Wednesday, 27 February 2013

WHAT BEING OPEN-MINDED MEANS

More than ever before we need to be like the Bereans in our approach to understanding the truth. Like a parachute, our mind works only when it is open. 

                                                                       
Why is Acts 17:11 rendered differently in different versions of the Bible?

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (NIV).

"And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth" (NLT).

How do we resolve these differences above (in red)?


                                                                           
Being open-minded is part and parcel of being noble. It suggests that one is receptive and attentive to teaching. However, this doesn't mean the message received won't be subjected to intensive scrutiny against the objective Word of God.

Open-mindedness is not synonymous with syncretism and compromise. It does not mean one accepts all kinds of teaching, no matter how wayward or erroneous they may be. That's blind faith.

"Faith is good only when it engages truth; when it is made to rest upon falsehood it can and often does lead to eternal tragedy."  – A. W. Tozer

First, being open-minded means having a non-judgmental attitude as we process the teaching material – being willing to listen or study the facts of the matter without any pre-conceived ideas or prejudices.

Certainly, it is implied we are NOT intimidated by any teacher, no matter how well-known, illustrious or respectable he or she may be. We cannot say to ourselves or others, “Coming from this great man of God, it must be right.” That is highly dangerous. That is NOT being open-minded. That is tantamount to prematurely forming our opinion before we have listened to and investigated the validity of the message. No one is free from error, no matter how great he or she is.


Test all things; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Do not reject something without even considering.

                                                                


One of the hallmarks of a disciple is diligence in studying God’s word so that we are approved by Him – not put to shame on account of our lack of in-depth knowledge of scriptures.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) NKJV.

Study to show thyself approved to God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) Webster.

When we are ill-equipped with the Word, we might fall prey to deception, being swept by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). Once we are well prepared, we will be able to judge and discern what has been taught against scripture (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).




RELATED POST

EIGHT WAYS TO FIGHT FALSE TEACHING

How to develop discernment and escape the clutches of destructive heresies




Barnes' Notes on the Bible

The following notes, which reinforces the foregoing, will grant us greater understanding:

These were more noble - εὐγενέστεροι eugenesteroi. This literally means more noble by birth; descended from more illustrious ancestors. But here the word is used to denote a quality of mind and heart. They were more generous, liberal, and noble in their feelings; more disposed to inquire candidly into the truth of the doctrines advanced by Paul and Silas. It is always proof of a noble, liberal, and ingenuous disposition to be willing to examine into the truth of any doctrine presented. The writer refers here particularly to the Jews.

In that - Because.

They received the word ... - They listened attentively and respectfully to the gospel. They did not reject and spurn it as unworthy of examination. This is the first particular in which they were more noble than those in Thessalonica.

And searched the scriptures - That is, the Old Testament. See the notes on John 5:39. The apostles always affirmed that the doctrines which they maintained respecting the Messiah were in accordance with the Jewish scriptures. The Bereans made diligent and earnest inquiry in respect to this, and were willing to ascertain the truth.

Daily - Not only on the Sabbath, and in the synagogue, but they made it a daily employment. It is evident from this that they had the Scriptures; and this is one proof that Jewish families would, if possible, obtain the oracles of God.

Whether those things were so - Whether the doctrines stated by Paul and Silas were in accordance with the Scriptures. The Old Testament they received as the standard of truth, and whatever could be shown to be in accordance with that, they received. On this verse we may remark:

(1) That it is proof of true nobleness and liberality of mind to be willing to examine the proofs of the truth of religion. What the friends of Christianity have had most cause to lament and regret is, that so many are unwilling to examine its claims; that they spurn it as unworthy of serious thought, and condemn it without hearing.

(2) the Scriptures should be examined daily. If we wish to arrive at the truth, they should be the object of constant study. That man has very little reason to expect that he will grow in knowledge and grace who does not peruse, with candor and with prayer, a portion of the Bible every day.

(3) the constant searching of the Scriptures is the best way to keep the mind from error. He who does not do it daily may expect to "be carried about with every wind of doctrine," and to have no settled opinions.

(4) the preaching of ministers should be examined by the Scriptures. Their doctrines are of no value unless they accord with the Bible. Every preacher should expect his doctrines to be examined in this way, and to be rejected if they are not in accordance with the Word of God. The church, in proportion to its increase in purity and knowledge, will feel this more and more; and it is an indication of advance in piety when people are increasingly disposed to examine everything by the Bible. How immensely important, then, is it that the young should be trained up to diligent habits of searching the Word of God. And how momentous is the obligation of parents, and of Sunday school teachers, to inculcate just views of the interpretation of the Bible, and to form the habits of the rising generation, so that they shall be disposed and enabled to examine every doctrine by the sacred oracles. The purity of the church depends on the extension of the spirit of the noble-minded Bereans, and that spirit is to be extended in a very considerable degree by the instrumentality of Sunday schools.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

NEED FOR JUDGMENT AND DISCERNMENT



A reader, Peter Sze, responded to my post, “NO NEED TO CONFESS SIN?”
with the following comments:

This is a very clear example of the "straw man" fallacy:
The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:
*Person 1 has position X.
*Person 2 disregards certain key points of X and instead presents the superficially similar position Y. 
The position Y is a distorted version of X.
*Person 2 attacks position Y, concluding that X is false/incorrect/flawed.

RS picks up a line from JP's book without context, attack it vigorously, declares it as flawed and amazingly PAL holds it up, see... sigh.
Come on... the Bereans "listened eagarly to Paul" directly, not 2nd hand distorted messages.
Abbreviations:
JP Joseph Prince.
RS Roger Sapp
PAL Poh Ann, Lim

MY RESPONSE:

Peter, as I mentioned earlier in my blog, I hope that believers will become more open-minded: Whenever they hear a message or read a Christian book, they should learn how to judge wisely its contents against scripture.

All of us love God. We want to see truth upheld and His name glorified.

Perhaps you might not know this: When I read the book, "Destined to Reign", a year ago its theology gave me an uncomfortable feeling. On 19th Feb, I posted in my blog:
“Are the future sins of Christians automatically forgiven (FSAF)?” http://limpohann.blogspot.com/2013/02/future-sins-automatically-forgiven.html, a post which shares some of the concerns RS has about the book.

So my opinions have already been formed about this book even before I stumbled into RS’s Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYUKOtya_xs yesterday (26th Feb). I didn’t just ride piggy back on someone else’s views.

When a Christian author writes a book, he has to make sure that what he puts down is able to stand the test of scripture, not just selected verses and passages but the whole truth. Otherwise he might be inviting a barrage of comments.

Between spoken and written word, the latter is more reliable and accurate. RS has picked up what someone has written and given a specific reference (page, line quoted) before he shows why such and such a position is not tenable. 

As the reference has already been clearly stated by RS, I cannot understand why you bring up the term “straw man”. RS is not directing his comments against something vague and nebulous.

Unlike the believers of Berea, we are in a better position to judge the validity of a particular teaching because it is often available in a well-recorded format (in this case, a book or video) whereas the former could only judge based on Paul’s spoken word (or hand-written manuscripts at best, if available).

“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” – Sir Francis Bacon

We are not the only ones who are able to judge whether the author or RS is right. Let everyone read the book, watch the various YouTube videos (by RS pertaining to the book and those by JP) and compare the contents of the book and video with scripture (Acts 17:11, 1 Cor. 2:14-16).


My hope is that Christians will become more open-minded: Whenever they hear a message or read a Christian book, they should learn how to judge wisely its contents against scripture.    

May the Holy Spirit help us to discern truth from error.


A Review of “Destined to Reign” by Joseph Prince


Footnotes:

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.
(Acts 17:11).

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 2:14 -16).

NO NEED TO CONFESS SIN?


Some teach that Christians do not need to confess their sins since God has already forgiven their sins – past, present and future.

Is it true that Christians don't have to confess their sins since God has already forgiven their sins – past, present and future?

Please watch this arresting video before you make up your mind:


I am not trying to “convert” anyone to see things from my perspective. Just sharing. The Internet is a level playing field. No need to get all heated up inside. Please don’t perceive it as something specifically directed against you.

What I hope to achieve is that people will become more open-minded and search the scriptures for themselves:

“And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11).

"Faith is good only when it engages truth; when it is made to rest upon falsehood it can and often does lead to eternal tragedy."  – A. W. Tozer

RELATED POST:

Are the future sins of Christians automatically forgiven (FSAF)?




Monday, 25 February 2013

TILL THE COWS COME HOME


Proponents of easy believism support the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” (OSAS). Once you have accepted Christ, you can relax; you have bought your ticket to heaven and nothing can change your fate.

There will always be those who believe in OSAS (once saved always saved). And others who are equally headstrong and do not believe in OSAS. Both camps, equally strong in their convictions, have their own blind spots.

We could talk about this dilemma until the cows come home but, most probably, it wouldn't solve anything. It is likely that each side will maintain their doctrinal stand.

I am not trying to “convert” anyone to my side. Just sharing. The Internet is a level playing field. No need to get heated up or get personal. This is my two cents:



What I hope to achieve is that people will become more open-minded and search the scriptures for themselves:

“And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11).

"Faith is good only when it engages truth; when it is made to rest upon falsehood it can and often does lead to eternal tragedy."  – A. W. Tozer


Sunday, 24 February 2013

EMPOWERING THE YOUNG


How a couple nurtured and encouraged their daughter who was keen to teach.

One of the challenges which Teachers’ Christian Fellowship (TCF) Malaysia faces is the reluctance of many Christian parents to allow their children to become teachers. Even those who are teachers themselves actively discourage their children from following their footsteps. Many young people who are keen to teach fail to join the teaching profession as their parents want them to go into more lucrative careers like medicine, law, engineering or accountancy.  

TCF sought Dr and Mrs Lim Poh Ann for their views as parents on teaching as a career for young people. Their daughter, Priscilla Lim, is a teacher in Pulau Ketam under the first batch of the Teach for Malaysia (TFM) programme.

TCF: Did you actively encourage your daughter to go into teaching?

Seeing Priscilla's gentleness and her love for children, we did harbour a desire that she will one day become a pre-school teacher. So we gently encouraged her along that path. We believe very young children, who are in the most impressionable years of their lives, should be handled by qualified teachers.

However, she seems to have found a calling to teach older students. After her training stint with Youth with A Mission (YWAM) in Sabah, she felt a strong prompting from God to work under TFM. 

TCF: Reflecting on her experience as a teacher with TFM in Pulau Ketam, do you think she has made the right choice?

We believe she is spiritually sensitive and mature enough to hear from God personally. It is the right choice if it is God's choice for her even though the going might be tough.  

Frankly, some friends have hinted that we are wasting Priscilla's potential by encouraging her to go into teaching. But we do not measure her success according to how much she can earn. We know that God can use her to touch many young lives as she is a person who loves to give.

Personally, we think TFM is making a tremendous difference in our country. It has raised the bar to another level as far as setting standards for the teaching profession is concerned. We also appreciate the leadership training and exposure that Priscilla receives from TFM.  

TCF: How would you advise parents who wish to encourage their children to go into teaching?

Parents need to impress on their children's mind that teachers can make a great impact on the lives of the younger generation. They need to gently nurture in their children a love for teaching and help them to view teaching, not only as a career, but as a calling. However, the children themselves also need to pray whether it is God’s will for them to go into teaching.

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.  – Tom Brokaw

The above article was first published in the newsletter of Teachers’ Christian Fellowship (TCF), Malaysia, 2012, Vol 24 Issue 4. Used with permission.

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Want to make a difference through teaching?  Please check out:


RELATED ARTICLES:

Giving Them Wings

Inspired to Teach for Malaysia
Price of Examination Success

School of Hard Knocks

Friday, 22 February 2013

IF I WERE A RICH MAN



Watch this highly engaging video of a poor peasant dreaming of becoming rich one day from the timeless, unforgettable musical, “Fiddler on the Roof”.


Excerpts from its lyrics include:

Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor.
But it's no great honor either! 

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me! 
They would ask me to advise them, 
Like a Solomon the Wise.
And it won't make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!

If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

If I were a rich man, 
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.

This guy is talking about being rich so that he does not have to work so hard, will be able to bum around doing nothing in particular (as well as having ample time to pray and read "holy books"), will have a big home and the respect of the town folks. 

Sometimes we too think that it would be nice indeed to be rich like this farmer.

Is there anything wrong with getting rich?

For more on prosperity, please check out Does God want me to be rich?” at http://bit.ly/WGbjZE

There is nothing wrong provided

  • we realise that the Giver is more important than the gift and we are not mesmerised by the latter that we forget the Source of blessing.


  • we realise that riches won't help on the day of judgment, but right living can save us from death (Proverbs 11:4).


  • we don't wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit (Proverbs 23:4).


  • we are careful to guard ourselves against every kind of greed because a person's life doesn't consist of the amount of possessions he has (Luke 12:15).


  • we constantly remind ourselves of Paul’s command to the rich: "Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life" (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
FOOTNOTES:

This video merely expresses a poor peasant’s spontaneous outburst in song and dance when he was facing hard times. We do well not to judge him for the values he portrays in the video.

We should not make the pursuit of riches an all-consuming passion. Secondly, we should not stop working even after we have become rich.

We need to rediscover the sanctity of work. Adam was given the task of tending the garden and subduing the earth even before he fell into sin. Work was not a curse in the beginning. It became a curse only after Adam sinned – “out of the sweat of your brow” you shall earn a living.


To get the full meaning behind this post on prosperity you will have to read, “Does God want me to be rich?” at http://bit.ly/WGbjZE as well. Otherwise you might get a wrong lopsided message.

RELATED POST:

NO MONEY, NO TALK

GRACE: CAN WE HAVE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

                                                                 

Being sinners—even after we have placed our faith in Christ—we need grace. In fact, lots and lots of grace as nobody’s perfect.

Many of us can identify with the apostle Paul’s dilemma as he agonises over the internal conflict between two opposing natures: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do— this I keep on doing” (Romans 7: 18b,19).

It is frustrating enough when our body fails to follow the dictates of our mind. It is worse when it does the exact opposite of what we intend.

Referring to the ugliness of our sinful nature, Rev Dr John R. W. Stott states: “Indeed, an honest and humble acknowledgment of the hopeless evil of our flesh, even after the new birth, is the first step to holiness. To speak quite plainly, some of us are not leading holy lives for the simple reason that we have too high an opinion of ourselves.” John R. W. Stott, Men Made New (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1966), p. 74.

Varying emphasis on the role of grace in the lives of believers has caused Christians from different camps to hold divergent views on this issue of grace. While all believers need God’s grace, some believe that overemphasis on grace can be dangerous.

Dr Michael Brown wrote on “Confronting the Error of Hyper-Grace”:  http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/38297-confronting-the-error-of-hyper-grace
in “Charisma News” on 18.2.13.

Paul Ellis gave his rebuttal to the above “Charisma News” article on 22.2.13:

Paul Ellis, who belongs to the “grace camp”, agrees that the Michael Brown has stated fairly well the doctrinal stand of the “grace camp”: (1) we have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus, (2) all our sins have been forgiven, (3) the Holy Spirit never convicts believers of sin, and (4) we need never repent for nor confess our sins (this last point needs some qualification).

Paul Ellis also mentioned in his website, “Escape to Reality”: 
“We stand secure, not on our feeble promises to Him, but on His unconditional and unbreakable promises to us."

“The truth is you are saved by grace and you are kept by grace. It’s grace from start to finish! Don’t let anyone frighten you into doing dead works, but rest secure in His finished work. Just as you did nothing to earn salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it.”

While these two esteemed gentlemen debate on what constitutes 'grace' from a biblical perspective, I would like to direct the following questions to Paul Ellis:
  • How will you respond if a new believer comes to your church and asks you, “Does it mean if I commit adultery, apostasy and criminal breach of trust, I will still be approved by God?” Please remember you mentioned: “Just as you did nothing to earn salvation, there is nothing you can do to lose it”.
  • Next, this new believer asks: “Can I play golf and have a good time with my family instead of going to church on Sunday morning? Can’t I eat, drink and be merry? Wouldn’t God continue to bless and love me?” Please remember you mentioned: “We stand secure, not on our feeble promises to Him, but on His unconditional and unbreakable promises to us.”
  • How do you reconcile the following verses with your grace theology which teaches about God’s unconditional favor towards believers?
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10: 26-31).

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace (Hebrews 6:4-6).

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud” (2 Peter 2:20-22).

By the way, my views are summarised in the following links:

http://limpohann.blogspot.com/2013/01/save-and-secure.html






I also concur with this link:

In my humble opinion, this issue can be resolved by considering how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in the act of adultery (without going too much into protracted theological discussion):

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
(John 8:3-11)

This short account has deep theological implications. The recipient of God’s love and mercy ought to show evidence of change in thought and behavior. In other words, the sinner has to repent.

We tend to emphasize God’s love and mercy towards sinners. The need for sinners to bear fruits that befit repentancepersonal responsibilityis often not emphasised to the same degree.

Jesus was gracious and merciful towards her when the crowd wanted to stone her.
But Jesus also made it a point to tell her, “Go and sin no more.”

Just watch this touching video and let the truth sink in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8welVgKX8Qo

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). Jesus was not only gracious to forgive her but He demanded that, from henceforth, she live a life true to her new status as a recipient of God’s grace. She was to live a righteous life in keeping with repentance.

I think Dr Michael Brown made a convincing case when he wrote “Confronting the Error of Hyper-Grace”:

By now you probably would have noticed where I stand on this issue of grace, which is not merely a topic to tickle our minds for it may have drastic eternal consequences for those who embrace the wrong belief.

Everyone is free to believe what he or she wants. You are free to voice your views.

Let us keep in mind this saying: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

WHAT GRACE TEACHES US
“I am convinced many Christians cannot handle the blessings of grace. They glory in the message of God's unearned pardon, filling their minds with every Bible passage describing His mercy and compassion. They love to hear the story of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, because it brings them great comfort. Yet, once they stockpile all the rich, glorious truth about God's grace toward them, it begins to burn a hole in their purse of flesh. And it becomes to them a license to sin!” — David Wilkerson.
http://sermons.worldchallenge.org/en/node/23344