Tuesday, 29 April 2014

HEAD, NOT THE TAIL

If God blesses us with wealth, power and influence, we should positively embrace them in order to glorify His name

When Paul was baptised more than 30 years ago, his pastor pronounced this word of blessing on him: “You shall be the head, not the tail.”

Indeed, this blessing can be true for all Christians. Why not? If our walk with God is right, if we’re obedient and living out His will for our lives, we’ll get to experience what God promisesbeing the head and not the tail.


The blessings of obedience are found in Deuteronomy 28:1-14:

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.  The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.


                                                                      
                                                     Head of boat, Diamond Head  

Joseph was a Bible hero who epitomises the head, not the tail. Because of his faith, he moved from pit to prison to the pinnacle of power in Egypt. He finally rose to the position of governor of Egypt, second in rank to Pharaoh. During good times, he had the foresight to stockpile grain, a move that saved many lives when famine struck.

If God blesses us with wealth, power and influence, like Joseph, we should heartily embrace our calling. By rejecting false modesty and claiming our rightful inheritance, our lives can be a great blessing to many. 

But lest we get away thinking that the Christian life is merely a bed of roses, we need to understand that …

  • A worldview that ‘God is good all the time’ cannot possibly explain the whole gamut of experiences that believers have to face in life. http://bit.ly/19JlmrB


  • There will be times when we won’t be able to figure out what on earth is happening to us. http://bit.ly/1graob4




  • He has a definite purpose when He allows us to experience trials and tribulations. http://bit.ly/KEHda3


Now, let’s backtrack to verse 2 of Deuteronomy 28: “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.

This means we should not run after blessings or set our eyes on blessingsas blessings are meant to follow us when we obey.

The above viewpoint concurs with what Jesus taught: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Finally, should the pursuit of blessings be the ultimate goal for believers? http://bit.ly/PPIRI4

To be rich should never the main focus for believers. Rather, God wants us to know Him intimately and find true riches in Him. His promise is not that all of us will live in bungalows and drive prestigious German marques once we believe in Him.

However, He promises to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). His love and power enable us to live a victorious life so that we are ‘more than conquerors’ (Ephesians 3:20, Romans 8:37).

Whatever the circumstancesgood or bad timesGod has destined us to be the head, not the tail.

RELATED POSTS
THINKING BEYOND 'GOD IS GOOD'

DON'T TRY TO FIGURE IT OUT

FAITH, FEELINGS, CIRCUMSTANCES

PURPOSE IN PAIN

WHAT DOES LIVING THE ABUNDANT LIFE MEAN?
http://bit.ly/PPIRI4

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

SHOOTING OURSELVES IN THE FOOT

                                                                          
Five ways believers could possibly jeopardise their eternal destiny

It seems that believers in Christ have nothing to fear regarding their eternal destiny as nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Furthermore, believers have been chosen and destined to be God’s people and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14).

It seems they have already bought their ticket to heaven. And, one day when their sojourn on earth is completed, they will get to enjoy eternal bliss.

True, in most cases, believers have this assurance that their eternal destiny is safe and secure. Even when they sin, provided they confess their sins, repent and start over a new leaf, their eternal destiny remains secure.

God often disciplines His children who have gone astray. But He also draws them back to Him with the cords of love and gives them multiple chances to repent. Hosea was told by God to woo back his unfaithful wife, mirroring God’s attitude towards wayward Israel.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son and the account where Jesus forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery speak volumes about a God who is slow to anger and willing to forgive. Indeed, where will we be if not for the grace and mercy of God?

However, under special circumstances, believers may risk losing their salvation:

  • CONTINUAL LIVING IN SIN


  • WILLFULL DENIAL


  • FAILURE TO OVERCOME DECEPTION


  • PRESUMPTUOUS FAITH


  • FAILURE TO PERSEVERE

Let’s consider each in turn.

                                                                              
CONTINUAL LIVING IN SIN

If believers continue to sin with impunity—their consciences progressively hardened despite the prompting and conviction of Holy Spirit—they might reach a point of ‘no return’ when their chances of getting to heaven may be seriously jeopardised.

“I wish to remind you, as you all know, that God, when once he had brought the people out from Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5). For an amplification of this reference in Jude, go to 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 below.  **

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 (Hebrews 10:26-27).

And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud” (2 Peter 2:20-22).

More on what happens when believers sin repetitively: http://bit.ly/1hhs75c

WILLFULL DENIAL

If believers willfully deny God—whether it out of rebellion or in the face of persecution—their eternal destiny may also be at stake.

If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
(2 Timothy 2:12).

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:9-13). This means that believers have to remain faithful and strong amid persecution. Only overcomers get the crown.

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned.

(Hebrews 6: 4-8).

FAILURE TO OVERCOME DECEPTION

When believers are not discerning and vigilant and fall prey to deception, then their place in heaven may no longer be assured.

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:12-13 *).

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1*).

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:16*). This implies that if we embrace false doctrine, we will not be saved.

Notice from these preceding three references * on deception, we can infer that both deceivers and deceived—perpetrators and victims—bring destruction upon themselves.

Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:10b-13). Here we note that believers have to preserve themselves unscathed from deception in order that they might be saved.

PRESUMPTUOUS FAITH

Some might pat themselves on the back and say, “Well, we have been serving God for many years, and have been mightily used by God to minister in signs and wonders. Since God has been using us as channels to bless others, He definitely must be pleased with us, right?” This may be true. But it may not necessarily be so.

To assume that performance can replace a personal relationship with God is being presumptuous. Here’s why:

Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7: 20-23).

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’(Luke 18: 11-12).

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realise that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Revelation 3:15-17).

Like the Pharisee and the church at Laodicea in Revelation, we might think we are spiritually rich. But, in fact, we are just the opposite—spiritually poor.

We are most blessed, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, when we recognise we are spiritually poor (Matthew 5: 3) and hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6).

Here are two examples of presumptions with serious consequences for those who embrace it: 

  • To think that our future sins have been forgiven at conversion is to come under deception. http://bit.ly/1dXOjBB


  • Similarly, we are also deceiving ourselves when we think can afford to get rid of sin consciousness in our lives. http://bit.ly/1ghthQF


FAILURE TO PERSEVERE

Hebrews chapter 10 reinforces the fact that persevering faith is needed to remain saved:

But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
(Hebrews 10:38-39).

Self-discipline to finish the race:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12).

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7).

But how many have the faith to persevere?  Jesus laments in Luke 18:8b: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Don't shoot ourselves in the foot

If someone tells you it is written in scriptures that nothing can separate us from the love of God, you ought to point out that it is also written in the Word that we, on our part, can choose to deny God or continue living in sin, thereby nullifying God’s love for us.

While it is true we cannot be separated from God’s love because of His great mercy, we can choose to shoot ourselves in the foot by denying God or continually living in sin. Through these senseless volitional acts, we are nullifying God’s love towards us and jeopardising our eternal security.

Similarly, when we are presumptuous in our walk with God, fall prey to deception or fail to persevere, we cannot be fully assured that our eternal destiny will be secure.

This post might seem harsh to some. However, I make no apology for these unpalatable truths. If one chooses instead to listen to "feel good" teachers who feed you with soothing, ear-tickling messages, one is free to do so. Everyone has the choice of free will. There is no coercion.

Frankly, would you prefer Comforting Lies or Bitter Truth? http://bit.ly/Jk0DAA

This blog, Porridge for the Soul, strives to present to you the whole counsel of God. Not just what people would normally like to hear but the whole truth. Most of the references alluded to here will not be brought up by those who overemphasise grace.

There are two sides to God’s character: He is loving and merciful as well as holy and just. If we are forced to make a difficult choice between these two sides of God’s character, it is better to err on the side of His holiness rather than on His mercy. We have everything to lose if we think He is an indulgent God like Santa Claus and, finally, it turns out He is not.

                                                                       

Those who violate God’s word in one or more of the five areas mentioned above are not merely shooting themselves in the foot. When we consider the fact that their eternal destiny might be at stake, their predicament is much worse than putting a bullet to the head.


                                                                        
RELATED POSTS

BACK FROM HEAVEN AND HELL
Two men share about their supernatural experiences in heaven and hell.
http://bit.ly/1iJcC9w

REPETITIVE SINNING
What fate awaits those who sin repeatedly after they have believed?
OVERCOMING DECEPTION 
Understanding the wiles of satan is the first step towards winning the battle against deception. For we must not be ignorant of satan’s devices.

HANG IN THERE, DON'T GIVE UP
Sometimes, we don’t like to admit that trials and tests are an integral part of the Christian experience as much as blessings and victories. However, the process of growing into maturity involves learning to persevere through our trials and doubts, and arriving at a place of unshakeable faith.

WHAT TRULY MATTERS IN THE END
What do you think is the true measure of a believer? Does it rest solely on how much anointing or power he or she has? Or how many spectacular feats he or she can perform?

DANGER OF PERFORMANCE CULTURE
In our eagerness to perform, have we lost out in that which is most essential?

FAITH versus PRESUMPTION


Footnotes: **

SAVED BUT LATER DESTROYED

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did —and were killed by the destroying angel.

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

Friday, 18 April 2014

IT IS FINISHED

Just before dying, Christ cried out, “It is finished.” 
Don’t we feel inspired by his zeal and tenacity in fulfilling the task God the Father entrusted him?
What is the significance of Christ’s finished work in the life of believers?


                                                                                      

‘It is finished’ reminds us of the completion of a specific mission. Christ accomplished the work that the Father had set for Him. Christ was so focused and passionate about doing the will of the Father that food was low in his priority list: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34).

Don’t we feel inspired by his zeal and tenacity in fulfilling the task God the Father entrusted him? 

On Good Friday, as we reflect on what Christ accomplished for us, several pertinent questions pop up:

Do we know God’s will for our life? http://bit.ly/1fWBAia

Do we have a vision for our life? http://bit.ly/1aAGtZG

Do our lives manifest passion in doing God’s will? http://bit.ly/1iLeGuV

Christ not only began well. He completed the task and became an example for us (Hebrews 12:1-2).


                                                                     
Do we know how to finish well? http://bit.ly/1deSgkU

Christ finished His work on earth and we can now enjoy the fruits of His labour.

What does it mean to rest in Christ’s finished work? http://bit.ly/QsIWlu

Is it true that all we need to do is to rest in Christ’s finished work and not lift a finger?

Christ defeated sin at the cross (Romans 6:18, 8:2).

Does sin still reign in our lives? Or are we progressively getting a grip of it in our lives? http://bit.ly/1awc42C

Are we able to overcome temptation? http://bit.ly/1ccL04H

Are we able to rein in our flesh? Do we have self-control? http://bit.ly/1mj18JA

Christ defeated death. He is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

Are we prepared in case we are called home prematurely? Do we fear death? http://bit.ly/1iiRhQT

Christ defeated Satan. He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” (Colossians 2:15).

But knowing this in the head isn’t enough. Do we know how to enforce the victory that Christ has gained for us? http://bit.ly/1gJ7nmW


                                                                                  
Christ’s work on earth is over. It is finished.
The same cannot be said of us who are His believers.
We have to do what He has called us to do while it is still day. 

RELATED POSTS

WHAT CHRIST ACCOMPLISHED FOR US
Christ not only forgave our sins and healed our diseases by dying at the cross. Through His resurrection, He defeated death, sin and the devil.

SEEKING GOD'S WILL
http://bit.ly/1fWBAia

THE POWER OF VISION
http://bit.ly/1aAGtZG

FINISHING WELL

ENTERING HIS REST

A WALK IN THE PARK

THE INNER BATTLE

FIVE KEYS TO OVERCOME SEXUAL TEMPTATION

TAMING THE BEAST

SETTING OUR HOUSE IN ORDER

SWORD DRAWN, READY FOR BATTLE
http://bit.ly/1gJ7nmW

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

WHY IT’S DIFFICULT TO CHANGE

The dilemma of personal transformation. Can a leopard change its spots?


                                                                     
I have always been fascinated by this fact: Why do some believers make remarkable strides in their spiritual walk within a short period while others remain stuck in the rut despite having clocked many years in the faith?

Here we are referring to in-depth and lasting change from withininvolving our character, affections and will—which, by all accounts, is difficult and will take time.

“Can an Ethiopian change the colour of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? 
Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil” (Jeremiah 13:23).

We are not alluding to the type of change akin to that of a chameleon—where the believer “adapts himself” to changes in the environment. For a believer can be Goody Two-shoes on Sundays in church and be no different from anyone in the world on weekdays.


                                                                    
Let's spend some time considering the process of change. God is the author of personal growth and transformation. But what about our role?

Once a believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1: 13) through faith in the finished work of Christ, change begins. The Spirit convicts the believer of his /her sins and shortcomings. Gradually, the fruit of the Spirit becomes manifest (Galatians 5: 22-23).

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

                                                       DIVINE HEART SURGERY    




                                                                                                                                          
However, personal responsibility also plays a crucial role in effecting change for the better.

Sometimes we think that being transformed by the Spirit means that our mind is either passive or plays only a minor role. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Thoughts determine our character, destiny and worldview. That’s why it’s important to renew our minds with the unchanging Word of God. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2). For more: http://bit.ly/18YsUbL

Perhaps nothing sums it up better than Paul’s reminder to us:
Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2: 12-13). For more: http://bit.ly/1i4ec6W

No discussion on the issue of personal transformation is complete without taking into account of the fact that we are sinners. The Bible doesn’t mince words when it exposes our true nature. "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”(Jeremiah 17:9). Though sin has lost its stranglehold over us, none can claim that they are free from sin after conversion (Ephesians 2:1-3, 1 John 1:8).



The Christian walk is a moment-by-moment experience whereby we are given the choice whether to serve the spirit or flesh—as opposed to a ‘once and for all experience of victory. For more: http://bit.ly/1awc42C

As long as we choose to walk by the spirit, die to self, lay our selfish desires at the foot of the cross, we will win the battle against the flesh: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5).

By choosing to ‘walk by the Spirit’, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). What are some of the practical steps involved? Draw near to God; be exposed to people and situations where God is glorified; pray in the Spirit; listen to uplifting messages; worship God; fellowship with other believers.

Sometimes God uses adverse circumstances to mould our character. Some “hard nuts” only crack open when confronted with terminal illness, such as cancer, and the prospect of dying prematurely. The process of growing into maturity is long and arduous. It involves learning to persevere through our trials and doubts and arriving at a place of unshakeable faith (James 1:2-4, Hebrews12:11).

At other times, God uses good company and role models to change us—provided we are humble.

When Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos preaching boldly in the synagogue, they “took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately”. Apollos was already an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well. But he was open to correction. As a result of his humility, he blessed many believers through his teaching. He also refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate, proving that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 18).





Indeed, there is much truth in this statement by author and speaker, Charlie Jones: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

The apostle Paul, while spending the last lap of his life in prison, reminded Timothy to fetch his books and parchments (2 Timothy 4: 13).

Not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit, the people whom we mix around with and the books we readincluding the Biblecan become powerful tools in personal transformation.



                                                                       

Though it's difficult for us to change, it is not impossible.
  • God can effect in-depth and lasting change in us—from inside out.
  • Through the Word (Romans 12:1-2) and Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  • For the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9).
  • Even so, we need to be co-workers with God. We need to renew our minds with the Word and obey Him.
  • God may use trials and other people to change us so that we become mature and complete.
                                                                               

RELATED POSTS


RENEWING THE MIND
Sometimes we think that being led by the Spirit means our mind is either passive or plays only a minor role. Nothing could be further from the truth.

HEALING THE INNER MAN
How we can be set free from bondage, emotional wounds and baggage to live a victorious Christian life—one filled with meaning, purpose and power.

MOTHER OF ALL BATTLES
Some say we no longer need to struggle against sin on account of the fact we are made completely new at the point of conversion: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”

WALK IN THE PARK
Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park. They say everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you at the cross. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism.

WORD OR SPIRIT
The battle that has been raging for centuries: Should the believer emphasise the Word or Holy Spirit more?

BOOK LOVER, BOOK GIVER
One man passionately believes in giving away books to impact lives.