Archive for September 2012

Ministers of the Gospel   Leave a comment

Steward of God's gifts

Steward of God’s gifts

I have read several books about people whom God called to serve as missionaries, pastors, teachers and evangelists. Two people who come to my mind are Andrew Murray and Jim Stiers. I read several books of Andrew Murray. I still wonder how could this man know God this much. Andrew Murray was called to teach even if he served as pastor. Jim Stiers was a missionary to Brazil and God did amazing miracles while he was on the field. I listened to the songs composed by JEM (YWAM in english). These songs are so beautiful and inspired (e.g. The album Pour Louer). I also listened to the Christian band Rhema some 10 years ago. I’m still blessed by those lyrics they wrote. How about Keith Green? This Gospel singer has such an original way of preaching and living the gospel. I read his writings and it’s amazing what he wrote. With or without money, these people served Christ with all their heart. They knew Christ. You could see it in their writings, teachings, songs and life. As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, we should imitate the examples of such people (Hebrews 6:12). The ministries of these people have personally influenced me. Some of them have already joined Jesus in heaven after their hard work down here. I’m quite certain that they wished they could do more. They were humble Christians and powerful ministers of the Gospel. I wished I could just spend 1 hour with them and listen to their love for Christ. They have given me good examples to follow. But I’m not as pious as them. These Christians lived a radical life. In October 1830, Mueller decided that he would make his request only to God alone and not run into debts to sustain himself and his ministry. 68 years later when he died, God provided 7.5 million dollars. We are talking about year 1830, no one who ever lived received so much from above. This man had faith. I read the Holiest of All, Like Christ, The True Vine and several others by Murray. This man is a bible teacher I learned much from.

When I see such a cloud of witnesses, I feel so guilty of living a mediocre Christian life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1

I should throw away everything that hinders me from serving Christ and growing. Sin should not find root in me. I should become like Christ and someone who ministers God’s truth humbly and boldly:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. ” 2 Tim 2.
Many times people tell me that I have this calling to be a pastor. But I know God has not gifted me to be a pastor. God called me to teach the Gospel. I do not have the slightest doubt about it. He has gifted me for that. He has been so patient to form me and teach me. When I don’t serve Him enough or sin, I feel guilty because God has invested so much in me and I wished I could deliver more. I do not deserve that He invested so much in me. When God reminds me that I did not do a work He asked me to do, I’m ashamed and repent because I know that He invested in me so that I can be a vessel through whom He can bless others. Much will be asked to whom much has been given.

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

I have been so lazy and I know that God could have used me to bless others but I was not available to Him. It’s a sin. There’s no such thing as lazy Christians. “Lazy Christian” is an oxymoron. I have not been a good steward of what Christ has entrusted me.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:10

The fields are white, people are in sin’s slavery and I’m not witnessing enough to them. I’m in a comfort zone, I’ve got a job, clothes, a house and food. God is also faithful to leave His peace and joy in my heart so I’m a happy man. But I know I’m not doing enough. 5 years ago(2007) I was more consecrated than now. Since I completed my tertiary studies and started to work, my life completely changed and I started to get less of quality time to spend with Him. All of a sudden I found myself becoming lazy and lacking zeal. I’m struggling.

What had happened to me? Yeah I know. The Epistle teaches it well, it is negligence and lack of discipline. I have the knowledge of the causes but I do not have the strength to apply what I know.

My heart is satisfied each time I have the opportunity to teach and share the gospel. This is what I should do no matter what people say and even if times are not favorable. I cannot blame anyone for not giving me the opportunity to serve Christ. The service is rendered to Him and not dependent on and unto man.
Should God ask me to leave my job and my country to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Yeah He can do it and that would be a radical change in my life. I wish I could offer my whole life for the sake of Christ and His Gospel. I want to spend hours sharing and teaching the word until my mouth dries up and I can no longer speak. But it might not be God’s plan to send me abroad. With my actual comfortable way of living, I see myself living an easy life. My time, heart, body and mind are not entirely under Christ’s leadership. I want Him to be the Master of everything I am. What shall I do? I do not have the strength to pull myself from this cocoon. I would like Christians around me to have an intimate relationship with Christ. This is a strong desire within me. I pray now that God pulls me out of this comfort zone and makes me the minister He wants me to be for His glory.

A song I would like to share:

The Christian, a hard worker?   Leave a comment

Work hard

Work hard

I was reading the book of Thessalonians and I came across a verse which caught my attention in a particular way. I felt this need to share it, so I wrote this post about it. I’m not writing all this because I work hard but because I’m convinced that I don’t work enough.

Those who believe in the gospel and say they are Christians should live according to the gospel. This we know. Paul said to the Thessalonians to follow the example he gave by working hard. Probably the Thessalonians thought Jesus was coming soon and they had a ‘spiritual reason’ to stop toiling. Being a Christian does not discharge us of our responsibility to serve the society. Idleness is what gave David time to look at his neighbor’s wife and sin. When you’re not busy toiling for earthly matters and God, the devil will use this idle time to tempt and make you sin. Each new day God gives you is to live for His glory and not to waste it.

Do not say you’re waiting for the perfect time to start serving God and working. This is a waste of time because there’re always work to do.

Ecclesiastes 11 says: “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”

Use most of the time God gives you to do something constructive.

Still in Ecclesiastes 11 we read : “Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.”

The lazy person will always find a reason for not working. Proverbs 22 says:

The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion out there! If I go outside, I might be killed!

I guess in a moment of famine, a hard worker would reason differently: “There’s a lion out there! If I go outside, I get it killed and have food for a week for my family!

Even if it is not difficult to get a job, a lazy person will find it difficult.

This is what we read in Proverbs 26:

A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.”

I have met people who cannot sleep well at night because they eat the whole day and don’t spend this energy they swallowed.

But we read “People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.” Ecc 5:11

I guess we can all identify with that. When we are tired after having worked hard the whole day, our body look for rest.

Let’s not forget also that it is a grace to enjoy the work of our hands. God Himself admired the work of His hands when he created the world.

So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” Ecc 3:12

There’s a conception amongst Christians that enjoying life is evil. What is evil to enjoy life in a sinful way. It is not bad to enjoy life by doing sports, eating something expensive and spending money to visit beautiful places. But what we should be careful about is not to fall in gluttony, avarice, cupidity, luxury and materialism. Christians should be generous and not be like the rich man and neglect the Lazaruses around them.

Paul said it plainly: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us.”

Paul was a tent maker and toiled hard to sustain himself. Not only that, he worked very hard to spread the gospel. While going on missions, he was without food, clothes and shelter. But he said that he was contented whether he had or not.
The church of Philippi was the only church who supported Paul in his ministry. Even if they did not provide supports, Paul would have continued to toil hard.

Paul said: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.” Phil 4:11

Not only should we work to earn our bread but also to support those ministers working hard as us to spread the gospel. God commanded Adam and Eve to work the earth. It is part of man’s lot to work. Some of Jesus’ followers were fisherman, tax collectors and doctor. Those who have the physical ability to work and do not do so are not honoring God but living a disorderly life.

It was so serious that Paul even said to the Thessalonians : “to stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us”

Christians should be beyond reproach regarding work. Even if our boss is not kind, let us do our work well.

At Paul’s time there were still slavery but the apostle still said to the Ephesians:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.”

Paul also gave the same household recommendations to the Colossian church (Col 3:22).

In the book of Titus we read :

Slaves must always obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back or steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.”

Christians should be honest workers, not steal and rebel. They must be trustworthy and blameless in what they do. Paul says that this upholds the beauty of the teachings/doctrines of Christ.

So far we have been reading the instructions Paul gave to Christians who were slaves. We are not slaves and we have laws to protect us when we have been subjected to an unfair treatment. If someone insults us we can report to the Ministry of Labour. If we have been fired unfairly or there has been a breach of contract, we seek for counsels with a lawyer. If you have been beaten, you can report to the police.

But at Paul’s time, many Christians were slaves and they were beaten. No police, no Ministry of Labour, no lawyer, no agreement and no HR.

Peter even said:

You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect.Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment.” 1 Pet 2:18

Most of us have not even experienced the bad treatment a slave experienced. I guess that there should be at least some reasons for us to be grateful to God for giving us a job.

For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you

Paul wanted to be free of being a burden to anyone. It was an honor for him to preach the gospel freely. Serving God was to be at his own expense. How many pastors today request millions for them to preach the gospel? Some palaces, luxury cars and even jets and still they dare to ask for donations! Benny Hinn is one example among a few who made the gospel a lucrative business. Shame on them! Christ did not ask a penny to shed a drop of blood for us. He freely gave His life.

I bowed to my knees when I read “Against all Odds”  by  Jim Stier, YWAM missionary to Brazil. This man endured much to bring the gospel there with just a few dollars in the pocket when he started. God always provided for his needs as He did for the apostles. This man saw miracles through his life. Some Christians willingly give even if they do not have much when they see missionaries working hard. They feel honored to be able to be partners in spreading the gospel. The hard earned money used for the Great Commission is an eternal investment for the Kingdom of Christ. A sacrifice acceptable to God.

Unfortunately, today we do not see many donors or serious missionaries.

Paul said:

We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

It’s true, Jesus gave the right to the disciples to eat and drink whatever were offered to them during their mission. Those who work deserve to be paid.

When Jesus sent His disciples, He said: “Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road…Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.”

But Paul did not even want to use the privilege he had lest someone think he was doing it for money and food. He did not fear what people thought of him. Paul just wanted to give an example. No one could ever point a finger to him. Beaten, without food, without clothes and without shelter, he continued to preach without getting anything in return.

At least we work to get some money, Paul worked and got nothing in return in this world. His treasure was souls and rewards in heaven. The world would not have been able to pay him for all what he did anyway.

It is therefore not astonishing that Paul the tent maker said: Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.

If you can work and don’t want to, then why do you want to eat on the sweat of others?

You know what happens when people are idle? There’re gossips, all kind of useless discussions and sins.

Paul heard that: “ some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business.”

Paul commands them to : “We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.”

No one should be exempted of this responsibility. We need to work to feed ourselves. For widows, orphans, children and handicapped,  let it be so that Christians take good care of them. But it is unacceptable that one who is physically fit for duty remains idle. There are no foolish job. Every job done honestly honors God.

Paul ends his remark by saying:

Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed.Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.

There’re reasons to be ashamed of being dependent on the toils of others if you have the ability to sustain yourself. Laziness is a sin.

Jesus said to the lazy servant who did not work hard as the other 2:

But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ Mat 25

Idleness is a wide open road to sin. Let us always put the kingdom of God first by toiling hard for it. Let us also never forget our responsibility as Christians to be hard workers for this is good and honors the teachings of our Lord Jesus.

Posted September 20, 2012 by Cedric in Thought-provoking

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Epistle to the Hebrews (7:1-10)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle.Now the law of Moses required that the priests, who are descendants of Levi, must collect a tithe from the rest of the people of Israel,who are also descendants of Abraham…” Hebrews 7:1-5

In chapter one, the author presented us Jesus as the Son of God. We have now reached another part of the epistle where the author would like again to emphasise the superiority of Jesus as being the High Priest. In chapter 5 he introduced Jesus as being a High Priest similar to Melchizedek. Now he consecrates a whole chapter to discuss about Jesus being the High Priest for eternity. Chapter 7 established, the author continues with massive arguments drawn from the book of the laws (e.g. Leviticus). From chapter 8 to 10 he discusses about the changes brought to the new covenant. The author therefore takes 4 long chapters to discuss about the superiority of the new covenant over the levitical system. If you’re bored when you read the book of leviticus, then you’re not entirely wrong to think so. It was actually boring to do over and over again the same sacrifices and rituals. These sacrifices could not clean the conscience anyway and they could only cover the sins and not remove them. There’re so many laws and rules in the book of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Exodus and Numbers. In the New testament there’s no even a single law or rule to follow except to love God and people(which is not boring at all!). Jesus came to accomplish the law (Mat 5:17).

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Mat 22:37

No more sabbath day, no more circumcision, no more tithe and no more sacrifices.

As Paul said, let him who gives give with joy.

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Cor 9:6

After Jesus’ death, you’ll not see a single place where God asks Christians to give one tenth of his/her revenues. No, what we read is that we can give what our heart tells us to give. We give out of love, with joy and without pressure.

Giving one tenth is an old testament concept where the people gave one tenth of what they had. It could be grains, fruits, herd or flocks (Leviticus 27:30) to Him. To be more precise, it was not given to God for Him to eat(as if He needed something) but given to feed the reserved people of the tribe of Levi who ministered for the nation. The Levites did not have any inheritance. God was their inheritance.

Remember that the Levitical priests—that is, the whole of the tribe of Levi—will receive no allotment of land among the other tribes in Israel. Instead, the priests and Levites will eat from the special gifts given to the Lord, for that is their share. They will have no land of their own among the Israelites. The Lord himself is their special possession, just as he promised them.” Deuteronomy 18

The Levites were therefore dependent on the offerings the people brought to survive. If they had to work the lands to produce their own crops, how could they be entirely consecrated to the Lord? Since the Levites did not have any possession, God gave a law to protect the Levites. The Levites’ family shall have no inheritance, and yet they shall live very comfortably and plentifully. Birds don’t sow but are fed by the Master, so it is with those in the Ministry. God will make provision. This law tithing is about giving a tenth of one’s production. It is not necessarily money.

By the way, I do not understand why some churches teach about tithing. It’s an old testament concept. The church of Philippi gave a lot of offerings which even exceeded what tithing required to support Paul in his ministry(Philippians 4:10-19). In the book of Acts, some even sold their lands. I believe in voluntary offerings and not tithing. Anyway, this was a just a parenthesis that I’m closing now.

We also have another tithe given by the Levites. It’s called the tithe of the tithe.

Give these instructions to the Levites: When you receive from the people of Israel the tithes I have assigned as your allotment, give a tenth of the tithes you receive—a tithe of the tithe—to the Lord as a sacred offering. The Lord will consider this offering to be your harvest offering, as though it were the first grain from your own threshing floor or wine from your own winepress.” Numbers 18:26

The people of Israel gave one tenth of the best they had to the Levites. The Levites also should have something personal to offer to God. They were not exempted and these ministers also had to support others. So they now gave the best of the tithe they received to Aaron the high priest and his descendants. Aaron (and his descendants) therefore received the best of the best production of Israel. He was the high priest after all and the best given by the consecrated levites was given to him. Freely they received from the labours of others, freely they gave. But should not the one higher in the hierarchy, Aaron, also have something to present? But how could he if there were no minister above him to do the offerings? The well respected father of the nation, Abraham, paid it in advance. Aaron like his brother Moses were of the tribe of Levi and therefore descendants of Abraham. Abraham gave a tithe of the best he had after his victory to someone greater than him, Melchizedek.

In addition, we might even say that these Levites—the ones who collect the tithe—paid a tithe to Melchizedek when their ancestor Abraham paid a tithe to him. For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.” Hebrews 7:9

The well respected Abraham after his great victory was now the one who received blessings from someone greater than him, Melchizedek. Was not Abraham the leader of the land and the one who received God’s blessing? Yes, but even the man Abraham should have something to offer and he did. He gave it to an unknown high priest, Melchizedek, even though there were no Mosaic laws yet which required tithing. Since we have no record of Melchizedek’s ancestors and his burial place, we have an image of a high priest who does not have a beginning and end. Jesus is a high priest in Melchizedek’s likeness with no beginning and end. Abraham just won battles against great kings but before the king of peace and justice he had to humble himself.  Melchizedek was the king of holy city of Jerusalem and also priest of the God Most High. These 2 offices he hold made him unique. Moses was the Israelites’  leader who received the laws from God on mount Sinai. On the other hand, Aaron was the high priest and therefore Israel’s religious leader. Melchizedek hold both offices. We do not have more information about this mysterious figure but know well someone who has the same profile.

Posted September 15, 2012 by Cedric in Theology

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Epistle to the Hebrews (6:13-20)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:“I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:13-20

If God said He would do something, it’s not necessary for Him to take an oath. God cannot lie and if He said something once, He won’t change His mind. In these verses we see something very special. God wanted to reinforce the promise He made to Abraham by an oath. This was to reassure Abraham. This helped Abraham to wait patiently and not doubt God’s promise. But we know that when Sarah proposed him the Agar option, he accepted. It is not easy to wait for a promise for such a long time when everything around us is shouting loud that it is useless to wait. When men take an oath, they often take God as witness. They do it by bearing in mind that if they fail to do what they promised, God will be the judge. For Abraham’s sake, God also took an oath by taking His Holy name as guarantee.

In order to give us the same assurance God gave to Abraham, God also made an oath that Jesus would be a high priest of the same caliber as Melchizedek(as we saw earlier). His promise is that we will inherit His Kingdom and we do not have to fear. This oath is a deep assurance that allows our heart, soul and mind to anchor itself in the most holy place. Jesus is there, there’s no need to fear. It’s because His sacrifice was so perfect that we can enter with confidence. Yes, this God almighty who is existence, is Holy, all powerful is calling us into His presence. We are talking about this God before whom mountains tremble and melt like wax.

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice! Let the farthest coastlands be glad.Dark clouds surround him.Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.Fire spreads ahead of him and burns up all his foes. His lightning flashes out across the world.The earth sees and trembles.The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” Ps 97

On mount Sinai, everyone was scared to approach God’s presence. Moses face was shining after he met God. He trembled in God’s presence.

Abraham could have doubted God’s promise because he was old and waited for such a long time. But here, God has promised something greater than what He promised to Abraham. He is calling us to come into His Holy presence. How can we dare to enter God’s Holy presence? Was not there a veil which disallowed impure priests to enter God’s presence down here on earth? The author is not even talking about the man-made tabernacle which is an image of what exists in heaven. No he is talking about God’s dwelling place where angels worship and adore Him. Are we better to dare entering God’s presence? It’s because the High Priest is calling us that we can. If the Son calls us there’s no need to fear. Perfect love drives out fear. Let us run into the Father’s arms. Jesus made it possible to make us sinners become citizens of heaven. Let us not doubt that we will one day enter God’s rest. Let us not fear to come boldly and with assurance in His presence. I might fear entering the president’s house because it’s not mine. But here God almighty made us co-heirs with Christ. The prayer of the High Priest in John 17 was :

I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! ”

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it….So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

Posted September 9, 2012 by Cedric in Theology

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God and chess   Leave a comment

God and Chess

God and Chess

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?Who knows enough to give him advice?And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36

I like playing chess. It is a game which has in reserve many surprise. Just a pawn can be used to cause a check and force your king to move. A pawn you might have neglected in all your strategies might be the central focus of your opponent to checkmate you.

I was reading Colossians chapter 1 and this was the image I got when I read this verse:

This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people.” Col 1:26

If we start from the Old Testament, this is what the prophet Isaiah said about Jesus:

Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.He was despised, and we did not care.”

A pawn is not as strong as a queen. Would you believe your adversary if he predicted at the start of the game that he’ll beat you with the move of a pawn?

The Jews argued against this idea of having a Messiah from Galilee.

They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”  John 7:52

Is not this Jesus the son of the poor carpenter Joseph? Was not he the one who was born in a stable? We know him since birth. How can he claim to be God? How can he dare to say that He is the only way to heaven? Is not he blaspheming when He says that He can forgive sins? Is not he mad to say that he can rebuild the temple in 3 days? The Jews were offended when they heard all these claims about Jesus. It was impossible that this Jesus could be the promised Messiah and the God-sent King.

The Jews were waiting for a powerful leader to deliver them from the oppression of the Romans. But God’s way of bringing salvation to man was not something the Jews ever thought of. This good news, the Gospel, was kept secret for centuries Paul said. When God’s enemies were rejoicing when the king of the Jews was crucified, they thought that they won.

They said:

He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! Mat 27:42

But what they did not know was that all this was part of God’s plan to redeem man. Jesus had to die. The scholars at this time could not understand that, experts in the Jewish laws were really annoyed with Jesus, great Greek philosophers and intellectuals found it hard to accept that God could do such a thing.

Was not it foolish? Oh yeah, the good news about Christ lacks a lot of logic. It seems to us not wise for God to do such a thing. But it was God’s way of saving man. God wanted to destroy the wisdom of those who thought they were in possession of wisdom, had the answers to eternal life and claimed to know God. How can the Messiah die on a cross? Is not it a sign of weakness from God? How can God inhabit in a human body? Is not it a sign of weakness from God? Did God lose on Golgotha?

But God uses the vile things of this world to shame those who think they are wise, Paul said. No one can boast that he knew how God would bring salvation. What God did goes against all human wisdom and reasoning. Even Thomas, Jesus’ follower who saw all the miracles Jesus did doubted that Jesus was indeed risen.

Paul summarises it well:

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles,Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world,things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” 1 Cor 1:18-31

He was buried like a criminal. But Isaiah said that :

It was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants.He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.”
This Jesus that many people despise, insult, consider as a foolish invention and ignore is God’s manifested wisdom. Paul acknowledged that the message of the cross is foolish to those who are perishing. It did not make sense. In Romans 1:16, he said that he was not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God. When he heard about the stories of powerful Greek gods, were not there reasons for him to be ashamed of preaching about a crucified son of carpenter whom people could not see, touch and hear? The message he preached was not talking about a Goliath or Zeus coming to earth.

Einstein said that God does not play dice. God can do things that are unpredictable.

As the psalmist said: “Our God is in the heavens,and he does as he wishes.” Ps 115

Job said: “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.” Job 37:5

Who can argue with God and tell Him that what He did make no sense?

Paul said “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Col 1:19

One of the reasons of Christ’s coming was to be a High Priest. A High Priest who could bridge the gap between the Holy God and sinful man. Jesus is the One through whom the Holy God reconciled Himself with man. No one come to God except through Jesus. God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ. God Himself came on earth and took a human body in the person of Jesus. Through Jesus’ sacrifice man was given the chance to get right with God and He now lives inside those who believe in Him.

Jesus humbled himself and made Himself nothing. It’s like a king crossing the chessboard just to save a pawn like me! This is God’s wisdom and God’s perfect plan. It’s only by faith that one can believe in such a “foolish message of the cross”. In fact, it was God’s very plan that man would be saved by having faith in such a message. But the chess scenario does not end there. A pawn can become a queen. After Jesus humbled Himself, He took back the place of highest honor in heaven and brought us in victory with Him.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Though he was God,he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being,When he appeared in human form,he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil 2

One day all those who insulted Him, persecuted those who believed in Him and ignored Him will bow down before Him and confess He is God. All creatures in heaven and earth will one day acknowledge that Jesus was God’s wisdom manifested.

Posted September 7, 2012 by Cedric in Thought-provoking

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About Theologians   1 comment

Theology

Theology

The word Theo-logy comes from the Greek words Θεός – λόγος which mean “study of God”. We have theologians in most religions. These people studied their “holy books” to outline historical, philosophical, moral and spiritual aspects. Just like we have some doctors who specialised themselves in a particular field, so is it with theologians.
If you have a heart disease and your heart specialist diagnosed you with X sickness and you started to take Y drugs for years and it  happened that the specialist unwittingly made the wrong diagnostic, you’ll still be sick and may have incurred further complications due to this wrong diagnostic. Even specialists do mistakes and this can be fatal. I’m in the IT field and if happened that I made a mistake which went unnoticed in codes/scripts, a business can be ruined little by little.

The same applies to theologians. They are often regarded as people who know the religious books. We have about 6 billions religious people who believe in different things. In a way or another, they have their experts who support and defend their beliefs.

Buddhisms, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism  and any-ism don’t teach the same thing. When people start to ask question in a particular religion, the theologians are looked at to give an answer. But what if the theologians’ answers were wrong for some questions? That would give the believers a distorted view of who really God is.

Since I’m a Christian, I would like to discuss about Christian theology. Let me put it clear since the beginning that I do not have anything against theologians. I was personally blessed by answers/commentaries given by theologians like Andrew Murray, Alfred Kuen and Adam Clarke. Can you read Psalm 22 in the Treasury of David (Charles Spurgeon) without being blessed?   If I did not read how Andrew Murray exposed the divinity of Jesus, I would still be doubtful about Christianity. If there’s no evidence that Jesus is God, then Christianity is a man-made religion and filled up with lies from Genesis to Revelation.

I guess that a doctor will not intentionally make a wrong diagnostic. It’s based on his knowledge and experience that he’ll prescribe drugs. It’s the same with theologians, they read a lot and are regarded as experts by the layman. They often write books to teach/argue/defend a particular doctrine. Unconsciously, we often let these books influence the way we read the bible or even consider them authoritative.  I heard many times Christians saying that if this pastor/theologian taught that, it must be true. Let’s be always on our guard. If you have the privilege of knowing how to read, I would suggest to always validate in the light of the scripture if the Christian books you’re reading are biblical. If you see a genuine Christian who has a good testimony and believe in something different than you, why not doing a spiritual check to see if your belief is right? I don’t know about you but I like taking this kind of risk just to reinforce or correct stuff that I did not get right. It is somehow risky because if you’re not well rooted in the scripture, you can be confused and become an easy prey of false teachings. But what if you have some doubts about what you believe and think you’re somehow wrong? Would not a discussion with others be an interesting option? If you see that what other believe do not fit with the scripture, you can agree to disagree.

Be careful of not falling into the trap of reading the scripture with the preconceived idea that it should mean something that support what you have always learned. I have met many people who read the scripture with the preconceived idea that it should support what they believe. For example, the false teachers’ book about the prosperity gospel twist verses out of context and make the verses say something it never intended to say. This is an unfair use of the scripture. Immature Christians might consider this teaching biblical since these verses are quoted from the bible. I know a pastor who justified his adultery by taking Solomon’s example. If Solomon had many wives, why should he deprive him? If you want the bible to say something, I guess it won’t be difficult to get some verses here and there to support what you want.

Paul said:

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” Col 2:8

I’m quite certain that the Judaisers had strong arguments to make Christians follow the law and rituals of Judaism. They zealously quoted from the scripture and I’m quite sure that it was not easy to argue against since at that time Christianity was just starting to emerge. This is why Paul wrote to the Galatians. Some people wanted to make the believers add Judaism to their faith in Christ.

Still in Colossians we read:

You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”

These teachings might sound really pious. Asceticism was a strict self-denial false doctrine. But, did not Christ said that if someone wants to follow Him he should deny himself? Yes, but asceticism does not give glory to Jesus because it rebels against God’s Holy Spirit who wants to be the One who molds man’s heart. False teachings are usually those very close to the truth.

I just read some books, followed some courses and do not even have a diploma in theology. Saul of Tarsus was a theologian who zealously defended Judaism. He even persecuted and killed Christians because he was so convinced of his faith. But when he became a new man, Paul, these things he regarded as precious became rubbish to him because he discovered the Messiah.

This is what he said:

I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.”

I saw many Christians wandering from the truth because of many stuff they read by theologians. They have now a distorted view of the scripture. Let’s always be on our guard. In the last days Paul said :

For the time will come when people 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. ” 2 Tim 3:3

If some people want the bible to teach that God wants every Christians to be rich, then they will have teachers like Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn. These are the kind of teachers many Christians are looking for because it’s what they want to hear. But this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. The list of false teachings is long. If when you read the bible and you see that there’re some stuff contradicting what you believe, then it’s the time to start asking questions. I still have some minor questions that I do not have answers and don’t really expect to have an answer. But regarding central doctrines like salvation, the Trinity and the church’s role I no longer have crucial questions regarding these doctrines. I prefer to be sure of what I believe than living with doubts. I know in whom I have believed.

Like Paul said:

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim 1:12

Posted September 2, 2012 by Cedric in Theology

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