Persecution Today Is Real

I saw a very disturbing video a moment ago of how they persecuted some Christians in one African country. I do not know the country nor the background of the persecutors. But they kicked four old Christians, put them in a hole they dug for the public to see, and threw burning bush on them. The persecutors (young men) jumped into the hole on the victims at the beginning of the fire and when one Christian tried to come out they kicked her in her face back in. The public looked on and did nothing. No police was present.

Paul says, “my persecutions, and the sufferings that came upon me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," (2 Timothy 3:11-12).

In our so-called modern world there are still all kinds of persecutions. Not only of those with a religious lifestyle, but of those with lifestyles different from the majority of the public. Can we not agree to be disagreeable? If we respect the view of another that differs from our own, we are exercising our right and freedom to have our own opinion while we allow the other to live out their rights freely.

This is a truth that should be instilled in the hearts and minds of all. A recent news showed where three young men, without provocation of the victim who was autistic, they bullied him and beat and kicked him. The behavior of the person challenged with autism is not what many are accustomed too, this is why this month of April many countries celebrates and have programs on Autism Awareness. The 2nd April was declared by the United Nations, The World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). Activities are planned in many countries every year “to further increase and develop world knowledge of children and adults who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).”

But if the general and Christlike truth is known and taught and put into our hearts, minds and spirits that we must love all people regardless of differences in culture, creed, education background, and lifestyle, then we will be moving closer toward closing the gaps in reducing senseless and wicked persecutions. The Bible says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” (Titus 2:11-12, NIV).

Luck or Prayer

Do you rely on luck or prayer? I was rushing to the hospital to get to my pre-screening surgery appointment on time. I sat in the traffic pondering and reviewing my anxiety. Why worry I thought? Why the rush? Why the anxiety?

Scriptures says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God,” (Philippians 4:6). The more I contemplate Scripture, the more I relaxed. Why? My faith is based on the fact that Jesus is alive and he is always advocating for me (1 John 2:1).

I am a Christian partly because I know that more than 500 persons had seen Jesus after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6). Even unbelieving historians wrote of his crucifixion and death. The Bible, archaeologically proven to be a sound document, says Jesus’ Holy Spirit mediates for me in my prayer (Romans 8:26).

All I need to do is to ask for anything in his name (that is, in the name of Jesus) and he will answer me (John 14:14). A sinner like me can always go to him sincerely in repentance seeking forgiveness and he will grant it to me (1 John 1:9). Through him, in the grace of God, I have the gift of salvation and eternal life (John 3:16).

So in the traffic I had hope. I relaxed. The outcomes to my pre-screening and surgery will not be based on luck, which is prosperity through chance according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. Whatever they may be, I have hope in Jesus Christ as he’s the healer (Psalms 103:3) and is in charge of all circumstances. He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth,” (Matthew 28:18).

 

Implication of the Power to Choose

Because we can think and reason, because we can be rational, this means we have free will. The ability to exercise our free will means we are capable of discernment and doing logical and critical analyses and decision making. This means we have the ability to ascend to greater heights. For our understanding can deepen, our view of the world can be broadened. We can contemplate and meditate.

In the Genesis story, God granted Adam and Eve the freedom to choose and they exploited it. He told them that they were free to eat of all the fruit trees except a specific one he identified (Genesis 2:16-17).

What a grand opportunity! The world, the garden was theirs for their complete enjoyment. But with free will, humanity is ever nagged by its curiosity instinct to exploit other options.

Adam and Eve had instructions from the all-powerful, all-wise, Sovereign of the Universe. Yet Eve listened to another perspective and interpretation to what she had heard, and thought it to be the truth—the better option from lesser authority.

She was convinced and chose to believe the other interpretation—which Satan gave. She shared her excitement about the new or fresh interpretation with her life partner so empoweringly and persuasively that the partner Adam agreed with her fresh view.

Here is the question we need to ask as we review what happened: "Was the new perspective that Satan presented to Eve wrong?" Satan says (1) God knows; (2) her eyes will be opened; (3) she will be like God; and (4) she will know both good and evil. That is what it says, isn't it? See Genesis 3:5.

Now why would a perfectly just, all-wise, and all-loving God curse humanity for freely following the new perspective when later we note a Scripture says, “God our Saviour ... wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)? The answer to this question we know it was disobedience that God punished. In summary, “Obey and you will be blessed. Disobey and you will be cursed,” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

 

Good Pain Bad Pain

No one likes pain unless she’s a masochist or mentally ill. But I am talking about normal people—I am assuming we still have some standards we can consider somewhat universal. So the average person does not like pain. The existence of painkillers which doctors prescribe is a sure indicator that most of us prefer not to have it and doctors who are scientists agree.

But these same doctors, while they practice their medicine to get us well or healed, would often, if not always ask us (the patients), “where do you feel pain or discomfort?”

And why would they do so? Common understanding is that pain indicates something is wrong. Since it was not there before, then it means that something went wrong. As a result, we have the view that pain can be seen as positive in this sense—it tells us when we are to fix something and at times, which specific thing needs fixing.

Sometimes we do not even know what health problem we have, or that one existed in us, until pain begins giving out signals. This is indeed good pain—we may not like it at all for the misery, not mere discomfort, we experience. But no one will argue that the existence of the pain is helpful when something goes wrong.

But without signals as with these types of pain, there can be no effective preparations to save lives; to stop or prevent disasters, to avoid property damages or at least minimize, the level or size of destructiveness.

Can you imagine, if we do not feel pain and we have a tact or piece of glass or sharp object stuck in our bodies? We would be bleeding continuously and not know it. It may even be detrimental and we would be unaware that our lives are at risk. So we do need to have this pain and to feel it. But there are other times, we violate laws of nature or of good relationships and we bring emotional and other pain in our lives. Bad pain. This kind of pain we must do our very best to avoid. No one wants it. But Jesus says, we will have tribulations or problems in our lives, as we cannot stop it. But when we do have it, seek him and we can find peace (John 16:33).

Don’t Let Oppositions Hold You Back?

When good ideas are fired up in you, don’t let oppositions hold you back. First we are imperfect and we do wrong naturally. As a result, the easy way out of a good idea or dream, is to think negatively saying, “I don’t have enough resources so what’s the use pursuing my dreams, my good idea?” So before we try or when we are at the start of our efforts we give up, we fail.

If you are guilty of this like most of us, read on about one who was a servant and who came face to face with a grand idea for which he needed massive and national resources. That can be overwhelming.

But Nehemiah was totally absorbed and passionate about the idea-matter that he “sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; fasting and praying before the God of heaven,” (Nev 1:4, NKJV).

He could not hide the intensity of his absorption with the problem that consumed him. Others saw it and knew he was not ill so it must have been something burning in his heart. This is what the king he served said (Neh 2:1).

Nehemiah thought, sought and prayed for a resolution with the same intensity; and before going to human authority to seek a way forward and out, he asked God. His request was granted by the king (Neh 2:4-5). Even the grand resources he needed were provided. This assured him that the hand of God was at work. God placed the desire in his heart, he felt (Neh 2:12).

Surely enough, he was faced with oppositions—false allegations that’s he’s a rebel, jeering and laughter, along with  those who despised him (Neh 2:19). Nehemiah ignored his opponents’ accusations and he asserted that God was involved in what he was doing. His motives were to submit to God. So he unwaveringly pursued his goal.

No matter what we are doing, once we are sure our motives are godly and constructive to our fellow men and women, we should move ahead in confidence and toward successful completion. We must not allow any opposition to slow or stop us.

The Burden of Truth

The word burden normally alludes to weight, load or responsibility. The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiage Dictionary defines it as, “something that is carried; duty or responsibility. Something oppressive or worrisome.” The dictionary continues to say, “’The burden of proof’ is the duty of proving a disputed assertion or charge.” What then is the “Burden of Truth?”

The word “burden” in the Pocket Dictionary of Canadian Law by Daphne A. Dukelow means “the duty to perform an obligation.” (Thomson Carswell, On, Canada, © 2006, pp 58). And the word truth explains, Dr Norman L. Geisler, ‘is fact that corresponds to reality, it is noncontradictory, absolute, inescapable, unchanging, and discovered’ (Unshakable Foundations, Bethanyhouse, MN, USA, © 2001, pp. 52).

The claim by anyone that a view, opinion or situation is the truth, then requires that the person show that their declared truth has such qualities as noncontradictory, unchanging, discovered not created, absolute, corresponds to reality, and to deny its existence is to affirm that it is.

Truth concerns us all. Not only in the courts of law where it is formally argued, but in our daily interactions with one another in homes, in businesses and in the public places. We compromise for peaceful co-existence, we let others freely exercise their views and impressions on the grounds of free speech, we promote tolerance of the differences in the practice of religions laying out our path and methods of worshipping our personal view of God, and today we conclude that all truths are equal for this is fair, peaceful and respectful. Therefore we say it is the right approach to adopt.

But is this compromise we practice in our living, really the correct way of the truth? This question put all views on the same issues in one pot. Now we need to review our conclusions in our compromise where we state that, in fairness, all views and truth claims are equally valid. But we soon realize, in all honesty, that this conclusion must be false logically. For many of the views oppose each other on the same, single issue. What then must we do?

The answer lies with the burden of truth. That is to say that the claim meeting or having all the properties of truth, must prevail. There can only be one. Truth cannot be compromised nor should tolerance be used for peace’ sake and permit that which is false. Eventually the so-called peaceful co-existence will fail. Which way do we instruct our children to go and choose? Which do we stand up for and say is right when views are competing and are opposite?

No matter how reasonable we may think we are, truth must be one. It is exclusive. There cannot be two or more truths regarding the same fact or incident; but there can be two or more versions of the said fact or incident. We often confuse personal or group versions with the truth. With personal, self-importance is very high; with group, there is the wrong tendency to feel that the popularity of a thing is proof that it is true—the majority rules. This view is false. For the world, the crowd, the culture can be wrong.

Truth must be logical. For as reasonable as we may want to be and no matter how much we may think that compromise is suitable for peaceful co-existence, truth must be absolute and unchanging. Its burden is as follows:- (1) it must not violate the basic laws of logic; (2) it must not be dependent upon any times, places, or conditions; (3) it must exist independently of our minds for we do not create it; (4) it must have agreement of the mind with the reality; (5) if denied, its existence is affirmed; and (6) it must be a firm standard by which truth claims are measured. (Norman Geisler, pp 52).

Sowing and Reaping

We may argue as much as we like against truth that is absolute. We may join with the world promoting the view that 'truth must be relative,' if we are to respect other people. But can we deny and argue against our own realities? Sure we can. For it is like seeing and stating we do not see. Yet when we do so, we lie to ourselves and others.

Scriptures says, “And those who sow trouble harvest it,” (Job 4:8, NASB). Shall we deny the universality of this life reality? For even nature testifies to the truth that there is harvesting after we sow. Gardeners look forward to this reality, less they do not eat. This is a law they know centuries old which has never and cannot err. If it does we suffer.

No matter the country, class or creed the law of sowing and reaping, an action followed by a related reaction, never errs. It is a truth that no religion nor country can patent. It is timeless. It has been here before you and I. It neither discriminates nor shows preference. No amount of bribery may sway it to this side or that.

It’s judgement is impartial and just. Science knows about it and so too does history, and archaeology. Yet no one can say when exactly it came to be and when exactly it may cease to exist or lose its power. We can only guess it’s end, if it has one, by the laws of thermodynamics.

Things are coming to an end--at least usable energy. But being transformed does not mean becoming non-existent. The energy is still there, though we may not recognize it; just like the reality of this truth. It's law, it's absolute and not relative. In "sowing and reaping," the law of causality is fulfilled.

What Underlies Diversity

Issues regarding diversity seem to have captured the news media over the recent times. We see front and centre meetings convened at top levels of organisations and governments about what has been now popularly known as LGBT* rights. The core of this is the ugliness and evil when systematic discrimination is met out to LGBT community members by some laws, policies, practices, and violence. But racial minorities for years have been targets as well. Such persons of African, Indian and other descents as well as persons of various religious beliefs have been targets of discrimination evil for years.

For centuries, minorities of every kind have been targets of evil from those persons in the mainstream. So the issues and challenges faced by the LGBT community in principle and reality are no different. These problems faced by the LGBT community members are not new at all. Our societies have from the beginning of time been diseased by evil discriminations of all kinds. These discriminations lead to unfair and partial practices at all levels in organisations, governments, and societies.

The core issue is respect. If we have no respect, we will not treat others fairly; if we have no respect, we will not impartially make judgements in hiring, firing, promoting, and in our general dealings with others. Respect is to unbiasedly recognize the differences of others and give each person equal weights or ratings from the start. Respect is to declare in our thinking and actions that others have equal rights and freedoms as ourselves and to acknowledge the values they ascribe to their views, thinking, choices, and orientations.

It matters not if we disagree with their views and lifestyles, we must let God be the judge and treat others with the love that God treats us all. He gave His One and only Son Jesus to die for the sins of the world (John 3:16). What is more, the Bible says, we were all ‘enemies of God before we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior’ (Romans 5:10). So this God of love (1 John 4:7-9) is impartial (Romans 2:11). We need to follow His example (Ephesians 5:1, NIV).

* LGBT or GLBT is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

Everyone Pays

The cry for justice is universal. The cry is deep seated in our hearts for the existence of a fair Universal and Almighty God. This cry comes especially from the oppressed, the captive, the disadvantaged, the bullied, and the abused. Their hope and comfort is in the law of compensation or in some universal understanding of a law guarantees fairness of accountability and blame. No evil goes unpunished, no good goes without reward.

The Bible says we will be judged for our good or evil deeds (Rom 2:6-8). Just as death does not cheat us of the blessings we should be rewarded with and those we were promised by grace; so too, death does not allow the wicked to escape punishment. Scripture says, “the wicked will not go unpunished,” (Prov. 11:21).

Jeremiah asked God, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? “Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jer 12:1). Divine discipline is inevitable. God told Jeremiah not to pray for the wicked. God “will remember their wickedness and punish their sins,” (Jer 14:10-12). The psalmist says, “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” (Psalm 73:3). But God says that ‘The prosperity of the wicked will not last. Their wealth will have no value in the next life’ (Psalm 73:15-17).

Today let the righteous know God is good, faithful, fair, and eternal. All will be held accountable for their deeds--good or bad. None shall escape. Whether the righteous or unrighteous an individual, group, culture, religion, creed, country, class, race, gender, or community--none will escape. The law of compensation is universal and cannot change nor discriminate.

Godly But Not God’s Will

Can we take actions that are godly but in which God isn’t pleased? Yes. Adam and Eve had done so. In their actions the sin of pride hid itself. We sometimes don't easily see our sins. And very often as believers and ministers the enemy fools us. But God wants us to know good and evil but for us to choose good.

Now this is why we need the wisdom of Christ and the empowerment of his Holy Spirit. Paul tells us the battle is all against spiritual wickedness in high places. We need the armour of God to which we have easy access as believers through Jesus Christ. We can’t overcome the devil with our own strength. Look how the apostle Peter and the other disciples, without the Spirit, handled the arrest of Jesus Christ--though he repeatedly told them what will happen. They hid in fear and we know even Peter on three occasions publicly denied that he knew Christ.

But once he had the Spirit of Christ he wasn’t afraid at all. This Spirit came upon him at Pentecost. Peter was the one who stood up boldly saying to people and defending the speaking of tongues when the Spirit came upon them like a gushing wind. He was brave, bold, confident and unafraid to speak on behalf of Christ and the gospel.

Jesus had to tell his mother at the wedding of Cana that it wasn’t yet his time, though he later performed his first miracle there. Often the Bible records how he disappeared from the crowd at some points of danger to his life. Was he afraid? Of course not. He still had much to do according to prophecies and the will of the father. Notice that just before he died on the cross he said "it is finished."

Scripture explained that he uttered these words as he knew that he had fulfilled all the prophesies he was called to do and that he did all that he was commanded to do by God the father. So timing was important for we notice too that he didn’t run from the incoming soldiers who came to arrest him. That was the time for that to happen. So here Jesus demonstrated that obedience to God is better than life itself--he showed the importance of staying in the will of God even to the point of death--even death on the cross.

Normally, and that is what King Saul knew, in Old Testament times, sacrifice and animal burnt offerings were made to The Lord. So when Saul had conquered the Amalekites under Gods commands, he kept back some of the best animals in spite of God's commands and told Samuel when challenged for doing so, why he didn’t kill all the animals. Samuel made a point in telling Saul that God prefers obedience to sacrifices.

So the point here again can be seen that though Saul had done what would have been normally considered a righteous and holy act, it wasn’t what God desired at that time--it wasn’t in accord to his will and purposes at that time. So it was godly but not God’s will.

We make this mistake even in our secular lives. The best guideline is that we must keep in sync with God's purposes. I think the most classical example on this point is the action of Adam and Eve. God punished them as they violated his command. He specifically told them not to eat of the tree of good and evil. They disobeyed him and now humanity is in the mess in which it is today. But throughout the Bible God encourages us to know good and evil but to choose good. In our choices today, choose Christ as Lord and Saviour (John 14:6).

Be Better

As I entered the subway car in North York, Ontario, Canada, I saw an elderly lady with a cream handbag and on it marked in red "Be Better." I smiled immediately. As the underground train-ride in the subway car continued, I kept thinking about “Be Better.” That is a wonderful and positive declaration. People should always seek to "Be Better," I thought.

We should try to be better always in body, mind, soul, and life circumstances. But another thought came to me: "How can we be better when Jesus says only God is good?" And “better” is an improvement of “good.” The natural question that followed was: "In what sense should we understand this “good” of which Jesus speaks and the “better” everyone should seek after to be?"

We must re-visit in Scripture where Jesus said that "no one is good except God alone” and find out what Jesus meant by that 'good.' We read the following in Scripture regarding a rich young ruler who questioned Jesus about how we can inherit and have eternal life. The Bible says, “A ruler questioned [Jesus], saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone,” (Luke 18:18-19, NASB).

Now this man rightly called Jesus “good,” for Jesus is God. But in the Scripture is it clear that the man did not know who Jesus was. No wonder Jesus asked him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” The Psalmist says, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you,” (Psalm 16:2, ESV). Not only is God good; He does good. Here the Psalmist links them: “You are good and do good,” (Psalm 119:68, ESV). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are good; do good; and create good.

Now God’s people are not good in themselves but become capable of doing good through the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit and the presence of God in their lives through Jesus Christ. We are born sinful (Psalm 51:5); and we are all sinful by nature (Romans 3:23). But if we are “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18), we will have in us “the fruit of the Spirit” such as “goodness” (Galations 5:22). And through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:13) who is good we can do good things. We must “not grow weary of doing good,” (Galatians 6:9).

With respect to doing and being better, the prophet Samuel emphasized to King Saul that “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.,” (1 Samuel 15:22, NIV). For sincerity and obedience were the prerequisite for worship that pleased God. To “Be Better” is more than merely doing more or doing greater sophisticated things.

One NIV Bible reference explains: “Was Samuel saying that sacrifice is unimportant? No. He was urging Saul to look at his reasons for making the sacrifice rather than at the sacrifice itself. A sacrifice was a ritual transaction between man and God that physically demonstrated a relationship between them. Religious ceremonies are empty unless they are performed with an attitude of love and obedience. ‘Being religious’ (going to church, serving on a committee, giving to charity, and tithing) is not enough if we do not act out of devotion and obedience to God.

In being better, we must seek an increased holiness by constancy or intimacy with God by regularly praying and doing godly actions. This then is the obedience level Christ desires of us. Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands,” (John 14:15). Being better physically is in the performance of regular exercises to maintain and improve health. It is wise to “Be Better” since every work of man will be brought into judgement, even every secret thing, whether it be good or bad (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

Too Busy To Pray?

The apostle Paul says, “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But does he mean that we must pray all the time? Not at all. Paul was talking to the people of Thessalonica. It was one of the first places for Paul and Silas to evangelise. Paul had great success there—not only with the Jews; but also among the God-fearing Greeks. Of course, the Jews who did not believe and those who were envious, hired thugs to attack him. As a result, Paul and Silas left Thessalonica.

What Paul meant by “praying without ceasing” is to encourage the Thessalonians to maintain a faithful prayer life as his own. Praying without ceasing does not mean to pray constantly; but to be consistent and persistent in our prayer life. Paul in this epistle gives us an intimate introduction of how he mentored young believers. In fact, he explains briefly many of the basic Christians doctrines in 1 Thessalonians. These include the doctrine of Trinity, the deity of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit, the nature of Scripture, the timing and events of the Second Coming and much more.

Finding time to pray and ask God to open our minds and hearts to best understand the Scriptures is important. We need to understand why we need to be assured of our salvation, conversion, resurrection and more as we live out our Christian life. But from sunrise to sunset our lives are filled with events and activities that have a beginning and ending. Also events follow one another and at times happen at the same time or period. Even when we fall asleep, things happen, the earth revolves around the sun and the moon around the earth. The systems and organs in our bodies work and thoughts and ideas cross our mind and consciousness.

So whether we attend school or university; or work at home or not; our mind and consciousness are constantly active. We are all busy in some form. If we are not paying attention to what we do or what comes to the fore of our mind, there will be some activities that are important to us we would forget to do. Prayer is one of those. So it is best we plan so we can use our days and times effectively.

Therefore, let us put prayer into our plan and schedule—after all, God our Creator sustains all life and systems on earth, It is Him to whom our prayers are directed for support, worship, guidance, and thanks. We must not be too busy to pray. Let us not take God for granted. Those who say “there is no God,” they take Him for granted; but He has a message for them: “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.” They are corrupt.” (Psalm 14:1, NKJV).

 

Is The Good Life For Everyone?

To make sense of this discussion, we have to begin with a common understanding and meaning of the phrase “the good life.” But we have limited our discussion by the use of the definite article “the” as we have said “the good life.” There is bias here, some would argue because we should instead say “a good life”—using the indefinite article “a.” For them the phrase pertaining to “good life” best lends itself to a relative rather than an absolute meaning. For good may mean different things to different people—like ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison.’

I am not going to argue relative and absolute truth claims or perceptions here. The Bible declares that truth must be absolute. For God is truth—permanent, eternal, and absolute. Let me add here that many confuse personal perceptions or views of the truth and the “true truth.” So I go back to the question as it is correctly written as “the good life” rather than “a good life.” Since the beginning God created everything “very good,” (Genesis 1:31). So here our absolute and perfect God can only produce that which is perfect and properly good. The life of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning, must have been therefore “the good life.” Imagine they walked with God in the garden of Eden—in His presence and holiness.

Their sin has corrupted the world (Genesis 6:11) and all in it (Romans 5:12). Jesus told us that “In this world [we] will have trouble,” (John 16:33). But our life now and eternally can be good if we accept him as our Lord and Saviour. The Bible says, “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).  On top of this we see that God our Saviour “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). I would argue that with the knowledge of God’s truth as we are filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), we can live “the good life.” After all, being filled with the Spirit we can be righteous,

 What is really the good life and how is it defined? The good life must be the life we all aspire to live being empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. We are renewed in that state. One can define this good life as being a life lived in Christ. Is this life for every human being so that no matter the choices and outcomes we have now in our lives, we can still make this claim?

God, who is good, desires everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth; but we have free choice which is good. Many will not obey God so the life they will have will not, by God’s Holy standards, be good. Of course we will have trials or tests (by God) and tribulations (what we bring about). Our quality of life, good or bad, depends on our responses to the Holy Spirit promptings. The good life God wants for everyone; but God with His perfect foreknowledge knows that not everyone will make the right choices to avail themselves of this good life.

 Of course those who are caught up with the doctrine of predestination will say “No.” They will argue that some are predestined to hell. Surely God has the right and sovereign power to predetermine any life as He so chooses. How can the clay tell the potter how to fashion itself? Can it say it wants to be a bowl or cup and not be discarded? Still, what then is free choice or will to those preordained—a farce or joke? 

The Problem with Heroes

When we were children, our heartbeats quickened and our adrenalin rushed as we read the epic stories of our heroes. Today adults need to have the imagination of a child. If adults need to master the mystical and spiritual exercises in meditation and contemplation in their drive to spiritual maturity, their ability to imagine must become like the child. Such a world needs to become real to them.

 

The lives and journeys of heroes motivate us to emulate such levels of bravery and daring. Heroes face challenges no matter if they experience fears as they face overwhelming situations. Heroes never quit. They strike out against the odds. Where others may hesitate, heroes make the quantum leap. They go the extra mile. They are monuments of faith and self confidence. They adjust as flexibility is needed; but they do not yield to circumstances. They are not victims of circumstances but masters of the facets of life before them.

Now all this sounds to me very much like the minor and major prophets of the Holy Bible. They are all heroes. We can add the list of kings who were lovers of God and called on Him in their times of need and prayed and even ordered their citizens to honour God as the king of Nineveh.

But in spite of their daring, all our heroes are fallible human beings--finite, mortal, limited, and imperfect. While it is true they motivate us and many of us aspire to be like them--in a manner of speaking, heroes most times demonstrate reliance on self rather than reliance on the Holy Spirit. The exceptions, would in the main, be those heroes who were prophets or men and women of God.

Truth be told, we ought to strive to emulate, or imitate perfection. After all, we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the heroes--who we know are imperfect human beings. As Christians we are taught and are encouraged to follow Biblical instructions and the apostle Paul says, "imitate me as I imitate Christ," (1 Corinthians 11:1). So the apostle has been guided by the Holy Spirit to encourage us to do as he did: 'imitate Jesus Christ;' but not him."

In the end, the true hero to copy and really imitate is Jesus Christ. He was and is perfect. So his virtues, standards, actions, thoughts, and how he relates to God the Father, and humanity we need to copy. The world would have us emulate the human heroes and even argue that we may better be able to relate to them as we too are limited and fallible as they all were and are--with the exception of Jesus. But God's Word--the Bible--tells us plainly to imitate Jesus as we have quoted but also to "imitate God," (Ephesians 5:1, NIV).

Is God’s Wrath an Aspect of His Love?

The word wrath normally gives us images of anger and destruction. We think of wrath as evil and as wicked revenge. How can such an act be considered to be a lived out demonstration of an aspect of God’s love? God who is holy, does not and cannot do evil. If his wrath is an aspect of his love, then its intent and outcome must be constructive and positive. For all of what God does or directly causes motivates, stirs, and nurtures for goodness sake. His creative action in the formation of the universe was all good—in fact, very good (Genesis 1:31).

 The dictionary meaning of wrath is: “strong vengeful anger or indignation; retributory punishment for an offense or a crime; divine chastisement.” This is taken from the Meridian-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. What then of God’s wrath as an act from a holy God? Perhaps we should look at God’s Wrath as a latter part of his disciplinary process that seeks to encourage behaviour change towards his view of what it means to be good—by His holy standards.

 Let us begin with Scripture saying, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink;” (Romans 12:18-20, NKJV).

 So as Christians, we need to focus on good and not “repay no one evil for evil,” (Romans 12:17).  We leave vengeance to God. After all, “Does not the potter have power over the clay,” (Romans 9:21)? So God, the potter, has sovereign power over all humanity, the clay. Therefore he has the right of vengeance as creator in his implementation of his procedures to correct human behaviour and conduct..

 Since he created all things and said they were good then very good, then his intentions clearly are good. Following the sin that entered the world, Scripture says, that he wants all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) so clearly His intentions and actions of sustenance and even his goal for the end of life are all constructive. Thus it is reasonable to assume, God’s Wrath is all a part of this culminative set of activities that are constructive and positive and given to love. This love describes his divine state of peace, harmony, and justice.

What Is Love?

Love is confused with desire sometimes. But love is used as a noun and verb. Our question: What Is Love? treats it as a noun. A proverb says, “But love covers all sins,” (Proverb 10:12). In this sense, we note the line before, “Hatred stirs up strife.” So we are talking about sins and offenses in a relationship where “love” seeks to keep the peace, whereas “hatred”—the supposed opposite – causes distress and war. Does this then mean that in a successful relationship where there is peace, “love” should be blind or should ignore issues or events as sins and offenses?

The answer is “no.” Now Scripture answers this question for us when it first tells us that, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” (1 John 4:8). So in this verb or verbal sense of “love,” we are encouraged to love because God is love. This last love here that “God is…” is a noun. But we can continue with the verb-sense use of love with respect to God where Scripture says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16). So God, according to this Scripture knows that we are sinners and do a lot of offenses where we should be punished, but he forgave us and his son died in our place.

We can add to that the fact that God not put sin under the carpet nor hide nor overlook it nor ignore it. In his love and with his love, he rebukes us and corrects us when we sin. Sin has consequences. He gave us guidelines as a result of his love for us to help us on how we should live and deal with sin. Scripture says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16).

More Scriptures tells us that for us to benefit by the act of Jesus sacrifice, according to John 3:16, we need to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The Bible says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him,” (John 3:17). We need to believe and submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and we will be saved.  All this process was done out of a plan of “love” of God—in the verb-sense.

What then of “love” in the noun sense? Our question is: What Is Love? We have “God is love,” (1 John 4:8). In 1 John 4:9-10, the Bible summarizes the love we spoke about above when it says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” God in his love was willing and he did sacrifice the life of his “one and only Son,” Jesus. The practice of self-sacrifice is important in knowing and showing love.

Now to know God is to have this intimate, experiential knowledge of Him. It is not merely to have information about God as in reading books, magazines, and even the Bible. Taking lots of courses and attending Bible School and seminary does not mean we know God. We know about him and of him. We must be personally living out his character and traits; be in communion with his Holy Spirit in prayer, meditation and contemplation; be obedient to his wills as they become the law and order of our lives and conscience. Paul tells us to imitate Jesus Christ—his lifestyle, his character, his virtues, his worship style, and all aspects of his life (1 Corinthians 11:1). To know this God is to imitate his attributes as much as we can as in self-sacrificial love (Ephesians 5:1).

What then Is Love? Scripture describes “love” as an all-absorbing, self-sacrificial experience of God based on God’s character, personality, virtues, mercy, grace, and the rest of his perfections. We definitely cannot know love—in God’s sense—completely for He is perfect. We, being imperfect, must continue to always seek to be as close as possible in resemblance to Him who is perfect—God. In fact Scripture recognises our imperfection and tells us, to keep perfecting [our] holiness,” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Having An Open View of God

 

We cannot please everyone. All of us see things differently and that is one of the reasons for our different views of life and its realities. Our understanding of God is one of those views on which we defer greatly. My Hindu financial sales representative said when he passed by my home to drop off a document, “Chris and I understand each other because we do not put our faith in organised religion.” He continued, “Chris and I both believe in God.”

Now we have to be careful what people say when we claim we agree with their views. For instance, what did he mean by organized religion? Later in his conversation he revealed as a Hindu, he does not light dias and does not go into the temples. But he enjoys Diwalli Holiday and the artistic lighting up of the Hindus. Also, he claims he is a Hindu. We did not pursue the discussion further as I was not the one with whom he spoke.

In fact, he was talking with a former Hindu who was now a Christian and who no longer attends any Christian church. But she looks at my sermons online and has many questions and shows great interest to further her Biblical knowledge. She agreed with his position. Now I am in the process of planting a church and as the executive director and founder of CREM, I partner with pastors in evangelism and other kinds of ministry. So by my actions, I certainly do agree and support organized religion. He is right about his statement that I do not put my faith in organized religion. I put my faith in God alone.

But from his discussion, I can see that he was speaking from some kind of dissatisfaction with the operations of churches and temples with which he is familiar. Clearly, these religious institutions are set up with the aim to continue their history and progressive doctrinal learning and faith. They are set up to more effectively reach, win and help believers in their path to Truth. Truth, however, differs from religion to religion. Nevertheless, many find that much organised religion make demands beyond their authority and purpose.

He was right that we both believe in God or the Truth called God. He is wrong with any implication that our meaning and understanding of God is the same. Polytheism is the view of God of the Hindu; whilst Monotheism is the view of God for the Christian. We Christians do not have an open view of God. Our Trinitarian doctrine is not a polytheistic view for it is three persons of God in one divine essence. From the Christian point of view, God has plurality in His unity. The Bible says, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!,” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Who Are You Hindering?

Years ago, on entering the front doors of my workplace, a stranger approached me and she said, “Where are you preaching? Are you a pastor?” I answered, “No mam. I am a teacher. I do not preach.” She looked upset and challenged me that my denial of performing pastoral services was a hindrance to those the Lord called through me. So I quickly and peacefully reacted, “Mam. I understand what you mean. I do agree with you. The fact is I studied in Seminary.” At this she nodded her head then left.

Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow Me, he must give up himself and his own desires. He must take up his cross everyday and follow Me,” (Luke 9:23, NLV). One Bible reference says, “Although Jesus offered salvation as a free gift (John 1:12), He also warned that following Him would entail suffering and hardship (Matthew 5:10).”

Let us take a quick look at these Scriptures: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name,” (John 1:12, NKJV). Also the Bible says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:10). So when we follow the will of God, we can expect suffering and hardship, but in the end rewards from the Lord for we are blessed.

Let’s go to the conduct of Jonah. We see that God gave him an assignment and he did not carry it out immediately. God said, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me,” (Jonah 1:1). The Bible said in verse 3, Jonah ran away from the Lord. But such refusals have consequences when we do not do God’s will. A great wind of the sea and a violent storm threatened the lives of the men on board the same ship Jonah used in his disobedience and attempt to run away (Jonah 1:3-4).

So his disobedience had several possible consequences (1) it could have cost the lives of all those innocent people on the ship he chose to escape his duties and the will of God; (2) the message and warning meant for the more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons in Nineveh, would not have been delivered and they would have been judged severely by God.

But Jonah eventually obeyed God and the people repented, thus preventing their destruction and causing their salvation. When we obey God; when we do His Will by first seeking it out and taking up our individual crosses, many whom God foreknew will interact with us and come to know Him as God, are saved. We each need to pray for discernment and know what we are called to do, so that our disobedience will not stand in the way of the salvation of others—who God has preordained to know him through what He destined us to do.

So let us consider who we are possibly hindering today, and seek God’s grace and wisdom in doing his will now. As for me, I now preach as well as teach. I have since been licensed and ordained as a minister, making my regular call to the Lord to those who will hear. God used that stranger, that lady, to set me right in his will. God is indeed gracious and we must always be thankful to him.

Can Holiness Be Perfected?

When Scripture says, “to make holiness perfect,” have we been called to do the impossible?  On our own we certainly cannot accomplish this lofty task or rise to this high state of consciousness and awareness.  But empowered by the Holy Spirit, all things that are logically possible, we can do.  For Jesus says, “that all things are possible with God”.  Further, we know that: “[We] can do all things through Christ who gives [us] strength” (Philippians 4:13).

In an examination of the 2 Corinthians 7:1, NKJV, “...let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  Though this command went out to all who could hear, not everyone who heard and responded are able to fulfil it.  In Luke 6 we see that when Jesus prayed for the disciples and the believers at large and mentioned the requirements of discipleship, many left him.  He turned to the twelve in the innermost circle and asked if they would leave him too.  Here then, Peter, showed inner spiritual growth and that he knew the truth, “Lord, where will we go?  You are the Holy One of God.”  Clearly not all believers will arise to that state of “perfected holiness”.

Still whatever God calls us to do he enables.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus also commanded and promised to be with his disciples while they carry out what he called them to do.  He says, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matt. 28:19-20).

God knew us before we were formed in the womb of our parents—after all he is the omnipotent and eternal God.  He knew that Jacob and Esau while in the womb of their mother would fight each other.  Even the Psalmist says, “You know us before we were born.”  In our hardships when pain is excruciating we scream, “why Lord?”  But He never gives us more than we can bear.  Thus we are chosen people.  We are “set apart” as his priests (Rev. 1:6; Num. 1:47-54). 

The Lord told Moses, “But the Levites were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe; for the Lord had spoken to Moses, saying: ‘Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor take a census of them among the children of Israel; but you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its furnishings, and over all things that belong to it; they shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the tabernacle.

And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death. The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, everyone by his own camp, everyone by his own standard, according to their armies; but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the Testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the children of Israel; and the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony.” Thus the children of Israel did; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so they did.’”

Knowing that many are called and few are chosen then we can logically assume that the capabilities of the chosen have been foreknown by God.  They were born with the capacity to be holy and in some case to perfect their holiness.  Since this perfection cannot be done by our imperfect, mortal selves, but by His Holy spirit, then perhaps a more appropriate word is not that we have evolved in our spiritual insights and understanding.  Rather, we have awakened our consciousness.  We have activated as it were, that which we were blessed with.  The more we “cleanse flesh and spirit of filthiness,” we will move closer to our goal of “perfected holiness.”

Those who know this state says it is indescribable.  It is ineffable (incapable of being expressed in words).  How can one describe a state of perfection when he or she is imperfect?  How can we with mortal, finite, and limited minds rise above and return to articulate or express what perfection or holiness is?  Shaking or speaking in tongues is not it; the claim that we feel the anointing as we preach is not it; when God’s Spirit speaks to our spirit is not it; when we are writing or speaking or singing and feel an emotional high and inner impelling and urges is not it; for we have said it is indescribable.

When the Apostle Paul experienced the flood of lights on his way to Damascus (1 Cor. 15:8, epiphany) his holiness was not perfected.  Perfected holiness must have been when Paul was taken to the 3rd heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-4); when Peter was taken to the third heaven; when Moses saw the Lord; or the transfiguration with Peter, James, and John with Christ.  Is it possible for you and I to be in His Presence?  God is perfect and infallible; the Bible is God’s Word; therefore, its claims must necessarily be infallible and without error.  The Bible then calls us to “perfect holiness,” thus the answer to the questions is an emphatic and unquestionable: “Yes.” 

In Revelation 1:10, “being seized by the Spirit and carried up to Heaven,”[1] John says, “I was in the Spirit of the Lord’s Day.”  In Matthew Henry’s Commentary, the writer says, “The frame that [the apostle John’s] soul was in at this time: He was in the Spirit. He was not only in a rapture when he received the vision, but before he received it; he was in a serious, heavenly, spiritual frame, under the blessed gracious influences of the Spirit of God. God usually prepares the souls of his people for uncommon manifestations of himself, by the quickening sanctifying influences of his good Spirit.

Those who would enjoy communion with God on the Lord’s day must endeavour to abstract their thoughts and affections from flesh and fleshly things, and be wholly taken up with things of a spiritual nature.  The apostle gives an account of what he heard when thus in the Spirit.”  We know that John was aided in his expression of this encounter (theophany).  The bible says, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21)”.

[1] W. Mundel, in “Estacy” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, ed. Colin Brown, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49530, A Division of HaperCollins Publishers,  1986), 528.

God’s Plan and Free Will

How can we understand God’s plan in the light of human free will? We have always heard it said that, “God has a plan for your life.” We also know that human beings do all have free will. So how can we understand when Jesus told Peter that he will deny him (Christ) three times? Also, Jesus said to the disciples that one of them will betray him. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray,” (Matt. 26:21). He even knew which one. Here is the question we are asked: Could not Judas change his mind and not betray Jesus Christ or was he destined to perform such a horrible role? Similarly, could not the apostle Peter have decided to be brave and not deny Christ when he was recognised as one of Jesus’ followers?

We know that God has the following properties or qualities: (1) God is perfect, (2) God is timeless, (3) God is omniscient, (4) God gives free will, and (5) God is love. Now whatever God says or plans will happen, for He has knowledge of every change, thought, or act that will occur or will not occur before the time comes. We remember that he is timeless, so whatever he knows when an event starts, he also knows when and the details of the event in the end. He knows past, present and future at the same instance. Note well that we have to keep in mind in our analysis and understanding that because God foreknows, that his foreknowledge does not compel that which he foreknew to happen. He simply has perfect knowledge (that is the meaning of his quality call omniscience or all-knowing).

So he foreknew Judas will betray Christ (Matt. 17:22-23), but that foreknowledge has absolutely nothing to do with or influence or cause Judas to betray Christ. This is what some claim. But to claim that God's foreknowledge of Judas’ betrayal forced Judas to do so is false. Judas like everyone else is supposed to have free will. God foreknow (as he is timeless) how, when and why Judas will apply his free will in the act of betrayal. If God did not foreknow that, then he is not truly God with the quality of omniscience (all-knowing) and timelessness. The same argument of God’s foreknowledge of Judas’ betrayal can be applied to his foreknowledge of Jesus’ death on the cross as well as Peter’s denial of Christ.  Whatever God foreknew must and will happen and another alternative cannot happen. But that is only because of God’s perfect knowledge of past, present and future. In other words, God’s timeless nature allows him to have perfect knowledge of our futures.

One young man suggested, since human beings have free will, then Peter and Judas could have surprisingly changed their minds and do the opposite to what were prophesied. But if people can surprise an all-knowing or omniscient God then he is not God. This statement is self-defeating for to be all-knowing means even any surprise must be known in advance of the time it actually occurred to us. We must keep in mind that you and I as humans are subject to time, but God is not. Before our very creation God knew our so-called surprises. This is philosophically and theologically sound for an omniscient being.

It should be clear now that Judas has free will and however he would have eventually used it or whatever changes we can conceive that he may make, God who is all-knowing and timeless must necessarily know it all before Judas was born. If God is surprised, then he is a finite and not infinite God. This is not the God of the Christian Bible. The key phrase to remember is this: “Knowing the proclivities and tendencies of an individual, is not the compulsion of that individual.” Also God is good, omniscient, timeless, loving and gives free will. A loving God will not and cannot plan such a horrible role for any of his creation.

 

[For a more in-depth treatment on this subject see my Blog at ChristosApologia’s blogs at [?}