Monday, 14 July 2014

JUST AROUND THE CORNER

Change is the only constant in life. Good or bad times may just be around the corner. What should our attitude be?


When we are tempted to worry and fret, good times may just be around the corner. Deliverance may be so close at hand. What a pity to give up hope when we could have just waited a little longer.

Have we learnt the benefits of waiting? http://bit.ly/ICfkhS

                                                                           


When we are tempted to fret and worry, the psalmist exhorts us to be still before God and wait for the fulfillment of His promises to us (Psalm 37: 7-9). Have we learnt how to overcome worryhttp://bit.ly/1dM42oI

Conversely, when everything seems to be going fine, we might become self-sufficient and complacent. We need to be reminded that the scenario might suddenly change. Misfortune may just be around the corner.

Are we aware of the dangers of complacencyhttp://bit.ly/MnmHer


Whatever our lot in life, Psalm 84 helps us to have the correct attitude and perspective:


  • Help us Lord to stay focused on You and remain humble (Psalm 84:10).



  • May we yearn to dwell in God’s presence whatever our circumstance in life (Psalm 84:2, 10).  *   



  • May we always find our strength, comfort and succour in You (Psalm 84:5). 



  • May we realise that You are a good God who will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightlyeven though the prevailing circumstances may tell us otherwise (Psalm 84:11)


As such, we will always praise and trust You as we are blessed (Psalm 84:4, 12).


Footnotes:
*   Those who love to dwell in God’s presence may find themselves passing through barren places (Valley of Weeping). But they must view adversity as an opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness and grow spiritually strong.

Valley of Baka = Valley of Weeping


                                                                                     

RELATED POSTS

IS WAITING WORTH IT?
What are the benefits of waiting?


PURPOSE IN PAIN

Why does God allow pain?
http://bit.ly/KEHda3

 

FROM COMFORT TO COMPLACENCY
What are the dangers of complacency?

 

STABILITY AMID UNCERTAINTY
When circumstances are precarious, when times are turbulent, we can look to God. He is our strength. He makes us as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.


DWELLING IN HIS PRESENCE
King David had one consuming desire. He wanted to continually dwell in God’s presence and gaze upon God’s beauty.



PSALM 84: Our greatest joy is to be found when we dwell in God’s presence

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the
Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.
Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
    listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;

    look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.
12 Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.



Friday, 11 July 2014

CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH

Why is preserving sound doctrine so important?

Sometimes we think that maturity means we must always be tolerant—even to the extent of condoning false teaching.

But that is not the stance adopted by apostles Paul, Peter and John. They made sure they took a strong stand against destructive heresies.

The following three instances in the New Testament underscore the need to stand up for the truth:
  • Those who pervert grace incurred the censure of Jude
  • Paul’s warning about vicious wolves (false teachers) in his farewell message to the church elders at Ephesus
  • Paul’s charge to young Timothy to preserve sound doctrine amid “feel good” teaching that tickles itching ears

Jude found it necessary to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For ungodly people have wormed their way among believers and perverted the grace of our God into a license for immorality (Jude 1: 3-4).

Before he left the church elders at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem, Paul shared with them a poignant farewell message:
“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders.  I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following” (Acts 20: 28-30).

Paul’s last words to Timothy have a strikingly similar tone. The former, who was then holed up in a damp and chilly dungeon, charged the young disciple to preach sound doctrine and defend the truth amid false teaching.
“I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths" (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

Why the great need to preserve sound doctrine?

Sometimes we think that maturity means we must always be tolerant—even to the extent of condoning false teaching.

But that is not the stance adopted by apostles Paul, Peter and John. They made sure they took a strong stand against destructive heresies (2 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1).

Love alone without truth is compromise. http://bit.ly/1f0RuXH

"The early Christians condemned false doctrine in a way that sounds almost unchristian today." - Vance Havner

Truth is not just about morality—integrity in thought, word and action. The oft neglected aspect of truth is doctrine, to which we must hold fast.

                                                                       
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

"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.    http://bit.ly/1qGIyye

Fighting the good fight of faith is not just about keeping our personal faith and finishing the race. http://bit.ly/1deSgkU

It is also about contending for the faith, keeping believers safe from enticing words of man’s wisdom that delude many and send them to destruction. http://bit.ly/1g2CpED


As such, it is imperative for leaders to confront false teaching during these perilous end times. If they can identify with Paul the seriousness of the task they have been entrusted withto feed the flock with solid teaching from the whole Word of God (Acts 20:27) as well as to correct and rebuke heresy (2 Timothy 4:2)then people will not be so easily led astray from the faith.

To recap, leaders need to uphold sound doctrine, identify heresy and rebuke it. They have to make sure that the truth is well communicated to the flock.


RELATED POSTS

EIGHT WAYS TO FIGHT FALSE TEACHING
How to develop discernment and escape the clutches of destructive heresies

GRACE AND HYPER-GRACE IN A NUTSHELL
The basics about grace and hyper-grace

CULTIVATING A SHEPHERD’S HEART

DID JESUS SET ASIDE HIS DIVINITY?
A prominent leader, Bill Johnson, teaches that Jesus operated only as a man and not God during His earthly ministry. But did Jesus set aside His divinity when He came down to earth?

HOW TO QUICKLY ACCESS PORRIDGE
For a quick overview: http://bit.ly/1ijiXHp
To access similar articles, type 'Porridge' in the search box of http://christianitymalaysia.com/wp/

or type ‘Lim Poh Ann’ in the search box of http://www.asianbeacon.org/

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

GRACE AND HYPER-GRACE IN A NUTSHELL

The basics about grace and hyper-grace.

As Christians, we are saved by God’s grace, not by our good works, and stay on in this journey of faith because of His grace.

Like the penitent tax collector, we constantly need God’s grace and mercy (Luke 18:9-14). *

In fact, we need lots of His grace and mercy.

The poet Robert Frost penned that “all you really want in the end is mercy.” I think he was spot on there with this one-liner.

As we look at our own lives, weigh our brownie points against our sin, we will definitely conclude that a fair judgment on God’s part at the end of our lives here on earth would be this—‘guilty’.

For we have all sinned and fall short of God’s standards. If not for God’s mercy, where will we be?

Grace is about getting what we don't deserve; mercy is about not getting what we deserve. 


                                                                              
Yes, there is nothing wrong with a teaching that emphasises grace provided …

  • it (grace) leads to transformed lives.


  • it (grace) is not misused as a licence for sinning.


  • personal responsibility is being emphasised to the same degree as grace.


Most of us are familiar with the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11). The crowd gathered around her and wanted to stone her.

But Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

Finally, when the crowd dispersed, Jesus asked 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.”

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 emphasise God’s love and mercy towards sinners. The need for sinners to bear fruits that befit repentance—personal responsibility—is often not emphasised to the same degree.

                                                                                   

Like all good things, grace can be abused.

Human nature is such that we want to emphasise what God's grace can do for us and downplay what we need to do on our part.

We all love a God whose image fits our expectation of a benevolent being. We prefer preachers who portray God as loving and forgiving, patient with our sins and deficienciesrather than those who dwell on judgment.    

The respected theologian A. W. Tozer says: "Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist on trying to modify Him and bring Him nearer to our own image.”

As long as our perception of God is coloured by personal preferences, our concept of grace will be distorted.  http://bit.ly/1bJcfJo

Varying emphasis on the role of grace in the lives of believers has caused Christians from different camps to hold divergent views on the issue of grace.

The camp that overemphasises gracehyper-gracestates (in blue) that:

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.

God has already forgiven all the future sins of believers and, as such, we should put the ‘sin issue’ behind us and banish ‘sin consciousness’ from our lives. So we no longer need to confess our sins. When God looks at us, all He is going to see is Christ’s blood, not our sins whether it is past, present or future. We merely rest in the "imputed righteousness of Christ".

More: http://www.gotquestions.org/hyper-grace.html


While all believers need God’s grace, some believe that hyper-grace can be dangerous. 


Satan rejoices when believers rest in a false sense of security that all is well, that all their sins have been dealt with once and for all at the point of conversionthat they can therefore afford to banish sin consciousness in their lives. 

                                                                   
This condition reminds me of the frog which finds great delight sitting in a basin of warm water. Finally, when water temperature reaches boiling point, it is too late to jump out of the water.

"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.

The following are some posts that shed light on grace and hyper-grace using references from the whole Bible.

RELATED POSTS

THE FIVE FACES OF GRACE 
Grace is much more than God’s unmerited favour towards sinners. There is grace that sustains, grace that empowers and more …


FIVE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT GRACE  


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


WHAT IF A BELIEVER SINS REPEATEDLY? 


ONCE SAVED, FOREVER SAVED?


IS REPENTANCE MERELY CHANGING ONE’S MIND?


ARE OUR FUTURE SINS FORGIVEN AT CONVERSION?


DOES GRACE MAKE THE LAW OBSOLETE?


SHOULD WE GET RID OF SIN CONSCIOUSNESS?


ARE GOOD WORKS UNNECESSARY WHEN WE EMBRACE GOD’S GRACE? http://bit.ly/GXjZKb

NO NEED TO CONFESS SIN?

HOW TO QUICKLY ACCESS PORRIDGE

                                                                          


For a quick overview: http://bit.ly/1ijiXHp

To access similar articles, type 'Porridge' in the search box of http://christianitymalaysia.com/wp/

or type ‘Lim Poh Ann’ in the search box of http://www.asianbeacon.org/




*    FOOTNOTES:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Thursday, 3 July 2014

THE GREAT FALLING AWAY

Spiritual decline is characteristic of the end times we are now living in. Will believers be affected by this turning away from the faith?

Wind direction changes. Seasons come and go. The only constant in life is change. Likewise, it may not be easy for believers to remain steadfast till the end in their spiritual journey.


The believers’ spiritual status is not static. Though we have been enlightened by the truth and transformed by the Holy Spirit, there is no iron-clad guarantee we won’t change. http://bit.ly/1deSgkU

That’s because we are sinful by nature. And, because we have a will, we can choose to remain in God’s favour or reject Him.

How else can we account for the likes of Peter, Judas or Demas?

We are sinful by nature. While there is no sin that God’s grace and mercy cannot avail, we must not swing to the other extreme and underestimate the reality of our inner nature. http://bit.ly/1awc42C

"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9).

                                                                               

In the Parable of the Sower, the seed which fell among thorns represents those who receive God’s message well at first but later get choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures. The result is that they fail to mature and bear fruit, unlike the seed which fell on good soil (Luke 8:14-15).

Various push and pull factors can cause even genuine believers to fall away and deny Christ—whose blood was shed for our sins.

Push factors include persecution, the use of duress, blackmail and threats to one’s family, property, security or survival. One example is forced denial through gunpoint.

Pull factors include the lust for power, riches and fleshly pleasures. Initially this ‘pull category’ merely causes believers to backslide. As the spiritual decline worsens, the heart may become hardened—and satan has a veritable foothold in their lives. Evil indulgences and pursuit may then lead to a ‘point of no return’—where even genuine believers may deny God.

If we believers think we are strong, we would do well to heed this warning: So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Even those who are supposed to be examples to the flock have fallen. Christian leaders can backslide and deny Christ. And great is the fall when big names tumble from the top. http://bit.ly/MT1BW7

In fact, believers should not be surprised at all by the great falling away before Jesus returns. Let’s examine two passages—one with Jesus (Matthew 24) speaking and the other with apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 2speaking.


                                                                     
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24: 9-13).

Lawlessness will grow from bad to worse. And during the Great Tribulation when the antichrist is revealed, lawlessness will be at its peak:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
(2 Thessalonians 2: 3-4)

"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. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie."
(2 Thessalonians 2: 9-11)

Highlighting an end time scenario where many believers fall away on account of persecution or deception is highly disturbing. But this is the realistic, biblical view. 

Of course, it would not be fair if I fail to allude to the fact that God who began the good work in us will bring it to completion one day (Philippians 1:6).

However, this does not discount the fact that we too need to play our part. Indeed, we need to keep ourselves on our toes, spiritually speaking.

  • Work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).


  • Build ourselves up in our most holy faith (Jude 1:20).


  • Be all the more diligent to confirm our calling and election (2 Peter 1:10).


  • Bear fruits that befit repentance (Luke 3:8).


  • Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (2 Peter 3:14).

For narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:14).

So watch and pray that we will have the strength to endure these difficult and tumultuous 
end times:

Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

(Luke 21:34-36)


RELATED POSTS

FINISHING WELL
What does it take to be a winner in the most important race of all?


HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?
To live soberly and purposefully during these perilous end times, we need to arm ourselves with wisdom and discernment.

 

HANG IN THERE, DON'T GIVE UP

The process of growing into maturity involves learning to persevere through our trials and arriving at a place of unshakeable faith.

http://bit.ly/1imb1GN



WHY LEADERS FALL
If we are unaware of our enemy, how can we fight and defend ourselves? If we are unclear about our areas of weakness, how can we be victorious?


MOTHER OF ALL BATTLES
A clear understanding of the ongoing battle between the “old man” and “new man” is essential before we can walk in victory.


SAINT OR SINNER?
Is the believer essentially a saint or sinner? If he is a ‘saint’, why is he still struggling with sin?
http://bit.ly/1lTj26a


CAN A GENUINE CHRISTIAN COMMIT APOSTASY?
Solid meat. Hard sayings. Many will rationalise that Hebrews 6: :4-8 does not refer to believers; they were unregenerate in the first place. Is it so?


APOSTASY IN THE CHURCH
How it is accelerating and how it relates to the return of Jesus.



HOW TO QUICKLY ACCESS PORRIDGE