The Greatest Story Ever Told

As we approach Easter holidays, I think it to be appropriate for us to take a moment and meditate on the significance of what these holy days represent. From Palm Sunday to Good Friday and right through to Easter Sunday, Christianity would have NO credibility if it was not for the impact of these days on the history of mankind.

In short, Jesus died on the cross (Good Friday) for the sins of all humans, and after defeating Satan and death, he rose from the grave on Easter Sunday. Without his RESURRECTION, his claims of divinity and salvation would not be credible.  Paul told the church at Corinth, “…if Christ wasn’t raised to life, our message is worthless, and so is your faith.” (I Corinthians 15:14 CEV)

The cross and the resurrection give us the Greatest Story Ever Told as summarised in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (MKJV)

If we BELIEVE the claims of Jesus, and ACCEPT God’s gift to us (John 1:12, 13; Ephesians 2), the Bible promises that we will receive eternal life, and not be forever damned to Hell, separated from God. So the question that confronts us is, “HOW WILL I RESPOND TO THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD?” According to Scripture, my response will determine my eternal destiny. Therefore, this is no trivial or laughing matter.

Let us pray:

Our Heavenly Father

Thank You for sending Your Son

To live, to die and rise again

For the sake of Your glory

For the sake of us sinners

 

We do not deserve an ounce of Your mercy

Yet You poured bucket-loads on us

We stand in gratitude today

For the costly price You paid

Your BLOOD wash my sin away!!!

Vocab Rehab

Have you ever pondered about the vocabulary followers of Christ seem to use. Below is a list of vocab that you might have heard, and possible responses that might have entered your mind.

  • ‘Born-again’

“…my poor mother; I currently weigh 80kg…”

  • ‘Saved’

“…from what must I be saved? I’m not in any pool at the moment…”

  • ‘Redeemed ‘

“…I haven’t won the lottery lately…”

Okay, I know my humour is a bit dry, but you get the idea. We can also add words like ‘believer’, ‘disciple’, ‘Christian’, ‘child of God’, ‘saint’, etc. All these words have different meanings, but in the broadest sense, they point to a spiritual metamorphosis. The Christian believes this transformation is something God initiates, and we willingly participate in it.

For the outsider, these terms may seem archaic, old-fashioned or too religious. Yet just as a medical student immerses herself in the terminology of medicine, otherwise she would not be able to mature as a doctor, so also does the believer immerse himself in the vocabulary of the Bible.

In order for him to grow as a saint, he must understand the language of the Bible, which was written about 2000-3000 years ago. But this understanding is not just on the natural plain! We need super-natural help to UNDERSTAND this ancient language. It is a vocabulary to be SEEN with our hearts, and not just our heads. It is the language we will speak in Heaven. John Newton hit the nail on the head when he sang,

Amazing grace, how sweet the SOUND

that saved a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found.

Was BLIND but now I SEE

Who opens the eyes of our heart to SEE the reality of God? What enables us to HEAR the sweet sound of God’s grace? Who grants us the understanding to grasp divine concepts? Well, Scripture is quite clear on who gives us spiritual insight. Paul, the apostle, speaks to his protegé, Timothy, and says, “Think about what I am saying, because the Lord will enable you to understand it all.” (2 Timothy 2:7 GNB) On the one side, he is asking Timothy to use his brain to think hard about the truth-claims of Jesus. And on the other hand, he tells Tim that it is only by a divine act of revelation that we can UNDERSTAND the teachings of Christ.

So the question that begs to be answered is,

“What does God use to OPEN up our spiritual understanding?”

In short, God uses the Gospel to open our blind eyes. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, ‘’Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 MKJV) We cannot SEE (understand, comprehend) the things of God without a supernatural transformation in our hearts.

If God uses the Gospel to give me spiritual understanding, what is the Gospel?

Whole libraries can be filled with literature dedicated to explaining the Gospel. And I would encourage you to make a proper study of it. But see my explanation below as a brief introduction to wet your appetitie for more.

The Five F’s of the Good News

  1. Framed

God framed the universe at Creation. What He made was good (Genesis 1&2). He made humans as His image-bearers, and walked in constant relationship with them.

      2. Fall

Man & woman fell in sin because they disobeyed clear instructions from God. Their fellowship with God was broken because of their rebellion (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23; 6:23).

      3. Forgiveness

Nothing humans try can restore the broken relationship between themselves and God (Romans 3:10-12). But God knew mankind would not be able to save itself, and that is why He sent the only acceptable solution to our greatest problem. God’s solution for our sin was to offer up His Son, the perfect Lamb, in order to wash our guilt away. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive forgiveness for our sins (Isaiah 53; John 1&3; 1 John 1:9).

      4. Faith

I cannot earn God’s forgiveness. No, it is purely a gift (Ephesians 2). All I have to do is to RECEIVE the gift. We receive the gift from God by TRUSTING that He is not trying to fool us, or manipulate us, but that He did what the Bible claims He did. In other words, I must put my FAITH in God in order to receive what God has done for me (John 1:12; Romans 10:8-11).

     5. Future

My future is secure in God! I will spend eternity with God in Heaven, where there will be no tears nor sorrows (Revelations 21). I don’t have to fear death, ‘cause Christ has defeated death (2 Timothy 1:10). I don’t have to fear eternal separation from God, ‘cause Christ has restored our fellowship with God. Jesus clearly said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life! Without me, no one can go to the Father.”

So, my question to you is, “HAVE YOU ACCEPTED GOD’S GIFT?”

Let us pray:

Father God, I have sinned against Heaven and earth

I have broken Your holy Law

I have rebelled against Your instructions

I have tried, but I cannot save myself!

 

You know my sinful heart, and still You love me

You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ,

To die for my sins

To wash me white as snow

To restore fellowship with You

 

Please forgive me for my wickedness

Wash  me clean from all guilt

Enable me to live for You

Walk with me from now till eternity

For Your glory and name!

Amen

Please leave a comment if you have more questions about the Good News, and its implications for your life. And we will get back to you.

What can my Reformed brothers learn from the Charismatic Tradition? (Part 2)

As I mentioned in What can we learn from our Reformed brothers? (part 1)), I was brought up in a Charismatic / Renewal church where my dad was a pastor. Having been exposed to both the Reformed and Charismatic flows, I strongly believe that we can learn from one another. Both of our streams have strengths which we can draw from, as well as weaknesses which God can use to show His glory.

We also have our blind spots, and the moment one stream says, “I don’t have a blind spot; I see everything clearly,” then maybe pride is my blind spot. With no further ado, here is what I believe my Reformed brothers (and sisteren) can learn from us Charismatics.

  1. We endeavour to express our love for God with our whole being

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” Luke 10:27a (NIV)

Loving God is not just a private matter, or a ‘mind’ matter. No, it is much more than that! When I am in love with the LOVE of my life, then I am not ashamed to show the world who that person is, and how I feel about her. The Bible paints many pictures for us where God wants us to be head-over-heals in love with Him (e.g. Song of Songs; Hosea; Ephesians 5:24-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelations 19:7-9; 21:1, 2).

The Psalms are also filled with every expression of human emotion through the whole body – laughing, crying, clapping, singing, dancing, praising, praying, shouting, kneeling, etc.  So the question we must ask ourselves is, “Why is it OK to find these expressions in the pages of Scripture, but not in the pews of a congregation?”

  1. We believe God can speak to us in any way He chooses

I know this is a scary one for many Reformed friends, due to your strong emphasis on Sola Scriptura. Firstly, I want to thank the Reformed flow for putting such a massive emphasis on the Authority of Scripture. It is primarily through Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-4) and the Holy Writ (2 Tim. 3:16) that God has chosen to speak to us. And today more than ever, the Church (as a whole) needs to submit afresh to the infallible, and inspired Word of God.

Secondly, although God speaks primarily through His Son and Holy Word, there are also secondary ways He communicates to us. Here are some Biblical examples:

  • Through creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19, 20)
  • Through dreams & visions (Daniel 7, 8, 10; Acts 10; 16:6-10; Revelation)
  • Through prayer (Psalms; Romans 8:26, 27)
  • Through an audible voice (1 Samuel 3; Matthew 3:13-17)
  • Through an inner voice / conscience (1 Kings 19; Acts 13:1-4)
  • Through another person (Judges 6:1-10; Acts 11:27-30)
  • Through an angel (Judges 6:11-40; Acts 10)

To look at these Biblical examples, and say God only spoke like that in Bible times, is a bit presumptuous. God is still at work in His world, and one of the primary ways is by leading his children through speaking to them. And here, as Charismatics, we need to heed the warning from our Reformed brothers. We cannot continuously claim that God is speaking to us, but we are not hearing Him speak through the pages of Scripture. If we are not immersed in the Bible, how dare we make claims that God has spoken. The Bible is what God has SAID throughout history, and we need to engage it daily in order to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to our hearts. There are too many ‘I heard from God and you can’t tell me anything otherwise’ Christians running around and causing more harm than good.

On the other side is also a danger. If we say that God only speaks through the Bible, we restrict God to times when we are hearing, reading, studying, meditating on, praying and singing Scripture. So my question is, “When you are not thinking specifically about the Word of God, but you are thinking how you must fix the bathroom tap, can God speak to you in that moment? If He speaks, will He quote only from the Bible?”

I believe we can limit God by saying He must just speak in one way. Let’s say you are driving a car, how will God warn you of possible danger around the corner? Will He remind you of a Scripture verse? Will He leave an impression on your heart to slow down? How will He protect His beloved child?

My prayer is that we will continue to learn from one another. For instance, I am currently struggling through Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. In my 34 years in the Charismatic flow, I’ve never heard an in-depth discussion on the topic of predestination and election. Without even knowing it, it seems to me our default position in the Renewal movement is Arminianism.  Why are glossing over these difficult texts in Scripture, and not engaging them? We can surely learn from our Reformed brothers in this regard.

Let us pray:

Father God, I come to You in the name of Jesus

Unify Your body for Your glory

Press down on our pride, so that our knees would buckle

Under the weight of Your fear and glory

And when we rise, may it be on Spirit’s wings

As we fly formation from various streams!

 

 

What can we learn from our Reformed brothers? (part 1)

To put this blog post in perspective, let me just share a bit of my background. Both my parents became children of God in the Reformed tradition. Their faith grew as they poured their lives into ministry and missions. When my Dad felt called to leave his teaching occupation, and enter the pastorate, he started studying at a Reformed Seminary. However, as he was studying Scripture, he started to become convinced of the Biblical teachings in regards to being filled with the Holy Spirit and miraculous healing. He eventually joined an independent Bible College in the Charismatic tradition.

I was born when my Dad had already made the move from the Reformed to the Renewal flow. As a result, I grew up in a Charismatic church. Only in my 20’s did I start to be exposed to the Reformed tradition through friendships, missions, sermons and books. A whole new world opened up for me, and here are some of the most important things I’ve learned from my Reformed brothers in the Lord.

  1. They tremble at the Word of God

God speaks through Isaiah, “…this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2b  ESV) By reading works in the Reformed tradition, God started to expose my carelessness and biases when approaching the Word of God. My Reformed brothers do not come to the Holy Writ to quickly get a word for the day, or to get five verses which validates their position.

No, they come before the Holy Scripture and pray, ”God, I tremble at Your Word. Speak to me through Your Word.” And then they allow God to speak to them by doing proper exegesis. They don’t skim over an agonising piece of Scripture (e.g. Job; Matthew 23; Romans 9) which does not fit their preconditioned theology. Never, they let this uncomfortable text confront their false beliefs, their skewed picture of God and their hidden idolatries.

    2. They encourage deep thinking

The apostle Paul writes to Timothy, Think about what I am saying, because the Lord will enable you to understand it all.” (2 Timothy 2:7  ERV) I can only speak for the Charismatic movement which I am part of. But many times we seem to think feeling is more spiritual than thinking. And sometimes we even feel guilty for thinking differently about a certain passage of Scripture than our specific flow’s consensus.

Thankfully, I have observed from my Reformed brothers that they model and promote deep thinking, humble questioning and articulate reasoning about the Word and the world. As we can see in the verse above, God does not do the thinking for us. No, as we start the work of thinking, God comes and gives us supernatural understanding. We need both: thinking (on our part) and revelation (on God’s part).

      3. They connect us with our roots

Jesus says, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” (Matthew 13:52  NLT) The amount of written works produced by the Reformed tradition about our Christian heritage is staggering. Many a scholar or pastor or layman has delved into history in order to bring to life the writings and lives of Christian heroes of the past.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to every theologian or minister who took the time and ink to record the words and acts of past saints. Through this literary treasure we start to realise the greatness of God’s redemptive story, and the miniscule part we play in the larger scheme of Heaven’s saga. Let us learn to measure our words and actions against the Holy Bible, and the cloud of witnesses (the saints of old) surrounding us.  As we do this, we will be humbled and encouraged to depend on His grace to finish the race.

There are many more things I am learning from my Reformed brothers, but time prevents me to elaborate. Suffice to say, I believe God wants all of us (different denominations / flows / etc.) to learn from one another. As we do, Christ will command greater blessing on His Bride, the Church.

Watch out for part 2: What can my Reformed brothers learn from the Charismatic tradition?

Let us pray:

Our Father in Heaven, bind us together as brothers from different backgrounds

May we learn from each other as we journey together

Let us keep Christ at the Centre

Let us proclaim Good News unashamedly

Let us run to finish well

By Your grace alone

Amen

What is Newsworthy in Heaven?

Every day we are bombarded by what the world deems newsworthy – politics, crime, corruption, entertainment, economics, sport, gossip and so forth. Every headline is a reminder of what is valuable on earth. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what matters here on terra firma; just pick up a newspaper, scroll the Web or switch on the telly. People’s careers or reputations are made or lost based on the worthiness of the news they generate.

Now here’s a noteworthy question, “What is newsworthy in Heaven?” or, “What will make headlines in the Celestial Star?”

Here is my unexhaustive list of news that will make the regular headlines in Heaven:

  1. Consistency in Your Walk With God

Job made the otherworldly news because of his righteous life. God speaks of Job when addressing Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him. He is a good, faithful man. He respects God and refuses to do evil.(Job 1:8 ERV)

When last have you seen a primetime news story of a faithful, godly man which goes about his business year in and year out? Well, if you are that faithful man, don’t despair, your story is getting airtime in the courts of angels.

2. Authentic Prayer

We see in the Throne Room of the Almighty that the prayers of the saints are like bowls of incense – releasing a fragrant smell in the presence of God (Revelations 5:1-14).

Do you hear of any old lady faithfully praying for the salvation of her grandson on our daily radio shows? Well, if you are that lady, don’t lose heart, your prayers are making waves in the Throne Room.

3. Ongoing Wickedness

When we break God’s moral code, we make the news in Heaven for all the wrong reasons. The times of Noah is an example to us, “When the LORD saw how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were all the time, he was sorry that he had ever made them and put them on the earth. He was so filled with regret that he said, ‘I will wipe out these people I have created, and also the animals and the birds, because I am sorry that I made any of them.’” (Genesis 6:5-7 GNB)

On earth sin is glamorized in the media, whereas the Celestial Star deems it high treason against God. Well, if you know that you accommodate wickedness in your life, I want to encourage you to run to God’s Throne of grace in order to plead for mercy. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

4. Spiritual Birth-Days

When God saves a person from eternal damnation, the story naturally hits the front page of the Divine Post. Jesus said, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (John 15:7 ESV)

Switch on your TV; do you see CNN celebrate the redemption of a lost soul by the blood of Christ? Well, if you are that soul, know that every cover page in Heaven have your face on it. And if you are spreading the good news that God is seeking lost souls, then you will surely make the 7 o’clock show up above.

I want to encourage you to search the Holy Writ for more stories that will make news in Heaven. Let us pray:

Heavenly Father of our spirits

Protect us, preserve us, prune us, perfect us

So that we will be radiant

Glowing with eternal light from the Son

Let people be drawn to You

Let nations lit up by the power of Your rays

So that every breathing cell, man and creature

Will Glorify, Magnify, Elevate and Promote

the KING of kings and LORD of lords!!!

the long-awaited letter

The gravity of the post box is calling me. Even though most of my post is statements, general info  and advertisements, I regularly succumb to its tug. I continue to dream, “Maybe today….maybe I will receive a letter from a distant friend.” The feeling of holding a tailor-made letter in your hands is quite special.  We don’t open such a letter the way we’ll open a bill. Oh no, there’s no ripping of paper! We are careful in the manner we open it in order to ensure we don’t tear what’s inside.

When we read an ad, we scan it for information that will be of use for us, and then we discard it, or use it as a fire-starter.  However, a personal letter we treat somewhat differently. We explore it like a treasure hunter would explore a long-lost pearl. We read it silently, we read it aloud, we re-read it, and we read it in different accents (or maybe that’s just me).

Our Heavenly Father writes us such personal, hand-crafted letters! There five main ways in which He writes to us by the power of the Holy Spirit:

  1. Through Creation

“The heavens tell about the glory of God. The skies announce what his hands have made.

Each new day tells more of the story, and each night reveals more and more about God’s power. You cannot hear them say anything. They don’t make any sound we can hear.

But their message goes throughout the world. Their teaching reaches the ends of the earth.”                                                                                                                                   Psalm 19:1-4a (ERV)

  1. Through Jesus Christ

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14 (NIV)

  1. Through the Bible

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

Isaiah 40:8 (NIV)

  1. Through our Conscience

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.                                                               Jeremiah 33:3 (NLT)

  1. Through Fellow Christians

“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

II Corinthians 3:3 (ESV)

Now for the QUESTION I must ask myself, Do I cherish and value the letters God sends me, or do I treat it like junk mail?”

I must admit that I many times DO NOT treat God’s love letter to me with awe, excitement and respect. I value other words more than God’s Word.

Let us pray:

Father, please forgive me for my disregard of Your letters to me

I have been so busy to occupy my mind with mental noise –

radio, youtube, newspaper, tv, facebook, magazines, ipod, google

So many voices in my head, I can barely breathe

 

Breathe Your Spirit-Life into me

Cause me to LOVE Your Words –

Dripping with celestial honey from the Tree of Life

Help me to ACKNOWLEDGE Your letters to me

Help me to THANK You for every letter sent

Help me to RESPOND in obedience and faith to Your telegram of grace!

Amen

room temperature drinks

Who of you like lukewarm coffee on an icy winter’s day?  Or what about some warm water after exercising?  Don’t you agree, we like our coffee boiling hot and our water refreshingly cold.  And when it comes to the issues of the heart, we tend to follow the same principle.  There is nothing more frustrating for an employer, than to be stuck with an unenthusiastic employee.  Coaches do not tolerate mediocrity on the sports field.  Wives won’t settle for 70% or even 99% of her husband’s heart, no, she wants 100% or nothing.

Now, I have a question for you?  Do you think God is any different in this regard?   Do you think God is satisfied with our half-hearted commitment towards Him?  The logical answer is ‘no’, and the Biblical evidence supports that conclusion.  God proclaimed to His children through Moses:  “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians.  You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4)

This picture of how God carried His people on eagles’ wings towards himself evokes the romantic warrior in me.  It looks like the script of an epic modern-day film.  The hero (God) destroys the antagonist (Egyptians) and rescues the girl (Israel).  God is not about to share His bride.  He rescued her.  He rescued us.  He rescued you.  God cannot be substituted.  He is the source of life and love.  When we substitute God with earthly sources of life and fulfillment, we fool ourselves and we provoke God to anger.

Listen how God responds to people who substitute Him for another: “They have roused my jealousy by worshipping things that are not God; they have provoked my anger with their useless idols.” (Deuteronomy 32:21) Moses warns the Israelites against idol worship because the ‘Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.’ (Deuteronomy 4:24) God is not jealous like we are jealous.

Steven Fry explains:  “The word ‘jealousy’ often carries a negative connotation.  Yet, when the Scripture speaks of God as a jealous God it means that He desires us in the purest, most relentless way.  His is a jealousy that humankind can never know; for God is the only one who has a right to be jealous, because He is the only one who is perfect in love.  His jealousy is not controlling – it is releasing.  Holy jealousy speaks of God’s passionate commitment to us.  It underscores the truth that God does not just love us because He has to, but because He wants to.   He is not moved to love us merely to maintain His own moral excellence, but because He desires us.  His jealousy is an absolute intolerance of anything that would divide our affection and thereby forfeit His best for us.”

Did you see that?  God desires us in the purest, most relentless way; not because He must, but because He wants to.  He gave the best He could in order to pursue this relationship with us.  He gave Himself, His life, His blood, His control, His power, His throne, His all, so that you and I can be reconciled to the divine relationship.

Let us respond likewise!

Father, thank You that You love us with a pure, relentless jealousy

Thank You that You are not a passive spectator in our lives

No, You are passionately pursuing our hearts every day

Forgive us for our lukewarm response

Set us alight with Your Heavenly fire!!!