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.

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Prosperity, Posterity, Pilgrimage (pt 2)

Paradise Lost, and God’s Plan to redeem, re-establish and restore His Kingdom. First part of the program is to own the land.

This post on Prosperity, Posterity and Pilgrimage is a work in progress.  I need to convince myself in these meditations, and validate my conclusions. However not having any theological training, I resort to reading excerpts of best books in particular fields, using “cheat sheets” from reviews, synopsis, sample chapters in Kindle, or the “Look Inside” feature in Amazon books.  While my reading / search might not be exhaustive, I believe my conclusions have been made with prayer and due diligence and would satisfy my personal quest for meaning and relevance, giving sense and convictions for my faith to “go into the deep”.

And behold, this morning as I was reviewing the previous posting, the term ‘Paradise Lost” crept in!  I wonder whether anyone really is familiar with this ancient ‘dinosaur’ classic? I googled. Wow – John Milton published his ten poems / books in 1674.  The first is about Satan, aided by Beelzebub and Mammon sabotaging and stealing man’s paradise.  The former commonly known as lord of the flies (carrier of diseases) and the latter associated with the greedy pursuit of gain or wealth.  Did Milton had insights then that the temptation of Eve had to do with health and wealth?

God’s purposes cannot be thwarted!  He would and could redeem the paradise that was lost when Adam sold out to satan, and restore His Kingdom!

His Plan began with a person, then a plot (of land), and then a people!

And God would empower and enrich them to do so, with prosperity and posterity; and purposefully in the Progeny of Jesus to be the Redeemer of the corrupted and contaminated earth, and finally Redeemer of lost souls.

Graeme Goldsworthy, writing in ‘The Kingdom of God and the Old Testament’ said

we see nothing less than the promise of the king­dom of God. Abraham’s descendants are to be God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule.

It is Goldworthy’s recurring theme in his foundational Introduction to Biblical Theology – “According to Plan”

 

According to plan

God called Abraham and promised him a nation and a land.  This is getting exciting – I just found this in Wikipedia on Abraham –

“Abraham (Hebrew: אַבְרָהָם, ….

The narrative in Genesis revolves around the themes of posterity and land. Abraham is called by God to leave the house of his father Terah and settle in the land originally given to Canaan, but which God now promises to Abraham and his progeny. Various candidates are put forward who might inherit the land after Abraham, but all are dismissed except for Isaac, his son by his half-sister Sarah. Abraham purchases a tomb (the Cave of the Patriarchs) at Hebron to be Sarah’s grave, thus establishing his right to the land, …”

The contest for the land is still ongoing at this very moment. UNESCO robbed Israel of the Abraham’s legacy of Hebron see  http://www.timesofisrael.com/unesco-votes-to-declare-hebron-an-endangered-site/).  Clashes and attacks upon Abraham’s descendants break out almost every day over Mount Zion. Again it’s about land, and Jesus would return and set foot on Mount Olive and then in the Millennium, reign from Jerusalem.

The Old Testament has details of Abraham’s future generations and genealogies – in owning earthly real-estate for the eternal Kingdom – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

Gen 15:  18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land

Gen 26: And the Lord appeared to him (Isaac) and said, …. dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

12 And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. 14 He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him.

Gen 35: 10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

 The Land W Bruggermann

Walter Brueggermann said in ‘The Land – Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith” =

“… see that the Old Testament, in its theological articulation, was not all about “deed,” but was concerned with place, specific real estate that was invested with powerful promises and with strategic arrangements for presence in the place as well.  Once I had seen that much, then it was a ready development to see the dialectic in Israel’s fortunes between landlessness (wilderness, exile) and landedness, the latter either as possession of the land, as anticipation of the land, or as grief about loss of the land; it was on that basis … all aspects being referred to God of the covenant Torah” 

.. The land was one of the most vibrant symbols for the people of ancient Israel. In the land-gift, promise, and challenge-was found the physical source of Israel’s fertility and life, and a place for the gathering of the hopes of the covenant people. 

Within the entire Old Testament, there are more than 2700 references to land. According to Elmer Martens, “The term ‘land’ is the fourth-most frequent substantive in the Old Testament.”

Read Deut 8:7-18

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless theLord your God for the good land he has given you.

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

The Land is Mine

From a reviewer of “The Land”, by Norman Habel, he goes in depth in his study of the Israelite people’s relationship to the land, and discovers six ideologies of land and its meaning to the Israelite people in the Hebrew Testament.

The ideologies (partial) are as follows:

–  The Land as the Source of Wealth (for the nation)
–  God has conquered the land for Israel

–  Land assigned by God
–  Up to each tribe to subdue the land and claim it for God’s people
·  The Land as God’s inheritance
–  The land, ultimately, is God’s
–  The healing of the land is coming
–  God is owner of the land

God first dwelt in the landed holy tabernacle, from which He reveals Himself through the people He chose, before He could tabernacle in our midst, born in the land of Bethlehem, and then tabernacle in our very lives in the Spirit. Our lives are His real estate.

We are sojourners in this earthly land, pilgrims on the way home!

Prosperity and posterity must be understood as the promises and blessings given to the chosen people in the Old Testament as empowerment to occupy the land on God’s behalf at a particular period of His program.  Prosperity and posterity (wealth and health) is not as what the WOF proponents advocate!

 2 Cor 5: 1For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

“The Exodus Song”
This land is mine, God gave this land to me
This brave and ancient land to me
And when the morning sun reveals her hills and plain
Then I see a land where children can run free

So take my hand and walk this land with me
And walk this lovely land with me
Though I am just a man, when you are by my side
With the help of God, I know I can be strong

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.

The Red Apple Syndrome

Andrew Goh is more than wise, and witty.  He is also a wordsmith!  His editorial is always my first read whenever the Impact Magazine comes in the mail. In the latest edition, (https://www.impact.com.sg/single-post/2017/01/23/Words-And-Even-More-Words)  he quoted M. Slozberg, and added on with his usual uncanny insights –

 Miriam Slozberg cautions: “We know that the benefits of using Social Media are profound. Through social networking, many businesses have grown, and individual users have blossomed many great friendships and found support when needed. Social Media can be a huge blessing. However, at the same time, if you are not careful with how you use it, Social Media can be a huge curse.”

Apparently what we post on Social Media is never lost (shades of “once saved, always saved”?) She adds: “What you put out in your social networks is out there forever. Just imagine a potential employer or collaborator reading a Facebook post of you ranting about how you hate life or using every curse word in the book – you can kiss your opportunity goodbye.”

The “Delete” button is misleading once “Send” has been pressed.

Truly, here’s the gift that keeps on giving … even when we don’t want any more of it, thank you. But as the British say so well, “in for a penny, in for a pound”. And what a pounding it has been.

Matthew 12:36 (KJV): “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Idle words? Hmmm. Hitting the nail, right on the head. No exaggeration. Enough said.

 

Indeed, “what we post on Social Media is never lost” and how it reminds me of timeless words of James Chapter 3

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

 

Social norms and civility has probably curbed gossips uttered or passed on to the few we come in contact.  But words, through social media as comments, critiques, criticisms, opinions, observations – has a life of its own, far beyond the reaches of our tongues – reaching to people and groups we hardly envisage or imagine!

So what do people blog or babble about?  Anything and everything!

And it is becoming a syndrome (google – a characteristic combination of opinions, emotions, or behaviour)

 

THE RED APPLE

There was a group a boys, wandering, – and wondering, at an apple tree, with one red apple and ninety nine green apples. One of them challenged – yes you guessed it – ‘who can bring down the red apple with a stone’.

Why the red apple? Why did the world’s press and news columns pick on LKY or Singapore?  You get the idea.  There’s more glory and glee than hitting a green apple

Many years ago, I hosted two Swiss scientists at the China Town Hawker Center.  One of them said, “Oh, where are the policemen?”  He had read that Singapore was a police state.  I teased in return “Not so loud, they are all around us, in plain clothes”.  Or the occasion when my UBC professors who came here twenty years ago realised that what they read in Canada about Singapore were not factual, but fabricated!  (e.g. http://honestreporting.com/)

Comments are free.  But they must be factual and fair.

Why do so many blog about my pastor Joseph Prince? Because he’s like the red apple – too prominent and prodigious.  The film star / celebrity portrait on his bestselling books. The outstanding (architecturally I mean or is it outlandish?) church he pastors. The thousands (millions via TV) who eagerly and enthusiastically watch and listen to him. The testimonies that extol the impact and influence of his Grace sermons.

 

No it can’t be.  How can a tiny nation Singapore pull off so many achievements that elude even Western (better?) countries? How can an Asian LKY be respected and consulted even by world (western) statesman?  No, it can’t be – and so those who hold the pen would bring forth their searchlights and scour all that comes forth from LKY, and even resort to tarnish our beloved founder statesman and our nation. There’s glory and glee in blogging about a red apple.

 

W Safire definitely wasn’t a fan, and writing about Singapore and LKY probably garnered more mileage than writing about a green apple.

I found a transcript of a 1999 interview – LKY faced off with Safire, – speechwriter for US president, NYT renowned columnist. His views and writings were as free as the US could be, and LKY was more than a match when giving him an audience. And in his usual style, LKY was sharper, faster. Factual, fair-handed. In comparison, WS was out of his depth.

 

LKY to William Safire : [Laughs] I am not saying that. You are reducing it. You are caricaturing what I am saying.

WS: Here comes a prickly question. You mentioned corruption and nepotism earlier today. What about Singapore? Would your son be Deputy Prime Minister if he were not your son?

LKY: If he were not my son, he would be the Prime Minister. I’ll tell you honestly, I stopped him, because he can run faster than any of the others. But I told him it would do him no good. Just stay out of this race. And his generation, his peers, know that I am not boasting when I tell you this.

WS: So you don’t foresee a dynasty?

LKY: I am not that bereft of satisfaction with my life that I need to live vicariously through him. In fact, if he doesn’t measure up, it is better that he does not show up, because he’ll just besmirch the family reputation.

WS: About your book. You just wrote a book; I bought the book.

LKY: Where did you buy the book?

WS: In Washington, D.C. It wasn’t easy, but I found it. Have there been any negative reviews of your book in Singapore?

LKY: A few. Not written by Singaporeans.

WS: But published in Singapore?

A: Oh, yes. By xxxxxxx. Condemning it day by day. It’s dutifully published. It gives me publicity. [Laughs] Look. I can stand that. Not to worry.

 

“It gives me publicity”!  Yes that’s something.  I found out one local blogger having 19 postings on Joseph Prince. (I’ve yet to find out how many postings he made on those in his fellowships. OK, I understand, they have to be red apples).

Indeed comments on social media are free.  But are they factual and fair-handed?  I do my due diligence – for myself. Its life and death!  Have I been listening to a false teacher? Well, I always tell myself, my mind and senses must be like a parachute – it only works when it is open.  And I don’t think I am superficial.  I too scour words and precepts that are preached and proclaimed, “in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain” (Galatians 2)  But my conclusions are definitely not final and conclusive.  As Paul wrote “I know whom I believe” (2 Tim 1) and “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3).  So I rather spend my time truly knowing Him, and making Him known, rather than spend my time focusing on things, ideas, concepts, opinions, people   –  writing about what and where I ate for breakfast, or my observation and opinion on this and that, and who and who. Oops sorry, I am now guilty of being free with my opinions.  I better watch out, or I end up having policemen, psychiatrists and social workers (from Andrew Goh’s editorial mentioned earlier) ticking to follow me in my blogs  .  If anyone, I rather that I’m being followed by the Companion, the Comforter, the Covering, the Captain, the Counsellor Whom my Lord Jesus sent to guide my in my pilgrimage.

If you came this far reading, thank you for reading. My opinions, observations, conclusions are far from final.  Only Jesus is real and true.  May you know HIM, for this is eternal life, that you know HIM.

Law IN GRACE

The following is one of the entry from the web when googling on the subject of Grace, from https://www.gotquestions.org/law-vs-grace.html

Question: “Law vs. grace—why is there so much conflict among Christians on the issue?” Answer: One side says, “Salvation is by grace and grace alone.” The other side counters, “That idea leads to lawlessness. God’s righteous standard in the Law must be upheld.” And someone else chimes in with, “Salvation is by grace, but grace only comes to those who obey God’s Law.” At the root of the debate are differing views on the basis of salvation. The importance of the issue helps fuel the intensity of the discussion.

Somehow, probably unintentionally, the law is pitted against Grace, while others would approach this perennial issue as “Law and Grace”.  The image that comes to my mind is that of a see-saw, with Law and Grace placed on either ends, with each teaching / principle as having valid and justifiable claim in our faith, and the weightage accorded to teaching dependent on our denominational and traditional persuasion and preference.

Two nights ago, I attended a session titled “Law and Grace” conducted by a clergyman who also wrote a book of the same title. The introduction to his book stated

“Super or hyper grace teaching is gaining both adherents and detractors across continents and denominations. Those in support of this teaching find new liberty from guilt and condemnation in its emphasis on the grace of God; while others question the denigration of the law of God and the manner in which Scripture is interpreted. Without a doubt, the message has mass appeal; with the messengers who deliver the teaching being both charming and eloquent greatly aiding the cause. Is this a fresh revelation from God, or a deception of the devil? Why is Grace teaching so compelling, yet divisive? Are law and grace—both of God—truly opposed to each other? What is the root issue over which we are all concerned?”

The author was fair and factual to state that the debate on Law and Grace is not new, but has been on raging for centuries, delineating the drifts and swings as in a pendulum.  The guess is it might swing from the current popularity of Grace teaching to the demands of the Law in the future.

So this subject of Law and Grace has been observed as the opposite appeals of God’s truth, with each teaching having equal legitimacy and validity.  So now, we not only have the image of a see-saw, but that of a pendulum – “Law and Grace”.

The author upheld the biblical narrative that God dwelt with man in Grace before the Law was given – reaching out to man’s fall with Grace by providing the garments made out of the bloodied skins. He was sound in clarifying the scriptural intention of the law, and submitted that each has to form his own conclusion, from his own study of scriptures. He was very neutral, and accurately reported on the current developments in Singapore, the persuasions and preferences of believers drawn from the diverse institutional and denominational spectrum.

I just had to interject.  I noted that it has been inadequately (or even incorrectly termed) as  “Law and Grace”, “Law vs Grace”.  But from the dawn of world redemption, God has always been reaching out to us in Grace.  And the best way to understand the law in the OT would be to see what Jesus Christ and His apostles (ie the NT) has to say about the law.  I brought up how John understood in John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  And how Hebrews 3:1-6 tells us that Moses was a servant, while Jesus IS THE SON!

So I advocated that this subject of Law and Grace should be definitively be titled as Law in Grace

 

REPENTANCE – the Hebraic Mindset

Having gain wide acceptance and appreciation for his Gospel of Grace messages through hundreds of TV broadcasts per week, and through his books, J Prince might feel undaunted by the negative comments towards his teachings. Staff might also have insulated him from being affected by blocking others from accessing his facebook pages etc so that he could focus on ministry matters.

Prayerfully, there would not be the boldness and brashness in attempting clever interpretations now that recognition has been attained.

Could this have been the case for his interpretation of Repentance as being a “change of mind“?  So many might be justified in observing that Prince’s understanding might be inadequate and incomplete, but still not false, and not flawed – only feeble (weak).

Prince is absolutely correct, as the original word for repentance is the Greek word “metanoia“. (What about the Hebraic equivalent?) This has brought much disquiet from detractors, whether theological academia or pastoral.

Personally I believe the understanding of scriptures is not just knowing what the single word means. Words have meanings only in the context of phrases and sentences, and in the milieu of the society and culture of the people. Or to put it in the context of Hermeneutics, the historical, grammatical, chronological, cultural, anthropological and EMOTIONAL context.

“Metanoia” cannot be explained in isolation.  The concept, not just the word is enveloped in a relational face-off with the Almighty Holy God, and a personal self-realization that one is wrong, and need changing.  This change would include many many dimensions, and is not limited to mental assent or agreement to fresh input or knowledge.  When I know I am lost, and am standing in the wrong spot, I don’t just turn my head, I change real-estate, and I move, or revamp and remove and overhaul any encumbrance that caused me to be lost!

So I believe the response and reactions generated from Prince’s teaching on “metanoia” is warranted.  Perhaps Prince should re-view this and examined how the people of the Bible understand the issue of repentance.

John Parsons have written extensively about Hebrew For Christians.  He wrote many articles on Teshuvah, the OT act of repenting and returning to Jehovah. Perhaps we may have a more comprehensive and complete teaching from the Hebraic perspective on Repentance. (I am appending snapshots of the article too, in case some cannot access the link)

Teshuvah, Metanoia and Strepho by John Parsons

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Confession of SIN 1 John 1:9

Confession of SIN, confession of sins.

NCC’s pastor KM was on the phone.  He told me that J Prince had a new book and would like to send one to me, though it was yet to be released officially.  But he cautioned that there might be some stuff difficult to comprehend and accept, and that JP was apprehensive whether it would go down well.  I asked what was the issue, and he said it was about confession of sins.

“Oh” I rejoined – “it’s not an issue with me.  Prince’s conviction is correct.”  And I went on to offer to send him a few articles from my personal reading and study.  I am not sure about how those articles had helped KM.  Much later, when Prince was preaching on this topic, he shared that he was aware of the ripples – no – more like tidal waves it would cause.  But something that he came across spurred him on.  And there is now no turning back!

Either the waves of this teaching has washed away the debris from the ‘sacred cows’ and Confirmation Bias in thousands of believers (like the washing of feet caked with dust, or the washing of the Word [Eph 5:26] or the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit [Tit 3:5] ) and illuminated our hearts and liberated us from legalistic shackles, OR the waves have crash against the bedrocks of various denominational creeds and convictions. The latter has been real and relentless. Collateral damage to holding on and handing on a truth that liberates and anchor us in our liberty and life of Christ! Romans 10:17 tells me that when Christ speaks, His Word to me engenders faith, not fear. Faith in believing when He says “I do not condemn you, you are forgiven  for I have justified you, redeemed you, and imputed to you My Righteousness. I will contend for your freedom, for I am your Advocate”  (1 John 2:1-2; 2:12)

 

When I was first exposed to Prince’s version of 1 John 1:9, I was skeptical and doubtful.  I had to check up for myself. And the delightful outcome were the following :-

 

1)  Total Forgiveness and the Confession of Sin, a study and message by John MacArthur on 1 John 1:8-10

https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/62-8/total-forgiveness-and-the-confession-of-sin

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6GA4nPW4QDxRHN6ZjV6WFB4UzQ

2)   Confession – Truth or Chains, a study by James R Owen 2004.  (I can no longer find the original link, which seemed to have disappeared from cyber space, or trace this James Owen.  Let me know if anyone out there has the link.  Thank you.  However, if anyone care to read, one can read it from Pilgrim Sojourner’s Google Drive –

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6GA4nPW4QDxSlJlQV9HWkphOTA

3) “Should Christians Confess Their Sins” – a study by Dr Christian Pope of Sanctification.com.  I corresponded with him briefly years ago, and he said, yes, his name is really Christian Pope!  But his website has been revamped as he is now very much into the Hebraic Root of our Faith, and that study is no longer on his website.  However, I just wrote to him asking about it. Again, its on my Google Drive –

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6GA4nPW4QDxSkVvZWp5aTdGbVU

 

I am more of an Ethiopian first, then a Berean.  Read and listen to what others have to teach, then study and verify.  I put on my parachute which only works when it is open, and hold my Confirmation Bias in abeyance.

 

In my own journey and pilgrimage of faith, I am learning along the way. A lifelong journey!

Acts 8: 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

 

I invite you to come into my life and teach me, for how can I understand unless someone guides me