. As they continue to grow from the failure of those smaller than them, their growth expands exponentially as there is close to no way for people to catch up.

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Actions: freedom in obedience

James 1:25

For most people, the two words ‘freedom’ and ‘obedience’ simply are not compatible. To be ‘free’ is to be unbound by submission to another authority, to be ‘obedient’ is to relinquish one’s freedom and submit to authority. Logically, they are incompatible ideals but James, and throughout the Bible, brings these two, seemingly opposite, ideas together as a part of the Christian life. Where most of us would immediately associate faith with obedience, James brings into the picture ‘freedom’ found what some might consider a rigid framework.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.

Continuing to build on his illustration of looking into a mirror, James points to another point of reflection and contemplation. The perfect law. As mentioned earlier, the mention of law immediately bring to mind boundaries, restrictions and obedience. It is not something that is associated with ‘freedom’ – yet, James does just that. Just as the civil law of a country requires of its citizens obedience, the bulk of those laws are to benefit the citizens seeking to protect and to govern them wisely and justly. How much more so with the perfect law of God? It is within the bounds of this “perfect law” that we are to find ultimate freedom, as it seeks to protect us and govern our lives with wisdom and righteousness – all, for our benefit.

Now, the “perfect law” of God is not the law of the Old Testament that some may be tempted to claim. While the principles and basis of that law was from God, it was incomplete without finding its fulfilment in the person of Jesus Christ. The entire OT law structure and system had one purpose in mind, to prepare the people of God – the Jews – for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We find the “perfect law” through the teaching and life of Jesus Christ. Indeed, there are aspects of the OT law which Jesus took on board, but always interpreted within the light of His coming fulfilling its true intentions.

Thus, it is the person who reflects and considers the perfect teachings of Jesus Christ – revealed through the Gospel accounts and the teachings of the Apostles – who finds freedom in life. However, reflect once again on James’ earlier words, “Do not merely listen to the word […] Do what it says.” The person who acts upon the words and teachings of Jesus Christ will be blessed. Another misconception that on must avoid is that blessing equals prosperity, because it doesn’t. Indeed, the OT perspective was that someone who was prosperous was blessed, but that’s not always the case and I’m sure you can think of modern-day examples. Rather, to be blessed meant to be given joy. So, if you rephrase James’ words, “He will be given joy in what he does.” To be content, to be satisfied, to recognise that God is always with you – such is the gift of joy.

It seems that it is a recurring lesson, but it is ever so crucial: let us be people of the Word, not just people who sit in church on Sundays nor people who know how to give a shout to God nor people who just do “good deeds” nor people who can pray long and righteous prayers nor people who can recount portions of Scripture. Let us be people who act upon the Word that has been passed down to us. Let us stand, let us get out of seats, out of churches and into the world to do what we were called to do – to be “salt and light” to the world around us.