Sunday, December 23, 2012

Since that last article (ministry-update)

When I looked at my last article under the section of  "my little ministry", I realized, that last article was dated more than 6 months ago. In other words, I have not done any article-update of my ministry here, on this blogsite, especially on my ministry in my church setting.

Change in corporate atmosphere
From that last article, "At cross-road, then suddenly, I am encouraged", we can see that one of changed factors in the church has been that 2012 has been with a leadership change. Somehow, along with that, the altar ministry corporate atmosphere of the several years before, has changed with that leadership change (old Senior Pastor retired).  Lest I be said as putting the blame on the new Senior Pastor, I want to say, apart from the uncanny coincidence of timing, I really cannot say I know exactly whose fault it was and is. The change in corporate atmosphere could be due to more than one reason; and it is all parties, the church leadership, the members of congregation, the altar ministry "ministers", need to self-reflect.  That is if the party(ies) wants to see a re-emergence of the atmosphere we have witnessed for about 4-5 years previous. These months I have pondered if I was and am at fault, for I have not been just a member of the congregation, but I have been one of the most active "ministers" of that altar ministry where words of knowledge and prophecy were released, people responded, and people were prayed for, for healing, wholeness, breaking of bondages, and for breakthroughs in lives' impasses.

Concerning the change of ministry corporate atmosphere of the church services, it depends on what you want to see in a church service, that you will say the change is for the better or we have retraced to an old spot.  I have been with the church for more than 20 years; from my observation, we have retraced to an old spot. Going backwards, if it is the desire of the Lord, it is good, it has to be, for God knows best, but is it the desire of the Lord?  Maybe not.

Cannot boast
I cannot boast and will not boast, God forbids; but I am gladden to see God still honors those who are persistent in wanting to do what He desires.  There is still, regardless of poor corporate atmosphere or any resistance to His move (has there been?), if God wants to minister to one in need, He will do it, and He can use anyone who is a yielding and available vessel. I believe there are still a few persistent ones, despite hurdles before them.  I am one of these, and we seize opportunities afforded us to minister, regardless.

God still ministered to some
Fewer updates here was because there have been few meaningful or edifying testimonies to share, and fewer positive testimonies were due to fewer times of going into ministry.  Of course, I am conscious, it is not necessarily that, poor ministry corporate atmosphere is the sole cause of fewer positive testimonies; it can be the problem lies with me, the vessel. My observation has been that it pervaded other "ministers"; it has not been I alone, and hence, the inclination to attribute significance to the corporate atmosphere. When not encouraged, generally speaking, many would slide back into positions of casualness and easiness, and that was what has happened too; "ministers" slackened, and increasingly fewer and fewer operated. Along with that, members' faith of God's presence in the sanctuary to minister in supernatural ways, dwindled.

Like I have said, however, God is not, not able.  Even in that time that Jesus was in His own hometown, and the corporate atmosphere there, was not good, He still ministered to a few. Also important to note is that after leaving that hometown, He quickly was ministering powerfully with signs and wonders and miracles, in other places, in the Holy Land.  Why would God show or give different treatments? 

There necessarily be diferences, if God is God
Some people just don't get it, the specific treatments are different, but the underlying overarching treatment is the same - God chastises, and He chastises because He loves, and because we need to be conformed to holiness, for He is holy. 

It is about Him, but it is not, it is always got nothing to do with how we conduct ourselves. For example, if one or one church wants to do evil, and another wants to do good works and acts of love, God has to treat differently specifically, not supporting the former, and supporting the latter. Don't be naive, and be deceived, there has to be a difference, otherwise, people just do what they fancy, including evil. God judges and there is an eventual judgement, otherwise, where is justice and righteousness, and God is not God.

I must now return to the core nature of articles placed under this caption of "my little ministry", and that is to record of my acts in ministry and the testimonies connected to it. Once again, I thank the Lord for the encouragement, and the honor He still sneaked in, for me, as I persisted to serve Him, despite circumstances.

Words and swords
In early Dec (2012), at the end of one of the services, I prayed for a woman who was about to go the Israel, in a contingent of some 300 people. She shared that she "kinda of  know" God would use her in this trip, and talked a little about the political tension in the region, and so on and so forth.  

All of us like to say we prayed as led by the Spirit.  Exactly, how is that? Frankly speaking, at times, I did get an obvious thought or two, coming into me, and I would pray it/them out, but often, and especially you have been praying for people for years, regularly, you also develop a framework of what to say in your prayers for the different circumstances.  What I am saying is that certain petitions become standard items, and it is when, you say them in prayer, that you "play around" with.  But such routine-ness is not shunned by God.  There bound to be a certain routine-ness in repetitive events.  Look, even the natural passing of a day, with break of dawn, sun rise, noon heat, clouds or no clouds, rain and or rain, sun set and setting in of the twinkle lights curtain over the earth, there is routine-ness in it.  What I am saying, is that we endeavor good routines, and God will come into our routines.  And we are to expect Him to come in, into those routines.  If you don't have the good routines, you limit His coming into situations and times of need, of grace, mercy, or direction or encouragement for you or for others. For example, doing quiet time is routine, and praying for others in need,is also a routine, yet when we don't perform these, we can miss the opportunities that God wants to manifest to you and others.

There was nothing special that I said in the prayer for this woman who was about to make this trip to the Holy Land.  None of the things I said in prayer was new to me, all were routinely said in the past for people. All I can remember was that I heard the expectancy conveyed by the woman, and I prayed into that expectancy that God would use her.

Afterwards, after the prayer, the woman shared, that what I prayed about, that God would use her, to intercede for Israel and the region, and that God would send angels to protect her, she saw in a vision.  This is what she shared concerning the vision she saw when i was praying for her: A giant sword came from above , coming right into her (she saw herself in the vision before her). As she was wondering what was happening, of the picture she saw, she then saw, out of her mouth, came forth many small swords! Wow, what a vision. She then shared she saw behind her shoulders, figures, which her inner witness told her they were angels.  She said when she have seen the angels, she heard my utterances of calling for angels to be assigned to protect her. I believe my thought of angels to come, preceded the appearance of the angels in the vision, it was the release in words was afterwards.  This, happens; we, at times, received a thought of what to pray, but we speak it out only after we finish up with the item that we are praying at the moment.

I remember I ended the prayer with speaking out that the woman be blessed.  After the woman shared of her vision, I exclaimed, "You are blessed". Come to think of it, I was blessed, too.

How have I been blessed? I am blessed because despite the fewer times of ministry and the slackened ministry corporate atmosphere, the Lord has encouraged me, in my routine-ness, in my persistence in service.  It has not been nothing happens! I am blessed because this would be the second time I prayed for an individual, and the person was given a vision as I prayed.  The last time, that happened, the person was smiling away when I prayed for her, and afterwards, she shared she was given a vision of a beautiful waterfall. Thirdly, I am blessed, for although, I have not, have the occasion to visit the Holy Land despite having lived that long (not young-lah), and generally, also not served the Lord overseas, in any capacity, not even as on mission trip, I have through my prayer for this woman, with that vision given her, encouraged her and given her courage, and imparted faith for her to be used by the Lord for such a time and season for the Holy Nation.

I sometimes wondered if it was that easily had, of words for people we prayed for, that so very often, people asked me if I had received a word for them, when I prayed for them. Is it that other people have been getting these words, so very easily, that they expected me to receive words from God for them.  Quite often,  I would shyly say, "No".  And then, I would think this, in my heart, "I would say it, right, if I did receive.". Rarely, do I receive specific words from God for people I prayed for, although, I believe God does grant me wisdom for the situations of those I pray for.  The problem, sometimes, is that people don't want this, they only wanted an actual word from God; but I cannot say, "This is the word from God for you......", unless in my spirit, I receive it as such.  This testimony of the woman is of course better; God told direct, in vision! Hallelujah, more Lord.

50% better
Also in Dec, a brother came to the front of the sanctuary, to me, to ask for prayer. I prayed for him, probably a week or two earlier. He shared that, then I prayed for his arm, which he somehow had injured it, there were pain and discomfort in one of his upper arm, near to the joint to the shoulder. I remember he could not lift his arm beyond the shoulder level without great pain.  He shared that with my prayer the last time, the arm was 50% better, and so, he came again that I might say a prayer for him, for complete healing.  I am a lay minister, volunteering, not church staff or pastor of the church, and so, have no access to any formal feedback; such a reporting back by this brother, sure help to encourage people like me, to persist in our good routines for the Lord.

Vision of someone slipping and falling down
The last one, also in Dec (16/12/2012); perhaps, the Lord was encouraging me even as I round up another year of serving Him, voluntarily, and wondering what to do, next year, to cut down, to do something else, or what.  In the service, I received a vision or picture of someone slipping and falling heavily to the ground, and released that word or picture of knowledge, and said that I would like to pray for anyone who have had a fall and was still suffering from that fall.

Several people came forward; one came closest to the vision.  He has had a bad fall the week before, and he was still suffering from the fall.  He injured one of his knees very badly.  He was having great difficulty (painful and all) flexing his legs.  He also could not shake his injured knee to left or to the right. After prayers, he was surprised he could do both with much greater ease. He would look to complete healing from the Lord in the days to come.

I thank my Lord, and I wonder
Lord, I thank you for these, coming in the last month of another year of serving you. Yet, Lord, you know, generally what I am doing, I have been doing them, all voluntarily, for the past 5 years, since you raised me up from the depth of my great affliction of life. Although, now I am out of that long drawn affliction, and I am no longer the same from that, and I am no longer the same  from your scooping me up from the pit, and putting me to serve you, even honored me before men, true to your words in Ps 19:14-15, I am now uncertain of what to do, in the time to come. This "what am I to do", is stronger than the same for the past several years.  Perhaps, 5 years have passed, and I have 5 years less, of my already old life. Oh, how time has passed me by.  Lord, have I been lukewarm - drawn back somewhat from the drawings of the world, inclined to you somewhat, and served you somewhat.  Lord, am I neither here nor there, no achiever in the eyes of the world, and done nothing much for you?

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Lord, how I wish I could overcome more, and love you more. Lord, help me to make my life count for you.  Lord, there is no turning back, for me, isn't it so. Ever needing your mercy, grace and encouragement, Lord.  Amen.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ananias and Sapphira – not believers, how convenient!

The myth of “Not talking to believers”
Coming principally, from the present day and growing crowd of overly grace preachers, is this teaching that we have been misled by the traditional church (TC), concerning applicability of scriptures referring, purportedly, to only non-believers.  Such preachers claim that quite a number of significant scriptures are NOT applicable to us, believers, but have been taught to us, by the TCs, to be applicable to us.  So strong was their push, that there is now a wide following among believers to reinterpret by an easy-way out - of taking scriptures as NOT applicable to them, by simply saying that the concerned scriptures were NOT targeting at the believers, but were talking to non-believers or referring to non-believers.

We, closer to the last days?!
I don’t know.  Will Jesus be coming back within my own life-time? I don’t know, but one thing I can see is this - the unfolding in greater and greater measure, of the warning contained in 2 Tim 4:3.  This is what is said in this text:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Easy-believism on the rise
Easy-believism is on the rise, and very quickly.  We are NOT referring to separate groups coming by different names of identification, like the many “Christian cults” that have come.  I am generally NOT bothered with the separate-name groups, for because of their separate entity by name, they are understood to be different from us, main-stream Christians.  What irks me is the proliferation of different, highly skewed and even false, core tenets of the Faith, within our general body of believers or Christians.  At least in the past, these people broke out into separate-name groups; but the present easy-believism bunch is NOT.  The biggest issue with this is that it confuses and misleads both the common believers and the pre-believers, alike.

Be careful of the overly grace preachers
I will NOT name individuals, but I feel compelled to name the major bunch tearing at the established core tenets of the Christian faith.  The overly grace preachers and their followers are growing in great numbers through their easy-believism teachings.  The internet world is full of their teachings, and today’s enquirers are making their enquiries on the net, and are therefore, easily misled by such skewed and even false teachings.

Be part of the balancing voice
Easy-believism including the overly skewed grace teachings have contributed to Church growth, but at the same time, that growth is NOT accompanied by depth but superficiality – the Church is growing but it is growing with superficiality and NOT with depth.  For properly grounded preachers and servants of God who so dearly love the Word, may I take this opportunity to urge you (to make time) to contribute to the internet space, your valuable inputs of correct interpretation of the Word, to balance out the inaccuracy of the teachings of our faith on the net; be part of the voice leading to real water and life, so that wanderers would NOT be taken to mirages that lead only to dryness and death.

“Not targeted at believers” wrongly applied – egs.
The most hotly debated one is of course, 1 John 1:9.  The overly grace preachers and their followers are claiming that 1 John 1:9, calling for us to confess our sins (and God is just and faithful to forgive us, and cleanse us of all our unrighteousness) is NOT for believers.  In fact, according to such proponents, a believer to confess his sin, is guilty of unbelief and profaning the name and grace of the Lord.  1 John 1:9 is for believers; if you want to read my take on the text, go to: 1 John 1:9 is for believers.

Because of the core tenet of the overly grace believers being that upon one’s conversion (or entry into salvation), all his FUTURE sins are forgiven him at that moment of conversion, no repentance, confession, and asking for forgiveness, and seeking of righteousness, is ever necessary or should be engaged in, subsequent to conversion!  And so, armed with a need to make their core tenet hold true all the time, overly grace believers, are “pushed” to believe that wherever Scripture talked about repentance, confession, forgiveness, seeking or practicing righteousness, NON-BELIEVERS must have been referred to.

Matt 6:33 has NOT been spared.  This text calls for us to seek, first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, and then all our needs would be added to us; yet some overly grace believers had taken the text to be NOT applicable to them.  Their fallacy in reasoning is this: The moment they became a believer they have become fully righteous, and so, they cannot be seeking righteousness anymore; and so, that exhortation cannot be targeted at them!  How wrong they are; the words were said to believers!  Just read the context, it is staring at us, that the words were said to believers!

It is so easy, right; just add “non-“ and they are out of scope; no need to seek righteousness, no need to repent, no need to confess our sins, and no need to ask for God’s forgiveness.  Now, such easy-believism is spreading, and it has now also being applied to the account of Ananias and Sapphira.

If all sins are forgiven, how come Ananias & Sapphira were struck dead?
Some overly grace preachers said, “No-lah, God did NOT kill the duo; Peter was probably the culprit!”  But what make them say that? One answer is this:  the sin of Ananias & Sapphira God had already forgiven; had got to be, to be consistent to the tenet that all FUTURE sins were forgiven of the duo when they became believers or followers, and so, no matter what, it could NOT have been God who killed them!  God could have no reason to kill them since all sins were already forgiven. The most “logical” speculation, according to such preachers, is that Peter killed them, purportedly abused the power of his tongue!  Is this NOT mere speculation?!  Before I say more, let us read the account of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11

Acts 5:1-11 - Death to Ananias and Sapphira
1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.

 3Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."

 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

 7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?"
      "Yes," she said, "that is the price."

 9Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also."

 10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

Death for premeditated conspired lying to God
Very simply the account is like this: A certain couple, Ananias and Sapphira also sold a piece of land (Joseph Barnabas, we can read from the end of the previous chapter {Acts 4:36-37}, sold a field). The couple conspired to lie to the apostles. 

I believe the background could be along the following lines:  Perhaps, visibly people could see what Joseph Barnabas did; he encouraged everyone by his sacrificial giving and sharing.  Perhaps, he was commented for this act of selflessness. Perhaps, this couple also wanted the praise from the people, and decided to sell their land to give to the apostles for distribution.  The problem was that they conspired to lie to the apostles, which was not different from lying to God.

They did not say they were giving part of the proceeds from the sales, but rather they must have said the entire proceeds was given up for God’s use as the apostles saw fit. The Apostle Peter, who could from time to time exhibit supernatural abilities (like healing of the crippled beggar from birth, at the temple gate {Acts 3:1-10}), by the Holy Spirit enabling, spoke out that Ananias had lied when he brought in the money. 

Peter declared that Ananias had not lied to men but to God.  When Ananias heard this he fell down and died. A great fear fell on all the people who had heard what happened.  Ananias was taken out and buried. 

A few hours later, Ananias’ wife, came in without knowing what had happened.  Peter gave Sapphira a chance to own up that she had lied, but she still insisted the amount given was the full price.  Again, at Peter’s declaration (….. they will carry you out also), Sapphira fell down and died at the feet of the Apostle.  She was buried, and buried beside her husband; and with this, a great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

It is one of those “not easy to explain away” texts
Now, this account of Ananias and Sapphira’s deaths is one of the several “not easy to explain away” events in Scripture; and we should treat it or them, as such.  It is not easy because it seemed clashing with our perception of love and grace.  Other difficult accounts, along the same line, included The Flood, where all men except Noah and his family were spared; and God’s killing of the great prophet Ezekiel’s wife with one blow (Eze 24:15-18). 

Please, at times, it is NOT that simple as “God is love or God is grace, and so, there cannot be death by God!”  In brief, I can only say, one has NOT known of God enough (although He cannot be fully known), if he insists God cannot kill because He is love or grace.  For those of us with deep understanding, in explaining the workings of God, we know, that God is love or God is grace, may be adequate to explain many scenarios, but is NOT necessarily sufficient all the time; there is more to God, than God is love or God is grace.

Speculation, at best
What is wrong with filling in the gap, or even hypothesize?  Yes, you can fill in the gap, or even hypothesize, but you have to say so, including your assumptions and all; and let the readers know that you are suggesting that it could be this or it could be that.  It is wrong when you hold out your speculation as “gospel truth”!  On top of that, meaningless or contradicting assumption or speculation or filling in the gap, should be avoided as a respect of the Word, and as a correctly dividing of the Word.

Yes, we sometimes, fill in the gaps, but such filling in the gap must be consistent with what little that has been revealed in the text or be consistent with the overall counsel of the Word.

Now, concerning the exposition above, by some grace preachers, that because “FUTURE sins were forgiven at conversion” of Ananias and Sapphira, and so, there could not be death punishment by God for the lying, and so, it probably was the abuse of power by the Apostle Peter, it is far from even being adequate, not to mention, it isn’t sufficient.

One more, so typical of the grace preacher
Here is one more explanation by a widely known grace preacher: Ananias and Sapphira were NOT believers!  How convenient, but it was most likely they were believers.  In fact, the context strongly suggested that they were believers.

This is what is just above the Acts 5:1-11 text:

32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.  36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:32-37)

Acts 5:1 was the immediate continuation from this text; remember now, that in the original manuscript, there were no chapters and verse numbers; Acts 5:1 was just a continuation of the above. Verse 32 above said all the believers were of one heart and mind with no one claiming that any of his possessions was really his own. They shared everything they had! 

Now, it was the believers who were of one heart and mind, and shared together generously; not the non-believers with the believers.  Now, would you, if you are NOT a believer, join us, believers, to be of one heart and mind, and share with us, your hundreds of thousands of dollars, from the value of your property to be sold?!  It was more UNLIKELY, rather than likely, that Ananias and Sapphira were non-believers (By the way, the name, Ananias, in Hebrew, may mean "the Lord is gracious”, still it did NOT stop God from acting against him).

The argument that because it was non-believers coming to deceive the believers or the church, God must necessarily punish harshly, death, even, is NOT necessarily true all the time.  The Apostle Paul, as Saul before his conversion, persecuted the believers or followers of Jesus, but God did NOT kill Paul.

They NOT truly converted-lah!
Now this is again often a wrong prognosis.  Just because one sins, he is NOT truly converted?!  How can this stand?: “There, there, you see, they lied, they kept some back; they were still engaged in deception, so, they could NOT have been converted or truly believed! They were NOT believers-lah!”  No, we must NOT simply jump to such conclusion.  Have I not sinned?  Have I not lied?  Of course, I have.  And so, I am NOT a believer?  Nonsense!  I am a believer.  I may be a believer with some unbelief; at times, sinned; at times, doubted; at times, unwilling; but I am a believer, albeit NOT a perfect believer.  I have NOT arrived; and so, I have the need for God’s grace and mercy; and I am dependent on God’s grace, mercy and compassion; and I better be mindful of that; and you, too! 

We will read further down this article that the Apostle Peter denied Jesus 3 times, so was he no believer or follower of Jesus Christ?!  Of course, not.

Please, what kind of a pastor or preacher are you, if you are always wondering if this one is truly converted or NOT, and that one over there, in the 3rd row, whom you baptized a year ago, is truly converted or NOT!  Come on, we don’t mature instantly; Scripture painted the picture that we, as a believer, grows from infancy into maturity, from drinking milk to eating solid food.  We should stop buying into the teachings of instant perfection and righteousness, and instant full mind of Christ.

Isolated event, it would NOT happen to you-lah!
I have heard of preachers saying this was an isolated event, and apparently implying that it should be treated as such.  Now, it is NOT common, but it does NOT mean it cannot happen to you, a believer!

God is holy and righteous; if you sin, you sinned; punishment and chastisement are His to call the shot.  God is sovereign; mercy and compassion is His prerogative; it is all up to Him if he will have mercy or compassion on you and I (Rom 9:15).  The point is that we are to embrace His holiness, and be righteous.  When we sin, and He is NOT yet punishing, and He is longsuffering, it is still His prerogative, but it does NOT mean that He is NOT entitled to punish or chastise.

Don’t profane His grace and mercy, and longsuffering
If He does not strike us down, it is out of His grace and mercy.  Don’t over-argue that God is love and God is our father, and imply that we can approach God carelessly (not be bothered) without incurring His wrath. We must approach God with the fear of the Lord.  Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the fear of the Lord is to hate that which God hates, which is, evil.

I am not saying God is not love, and God is not our father, but I am saying, even for our earthly fathers, we approach with proper conduct of the heart, what more when we, the Father God, whose fundamental nature is holiness.

Of course, what happened is not a simple lie; it is a premeditated conspiracy to deceive.  Such plotting is wickedness in the eyes of God, and stubbornly wicked people can be punished by God presently, i.e. in their current lives, not necessarily at Judgment Day.

But people are NOT struck dead every now and then.  Why?
Yes, it is true, we don’t get believers or non-believers struck dead by God every now and then.  It is because God is longsuffering and desire all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4).  If you, as a non-believer, are struck dead, your chance of becoming a believer becomes nil; death is the cut-off point; once you are dead, you can no longer able to accept Jesus into your life. If you are a believer, it still does NOT mean that you cannot be punished or even be struck dead by God.  It is rather God would like to reform you (chastise) so that more and more you will take on the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ, and end up an overcomer, to the very end, and then enter into the fullness of what God has prepared for you (1 Cor 2:9). But remember, the volition of a man is still with the believer; in other words, you and I, as a believer can still choose to go against God.  In the same token, God always have the prerogative to chastise and punish, according to demand of His own holiness.

God chose to
In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, God had chosen to punish, and plain reading of the text is that they were struck dead by God, NOT an abuse of power of the tongue by the Apostle Peter, like what some overly grace preachers had said it to be.

In a way, this story paralleled another in the OT, that of Achan’s case.  In Joshua 6 & 7, we have the account of God’s bringing down of the walls of Jericho, and capturing the city for the people of God, on entering into the Promised Land.  In Joshua 6:17-19, God gave clear instruction as what was to belong to God, absolutely (called devoted to the Lord {Joshua 6:17 & 7:1}); no one was to take any of it for himself.  But Achan took some from it when going through the city of Jericho.

The common thread here is that, that which is dedicated to the Lord, belongs to the Lord, you and I should NOT take it for ourselves.  When we take it (especially through thought-through deception) that is embezzlement of sort.  Achan was put to death, too.  The LORD’s words to Jsohua calling for the death of Achan can be read from Joshua 7:10-12.

Another closely paralleling death punishment found in the OT is the offering of strange fire of Nadab and Abihu (sons of High Priest, Aaron) - Lev 10:1-7.

But why God chose to be so severe with this case?
Firstly, the seriousness of the sin is NOT “not giving the whole lot” as such.

It is NOT the matter of NOT being generous enough.  Peter made it clear that the land or the proceeds, they belonged to Ananias.  The latter could have kept some or the whole lot, and NOT incurred God’s wrath, had he NOT lied. 

Yes, there had been more serious cases during that period of time; the Apostle Paul, before his conversion, as Saul, persecuted the believers, but God did NOT kill him, and instead turned him into a great apostle of the faith; the Apostle Peter himself denied Jesus 3 times by lying, but God did NOT struck him down; and of course, there must have been many other sins done by people, believer and non-believers alike; but why this?

Many possible reasons can be given, and if they are generally consistent to the overall counsel of the Word, they are acceptable as one or more possible reasons God did what He did.  Of course, the precise reason(s), only God knew. These are possible ones:

1.   Generally, God abhors sin, and He can punish;
2.   As an example, lesson for the church;
3.   Sin of hypocrisy;
4.   Not recognizing God is the knower of heart; contempt;
5.   God hates liars;
6.   Evil with deceit plotted in the heart;
7.   Even Pro 6:12-17; Ps 7:11-17.

My own set is evident all over this article – premeditated conspired lying (premeditated plot - evil), rebellion by deceit and lying to God (NOT to just men), dishonest with God, embezzling God (held out as belonging to God, and then one takes it for himself), deceiving and testing God – maybe God can be fooled?!;mocking God.  And of course, finally, there is the element of “it is His prerogative”.

I want to emphazise that attempting to deceive and lie to God is very serious, and I will elaborate more subsequent to this.  This combination, deception and lying, is NOT mere disobedience, NOT wanting to do something God want us to do; it is you are trying to cheat God, trying to outwit Him; it is audacity to the extreme.  It is better we tell God honestly that we need it (money, etc, etc), and say to God, “please let me take it”, than to try to deceive and lie to God, and inadvertently make a mockery of God (if you succeed).  I believe God can take it like this: “If you would deceive Me, I am NOT your God.”  Think about it, if God can be deceived by you, obviously, He is no (longer) God to you!  It is a refusal or about-turn of recognition of who He is.  Another way of looking at it, it is you are declaring to Him that you are smarter, you are God, NOT Him -rebellion!

Can and does Satan tempt the believer to lie?
Apparently, Peter thought it was all possible, and he put it to Ananias as Satan had filled his (Ananias’) heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.  Well, Peter himself was taken hold by Satan (Luke 22:31), and he, Peter lied 3 times that he knew NOT Jesus, when before that, he assured Jesus that he would even go to prison and death, with Jesus!  Judas Iscariot was a follower of Jesus, he lied big time, too!  Satan entered him (Luke 22:3); and he ultimately betrayed Jesus to the Cross. Satan even came at Jesus when Jesus walked the earth – Jesus was tested in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-11). We just have to be careful, Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44), and he, Satan, would start works in the heart, the source of all decisions concerning possessions and their relation to God (Lk 12:34 – where your treasure is, there your heart will be; Lk 16:14-15 – love of money from your heart, God knows and detests; Acts 8:21-22 – heart not right with God; 2:46 – of glad & sincere heart; 4:32 – heart of unity & sharing).

Don’t deceive & don’t put God to test
Deception against God is a serious matter.  It is open rebellion against God; why do I say that?  You see, we actually know that God is the knower of heart (Acts 1:24), and God can know it all and see it all, yet we dare to pull a fast one on God, so to speak.  Please, again don’t try to deceive God.

Also do NOT put God to the test.  Don’t try to deceive God, and see if you can get away with it; that is testing God.  Of course, testing God can take other forms (e.g. Jesus’ Temptation – Lk 4:12), but the point is: don’t do that.

In the wilderness the Israelites through their unbelief and murmuring against God were actually putting Him to the test to see if He would punish sin. At Kadesh in the Desert of Paran they discovered that he does (Num 14:20-23; Ps 95:7-11; Deu 6:16).

Here, from the Ananias and Sapphira account we can learn that in our curent life God can, and when he chooses, will, punish sinners either by immediate death or by some other means. This can happen to those who claim to be, and may truly be, a part of his covenant people, having enjoyed his salvation blessings and yet deliberately sin and remain unrepentant (1 Cor 5:5 – be given over to face the full fury of evil with the hope that one may repent; 1 Jn 5:16-17 – except for the one sin that leads to death, we are to pray for a brother with sin to repent, and be forgiven by God).

God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows
We, believers, are to be warned: Do NOT so luxuriate (self-indulge) in the love and grace of God that we do not take seriously the consequences of our deliberate sinning. God will not be mocked (Gal 6:7- Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.).

Lastly, be careful if you want to go legal with God!
Overly grace preachers love to harp on standing, and legal status, and implying to their followers that right standing is all that matters.  That is a dangerous position to take with God.  Yes, we are a child of God on conversion, but Scripture also have it said about who is truly a child of God – 1 John 3:10 – “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother (NKJV).”

Can you be a believer who practices NOT, His righteousness?  Can God NOT punish you now, if you are so, if He so chooses?  My friends, guard your heart; may it be found by God to be ever so sincere and humble.  Let NOT deceit enters it; be honest when it fails (sin), repent, confess, and seek God’s forgiveness; in other words, be broken and contrite of heart.  Only in this way, we get to be assured of NOT be despised by God (Ps 51:17b).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Seizing the opportunities – part I

I am going to talk about seizing opportunities when God is on the move. Of course, God is on the move all the time, for God neither sleeps nor slumbers, said the Word. So, what do I mean by God is on the move? By that, I mean there is a particular move of God or move by the Spirit of God.

Moves of God
At times, there are the big moves of God or the Holy Spirit. For example, for the seventies (1970s), for countries like Singapore, there was a big move of the Holy Spirit coming upon believers, activating various spiritual gifts in the believers. Even into the eighties, we could still see such a phenomenon. Of course, we still have such thing as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in the like of that which the disciples of Jesus experienced on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Scripture, where many persons received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at one go, accompanied by manifestations of the Spirit; but are now, not that frequent, on a group scale. The scale then (70s- 80s) can only be described as liberal and generous and on a group level. Today, we see this, more on an individual level; and even if there is a corporate dimension to it, it does not happen at one go, but over time, more usually.

Concerning the above move of the Spirit, some groups of believers experienced it, while others did not. Looking back to that time, there was so much grace in those years of outpouring. It was like God turned on, all the heads (streams) of grace, all at the same time, be it from the head of love and faithfulness of God, head of righteousness of God, head of sovereignty of God or the head of glory of God (yes, the grace of God does not flow to us from one head only but from several heads).

Some people literally bumped into it; others seized the opportunities of the time or moment. Others missed it, without even knowing about it; and still others, and this was a big group, they gave it amiss - so very sad!

The above is just a real example, and there are various other big and smaller moves of God here or elsewhere, in different times. Smaller scale ones could the same phenomenon but confined to particular local church or body. Some seize the opportunity and ride the wave, so to speak; others, in the same body, can be found to be giving it a miss.

Of course, the context of the need for us, to seize the opportunities afforded us by God, can include other scenarios. For example, it could include particular fruit or works, the Spirit wants done; this can include such thing as God wanting particular community or people-group to be saved or evangelized; God wanting particular spiritual gifts to be used, so that people can be blessed; God might also be wanting to liberate certain oppressed people, or suppress certain move of the enemy, Satan; or it can be God wanting His glory to be made known to particular people or in a location.

On smaller scale, but nevertheless, important to God, and even to us, are various scenarios like that in a home or household; like there is grace of God for salvation(s) in the family. Others could include the place of work, etc. Other scenarios could include such thing as peace and reconciliation.

Failure to seize
What happens when we do not seize the opportunities? These are some of the ill-effects of our failure:

1. A profaning of the grace of God happens;

2. We have not cooperated with the Spirit of God;

3. We may even have quenched the Spirit;

4. Intended blessing maybe delayed for some, or even missed altogether, by some;

5. Because we missed being instruments, we missed the associated blessing for us, even;

6. Our development schedule with God gets disrupted, and reworking maybe required;

7. We miss the honor and privilege of serving God at the things He wants done. In other words, we could be history-makers, but we miss it.

What no-lah!
"No-lah, the plan of God cannot be thwarted by anyone of us; we seizing or not, is not relevant", sometimes, we get such a feedback. Such an attitude is not pleasing to God. Had God been wanting to do things apart from men, then it is true, but history from Scripture, tells us that, right from the beginnings of men, God involved men in what He wanted done. So, where it involves men, we have a part to play, we just cannot abdicate from our role, thinking that our lack of participation can never displease God. We may not be able to thwart God's plan in any finality, but our non-cooperation may upset Him.

Those staring at you
Sure, we cannot be participating in every event or occasion, but we have to be honest with ourselves and with God, and we have to bring matters before the Lord.

But more often than not, we are not referring to the more remote scenarios, but rather, situations right under our nose, so to speak. God can easily understand about your non-participation in more remote cases, but are you really able to justify those staring at you?

Excuses or reasons?
Why do believers ignore the very opportunities God presented them at their doorsteps? What could possibly be some of the excuses or reasons?

1. Unbelief. For example, for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, many do not think separate baptism of the Spirit is still applicable today. All they believe is that, on entry into salvation, a person gets the indwelling of the Spirit; and that is it. Generally, because you don't believe, in many cases, you even think it is wrong, and so, you don't want to have anything to do with it.

2. "Other people can do it, I won't be missed." This is of course, pure abdication of role.

3. "I am busy, Lord; you understand, right!" Well, He may understand if you don't take Him for granted; but if you take God for granted, thinking your matters are always more important; how can you expect God to be understanding all the time.

Often, we want to seize opportunities in our many own matters, like our career and our so-called investments; in fact, often we even over-seize or prematurely seize, and they don't work out, and we wonder why God doesn't seize with us those opportunities! Perhaps, we forget how we also frequently ignored seizing with Him, the opportunities He would like us to seize. I am not saying that we have a "tick for tack" God, that since you are like that, then He is like that, too. Of course, God does not take after you; rather it is to be the other way round - we are to take after God. But seriously, does God or does He not, "give it to you, like you give it to Him or to another (man)?

First, let us be very clear, God is not learning or is growing; He is arrived, and He applies His wisdom; and so, He does not learn from you, and then do the same, to you. But Scripture is clear, God did paint the picture that how you mistreat others, He is at liberty to treat you likewise. But we must understand that when God does that, it is a chastisement. I therefore, likewise, believe that God is also at liberty, for the way you "mistreat" Him, to treat you likewise. It is not that God is by nature, a “tick for tack” God, but it is that He will chastise those He loves, and that can include letting you to have a taste of your own medicine, so to speak. The idea is to reform you or transform you, and not to harm you; God cannot be evil, meaning His intent towards you cannot be evil.

4. You think you are as arrived as God! You think you have the full mind of Christ, and so, you have the audacity to think that if God wants something to be done that requires your attention, you will automatically know, right from the moment of your entry into salvation; if you have to think first or think "should I…", you claim you are entitled to ignore any suggestions that you have to do anything. And so, you just adopt basking in grace, and would only do anything meaningful to God or to others, if and only if it is automatic to you.

Just basking in grace has no creditable support from Scripture. The Word of God does not tell us that the moment we entered into salvation, we are instantly matured, and be having the full mind of Christ that we need no instructions or be seeking of His righteousness and ways. Scripture also does not teach that we are saved to just bask in grace. Rather Eph 2:10 is very clear that we are saved unto good works. Just basking in grace steps from the erroneous teachings of the overly grace preachers; we should all be careful with some of these grace teachings. You can even name this point/reason as incorrect indoctrination.

5. "I am with a lot of problems and issues which I cannot even begin to cope with, and so, I can't think of seizing opportunities pertaining to matters that please God or beneficial to others (in line with God's call for us to love our neighbors as ourselves)."

Many people erroneously think that they are entitled to think that it should be the other way round, meaning God should be helping them instead of them helping Him; and it is others should help them, since there are so many people having more than them or are living "better" life than them.

As far as God's grace, I am NOT saying He does not want you to have His grace; He is more than willing to let you have it; but you have to understand that God can only love you unto righteousness, and so, you have to be aligned to that. No one is always above trouble or are always without trouble, for Jesus Himself said, “In this world, you will have trouble” (from. John 16:33).

As to comparison, the world tells us to compare with those above us, but that is NOT the ways of God. It is more along the lines of: The last shall be first! Serve to lead! Everyone is asked to care for the poor and the needy. There is also the Good Samaritan story in the Word. What do the last two statements mean? It simply means there are always poorer people than you, and so, you are not excluded from the commandment. If you extend the coverage of "poorer" to other areas, like being afflicted, like the man who was robbed and beaten, and you are not, you are "richer" or "not poorer", and so, you are in a position to help or bless.

But why must we seize the opportunities
We have seen the ill-effects of our failure to seize opportunities, and some of the excuses of people. But why must we seize the opportunities God afforded us? These are some of the reasons:

1. The grace of God is precious. There are so many situations where nothing short of the help or blessing of God can meet the needs. So, if our non-seizing of the opportunities God afforded us, stands in the way of the flow of God's grace, it is really a pity.

2. God's timing is the best. When we do not seize the moment's opportunity, we miss God's timing intention. If we believe God is wisdom, then His timing must be the best.

3. There is a time and season for everything - Eccl 3:1-8. Overly grace preachers like to exhort sitting at the feet of Jesus; while it is not wrong, that cannot be the thing to do all the time, not for everyone anyway.

Moses, for example, he did not do anything significant for 40 years from the age of 40, was just shepherding his father-in-law's flock at some outback, but when it was time to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he had to go, do it. Please, it is NOT always to just bask in grace, there are times you are to put your hands to the plough, so to speak.

The redemption works of the Cross included redeeming us of the works dimension, even when there are the redemption of the spirit and bodily dimensions. Even as the first Man did sit with God regularly in the Garden, he was also engaged in works - tending to the Garden.

4. God holds the key. Because He holds the key to the meeting of the need, it is only right to do thing according to His timing. God may line up chain of events across dimensions of time, places, and persons; and so, when we don't come in, in the time required, it probably translates into God having to re-juggle many parameters. We are here to co-work with God, and NOT to throw God's plan into disarray in any way.

5. We should want to maximize the benefits of an intended outpouring of God's grace. Sure, God can still, in His sovereignty, go against men's arrangement or lack thereof, and still forces His grace through, but in practice, God does allow a place for men's volitions.

If we look at the matter honestly, we can understand why God does NOT simply disregard men who are meant to participate; to do otherwise, would amount to us having no meaningful role. It is obvious, if we are there or not, does not matter, won't be missed a single bit, then we will stop being there, to co-labour with God. So, may I take this opportunity to say, those who argue everything is God's part, none our part, are wrong; we ought to be careful to simply take in, such teachings.

6. We would be blessed too. Is this important? Some people think, the people who consider this, are "weaklings", and on that account, they want to discourage people to think anything about this.

This down-playing is unnecessary; for it is part and parcel of the ways of the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is one of the most vital keys to the well-being of a believer; to be receiving grace of God as a result of grace flowing to him, the believer, because he is practicing righteousness.

A simple definition of righteousness is to be acting in agreement with God; and when we look at Jesus' commandment to us in Matt 6:33 which stated that we are to seek first, God's Kingdom and His RIGHTEOUSNESS, and then all our needs will be added unto us, we can understand, this, the practising of righteousness, is one of the significant heads of grace; meaning we receive the grace of God which we so very much need, in our life, from this head. If you don't want to practise His righteousness, by doing what God desires done and at the time He wants, you will miss out a lot; I don't know about you, but I want all the grace I can have for life, so that my life is full and abundant (John 10:10), and I will be able to function, better and further, for God, when my needs have God's grace bearing on them.

Since it is so important to seize the opportunities God affords us, how can we position ourselves, not to miss these opportunities? What kind of mindset must we have, to seize opportunities? We will look into this, in part II of this article.

For this part I, it is my hope that readers catch the importance of NOT being complacent in our Christian walk. It pleases God that we co-labour with Him; it pleases Him that we are diligent; and it pleases the Lord that we seize the very opportunities He affords us. Resolve today, that you will NOT be a by-stander, or be looking the other way, when it is time to work or work together corporately to give maximum efficacy to the outpouring of God’s grace or God’s moves. Of course, resolving is NOT enough, it is just the beginning; in part II, we will look at the mindset required; even then, unless resolution is followed through with actions, it remains “useless”, like year-end resolutions that are soon forgotten as the year progresses.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The natural supernatural

Nowadays, I find myself telling fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that they are living in the supernatural if they indeed embrace the ways of the Kingdom in their everyday life. At times, in fact, in more recent times, quite often, brothers and sisters in Christ, tell me that they face hurdles or oppositions, especially in their work or place of work. Some of them find it strange, that they should be still facing such, even after being a Christian for some years; and others expressed they think they want to run away (from their troubles).

Yes, supernatural is when we stretch our hand and utter a prayer, and we see a leg grows longer to equal the other longer leg! Supernatural is when I prayed for a sister who had pain in her back for years, and then with a felt of sensation, the pain completely left her and never to come back again. But supernatural is NOT just confined to such! When you live by the ways or prescriptions of God, you are living the supernatural life. Why? Because the ways of the Kingdom of God are NOT the same as those of the world; in fact, often times, they are directly opposing. When one follows the ways of the world, that would be natural; and so, when you are NOT doing that, and instead following the more super ways, of the Kingdom of God, you are supernatural!

For example, the ways of the world say, “An eye for an eye”, the ways of the Kingdom of God or ways of God, for short, sounded more like this, “If he slaps you in the right cheek, turn your left cheek to him!” Another example: the ways of the world say, “If you can cheat a mile, cheat a mile”; whereas the ways of God is “run the extra mile”. The ways of the world also say, “If he is NOT sorry about what he has done, don’t forgive him!” or “if and only if, he pays for damages, do you forgive him”; but the ways of God is, “Forgive regardless!”

In the work place, commonly we find this way of the world at work, “Make him look bad, just make sure he does NOT get into the boss’ good book”; “sabo” him {sabotage}; back-stab him, to protect your position or turf!

1 Th 5:15 read as: “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” – that means we are NOT to pay back wrong for wrong, but the world says, “Give it back to him, man!” The verse exhorts, when we have been wronged, we still must always try to be kind to the person, and to everyone else!

When I told that (1 Th 5:15) to people, quite a number times, recently, they stared back at me, like they could NOT believe such was indeed in the Bible! Common is the retort, that one is NOT wrong, and has done nothing wrong, and it is the other party who has acted unreasonably; and it is NOT surprising too, that the party being complained against, is also a Christian! And it even happens in church; a sister went to another church to work, and she came up to me for prayer because of the unkind treatment she got from an existing staff of that church!

More people want the supernatural like the kind that extends the leg (although some wants neither!)! But few could embrace the suggestion they are supernatural if they persevere in the ways of God, in the world. One sister, if NOT for the favor of God upon me, seen over time, in church, would have balked at my suggestions, when I told her to persevere. Pastors of churches must teach that the central theme of perseverance is needed in the life of a Christian.

Now, in the doing of supernatural, like the bringing about the growing of the leg, we persevere, too; it is NOT every day I have the Lord doing a miracle like that, through me. I still persevere to give of my time, energy and love to pray for people and minister to people, which are the right things to do. We persevere in the doing of right things. It is similarly for the embracing of the ways of God in our daily living, we persevere in doing things according to the ways of God, for they are the right things to do. And so, even as at times, legs don’t grow, the same can happen to you, that you, having been slapped (figure of speech) on the right cheek, you are again slapped on the left, when you turn the latter over, even though you are hoping the party would realise the error of his way, and back off.

No, I am NOT teaching the ways of the weaklings, I am teaching the ways of the Lord; if people insist that, that is the weaklings’ way, then, they go tell it to the Lord. However, I am also NOT suggesting that Christians should allow themselves to be bullied or oppressed over long periods of time. But you do have to know that the ways of God and those of the world are different; it is either you are embracing the ways of God, and enforcing the victory of Christ Jesus, and therefore, establishing His Kingdom on earth, through your own subscribing to the ways of His Kingdom; or you will be undermining the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ, by your continual subscribing to the ways of the world, from which you have been taken out (you are still in the world but you have been taken out of the world’s ways), and at which time, you have committed to continual submission to the King of Kings.

We are at war, and battles are never easy, and Jesus did NOT promise that once we become a Christian, there would NOT be troubles in our life. There will be troubles, but if you are aligned to (fall-in) to the side of God, your troubles should NOT be stressFULL, for God is with you. To win the war, at times, we have to take the heat in battles - that is normal. What is the difference between a believer and a non-believer? It is NOT that a believer will have no more troubles; the difference lies in the way we, believers, handle our troubles. Believers are to handle troubles (hurdles and oppositions, etc) the ways prescribed by God.

What if I don’t persevere and I succumb to the ways of the world, instead? Then, you will lose out in the growing of grace, the very theme on the banners of the army of God, so to speak. In essence, the ways of the world denies grace, and when you revert back to the ways of the world, you are NOT only, NOT going to grow in grace, you are going to be increasingly be dull to the Spirit of Grace which is the very Spirit of God. At the extreme end, you can become the opposite of 1 Th 5:15, you will lack grace, and practise repaying wrong with wrong! You will no longer try to be kind to those unkind to you. You will be losing the distinguishing marks of a believer, of loving the unlovable; you will become a tick for tack person. You will hate those who hate you, and instead of praying for your enemy, you will be cursing him.

“But I cannot take it anymore, all these unfairness and unreasonableness hitting me!” many retorted. I have said before, it does NOT mean we are to be bullied or oppressed for the long haul, and we do nothing about the situation. You need to be guided by a number of guidelines:

1. Always pray about your situation. Pray for God’s protection, and provision; and for wisdom. Pray for God’s favour, and timing, for breakthrough of impasse. Press in, to God. You can get others to pray for you, but you must pray for your situation, too.

2. Pray for the other party. Hard, but do it; don’t curse, but bless.

3. Repay wrong with kindness – 1 Th 5:15. Be nice still, be helpful, too.

4. Be humble, according to the measure of faith given you (Rom 12:3); even before men; no one really like an arrogant fellow.

5. Be of clear conscience – if the other party is NOT appreciative of what we did or our explanation, just let it go, after checking your own conscience.

6. Be objective, be teachable, and be of self-control, don’t be lazy.

7. Take care of your relationship with God; Be

a. Embracing His Holiness
b. Loving God
c. Obeying God
d. Worshipping God
e. Serving God (without ulterior motive)

8. Firmly believe and seek to practise these:

a. Matt 6:33 – Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and our need will be added unto us;
b. Romans 14:17-18 – The Kingdom of God is about righteousness (His righteousness), and peace and joy of the Holy Spirit, and we are to serve in that way;
c. Ps 89:14 – Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne; His love and faithfulness follow;
d. Romans 8:28 - ………God works it for the good of those who LOVE God, called according to His purpose {Love God, please};
e. Ps 91:14-15 – For those who LOVE God, God promises to ……{all the good stuff – go, read the Psalm}

9. Bodily harm threat – can be signal that thing is out of hand. Godly counsel should be sought.

10. Demand to sin – Don’t give in, stand firm.

Lastly, whether it is at war or doing the right thing, courage is needed. Be courageous. Pray to God for courage. Also, always pray for wisdom, which God will give (James 1:5), but always watch your motive (James 4:3).

All of us, believers are called to the supernatural way of life; if you pray the Lord’s Prayer, one of the things it said is just that – we pray for God’s kingdom to come, to be established on earth, and that God’s will be done on earth, as it is (and intended) in Heaven (by God). How is that to happen? You and I are God’s soldiers, part of God’s army, but we are NOT called to arms and violence; we are NOT to take the earth by force. How then are we to do it? It is by us, subscribing to the righteousness and justice of God which are the foundation of His throne (Ps 89:14a); in other words, we are to live out the ways of the Kingdom of God, while we live on earth, and when we do that, we are enforcing the victory that Christ Jesus has won against Satan and his ways for the world. The world is NOT to be taken by violent force of the believers, but by the influence they impart into the world by their living out of the ways of the Kingdom of God – the supernatural way. You don’t have to grow legs to be supernatural, you can be naturally supernatural just where you are, through the practice of the ways of God in your life. And when people are warmed to your naturally supernatural way of life, you then truly are the light of world, of the Father.

The Father God does NOT light you up as the light, just to have you go under the bowl. Instead you are put on its stand, to give light to people in the world, that they may see your good deeds, and praise your Father in Heaven (understanding from Matt 5:15-16).

You and I have entered into the light, and are NOT destroyed by it; it is supernatural, in that we have become light bearers. Darkness meets Light, there are only 2 possible outcomes; it is either destruction or you become a light bearer; and you and I have become light bearers. The righteousness and justice, and generally, the ways of God are the light; and we have been made to be bearers of that; do you NOT understand. What are the good deeds in Matt 5:16 above? It is simply you bearing out the light, the righteousness and justice and ways of God in the world.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Ye are called to be supernatural, for ye have been called out of the ways of the world, although ye are still in the world. Ye are supernatural, if ye persevere in the ways of the Kingdom. When ye’s ways are NOT the ways of the world, they are NOT natural, and when ye’s ways are the ways of the Kingdom of God, they are supernatural, for they are of the supernatural God.

PS: This entry is adapted from my own comment on Ps Prentis article:

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Please, you have to continue to love God

We often hear preachers telling us that God loves us. In fact, often when I ask people what is the most important thing to remember concerning God in relation to us, the answer is “God loves us.” Is that wrong? No, indeed God loves us. But do you know that you and I have to love Him back AND continue to love Him. Preachers, if they do mention it, they often only mention it as a “by the way” kind of thing. People are NOT stressing it, that we MUST love Him back AND continue to love Him.

Are you really saying it is about Him?
People say, “It is all about Him.” Do they really mean what they say? Increasingly it has become merely a lingo of theirs to mask their irresponsibility; typically this comes from such people:

“The Bible is all about God, NOT about you”. By that, they say, it is NOT about what you are required to do, or about anything you can do. It is about God, about God’s love, about God’s faithfulness, about God’s awesomeness, about actions of God. Purportedly, the saying of “You can neither earn or merit” covers it all. There is nothing for you to do, NOT to mention, to think about, for you don’t need to think for Him; it is He thinks, and you will know! You don’t have to think, you will know, and if you know NOT, then why do you do; don’t do. If you think you ought, then, that is works; that is NOT right, for it is NOT about you and your works. It is about God, and so, only His works matter. When you think and you work, you are putting yourself in, and that would NOT be pleasing to God.

No, it is NOT to be like that. If it is all about Him, it means He is the centre of everything; He is the centre of your everything. It means you are required to do everything He requires of you; and it is about you are to please Him with your thoughts and your actions. It is about Him, and so, it is about your love for Him, about your faithfulness towards Him, about your adoration of Him since He is so very awesome; it is about your actions as unto God; NOT it is nothing about you and I.

It merits us to do anything & everything after His thoughts/desires
Sure, we cannot merit His grace, and we definitely did NOT merit His giving of His Son, Jesus Christ to die for us; but all the more, it, His given grace and on-going grace, merit us to do anything and everything after His thoughts or desires or will.

When it is all about God, it does NOT mean we don’t think at all, and when we think, it is NOT necessarily that it implies that we are having the audacity to think for God. If He is the centre of your everything, it is you are to think and pay attention to that which will please Him and do them. Eph 2:10 clearly said that we are to do good works God would like us to do.

You don’t glorify God by just basking away
We are to glorify God. We don’t glorify God by thinking NOT, and doing NOT. We glorify God by thinking and acting in manners that pleases Him.

In the first place, Man was NOT created inanimate, or for inaction; no, Adam was assigned work; he worked; he looked after the Garden of Eden for God.

The opposite is putting yourself in
You are putting yourself in, when you decide you don’t do that which will please God; and that would be you saying to God, “I will go ahead and do what think I want to do; if you want me to do something else, the onus is on you, God, to tell me”.

If it is all about God, and you are putting God first, then it should be you are to be thinking and doing what pleases God; and you ask Him for “leave to go do something” you would like to do. That is what you would do to your employer - you please your employer, do the things you are supposed to do, thinking and acting for the benefit of the employer; and if you want to do something apart, you ask for leave. But you wouldn’t do that for God, when it is all about Him; you treat Him more worse than your employer? And of course, God is more than just your employer.

“It is finished”. Please explain it rightly.
Who say it is finished? You? Me? No, it was Jesus. Jesus said it was finished for Him; He finished His work; he finished the assignments Father God gave Him. No, it is NOT you and I have no more things to do; purporting that what we need to do is just enjoy ourselves and bask in grace.

No, it is time for us to work. When Jesus finished, we, the believers, take over; NOT the same work of literally be crucified on the Cross, but we, now, are to be the successors of Jesus. In Romans 8:29 we read that for those God gave re-birth (born-again), he also had in mind (wished, desired) that they be transformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, His Son, that He, Jesus Christ, might be the firstborn among many believers. In other words, we take over as ones whom God would continue to work with.

You need only to look at the example of Jesus
Jesus did NOT just sit there and do nothing, cried, “It is all about you, God. You get your act together; I will just sit here and watch, and bask in your grace!”

No, absolutely; that was NOT what Jesus did. His attitude towards God was NOT like that; rather when it was all about God, for Jesus, Jesus put God in the centre of His life; sinned NOT, meaning he did NOT do anything to displease God; and rather, did everything God had wanted done, even when He had to be persecuted and die that cruel death on the Cross.

Jesus said at the end of His life, “It is finished”, and He went to be with God. Because He, Jesus, did the works assigned, He could say, “It is finished”. So, we who are fruits after the Firstfruit, are we also now doing the works Jesus or God assigned, so that when we are about to breathe our last, we can also say, “It is finished”? Are you doing that?

What did Jesus say He required of us?
Is it “It is finished”, and so, nothing required? No. Among the most important things that Jesus said are: Love the Lord your God with all of you (your heart, mind, soul and strength), and love your neighbours as yourself.

Obvious? Apparently NOT, for some. Does the above tell us to only love God at our entry into salvation, and that would be enough? Was it a one-time thing that we are to love God?

In Luke 10:25-28, before He gave the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus revealed to us what is needed to inherit eternal life? The question asked of Jesus (by a Sadducee) was this: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

It is reasonable to assume, by then, Jesus, knew He would NOT be living on earth for a long, long time; and it is reasonable to assume, He, with His knowledge of the OT, including understanding of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, that He would have, then, knew He would die persecuted (this points to it – Luke 4:1-21). But we did NOT note that Jesus’ reply was, all that people had to do, was to believe and accept Him (Jesus), and NOT reject Him, after His death and resurrection. At this point Jesus still pointed to the laws of God. In Matt 5, we can also read that Jesus said He did NOT come to abolish the laws but to fulfill them.

Jesus actually replied by asking the Sadducee, an expert, in the Law, how he, the Sadducee, understood from the Law; and the Sadducee replied,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

And Jesus’ reply to that was that the Sadducee answered correctly. Jesus added, Do this and you will live. (v28). It is very clear that we have to love God to live. If your common sense still does NOT tell that it is NOT a one-time love of God, any slight knowledge of the OT laws would reveal to us that we cannot just love God once, and then NOT continue to love Him.

NOT “it doesn’t matter it lasts NOT”
There is a WORLDLY Chinese saying about love that translates to: “What matters, is that we once had, it does NOT matter it lasts NOT.”

No, it is NOT like that; we are to love God continually. There is such a thing as “has loved” and “continue to love”. You may have loved, but the call is to continue to love. The love of God is revealed to us, in Scripture, like that, too, apart from Luke 10:25-28, which I have expounded above. Scripture said God “has loved”, so we ought to love Him back.

God “has loved” you when He gave His Son to die for you. If you are a believer, you can be said as “having loved” Him back. You have begun your loving God when you entered into your salvation. The question is, “Is that what it is supposed to be, ‘a one night stand’ (so to speak)?” It is NOT, right? What is your expectation? Are we NOT expecting God to continue to love you? Sure, we do. The Apostle Paul said, in Romans 8:38-39, that he was convinced that God wants to continue to love us. The overall counsel of the Word reveals to us that God does want to continue to love us.

So you want God to continue to love you
So, you want a relationship with God? And you want God to continue to love you? Don’t you think you and I ought also to continue to love God? In fact, we have to grow our love for God. Surely, the “Love your God with all of you, your heart, mind, soul and strength” is referring NOT, to the one-time act of love, of saying the Sinner’s Prayer on entry into salvation. It is untenable to argue the greatest command of Jesus was a call for a one-time love by us. In this relationship with God, for it, the relationship to operate properly, it requires you and I to continue to love God, even as God continues to love us.

The key way of loving God – obey His commands
Before I give another important text to show further, the “has loved” and “continue to love”, let me give us the key way of loving God. When I ask people, “How does one love God?” Often the answer is “Love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength”. But that really does NOT say HOW we love! You see, if you and I are saying, “It is all about God”, then we ought to be looking at how God defines “loving Him”.

Jesus defined loving God or Him (Jesus) this way: Those who love me, obeys my commands (John 14:15), and those who obey my commands are the ones who love me (John 14:21a).

So, as a believer, you “have loved” God. At your entry into salvation, God said, “Accept my Son, Jesus, who has died for you”, and you have obeyed – you have loved (you accepted, as commanded). Likewise, you continue to love God when you continue to obey His commands. When you refuse to obey His commands, what does it tell on your love for God? The answer is obvious.

Here is the text of Jesus presenting us the “has loved” and “continue to love”, with the obeying God’s commands thrown in, as the key way of loving God:

John 15:9-11 - 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

The above clearly says that God has loved you, and to remain in His love, we need to obey His commands (as THE way of loving Him). Jesus said He was subjected to the same, and likewise it is applicable to us. Jesus said He told us this, so that when we do it, i.e. love Him by obeying His commands, His joy (Jesus’ joy) may be in us, and that our joy may be complete. In other words, Jesus was saying, our joy will be complete when His joy enters us; and His joy enters us when we love Him by obeying His commands. Here is a little secret for you – to NOT lose peace and joy, don’t disobey His commands.

Are you saying God’s love is NOT unconditional?
Brother Anthony, are you then saying that God’s love is conditional? Yes, but please let me explain.

My understanding is that the Greek word, “agape” used as the “love” word in the New Testament (NT), was NOT originally bearing the meaning of “unconditional love”; it was more pointing to true love, as opposed to sexual/sensual love (eros), brotherly love, like friendship (philia), and natural love, like mother for her child (storge); it was more of a sacrificial love, like dying for another, like what Jesus did, died for us. It has element of without undue demand, but it is NOT really completely unconditional. For example, the love shown by one on the street, seeing a beggar weak from hunger, and giving his/her own lunch pack over, can be said as agape love. This love does NOT demand anything from the beggar - NOT that the beggar must do some “trick” to amuse the person before the food is given. The person sacrifices his/her own lunch. It does appear unconditional in this case, but it does NOT mean that agape love is completely unconditional.

Sacrificial and without undue demand
The modern use of the Greek word may have forced it to mean unconditional love, through usage, but, as far as I have looked at the subject, it was NOT with that intent of being totally unconditional. God’s love or Jesus’ love is sacrificial, and may appear totally unconditional, but God’s love is NOT totally unconditional.

To fully explain this, will require another article, but it suffices to state that God’s love for men is love unto righteousness (`ahab love). And the righteousness of God is the outworking of the holiness of God and His wisdom (principally). In other words, the love of God for men is subjugated to His holiness. In practical terms, it means, ultimately God cannot love you and I, unrighteously, or in contradiction to His holiness. There is a condition to God’s love for men, and that condition, which is applicable for all things, is that it must satisfy the demand of God’s holiness. The demand of holiness is NOT undue demand.

You have to embrace His holiness, and so, you have to obey
We have to obey God’s commands, for they flow from the righteousness and justice of God which in turn, is the outworking of God’s holiness and wisdom. We have to love God for who He is, and He is goodness absolute or holiness. We cannot love God unless we embrace His holiness, and that is why THE way of loving God has to be obeying His commands.

God is ever-ready (to love) but we have to align in
Now, when Jesus said that we have to do such (obey His commands, as loving Him) to remain in His love, it is meant to say that God is ever-ready to love you and I, and He has loved with that love, only that we have to align in.

The best way I can put it, is a parable of the light. It beams forth, but we have to align into the path of the light-beam to receive it.

Assured, most assuredly, for those who love Him
I cannot stress enough that there are so many significant verses in Scripture that tells us that the goodness/blessing/favour of God is assured, most assuredly, for those who love Him.

Ps 91 which have many of the beautiful and powerful promises of God for protection and well-being, it is assured, most assuredly, for those who love God; Ps 91:14-15 tell us so:

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

Romans 8:28, commonly quoted to comfort believers in stressful trouble, it too, is assured, most assuredly, for those who love God; it is written right there in the verse, “…. for the good of those who love God…”

James 1:14 - Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Now, even in the OT, we can see the same thing portrayed; we can see this in the opening line of Nehemiah’s Prayer (Neh 1:5-11) - “LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments

Continue to love Him by obeying His commands
Today, realize the secret to our Christian well-being is to love God. I have already, in this article, said THE way to love God, is to obey His commands. Of course, we can break it up, and expound further, how we can love God, and perhaps, I will do that in another article, but ultimately it still comes back to obeying Him/His commands. So, now, love God by obeying His commands. You have loved God? You still have to CONTINUE to do that.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Loving God is the secret to our Christian well-being.

PS: Those wanting to read an exposition of Ps 91, can go here: “Secret of our well-being – Ps 91

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