Monday, November 14, 2011

7 things we can learn from Nehemiah’s Prayer

Preamble: This write-up has been preached on a number of occasions [by me], including this coming time of 20/09/2014 for a divine healing service.  For the several times that this set of words was given, the Lord was pleased to come and minister and brought break-throughs for people, in their situations.  I personally believe it has in it, a set of understandings, fundamental to the faith, that the Lord would want every believer to embrace, and so, when it is preached the Lord is pleased to come to attest to it, with signs and wonders, and breakthroughs for people.  By the way, to-date, this is still one of the top articles read by people on this blog site, although the title was not worded as expediently for common search [like starting it with "Nehemiah's Prayer ...."].  I hope you will be blessed when you read this article [this preamble added on 16/09/2014].]

In the study of Old Testament (OT), even as we are to understand the history and stories of the times, at the end of the day, where possible, we should address its application in our present day life. If we do NOT do that, then reading of OT accounts of events may appeal to us only like fictional stories, to be read like a fictional novel; surely the OT is more than that.
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Since the church (the church I attend), has just completed a study of the Book of Nehemiah, I thought, apart from what was gleaned from those preachings from the pulpit, I would like to, at least, put up an application article on the Book, by just looking at the Prayer of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1. Earlier, towards the end of September 2011, I wrote an article on “The Initial Return to Zion”, at the start of the church’s study of Nehemiah. That article served to clear up some of the confusions over the 2 major books (Ezra and Nehemiah) on the subject of initial return to Zion. You may like to read it, if you intend to do a detailed study of these 2 books. Although the series by the church provided great scholarly insights into the meanings and symbolisms of things in the Book (and I appreciate that, my pastor), there was clearly a lack of addressing the application of what we learnt there. I can only say time always limits what we can cover. But I really would like to, as I have indicated in my article on The Initial Return To Zion, encourage people to read with the intent to apply. This article gives us a simple illustration of reading with intent to apply.

Nehemiah’s Prayer
Nehemiah was told that those who survived the Babylonian exile were in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and its gates had been burned with fire. He sat down and wept when he heard those things; for some days he mourned and fasted and prayed before God. Below is his prayer (Neh 1:5-11):

5 Then I said: “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king (Neh 1:5-11).

Here I give 7 things we can learn from the prayer of Nehemiah:

1. That God is great and awesome (v5). Nehemiah declared it: that God is great and awesome. Our God is the God of the Heaven, great and awesome. How great and awesome is our God? There are so many aspects to greatness and awesomeness of God; and we can preach sermons after sermons on this subject. But the one aspect that Nehemiah expressed in that one verse is the awesomeness of the all omnipotent God keeping covenant with men. Such is the awesomeness of God that despite we can do nothing to Him, He still cares to keep His promises to us! (Perhaps, one day, I will put up an entry on the greatness and awesomeness of God).

2. That God keeps covenant with those who love Him and obey His commands (v5). Our God is a covenant-keeping God, yet it is NOT a case of God will stick to the covenant no matter what. Nehemiah’s understanding was that God keeps covenant with those who love Him and obey Him. So, the parts that God is supposed to do in a covenant are for those who love Him and obey Him. Are you loving God? Are you obeying God? One angle we should be looking at, before we ask, “How come I do NOT get this or that from God, said of, in the covenant?” is whether we are indeed, loving our God and are obeying Him. If you neither love Him nor obey Him, can you still get from God? Sure, but it is by His grace, and if it is by grace, it is up to God whether or NOT He would give it; it would NOT be He is obligated to give, as in a covenant or contract. If you think it is wrong to even think of God ever NOT keeping His part of the covenant, God did that before, but NOT until the counterparty, the people of God, Israelites, first broke covenant with Him. God broke the covenant (“The Promised Land Covenant”) which He made with the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, because the Israelites broke the covenant first (Judges 2:1-3 {If you want a full exposition of Judges 2, read this: Judges 2}).

3. That God wants us to confess our sins (v6-7). That was what Nehemiah did, before he put before God, his supplications. We ought to follow Nehemiah’s example, always confess our sins, before we even petition for God’s working on our behalf. Those who teach that 1 John 1:9 is NOT for believers ARE WRONG. (You may want to read this article of mine {1 John 1:9 is for believers}, if you are inclined to believe believers do NOT need to confess their sins after the one time confession, at born-again).

4. That God would remember His words (v8). In our prayers, we refer to the Word, refer to words we have received from God; God will remember them and will honor them. Nehemiah called to God to remember.

5. That God is a forgiving God, that if we would return to Him and obey Him, He would once again move to restore us (v9).  I want to stress here that we need to return and obey.

6. That God would give ear to the prayer of all those who delight in revering His name (v10-11). You do NOT think God “shama” (H8085) you, or (less accurately) “listening” to you? One angle to look at is, “Are you revering His name in delight?” Or are you just begrudgingly honoring His name?

7. That God would like us to talk to Him first before we act (v11). That was what Nehemiah did: He was intentioned to talk to the King about the plight of the remnants and the city of Jerusalem, but he talked to God first about his intention. It is involving God in our affairs, and NOT, we just do our thing and when we get into trouble, we run to God for help; NOT that we should NOT do that, run to God for help, if we indeed, we get into trouble (for it is better to get help from God still – late better than NOT!). But it is honoring God to talk to Him first, before we proceed.

You see, regardless you are going or NOT going, to rebuild the wall of the city or your church, your family, etc, you can take in the above 7 important understandings, and apply them in your life.

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Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, may
you impress upon your teachers and preachers, that a way to pass down the legacy and heritage of our faith is to pass on the understanding to read with the intent to apply. Amen.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Matt 22:36-39 - No oxymoron here, but the very essence of love

Article text: Matt 22:36-39 -

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Where got room anymore
There are people who have problem with this Matthew passage (Matt 22:36-39): They say it is oxymoron or self-contradictory! The argument is that we are called to love God with all of us, with all of our heart, all of our soul and our mind, and then we are told to also love our neighbors; “where got room anymore!” Since all is used up in loving God, can there be any room left for anything, including loving our neighbors?

His righteousness
Call Him a jealous God, call Him a demanding God or call Him a “all or nothing” God, the point is that He is God and is a holy God; and principally, His wisdom and His holiness, working together give rise to His righteousness. Everyone just needs to conform to this righteousness, which is coming from the nature attributes of God. God is like that, it is Him; He has no choice, for He is governed by who He is. And we have no choice, for we are His Creation. No one creates something to irk himself! If what is created irks him, does he NOT have every right to destroy it or re-create it? Shall the clay talk back to the Potter or man, to God? (Romans 9:19-21 – The Potter and the clay {Many people read this article of mine, if you have the time, read it; it's about the sovereignty of God}).

Only one knows it fully!
Scripture talked about who knows the mind of God; and it is the Spirit of God who knows the mind of God. Can the Spirit be at odd with God? Never! For the Spirit is always right on, with God. For the Spirit knows what is on God’s mind, what He is thinking, wanting, desiring, and what He wants to do, and when He wants to do a thing. In other words, the Spirit is always right with God, and what is right, is about “what is right in God’s eyes”, and NOT in any other. The “rightnesses” of God is His righteousness.

The Holy Spirit is always righteous, for He is always right with God, or we say He is in sync with the righteousness of God. Even Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit that way: Jesus said that when He (Jesus) was gone (back to Heaven), the Holy Spirit would be sent, He (the Holy Spirit) would NOT speak or do anything of His own, but only that which He gets from God (which incl. Jesus Himself). You may say, “This is well and good, but what does it got to do with love, and the Matthew passage?” It is because it has everything to do with God and with love; wisdom, holiness, and consequently, righteousness, are everything to God, and are everything to matter of love or God’s love.

God only move in righteousness, including in loving Man ('ahab love)
Because of God’s holiness, God can only move in righteousness! His wisdom enables Him to do that. There is no other way; Scripture said God is holy, and in Him there is no darkness at all. There is no evil or wickedness in God. God just cannot move in any wickedness; He only moves in righteousness, and, and this is an important truth and revelation, it is that ultimately, God can only love Man unto righteousness ('ahab love). Many people have just preached about agape love, a dimension of God’s love revealed more fully in the New Testament, side-stepping that which was already revealed in the Old Testament about the love of God, and that it was a love unto righteousness, even as it was a sacrificial love.  For greater understanding of this 'ahab love, read: 'ahab love - love unto righteousness.

Agape needs to be expanded
The word, “agape” came from the Greek language, the language of the New Testament Scriptures. The Greek understanding however was NOT adequate, for their love language, so to speak, had no idea of loving unto righteousness, but “agape” is the closest love word to use (there are a few Greek love words). To me, if we do NOT want to use the Hebrew phrase of ‘ahab love, then agape love should be redefined to include love unto righteousness. Now, it should make more sense! Let me explain further below.

We too, must love Him back according to His righteousness
Now, God can only move in righteousness, and so also, God can only love men unto righteousness. Just as the Spirit can never be at odd with God, the only way men can be NOT at odd with God is for men to “read the mind of God”! Of course, men cannot read the mind of God like the Holy Spirit. But the idea is still that men are to be righteous, which ultimately is about being right on, with God, fully agreeing with what is on God’s mind (How can men know what is on God’s mind or what God considers as right? Through the Word and through the Holy Spirit). In order to be in harmony with God, we must be moving also in the ways of God. What is God’s ways? Righteous ways, according to His righteousness. So, when we love, we must also love righteously, for God loves us unto righteousness. So, we have established that when we love God, we are to love Him, righteously. Yah, what does it got to do with the “all” as in with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind?

There is no room for any other righteousness
The “all” is to denote the requirement to love God according to His righteousness; for that is the only way we can be in harmony with God; that is the only way it is acceptable to God, for He is a holy and righteous God. The “all” is to emphasize that there is no room for righteousness according to any other, NOT that of other deities, men or ourselves; only to be filled and governed by the righteousness of God. Of course, we should be clear that the fallen men have no acceptable standard of righteousness as far as the strict holiness of God demands (although in Old Testament times, I believe God did prescribe highest achievable standards (temporal), instead of The Standard); Scriptures put it that all have fallen short.

Matthew 22:37 is indicative of all of our love is directed at God, in accordance with His righteousness; and because it is in accordance with His righteousness solely, we are able still to love another, NOT with our own love, but with the love of God, or that there can be hatred even (holy hatred!), in our heart. In a nutshell, it is right to look upon our love for another, as “I love you with the love of God”. It is NOT wrong that we have no more love OF OUR OWN for anyone else; for ALL of our love is (you are supposed to) directed to God. Therefore, correctly, when we love others (other than God), we love with His love; likewise, we hate, with His hatred! You don’t get?! Let me explain below:

Loving our neighbours is flow-out from our love for God
Because when we love God, we love Him in accordance to His righteousness (you are supposed to), and so, you will do according to what God would do, as directed by His righteousness; remember we say God can only move according to His righteousness. Because we will (you are to) 100% subscription to His righteousness in our love for Him (love with all), we therefore, accordingly are to move according to His righteousness. God’s righteousness calls for loving men unto righteousness (and God loves men unto righteousness), and so, accordingly, His righteousness also called for men to love one another unto righteousness. So, when we go by His righteousness (we are to), we cannot but love our neighbors, and so, are moving in His love, because we are fully subscribed to His righteousness; or put it in another way, we love (another) with the love of God.

The second commandment which stated that we are to love our neighbors “as ourselves”, is indicative that it is with God’s love that we are to love our neighbors with, for God loves your neighbors as much as He loves you. So, if you are with your neighbor, and God gives you a pie, what is the thing to do? Think about that. What standard of righteousness God demands!

If you still have difficulty catching the point that when we love God with our all, we would be loving one another with His love, and NOT our love, for there is none left of our own, consider this:  When we love God with our all, we become true steward of God, including being the steward of His love.  Steward goes by the righteousness of God, and that righteousness calls for loving men; and so, we love men, for God, with God's love.

John 13:34 reads: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

When Jesus said "A new command I give you", what is the new thing?  The command of loving one another is NOT new.  It is new because of the words Jesus added after it - "As I have loved you, so you must love one another".  What does it mean?

The new thing is this:  In the same way Jesus has loved the disciples, so must the Disciples (and so, us, too) love one another.  How has Jesus loved His Disciples or followers?  Jesus repreatedly claimed this: that He only did what the Father wanted done or had done (John 5:19;30).  In other words, Jesus loved with the Father's love.  And so, too, we are to love one another with God's love; and the God's love for men is love unto righteousness.

Hate another with the love of God!
Many also are puzzled by this text (words of Jesus) in Gospel of Luke, Luke 14:26-27 -

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

We have established that when we love another, we love with the love of God. When we hate (another), we, likewise, can only do it according to the righteousness of God. Can we say we hate with the hatred of God? Why NOT? There is no evil or wickedness in God, but God does hate! What does God hate? Evil, wickedness, sins, that which is in opposition to His righteousness. Of course, a more pleasant way of saying the same is “We hate (another) with the love of God”, for the love of God is love unto righteousness. Very simply, the Luke text was saying that we are to deny everything and everyone, including ourselves, if it or the person, conflicts with the righteousness of God. Jesus knew it is NOT easy for men; that was why he said “carry your cross and follow Me”.

Love each other with the love of God, not your own love!
Incidentally, spouses and loved ones, with correct understanding of this, will NOT be upset with their spouses or loved ones, when they are being told (by their spouses or loved ones) that they are loved with the love of God. If the person loved you with the love of God, that is the best love he can give you, and you should be happy that he love you with the love of God, and NOT the love of His own, for the love of God is love unto righteousness, and is the only love that gives life. If the person gives you his own love, He has NOT loved God with all his heart, all his soul and all his mind, and so he is NOT in perfect harmony with God. Would you rather he, be in perfect harmony with God, or to love you with his own love? If you demand he loves you with his own love, you are NOT loving God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, for the righteousness of God demands that he gives all of his love to God. You want to love God with all your hearts, all your soul and all your mind, then let him to do likewise!

No oxymoron, but essence of love, embrace it
That Matthew passage (Matt 22:36-39), is NOT oxymoron or self-contradictory! Verse 37 does indicate all our love is to be directed at God, and yet because we are loving Him back in accordance to His righteousness, we are still able to love another with His (God's) love. Be opened, and receive this revelation of love; and then strive to walk in it, even as I am trying.

There is no conflict between love and commands/laws!
Those who have understanding of what I said about love, can appreciate such sayings of Jesus that those who love God obeys His commands (John 14:15), and those who obeys His commands are the ones who love Him (John 14:21a). It is all because the love Jesus was talking about, is love unto righteousness ('ahab love). The righteousness of God is given to us in His commands, in His Word, and through the Spirit; we obey in love.  Also, those who argue that Jesus came to do away laws and commandments, have no right understanding of the subject of love. To explain this specifically would take another article, but the above should be basis enough for this claim of their poor understanding.

Only one love
Love for God is NOT first, as in at the top of a list; rather it is TOTAL, ALL. We are to have only ONE love, LOVE FOR GOD; everything else is we are moving in accordance to righteousness of God. When we love God with our all, we are steward of God's love, and when the righteousness of God calls for love, we love, when it calls to hate, we hate, and when it calls to forgive, we forgive.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, may you use this article to open the eyes of many more to appreciate that, ultimately you can only love Man unto righteousness ('ahab love), and we can love you back no other way, except in accordance with your righteousness.  In the precious name of love, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

PS: By the way, in case you are misled: these 2 pillars of love are NOT new; the greatest commandment was in Deu 6:5, and the second, in Lev 19:18.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Were Mary Magdalene and Mary Bethany the same person?

Firstly, Mary Magdalene was also called Mary Magdala. Magdalene, in Hebrew מגדל Migdal means "tower", "fortress"; in Aramaic, "Magdala" means "tower" or "elevated, great, magnificent".

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As a place, Magdala (Magadan?) was a place on the western shore of the Lake of Galilee, 3 miles north of Tiberias.

So, it is possible that “Mary Magdalene” was referring “Mary from a place”, therefore, Mary Magdala, or Mary of such and such distinction, and therefore, Mary The Fortress or Mary The Tower. Of course, it is also possible that it was both, meaning that Mary was Mary The Fortress or Tower, and she was also Mary Magdala, the Mary who did reside in Magdala, a place, perhaps an elevated place with some form of tower or fortress on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The fuss about the name
Why the fuss about the meaning of the name of Mary, or what Magdalene was possibly referring to? Here is why: There was another Mary in the New Testament, and she was called Mary Bethany. Who was Mary Bethany? Could she have been the same person as Mary Magdalene?

Mary Bethany (MB), in Scripture, is the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 11:1-2). There is no dispute about this. In order to know if there is a possibility of MB was MM, we need to look at the background of MB. Just like MM, there was not much written in Scripture concerning the background of MB, Martha or Lazarus.

Siblings’ background from Golden Legend
But in extra-biblical material (Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints, compiled in 1300 AD), these were written of the siblings, Martha, Mary and Lazarus:

They were born of right noble lineage and parents, who were descended of the lineage of kings. Their father was named Syro (Cyrus) and their mother Encharia (Eucharis). The siblings possessed 3 places, (1) the castle of Magdalen (Magdalo), which was 2 miles from Nazareth in Galilee (with Sea of Galilee on the east), (2) Bethany town, and (3) a great part of Jerusalem, which, all these things they divided among themselves in such a way that Mary had the castle Magdalo, whereof she had her name Magdalene; Lazarus had the part of the city of Jerusalem, and Martha had to her part, Bethany.

Mary gave herself to all delights of the body, Lazarus extended all to knighthood, and Martha, who was wise, governed nobly her brother's part and also her sister's, and also her own, and administered to knights, and her servants, and to poor men, such necessities as they needed. Martha was recorded to be without husband, but she, as a noble hostess, ministered and served our Lord, Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, after the ascension of our Lord, they sold all these inheritance.

Isn’t it clear from the above, MB was MM. In fact, Martha was also called Martha Bethany which was the right name, for she owned Bethany. Because they were several Mary in that time and place (Mary or Miriam, being a common and popular name then), Mary was identified either as Mary Magdalene (MM), her rightful name for she owned the castle, Magdalo, at Magdala, or Mary Bethany (MB), especially when she was around her sister Martha or when she was in Bethany, a town near Jerusalem, Judea.

Catholics tradition had it for over 1,300 years, MM and MB were the same person.
In 591 A.D. Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) said that MB and MM were the same person. In 1969, however, the Catholic Church (the Vatican), without commenting on Pope Gregory’s reasoning, disassociated MM from being identified as MB or the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. So, for more than 1,300 years in the early past, Catholics had the understanding that MM and MB were the same person; that was a long time, that it went unchallenged, and it spoke volume.

With the above background information on the siblings, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, it is possible that Gregory the Great was right, but there are no Scriptures to support it. What is important is that the extra-biblical information was in no way in contradiction to any clear facts of the Scripture.

How could the name, Mary, went silent just like that?
There is still one more line of thought that lends support to saying MM and MB were the same woman. In the Gospel of Luke, MM was first mentioned in Luke 8:1-3.

1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

The next time Luke mentioned MM (not just Mary but Mary Magdalene) was in Luke 24:10, where MM had gone to the tomb of Jesus and found that it was empty, and she with other women, reported back to the Apostles.

The Gospel of Matthews only recorded MM being at the scene of crucifixion (Matt 27:56), at Jesus burial (Matt 27:61), and at the tomb on the day of resurrection (Matt 28:1-10).

The Gospel of Mark also recorded similarly, MM being at scene of crucifixion (Mark 15:40), at Jesus burial (Mark 15:47), and at the tomb on the day of resurrection (Mark 16:1,9).

The Gospel of John recorded this: MM being at scene of crucifixion (John 19:25), no mention of her at Jesus burial, and at the tomb on the day of resurrection (John 20:1,10,18).

In other words, only the Gospel of Luke had an earlier mention of MM (in Luke 8:1-3), prior to the scene of crucifixion, the rest of the Gospels were silent until MM was at the ground of the crucifixion.

If we traced the time and routes of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Luke 8:1-3 was probably at the beginning of Jesus’ 2nd preaching tour of Galilee; Prior to this, Jesus traveled from His home down south, to Jerusalem, and went back home; after that, He set off for His preaching tours of Galilee. The 1st preaching tour of Galilee concentrated on the West side of the Sea of Galilee, the 2nd tour with the help of the women, and his disciples, the team crossed the Sea of Galilee to the East side of the Lake. There would still be a 3rd preaching tour of Galilee, before Jesus slowly moved south to go to Jerusalem, entered it, back-tracked northward a little, into the province of Perea, before re-entering Jerusalem for the last time.

So, the deliverance of MM was back in Galilee, before His final south trip (to Jerusalem) which would see Jesus NOT returning to Galilee. A lot of time lapsed and a lot of things happened between Luke 8:1-3, and Jesus’ crucifixion, yet MM was NOT reported in any of the Gospels in that in-between period. It was unlikely that MM had NOT followed Jesus in His final south trip to Jerusalem, or at least, joined Him at some point in the trip, for she was there at the crucifixion. If she was NOT significant, which one can argue that, since only Luke separately mentioned Jesus’ deliverance and cleansing of MM, although Apostle Mark, in Mark 16:9, when mentioning MM on the day of resurrection, did identified MM as the same MM Jesus had previously cleansed in Galilee. If she was insignificant, why must she be mentioned at the essential junctures of the unfolding of the Gospel, the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of the Lord? Her presence and mentions at these junctures actually showed she was a significant character. How come she did NOT feature in the long and important in-between period, or was it, it might be she did, in another name, as Mary Bethany (MB)!

Similar argument can be made for MB. Firstly, Jesus said of her this way: “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matt 26:12-13).

Secondly she was one who had shown great love for the Lord: at one occasion in Bethany (most probably before another separate occasion which had Jesus coming again, on the death of Lazarus {John 11:1-43}), in home of Martha, while Martha was busying herself with foods and so on, Mary was at Jesus’ feet listening to Him; and this is what Jesus said of her action vis-à-vis Martha’s:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Jesus was meaning to say that Mary loved Him much, and because she loved Him much, she listened to Him. Jesus talked about love in this way: If you love me, you obey my commands (or listen to my words), and those who obey my commands (or listen to my words) are those who love me. Jesus was saying Mary’s love for Him would NOT be taken away from her.

Finally, 6 days before the Passover, in John 12:1-3, we read of MB’s show of love for Jesus, in Bethany, in the house of Simon the Leper, where Jesus and his disciples, including Lazarus, were having dinner, hosted in honor of Jesus, with Martha serving, took a pint of expensive perfume (costing a year’s wages), and poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair, anointing Jesus for His burial in the days to come. Concerning the lavishing of the perfume on Jesus, Matthews recorded, as in Matt 26:12-13 which I given above, Jesus said MB’s act would be remembered wherever the gospel would be preached in the world.

Wouldn’t it be UNreasonable to find MB was NOT present at the ground of the crucifixion, at His burial or at His expected resurrection day? OR is it that she was there at the crucifixion and burial (remember what Jesus said when she anointed His feet {Matt 26:12-13}. If I were MB, wouldn’t I be at the crucifixion and burial? Wouldn’t you be, when you realised the Lord had given a prophecy involving you, and it was coming to pass?), and on the expected day of resurrection? It was just that she was called Mary Magdalene (MM) when she was NOT with her sister, Martha or she was NOT in Bethany, or it was intentional that she was to be remembered for who was she, Mary of Magdala, Mary The Tower, The Fortress, standing by the Lord when even the apostles stayed away (the disciple whom Jesus loved or the Beloved Disciple might NOT even be one of the Apostles; but there would another story, another article!)?

To me, the above is quite convincingly suggesting to us that MM and MB were the same person.

What about the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50?
There was an account of Jesus being anointed by a sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50, however no name was assigned to this woman. Could she be Mary Magdalene?

The scene was set in Galilee, possibly before Jesus went on the 2nd preaching tour of Galilee where Mary Magdalene and some other women supported Jesus and His disciples out of their own means, as mentioned in Luke 8:1-3. Some are of the view that the scene (Luke 7:36-50) was set in Bethany; that I believe is incorrect. It had to be in Galilee.   [Added: 1 Oct 2013 - The accounts of John 12:1-8 and Mark 14:1-10 are different from this account of Luke 7:36-50.  The John 12 and Mark 14 accounts were probably the same account and were set in Bethany, although there were some minor incongruencies, like the perfume was poured onto the feet in the John’s account, and onto the head in the Mark’s account.  These two (same) accounts were very close to Jesus’ capture for crucifixion (a few days away).  If we could accept that the accounts of John 12 & Mark 14 were the same, then, the woman in Mark 14 was Mary Magdalene, NOT an unknown or unnamed woman.  So, exposition on this Mark 14 should NOT be centered around outsiders as represented by the woman (purportedly unknown or unnamed) and insiders (like those represented by the Disciples); neither should it be expounded as unnamed servant or person in Scripture was referring to the Holy Spirit, as is being, sometimes, preached by some overly grace preachers.  Now, in my view, from the knowledge as contained in this article, Mary Magdalene was an insider, NOT an outsider.]

No name was mentioned for this sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50, and there was no reference back to this sinful woman when MM was introduced by Luke in Luke 8:1-3; as such, linking the two together is almost speculation.

I said “almost” because there is one piece of extra-biblical information that might be used to link the two together, but it must be recognised as only a weak link, because it was extra-biblical and it is a putting of “two and two” together, so to speak:

In the background information given in the Golden Legend, of Mary, it was said that MM or MB (we established the possibility of MM was MB, earlier) took the castle, Magdalo, in Galilee, as her share of inheritance, and gave herself to all delights of the body, so it was possible prior to her deliverance mentioned in Luke 8:1-3, MM was living a life of decadence. But the scene of Luke 7:36-50 was NOT the scene of the deliverance mentioned in Luke 8:1-3; if it was the same person involved, I reckon MM was cleansed before the scene in the home of Simon, the Pharisee, recorded in Luke 7:36-50. If you go by the actions mentioned in the text, of the sinful woman, you will agree with me, the actions of the woman should be those of a person who had been previously touched by the Lord, NOT those of one who was coming to the Lord for the first time, especially if she had NOT been set free from all her encumbrances. She was (still) said as a sinful woman because that was what she was, before she was cleansed by the Lord, and perhaps, there was not sufficient time in-between that people saw and believed of the change in her and her lifestyle. To me, her actions showed she had repented of her previous lifestyle, and so, and therefore, it was proper for the Lord to say that her sins were forgiven her, in that Luke 7:36-50 text.

The Pope Gregory the Great in his Homily 33 indicated his belief that the sinful woman was MM. The pope linked the 7 demons to the 7 cardinal sins or vices, and even said that the perfume MM used to anoint Jesus in Luke 7:36-50 was previously used to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. The Pope explained her immolating herself at the feet of Jesus was symbol of her penitence, just as I believed it to be.

It is up to you to decide if you believe that Mary Magdalene had a decadent past. If you do, that darkness was cleansed; she repented and was forgiven by the Lord, and she went on to support the Lord in His earthly ministry, and stood by Him in the unfolding of the Gospel, in witnessing His ministry, in standing by Him at His crucifixion, at His burial, and at the expected day of His resurrection, and was the first person Jesus appeared to, on resurrection.

I have put weightage on the Golden Legend material and Pope Gregory I's assertion (which held good for a very long time) in coming to my conclusion, and that conclusion is that MB was MM, and the sinful woman who anointed Jesus in Galilee was MM. Without extra-biblical material, the linking of any 2 of the 3 (MM, MB and sinful woman), is speculation, for there are just NO tenable linkages, in Scripture.

After her deliverance and cleansing, MM became a friend of Jesus, and on His final journey south to Jerusalem, she introduced Jesus to her sister, Martha, and to her brother, Lazarus. Because Martha owns Bethany, and was a noble hostess, and Bethany was near to Jerusalem, Jesus accepted the hospitality of the siblings, and was at Bethany a couple of times. Jesus was said to love these siblings.


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Anthony Chia, high.expressions -
Lord, indeed, over and over again,you showed to us that our shameful past could be put behind us, and we could look to a meaningful future in you when we truly turn to you. When we honor, you will honor us.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Liz has passed on (6th Oct 2011)

Except for my own father who had passed on more than 10 years ago, I have NOT felt so sad on the demise of a person I know. Liz and I have never met face to face, yet when the news of her having left us, hit me, it almost caused me to have teary eyes if not for me holding back my emotion in an open office setting.

Some of you may have some recollection of who Liz Mah is (I am not going to use “was” in this line, for she still IS, in Heaven). She was the blog owner of “Liz adventure”. I mentioned her in a number of my blog entries, hoping that some more of us would intercede for her. Liz was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer back in June 2009. Soon after that, she started blogging. She named her blog, “Liz adventure”, because she was touched by the Lord in the hospital soon after she received her cancer diagnosis; she regarded the time following would be an adventure with the Lord. Indeed, as Christians, our lives, whether it is now in living an earthly life or thereafter, living a spiritual life, are adventures with our God. I believe Liz had wanted to chronicle in some way, her experiencing of her Lord seeing her through her ordeal in the battle against cancer.

I stumbled upon Liz’s blog in 2009, through a website that awarded blog articles on the internet as the “Best Christian article for the week”. When I was awarded in 2009, and so, I visited that site; I found amongst the recent award winners then, Liz’s article and site. I followed Liz’s blog ever since, communicated with her through emails and comments on her blogs, upheld her in prayer, and helped her along in understanding matters of the Christian faith.

It has been my privilege to have known Liz, even when it was only through the internet. Her husband, Henry, has posted his Eulogy on Liz, on her blog site. Henry said this: “These were the words she shared a little while after being diagnosed

Each day He brings new revelation as I draw closer to Him seeking His face. And living in God’s presence is far more beautiful than anything else and has even overshadowed the disease. I say, blessed be the name of the Lord. I see Him not only working in my life but in Henry’s life, my mum’s life and even in my cell group’s lives and I pray that you too will “catch the fire”.”

Liz did share with me about her being touched by the Lord in the hospital after she was diagnosed of the sickness. Whatever that was of the past, of Liz’s life, was NOT relevant; what was important she confessed and asked for God’s forgiveness, and then resolved to be the child God intended her to be. She held on dearly, that transforming touch, by the Lord. I could understand Liz concerning her holding onto that “touch” by the Lord, for I too, have had a “touch” in my own multi-years affliction.

When we receive a “touch” from the Lord, we receive a revelation given by the Spirit of God. It can be like something has dawned upon you, and its illumination is so bright and unmistakable. It is possible that over time, the Evil One will come to draw your eyes off that light, and cause doubts to surface in you, but you must stay steadfast. For my own case, my touch was the Lord revealing to me to let go of a matter which I kept clinging on as that which should never have happened, God forbid! I struggled with the “knot” in me, until the Lord revealed that He has accepted the matter as had happened even though He would NOT want to see such, happening. For Liz, I believe the Lord affirmed His love to her, and that love drew her to the Lord. It was NOT a matter of Liz or I, merited God’s favor, but it was in our afflictions, God chose to give us a lift. But as said, the Evil One would come to try to steal that revelation.

Jesus received the precious revelation that He was the Son of God from a “touch” from God - At His baptism, “… the Holy Spirit descended on him {Jesus} in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22). Yet, with that revelation, after that, after His fasting in the wilderness, the Evil One came to try to steal that revelation; Satan threw 3 temptations at Jesus to draw Him from the revelation that God had given Him. We knew Satan was NOT successful.

In the rest of the journey, which she called “adventure”, Liz persisted in the “God loves me and will see me through”, despite all the discomfort and pains she faced, including havocs the principalities threw at her. In response to God’s drawing, Liz drew closer to the Lord, living to know Him more; and to know Him more, she studied God’s Word diligently, enrolled into multi-months biblical courses, even multi-year course. She humbled herself to learn, and because she was willing, I was able to provide some understandings along the way. To know Him more, Liz, again despite her own discomfort, and difficulties, served God; she attended prayer meetings, helped in cancer support group, encouraged others in sickness or afflictions, and interceded for them.

I know for a fact that Liz interceded often for me, for the affliction that I was in, and for the Healing Meetings that I was planning to hold. Because she drew near to God, and cared for the people she prayed for, God even prompted her with “hints” of matters which she could NOT have any idea about. I did NOT reveal my own affliction to Liz until one day she emailed me sharing about a matter which she did NOT know why she was impressed upon to share with me in an email. I replied her, saying that I knew why; because it was concerning my affliction, the nature of which I previously had NOT revealed. And those who followed her blog would know, Liz continued tirelessly to update her blog. Even when she honestly shared about her struggles, she was always ending them up with being positive, and even praising the Lord. Liz had been steadfast to the end, trusting always, in the Lord, and we should learn from Liz’s example.

On top of that, Liz had NOT failed to do her bit for her family, comprising her husband, Henry, and their 2 young kids, and parents. Despite her difficulties, she would try to care for her children, and tried to pay attention to the needs of her family; these we could read from her entries, complete with photos, even.

In the brief journey of 2 plus years, Liz Mah travelled a humanly difficult patch, with the Lord accompanying as He had indicated in His “touch” in 2009. Liz’ courage and steadfastness in the Lord had touched many lives, including mine. Satan did NOT succeed to drag her off the Highway of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8-10) that believers like you and I travel on. Physical death is inevitable since the Fall of Man, there was NO fresh victory for Satan, only that Liz had passed on to take on the incorruptible body to live forever with her Lord. Liz’s end of journey here marked the beginning of another phase of her Kingdom living with the Lord. I am saddened that a friend has departed from us, yet I have the faith she is now with the Lord, contented. May she smile on us, as we continue in our journey.

I used to think many years back, what an ex-colleague of mine then was embarking on (leaving his employment to do), to minister to terminally ill non-believers, was a most difficult thing to do; I never thought then I would one day be involved with ministering to the sick, now I suppose I have to try to get used to people whom I minister to, over longer stretch of time, leaving us. The destiny of a child of God is in God’s hand, I shall do what I am to do; if I have NOT the rhema, I shall apply my discerned logos will of God; the rest is up to God, up to His plan and will for the ministee.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, strengthen me for your work. On top of it, may your exceeding grace be poured out through me, more often than not; may your quiet grace continue to be poured out to all I have the privilege to minister to, just as in the case of Liz. Let your grace be sufficient for both my ministees and I. Amen.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Initial Return to Zion

Preamble: I entitled this article as such, and NOT as “Return to Zion”, as the return to Zion is as believed by many, still on-going. Some refer to the “Return to Zion” as “Aliyah to Israel” or “Immigration of Jews to the land of Israel”. Here, I just want to touch on the initial return of the Jews to Israel, post the Babylonian exile.

The Babylonian exile was a period in the Jewish history during which the Jews living in the Southern Kingdom, Judah, were exiled to Babylon.

According to Scripture, there were possibly 3 deportations of Jews to Babylon: in 597 BC, involving King Jehoiachin (aka Jeconiah) and his court and many others; in 587/6 BC, of King Zedekiah (Installed by Babylonians to succeed King Jehoiachin) and the rest of the people; and a possible deportation after the assassination of Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah province, possibly in 582 BC.

The exile is commonly considered to have ended in 538 BC, with the proclamation by King Cyrus of the Persian Empire, who then was in control of Babylon.

The main books of the Bible on this initial return to Zion are the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. However, there were also many references connected to the subject, found in several other books, including the Book of Daniel, Kings, Chronicles, Jeremiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (the last 3 being the postexilic prophets) etc.

The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book, before it was first split up into 2 books around AD 3. We will be concentrating on these 2 books, in this exposition.

Why this article?
First, my pastor, new pastor, in church has started preaching on “Nehemiah” and has told us that it would be a series, and has given us a compressed history outline, from King David to King Zedekiah (pka Mattaniah, the last king of Judah). So, some members of the church have started reading up on the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. I do not know the precise reasons for his wanting to preach on “Nehemiah”; it could be that the church has embarked on a building extension, and so, he was trying to tie into the “building/rebuilding” theme.

But I do wonder why pastors like to preach on “Nehemiah”; my outgoing senior pastor (“retiring”) also did a series on “Nehemiah” not too long ago. Actually, I cannot remember, for sure, now, what the Senior Pastor was emphasizing then. It did NOT mean I have NOT absorbed the teachings from that series; it probably was that I, and others too, absorbed and internalized some specific truths and lessons, without us, really in any way, thinking that we would ever be found in that kind rebuilding/building project; we probably thought that perhaps, we could apply this and that, in our business, in our workplace, in building of our career or company, and even family, etc. If I have NOT mistaken, perhaps, the Senior Pastor then was using the series to teach on how we should conduct our affairs in our work life. Perhaps, since heavy-weight pastors (well, the current pastor is expected to take over from the outgoing senior pastor), emphasized “Nehemiah”, more members of church were “curious” enough to read up! One brother attempted and called me up, and talked to me, saying that the 2 books are rather confusing, and he was wondering about questions such these:

1. The 2 Books were so similar in what were being recorded there; are the 2 books on the same one thing; one project, reported on by different people?
2. Could it be that some of the key characters there, were one and the same person?
3. There appears to be duplications or overlaps in the accounts of the 2 books. Are they really duplications or overlaps?
4. If we are NOT sure “who were who” and “who were doing what”, how are we to learn something from it all?

Synopsis of main events of the 2 books
Here is my synopsis:

End of exile: I will begin from the end of the Babylonian exile, and this was recorded for us in Ezra 1:1-4.

In 1st year of King Cyrus of Persia, who had gained control of Babylon, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by prophet Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of King Cyrus to make a proclamation throughout his realm (which included more than Babylon) and to put it in writing:

Proclamation of King Cyrus: The proclamation stated these:

That the LORD God had given him (King Cyrus) all the kingdoms of the earth and He had appointed him (King Cyrus) to build a temple for Him at Jerusalem in Judah;

That any of God’s people in the Persian Empire be allowed to go up to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God in Jerusalem;

That the people of any place where the Jews were exiled to, were to provide those going back to build the temple, with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with free-will offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.

The key thing to note: It is a proclamation for the Jews to go back to rebuild the Temple (only the Temple).

The response (Ezra 1:5-6): In response to the proclamation, the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites {this should be in relation to the exiles from Judah, residing in Babylon}, everyone whose heart God had moved, prepared to go up and build the LORD’s temple in Jerusalem.

In accordance to the proclamation, all the neighbors of the returning Jews assisted them with gold and silver, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the free-will offerings for the building of the temple.

First wave, headed by Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:7-11): King Cyrus, on his part, returned the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD which the previous King of Babylon (King Nebuchadnezzar) had carried away from Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:13). Now all the articles (5,400 articles of gold and silver) were counted out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah then; who brought all of them along with the returning exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:11).

Key thing to note: So, from the above, we can say that as far as the exiles from Babylon going back to Jerusalem, they were headed by the prince of Judah then, one called Sheshbazzar. In Ezra 5:14-16, it was again mentioned that articles of the temple were entrusted by King Cyrus to Sheshbazzar. Additionally, it was said there, that Sheshbazzar was appointed Governor of Judah, and was tasked by King Cyrus to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.

Another key thing to note: There is a question of whether or NOT Sheshbazzar was Zerubbabel. Who was Zerubbabel? Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, the penultimate King of Judah, and so he qualified as a prince of Judah. He was also listed first in the list of Jews returning from Babylon to Jerusalem, as in Ezra 2:2. In Ezra 3:8, he was again mentioned first, with Jeshua, among those who started work on the Temple. In Ezra 4:3, he again headed the Jews in telling off the Gentiles inhabitants who wanted part in rebuilding the Temple. Then, we also read in Zechariah 4:9 that it was Zerubbabel who laid the foundation of the Temple, whereas Ezra 5:16 recorded for us it was Sheshbazzar. Also, we read in Haggai 1:1 that Zerubbabel was the Governor of Judah. Notice the time specified in Haggai 1:1; it was shortly after the first wave of return (return was in 1st year, Haggai's mention was in 2nd year). Could they be the same person? One claim said precisely that; there are still other claims: one being Sheshbazzar was in fact Shenazzar, Zerubabbel's uncle (mentioned in the Books of Chronicles) and another, Sheshbazzar began the work and Zerubbabel finished it.

One thing for sure, it was NOT Ezra who headed this first works on the Temple building in Jerusalem, following the proclamation of King Cyrus. Ezra came into the picture afterwards, which we shall see later on Ezra 7:1-10.

Ezra came into the picture afterwards: Ezra was NOT involved in the Temple building at all! The party that went up to Jerusalem from Babylon, headed by Sheshbazzar (given in Ezra 2), and that headed by Ezra (given in Ezra 8, a small party) are different. It is a mistake to say that the company of 42,000 (Ezra 2:64) was headed by Ezra, as was sometimes said when the exposition of the Book of Nehemiah (Neh 7) was done; the company of 42,000 was referring the very first batch, and it was headed by Sheshbazzar, prince of Judah (or if you accept it, Zerubbabel).

Second wave, headed by Ezra (Ezra 7): By this time, the Temple was already completed and dedication had been done (Ezra 6). The “these things” in Ezra 7:1 was referring to such completion, dedication and installation of priests and Levites to run the Temple. It is after these things that Ezra, a scribe coming from the priestly line traceable all the way back to Aaron, came up to Jerusalem, from Babylon.

Who was Ezra?: Ezra was a scribe, an official chronicler. He is also a priest since he came from the line of Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5, 11). He was also a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses. The King, King Artaxerxes, granted him everything he asked, for the hand of God was on Ezra. Ezra went to Jerusalem with some Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers (temple singers), gatekeepers and temple servants. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in 5th month of 7th year of King Artaxerxes’ reign. Ezra and his team successfully reach Jerusalem from Babylon in 4 months, for the hand of God was on him.

What was Ezra tasked to do?: Since the Temple had already been built (Ezra 6:15), why was Ezra sent to Jerusalem? Ezra 7:10 recorded for us what Ezra did, having returned to Israel: He devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of God and he taught the Law in Israel. We also know from later verses (Ezra 7:25-26), pertaining to the content of the commissioning letter the King gave to Ezra, the latter was to appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates. The King had wanted both the law of God and the law of King to be adopted. It has always been in the olden days in the Jewish community, certain Levites were sent out to be judges and magistrates in the land (1 Chr 26:29); here, the King was tasking Ezra to ensure the Law of God was applied in the land. In the later chapters, we would read of Ezra getting involved in matters pertaining to intermarriages forbidden under the Law of God.

Some regard the sending back of Ezra to Zion marked the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. I can only say that, it was a putting back of the “software” of the city, but NOT the physical rebuilding or the “hardware”. Another way of viewing Ezra’s work was that he was into the spiritual rebuilding of the Jews in the city of God, even as the Temple of God had been put in place (rebuilt).

Key point to note: Ezra was sent to establish once again the Law of God for Jerusalem which once again was with the Temple of God, newly built. Ezra was NOT involved in the rebuilding of the Temple, and he was NOT directly responsible for the physical rebuilding of the city, especially the city walls.

Nehemiah who?: What about Nehemiah? Where did he fit in? He too, went from Babylon, sanctioned by the King, to Jerusalem. What did he do there, if it was NOT the rebuilding of the Temple? For this we have to look into the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer. Basically, when sent over to Jerusalem, he supervised the rebuilding of the city walls, subsequent to the rebuilding of Temple in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah revealed what he was tasked to do (Neh 2:17-18): Now, addressing the people at Jerusalem (the Jews), he told them that they could see the trouble that the people in the city were in; that the city was in ruins, and its gates had been burned with fire. Nehemiah called to the people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that they would no longer be in disgrace; as it was indeed a disgrace the great city of God lied forlorn. Nehemiah told the people about the gracious hand of God upon him (that the King of Babylon would send him to rebuild the city) and what the King had said to him. The Jews at Jerusalem were in agreement, and replied that they would start rebuilding; and so they began that good work.

If we consider Ezra was the one who started putting back the “software” for Zion, then Nehemiah was the one who started putting back the “hardware” for Zion. With the Temple rebuilt, and the city once again secure, the Initial Return of Zion had happened.

Key point to note: Nehemiah was sent to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem after the Temple was rebuilt and that was after Ezra was sent over to reinstitute the Law of God, and he, Nehemiah, was made Governor (Neh 8:9) of Judah.

Neh 7:4 – city wall completed: By this time, the wall of the city had been successfully rebuilt, and Nehemiah had set the doors in place, and had appointed gatekeepers to be on duty; in other words, the city was once again secure. According to Neh 6:15, it only took the Jews 52 days to complete the entire wall, finishing it on the 25th of 6th month.

The walled-in city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had NOT yet been rebuilt.

Wall finished, time to do a census (Neh 7:5): Once the wall was completed, the Jews were to return to their own towns (or villages), and God impressed upon Nehemiah to do a census (to register everyone) (Neh 7:5); and this most probably took place at the end of the 6th month (wall finished on the 25th of 6th month {Neh 6:15}) since after census, they assembled as one people to remember the covenant God made with the Jews (their forefathers), and renew their own commitment to God on 7th month (Neh 7:73). It was likely they gathered right from the 1st day of the month (7th month), for Neh 8:13 mentioned that the Jews re-gathered again on the 2nd day of the month after one day (you shall see that the 1st and 2nd days of the 7th month were significant, in the last item discussed in this article).

Time to re-gather and renew (Neh 7:73b – Neh 10): What better time to re-gather, to remember the covenant God made with the Jews (their forefathers) and to renew their own commitment to God, than immediately after the city wall was completed!

Ezra and Nehemiah together!: Some people are a little puzzled with the mentioning of Ezra’s role in Nehemiah 8-10, when arrival of Nehemiah was subsequent to Ezra. Some even wondered if Ezra, Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel and Nehemiah are one and the same person! Apart from the possibility of Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel were the same person, Ezra, “Sheshbazzar/Zerubbabel” and Nehemiah were different persons, for sure. I know, in Neh 8:9, Nehemiah was also said to be the Governor; but it was entirely possible Sheshbazzar/Zerubbabel was governor and subsequently Nehemiah took over (in any case, Haggai 1:1 stated for us that Zerubbabel was governor in the 2nd year of King Darius, years before Nehemiah reached Jerusalem). In Neh 8:9, Nehemiah and Ezra were named together, and so, it could NOT be that they were one and the same person. When one understood the sequences of events as expounded above, there was nothing unusual about the Book of Nehemiah mentioning Ezra’s role, when in fact he was still alive and kicking, so to speak, and was performing what he was tasked by King Artaxerxes, the same king who send Nehemiah to Jerusalem. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the 7th year of the King (‘s reign), and Nehemiah, 20th year.

According to Ezra 6:15, the Temple in Jerusalem was completed in 6th year of reign of King Darius. Now, there are disagreements, even among scholars, on the reigns of various Persian Kings, but generally there is no dispute in this chronological order: Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes. Whether or NOT Darius and Artaxerxes are the same king (and that would make Xerxes was also Darius/Artaxerxes) is NOT pertinent to the sequences of events here (perhaps, pertinent for those trying to account for “time period of Daniel” in the Book of Daniel), except on the age of Ezra. Plain reading gives us 3 kings listed in Ezra 6:14b (Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes). What is important is the same king name, Artaxerxes, was linked to the sending out of both Ezra and Nehemiah. We only need to believe that Ezra did live for another 13 years more after he reached Jerusalem, to account for he being recorded in Nehemiah 8-10, together with Nehemiah; for me, I just believe that.

Key point to note: Arguably after the wall was completed, Nehemiah and Ezra worked together on the ongoing rebuilding of the both the people of God and the city of God, Jerusalem, physically and spiritually (Neh 8-13).

As the synopsis of the main events of the 2 books, Ezra and Nehemiah, the above, I believe, is quite adequate; and it helps to answer some of the issues confusing people trying to unravel the books.

What are perhaps missing from the above are the followings:
1. I did NOT mention that Nehemiah did go back to King Artaxerxes, for a time and then he came back to Jerusalem. This was mentioned in the last chapter of Nehemiah, Neh 13:6-7.

2. Also, I have NOT touched on the oppositions the Jews faced in the initial return to Zion, covered in both books. In fact, this fact of oppositions, could stumble some to treat the projects in the 2 books as one. But of course, we know now, clearly, the separate projects included these: rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem (under Sheshbazzar/Zerubbabel), re-instituting Law of God in Jerusalem (under Ezra), and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (under Nehemiah). All these projects, they collectively was attempting to re-establish Jewish presence and dominance back to the land of Israel, and the key city being, the city of God, Jerusalem; and so, under whichever phase, oppositions were expected and indeed they occurred, and so, we read of them in both the books.

Rather than doing an exposition of the relevant verses in both the books, and the number of verses involved are many, I will attempt to give some background information, instead, for readers to understand how come there would be oppositions:

Before the Southern Kingdom, Judah, fell to the Babylonians, with the consequent exile of the Jews living in Judah to Babylon, the Northern Kingdom had fallen first, and it fell to the Assyrians. Generally, Judah was occupied by 2 of the 12 Tribes of Israel, Judah and Benjamin tribes. The Northern Kingdom, also known as Samaria (sometimes also called land of the Ephraim, because her 1st King was an Ephraimite, the half-tribe of the House of Joseph). The other 10 Tribes of Israel were living in the Northern Kingdom. The real culprit why the United Monarchy of Israel, broke into 2 was King Solomon (King David’s son who succeeded him). Despite the wisdom God granted him, Solomon, in his old age, sinned greatly against God; on the instigation of his wives or concubines, he set up high places (of worship) for pagan gods, causing many to worship other gods. God then decreed the punishment against King Solomon, but for the sake of His promise to King David, he relented to NOT breaking up the Kingdom in the time of King Solomon, but He said that it would come to pass in the time of the reign of the son of King Solomon, King Rehoboam. And it happened as said by the LORD; an Ephraimite, Jeroboam, tore 10 tribes away, leaving only the small tribe of Benjamin to remain loyal to the Judah tribe which was the Tribe King David belonged to. The Northern and Southern kingdoms then became enemies. The Northern Kingdom sinned greatly against God; King Jeroboam instituted the temples for the golden calves, and misled the people to bypass the Temple in the south, in Judah, to worship “God” in the 2 temples of the golden calves put up. Subsequent kings also went for other pagan god worship, and misled the people. Eventually, before the fall of Judah, God gave Samaria over to the Assyrians. The Assyrians had a strategy of hollowing out the land they conquered and replacing the residents with people from other lands they conquered, and so, the 10 Tribes of Israel staying in the North were exiled all over the places, and Samaria was then populated with peoples from other lands. With the fall of the South, Judah, the whole Promised Land was left with few Jews, probably only some in the south, in Judah, for the Babylonians still appointed governor over the remnant in Judah {Only the poorest were left behind – 2 Kings 24:14}. Over time of course, the peoples, non-Jews, from other lands, as well as the original inhabitants of the Promised Land, they just moved about in the land, including going down south, into Judah and Jerusalem. That was why it was NOT surprising that the 2 books made mention of Canaanite tribes (original inhabitants of the Promised Land) and other people groups like Ammonites, etc, opposing the coming back of the Jews to Zion. Of course, the returning Jews did NOT want the non-Jews inhabitants of the land to have part in building the Temple, for if they had done so, pagan gods would be insisted by the non-Jews to have place in the Temple, which of course, would NOT do. And you can easily understand the rebuilding of the city wall was NOT welcomed. Sanballat (Neh 4), a Horonite, an inhabitant of Horonaim in Moab, for example, with his alliances in Samaria would NOT want the wall. Tobiah, an Ammonite, was sided with him (Sanballat) {By the way, the Moab and Ammonites were descendants from Lot, Abraham’s nephew; and the Israelites crossed with them in their exodus into the Promised Land}. Even the Arabs and the men of Ashdod were there, and they objected to rebuilding of the wall, for they all wanted NOT to see the power of the Jews return {Who are the men of Ashdod? Maybe this helps: “The first documented settlement in Ashdod dates to the Canaanite culture of 17 BC, making the city one of the oldest in the world. Ashdod is mentioned 13 times in the Bible. During its history the city was settled by Philistines, Israelites, Byzantines, Crusaders and Arabs.” Today it is the 6th largest city in Israel.}. The Trans-Euphrates region’s habitants did NOT want the Jews to regain their glory, and the various officials (for the region) under the Persian Empire tried to stall the return of the Jews (they sent letters to the King to instigate the King to abort the return of the Jews). Nehemiah was well aware of that (he was the cup-bearer of the King, and he was close enough to know), so he asked for letters from the King for safe-passage as well as letters from the King directing the officials to support and supply resource for the rebuilding of the wall. All those talk of oppositions were NOT duplicates, rather they were ongoing oppositions against the Jews regaining foothold in Israel.

3. The 2nd last issue I will address is concerning the near exact duplication of Ezra 2 in Neh 7 (more specifically, Neh 7:6-73a). Ezra 2 was indeed “plucked in” to complete what was said concerning Nehemiah’s finding of the genealogical records of those who had been the FIRST to return. This actually was referring to those who came back in the first wave, under Sheshbazzar, NOT Ezra. Those who came back with Ezra were recorded for us, in Ezra 8. You should just read the text as a “pluck-in”, there are no mixing of separate events.

4. The last issue I will address here, is in a way connected to the confusion in point 3 above, but it is an understanding that one is to have, so that the verses saying, “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled as one man…” (Ezra 3:1) and “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled as one man…” (Neh 7:73b-Neh 8:1) are NOT treated as one and the same verse attached to Ezra 2. In other words, the Book of Nehemiah’s “7th month came” was NOT the same “7th month came” of the Book of Ezra; they were 7th months, alright, but belonging to different years or times. In the book of Ezra, it was referring to the time after the Temple was completed and dedicated and Ezra came to Jerusalem (he arrived in 5th month) and then in the 7th month of the year, he gathered all the people. In the Book of Nehemiah, the 7th month was the 7th month of the year in which the wall of Jerusalem had been finished building (finished on 25th of 6th month). But why big events on both 7th months? It is because the 7th month is the year the Jewish Calendar year increases by one, in other words, the first day of the 7th month was the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) {just like our present day Gregorian Calendar’s 1st Jan is the New Year Day}! Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri (7th month). In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the year." Many of us use the New Year (Gregorian New Year) as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions." Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the New Year. That was what happened in both occasions of the New Year, in book of Ezra and in the book of Nehemiah. In fact, Neh 8-10 showed that the Jews NOT only looked back at the mistakes of yesteryear, but yesteryears!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, perhaps, now with such revelations as above, readers can then move pass the confusion stage; and with understanding of events, begin to learn valuable guides you embedded in these historical recordings in Scripture, to apply in their lives, be it their work life, personal life or in service to you. Lord, I have learned much myself. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sinner’s Prayer - Sample

Have you ever led one to Christ? Or if you have, did you find yourself unsure of how to do it? This little article is NOT about how to share the Gospel; it is about praying with a person to receive Jesus Christ into his or her life. As I will be heading up a regular Healing Meeting in which I hope this ministry will also be seeing people coming to Christ (after all, physical, emotional or psychological healing is only a temporal solution to men’s fallen predicament, salvation, the permanent solution), I have recently crafted the Sinner’s Prayer that I (and perhaps, my Meeting Partners, too) could use. As a side, you can get details of the Healing Meetings here: “Anthony Chia’s Healing Meetings”; and I covet your prayers for the ministry.

The sample prayer is simple enough: there are 7 points altogether, including the “thank you, Amen”. What you should do is, first of all, confirm that the person is ready to accept Jesus. The person must know what he/she is about to do; it is a serious matter – the coming to Christ. You are to lead the person in the Sinner’s Prayer; and by that, I mean you ask him to repeat after you, the Sinner’s Prayer. It is best you let the person know what the prayer consists of. So, what you do is that you tell the person the prayer will cover these 7 points:

1. (A)cknowledge that you are a sinner
2. (R)epent from sinning
3. (C)onfess your sins {specific and generally}

4. (A)ffirm your belief that Jesus died for you
5. (R)esolve to follow Jesus
6. (C)onfess submission to Lordship

7. Thank Jesus, followed by (Amen).

Ask the person if it is alright with him to repeat the prayer with you. When he/she says it is ok, you can then go ahead. If he/she has question(s) concerning any of the 7 points, you can explain first, before actually doing the Prayer with the person. I have given (below) the scriptural support for the points in the Prayer; you can use them in your explanation if necessary. The lines in bold and italic and within quotation marks are the prayer lines you are to say, and the person will repeat after you.

Guiding cues to remember: 7 points – A.R.C., A.R.C., Amen; 1st 4 points start with “God, I ...”, the last 3 points, with “Jesus, I …”.

Sinner’s Prayer – A.R.C., A.R.C., Amen (crafted by Anthony Chia – 08 Sep 2011)

1. Acknowledge that you are a sinner. Rom 3:23 stated for us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

“God, I acknowledge that I am a sinner, and that I have fallen short of your glory”.

2. Repent from sinning. Acts 3:19 – Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

“God, I know that sinning is NOT acceptable to you and I now turn from it, and turn to you.”

3. Confess your sins. 1 John 1:9 said that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

“God, I now confess specifically these sins of mine: … “ (say: you name them silently before the Lord, as far as you can remember. The Spirit of God will bring some of them to memory. {Give the person a minute or two to do this})

“God, I also confess generally, all other sins of mine, and ask for your forgiveness and cleansing. God, forgive me all my sins and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.”

4. Affirm your belief. John 3:16 stated that we are to believe that God so loved the world that He sent His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us on the Cross, and that whoever believes in Him should NOT perish but have eternal life.

“God, I believe you so loved me that you have sent your one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me on the Cross to pay for the penalty of my sins, and NOW THAT I believe in Him, and the works of Him, I should NOT perish, but have eternal life.”

5. Resolve to follow Jesus. In Mark 8:34, Jesus said this: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

“Jesus, I resolve to follow you. I resolve to deny the carnal me, and I resolve to take up the cross you will be assigning me, and I will follow you.”

6. Confess submission to Lordship. Romans 10:9 said that if we believe in our heart that “Jesus is Lord” and that God raised Him from dead, and confess it with our mouth, we will be saved.

“Jesus, I confess you as my Lord and that you are the resurrected Messiah/King”

7. "Jesus, I thank you for your grace, Amen."

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Lord, may many find use for this sample Sinner's Prayer I have crafted, to lead many into your Kingdom, as you have desired.  Amen.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It is God can heal and God does heal (PART II)

In PART I, we have looked at the issue of whether or NOT God CAN heal. In this part, we will look at whether or NOT God DOES heal.

It is NOT in the past, God DOES heal
It is NOT God did heal and He does NOT heal anymore. Some segments in the Christian faith believe, that is the case; that God did heal people in the past, but He no longer heals. In other words, they do NOT doubt that God is capable of healing (God CAN heal), but they do NOT believe God DOES heal anymore.

From the Word:
1. As we have seen above (PART I), God healed in the OT period, in the NT period, healed in the early years of the Church. God healed in the OT, Jesus healed in His earthly ministry, His early disciples healed when they were with Jesus, and thereafter, too, i.e. after Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Here are some examples of healings done “through” the early disciples, after Jesus was resurrected (from the Book of Acts):

- 1.1 Lame from birth healed by Apostle Peter (Acts 3:2,6-8)
  2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called
  Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple
  courts. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.
  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he
  helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped
  to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts,
  walking and jumping, and praising God.

- 1.2 Apostles healed many (Acts 5:12, 15-16)

- 1.3 Paralytics, cripples and demonized/demon possessed healed by Apostle Philip (Acts

- 1.4 Ananias of Damascus healed Paul’s blindness (Acts 9:17-18)

- 1.5 In Lydda, Peter healed a paralytic of 8 years (Acts 9:33-35)

- 1.6 In Joppa, Peter raised philanthropic Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-37, 40-42)

- 1.7 In Lystra, Paul healed a cripple/lame from birth (Acts 14:8-10)

- 1.8 Paul delivered a slave of the spirit of divination (Acts 16:16-18)

- 1.9 Paul healed and delivered through transference onto objects {handkerchiefs and
  aprons} (Acts 19:11-12)

- 1.10 Paul raised a young man from the dead {fallen from 3rd storey} (Acts 20:7-12)

- 1.11 Shipwrecked on Malta, Paul himself was healed of venomous snake bite (Acts

- 1.12 On Malta, Paul also healed the island’s chief’s father of fever and dysentery, and
  others of sickness (Acts 28:7-9)

2. There was no recording anywhere in Scripture that divine healings were only for the setting up of the early church, and that it was to cease thereafter. Such a posture that divine healing was only for the initial setting up of the Church is mere unsubstantiated speculation.

3. On the contrary, the Apostles left us clue to expect God’s continual work of healing. The Apostle James left these words to us:

“Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14)

4. Jesus’ words in the Bible:

- 4.1 Concerning the Great commission: These were the words of Jesus, recorded for
  us in Gospel of Mark –

  15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all
  creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not
  believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In
  my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will
  pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt
  them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get
  well.” (Mark 16:15-18)

Do you think that this work that Jesus referred to, is already all done; the good news has finished being preached? It cannot be, for if it were the case, Jesus would be back (Matt 24:14). No, right! So, do NOT believe the speculation that divine healing is no longer applicable past the initial years of the worldwide church.

The Lord worked with the early disciples, there is no reason, and indeed there was no reason, given in scriptures, pointing to He will NOT work with us, past the Apostle Paul’s era.

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:19-20)

- 4.2 Jesus’ manifesto was prophesied by prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 61, and it was
  restated for us, by Jesus, in Luke 4:18-19:

  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news
   to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of
   sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s
   favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Without doing a full exposition of the manifesto of Jesus, we can accept that apart from spiritual healing, it pointed also to physical and emotional healing for the sick, and the driving out of evil spirits from people. In the sending of the Twelve, what was recorded for us in the Gospel of Matthew was consistent with it:

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; ….. and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:1-8)

What do disciples do? Disciples carry on with the manifesto of the master. The Lord, Jesus, was the master of the Twelve; is He NOT your master? Wouldn’t we be doing the same, carrying on with the manifesto of Jesus? This is what Jesus left us with, concerning this:

I {Jesus} tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Isn’t it clear enough that Jesus expects us to continue with the same, which included praying for the sick, and He would work with us, like He worked with the early disciples, as stated in Mark 16:19-20 (given above)?

- 4.3 Do the things you did at first {said Jesus}: In warning the 7 churches in the Book
  of Revelation, through vision and revelation to the Apostle John, and as against the
  Ephesians church, Jesus said this:

  4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the
   height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you
   do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Rev

I submit to you that one of the items comprised in the unhappiness, and the warning, is the lack of attentiveness to what was closest to the master’s heart. What is closest to the Master’s heart? Think about it, as a disciple, what do you think is dear in the master’s heart? Yes, his manifesto. When a master takes in a disciple, what do you think he is hoping for? Yes, the disciple would carry on with what is dear in his (the master’s) heart; even when he, the master, is no more around, he would be expecting his disciple to be doing just what he, the master, would be doing. This really calls for the attentiveness that we first gave to our master. The point is that the master’ manifesto did include healing; he does want to heal, and does want us to work with Him, at the opportune time, to heal the sick. We got to want to do that, be attentive, to heal (pray for healing), in the name of Jesus.

5. God the same yesterday, today and forevermore:
  “I the LORD do not change (Mal 3:6a). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and
   today and forever. (Heb 13:8).

While it will be exaggeration to say nothing will change with God, it is clear enough, the nature-attributes, or some called them character-attributes, of God, do NOT change, meaning that God is holy, He is holy; it does NOT change. That He loves, full of wisdom, consistent, reliable, and dependable, such do NOT change. Also, the personhood attributes of God do NOT change either; these included such personhood of God as: God is God, God is Creator, God is Father, God is Saviour, and God is Healer, etc.

The perfect harmonization of the nature-attributes and personhood attributes does NOT change either; but such perfect harmonization belongs to God and God only; we cannot reach that level of wisdom and sophistication of the Godhead, and the RESULT of that perfect harmonization is NOT the same all the time. In other words, if today calls for a little more fatherly love to be shown to you, the perfect harmonization of God will result in just that, that perfect level of fatherly love for you; likewise, if today, chastisement should be rendered you, God would reach that perfect harmonization required for chastising you. That is why God NEVER gives up His prerogative to be true to Himself, and so, we read of such thing as “Sovereignty is mine”. Or “I shall have mercy on whom I have mercy on, and I shall have compassion on whom I have compassion on.” (Rom 9:15). But undoubtedly, it is in God the personhood of a Healer; He is Jehovah Rapha, God the Healer, and so, God can be expected to heal, although it may NOT be at every time or situation, but it is indeed He did heal and He does heal.

6. God is holy. What does it got to do with healing you may ask? It has everything to do with healing, because “God is holy” implies He can only be consistent, reliable and dependable. It is in such character attributes coming from His holiness, that we can and are reasonable to expect that God will continue to heal.

7. That there is to be false/counterfeit signs and wonders, and miracles, means that there is also the authentic things in the first place: 2 important things people failed to realize:

One, when there is no genuine one, there is no false or counterfeit to talk about; why would the Bible warns of false or counterfeit signs and wonders, and miracles if there was no expectation there will be the real things? It is because there is the real and the counterfeit, that there is a need to warn people. Did the Word warn? Yes,

“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible” (Matt 24:24). “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Cor 11:13-15)

Two, what do you do? No, the answer is NOT that we forget about signs and wonders and miracles. You mean, you also forget about the pastors and the apostles of the church, since 2 Cor 11:13-15 said that there will be fakes, false apostles, deceitful workmen masquerading as apostles of Christ. Do you shut yourself in and not mix with anyone, since the one you mix with or talk to, can be a crook, out to cheat you or mislead you? No, right? You go tell a woman to forget about diamonds and precious stones on the ground of there are useless stones out there. They will tell you, you are crazy and stupid, you don’t forget about diamonds and precious stones, you learn to tell them apart; you keep the precious stones, and throw away the useless stones or counterfeits. Or please don’t throw the baby out together with the bath water. Are not signs and wonders and miracles precious, or the baby precious? Yes, so you don’t throw them out. Just because there is the true God and the false God, are you going to tell God, sorry God, in that case, I will have nothing to do with God. So, if there is expectation of counterfeit healing, there is the real healing coming; meaning, God can be expected to heal, and you should want it.

8. Scriptures spoke of spiritual gifts for believers, including gift of healing (1 Cor 12:8-10). The Books of Corinthians were written by the Apostle Paul; if divine healing was NOT expected beyond his time, do you honestly think that Paul would record them for us.

9. By His strips we are/were healed. If you look at Isaiah 53:5, it said there, that “we are healed”. If you look at 1 Peter 2:24 (KJV, clearer), you find that it was written there as “we were healed”. Regardless of “are” or “were”, there is no contention over the fact that a one-time incident of Jesus’ crucifixion is still good for any future person, relative to Jesus’ crucifixion. In other words, today, in the 21st century, an unbeliever can still become a believer despite Jesus having died more than 2,000 years ago. If the person can enter into salvation now, it also means that now, as he enters into salvation, he can be healed. This is still so, even if Isaiah 53 were worded with “we were healed”. What this meant is God can still heal, since what held true then, must still hold true today, or in the future, for the person who is entering into salvation, that he will effectively enters into salvation and can receive healing by the stripes of Jesus. This is apart from the controversy over whether or NOT, there is present continuous healing for our body, as argued by those believing that the correct rendering of Isaiah 53:5 is “are healed”, and NOT “were healed”.

From experiences:
Of course, the many accounts cited earlier were healing experiences of people, but because they were recorded in Scripture, they formed part of the Word. So, the experiences here are to be taken as extra-biblical experiences. What is the essential difference between the two? There is a difference, and we must know to avoid falling into the fallacy of, we can form doctrines and theologies out of our pure experiences. We cannot do that, for doctrines and theologies of the faith can only be formed solely from the Word which included recorded accounts of experiences. That they were selected through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for recording in the Word, they formed part of the Word, but our experiences (extra-biblical) are NOT; our experiences only testify to the truth of the Word.

So, what extra-biblical experiences are there to testify to divine healings still happening, or that God still heals?

There are many, and of course, if we search the internet, you will find many listings of divine healings (from the Christian God). You may argue that you do not know of the authenticity of all those reported accounts, but there are enough that clearly cannot be untrue. I will just for the purpose here, give one site where I believe what are listed there are to the best of knowledge of the church leadership, genuine divine healings: Prophet Kobus’ Spirit Word Ministries Miracles.

Closer to home, I would like to share my friend, Barney Lau’s testimony of his and his wife’s healings by the Lord in 1995, in Singapore. His full testimony can be read from Full Gospel Business, Singapore (FGB{s})’s gatekeepers magazine Issue No 5 starting from page 20.

Back in 1995, both Barney and his wife were yet believers or Christians, even though they had had been to church services and church-type activities. Barney’s wife was then diagnosed with Trigemina neuralgia with pain coming on from one side of her head. The pain came all the way to the face; even a light wind blow on her face would cause excruciating pain on her face. Further examinations including scanning revealed that she was having a tumour in her forehead. Meanwhile, Barney himself was with searing back pain for more than 2 decades (20 years), with the pain coming on and off, but when it came, it would be very painful for Barney who had to close his eyes and clench his teeth until the pain passed over. In that year, 1995, Barney attended a miracle healing service in a church in Singapore, with his wife. They responded to the call of the Minister; knelt down, sobbed and surrendered their lives and sicknesses to God. After two weeks, they discovered that God had healed them both. The pain of both disappeared and did not return. Up to today, Barney, with grown up children, still testifies of the miracle of God healing them back in 1995, and Barney himself, now actively invites people to the same healing service in which he and his wife were healed back in 1995. Does God still heal? Yes, He does.

In part I of this 2-parts article, we have looked at the issue of whether or not God can heal; and we concluded, from looking at the Word and the healing accounts done by God or His Son, Jesus, recorded in the Word, that God indeed can heal, and did heal. In part II, which we have just seen, from the Word, healings accounts done by God through the ministries of the disciples of Jesus in the Book of Acts, and from men’s extra-biblical experiences of divine healings, even up to present day, we can conclude that God has continued to heal, and therefore, we can confidently say that God CAN and DOES heal.

Although it is God CAN and DOES heal, it is NOT God MUST and WILL heal, the latter I have established for us, in my separate article, “People are NOT healed all the time, why we still pray”.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – God, you know I know it is NOT that every sick MUST be healed by you, every time, for it is NOT in your plan that men will NOT die physically, yet, you are a God of compassion and love, and you still care for us, men, while we lived, despite we are destined to die physically. You CAN heal, and you DID heal, and it is clear that you DO heal, and so, with this understandings, I have stepped forward to be your minister for healing, and I ask, in the mighty name of your Son, Jesus Christ, for the authority and power to heal the sick and cast out demons. I ask for your supernatural gifts of healing and miracles, as detailed in 1 Cor 12:8-10, to be activated in my life, to bless those in need, to glorify you, and to lift up Jesus, so that Jesus will draw men into your Kingdom, as you have desired. Amen.

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