After visiting the three villages in one border town along the Myanmar-Yunnan border, hearing about their needs and praying for God’s provision, my prayer was granted with love gifts coming in to install a water piping system in one village, to pay for renovation in a village church and to bless the missionaries and pastors of these village churches. Hallelujah ! Praise the Lord !
Have committed this year to share on a regular basis at 4 to 5 congregations of Alfa Omega Ministries in various parts of the 2 big Riau Islands on Saturday and Sunday worship service. Though hectic in moving from one congregation to another all in a Sunday, it is a joyful experience to share the Word of God and have fellowship with brothers and sisters in this province.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Our Lord told this parable to explain about how God justifies and not what man wants to believe in his own interpretation of justification. Here the acceptable attitude of approaching the throne of God for mercy or salvation is given. Though the characters mentioned in the parable were a Pharisee and a Tax Collector, it could very well be just about two persons. (To mention Pharisee may distract one from the truth in this parable to side track to argue on legalism and grace.) So I will refer to the Tax Collector as Person A and the Pharisee as Person B.
Here we read that Person A approached the throne of God with poverty of spirit and godly sorrow for his sinful condition by beating his breast and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven. He acknowledged his sins and was repentant in seeking God’s forgiveness for his sins. Luke 18:13.
The hyper grace believer behaves exactly like the Person B here – he did not believe in the confession of sins and repentance. He felt no godly sorrow for his sins. He approached the throne with richness in spirit rather than poverty in spirit. He could not see his spiritual bankruptcy. He was so confident that his understanding of justification was right but sadly, he was mistaken.
Our Lord said that Person A was justified and not Person B. Luke 18:14.
20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” 22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” 23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” 24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Every one wants to be great in one way or another. Some have delusional disorders as a result of not being able to come to terms with their lowly lot; of which grandiose and persecutory delusional disorders are most often. Some imagine that they have special gifts from God especially in the area of healing or prophecy. Some are charlatans. Some believe they are suffering unjustly because of persecution from either the devil, the state or fellow brothers or sisters. Others believe famous luminaries are exceptionally interested in them. In a very rapid growing economy like China, you find a very high percentage of such sufferers. Peace and joy are fleeting for the lower classes because most believe greatness comes from power and authority and great wealth can buy all these today – respect, power and authority.
The mother of James and John came kneeling in front of Jesus to ask such an outrageous favor from Him. How many really come to worship Jesus today for who He is ? Or behind such piety is self scented desire of getting wealth, power and authority ? The disciples were always arguing who was the greatest among them. So why would the rest be angry with James and John this time ? They were mad because of the extent the brothers would go to secure such position of power and authority by calling on the help of their mother.
Such power struggle is common place today in the church. You will not believe the erroneous extent some leaders will go to secure the seat of authority.
The Lord had to correct their worldly view of greatness. Were they willing to drink the cup for others ? (James did fulfill this prophecy of drinking the cup when he was executed.) Were they willing to wash the feet of one another like a slave ?
Sadly today, many leaders are no different from the mother of the Zebedee brothers in such self-scented pursuit of power and authority. They still fall for this wrong definition of greatness. They want bigger and bigger building, bigger salary, bigger exposure on TV media worldwide, greatest programme, most popular music and greatest membership. Had Jesus wanted His Bride to be no different from the world, He would have realized the glorious political Kingdom on His first advent and fulfilled such an expectation of the Jews and His disciples. John 18:35-37; Luke 17:20-21. The Kingdom of God is of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and not of power and authority. Rom 14:17
When we truly understand this wonderful truth from our Lord of giving over getting and serving over being served , we become truly great in the eyes of God.
We read in 1 Samuel 15 that God instructed King Saul to destroy the whole tribe of Amalekites and everything including children, infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. Yet King Saul disobeyed and tried to explain that he spared the best of the sheep and cattle to make sacrifice to God. Though it was not mentioned in this passage, we learned later in 1 Samuel 30 that King David was harassed by the Amalekites which would imply children and infants were spared too.
Samuel said this to King Saul, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord ? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” 1 Sam 15:22-23.
King Saul was trying to argue on the MERIT of his action which is to worship God with the best of the spoils but to God, His instruction is to be obeyed even if it is perceived unflatteringly. We have to remember that His ways and thoughts are definitely higher than ours. Is 55:9. How can our sense of morality and righteousness be higher than His ? Ps 145:17.
We uphold that homosexuality is sin because God said so. Period. One man and one woman shall be the definition of marriage as instructed by Him. We cannot argue on the MERIT that the homosexual union can remain faithful and loving towards one another even if there is statistics to prove it may be true. The point is not on the permissibility because of MERIT, but because God forbid. Period. God wants that kind of hierarchical order in His creation at this moment.
Likewise, if the Bible is so straight forward on not allowing woman to teach of which the reason is given in 1 Tim 2:13-14 on the created hierarchical order that God wants, why should we disobey and argue on the MERIT of the opposite of God’s instruction ? We will be practicing double standards if we stand on God’s created hierarchical order on one hand and disobey on another.
Because His ways are higher than ours, we have to believe, trust and obey every of His instruction. Our obedience to His commandments reveal our faith in Him and our love for Him. John 14:23-24.
In Christian walk, we often need to tread on a biblical balance between extremes.
Thrift is good but going to the extreme of miserliness is bad, and generosity is good but going to the extreme of financial irresponsibility is bad.
Having too much money may make one to deny God and having too little may make one steal and dishonor God. Prov 30:8,9.
Likewise, we cannot believe God to be an out-and-out doting Father without any discipline, or He is the harshest Judge without mercy. Heb 12:4-13. The truth is that not only God is merciful but He is also just. Jer 9:24-25.
Commitment without reflection is fanaticism in action but reflection without commitment is the paralysis of all action – so said Dr John Mackay, President of Princeton Seminary – also highlight the danger of taking either extreme.
As we are called to be salt and light so that others who see our good works can give glory to God, we have to share the gospel both in word and in deed. To insist on just sharing the gospel in word or just in deed are running towards extremes.
St Peter: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Pet 4:12)
Cheap grace teacher: “We will surely find it strange because only good things happen to those who believe God love them.”
St Peter: “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Pet 4:13)
Cheap grace teacher: “You can go ahead to rejoice and participate in the suffering as much as you like. But not for us because the work of Christ is finished in being victorious over suffering. He has exchanged all our suffering with His suffering on the cross.”
St Peter: “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Pet 4:14)
Cheap grace teacher: “We will never be insulted but only honoured because of the name of Christ.”
St Peter: “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1Pet 4:15-16)
Cheap grace teacher: “Once again I reiterate ! We will not suffer as Christ has suffered on our behalf and has taken all our suffering on Himself once and for all. What shame ! ? We will never be despised for we will have all the wealth and health to the envy of those who do not believe.”
11 May to 19 May 2015.
Trip to one of the poorest region in Myanmar situated at the eastern border with Yunnan Province, China. It only had mountain track accessibility in recent years and we are glad to bring much assistance in basic needs to the least of our brothers in Christ. We are reminded that one day, Christ our Lord will not be asking us whether we have tithed faithfully or we have attended worship service faithfully, but whether we have done anything to help the least of our brothers. Matt 25:31-46. More than just obedience, it is a privilege and joy to be our Lord’s vessels of blessings.
We were probably among the first foreign missionaries to reach the place in recent years.
We went through the dangerous mountain track of about 40 km traveling at very low speed. We crossed over the mountain ridge at the peak of 10,000 feet which was still covered with melting snow. Our team of 7 was poorly equipped as none of us knew about the climate and terrain before we set off. Thanks be to God for His protection and presence.
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Faith, as in the context of the whole chapter of Heb 11, is hoping for SOMETHING. What is this ultimate SOMETHING ? It is given in verses 13 to 16. Today, we hope to receive many perishable things in life but of what profit ? Isn’t one wiser to live for imperishable things to COME. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” ― Jim Elliot.
So what is this SOMETHING ? Heb 11:13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They DID NOT RECEIVE what was promised, but they SAW IT all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a HEAVENLY HOMELAND. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Rahab all experienced God’s providence in their lifetime; but what about these people ? Heb 11: 35-39. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half,[d] and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.
This is actually a good test of our faith as we examine ourselves. Do we live for the present or for the coming glory ? Our priorities in life will reveal whether we still cling tightly to this world or looking forward to the world to come…Because many do not care, they do not really want to know what is this world to come. So many entertain silly thoughts like we will be apparitions flying around the throne of God, or we are all angel musicians playing harp all day long…All the heroes of faith SAW IT and WELCOMED IT. Do you see it ?
I have prepared two messages to share around the region this year and beyond – The Most Important Truth – God’s Revealed Will for us; and Our Heavenly Homeland – which I feel are so important otherwise we chase many things which are of no profit. We chase peace and security; health and wealth; signs and wonders; prophetic powers; this and that; but as we have seen from Heb 11:35-39, who knows God has chosen some of us to suffer for His name sake ? Besides, the times of difficulty are here. 2 Tim 3:1-5.
Postscript : Allow me a little foolishness to qualify my post. I do have my fair share of signs and wonders, and revelations before someone said that we hardly experience and we do not really appreciate. On the unprofitable side, we get conceited and distracted from our given commission from our Lord Jesus and we thank Him for His grace in always constantly reminding us and preventing us from getting so far off course. 2 Cor 12:1-10. All praise and glory to Him who first loves us.