Prosperity, Posterity, Pilgrimage (pt 4)

Where is your sting

Posterity

This morning, I woke up thinking about death and dying.

The Psalmist lamented

Psalm 89:47-49(ESV)
47 Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
48 What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah
49 Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?”

Such is the lot of man since Adam fell. And it is appointed for man to die … (Heb 9:27).

But “ God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, …” (1 Thes 5:9).

So in His Purpose in Christ, He rolled out His Plan, with a program beginning with a person to become a special people, assigned and allotted a place in the midst and center of three continents. This chosen people shall have a lasting posterity, and prosper and succeed till the Redeemer comes. He would ensure their posterity so that His Purpose, Plan and program be accomplished.

I have to be fair. With much fake news, fake adverts, etc swirling around, I need to check myself that my comments be factual, full (in context of complete scenario) and not flawed. At least, I must try.

Everyday is SONday

Last Sunday, I only saw a few wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Forever Young”. But every Sunday, I’ve seen more T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Everyday a SONday”! I really like that. They are worn by the hundreds of volunteers serving in the children’s Sunday School. The T-shirts I mentioned previously were merely a handful. Must not be hard on others and so full of my opinions!

I only know in part!

1 Cor 13 says “11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

I must seek to clarify and convince with truth rather than to condemn.

My 82 years old sister now is dying from acute kidney failure with many other underlying medical issues. But many days ago, she had asked Jesus to forgive her sins, and welcomed Him into her life! Last night, I told her, “don’t be afraid, Jesus is with you.” And everyday, as I take the communion on her behalf, God reminds me that Jesus has seen her, and had compassion on her. I pray frequently that Jesus shall envelope and embrace her with His peace that is beyond understanding. And she will soon put on a new body. Its all about spiritual and eternal posterity.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 3 has been used by many to claim the blessings of Abraham.
“6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”

Perhaps the passage allude to Gentiles having faith like Abraham are being blessed with justification, righteousness and sonship as preached in the Gospel. In this context, I have to guard myself against eisegesis and not go beyond what is written (1 Cor 4:6), and presume that I inherit all the blessings of Abraham with earthly prosperity and posterity .

We get a clearer progressive picture of posterity when Christ said ““All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 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.” Amen.”

In the OT – it was to be fruitful and multiply – the human race and then especially the Hebraic race.

In the NT – we are to go and make disciples – of all nations. Paul purposefully chose to be single, thus depriving himself of any posterity because he wanted spiritual posterity in the faith rather than in the flesh. The NT records for us believers in Christ multiplying.

Gods Design cover

In “God’s Design: A Focus on OT Theology”, Elmer Martens has this to say :

The covenant with Abraham is described in greater detail in Genesis 15 and 17 and is related to the initial blessing of a multitude of descendants promised to Abraham (Gen 12 : 2 ). Along with the promise of descendants, God promised Abraham territory. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates . . .”’ (Gen 15 : 18 ). The triple promise of descendants, territory, and blessing is embraced in a covenant given to Abraham in his ninety-ninth year (Gen 17 : 1 –8 ). Reiterated to Isaac (Gen 26 : 3 ) and to Jacob (Gen 28 : 19 ; 35 : 9 –12 ), the promise continued to have a threefold gift of descendants, territory, and blessing. YHWH’s intention for his people is that they enjoy the good life. The words of the text are: “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession” (Exod 6 : 8 ). The land was already earlier the object of promise, where it was the concrete part of God’s blessing for his people. Elsewhere the land is described as the land flowing with milk and honey (Exod 3 : 17 ), which is to say that it is a land in which life is pleasant and in which living is marked by abundance. The land comes before long to symbolize the life with YHWH in ideal conditions, a quality of life which might be characterized as the abundant life.

The land as the object of promise, where it was the concrete part of God’s blessing for his chosen people – to have descendants (posterity) and abundance (prosperity) – a promise not just to Abraham, but to the patriarchs so that they can be a viable and resilient nation and people to restore God’s Kingdom and usher in the King.

The divine image, values and character of Godhead was supposed to be reproduced by Adam and Eve. (Gen 1:26-28). And in Ex 32:13 – “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

YHWH’s intention for his people is that they enjoy the good life. The words of the text are: “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession” (Exod 6 : 8 ). The land was already earlier the object of promise, where it was the concrete part of God’s blessing for his people. Elsewhere the land is described as the land flowing with milk and honey (Exod 3 : 17 ), which is to say that it is a land in which life is pleasant and in which living is marked by abundance. The land comes before long to symbolize the life with YHWH in ideal conditions, a quality of life which might be characterized as the abundant life.

The covenant with Abraham plays a central role in the biblical storyline.
God promised Abraham offspring, land, and universal blessing. The promise to Abraham finds its culmination in Jesus Christ as the true son of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). All those who belong to Jesus Christ by faith are children of Abraham. The promise of land was fulfilled when Israel possessed Canaan under the leadership of Joshua and Solomon, yet Israel lost the land and went into exile because of sin. The promise of land was realized proleptically in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for his resurrection represents the arrival of the new creation, and it will find its final fulfillment in the new creation—the new temple over which God and the Lamb will reign (Rev. 21:1–22:5). The promise of universal blessing is fully and finally fulfilled in Jesus Christ through whom people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation are included in Abraham’s family.

Pilgrimage, for this world is not my home. I must constantly remind myself – do not get entangled with earthly pursuits, or to think so much of health (for posterity or longevity of my tribe, perceiving sickness and death as something to be avoided) and wealth.

P/S.  Just received and read this re “proof-texting” on popular WOF verses :  

       http://theaquilareport.com/5-passages-pastor-wishes-youd-stop-taking-context/

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Prosperity, Posterity, Pilgrimage (pt 3)

POSTERITY – that I remain healthy so that me and my tribe would live long in this land.

Sometimes I am a purist, wanting to comprehend and review the validity, legitimacy of teachings, principles and practices. This irksome attitude would highlight problems around me – both real and perceived, whether with situations or with people. Oftentimes it makes me self-righteous; thinking that I know better. What ego!

At other times I tend to be a pragmatist, knowing that we are all still imperfect, fallen, ignorant or ill-informed. Then I would be accepting and accommodating especially of others. Maybe that is why I am still in the church which so many berate.

I do really want to seek the truth as much as possible. Such was the case this morning when upon stepping out of the church service, I saw a group of adults wearing T-shirts with words “Forever Young” emblazoned. I opined to my wife, hinting most likely a “positive confession” statement echoing proclamations from the pulpit about “He renews my youth like the eagle” (Ps 103:5), and “I shall live till I am 120 years old”

Indeed this is a phenomenon within WOF churches – drawing mainly from the Old Testament that we shall live long and be kept healthy and strong.

According to Graeme Goldsworthy in his article on “The Kingdom of God and the Old Testament” evangelicals recognize that our view of the inspiration and authority of the entire Bible has saddled us with the Old Testament (passages) whether we like it or not. However he cautioned an error to be carefully avoided: “Many people simply draw on the great variety of Old Testament narrative for its wealth of human story … (leading to) a moralizing application that does little more than point up examples for us to follow and examples for us to eschew. Because there is no sense of structure and dynamic development, each narrative or text is treated in isolation from the wider framework of God’s progressive revelation. Consequently, the relationship of Old to New involves little more than illustrations of gospel truth.”

A lapse in the “big picture’ of biblical theology does set off the tendency to cherry pick and “proof text” feel-good verses as typical and prescriptive for our faith. Some termed it as “scripture-twisting”. But a few WOF teachers are really good in using Hebrew and Greek to buttress the conviction convincingly. Oftentimes, I had also been swarmed and swayed, without the benefit of a good grasp of biblical theology.

So are we proclaiming “Forever Young” as an eschatological truth, or as an experiential reality or as an erroneous presumption and perception. It is difficult to differentiate as this confession for that which is good and positive is rooted deeply in WOF teachings.

The question is, are my assumptions sound? Are they biblical?

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

Michael Lawrence, in his “Biblical Theology In The Life of the Church” said

“our theology determines the shape and character of our ministry. Theology is how we move from the text of Scripture to how we should live our lives today.

biblical theology” is theology that’s biblical, or theology that’s sound.

“The word “sound,” …. means reliable, accurate, and faithful. And it’s the word “sound” that Paul uses over and over with his disciples Timothy and Titus to describe their doctrine and their teaching. Sound doctrine opposes ungodliness and sin (1 Tim. 1:10–11). Sound instruction opposes false doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3). Sound teaching is the pattern Timothy has seen in Paul (2 Tim. 1:13). Sound doctrine will be rejected by the churches who would rather hear what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4: 3). And, again, sound doctrine will encourage those who hold firmly to the trustworthy message and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1: 9). Over and over, Paul tells these two men to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2: 1). Sound doctrine, or theology that is biblical, ….”

“… biblical theology is about reading the Bible, not as if it’s sixty-six separate books, but a single book with a single plot — God’s glory displayed through Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is therefore about discovering the unity of the Bible in the midst of its diversity. It’s about understanding what we might call the Bible’s metanarrative.

“Biblical theology is how we go about the task of reading the Word and ensuring that it’s God’s Word rather than our words that are shaping people’s lives. Biblical theology is how we bring people into the life-changing story of God’s redemptive plan.

So, in church and in our fellowships, we often proclaim health for ourselves, and advocate a life span of 120 years, based mainly on OT passages. We want to live long, and avoid disease and death (taught by EW Kenyon, the grandfather of the WOF).

But when I come to the NT, I find the following seemingly different aspirations :

Luke 2:29-30 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation”

Phil 1:21-23 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

2 Cor 4:16-5:8 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 5 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

I quoted Goldsworthy previously. More of him below –

“Prosperity teaching relies heavily on an Old Testament’s vision of life. It highlights the physical blessings given to Adam and Eve and the promises of prosperity given to Abraham.

“However, we need to see the progressive nature of Old Testament theology as leading to the New Testament fulfilment. He asserted that through the Scriptures, the revelation of God is progressive. In the OT, it is about the land, and living well successfully to herald God’s kingdom on earth. In the NT, it is all about our LORD

“Israel’s hope was to return to Zion, the place of God’s dwelling among His people. The New Testament must tell us where Zion is if we would dis¬cover the new temple and the ruling Son of David. Be¬cause Jesus is the Son of David to whom rule is given, Zion is where He is – ie., in heaven. The kingdom of God cannot be separated from the presence of Jesus (Heb. 12:22). In thinking of God’s place, it is important not to be too conditioned by our earthly concepts of real estate. The prominence in the Old Testament of the promised land should not be allowed to establish our concept of God’s place. We must remember that the promised land, Canaan, is an earthly expression of a reality which we saw set forth in the garden of Eden. But even Eden could not be Eden without the presence of God. Let Levi teach us a lesson. The tribe of Levi was chosen to be priestly representatives of Israel in having access to God (a priest is one who has access to God). God told Moses that He intended to make a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6), a truth which has its fulfillment in the priest¬hood of all believers. In this sense Levi was privileged to represent God’s people in the ideal relationship of being accepted into God’s presence. All the tribes were aportioned real estate as their inheritance, except Levi. Levi, the truly representative Israel, was given a far greater gift: “They shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance. . . .” Deut. 18:2, RSV. The making of the true kingdom of priests comes through the preaching of the gospel. The ultimate in¬heritance is related to priesthood rather than land rights. And it is this priesthood that the New Testa¬ment applies to Christians, for they have access to the presence of God through Jesus Christ. Because the hope of Israel leads thus to the blessings of the gospel, the writer to the Hebrews describes Abraham’s faith in terms of its ultimate conclusion. It is not to the land of Canaan that Abraham’s faith leads, but to the heavenly homeland (Heb. 11 :13-16).”

So do I want to echo what the pulpit declared oftentimes?

Deut 34:7 “And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.”

I would be a purist if I learn biblical theology – that there is a program to ensure the health and posterity of the chosen Hebraic race living in the land given by God – part of the plan to herald the coming of the Jesus and His Kingdom. And Jesus, having come and died, His program now is for his redeemed people me to set our eyes on the Lord, Whose kingdom relationships, values and goals are eternal.

I would be a pragmatist desiring health and posterity, and be no different from other Asians going to shrines and temples to pray and hope for a good life in this temporal world, in this land.

(Not long ago, my daughter pressed me to expend my limited resources to renovate a resale flat still in good condition – to live well, to be comfortable. I resisted, saying a tourist would just stay in a hotel and then go home. He would not renovate his hotel room! Oops – an extreme example, but hopefully to affirm and self-fulfil the practice of my faith)

So am I a purist, or a pragmatist? I want to be a pilgrim, for God’s Word declares that I am a alien, a stranger, a sojourner in this land – longing to be with the Lord.

Prosperity, Posterity and Pilgrimage (pt 1)

It has been more that a decade since the teachings of health and wealth have been a vexation. Knowing the caution of the evangelicals, and yet immersed in a church that boldly, unflinchingly and persuasively proclaim the WOF tenets. The quest for truth was kept simmering, and my ears and mental radar was ever turned on for all the arguments for and against.

I read widely, often intensively. The sermons, and testimonies on health and wealth in my church (and to the world) were hard to shake off or ignored. Somehow wanting to agree, but yet very much unconvinced.

Now it is clear.

Derek Vreeland in responding to critics of the WOF proponents wrote in RECONSTRUCTING WORD OF FAITH THEOLOGY: A Defense, Analysis and Refinement of the Theology of the Word of Faith Movement
He quoted Hagin – and then quoted Walter Kaiser, the renowned evangelical.

Abraham’s blessing is ours!… Abraham’s blessing was a threefold blessing. The first thing God promised Abraham was that He was going to make him rich. “Do you mean God is going to make us all rich?” Yes, that’s what I mean. “Do you mean He’s going to make us all millionaires?” No, I didn’t say that. But He is going to make us rich. You may not understand what the word “rich” means. The dictionary says it means “a full supply” or “abundantly provided for.” Praise God, there is a full supply in Christ! (Kenneth E. Hagin, Redeemed from Poverty, Sickness, and Spiritual Death, (Tulsa: Faith Library Publications, 1983),

The eulogia tou Abraam – blessing of Abraham – recorded in Galatians 3:14 (a) (my comment below) is a singular blessing (i.e. the justification of Abraham by faith) however the undeniable result of covenant blessing in Old Testament theology is material prosperity.

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. observes, “Material blessings in the Old Testament were used by God for various ends. First of all they were given that God might confirm his covenant promise to build a mighty nation.” (b)

God glorified himself in his covenant(s) with Israel by blessing them materially for specific purposes. The provisions of Yahweh were not only spiritual/ceremonial, but material/physical. The Psalmist declares, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” In Word of Faith theology, these material blessing are conferred upon the Christian as the child of Abraham in Christ.

(a) But what about Hebrews 8? “v13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (I still need to be definite and sound in interpreting this). Has the covenant with Abraham been made obsolete? I am still wondering. It is no longer the blessings of Abraham being transmitted to us. It is through Abraham (progeny) that we are blessed in Jesus – “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ ….” (Eph 1:17-23).

(b) It is hard to doubt the reality of material blessings when Walter Kaiser was referenced. But then Kaiser pointed to the grounds for “His covenant promise – to build a mighty nation”! = For a purpose, ie. God’s purpose in Jesus! It is never for the elevation of Abraham or his descendants in the flesh or in the faith. Neither is it for the individualistic or personal gratification of our earthly needs and passions that distract our pilgrimage to Christ and eternity. Primarily it is for the glorification of His Son, and through His Son, we are blessed, having obtained the inheritance of our King and His kingdom.

Yes, we need to move on in God’s program in the land to His purpose in our Lord Jesus!
I can’t delineate the details and development for my fresh convictions about H&W. Progressively and slowly in fuzzy focus (oxymoron), but definitely now, as never before – sound and sensible and significant and satisfying to me personally with conviction. I tended to being a reductionist, so am not meticulous to show biblical evidence exhaustively. But it has fortified my convictions on this matter.

God has a Purpose in Jesus (Eph 1:3-14; Col 1:15-20). When men failed and fell, God being sovereign, already had a Plan (still in the context of His Purpose in Christ) that cannot be thwarted. Fallen men became fearful (Gen 3:10), but God reached out with a Promise to assuage and assure. His Plan would roll out progressively via a Program using people to repossess land judiciously till Jesus personally comes with full and final redemption.

The program began first with reclaiming earthly land for a Messiah to tabernacle in our midst. Then the program would be with our eternal LORD!

The promise tapered from the human race to the Hebraic race in the person of Abraham. Abraham would have a people (Gen 12:2,3;) and he will have a land (Gen 12:7) ie. posterity and property.

It makes sense to me now. To preserve and sustain the posterity and property, God promised health and wealth, so that the land remains in possession for Jesus to be tabernacled in our midst. Why did God expend so much ink to write about genealogies in the OT? It is posterity of the chosen race.  And health and wealth? – To ensure the fulfillment of His program and that His chosen race is resilient and enduring.

With the advent of Jesus, God’s program progresses on, no longer with the transient channel of the land, but with the LORD Himself!

Col 3: 3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

So I am to be preoccupied with the LORD, not with posterity and prosperity in this earthly abode, but with eternal kingdom values and goals.

With the Lord in our hearts, it is no longer prosperity (wealth) and posterity (health), but pilgrimage to the new earth and new heavens.

And Abraham was looking forward to the city that has eternal foundations … not the earthly possessions.

Heb 11: 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

1 Peter 2: 9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

The WOF teaching on health and wealth can lead to dire preoccupations that distort the kingdom truth and values, distract us from truly seeking the kingdom of God, and seeking for His will to be done. (Matt 6:10)

But I needed to validate my fresh understanding of God’s Purpose, Plan and Program in Jesus. Health and Wealth – posterity and prosperity are blessings and empowerment in the land for the first coming of Jesus. With Christ having tabernacled in the land, and having finished His work on the cross, it is now about my LORD and my pilgrimage to the eternal realm. I am merely a sojourner waiting for my eternal inheritance in the LORD – an alien and stranger here, better not be too comfortable and attached to things that are earthly, temporal and transient.

I needed to validate my thoughts. I prayed, searched, and was led to dive into biblical theology. Not being a pastor or bible college student with much reference materials, my task was inadequate and imperfect. I could only resort to whatever I had accumulated (Wordsearch, Logos, etc) and Google, and then use “cheat sheets’ of book reviews, synopsis, the ‘look inside’ within Amazon books etc. It has been satisfying.

More of this in the next post.

Shalom.

Phil 3:
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Denominational loyalties and Confirmation Bias

Many years ago, I read a sermon by a relative who was also a pastor in a local church.  Somehow, the message drifted into the scenario concerning mega-churches and charismatic pastors in Singapore.  He said that many pastors in mega churches were not accredited or ordained, and as such has no real legitimacy in teaching the scriptures, unlike his denomination, and obviously hinting that he was ordained, with a Rev. to his name.

And recently I read something similar in a blog on Ecclesiology and the lack of it.

…. A group of Christians coming together at a member’s home for worship and bible study, is not a Church. A group of Christians coming together to have a memorial “Lord’s Supper” is not a Church. A Church is where God rules and reigns through the ordained ministers, elders and deacons He gave to His Church! No ordination, no Church! God may be present of course, since God is always present where two or three Christians come together for prayer (Mt. 18:20), but that is not the Church. God after all is omnipresent, so just because God works salvation through sharing of testimony does not make the gathering where the testimony is shared is the Church.

….. They have no real offices and no ordained ministers, thus they are not real churches. Since they are not churches, their baptisms are invalid and their “Lord’s Supper” sacrilegious, a mockery of the true sacrament instituted by Christ. To partake in such “Lord’s Suppers” therefore is sin.

(http://puritanreformed.blogspot.sg/2016/04/ecclesiology-and-lack-of-it.html)

 Wow! Wait a minute!  Sacrilegious?  Mockery?  Sin? Am I reading correctly from the last para above?

The above do not sync with my own Confirmation Bias, but definitely are minor issues that do not  disturb or distract me, even when it involves people I know.  Only when issues are critical or essential would I examine the different views against orthodoxy, my own interpretation of scriptures and deliberate which is more convincing, defensible and sound. Denominational or institutional bias related to interpretations of scriptures, and unconscious and subconscious opinions which bothers on preferences for certain principles, and practices, could lead to prejudgment towards alternatives which might even be more substantiated and demonstrated.

It happens all the time. And Confirmation Bias within institutions with the GroupThink consensus and coherence phenomena prevents us from fidelity and adherence to truth.

My senior pastor Joseph Prince openly acknowledged his indebtedness to Hagins and the WOF teachings – which many evangelicals would raise alarm bells. Yet his signature emphasis on the Gospel of Grace is refreshing and radical.

While Prince’s adoption and adherence to the WOF aspect of prosperity is devoid of guile and / for gain (attributing it to be part of our legacy and inheritance in Christ to be blessed), very few outside NCC perceive and discern the distinction and difference.  With a broad brush, NCC and Prince has been painted as “birds of the same feather” with the shady aspects of the WOF.  This unfortunate Collateral Damage brings unwanted and unwarranted discredit to Prince’s Gospel of Radical Grace!  I suppose his Confirmation Bias along denominational loyalties and legacy has blindsided Prince to some degree, or he is just echoing the cultural societal preference of American believers towards wealth and health.

Even though Prince’s version of prosperity is not out of guile or gain, his teaching is flawed, in my opinion.  This is where my own Confirmation Bias pops up, and prompted me to dig further and deeper into the scriptures and the experience of the body of Christ. Hence, my blogs on the matter to share my own opinions. My profile picture is a call to discernment against distortion from the pulpit.

One Sunday, Pastor Prince spoke on tithing, which was a position the church used to hold.  I was prompted to write to him via another pastor about Prince’s incomplete treatment of a passage which was used to imply that God has a high regard for tithing. A few weeks later, he alluded to giving, in two separate sessions in New York and Dallas; and in both occasions, appeared to have come round that tithing is not mandatory. Initially I had wrestled much whether I should write.  So it appeared that indeed, it was a prompting from the Holy Spirit.  Since then, the term tithing is absent whenever the offering bag is passed around, though there were attempts to be creative in the use of phrases lest members are tempted to license in not honoring God with our substance! Salute to my church for using their parachutes! And for tweaking and rebooting this confirmation bias!

At least NCC is bold to change when faced with strong scriptural exposition and explanation. (NCC also instituted weekly Communion in accordance with NT evidences, from monthly routines.) Someone had commented that I am a rare breed, to comment on NCC’s sermons. And I hope I can continue to do so. As a son of my heavenly Father, I’ve become a brother to His other children, and I am also my brother’s keeper.

It is daunting and unpleasant, and could be misunderstood and misinterpreted as being disloyal. But I love my Lord more, and the unchanging truth of His Word! Once, Pastor Prince spoke out to the bible policeman and fault finders in the church, telling them (me?) that the pew is not meant for such people! (see my blog titled Bible Policeman). And once, Pastor admitted that the pulpit is not always right, and there are specks and spots (was it in acknowledgement and response to people holding up the mirror of the Word?)

Indeed, the Word is a mirror to each of us. And the Body of Believers can also hold up the mirror FOR each other, and especially for the church workers, lest we miss or misinterpret His purpose, plan, precepts and program for us all.

So I need to check whether my Confirmation Bias squares and sync with scriptural truth and teachings, and are not according to denominational traditions or mere opinions.

The Leaven of the Health and Wealth teachings

The leaven of the birds of the air.       

Lately, I have been writing about the different realms of wisdom as mentioned in the book of James – spiritual, secular and satanic.  It is utmost that my life is governed and directed by the power and life of the Holy Spirit – Spiritual revelations of the King’s values, rather than secular reasonings (1 Cor 2:14-16, Prov 3:5, Rom 12:2,) or satanic reckonings (Matt 4:10, 16:23, James 3:15).  It is real that Satan not only displaces God’s Word from our midst as in the parable of the Sower, but also tempts us when he replaces God’s Word with his own satanic doctrines, distortions, deceptions which appears to be reasonable and wise (2 Cor 2:11).

O how we ever need to pray for His deliverance from the evil one, the world of evil, the work of evil, the workers of evil (both seen and unseen), the words and wisdom of evil (inclusive of secular earthly wisdom).  We should not be ignorant of the diabolical wiles of the evil one to destroy all that Jesus stands for.

God willing and enabling, I intend to dwell at length in future into how secular wisdom and reasonings and satanic reckonings have displaced and replaced the Spirit’s and scriptural teachings with regards to Health and Wealth in our churches today.

Alby would be having David Holdaway speak on the 14th Nov 2015.  I signed up immediately.  What attracted me was the mailer describing his book, which would also be issued for participants

“When Jesus used the Aramaic term mammon to refer to wealth He was giving it a personal and spiritual character in Matthew 6:24. He personified mammon as a rival god, a spiritual power, an idol that can become infused with demonic energy. He was saying that if we do not gain power over money then money will gain power over us and attract spiritual forces to capture and control our lives. This is why the Apostle Paul could say, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” The devil knows that followers of Christ will not willingly bow to him but if he can get them to bow down to money he will use it to pull their strings like puppets as he becomes their puppet master.

David Holdaway, who who has written four books on finance, will speak about the social and spiritual forces connected to money and the differences between Gods’ economic kingdom and the world’s (devil’s) economic system. Learn how to be a master over money and wealth and live in God’s blessing instead of being a bondage to it. This is a seminar that will transform your perspective.

Two of the biggest mistakes many of these make when they speak about financial increase is that firstly, they tend to quote scripture selectively.  Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  When a half truth is presented as a whole truth, it becomes an untruth.”

 

This morning, I started reading Gordon Fee’s book “The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel”. He is the eminent Pentecostal theologian and scholar, whose book “How To Read the Bible …” is a classic text for bible schools.  He wrote (in italics)

The pitch (by H&W proponents) says: “It’s in the Bible; God says it; so think God’s thoughts; claim it, and it’s yours.”

Not all who propagate this “gospel” do so as boldly, nor are they necessarily enemies of Christ; nonetheless their message consists of a dangerous twisting of God’s truth which seems to fit the American dream far more than the self-sacrificial discipleship taught by Jesus and exemplified in Paul.

The basic problems here are hermeneutical; i.e., they involve questions as to how one interprets Scripture ….

The most distressing thing about their use of Scripture is the purely subjective and arbitrary way they interpret the Biblical text. Thus in one of the more popular books we read: “We are putting the Word of God first and foremost throughout this study; not what we think it says, but what it actually says.” 

This is nobly said; but what does it mean? Implied is the hint that interpretations that differ from the author’s are based on what people think, not on what the Bible says.

Such “interpretations” are usually attributed to the Holy Spirit. More likely, however, they come from the evangelists’ own free associations in “meditation.”

…… The selectivity of Biblical texts by these evangelists allows them to espouse a view not taught anywhere in the New Testament, and also carefully to avoid hundreds of texts that stand squarely in opposition to their teaching.

Conventional wisdom sees life always in terms of quid pro quo, one thing in return for another.

But conventional wisdom is not Biblical.

Conventional wisdom is simply unreliable.

Conventional wisdom, therefore, cannot be made a part of the Biblical view of poverty and prosperity.

(Gordon Fee as portrayed in Charisma magazine –

 http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/bible-study/11740-a-professor-with-spirit



The pulpit has introduced leaven in the form of Conventional wisdom in teaching believers, and unwittingly opened the door for the words of evil into the food basket and menu in feeding the flock. Sigh.  See my previous posts on the teachings on the Birds by AW Pink and Jacob Prasch.
Just read this related article. 

https://bible.org/article/bankruptcy-prosperity-gospel-exercise-biblical-and-theological-ethics

The Most Important Chapter in the New Testament

Heretic, Lunatic or Fanatic

Two months ago, I shared Jacob Prasch’s sermon on the “Birds of the Air” with a pastor, and showed how these same birds (agents of Satan) returned and resided in the tree mentioned in the parable of the Mustard Seed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SCHAThQVCY

Two weeks ago, the pastor lamented that when he shared this interpretation with his cell-group, the members were incredulous, and said that he borders on being a heretic, lunatic or a fanatic with his views.  The cell members had gone on to refer to commentaries and other resources which have the orthodox teaching of the mustard tree growing big to offer shade and shelter to the needy and helpless.  His teaching has not been too convincing!

The Lord does lead and counsel those who ask for His light.  Following this resistance, somehow, the Lord lead us to the teachings of A W Pink, (The Prophetic Parables of Matthew 13) which I believe strongly ALL pastors and leaders must chew over and deliberate.  In the “Foreward”, Pink wrote

“We purpose giving a series of studies on the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, which, in the writer’s judgment, is, from the standpoint of prophecy, the most important chapter of all the New Testament. There is much in God’s prophetic program which must necessarily remain dark until the parables of this chapter are thoroughly mastered. At present they are much misunderstood and misinterpreted.”

The teaching / interpretation of AW Pink might have hints to the current saga of Christian leaders found guilty of CBT.  All the positive and negative comments in the social media and in the websites of those concerned do highlight the pain and torment the parties experience.  Perhaps, we need to see behind the trees (as in garden of Eden).

http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Parables/index.htm

Extract :-

“Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard-seed, which a man took, and sowed in His field: Which, indeed, is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” (vv. 31, 32).

It should be evident to all, that our understanding of this parable hinges upon a correct interpretation of its three central figures: the mustard-seed, the great tree which sprang from it, and the “birds of the air” which came and lodged in its branches. What does each represent ?

Now there are few passages of Scripture which have suffered more at the hands of commentators than the third and fourth parables of Matthew 13. They have been turned completely upside down; that is to say, they have been made to mean the very opposite of what the Lord Jesus taught. The main cause of this erroneous interpretation may be traced back to a wrong understanding of the expression “kingdom of heaven.” Those who have failed in their definition of this term are, necessarily, all at sea, when they come to the details of these parables.

The popular and current explanation of these parables is that they were meant to announce the glorious success of the Gospel. Thus, that of the mustard-seed is regarded as portraying the rapid extension of Christianity and the expansion of the Church of Christ. Beginning insignificantly and obscurely, its proportions have increased immensely, until ultimately it shall cover the earth. Let us first show how untenable and impossible this interpretation is:

First, it must be steadily borne in mind that these seven parables form part of one connected and complete discourse whose teaching must necessarily be consistent and harmonious throughout. Therefore, it is obvious that this third one cannot conflict with the teaching of the first two. In the first parable, instead of drawing a picture of a field in which the good Seed took root and flourished in every part of it, our Lord pointed out that most of its soil was unfavorable, and that only a fractional proportion bore an increase. Moreover, instead of promising that the good-ground section of the field would yield greater and greater returns, He announced that there would be a decreasing harvest—”some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.’’ In the second parable, our Lord revealed the field as over-sown with “tares,” and declared that these should continue until the harvest-time, which He defined as “the end of the age.” This fixes beyond all doubt the evil consequences of the Enemy’s work, and positively forbids the expectation of a world won to Christ during this present dispensation, Christ plainly warned us that the evil effects of the Devil’s labors at the beginning of the age would never be repaired. The crop as a whole is spoiled! Thus this third parable cannot teach that the failure of things in the hands of men will be removed and reversed.

 

P/S.  I have written in the past about the devices of the enemy to cast Doubt on God’s Word, to Distract us from our pilgrimage, to Distort God’s Word, to Deceive we believers, and to Destroy God’s church.  Now, I realise that I missed out on an important truth – Disguise. 

I have hinted on looking behind the trees in trying to understand the sad saga of the Church in Singapore with regards to the guilty verdict of 6 church leaders.  Wonder whether any weight should be given to the following input on the adviser to the church concerned

http://phil-pringle-the-c3-church-satanist.com/

https://signposts02.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/diploma-mills-and-doctorate-dils/

 

It may be interesting to find out about the qualifications and credentials of church leaders, and the institutions they obtained their training :

http://c3churchwatch.com/tag/kevin-dyson/

Extract =

As pointed out in my previous post (here), City Harvest Church’s (CHC) Rev “Dr” Kong Hee and Rev “Dr” Phil Pringle obtained their master’s and doctorates from the grandly named New Covenant International University and Theological Seminary (NCIU), a diploma mill (awarding bogus degrees for money) in Lake Worth, Florida.

NCIU was founded in Auckland, New Zealand in 1978 by a New Zealander “Dr” Kevin Dyson, who has only very recently (September 2010) been appointed to the Advisory Committee of CHC, along with Phil Pringle, to improve CHC’s  structure, governance and accountability  (source).

Kevin Dyson is also on the Board of CMN Ministry, which is affiliated with Phil Pringle’s C3 Church (source)

 

 

Peddlers of God’s Word

Our faith and fellowships (here in Singapore) has been getting much attention this past week – with news of a few of our brethren being found guilty in CBT in the management of funds within a local congregation. The long drawn episode of the trial and conviction elicits much derision and disparagement from unbelievers, self-examination by both believers whether directly associated with the local church or by fellow believers and probably even analysis and assessment by many others. The press and many others revel in developments and flooded the media with their input and postulations (pontifications?) The prompting (temptation?) to insert my thoughts is compelling (see next blog), albeit narrow and different. Meanwhile just to continue where I left off from… before my next blog.

I blogged about Motives and Methods in Ministry (see blog entry on June 2013). It is with the same frame of mind that color my view of this episode. I am beginning to wonder whether I am being too self-righteous or too suspicious. I pray that I will have the right spirit, and reflect the heart and mind of my Lord and Saviour Jesus.

Following the previous blog (Consumer, Customer or Communer – for lack of a definitive word), I had searched about “peddling” God’s word from 2 Cor 2:17 –
“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

Googling turned up two noteworthy entries which are worth considering –

http://stevenjcamp.blogspot.sg/2005/07/peddling-word-of-god-for-profitshould.html?m=1

http://www.ukapologetics.net/moneymen.html

While both the above are hard-hitting towards many ministries which involved soliciting for donations, merchandizing and monetizing of teaching or sermon materials, the conviction might be broad-brushed. Nonetheless, as I strongly believe we have to be ever careful to ensure purity in our message, in our motives, in our ministry and in our methods.
One responder to the first article, commented.

Christopher Pavlou22:42
In Greek usage, the word “KAPELEUO” (“corrupt”) denotes the selling of teaching for money, the merchandising of God’s Word for sordid gain (Ac 8:20 and 20:33). What Paul called the corrupting of God’s Word was the offering of the Word of God for money, the selling of it, peddling it, and retailing it. This is distinctly different from the principle of receiving gifts as a result of having sown spiritual things (1Co 9:11 and 13-14).