Saturday, 31 August 2013

FAITH OR FOOLHARDINESS?

How do we distinguish between faith and foolhardiness?

A group of young Korean believers attempted to cross a turbulent river. They were so gung ho about the venture, believing there was nothing to fear since God was with them. Sadly, all of them perished in the swirling waters; indeed the current was swift. What went wrong? They presumptuously believed that God would be with them. But, in the first place, they failed to ask Him whether it was His will to embark on such a dangerous feat.

                                                                   


If one decides to go diving in Maldives or scale Mount Everest next weekend without any training or experience, one would be deemed foolhardy. One who is foolhardy gives little thought to danger.

Does taking a step of faith require us to suspend the workings of our rational mind? I believe God has given man all these faculties—reason, common sense and judgment. And He expects us to make good use of them.  

“Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you” (Psalm 32:9). “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 22:3). 

The devil told Jesus to jump down from the highest point of the temple, reminding Jesus that angels would be there to support Him if He jumped. But Jesus opposed the devil to his face: “You must not test the Lord your God.” *

A teenager died because his parents, who prayed for him, did not think it was necessary to send him to hospital for treatment of his abdominal pain. He died of a burst appendix after suffering appendicitis for a week. The painful disease is easily remedied by routine surgery. The parents believed in God for everything, including miraculous healing. But things went awry because they lacked wisdom and good sense. For more, please check out: http://bit.ly/19pnl5I

Going outstation without checking on the roadworthiness of our vehicle is an invitation to trouble. For safety, we would need to send the car to a service centre to check, among other things, that the engine lubrication, radiator, brakes and tyres are all in tip-top condition. Merely trusting that God will save us from a breakdown or an accident without doing a pre-excursion check is tantamount to being foolhardy. It would have been a different case entirely if we had done our part as well as prayed that God will keep us alert and grant us a safe journey.

Trusting God for our health doesn’t mean we have no role to play in maintaining the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). While we need not be finicky health freaks, we still need to practise a healthy lifestyle that looks into areas such as diet, exercise, work-life balance and stress management. Thinking all will be well since God takes care of our health is being foolhardy. Even pastors and missionaries have heart attack and stroke. Clearly having great faith alone is not enough. We still have to take personal responsibility for our health.

Stepping into the future with no financial planning at all is not a wise move. Some say planning implies we lack faith. Since God cares for us as He cares for the birds and the lilies, we just need to concentrate on seeking and serving Him (Matthew 6:25-33).

However, having faith doesn’t exempt us from taking personal responsibility for our finances. We still need to plan financially for our retirement. Like everyone else, we have to work hard, save and invest. The industrious ant forages for food in summer so that it will have sustenance during winter (Proverbs 6:6-11). Similarly, Joseph had the foresight to plan. And his family and a nation were saved when famine came (Genesis 41:35,36).

Lack of planning may cause us to outlive our finances. We may then have to depend on handouts from relatives or friends. We may even have to come out of retirement and go back to work but will our health permit it? For more, please check out: http://bit.ly/1dvkZTC

There may be a fine line between foolhardiness and faith. We always need to listen to God’s rhema word to us—what He wants us to do in a specific situation. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14).

In some instances, He may tell us to act against reason and good sense. Most of the time, I believe, faith and common sense just happily flow together in unison.

In conclusion, does having faith mean we have to stop using our mind? Undoubtedly, we are told to acknowledge God in all our plans and endeavours. We need to consult Him and bring our thoughts captive to His will; trust Him more than our own insight. But we are never told to stop exercising our rational mind (Proverbs 3:5-6, James 4: 13-15, 2 Corinthians 10:5).

Footnotes: *
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

(Matthew 4:5-7)

Monday, 26 August 2013

LIFE-GIVING REBUKE

Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures.” — Han Suyin

Almost thirty years ago, when I was attending a Baptist church, a visiting prophet gave me this word of rebuke: “You are supposed to be a leader and pillar in this church but you have not been living up to your potential.” It was a most accurate commentary of my spiritual state then. That was truly a wake-up call for me.

From then on, the various prophecies in my spiritual journey have been on a positive notegranting vision, direction and encouragement.

We are used to speaking positive words of encouragement from scripture to bless others. But out of politeness or fear of upsetting good relationships, we are afraid to use the Word to correct or rebuke.

We tell ourselves, “It is better not to rock the boat.” Let the status quo remain. Let sleeping dogs lie.

It is sad but true that some teachers fail to use the Word for correction or rebukewhereas it is meant to be both positive and negative.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encouragewith great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Love is not all soft and mushy. Unless truth is upheld, we are just being wishy washy with our faith, fearful of confronting error or sinwhether it is in us or others.

“Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives”(Jude 1:23).

Next time, if a man of God reproves us out of love, we’d better take heed. Repent, ask the Holy Spirit to open our spiritual eyes to see where we have fallen and make a fresh start in our spiritual walk.

A rebuke may be harsh but it is corrective. It not only saves us from judgment but enables us to fulfill our role in church so that the whole body becomes edified.  

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

                                                                    

Coronary bypass surgery (open-heart surgery) is a major procedure as the surgeon has to cut through the rib cage to get to the heart. But for those with blocked coronary arteries, it saves lives. It may give them many more years of lifeprovided they change their lifestyle and take their medications.

Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures.” Han Suyin

Footnotes:

Chastening, a mark of sonship:
“‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by him; for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.’ Bear what you have to bear as chastening—as God’s dealing with you as sons. No true son ever grows up uncorrected by his father. For if you had no experience of the correction which all sons have to bear you might well doubt the legitimacy of your sonship”(Hebrews 12:5-8).

Rebuke is out of love:
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:15-19).


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

DISAGREEING WITH GRACE

How can we be positive about disagreement?

An issue can be seen from so many different angles. No one can possibly see eye to eye with another on every issue. As such, those who are saved by God’s grace ought to demonstrate grace towards those who disagree with them.

                                                                    

People, in general, tend to be opinionated by virtue of their upbringingfamily or religious backgroundand exposure to different schools of thought. They think they are right until another viewpoint is presented: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

There is no point trying to split “theological hairs”. We should stay away from divisive issues if they serve no purpose: “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” – Titus 3:9.

However, there are some issues which have an important bearing on our destiny in the hereafter. For example, entertaining a distorted picture of God in our minds may have deadly consequences. Thinking erroneously that God is always meek and mildthat He is a Santa Clausmay prove disastrous when we’re confronted by God the judge at the end of our life journey or when Christ returns (Hebrews 9:27, 1 Peter 4:7, 17).

In the above instance, sincerity is not enough. "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.

At this juncture, I would like to say hello to all my social media friends. Whatever your views, I do hope to hear from some of you. Ever since this blog, PORRIDGE FOR THE SOUL, started in April 2012, I have noticed from the blog statistics that its visitors include those from USA, UK, Australia, Germany, Sweden, France, Canada, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, China, S. Korea, Taiwan, Russia, India, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland; and even countries I least expect such as Belarus, Botswana, Columbia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, UAE, Puerto Rico, Pakistan, Romania, Trinidad and Tobago, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria. Thank you for your feedback and encouragement. 

Everyone is free to believe what he or she wants. You are free to voice your views. But let us be courteous and keep in mind this saying: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire.

Like a parachute, our mind works only when it is open. So let us be more open-minded.

“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)

Just because we have been teaching the Bible for many years or have several theological degrees under our belt, it does not necessarily mean we are infallible. We can certainly LEARN from others who may not share our viewpoints on certain issues. And we may even need to UNLEARN many things we have so long taken for granted as the truth as part of our tradition or habit.

Let those who profess the name of Christ understand this: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

While it is important to be humble and tolerant to get along well with others, we should not compromise the truth for the sake of unity. 

We also need to remember that one may win an argument but it is useless if one loses a long-term relationship.


RELATED POSTS

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

THE FIVE FACES OF GRACE



Friday, 16 August 2013

DOES GOD HEAL ALWAYS?


Is it God’s will to heal faithful believers always?

Doctors treat but God heals. As a Christian for forty years and a practising doctor for thirty years, I have seen people being healed in so many different waysthrough supernatural means and medicine/surgery.

Yet, I have also seen many who have not been healed, irrespective of their denomination or the strength of their faith.

True, He is Jehovah Rapha (Exodus 15:26)God our healer. But He is also a sovereign God.

God, being sovereign, does not heal always. And we cannot possibly fathom why some remain unhealed. Many disabled people gathered round the pool of Bethesda. But Jesus chose to demonstrate His healing virtue to one invalid (John 5:2-9).

Two groups of believers were praised for their faith in Hebrews chapter 11. The first category received what was promised. The rest failed to receive God’s promises despite their faithfulness: These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised” (Hebrews 11:39).

I know of a devout lady with terminal cancer who, while admitted for chemotherapy, witnessed to fellow hospital mates and brought a few of them to the faith. She was so upbeat and positive even to the very end. She was faithfully giving her all to the Master and others despite her own suffering. Yet she succumbed to the cancer shortly after admission.

On the other hand, I had dinner recently with a long lost friend who used to hold healing and deliverance meetings in India. He said he witnessed so many amazing cases of supernatural healing there. Poor, desperate and spiritually hungry, people walked for miles to the place of the meeting. They had great need, faith and expectancy. And God SHOWED UP! They were not disappointed. 

In both the above scenarios, we see God's sovereignty at work.


                                                                       

Apart from God’s sovereignty, I think the reason why people are not healed always is because everyone has to die somehow, some day. It is the inevitable consequence of the FallAdam’s sin and its aftermath.

The apostle Paul speaks of the body as an earthly tent: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1). This body, which has been continuously subjected to degeneration and decay from the day we are born, will one day be redeemed (Romans 8: 21, 23). Paul then ends by saying it is a glorious hope that, one day, we will receive new bodies which will no longer be subject to decay (2 Corinthians 5:3-4, Romans 8:24-25).

If God heals always when sick people are ministered to, then we will not have to die and will hypothetically live forever. Then how are we going to expire? We have to die, in most cases, of some illness (for example, heart attack, stroke, or cancer) if we don’t die of accidents. Do you know of anyone of the likes of Enoch and Elijah who get translated to heaven without dying?

Paul instructed young Timothy to take wine for the sake of his frequent ailments (1 Timothy 5:23). Epaphroditus was sick and almost died (Philippians 2:27). Can such faithful servants of God, held in high regard by Paul, be considered to have fallen into sin or deemed to be lacking in faith that they had to endure sicknesses? Can they be considered ignorant of God’s so-called provision of healing in the atonement, as many would be quick to defend based on 1 Peter 2: 24? http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue14.htm

God does not answer all our whys this side of eternity when we’re confronted with non-healing—even when all the prerequisites have been fulfilled for miraculous healing. His thoughts and ways are higher than that of ours.

RELATED POSTS:

BY HIS STRIPES WE ARE HEALED?
Is physical healing included when Christ atoned for our sins at the cross? Yes or No?


WHEN GOD DOES NOT HEAL

DON'T TRY TO FIGURE IT OUT

HEALING VERSUS SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

MEDICINE AND SUPERNATURAL HEALING

WHEN SICKNESS STRIKES
http://bit.ly/1ozc0UA


Footnotes: 

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.  
(2 Corinthians 5: 1-5) NLT.

Friday, 2 August 2013

FINDING GOD IN LIFE’S DARKEST MOMENTS

When all seems lost, knowing God is all that matters.

                                                                   

Sensing life was coming to a close while incarcerated in a prison cell, Paul could still say, “I know whom I have believed.” Isn’t this all that matters when life is about to end? To know where one is going and to personally know one’s Creator?

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (2 Timothy 1:12).

Was Paul then having a whale of a time, having all the comforts and blessings which many modern-day preachers seem so zealous in emphasising? Certainly not. Yet he remained upbeat, unfazed and positive as he wrote a letter of encouragement and exhortation to young Timothy.

Stephen, in his final moments, before he died a martyr’s death by stoning, had this beautiful vision: But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56).

Death by stoning is a horrendous way to leave this earth. But with the comforting revelation that his death was not in vainthat Jesus was ready to welcome him into the hereafter—enduring all the pain was worth it.

We may not have to go through such extreme situations in our final moments. However, it behooves us to get to know our God so intimately that when the time comes we will be ready to face our Maker with confidence, just like Paul and Stephen.

The philosopher and scientist, Blaise Pascal, wrote: “The immortality of the soul is a matter which is of so great consequence to us and which touches us so profoundly that we must have lost all feeling to be indifferent about it.”


For more: http://limpohann.blogspot.com/2012/10/setting-our-house-in-order.html


RELATED POSTS:
OVERCOMING CRISIS
Who or what do we turn to when crisis strikes? Where do we place our hope and trust?

DON'T TRY TO FIGURE IT OUT
When believers go through trials and tribulations, it is natural to ask God, “Why? Why does this have to happen to me?”