Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Judges series - Judges 12

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note/What we have learnt/can learn".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Jephthah and Ephraim

1 The men of Ephraim called out their forces, crossed over to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, "Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We're going to burn down your house over your head." 2 Jephthah answered, "I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn't save me out of their hands. 3 When I saw that you wouldn't help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?" 4 Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, "You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh." [I cannot help but compare Jephthah to Gideon. Apart from similarities of both were warriors from the Manasseh tribe, Jephthah paled in comparison to Gideon, although Gideon did make one mistake – the allowing of his golden ephod to become a detestable thing before the Lord, that people would worship the ephod. Gideon was firstly humble. He had great reverence for God – we saw this from the way he talked with God about the suffering of the Israelites, and his offerings to the Lord, and his obedience. He must have been very much into the faith heritage – he knew of and probably meditated on the past dealings God had with the people, he learnt the ways of God. He was courageous. He was a peace-maker – remember how he pacified the Ephraimites. Jephthah, on the other hand was prideful – he wanted to be head of Gilead. He was obviously not serious with the Lord – he probably did not bother to learn about the faith of his forefathers, about God. He was complacent with God, mixing the Lord with other pagan gods – all these leading to detestable vow and resultant burnt offering of his daughter. And here, we read of him making war literally, with “brothers” (the Ephraimites and the Manassites were descendants from Ephraim and Manasseh, sons of Joseph who was the son of Jacob {aka Israel}). {Although pride and jealousy were the reasons here, to understand the constant bickering between the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, please read my commentary on Judges 8).}] 5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, "Let me cross over," the men of Gilead asked him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he replied, "No," 6 they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.' " He said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. [These kinds of things deepened the animosity between the 2 tribes. In Isaiah 9:21, the prophet Isaiah, in prophesying the birth of the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6), when making references to the past (as well as the future), even quoted the animosity between the 2 half-tribes. Some Bible commentators tended to imply that Gileadites were not Manassites or men of Manasseh. I beg to differ. Gilead was the son of Makir who was the son of Manasseh (Num 26:29). Each Israelite Tribe could have several clans. In the case of the Manasseh Tribe, Makirite and Gileadite clans were just 2 of the clans. Also, in Num 32:39-41, it is clearly stated that Moses gave the place, Gilead to the tribe of Manasseh and the latter did settled there. Gilead can be referring to a clan (of Manasseh) or a place {also, Gilead stood for other things as well} depending on the context.

In fact, from Judges 11:1, we read that Jephthah was the son of Gilead. I believe Jephthah was not listed in Numbers 26 as a descendant or clan because Jephthah’s mother was a prostitute, not wife of Gilead.

This event recorded here was an example of events that increased the animosity of the 2 sub-tribes.]
7 Jephthah led Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died, and was buried in a town in Gilead. [I do not think I was that far off, in thumbing down Jephthah, if he had much favor of God, counting from the first judge, Othniel to him, Jephthah, it would be strange that he led Israel for the shortest period – 6 years (I excluded Abimelech for obvious reason – he was not chosen by God). Here is the tally: Othniel (40 years), Ehud (80 years), Shamgar (not stated), Deborah (40 years), Gideon (40 years), Abimelech (excluded), Tola (23 years), Jair (22 years), Jephthah (6 years).]

Ibzan, Elon and Abdon

8 After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. 9 He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters away in marriage to those outside his clan, and for his sons he brought in thirty young women as wives from outside his clan. Ibzan led Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died, and was buried in Bethlehem. [In Joshua 19, in the land allotment to the Zebulun tribes, there was a mention of a place called Bethlehem (v 15). This place was different from the famous Bethlehem dwelled in by the Judah tribe. There are 2 schools of thought, one thinks that Ibzan was a Zebulunite, another, a Judah. My pick is Ibzan was a Zebulunite; after 7 years, another Zebulunite, Elon, took over.] 11 After him, Elon the Zebulunite led Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon died, and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. [Nothing was said of Elon except that he led for 10 years]
13 After him, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon son of Hillel died, and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites. [After Elon, Abdon, a donkey rider Ephraimite took over.]

What we are to learn:

This chapter focused mainly on Jephthah although 3 minor judges were mentioned at the end. There is no doubt that Jephthah was a Manasseh, just like Gideon was, yet we saw the great contrast between the 2 men, particularly how they handled the relation between the 2 sub-tribes of the House of Joseph.

Although Jephthah was raised by God to be a judge to fight the Ammonites, as I have pointed out in my commentary for verse 7 above, Jephthah’s leading was the shortest among the judges from the beginning till his time. This could point to his own incorrect dispositions and character flaws which hindered him from being more useful for the Lord. I believe it is worthwhile for us the study both the accounts of Gideon and Jephthah, which we can easily do now, with my write-ups of the same, if we want to be used of the Lord, in more than just a one-off scenario.

Anthony Chia – Lord, I want your continual favor so that I will not just serve you in mere one-off scenario. Help me to grow in your ways so that I may be a pleasing vessel for your use.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Fall of Man (Part III)

This series has 3 parts, namely:

Part I – The Need for understanding of the topic, background, and the fall
Part II – The Consequences of The Fall
Part III – Controversial Issues on the topic

In this final part, we are covering the controversial issues of the topic. The word, “controversial” is subjective. What one considers as controversial maybe to another, not so. We have to bear this in mind when we look at the issues. In general, any ambiguity is purely due to the lack of details or information given to us, in the Bible. There is of course, nothing wrong with the Bible, it was never the intention of God to have everything written, how many volumes do we want the Bible to be?! Of course, it is always possible that we have not fully understood everything that was written in the Bible, including the cross-referencing and cross-linking of verses in the Bible.

Here are some of the “controversial” issues:

1. The serpent is Satan.
2. The death referred to by God in Gen 2:16-17 is not the physical death (1st death) but condemnation to eternal living in suffering in the burning lake of fire in Hell, an eternal separation from God.
3. Notions of spiritual and physical punishments
4. The consequences of the Fall pass down generationally, affecting all of mankind
5. Concerning the physical punishments on woman
6. Concerning the physical punishments on man
7. Punishments on Satan
8. Tree of life, Garden of Eden, and the banishment
9. Why did God give the prohibitive command in the first place?

The serpent is Satan

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. 2 He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Gen 3:1-2)

How do we know that the serpent was referring to Satan? Genesis is the first book of the Bible, Revelation is the last. It is from Rev 20:2, that we conclude that the serpent is Satan. Rev 20:2 –

He [the angel with the key to the Abyss and a great chain] seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

The death referred to by God in Gen 2:16-17 is not the physical death (1st death) but condemnation to eternal living in suffering in the burning lake of fire in Hell, an eternal separation from God

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Gen 2:16-17)

God said that if man breaks that command, he would surely die. Did man break the command/prohibition/law? Yes; did man die? No; not in the natural or physical sense. We know from Scripture that subsequently God put man out of the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve lived to give birth to 3 sons, Cain, Abel and Seth. So, was God’s word of no effect, empty threat, or worse still, God lying? Of course not, and so, the death that God was referring to, was not the natural or physical death.

We say it was referring to the separation from God, or commonly being referred to as the 2nd death. And this 2nd death is the living forever in Hell, in the lake of burning fire. Man, because of his spirited soul, can never die in the sense that it will become nothingness. I believe a spirited soul lives forever, either in Heaven or in Hell. Having to live in Hell is an eternal separation from God, and is a spiritual punishment, on the spirited soul. If you have read my article on the Tripartite man (or Man is body, soul and spirit), you will understand my reasoning here.

[23/03/2011 - I have deleted the paragraph on Luke 16:26 concerning the rich man and Lazarus, as there is no consistency on view of whether or not "Abraham's bosom" Jesus referred to, was at that time, in Hades or Heaven.]

Notions of spiritual and physical punishments

In the above paragraphs, I mentioned that having to live in Hell is an eternal separation from God, and is a spiritual punishment, on the spirited soul.

My understanding is that the spirited soul cannot die (in our sense), so any punishment would be a living punishment, and having to live in Hell eternally in the lake of burning fire is a living punishment for the spirited soul. I prefer to use the term, spirited soul (and not spirit) because we know that the rich man in Hades, in Luke 16, had feeling, he could feel.

Likewise, for the bodily or physical life on earth, God meted out living punishments for man. Of course, I have explained the rationale for God not killing Adam and Eve immediately. Had He killed them immediately, instead of letting them live and gave birth to children, we might not have been able to tell apart that, the death referred by Genesis 2:16-17, was referring to the 2nd death, because it would have been masked by the 1st death (had God killed them immediately). Had God killed them immediately, still God would have been true to His word, despite we might have missed the concept of the 2nd death; the physical death or 1st death would have placed man into the spiritual realm which eventually would have led to the 2nd death, with no hope for man. But because God was and is true to his original purpose of wanting man to populate Heaven, God allowed man to live on, without contradiction to His words of Genesis 2:16-17, and set into motion the salvation plan of mankind, which until today is still unfolding. But in the allowing of man to live on, on earth, God decided to mete out living punishment for the physical living on earth. These physical punishments were listed for us in Genesis 3:16-19.

The consequences of The Fall pass down generationally, affecting all of mankind

To many Christians, this has been accepted, nothing controversial about it. But there are still those who did not believe the Original Sin was capable of being passed down the lineage of mankind. These people accept the concept of sins, and that we need Jesus to forgive our sins so that we do not end up going to Hell, but they would not accept the concept that at birth, before they even did anything, they were already sinful. Denying the passing down of the Original Sin is denying the primary justification power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Maybe some people aren’t perceiving well enough; in that they can accept the physical consequences, as listed under Genesis 3:16-19 because they are indeed seen in man, even to today, but they cannot accept the spiritual consequences of man, of being damned to Hell, and loss of the original righteousness, being also passed down the lineage of mankind. Perhaps, that is the point, the unregenerate man go by sight, and not by faith.

The Apostle Paul clearly believed that the original sin passes down the generational line of man (he expounded also, the concept of justification in the Book of Romans). This is what he said concerning the passage of original sin down the line of man:

12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come (Romans 5:12-14).

Concerning physical punishments on the woman

For the woman, God said her childbearing pain would be increased as one punishment. It is wrong, I believe, to suggest that there was supposed to be no childbearing pain before this. God said He would greatly increase, implying that prior to this there was still supposed to be childbearing pain, but not as great a pain.

Also, I believe, it is wrong to suggest that prior to this fall there was no intention for man to procreate. The commission for man to be fruitful and multiply was given independently of this event, most possibly prior to this event.

God did, however, say here that a woman’s desire would be for her husband, and he would rule over her. What are we to say if a woman does not desire her husband? What if she does not allow him to rule over her? I believe I am being objective when I say that this is God’s punishment, and we should just accept it. It is NOT because I am a man, I say this. If you are a woman, this is your lot. Accept it. It is the punishment that came down from Eve, NOT your fault but just accept it. But you may say, but I have no (more) desire for my husband. What is a punishment? If you want to bear a child, you accept the punishment that there will be pain, despite you NOT liking the pain. Similarly, if you decide to marry and have a husband, desire him, even if you feel NOT liking that. It is also the same with ruler-ship. This is NOT my words but God’s words - a husband will rule over his wife, accept it. When a command is for the man, the man must accept it, likewise if it is a command for the woman, and you are a woman, accept it. NOT accepting is disobeying, and disobeying is a sin. Do NOT doubt the good intention of God; that was what Eve did, and it led to the Fall of Man.

Now NOT everything is gloom and doom. In fact, we do find many cases of women having relatively easier childbearing, have no problem desiring their husbands, and also no problem having their husband ruling over them, or that their husbands are ruling over them NOT in dictatorship but in love. If we have the punishments coming through to us as light and NOT heavy, IT IS GRACE. Be grateful, be thankful to God. He has been gracious to you.

Concerning physical punishments on the man

To the man, God said he was to obey Him, God, over and above anyone else, including his wife, but he had failed to do so – he disobeyed a direct command or prohibition by God. For that, God pronounced a curse on the ground with the result that it would not be so easy for the man to satisfy his food need from the ground; he would need to toil painfully for his food all the days of his life. The soil will not be yielding good food for man all the times, at times all man will get, will be thorns and thistles, and man will need to sweat for his food until he dies.

As for the woman, the same can be said for the man, not everything is gloom and doom. Again, if you have it easy, and there are many men who have it easier than others, it is by the grace of God. Be grateful, be thankful to God. He has been gracious to you. Instead of boasting, you should bless others; that I believe, will please God.

I want to say it is NOT right to say from here, God’s instruction was for man to eat only plants – be vegetarian. Please, just because animals were NOT mentioned here, it did NOT mean man could NOT eat animals’ meat. When God created all the plants and animals, and then Man, and God declared that Man was to have dominion over them all; to me, that included eating the animals. Just because it now mentioned here that Man were to eat the plants of the ground (through toiling and sweat), are we to say that prior to this, man did NOT eat anything, NOT plants, and NOT meats – this way of interpreting the Scriptures, to me, is inappropriate!

In some sense, I believe for both the woman and the man, the set of punishments selected here by God, were aimed at punishing the flesh side of Man. I believe perhaps, God cursed the ground because the flesh/body part of man was from the ground. The soul and spirit parts or the spirited soul (part) of man was already cursed through the breaking of the command/prohibition/law God gave to Adam (of not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil). To better understand the makeup of man, you can read my article on the Tripartite man – man is body, soul and spirit.

Punishments on Satan

The serpent, of course, being the mastermind, deserved to be cursed; from being the most crafty wild animal, it became the most cursed animal.

God said He would put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and enmity between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s offspring. The offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and the serpent would strike the woman’s offspring’s heel.

I believe the serpent referred to, in The Fall, is Satan, and I believe the crushing of the serpent head and striking of the woman’s offspring’s heel were fulfilled on the cross – the crucifixion. The woman’s offspring was referring to Jesus Christ, and on the Cross Jesus crushed the head of Satan, and Satan struck Jesus’ heels.

I believe the crushing of the head of Satan is to be taken metaphorically to refer to the rescinding of all authority of Iniquity (or Sin) and Satan over Man.

Tree of life, Garden of Eden, and the banishment

Next, we look at the tree of life, Garden of Eden, and the banishment. In line with His word in Genesis 2:16-17, God had to disallow man to reach for the fruit from the tree of life, and banished man from the Garden of Eden.

I have 2 possible reasons for the above actions (Gen 3:23-24) of God. They are my beliefs, and so you can either accept them or reject them. But before we look at that, we need to consider what the “live forever” meant in Gen 3:22 –

And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." (Gen 3:22).

From my article on the Tripartite man, I drew the conclusion that a spirited soul (the soul of man is a spirited soul) will live forever, meaning even when we die the physical death, our spirited soul lives on, it does not become nothingness; rather it either ends up living in blessedness eternally in Heaven or suffering in the lake of fire eternally in Hell. So, if this being the case, i.e. the spirited soul of the man doesn’t die, after physical death, why did God still talk about not letting man to eat of the fruit of the tree of life? I believe the tree of life confers life to the physical body, meaning if one takes of it, he will not die, physically, the highest dream of men for all times.

But from the Book of Revelation, we also read of the relevance of the tree of life in Heaven. How do I reconcile my suggestion that it is for a physical condition and yet it, the fruit from the tree, was for the taking (eating) in the heavenly realm which was also believed to be a spirit realm? My answer is this: I believe the life conferring power of the fruit from the tree of life works on both our current earthly body as well as the incorruptible body that God would give us, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Perhaps, the incorruptibility of the body is maintained through the taking of the fruit. Like I said, this is my belief, you can disagree with it.

Now we come back to the reasons for not allowing man to reach for the fruit from the tree of life. The first reason, which I believe is not difficult to accept, is that God’s word must stand. God gave a command/ prohibition/law, the penalty of which was a curse or damnation. God said that if man broke that command, he would surely die. Did man break the command? Yes; and so man must die, meaning man could not be allowed to live forever. If man could physically live forever, and this (in line with my belief above), would be possible had Man was being able (to continue) to eat the fruit from the tree of life; and God’s word would be of no effect, empty threat, or worse still, it implied God lied. If there was not 1st death, it would be difficult for 2nd death to be entered into (I would not say impossible as everything is possible with God). So, man could not be allowed (to continue) to reach for the fruit from the tree of life.

The second reason, which is more subjective to some, is my belief that in the first place, God did not create man to be able to handle the knowledge of good and evil, at least not without additional input from God. God only created man in His image, not as God. I believe the tripartite man, body, soul and spirit, as created by God, was not capable of handling the knowledge; and that was the reason God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit. Had Man not eaten of the fruit, and received not, the knowledge of good and evil, there would not be a problem/issue of man living forever. But that man had taken the fruit and had received the knowledge of good and evil which he was not created to wield, it would be disastrous when he and all his offspring live forever. Putting it very crudely, one Satan was bad enough; if we have a horde of satans that have physical body which cannot die physically, it would be havoc!

To make sure there was no way Man could ever come back into the Garden and eat of the fruit from the tree of life, God securely blocked the Garden from men (Gen 3:24). Until today, mankind had not been able to locate the Garden of Eden. Sorry folks, God would never let the elixir tree or its fruit be found by men. If you want to taste it, get yourself to Heaven!

[Added: 04/04/2011 - As an additional side note, I believe it is NOT unreasonable to assume that Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit from the tree of life, as part of their diet, before The Fall, for Gen 2:16-17 clearly said that apart from the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, fruits from all other trees, Adam and Eve could eat. That was the reason, in earlier paragraphs, I have enclosed in brackets,"to continue" as in "NOT to (continue to) to eat of the fruit from the tree of life."]

Why did God give the prohibitive command in the first place?

I believe the discussion of The Fall of Man will not be complete if we do not at least think about why there should be a prohibitive command/law for Adam in the first place. This prohibition, we read in Genesis 2:16-17 -

And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

It is my belief that God, who was and is love, created man to be like Him, capable of loving. But loving has no meaning if there is no free-will. When affection is forced or there is no choice, it is not love. Love necessarily implied freedom to choose. And this freedom to choose is man’s free-will. If there is nothing to choose, there can be no exercise of free-will. God’s idea of love is a choice (Of course, it is also about faithfulness, and commitment, about obedience, and about sacrifice.).

For example, God chooses to love us. He made a choice. He could have chosen not to love us, but He chose to love Man. Is anyone worthy of God’s love? No, so why does God still love us? It is because it is a choice; he simply chose to; no one forced God. For us, man, we too, have to make a choice, whether or not, we want to love God. If God forces us to love Him, what God gets is not love. The moment it is forced, the affection is no longer love. We do have a choice, don’t we?

Another example, we can choose to love God or money. God’s word said that we cannot love both. So, we have to make a choice, money or God? Can a wife not love her husband? Can a father not love his son? Can. Why? Because it is a choice. Many wives chose not to love their husbands, and fathers, not, their sons (The Book of Malachi talked about hearts of fathers would be turned to their children, and the hearts of children would be turned to their fathers, in the last days. What was implied therefore, is that it is possible that fathers do not love their children and the children, their fathers). Many children chose not to love their parents. A good example is found in my country; we have a law that forces children to provide for their aged parents. How come this is necessary? It is because children can choose not to love their parents. It is very sad, but it happened again and again. When the law is used, what you see is not love; yes, the aged parent gets the money but money is all he/she gets, not love. The law merely forced it, and when it is forced it is no longer giving in love. It is not free-will at work.

People divorce; and one of the reasons is simply, at least one party had chosen not to love the other. Also possible, is a party of a marriage might have chosen not to love the other, but perhaps, love another, outside of the marriage. There is a choice available, and in this particular instance, the party choose not to love his/her existing partner anymore (but to love someone else). Let’s say there are only one man and one woman left in the world. The man has to marry the woman and the woman, the man. There is none to choose from. There must be something to choose from, in order that free-will can have any meaning, although choosing can be between apple and orange (e.g. money and God), and not necessarily between apple and apple (one woman over another woman!).

It is my belief that free-will was instituted in Man so that love may become rooted in Man. Someone actually asked me, how come such a severe punishment, eternal death? I can only think of this answer: For such a previous thing, love, to take root, we need a “weighty” punishment, much like for the preservation of life (precious), we, have to put the punishment for murder as death.

It is no wonder that Jesus defined love this way: If you love me, obey my commands (i.e. you exercise your free-will and choose to follow God’s instructions), and those who obey my commands, love me (your obedience is not to be out of fear of punishment, but because you love God) {John 14:15 & 21}.

Anthony Chia – At the base of it all, love is a choice.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

If I have not love, I am nothing

Article verse: 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV):

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Apostle Paul’s motivation for ministry
If I have not love (have no love), I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 put it very clearly this truth, understood by the Apostle Paul. The latter said that if he had the gift of prophecy and could fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if he had a faith that could move mountains, but had not love, he was nothing. This tells us the kind of motivation that we must have behind our ministry or our serving. It looked to me that Paul was saying that our ministry or our service would not count much or even count nothing before God if our motivation was not love.

Our heart-condition, God knows
If what we do is motivated by a desire to gain something for ourselves or to gratify our flesh, such ministry or serving really does not count. If we serve or minister to get appreciation and applause of others or for self-glorification our motivation will not be pleasing to God. When God is not pleased, He may not bless our efforts and without His blessing, our effectiveness may suffer. This is particularly so, if what we do requires God’s supernatural action. In faith healing for example, it is God who heals, we have no power to heal; when our motivation is wrong, God may or may not extend His hand of healing. In many natural things, sure, because of natural endowments, we are capable of achieving much, without God’s intervention, but even so, God knows our motivation, and when the heart-condition is not right, despite that we have success, and praises of men, God may not be pleased.

Ascribe all glory to God
One motivation which is clearly not acceptable to God is to glorify oneself. All glory must be ascribed back to God. God does not allow His glory to be shared with another (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11, Mal 2:2 {KJV}). Do not listen to preachers who tell us to lap up the glory on ground of our royal identity in the Kingdom. The Apostle Paul only talked about our sharing of the Lord’s glory in the future (not in this life), and even for that we must presently share in His suffering.

A success does not necessarily mean God is pleased with you
Actually, there are many things we can do that seem right, and good and honorable, and these may include preaching, teaching and praying for others, but if our motivation is not right, they will not be credited to us, despite success of our endeavors. The success of our endeavors does not necessarily mean that God is pleased; for one thing there is always Romans 8:28 - in all things, God (still) works them for the good of those (may not be us) who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.

The right motivation
Our right motivation should be God’s compassionate love for people. Our ministry and service must be motivated by selfless compassionate love for others. By this, we are not to expect reward for what we have done. Of course, in many scenarios, the blessed person may thank us, and even show us honor, but we are not to be motivated by such. It is right, though, for the one who have received ministry to show appreciation and honor those who serve, if possible; this is part of practising honor.

What if I have not the compassion?
Should one still minister or serve if one has no compassion? Should one wait until one has compassion before one serve? I was once embroiled with nagging personal problems (in fact, I am still in them), and had lost compassion for others, preferring to adopt the attitude that I should let some others (presuming they have no or less problems than me) to help those in need. Such attitude is in fact very real for many of us, and I believe it is the devil’s tactic to cause us to be inward-looking. I say one should still serve even if one lacks compassion. This is not the same as saying that you can go serve with wrong motivation. I am saying if you have no bad motive, and it is just that you are not feeling compassionate enough to serve or minister, you should still do it.

In His time, He will make all things beautiful
I like to borrow Jesus’ saying in the story of The Rich Young Man (Matt 19), “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” What I am saying is that when we are having problems of our own, we often find it difficult to have the compassion to serve or minister to others (because our mind is always on our own problems, not solved, not helped by others), but it is possible for God to infuse His compassion into us over time if our heart-condition is right. For one thing, from my own experience, God will grant you the grace and strength to persevere in your problems, and when you have that, you will begin to find it easier to give selfless compassionate love to others. Maybe after sometime, you may even find it very meaningful to serve God and to be His minister, to be His physical presence for those in need of God. Of course, depending on the nature of your own struggles, and the ministry you want to get involved in, you may want to talk to your mentor, overseer or church pastor who will be able to monitor you in your ministry or service.

I am believing that as I minister more and more with the love of God, He will increase the effectiveness of my ministry or service.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Yet, still I know my life has not been all that pleasing to you. Lord, help me not to ignore your holiness, for you are first of all, Holiness.

PS: For the record (journaling), I ministered singing prayers (my first) to a brother in church altar ministry on 30th May 2010, 10:30am service. This brother was moved to tears. Just for the record, I had also prayed for his 4-years old son, John, for brain damage affecting one side of the boy’s body.

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