Prayer

We are commanded to pray often. What then is prayer ? Is it the means to unlock fulfillment of our personal desires through persistent prayer ? We will run into difficulty with the sovereignty of God if our persistence or our faith is the driving force in forcing the hand of God.

Firstly I believe everyone agrees that prayer is essentially the means of approaching the throne of God and getting into His presence. When we first believed, we were taught to pray using the format of ACTS. That is, to express our feelings of awe of God’s glorious omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence (Adoration), God’s mercy (Confession), God’s goodness (Thanksgiving) and God’s provision (Supplication) when we converse with Him. So prayer is not all about petitioning but rather a whole worship experience which includes our concerns. We learned as well that Jesus our Lord and His Spirit are both interceding for us when we stutter with our concerns.

Prayer is essentially a means of grace in which God’s Spirit assists us in progressive sanctification. It will deepen our walk with Christ as the main fruit of the exercise. Through prayer, God’s Spirit will quiet our anxious restless spirit when adverse or trying circumstances rage around us. Through prayer, we can reveal our true condition of helplessness. At the end, prayer accomplishes not just answered prayers but surely our total dependency on God.

The whole creation is groaning right up to the present time as she awaits the coming glory and we groan too as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son-ship and the redemption of our bodies. Rom 8. We are then commanded to pray persistently so that we do not lose sight of the Hope when true justice will prevail. Prayer is where we find comfort and encouragement to wait for the coming glory when we know God will hear our prayers. Luke 18:1-11.

(Luke 17:6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.)

Luke 17:6 has been ridiculously quoted out of context by false teachers that you can just command in faith about anything to obey your wish. In the context of Luke 17:1-10, the disciples were finding it almost impossible to be so forgiving and to be watchful all the time that their daily action would not stumble others as the judgment was draconian; so they were asking for faith to do so. The key word is TRUST – our trust or our faith in God – that the power to do anything rest in God. As long as you can comprehend and trust even a LITTLE (your faith as small as a mustard seed) that with God nothing is impossible, your prayer to be forgiving or to be Christ-like will surely be answered for such prayers are definitely in His Will. It is the same consistent teaching as in Matt 19:16-26.  The disciples were shocked to learn that it is hard for a rich person to enter heaven as they believed wealth to be blessings from God (and they have just noted that the rich young ruler was pious too) – to which Jesus our Lord replied that with man it is impossible but with God all things are possible.

Even if we do not interpret within the context of this whole passage of Luke 17:1-10, it is almost ridiculous to think that the method or the way we shout or command in our prayers of selfish desires will tip the scale between the sovereignty of God and the obstacle from the Devil (as expounded by the hyper grace false teacher). Can you seriously believe that the Will of the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God has to depend on the way we shout or command in Jesus’ name ?

God’s Revealed Will from the beginning to eternity has always been to make man conformed to His Son. Rom 8:29. First, He pre-destines (Rom 8:29) and then He sanctifies progressively (2 Cor 3:18) and finally He fulfill His will for us when Christ our Lord returns (1 John 3:2). Self scented-ness in the centre of sin is the root of all our headaches from which we seek freedom in Christ. If our prayer is always about self scented-ness being the perennial theme and focus focusing on personal well-being and prosperity always, how can God ever fulfill His revealed will for us ?

The Holiness of God

The holiness of God is the most difficult of all God’s attributes to explain, partly because it is one of His essential attributes that is not shared by man. We are created in God’s image, and we share many of His attributes, to a much lesser extent of course—love, mercy, faithfulness, etc. But some of God’s attributes will never be shared by created beings—omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, and holiness.
God’s holiness is what separates Him from all other beings, what makes Him separate and distinct from everything else. God’s holiness is more than just His perfection or sinless purity; it is the essence of His “other-ness,” His transcendence. God’s holiness embodies the mystery of His awesomeness and causes us to gaze in wonder at Him as we begin to comprehend just a little of His majesty.

– GotQuestions.org

As I read up on the evidence in cosmology, physics, astronomy, biochemistry and human consciousness, it gets so mind boggling for me that God will go to such an extent to make such an unique habitat for man against the backdrop of an apparently infinite universe. If we cannot see we are the crown of His creation, I think we are really not worthy of His love. Surely, He wants us to explore our habitat and eventually to find and know Him through it. This physical part of His creation only help us to see just a little of that majesty.

If we sum up all the probability of all the amazing precision for life to exist :

1. In the structure and composition of the solar system, galaxies and universe,

2. Of the earth’s location, its size, its composition, its structure, its atmosphere, its internal dynamics and its many intricate cycles that are essential to life – carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, sodium cycle, etc – which are so incredibly balanced,

3. Of the 26 essential elements life requires and the 16 elements of bacterium,

4. In the cell which can viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines and they are rightly called machines because these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts,

we will have a probability far exceeding the number of stars in the universe which is already incredibly large. The point I am making is that there will not be another unique habitat like earth in the whole universe.

We are created in His image with several of His attributes – not limiting to love, mercy and faithfulness. This is the spiritual part of His creation that we begin to see more of that awesome majesty. And it is this spiritual part that He wants us to be more and more like Him.

This awesome physical creation and His invisible qualities are made known plainly to us and yet we suppress this Truth. Rom 1. Instead of glorifying and thanking Him, we are idiotic enough to pursue after the physical creation like it is god to us. We worship our own work. We worship our achievement. We worship our career. We worship our possessions. We worship ourselves. We think we are wise. We are fools of the worst kind.

If we can somehow grasp a little of this whole holiness of Him, we cannot help but to feel so unworthy before Him. His glory and His majesty or His holiness is too overwhelming for mortal creature like us to fully comprehend. Yet we think we know it all. We think we are the centre of our lives. The Creator God is only our imaginative invention.

And that really breaks His heart. How does a finite creature get so insolently far off his or her place in this whole creation ?

(If I am the infinite Creator looking at the arrogance, the self sufficiency, and the self-centredness of these insolently proud finite creatures of mine, I won’t hesitate to annihilate them like pests. Nothing to describe the broken-heartedness. Maybe the closest, humanly speaking, is to vomit blood.)

Instead of giving Him His deserved glory, we turn around and demand glory from Him….we fully deserve the coming tribulation…we fully deserve eternal damnation…

He did not give up on us. He came personally as the Way, the Truth and the Life. He has shown that despite being the Creator God, He can empty Himself for the sake of His creation. We only need to believe. We need to reverse our course and follow His course if we truly believe. We have only two courses. One is to live for our own glory and the other is to live for His glory. (Beware of the wicked teaching that we can both live for our own glory and His. That is a despicable lie.)

I pray we can see His eternal power and divine nature through His physical and spiritual creation enough to grasp a little of His majesty, His glory and His holiness; and then grasp His immense Love for us with such an elaborate effort (I cannot stress enough this elaborate effort). We are indeed the crown of His creation and we are definitely made for a better purpose than to eat, drink and be merry, and die…

Parable of the Minas

Luke 19:11-23

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

This parable of the minas is different from the parable of the talents. Here all 10 servants were given one mina each to invest while in the parable of the talents, the servants were given different amounts of money to invest. The parable of the talents tell of different servants given different abilities and the danger is for the person with relatively lesser ability to do nothing. The parable of minas tells of every servant been given the same amount but the difference in results is not due to differing amounts but to differing levels of diligence in investing the same amount.

Only 3 out of 10 servants gave account of what they did with the single mina given. The people thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear very soon. Jesus wanted them to know that He would go away to be appointed King first and would come back later so there is a period of delay. Meanwhile, His disciples, who have been entrusted with the one same gospel, must put to work the gospel entrusted.

The first two servants were rewarded very handsomely for their faithfulness and diligence – reward of 10 or 5 cities for earning 10 or 5 minas more respectively !

The third servant did not invest the single mina as he had a completely different opinion of his Master. Instead of being a hard man as perceived, his Master was actually quite generous as seen in his reward for the first 2 servants. He did not really know his Master at all.

This third servant represents many in our church today who hardly know the mind of God – completely indifferent to God’s love and concern for the lost and His Kingdom. These Sunday Christians are always concerned about God’s blessings but not God’s interests. They will talk mostly about epicurean living – about their advancement of career, wise investments, fine living, fine dining, buying the latest toys, enjoying the most wonderful holidays and bragging about their children’s achievements, etc – because they believe the false teachers that abundant life is the abundance of every good thing in life. They do not know that they are the Rich Man in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man or the Rich Fool in the parable of the Rich Fool. How will they ever be interested to share the gospel with the poor and helping the needy ? Isa 58.

I believe this third servant never expect his Master to call him a wicked servant so do all these professing Christians today who is totally unconcerned about the purpose of God and His Kingdom to reach the lost. Because they are fed false cheap grace teaching that prosperity and indulgence is all their lot when they believe in Jesus. Never do they realize that whoever does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God ! 2 John 1:9-11 ESV. These professing Christians hardly know the mind of God when their minds are obsessed with wealth and indulgent epicurean lifestyle, not knowing the serious warning of our Lord not to be weighed down by dissipation and cares of this world. Luke 21:34.

(2 John 1: 9-11 ESV

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.)

At the very least, this servant can put the mina in the bank and earn interest as told by our Lord. That is, even if we do not have any opportunity to share the gospel with anyone, at least support those who are doing so such as supporting the missionaries and giving to missions.

Tithes and Giving

Cheerful giving is born of love, and therefore it is a lover loving a lover and rejoicing in the communion. Giving is the language of loving; indeed, it has no other speech. “God so loved that He gave !” Love finds its very life in giving itself away. Its only pride in possession is the joy of surrender. If love has all things, it yet possesses nothing. – JH Jowett.

In the Old Testament, a tenth of all produce was mandated to be given to the Levites. An additional tithe collected every three years was to be given to the aliens, orphans and widows. On top of that, the Israelites were reminded to be generous to the needy. Deut 15:7-8.

In the New Testament, there is no such requirement mentioned but cheerful and generous giving is very much encouraged. 2 Cor 9:6-7. Generous giving also reveals our hearts of our gratitude towards God fully acknowledging whatever we have come from Him. We are actually encouraged to give everything of ourselves including our gifts and talents in the Kingdom of God. Matt 25:14-30. Jesus our Lord also required of us as faithful servants to care for His people. Matt 24:45-51; Matt 25:31-46.

Today, in our local church, the full time pastoral staff are like the Levites who deserve the giving of the church to support their needs. If the church has programs of helping the orphans, widows and aliens including missions, these programs have to be supported as well.

A call for tithes is a good guideline. But to impose a tithe and cause giving out of obligation and compulsion will not be cheerful giving and that is not encouraged at all in 2 Cor 9:6-7. On the other hand, generous giving to get good public opinion is also not encouraged. Matt 6:1-4. All giving should be an expression of love. Giving is a worship sacrifice pleasing to God. Heb 13:16.  Giving to the poor is a memorial offering to God. Acts 10.

Giving and anticipating 100 fold returns as preached in the prosperity gospel is not giving out of love but stoking greed in the hearts of the givers. The current scandals of so many prosperity gospel churches should tell us that there is really no blessing from God but mere manipulation of greedy hearts.

Instead of trusting the false teaching of these false prosperity gospel preachers, why not trust God’s promises for giving to the needy ?

God did promise blessings for those who give to the poor and needy cheerfully :
Psalms 41:1-3
Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
2 the LORD protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3 The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.
Isaiah 58: 7-11
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.

Prudence is a cardinal virtue. We must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Again, I want to remind that we should not give blindly. We should give to the indigent poor and NOT the indolent poor. 2 Thess 3:6-15. We should not give to programs that glorify man instead of God. As there are many abuses of church funds today, pray for discernment in giving. And pray for your church leaders to have genuine servant-hood leadership quality with right motive to serve the Lord and His people, and not gratify themselves.

Pause for a moment right away and think about this seriously : When we face Jesus our Lord one day and He asks about our motive for giving, will we be commended as faithful servant or rebuked as wicked servant ? Hopefully He separates us as sheep and not goats. Repent while we have time if we are going the wrong way.

Do We Eagerly Await the Return of our Lord Jesus ?

Matt 24: 42-51
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

If we are eagerly awaiting the return of our Lord Jesus, we will take His words above to heart and be the faithful servant. How we behave as servants now will manifest our true character and our true love for Him. Will we be found caring for God’s people; or will we join the world in making merry and indulging in dissipation, and even take advantage of God’s people for our own benefit ?
The same message is repeated in the parable of the sheep and goats. Matt 25:31-46. Do not take His warning lightly before it is too late for it concerns eternal life or death.
(I am referring to caring for the indigent poor and not the indolent poor among God’s people. St Paul had sharp rebuke for the indolent poor in our midst. 2 Thess 3:6-15. Many indolent poor among us, who are slothful and idle, know they can depend on the generosity of the hardworking brothers and sisters. They are really troublemakers in being disruptive and are busybodies as well. They will discredit or slander you when you are not willing to provide for their needs. In 2 Thess 3: 11 -15, St Paul gave us the instruction on how to deal with these indolent people.)

God’s Eternal Predestinating Purpose

The revealed Will of God is for His people to be conformed to His Son. ( Rom 8:28-29). God wants His people to bear all the attributes of a life filled by the Spirit of His Son – namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindnesss, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control – for all eternity. We were made in this original image of God but we have lost much of it.

When God said that everything works together for good, He really mean everything including suffering, trials and temptation. He will allow trials to test our patience and faithfulness, and opportunities to test our kindness and goodness. Eventually, suffering produce endurance and endurance in turn produces character. Heb 12:3-11; Rom 5:3-5.

How do we shine as light and bring glory to God ? It is the outward works that manifest these inner qualities which people will SEE and give glory to God. Matt 5:16.

It is a world of difference between doing some kind deeds and being a good person. The Priest and the Levite may do some good deeds at some time in life but the Samaritan is a good person. The distinction is important otherwise it may lead to wrong ideas according to CS Lewis in his excellent book Mere Christianity. (Pray I paraphrase correctly what he had said.)

The first wrong idea is provided we do the right thing, it does not matter whether we do it willingly or unwillingly, out of public opinion or not, grudgingly or cheerfully. The truth is that right action done for the wrong reason does not build up our inner quality or character. We may give a ton of praise and worship Jesus but our hearts may be far away from Him altogether. Our inner desires or personal fulfillment may sadly be the true motive for the worship rather than out of true love. Mark 7:6-7.

The second wrong idea is that we may think God wants us simply to obey a set of rules whereas He actually wants us to have certain character. (The Law is actually the blueprint of that Christ-like character or what some theologians call it the teacher of righteousness.) That was what Jesus our Lord meant when he said that one might NOT have committed adultery all his life but he had committed the sin already when he looked at a woman lustfully. It is not so much about the strict adherence to the commandments but rather about having the inner quality of love or fruit of the Spirit that fulfills the commandments.

Each time we make a moral choice – and we will make numerous such choices in our entire life – we are turning the central part of us either towards a heavenly creature or towards a hellish creature : either into a creature that is in harmony with God’s laws or a creature that is in harmony with the world, the flesh and the Devil. Now each time we examine ourselves of our action and thought, we move our central part towards the heavenly creature end and this self examination comes from the sanctifying work of the Spirit of Christ. Some call this process Sanctification. Now it will be disastrous to hear of false teaching that we can make choices towards the hellish creature part without even worrying about it. Then it is regrettable that the initial belief is merely a professing of faith and not a genuine repentant faith.

The third wrong idea is that all the good fruits of the Spirit is only good for this life and not beyond because all will be perfect in future. Yes, there may not be occasion for us to do good deeds in heaven but there will be every occasion for us to become that Spirit-filled person as a result of doing such acts NOW. It will be very strange for people not wanting to be sanctified now and yet they hope to be in Heaven in which all such sanctified people live.

It is still about the true circumcision of the heart….

Hard Times; Exciting Times

I am not in the business of fear mongering by writing my new book “The Coming Economic Flood”. God forbid ! We are exhorted to eagerly await the return of our Lord Jesus and to speed His return by living godly lives and to share the gospel to every corner of the earth. 2 Pet 3:11-12, Matt 24:14. But His return will be preceded by terrible times and judgments – the beginning of sorrows and the tribulation judgments. 2 Tim 3:1-5; Matt 24:4-8,21-22; Rev 5-16.
Jesus our Lord further exhorted us not to be weighed down by dissipation and cares of this world but to pray to escape the times and be watchful. Scripture also further exhorts us to live godly lives, and to encourage and build each other up as we see the Day drawing near. 1 Thess 5:11; Heb 10:24-25; 2 Pet 3:14.
We are pre warned as well to the heightened spiritual deception and apostasy in these last of the last days and to be on our guard as not to fall from our secure position. 2 Pet 3:17; Matt 24:24; 1 Tim 4:1-2.
Though the coming times will be hard and terrible, they are exciting at the same time for it means the return of our Lord Jesus is near. Luke 21:28,31. May our Lord come soon ! Hallelujah !

Gift of Prophecy

“…in the primary sense of prophets, as vehicles of direct and fresh revelation, it seems we must say that this charisma is no longer given. There is no longer anyone in the church who may dare to say, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying…” or “Thus says the Lord.” It has been argued, however, that prophets may be used in other and lesser senses. Some think there may be men today like the prophet Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21-10-11) whose function is NOT TO ADD TO REVELATION but to foretell some future event. This is possible. But both church history and personal experience make me cautious…”

– John Stott, Baptism and Fullness.

It is right to be cautious as there are many charlatans out to make gain today by claiming to have this gift of prophecy in the lesser sense. But we are also told not to despise prophecy in these last days but to test everything. 1 Thess 5:20-21.

John 16:13

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (Emphasis mine).