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.

Our brethren in City Harvest

I wanted to be a Sentry

Somehow, seeing the posting of someone (whom I knew) in the FB “CHC Confessions” of the present sad saga in Singapore, I joined in the fray. What developed was unexpected, and rather illuminating, and revealing. I just wanted to chat about issues in terms of principles and precepts from my own perspective, and wandered into the playground involving personalities (and probably Chinese whispers [I just learnt this new phrase]) .

I posted deep within Tan Sin Liang’s input in “CHC Confessions”. He is a prominent, competent and astute lawyer, and presumably also a lay Baptist teacher. The gist of my last posting is as follows:-

A dear brethren sent me a private message not to engage in unproductive banter (with someone else). I listened and this is my last post, after waking up this morning with promptings. Hopefully posting this deep within our dear TSL’s post will be relevant (to those in this particular thread) and not cause unintended collateral damage.

Paul in his pastoral letters admonished Timothy to be faithful as a student, a son, a servant, a steward, a sower, a sportsman, a soldier and a sentry. Having been concerned with our CHC brethren, I jumped in, for wanting to be a good son, I must also be a good brother, not throwing stones in these circumstances as all of us (the rest of believers in Singapore with our common testimony) are in.

And trying to be a sentry, I shared teachings from others who can teach and train and talk so much better than myself. I am convinced that the source is just like what AW Pink (http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Parables/parables_03.htm) and messianic Jew Jacob Prasch (in Youtube, see earlier blog) warned about (the birds of the air) in the prophetic parables of Matthew 13 and from Rev and Zech, the Birds (our enemy), the Basket (doctrines of demons), the Bimbo (the harlot who tempts and taunts the bride of Christ) and Babylon (the seat of false teaching and religion).

We have cautioned against the distortions and deceptions from the pulpits which led to the challenges we now face in Singapore. But somehow, many of us from the pew has joined in to cast doubt, divide, distract (I prefer more light than fireworks). I felt it could be done with more discernment, discretion, (depth, decorum and dignity, a a lot more hugs). God says pray for wisdom to discern and our comments and conclusions, concepts and convictions should be consistent with – Spiritual revelation, not secular reasoning (Mk 8:16, Prov 3:5,6) or worse satanic reckonings coming from the prince and powers of the air (all these three sources of  wisdom are mentioned in James)

We have advocated a return to scriptures which teach us to be pure in our message, motives, ministry and methods – to nourish, nurture and nurse those who are young in the faith (lambs), and to model, mentor and mature those who are older (sheep)  (1 Thess 2). In advocating bible study, the fruit of our study will show in our talk and walk (how we relate and respond with all alike, rather than react). Paul said – no guile, no guise, no manipulation of people, no massaging of message to camouflage words and concepts of evil and lies to displace and replace and displace the Words that are eternal and living, I asked a pastor, if any other disguise as a sheep, will the person in disguise bark, howl or baa. I think the birds of the air will try to baa, quote scriptures and sound Christian. And one could unwittingly missed out on spiritual revelations and wisdom when our convictions stem from secular reasonings and satanic reckonings. We can discern, differentiate and distinguish the talk and the walk . Jesus recognised the momentary disguise of the bird in Peter.  Peter had unknowingly allowed himself to be persuaded by words that did not come from spiritual revelation!

Let us be careful of the birds – watch these YT. It scares me, and I trust it will help us to be aware, awake and alert in these last days.

Praying for Prosperity

For the third time consecutively in weeks, my pastor unapologetically dwelt on prosperity and said that he would pray for the members to prosper.

He used Jer 33:9 as his text

And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

Somehow, I became worked up. After the church service I told my wife that I am both sad and angry. Since attending NCC, I have been extremely keyed up to know that my pastor has been at the forefront of preaching the gospel of grace, and according to him, bringing about a revolution of grace since the time of the reformation of the gospel of salvation by faith in God’s grace.  I had defended his teachings, enthused others to listen to him, and “marketed” and “promoted” him to others. When this revolution of grace has so much going, to reveal Jesus, to change lives, it has somehow been tainted by this streak of prosperity teaching.  I am saddened that this promised blessing of prosperity (not the prosperity gospel) has turned off many unbelievers, mainline denominations and believers from adopting the essence of grace message as preached by my pastor. Oh…., more would have considered this revolution of grace if not for the addition (adulteration?) in the teachings.

The legacy of the WOF persuasions remains. Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful, have personally been touched and received the Lord’s blessings in both these areas, but do not feel comfortable and convinced with the constant emphasis on health and wealth. There is so much our walk as pilgrims which we can learn about. (see previous posts eg “The Full Counsel of God”, 3 John 2, etc etc). But of course many like the prospect and promise of prosperity, not unlike the religious practices in seeking blessings from the idols, praying for success in career, lottery, life-partner, eg. Goddess of  Mercy temple in Waterloo Street.  But it is a distraction, a distortion of the present time message of the cross.

While the sermon did include a few preceding verses, I came home and read the preceding chapters.

When the book and the contextual circumstances of Jeremiah’s words are considered, I realise that the prosperity in Jer 33:9 makes more sense in terms of the context (relevance) and that prosperity is relative in and with different peoples and cultures.

How is this verse relevant to me?  The promise in v9 is directed for the return and restoration of people of Israel after their captivity and exile, and when the Messiah is revealed and begins to rule (in the millennium?)  To claim and proclaim that the prosperity is specifically for the congregation of believers today borders on presumption.

How do I define prosperity? WOF teachers would not deny that prosperity refers more to material and tangible quantitative possessions, as my pastor teased that if others do not want it, that’s ok, but he gladly wants this blessing.  But how much would be enough? Is it relevant at all to preach the blessing of prosperity to the average believer when Singapore and America ranks amongst the top ten countries in per capital income? And when our church building cost us about US$500M?  The local church indeed has prospered, and so have all believers, the moment we are in Christ.  Should we constantly get believers to be saved, to be “more saved”, or just remind them that they are saved, completely forgiven once for all and are righteous in Christ – saved by grace, standing in grace and strong in grace? So in truth, when believers are truly blessed in all ways always, isn’t the preaching on prosperity tantamount to tempting others to lust beyond what is needful? In the garden, mankind was tempted with legitimated concerns, and in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted – to stay alive (health), and with the glory and riches of the world (wealth).

While the WOF teachers have brought much to the church, there are aberrations. The pulpit can be a source of temptation – when scriptures are twisted, quoted out of context, manipulated to lure people to lust, and to be greedy for prosperity even when we are not destitute (at least not in America or Singapore).

How do I come to such conclusions? I have begun to read the Pentecostal theologian and scholar Gordon Fee’s classic on “How to Read the Bible” – in terms of exegesis and hermeneutics. I truly want to know Jesus, in Truth and Spirit.  I also want to be like a Berean.

Perhaps the following article in full in the next posting might also be of help.

In the article “Which promises are for me?” Jen Wilkin, cautioned that we can be presumptious and misled when promises in the bible are taken out of the context –

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/which-promises-are-for-me

To Live Simply, as a Pilgrim

This morning, I chanced upon this article in Time magazine by Alysha Germain –

http://time.com/3850418/life-lessons-small-house/

Apparently, Germain’s story was featured widely elsewhere e.g.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3068188/Alysha-St-Germain-reveals-children-came-terms-death-husband-moving-tiny-house.html

And in her article, she cross-referenced to how to create a 33 piece wardrobe (applicable to men too); http://www.xojane.com/clothes/project-33-capsule-wardrobe and to http://theproject333.com/, on how to live simply.

 

While I was dwelling on the above, a close brother WhatsApp what he termed as an“impactful video” = about how one’s perspective on life changes, when one realizes that life is short after experiencing cancer :-

http://aplus.com/a/random-people-vs-cancer-patients-answer-same-questions-on-life?so=CC4aWTBQ2dv2WsqaBAkuPZ&ref=ns

Uncanny indeed – how these truths are reinforced, and brings to mind again of 1 Peter 2:11.

I ‘WhatsApp back, that there is a command in scriptures for us to live as pilgrims and sojourners, and that in all of scriptures, there isn’t any command for us to be healthy and wealthy, other than a wish and prayer to be in health in 3 John; ( and earthly wealth is never even implied).  John’s wish and prayer is not surprising, conscious of matters of health, as with all old people who are frail and feeble.  Yet above all 3 John specifically, categorically and primarily states “as your soul prospers”

Increasingly I am amazed and question the position of those who frequently proclaim and declare health and wealth as a given for believers.  This focus might entrench people to embrace this earthly life rather than arranging our lives to live as a pilgrm.

I have also been reading Romans these past days.  Paul argues and proclaims that the givens for our faith and our position in Christ – salvation, sanctification, righteousness, victory, etc etc. – all pertaining to the state of our soul and spirit, and nothing at all about health and wealth.  It is sad how the preoccupations of the WOF proponents have eclipsed and minimized the explicit scriptural teachings for our sanctification and spirituality with that of the wellness and wealth of our earthy abode.  Clearly contradictory to the categorical command to live as pilgrims and sojourners.

Three years ago, my wife and me decided to downgrade our living space.  It took us a few months to go through our belongings and discard or give away items we could do without.  Most of the hundreds of books were given away, mostly to a Christian College in the Philippines. Our smaller flat, a Studio Apartment (one third the size of our previous apartment, which is empty now) would be ready in the later part of next year.

When friends ask where are we staying now after we moved out of our apartment, we would reply we are living out of a backpack – ha ha.

Meanwhile, without a proper home, we are staying with two of our daughters, storing a few pieces of clothes in each of the daughters’ home.  In the weekdays, we would go over to the eldest with a simple backpack of clothes and essentials, and then moving over to stay with the youngest daughter in the weekends; only carrying a backpack back and forth.

Since being convicted by 1 Peter 2:11, it was indeed uncanny that I would get a sampling taste of living simply and travelling light.

 

1 Peter 2:11

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

 

Hebrews 11:13

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

 

Proof Text

Bible Verses that are positively charged do empower and encourage.  However there are those who warned about the emptiness and illusion of realities and truth when certain passages are quoted out of context.

Hence, we need to discern whether certain passages are

– promises from God

– precepts from the Scriptures

– proverbs which distills life’s experiences, generally true but not absolute truth

– prayers desiring God’s blessing and favor

– preferences that are personal and desirable

– positive thinking, as popularized by NV Peale,

– possibility thinking as popularized by R Schuller; introduced into the church

– presumptions that God has spoken to me and will fulfill His words

Ronald Dunn in his book ‘The Faith Crisis’ wrote:

“Many well-meaning Christians confuse the key of faith with counterfeit keys, keys that bear a remarkable similarity to faith but are actually look-alike replicas.  Often what they judge to be faith is in fact presumption, or wishful thinking, or selfish desire, or some form of positive thinking.  And when these bogus keys faith to open the doors of God’s promises, some conclude that they are not of the ‘chosen few’ and abandon any hope of living the life of faith.”

While proof texting has been leveled at most pentecostals and charismatics, the approach has indeed brought a fresh wind that God can be trusted and God cannot lie.  It has propelled Christians into the realms of spiritual power, miracles and wonders and vibrant personal living.  Many evangelicals would seek to deconstruct the WOF teachings.  Personally what we need is reconstruct some of the earlier WOF teachings.

To quote Gordon Fee –

“One must ruefully admit that evangelical Christianity by and large does not expect much from God,” he notes. “Most Christians’ expectation level when it comes to the miraculous is somewhere between zero and minus five. Even though evangelicals often pray, ‘If it be Thy will, please heal so-and-so,’ they would probably … faint if God actually answered.”

(this is my first ‘cut’ posting on this subject.  will edit and polish up on this as I shift through the subject and organise my thoughs)