Thursday, 14 August 2014

THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE

Is embracing the pleasures of life incompatible with living a purposeful life? How can we be grateful to God for the blessings He has given us to enjoy—pleasures included—without going astray?

Obedience to God results in blessings, both tangible and intangible. These blessings enable the righteous to enjoy a certain measure of comfort.

  • “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).


  • “Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17).


  • “Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life” (Proverbs 22:4).


The ability to enjoy what God has blessed us is something positive. God is certainly not a celestial killjoy.

  • “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).


  • All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6: 12).


  • “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:15).


Even so, a lifestyle geared exclusively to the pursuit of pleasure cannot be the norm for a believer who desires to please and honour God (Colossians 3:17).

We have only so many hours in a day. If pleasurable pursuits take up the chunk of our waking hours, we are left with the crumbs for our devotional and family life and serving others. http://bit.ly/1k4vhxw

The apostle Paul warned that evil will abound during these perilous end times. Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure more than God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

                                                                       
Try to picture this state of complacency which God denounces:

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
    and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
You lie on beds adorned with ivory
    and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
    and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
    and improvise on musical instruments.
 You drink wine by the bowlful
    and use the finest lotions,
    but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
(Amos 6:1, 4-6).

In modern-day terms, this scenario might mean lounging in our living room, clutching a remote-control, ensconced on a sofa, engrossed in hi-tech entertainment oblivious to the needs of our brothers or family members.

While setting aside time for relaxation is not wrong—in fact, it’s essential for managing stress—we must not let the enticing pleasures of this world distract us from lofty eternal goals.

We are exhorted to live circumspectly, not fritter away our time on the momentary pleasures of this perishing world. Time lost cannot be regained.

  •  “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).


  • “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).


  • “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).


The trouble with life’s pleasures is the fact they are subject to the ‘law of diminishing returns’. Over time, the “dose” of pleasurable activity has to be progressively increased to elicit the same desired effect.

In a sense, pleasure can be likened to the drug morphine which has calming and soothing effects. Over time this drug has the propensity to develop tolerance—its dose has to be progressively increased to get the same effect.

How can we be grateful to God for the blessings He has given us to enjoy—pleasures included—without going astray?

Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves so that we can think through our lifestyle:

  • Is pleasure a means to an end or an end in itself?


  • Have we allowed pleasure to be the most important factor to dictate how we should live our lives?


  • Have we forgotten to be grateful to the Giver of all good things?


  • Can we truly give thanks to God for a particular pleasurable activity?


  • Have we forgotten the poor and underprivileged?


  • How much of our time and money is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure?


  • Are we able to say ‘NO’ to pleasure when the situation demands it? Or are we slaves to our hobbies and pleasurable leisure activities?


  • Do these activities draw us closer to God and people? Or do they drive us away from God and makes us see people as objects of our selfish desires?


  • Does it edify our inner man? Is it honorable, pure, lovely and excellent? (Philippians 4:8).


  • Have we become desensitised to what is immoral and despicable? Just because the media promotes it, do we just lap it up, as if seized by herd mentality?  http://bit.ly/Ox5FvH


  • Are clear in our minds concerning our goals and purposes in life? If not, have we sought God to show us what He has called us to do? http://bit.ly/1fWBAia





  • Have we flitted from one pleasurable activity to another (for example, one holiday after another or one movie after another) and, having done so, we still felt bored, empty, dissatisfied and unfulfilled? 


The last question sends out a warning bell that we have not quite sorted out in our minds God’s calling for our life.

Though we have been called to freedom, we should not abuse our freedom by indulging our flesh (Galatians 5:13). We should not swing from one extreme to another—from stoicism to hedonism and vice versa. Man-made rules and rituals appear wise as they promote self-abasement but they cannot restrain sensual indulgence (Colossians 2: 23).

A practical question remains. Knowing what is the right path is one thing, having the strength to obey is another. The way to achieve victory over the flesh is to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16). And if we go astray, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and redirects us along the right path. http://bit.ly/1awc42C


RELATED POSTS

THE ALLURE OF GREY
If we’re not careful, we might just be sucked into a maelstrom that titillates our senses: Twilight, Sex and the City, Harry Potter and now Fifty Shades of Grey.

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SUBTLE ENTANGLEMENTS
We have heard of dolphins or turtles getting entangled in fishermen’s nets. As these poor creatures can no longer roam in search for food, some may eventually die.
Somewhere along the way believers too get entangled in various pursuits which either impede progress or lead them off the intended spiritual path.

SINGLE-MINDEDNESS
Being so focused and determined that we have one objective in mind. Once Jesus and Paul knew for certain what God wanted them to do, nothing on earth could make them change their minds.

SEEKING GOD’S WILL
When we come to a fork or crossroad in life, we know we need guidance.
How can we know God’s will for our lives?

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. What is meant by ‘walking by the Spirit’?
 http://bit.ly/1awc42C




HOW TO QUICKLY ACCESS PORRIDGE

                                                                           

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

To access similar articles in Christiantymalaysia.com: http://christianitymalaysia.com/wp/?s=porridge

To access similar articles in Asian Beacon magazine:




Sunday, 10 August 2014

EIGHT REASONS WHY WE SHOULD GIVE


“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes we think success is about accumulating stuff. Or the good life is about being chauffeured around in a limousine and living in a mansion with servants at our beck and call.

Richard Carswell, a motivational speaker, has met many rich and poor people in the course of his travels to over 100 countries worldwide. Through it all, he concludes: Only those who make a unique and selfless contribution in life experience great joy and satisfaction.

True fulfillment comes when we give ourselves to others—and live for a cause that’s bigger than our dreams and desires.

                                                                    
Here are eight reasons to encourage us to make giving a lifestyle:

Sign of maturity

As babies, we cry out for attention when we are hungry or wet. But when we grow up into adults or parents, we progressively shift from ‘getting’ to ‘giving’ mode.

The late Sir John Templeton, a billionaire investor, devoted millions toward increasing our knowledge of love through scientific research and education. Agape, he says, is “love that gives you joy and helps you grow by giving love. You don’t grow much by getting love; most growth in life is by giving love.”

Therapeutic

Many have discovered that giving—not necessarily money—can be very fulfilling. For example, childless couples and single ladies have adopted children in order to love and nurture them.

A depressed person can experience great joy while serving the less fortunate. Even simple acts of love, like cooking a meal for others, can uplift the spirit. Self-pity takes a back-seat when the patient realises how blessed he is compared to others.

Reflects God’s heart

The Gospel is about God who loved us so much that He died on the cross for our sins. To achieve his mission, He became man, relinquishing his divine rights and privileges (Philippians 2:7).

What made Jesus choose the way of the cross? He took the path of self-denial because of the joy that was set before him (Hebrews12:2). He envisioned the day when many will enjoy restored relationships with God through his death (Isaiah 53:11).

As believers, is self-denial a part of our life?

Reflects obedience

When we give, we are responding to God’s command: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in fullpressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back" (Luke 6:38).

Due to different upbringing, temperament or circumstances, some may find giving more difficult than others. People may be willing to contribute their time and talents. But when it comes to money, some may have second thoughts. The wallet is often the last frontier of resistance.

But the God who loves us first makes things easier (1 John 4:10). Many believers can testify to God’s blessing and provision. His faithfulness tugs at our heartstrings and makes us want to obey Him.

Expression of faith

Faith has to be down-to-earth. It’s no use telling those without food and clothing, “God bless you, stay warm and eat well” without giving them these necessities. Faith without deeds is dead (James 2:15-17). We cannot love without giving.

Since giving honours God, He will ensure we are blessed for having faith in His promises. In fact, we are called to put God to the test—to see whether He will release showers of blessings from heaven (Malachi 3:10).

We are also told to honour God with the firstfruits of all our crops so that He will bless us abundantly (Proverbs 3:9-10). Not all of us are farmers so firstfruits may mean our first salary or first profit from our business.

Reflects good stewardship

How we give of ourselves to others depends on our gifts and talents. After exhorting believers to be sober and prayerful, Peter touched on the practical outworking of our faithserving others, preaching and hospitality (1 Peter 4: 7-11).

Believers simply cannot say we have nothing to give for God has imparted something unique to each person. For example, those without the gift of preaching may excel in hospitality.

                                                                      
Some may be called to a ministry devoted to helping others—serving the disabled, prisoners, orphans, old folks, single parents or foreign workers. We may not be called into such specific caring ministries. Nevertheless, we need to be loving and kind.

Other believers may have entrepreneurial flair. These are the captains of industry. Bold, creative and decisive, these movers and shakers can set up deals through their connections with key people in business and politics.

Church ministries can be supported by tithing and special offerings. However, the mission of reaching cities and nations needs the resources from entrepreneurs.

Social transformation will need plenty of financial resources if it is to impact the nation in a big way. Wealthy businessmen can play an important role by building affordable housing, schools, colleges, orphanages and retirement homes.

Some entrepreneurs have the knack of creating jobs for the marginalised. They don’t just hand out fish but empower the poor by teaching them how to fish. Some even help them start small businesses by offering loans (micro-financing).

Helping others, helping ourselves

When we help others, we are also helping ourselves. Those in sales can readily identify with Zig Ziglar’s saying: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). Giving our time or money to the needy might seem wasteful, akin to throwing bread upon the waters, but we will be rewarded—though it may not be immediate. The generous man will be blessed because people naturally gravitate towards those who are willing to be spent for others.

Leaving a legacy

The man in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21) thought that hoarding was the best way to ensure a secure future. After a bumper harvest, he broke down his barns and built bigger barns to store grain. But he did not reckon that his life would suddenly come to an end.

Jesus called him a fool because he was covetous. He failed to grasp the fact that life is transient and that wealth is useless on judgment day (Proverbs 11:4).

We cannot bring our wealth with us when we pass away. But we can give it away to advance kingdom causes or help the poor, thus laying up treasures for ourselves in eternity. As Jim Elliot says, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

The above article was first published in Asian Beacon magazine, Aug 2014, issue 46.4



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http://bit.ly/1aBOTPK

Saturday, 9 August 2014

ONCE SAVED, REST EASY?

Recently Dr Brown asked, “Can anyone give me one verse that explicitly states that once you receive Jesus, even if you live the rest of your life in complete rebellion and categorically reject Jesus as Lord, you are still saved?”    
*       
Well, Dr Brown, there are two references that seemingly shed light on the fact that our salvation is assured once we accept Christ no matter what happens. One is found in Romans chapter 8 and the other is in Ephesians chapter 1.

The apostle Paul tells us that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God once we have been saved:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

He reiterates that 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).

Based on the above two references, it would seem that believers can rest in the assurance that, no matter what happens, they will be guaranteed a place in heaven come end of their lives.

I have been thoroughly scouring the Bible and the Internet for answers to this complex issue of eternal securityhaving done it over many years as a long-standing believer and an ex-editor of a Christian publication.

We can argue till we are blue in the face, until the cows come home, and be no better in our understanding. But this I truly believe: If you examine the whole Bible and all the various references it affords on this bone of contention, OSAS, we will surely come to a position of enlightenment.

I have come to my own conclusion after examining both sides of the issue that there is no such thing as ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED (OSAS).

If you believe in OSAS and you find out in the hereafter that you are mistaken, you may be lost forever and live with eternal regret.

But if you adopt the stance that OSAS is a lie, that there is no eternal securityand you are proven wrong when you dieyou might not need to suffer eternal consequences. That, of course, depends on the fact whether you have been vigilant, lived circumspectly and worked out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Here are some postsplease see belowRELATED POSTSwhich shed light on this thorny issue, which we cannot afford to ignore on the grounds that we are treading on controversy. Why? Because it affects our eternal destiny.

This issue of OSAS is not to be treated lightly. We should not say to ourselves, “Never mind; let us not dwell on controversy.” Because each believer has to grapple with this issue individually, not depend on ‘safe and secure’ theology from ‘feel good’ teachers.

When we are deceived, we cannot blame it on these so-called teachers. These are the ones who dispense ear-tickling messages that will lead many down the slippery slope of eternal damnation. These are the ones who deceive others after having being deceived.

Have you ever thought about the ratio of the wise and foolish in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins? * *      

Does it ever occur to us that 50% will not make it because they have been too easy on themselves in their faith walk? Perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by ‘feel good’ teaching? Why such a high ratio of failures?


Satan rejoices when believers rest in a false sense of security that all is going to be wellthat once they are saved, nothing can possibly stop them from going to heaven (OSAS).


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.

                                                                      
                                                      http://bit.ly/1qGIyye 

Jesus says few will finally make it through the narrow way:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

If we think it only refers to pre-believers, that it is going to be easy for believers, then we need to ponder over apostle Peter’s warning:

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

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:17-18).

Do Peter’s warnings paint a picture that the believer’s faith walk is going to be easy? Once saved, rest easy?

Don't let yourself be lulled into a false sense of eternal security—because ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED is a dangerous lie. http://bit.ly/1mIQKvq

“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).


                                                     http://bit.ly/SFapBp                                                                      

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FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY

ETERNAL OR CONDITIONAL SECURITY?
One of the best links to the perplexing issue of once saved, always saved (OSAS).

Footnotes:


* *     The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.  But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming;[a] go out to meet him!’  Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”