Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Test of Fatherhood

God doesn’t use the word Father lightly. Jesus told us to consider no one father but our heavenly Father.
Matthew 23:9
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
Jesus even once implied that God was such a good Father that compared to Him, he considered our parents evil.
Matthew 7:11
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Yet God considers Abraham to be our father. In Romans 4:16, Paul calls Abraham the father of us all. In light of God viewing fatherhood as sacred, God also considered Abraham qualified enough to take on the title of father. What made Abraham stand out from everyone else that he could be known as everyone's father through faith, by God even?

According to human wisdom, Abraham could have been seen as a terrible father because he was willing to kill Isaac, the very son he should have lived to protect.

But according to Genesis 22:15-18 God actually rewarded Abraham the right to become the father of nation by his willingness to not spare Isaac.
Genesis 22:15-18
And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
This isn’t an accident because this mirrors what our heavenly Father, the best Father of the universe did. He was willing to sacrifice his one and only son Jesus (John 3:16) so that we could become his children. In turn, God went from being the father of one son, to a father of many sons. God actually expands his fatherhood in the same way that Abraham did by doing something seemingly "unfatherly" by being willing to give up the life of their only sons. It then makes perfect sense why God would have considered Abraham able to represent him as a father.

We know in John 3:16 Father God’s love for Jesus did not prevent him from expressing his love for the world by giving up the son he loved dearly.

Parallel to this, Abraham’s love for Isaac did not prevent him from obeying God. If God’s expression of fatherhood was love behind his willingness to sacrifice, what drove Abraham’s demonstration of faith in sacrificing Isaac?

The Old Testament mirror of John 3:16 which speaks of giving up an one and only Son could be Genesis 22:12
Genesis 22:11-12
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
It’s interesting that fear of God is mentioned as the motivation for Abraham’s obedience which demonstrated his faith. How else could he have unquestioningly obeyed God to point of being willing to kill the son he loved dearly?

There seems to be two kinds of fear mentioned in the bible. One is a fear can either drive someone away from the object of fear, another is a kind of fear that can drive someone closer and under the authority of the object of fear.

In Abraham’s case, the fear of the Lord drove him closer to God as he obeyed God. Scripture says God actually uses fear as a device to keep people close to him!
Jeremiah 32:40
I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.
Yet in the parable of the talents, fear of the master is what drove the servant to disobey him
Matthew 25:24-25
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.
Isaiah 11:1-2 mentions seven spirits that rest on the Messiah, one of these is the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.

There is a difference between a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7) and a Spirit of the fear of the Lord. One causes us to be cowardly and run away from God, the other actually gives us courage and strengthens us to obey God and draw close to him, in turn making us better fathers.

The Hebrew word for fear used in the bible is "yirah" which can carry the meaning of either terror, trembling or reverence. It is spelled yod-resh-aleph-chet and in paleo hebrew would look like a hand (yod) of a person (resh) with strength (aleph) revealed (chet) in other words the hand of God revealed.

When we see the hand of God, the fear of man and everything else will disappear. When we do not see the hand of God we will fear whoever or whatever else we see.

Abraham saw the hand of God in his life through miraculous events such as the birth of Isaac in Sarah and Abraham's old age. Through this he built faith and attained courage to draw close to God and be in the center of his will. God then rewarded him to be the father of many nations.

As Abraham’s children get to inherit his blessing, so will our children if we pass the test of Fatherhood as Abraham did.

My father may have made many mistakes in his life like all other fathers, but one of the things I admired the most about him were the times in his life where he unquestioningly obeyed God. He gave up many things to go into full time ministry even if it meant he had to make sacrifices that seemingly affected his children negatively.

From an earthly view, some would say he was less of a father because he didn’t make much money for his family, but his obedience to God actually made him more of a father in my eyes and I can point to many spiritual blessing because of his choices.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Father's love for the prodigal son and the older son in Luke 15

I realized last week in our youth group that in the story of the prodigal son of Luke 15, the father actually revealed that he loved the older son more than he could have imagined. By throwing a party for the prodigal son, the father revealed that his love for both sons was unconditional and not based on their merit. The older son unfortunately didn't have eyes to see and misunderstood it to mean the opposite :( It's crazy how spiritual eyes often work the opposite of how our physical eyes see things.

Waiting on the Lord through Apartment Hunting

this is a post by my beloved wife Grace

I never knew how much space my 7 month old daughter, a little 15 lb-er can take up. And of course this is no fault of mui mui (Cantonese for little sister) who is content with water bottles and plastic cups as toys, but the first time mom who wants to give her everything she can to make up for not being able to stay with her during the workday. These weeks I felt myself easily irritated with the constant mess in our one room apartment which seems to have no space to even sit down. Our couch is the new parking spot for all of our folded laundry, our living room is mui mui’s crawling space, and our place is constantly filled with dust.

So I took it upon myself to start looking on Craiglist for a two bedroom apartment that we kept speaking of renting but never did. I came upon this post that looked to be an exceptional deal and asked Sam if we can go take a look. That day I felt very uncertain of whether the Lord wanted us to look at it because it was such a late appointment that ran into Mui mui’s bedtime and the rent is so much more than our current place but the morning of the scheduled date, I felt peace in going.

My first impression once I walked into the condo was…wow… this is so nice. It has the washer and dryer in the unit as promised, my one requirement of the new place. Not only so, the place is big and relatively new, and it looks like a place that can be kept clean easily on the third floor where dusty bunnies are hard to get to unlike our current apartment. And not to mention, this place has a golf course view… All in all it was perfect with just one shortcoming of limited visitor parking which we would really like to have for opening our home for meetings. My heart got lifted up after looking at the place, and I kept saying to the Lord, I really want this.

Two days later, Sam got the email from the landlord who gave us the bad news. Even though I told Sam I was just a little bit disappointed knowing that this is God’s sovereignty, inside I knew I was comforting myself and I was really disappointed. I asked the Lord why, and I felt like he said to me I will give you something even better, this is just to let you see what your standard should be.

The next day I thought, okay, so I will just take that as a promise and go all out with my search then. So of course I took matters into my own hands (my biggest weakness), got a little hesitant okay from Sam, and started searching. On the same day, I emailed four places. We ended up looking at three places, and I wanted to apply for all of them even though they weren’t that good. By the end of the day after the third place we visited Sam was exhausted, he told me frankly that I would never be happy in the place we just saw even though there was a washer and dryer. He was right, but I got angry with him and gave the silent treatment as we drove home and was denying the fact that he was right because of my pride. I thought it through long and hard as I put mui mui to sleep and do the rest of the chores to prepare for the next workday. The Lord reminded me of the children of Israel’s account I read two nights ago when I couldn’t sleep thinking what I would do to prepare to move into that really nice condo. After Moses went up to the mountain to be in the Lord’s presence, the children of Israel got so antsy thinking that their leader has disappeared and told Aaron to make something for them to worship. They took matters into their own hand and settled for anything even though they have seen what our almighty God could do for them. Isn’t that what I did?

So I told the Lord, I know you said it would be better, so when should I start looking then? I felt God respond saying that when I think I have cleaned our apartment up then I can start looking. I asked again, could I just look at the craigslist before now and then just so I don’t miss out on any good deals? The Lord reminded me of Sundar Singh’s experience of waking up next to a cobra in his difficult mission journeys where he couldn’t find shelter in bitter cold weather. He woke up scared and quickly departed before the cobra awakened and left one of his two possessions behind fearing to return to get it. The Lord rebuked him and told him he kept him safe throughout the night so how come he doesn’t trust him enough to go back to get his shawl. So there was my answer, I was not to go anywhere near Craiglist until I felt that I have cleaned out the apartment. Sam drew the parallel this morning for me, he said that this is similar to the fact that we need to clean out our heart because the Lord can come in and make his home in us. It’s so true, we build up so much clutter in our hearts throughout the years; sometimes we really need to stop and have a deep clean before the Lord can enter in. So here goes my cleaning :)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why outer darkness is for eternity and not for a thousand years.

Bible scholars seem to disagree if outer darkness is a suburb sitting outside of the kingdom of God, or if it's another description of the lake of fire, or just a suburb of that also. It's probably because there's only four references to it in the New Testament. Regarding this I'm not sure myself.

However most scholars contend that the judgment in outer darkness is for eternity. No where in scripture does it suggest that those cast into the outer darkness are offered another chance to enter into the kingdom of God. It seems like entrance into the eternal kingdom of God after a temporary period of punishment would be so important that at least one of the New Testament writers would mention it, but none of them have. Instead Jesus seems to warn us to make every means to avoid it in his parables. 

The scriptures never even hint that the kingdom of God when it's referred to is limited to the millennial kingdom. Verses like Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:3-5, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 all refer to the kingdom of God plainly when it warns that those who are mastered by the lusts of their flesh and thereby practice sin will "not inherit the kingdom of God" or "have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God". 
Ephesians 5:3-5
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Rather than hinting that the term "the kingdom of God" is referring to a temporary thousand year reign, scripture instead gravitates towards the "kingdom of God" referring to an "eternal" kingdom.
2 Peter 1:11
For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Luke 1:32-33
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

2 Samuel 7:16
And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.
Jesus words in Matthew 7:21-23 to those who claim him as Lord communicate that he wants nothing to do with those who profess him as Lord with their mouth but not their heart or their actions thereby living in lawlessness. No where is there an indication that Jesus will accept them back after a thousand years, instead it seems like he wants them to leave his presence forever in disgust that they and others would think that he could be associated with their works.
Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
In the few references to outer darkness in the gospels, it's usually described as a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth":
Luke 13:28
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.
If there were still hope of eternity with Jesus, then there would be at least some glory to look forward to. But one can probably infer that because there is no hope, all one can do is weep and gnash their teeth.

According to wikipedia:

The phrase "(there shall be) weeping and gnashing of teeth" (in the original Greek ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων) appears seven times in the New Testament as a description of the torments of the damned in Hell. It is thought to derive from a logion in the hypothetical Q source, which yielded Matthew 8:12 and Luke 13:28. The other five occurrences are all within the context of parables and are widely held to be redactional additions by Matthew.
In fact in Matthew 13:41–42, the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" is used in the context of the "fiery furnace", presumably the lake of fire!
Matthew 13:41-42
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Lending credence to the idea that outer darkness is synonymous with the lake of fire or part of it. It's a place that's dark because there is no light, yet it is burning. This is because God is light and his presence is not there. Without God there is no light and only darkness.

Kingdom exclusion teachers such as Watchman Nee contend that when scriptures refer to "the kingdom of God", it's pointing to the millennial kingdom. Hence they limit the warnings by Jesus concerning outer darkness to one thousand years after which they will be granted entrance into the eternal kingdom of God.

So let's assume that this is true and see if it can stand up against God's word.

The bible teaches there are two kinds of resurrections in Daniel 12:2:
1. Resurrection of the righteous unto eternal life (1 Thess 4:16)
2. Resurrection of the wicked unto the second death (which is the eternal death) and the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:12-13)
So according to Revelation 20:12-12, the resurrection of the wicked happens after the millennial kingdom concludes in the preceding verse 6. The saints going to outer darkness do not participate in this second resurrection because they are still going to inherit everlasting life after a thousands years. Hence, the only resurrection they can take a part of is the first one which is the rapture if one is alive when Jesus comes back, or the resurrection from the dead to eternal life also at the time of the Lord's second coming.

So the only scenario I can see fit here where unfaithful believers can be thrown into outer darkness during the millennial kingdom is
1. first they get raptured or resurrected from the dead (1 Thess 4:16) where the saints will meet the Lord in the air.

2. Then Jesus will somehow divide the faithful and unfaithful saints who will inherit eternal life.

3. He'll then cast the unfaithful saints into outer darkness for a thousand years.
The conversation would be as such:
"Congratulations! You've been raptured/resurrected!"
"Ah wait... you've been a bad Christian... Sorry. Have fun in solitary confinement for 1000 years!"
"You look nervous. Relax, you'll have plenty of time to recover from 1000 years of isolation induced mental insanity in the eternal New Jerusalem!"
Not only is kingdom exclusion unable to fit within the timeline of Revelation 20, but teaching that you are saved after spending a thousand years suffering in outer darkness is adding works to salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 states that we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ Jesus. After God washes our sins away through repentance, he remembers them no more! Psalms 103:12 says our sins will be removed away from us as far as the east is from the west.

However if you say you're a Christian but you live like everyone else in the world and are in bondage to sin and your flesh, you're likely to spend eternity in hell or outer darkness. But don't worry, repent of your sins, make Jesus Christ Lord in your heart by fully surrendering to him, and ask to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. Praying a sinner's prayer is not enough to be saved, we also have to repent (Acts 2:38). 

For more on why repentance is necessary for salvation see here:

Rather than referring to a temporary kingdom, the kingdom of God is often juxtaposed against going to hell in many places in scripture.
Examples are Mark 9:47
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell
Matthew 18:9
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Notice how "enter life" and kingdom of God are used interchangeably in the same verses of two different gospels.

Also in 1 Cor 15:50-58, Paul talks about the the righteous being resurrected to eternal life in the context of entering the kingdom of God.

So in conclusion, there's no one thousand year outer darkness, rather it's likely for eternity just like the kingdom of God is. Jesus makes it clear there's no middle ground. It's all or nothing, either you are for him or against him.
2 Peter 1:11
For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  
John 15:6
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 
Luke 3:17
His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. 
Luke 14:34-35
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 
Children of God have no reason to fear God because they are born of him. Fear of God has to do with punishment. If there was possibility of punishment awaiting children of God at the end of our Christian race, then the Apostle John is lying in this verse bleow by saying that we should not fear.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Suffering in outer darkness for 1000 years as God's children just doesn't jive with God's character because it's sadistic. I know my God and it's not like him to do this to his children. Nor does millennial exclusion fit anywhere in the bible. Instead it seems like a dangerous doctrine which can be used to keep members of church in line under an abusive ministry or leader, while at the same time preventing people from pressing into repentance so their hearts can become the good earth and they can become born again. Jesus said wisdom is justified by her fruit, and from the looks of it, this doctrine has produced nothing but bad fruit.

The lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels. This includes children of the devil, which also includes men who claim to be Christians, but show that they are children of the devil by their works.
1 John 3:8
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Life is a gift and all of us have a chance to repent before the book of our life closes. There's no reason anyone of us has to go to outer darkness or hell for eternity. Judgment comes at the end of our Christian race. God is able to keep us from falling if we're willing to repent and hold his hand and follow him.
Psalm 37:23-24
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Here's a testimony of a nominal believer who ended up in outer darkness after he had a heart attack in a casino. God told him it was for eternity and not a thousand years. After his experience he gave his life to Jesus and became a pastor.

Other Resources

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Healed after ministering to homeless

Today I experienced excruciating chronic shoulder pain from carrying my daughter for prolonged periods, preventing me from doing much so I went to the grocery store to pick up some Tylenol. On the way there I prayed that God would show me someone to share the gospel with since it had been a while. As I came out of the store, a homeless gentleman by the name of Tom asked me for help because the recycling center next to Nob Hill was closed prematurely. Long story short I got to help them out materially and minister to him and his friend Anthony by sharing the gospel and God's love for them. Tom was so touched that God cared enough about him to send someone to provide for their need that he cried. I felt blessed that God answered my prayer so quickly and gave me the opportunity to sow into their lives because God loves the homeless. 

However, after I left, I realized I had forgotten to pray for their healing to show them God's love via his power. It's something I've been reminding myself to do after watching so many of Tom Fischer's videos on youtube (see here: But then as I walked home regretting that I didn't push further towards healing in ministry, I noticed my own shoulder pain was COMPLETELY GONE. Praise God! It's the first time I experienced healing like this and I didn't ask for it then, though I'd been praying all day for it since the pain was so overwhelming. I may have forgotten to pray to heal them, but God didn't forget to heal me :) 

Most importantly God was able to show his love to Tom and Anthony. Pray that Tom and Anthony's faith would grow and endure to the end, and they would rely on God's promise in Matthew 6:33.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Paradise is in Heaven

It's true Jesus descended to paradise after his death and he confirmed this by telling the thief on the cross that he would see him in paradise that same day (Luke 23:43). According to Luke 16, paradise or Abraham's bosom was in Sheol at one time, which the Old Testament teaches to be a pit inside the earth in numerous places. But where is Paradise today? Is it still in the earth or is it in heaven?

I believe that the Apostle Paul had the revelation that paradise was taken to heaven by Jesus after his trip to Sheol. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says that Jesus led a triumphal procession presumably when he ascended to heaven.
2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
Another reference to this is in Ephesians 4:8-10
Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
where Paul clearly describes how Jesus descended to Sheol and then proceeded to ascend to heaven, all while leading a host of captives, which could be understood to be the triumphal procession in 2 Corinthians 2:14. The New Testament teaches that Jesus ascended to the Father in heaven forty days after his resurrection (Acts 1:9-12) where he is sitting at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19). It also teaches that believers who are absent from the body are present with the Lord in 2 Corinthians 5:8. Where is the Lord? But in heaven at the right hand of the Father as we mentioned earlier.

So by connecting the dots it becomes clear that paradise was taken to heaven via Christ's triumphal procession and it's where we will end up once we die until Jesus comes back for his bride. Many servants of God who have had out of body experiences and were taken up to heaven just like Paul described in 2 Corinthians 12 have reported the same including Jesse Duplantis:

The God of the Bible versus Postmodernism

Postmodernism speaks to the finiteness of human understanding and knowledge. By ourselves we can only guess and become "confident" of what is true and what is not true based on evidence we perceive.

However the bible clearly teaches that we can know absolute truth and not of ourselves but by the Spirit of God. This is because God exists in a realm outside of our time space continuum. Not only does he have the fullness of all knowledge but he knows every future event because he exists outside of time and has seen everything come to pass already in our time based existence.

This is why Jesus could say some very *concrete* statements that spoke to this absolute truth. If you look at his teachings, he wasn't one to equivocate and often preceded his statements with "truly, truly I say you to".

If we have the Spirit of God we can know his thoughts which point to absolute truth:
1 Corinthians 2:11
For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Jesus said we'd all know the truth and it would set us free:
John 8:32
you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
How do we know the truth? Again by the Spirit of God, and Jesus affirms this again:
John 16:13
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
Jesus makes it clear we can know the absolute truth, which postmodernism vehemently contends is impossible. While we will know the truth, we'll never come to full knowledge of the truth until we become glorified, but we are expected to gain more and more knowledge with each day (see 2 Peter 1) which is part of confirming our calling and election- because the more of God's Spirit you enter into, the more truth will permeate you because he's the Spirit of truth.
1 Timothy 2:4
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
This is also why we can stand on the authority of God's word and trust in his promises. The bible was written by the Holy Spirit who the Spirit of truth (John 14:26, 2 Tim 3:16-17).

And God proves this by littering the bible with 2500 prophecies, 2000 of which have come to pass and 500 which are in the process of being fulfilled. He's already seen everything come to pass so he can declare future events with no problem and that's why we can be assured that he has already won the victory as the book of Revelation describes and Satan is thrown into the lake of fire. Even when the world around us is burning and telling us we're crazy this gives us reason to hope for the Christ that is in us, which is the hope of glory.
John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
More about fulfilled prophecy to those interested:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What is hell?

I believe the bible teaches that there are two hells. One is in Sheol which is inside the earth and is a holding tank for the second hell which is the lake of fire. Sheol is described in Luke 16 so I'll skip to the lake of fire:

Revelation 21:8
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The Greek word rendered faithless here is "apistos" (Strong's greek word 571).

571 ápistos (from 1 /A "not" and 4103 /pistós, "faithful," see there) – properly, not faithful because unpersuaded, i.e. not convinced (persuaded by God). 571 /ápistos("faithless, unpersuaded") does not always refer to the unconverted – see Jn 20:27. 571 (ápistos) describes someone who rejects or refuses God's inbirthings of faith (note the root, faith, 4102 /pístis).

This is the same word used in John 20:27 when Jesus described Thomas, someone who was his disciple!

John 20:27
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

It should be noted that the list given in Revelation 21:8 is similar to the ones given in 1 Cor 6:9-10, Gal 5:19-21, Eph 5:3-5 which describes conditions for not inheriting the kingdom of God. Is it possible that not inheriting the kingdom of God implies going to hell? Jesus seems to confirm this idea by juxtaposing hell versus inheriting the kingdom of God in Mark 9:

Mark 9:47-48
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

It's also interesting Revelation 21:8 mentions the cowardly. This should remind us of the ten spies, who despite being  handpicked from their respective tribes,  disbelieved in God's promises when they saw thirty foot tall giants in Canaan. Even though they were Israelites who "believed" in Jehovah and were children of the promise, they were severely judged by God due to their cowardice.

In the OT, the judgment of the lake of fire is also alluded to which is different from the Jewish understanding of Sheol (the place you go after you die):

Daniel 12:2
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

So putting these verses together: The lake of fire is the second death where one experiences everlasting shame and contempt where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to be born again

In John 3, when Jesus held Nicodemus accountable for knowing that he had to be born again, he probably had Ezekiel 36 in mind by which God promises to give us a new heart and a new spirit so that we can live according to God's statutes. In order for God to do this we first must give him the legal authority by surrendering our heart to him in repentance. Simply believing that Jesus is the son of God is not enough to be born again, we also have to turn all our heart to him in repentance. Acts 2:38 says we have to both "repent and believe". 

Repentance also has to be ongoing and an everyday practice:
Acts 26:20
but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why giving our whole heart to God is the only thing that makes sense

Today I got a revelation while meditating on experiences of my parents and others who left churches very hurt. I realized the pain they experienced was from having their hearts broken. They were deceived into entrusting their hearts to even seemingly Godly things like ministry leaders and ministries. Inevitably they had their hearts broken once they were hung out to dry due to politics and many unfortunately have directed this pain in their heart against God.

It's interesting that Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, but he never said to love our neighbors with our heart. It seems selfish that God would demand all our heart, but as I've come to realize, it's for our own good. God knows that nothing in this world is trustworthy and our hearts will always end up broken if we give even a part of it away to something that doesn't deserve it. He also has first hand experience with this. God pours out his broken heart in books like Hosea where He weeps because Israel had betrayed him so harshly after he had given his heart to them.

Yet despite God knowing our potential for unfaithfulness, God is still willing to entrust his own heart to us. God is willing to have "faith" in us even when we're unfaithful. With this revelation we should gladly give all of our hearts to him :) Everything in this world is changeable and will burn eventually so its not to be trusted. So we should invest our most precious resource which is our heart to our God who is unchanging, eternal and the source of all love and life. God is the only thing that deserves our heart and he also showed this when he died for us. 

I also realized how empowering it is once we give all our heart to God. When you do this, nothing can ever hurt you or bring you down. Your closest friend or leader could hang you out to dry, and you'd still be okay because your heart belongs to God and not them! Even more, you'll still love them, because you realize despite the circumstances, God still loves those who hurt and persecute us. When we give our hearts to God, God shows how much he loves us and we'll be able to blast this love back to others. We'll also be empowered to walk by faith because nothing shows how much you love someone when you're willing to trust in that person and his promises despite when the world and your eyes are telling you that you are crazy for having faith in an unseen Lover.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to take Jesus at his word and not be stumbled

Jesus said a lot of hard things few people in this world could ever really obey. He told the rich ruler to sell everything and come follow him. He told us that if we try to even save our life in this age we'll lose the life we have in eternity. He said whoever is not willing to bear the same cross he did is not worthy of me. He said whoever looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery.

Someone who is able to follow these commands flawlessly doesn't need Jesus because he probably already is Jesus.

Rather than feeling shame for not being able to follow these commandments they should instead convict us to humble ourselves in repentance every day. We all fall short of Jesus in many ways but we don't have to feel shame because Jesus bore all our shame on the cross.

Instead we should cry out to the Lord: Jesus! I want to obey your commands but I can't! My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak! Give me grace Lord, work on my heart! Jesus set such a high standard for us because he wants us to be desperate for him everyday, to be poor in spirit. Probably the only thing that could prevent us from spending eternity with him is a proud heart that's not willing to humble itself and seek God's grace in desperation. This is why Jesus said the prostitutes and tax collectors who were desperate for his grace would enter heaven, but the Pharisees who didn't need Jesus would be shut out (Matthew 21:31).

The mistake of the rich ruler who wanted to follow Jesus but turned away in sadness after asking to sell everything was not that he did not obey Jesus but simply that he gave up. If he really desired the Messiah despite his love of his riches, he would have got down on his knees and cried "Lord I want to sell everything to follow you but I can't! My flesh is weak! Help me Lord so I can follow you!" This would have given Jesus something to work with, and it's likely Jesus would have helped him in the same way he responded to the father who cried "I believe! Help my unbelief!" When the disciples were unable to cast out the demon from his boy.

Jesus commands should be viewed as goal posts for us to strive to. They are opportunities for us to allow God to work on our heart so we can become more like him. If you asked me to do things I'm doing now in ministry two years ago I would have been easily stumbled. But because I realized how much I fall short everyday ever since I began to fear him, I allowed him to work on my heart by asking for his grace daily. I think this is the secret to grow quickly in the Christian life and become useful to the master. As Paul said not that I am perfected but I strive to obtain it.

This could also explain why Jesus appears so angry with Laodicea in Revelation 3. Being lukewarm communicates to God that we have no need for him. This would never make sense for anyone, not even the most spiritual Christian living today because we all fall short of Jesus, yet Jesus expects us to be perfect as he is.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Doesn't it seem unfair that God could allow people to go to hell just because they were born into another religion?

Someone I met online asked this question:
Would God say "You! evil being, you loved me and trusted me but you didn't believe the Christians! You didn't believe the stories about Jesus! How dare you!" and cast me down?  
In other words, is the Christian faith the only faith which would not incur God's wrath? Three Godly men, of the same God, who trust and have faith in that God, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim, come to heaven and God only accepts the Christian? I am genuinely interested.  Only the Christian in only one tradition of Christianity gets through? All the same God... why? 
And please, I would prefer answers which don't rely on Christian doctrine (ie, the bible and Jesus "no-one comes to the Father but by me"). Just spiritually speaking, how does such a God inspire genuine trust? Or could it be, humans have taken the stories and experiences of some just way too far?
Here's my response: It certainly does seem unfair for people to end up in hell just because they were born into the wrong religion. However God promises that if you seek Him with all your heart you will find him (Jeremiah 29:13). In the New Testament Jesus says "seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be open to you" (Matthew 7:7). Many people misunderstand this promise because it's actually a Hebrew idiom to have an obsession for something, and not just something as complacent as knocking on a door. God promises that if you have an obsession to find him, you will find him. And there are many stories in history where folks in other religions sought God with all their heart and Jesus actually appeared to them visibly. Here's one of the many stories:

A more recent phenomenon is where thousands of Muslims have reported seeing visions of Jesus and thereby believe in him as the son of God, despite being ostracized by their families and having their lives put to risk:

There have also been native american tribes that had a revelation of God being triune and characteristics similar to Jehovah.

There's also significant evidence that the ancient Chinese worshiped Jehovah:

Regarding why Christianity has the boldness to claim exclusivity as the one true religion, when it comes to apologetics, Ravi Zacharias is one of my favorite people for answering questions like this:

Islam cannot be a true religion because the Koran unequivocally insists that Jesus never died, but he ascended straight to heaven. Yet there are many eye witnesses and historians who have recorded his death on the cross, including non-Christian and Jewish sources.

Regarding Judaism, there are 351 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in the Old Testament. The chances of him doing so are astronomical. Some of these prophecies are so specific that it would have to have involved a one thousand plus year generational conspiracy to make it happen if it were not of God.


Just reading passages like Isaiah 53 in the Old Testament is like reading a New Testament passage which describes Jesus.

Perhaps the most precise prophecy is Jesus' fulfillment of Daniel's 69th of 70 weeks to the exact day:

In Daniel's 70 weeks which are 70 sets of 7 years, or 490 years which the angel Gabriel gave to Daniel, which is to start after the construction of the second temple, the Messiah is "cut off" during the 69th week and looks like he does nothing; after this event occurs the second temple is destroyed (Daniel 9:26).

Titus and the Roman army already destroyed the second temple in 70AD. According to this prophecy it's too late for "another" messiah to come. Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews, they are just blind to it because they rely on the Talmud to interpret their scriptures.

Even their own top Orthodox Rabbis have admitted Jesus is the Messiah after he appeared to them, a extremely taboo thing to do in Judaism because Yeshua is so hated.

Unlike other religious texts, the whole bible itself is filled with prophecies. Actually 1/3 of the bible is prophetic. Around 2000 of these 2500 some prophecies have been fulfilled. The rest are in the process of being fulfilled.

Many of these miraculous prophecies relate to Israel. You can read some here:

God put these prophecies in the bible so his people could believe in him. Some unbelieving bible scholars in the past have insisted that the prophecies were inserted into the Tanakh after the prophecies were fulfilled because they were so precise. However the discovery of the dead sea scrolls have quenched this speculation.

Our faith in the God of the bible is not blind, but it is built on a foundation of assurance. This is why Paul adds "assurance of the things hoped for" to the definition of faith which provides us the reason for trusting in an invisible God we can't see in Hebrews 11:1. 

Practical Ways to Live Your Faith

I've found that promises in the bible provide an excellent opportunity for us to live our faith, in the same way the Israelites relied on God's promises to conquer Canaan.

Here's my favorite verse in this regard:

Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

I'm sure many of us have such stories where we put God's will over our own needs yet God still delivered on our need in the end. That's the kingdom part of this verse.

Another application of this verse is in regards to righteousness. Many times we get tempted to take the wrong way because it's easier. However because we love and fear God we choose to do things righteously. The end result sometimes is even better when we trust God and do the right thing despite when everyone else is taking shortcuts.

Small example: on my way to LA this morning The Lord told me to slow down and stop speeding. I just obeyed not sure if it was my own thoughts or not. A few seconds later I passed by a traffic cop hiding behind an overpass. Whew :)

In regards to our children, we can show them how Jesus is real by teaching them how to rely on God's promises, rather than fill them up with head knowledge. This way they can witness the power of God in their own lives and encounter God for themselves. They will be growing their own faith rather than being forced to live under the faith of their parents.

The more we build our faith, the more we are able to "witness" to others as Christians. We are living witnesses to the power of God in our lives via the miracles we've experienced from trusting in God. This is often a more effective means than a doctrinal message alone. People can challenge your beliefs but they cannot challenge your experiences, in the same way that Rahab came to believe in and fear Yahweh based on the stories she heard of his works among the Israelites. The gospel is the *power* of God unto salvation!

How do you know if you're born again?

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
I've done a lot of research on near death experiences and this has greatly magnified my fear that Jesus wasn't kidding around when he said the road to eternal life was narrow and few find it. When someone asked Jesus if few were saved, rather than giving him assurance, He said to make every effort to make it through the narrow way because a lot of folks strive to enter but few make it through.

So in a lot of these near death experience accounts report that about 25 out of 1000 people made it to heaven versus hell. I give credence to these experiences after reading this article:

In other words about 2.5% of folks make it to heaven versus hell.

Jesus said unless a man is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). So the question on how do you know if you're born again is probably one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. I believe Jesus answered this clearly in his teachings, the other New Testament writers also addressed including Peter, Paul, James and John.

Jesus said a bad tree cannot produce good fruit and vice versa. Numerous places throughout the gospels (such as Luke 3 and John 15) say that all the bad trees are cut down and cast into the fire. This tree is our heart which can only be made new via a born again experience (see Ezekiel 36, Psalms 51). So what Jesus was really saying was the way you tell someone is saved is if you look at their actions which are produced from the heart.

I believe scriptures clearly shows that our actions, or our works are considered "good fruit" if they're born of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control. If these qualities of yours are growing everyday it's probably because you have a new spirit and new heart God gave you which you are feeding by spending time in God's presence and doing his will by practicing his word.

Actions that are bad fruit are works of the flesh. This is also in Galatians chapter 5.

Galatians 5:19-21
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So if you are enslaved to any of these kinds of things, you may be in eternal danger and this is when we need to cry out to the Lord to save us. This is the true context of Romans 10:13 "whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved". It's realizing that we can't save ourselves because of our flesh and we need the Lord to deliver us which he will tangibly through his Spirit and not just on a legal level. So basically when you do this, it's part of your full hearted repentance.

So Galatians chapter 5 is a wonderful chapter on this question. There are many others as well. Peter tells us that if we practice righteousness and are increasing in "good fruit" qualities with each passing day, we will "confirm" our calling and election and never fail.

2 Peter 1:5-11
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But the most important thing is that we must be born again to begin with.

My take on what it takes to be born again is to first make your heart the good earth in the parable of the sower. This is done through repentance by turning from all wickedness and turning to the Lord in full surrender. At this point the word of God will grow in you into it's full measure because you will have been given a new heart and new spirit which will impel you to walk on the path of righteousness through loving and obeying Jesus which are the conditions for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (see John 14) not just mere belief in Jesus. You won't be perfect because as James said we all stumble in various ways, but the Holy Spirit will convict you to repentance every time because you will have no peace in your soul when you sin.

1 John 3:6 is relevant:
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

The strongest verse for turning from wickedness is probably in 2 Timothy 2:19.

2 Timothy 2:19
But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from wickedness.”

There's a firm foundation that cannot budge and a seal that cannot change. Everyone that belongs to the Lord has to depart from wickedness. Those that are practicing wickedness probably don't belong to the Lord and that's important because Jesus promises that he won't lose any that Father has given him. Only those that belong to Jesus can make it with him in eternity.

If by this criteria you don't think think you're born again don't worry! Just turn from your sin and surrender every aspect of your life to Jesus. Make Jesus your Lord not just in name but in your heart and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)! The Holy Spirit will help you obey and love the Lord Jesus and overcome addiction to sin. All God needs is your willing heart, his grace will take care of the rest.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Free Grace, Lordship Salvation, Arminianism and Calvinism

Free grace is the concept that you receive eternal life immediately and can never lose it after believing that Jesus is Lord and Savior. Because eternal life is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive, the definition of belief here seems critical. Many understand "belief" to mean intellectual acknowledgment of something you cannot see or "credence", e.g. "I believe Santa Claus exists". However the Greek word for belief "pisteuo" goes beyond credence, this is Strong's definition of pisteuo:
Pisteuo means not just to believe, but also to be persuaded of; and hence, to place confidence in, to trust and signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence, hence it is translated "commit unto", "commit to one's trust", "be committed unto".
So pisteuo means to trust or to "commit oneself to". Some scholars have likened it's use to "clinging" on. e.g. we need to cling on to Jesus! 

How much do we have pisteuo Jesus to inherit eternal life? A plain reading of John 3:16 seems to imply we only need to believe once, but the use of pisteuo in verses like John 3:16 is in the present continuous tense "pisteuodon". So the implication is one has to remain trusting and committing oneself to Jesus in order to inherit eternal life, which free grace seems to go against since you only need believe once in a lifetime to receive eternal life forever. However some who adhere to free grace theology will concede that if you "truly believe" once, you'll also continue to do so until the end of your Christian race.

Lordship Salvation teaches that you have to go further than credence and confess Jesus as Lord not in name only but also in your living. So you actually have to surrender every aspect of your life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Lordship Salvationists say if Jesus is Lord in name only but not in your heart, then you lie by confessing Jesus is Lord. Free grace contends that this is adding works to salvation because grace is unmerited favor and not something you work for, they define surrendering your heart to Jesus counting as works whereas Lordship salvationists seclude surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the area of free will which does not count as works.

Within Lordship Salvation are adherents of Arminianism and Calvinism. Those are the two well known extremes and there are many that adhere to a combination of each, or are simply undecided because there is so much scripture supporting both positions.

Arminianism teaches that salvation can be gained and lost. They use the parable of the sower as evidence. The seed that fell on the rocky place is the believer that believed and received the word with joy but perished because it had no root. They view this as a person who lost their salvation. For example in John 15, Jesus says that the only way we can bear fruit and not be cast in the fire is to remain in him and his words. Eternal life is thought of something that is only in Jesus Christ, so we have to remain in him until the end in order to inherit eternal life. There are bunch of verses to this regard which suggest that one is only saved if they "endure" to the end (Matthew 24:13, Ezekiel 18:24, Hebrews 3:14, 2 Peter 2:20-22, Hebrews 6:4-8). They also view falling into sin as something that will put you in eternal danger even after a born again experience (Hebrews 10:26-27, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:3-5, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Calvinism teaches that once a person is truly saved, God's grace will preserve them until the end, this is known as sovereign grace, or irresistible grace. They agree on the same conditions for persevering until the end and not living in sin similar to Arminians, the difference is they stress the grace of God guaranteeing God's elect to overcome whereas Arminians focus on man's exercise of free will and God's foreknowledge of who will overcome. 

Among Calvinists, there are many different views on what constitutes being truly saved. Some say it's when you are born again after surrendering your all to Jesus, others say theres no way you can tell you are God's elect until you die and find yourself in heaven (experimental Calvinism). Calvinists view Christians who commit suicide or die in unrepentant sin as those who were never saved or born-gain to begin with, unlike Arminians who believe such people were saved but lost their salvation. As I describe this you can start to tell that it's largely a debate on the semantics of what salvation means.

1 John is perhaps the most Calvinist book in the NT. For example 1 John 5:4 says he who is born of God overcomes the world. 1 John 3:6 says whoever continues in sin has neither seen him or known him (they were never born again). In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says depart from me you workers of lawlessness, "I never knew you", etc. These people were never born again, they were deceiving themselves by living as mouth professing Christians who knowingly transgressed his laws by practicing sin.

While lauded as a theological system that is consistent with all scripture when understood correctly, the drawbacks of Calvinism is that it can be easily abused and misunderstood. Some may be tempted to rest on the assurance of salvation provided by perseverance of the saints and irresistible grace and start sinning when they were never born again to begin with. Others who struggle with sin and addiction can feel hopeless concerning their salvation because they may feel that because God has not chosen them they are destined to end up in hell no matter what they do because they are not God's elect. There are actually cases of atheists who skirted with the idea of repentance at their deathbed but gave up because of their misunderstanding of the Calvinistic belief system, thinking that it predetermines their destiny to hell.

Bringing things back to the Lordship Salvation versus Free Grace controversy: Some free grace believers adhere to a kingdom exclusion doctrine like Watchman Nee taught which is the teaching that you can enter the kingdom of God after being excluded from the millennial kingdom. Lordship Salvationists all hold that outer darkness is for eternity. They believe when scriptures mention The kingdom of God or heaven, it is the equivalent of inheriting eternal life and not the millennial kingdom.

The kingdom of God is often juxtaposed against going to hell in many places in scripture.

Examples are Mark 9:47
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,

Matthew 18:9
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Notice how "life" and kingdom of God are used interchangeably in the same verses of two different gospels.

Also in 1 Cor 15:50-58, Paul talks about the the righteous being resurrected to eternal life in the context of entering the kingdom of God.

This is significant because of verses like these:

Galatians 5:19-21
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:3-5
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Most bible scholars have lively debate over Arminianism and Calvinism, however the theology that seems least defendable in light of scriptures is free grace and the millennial kingdom exclusion. Regardless of your beliefs on grace, if you've only said the sinners prayer and believed in Jesus once but haven't fully repented of your sins and made Jesus Christ your Lord from your heart, don't take any chances! Surrender your whole heart to Jesus and make him your Lord, why take any chances on your eternity?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Does 1 Corinthians 3:15 promise salvation or is it a warning?

1 Corinthians 3:15
If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Many proponents of free grace have used 1 Corinthians 3:15 as evidence that our salvation is guaranteed, but is this what Paul was saying? 

Hebrews 12:29 says God is a consuming fire. Isaiah was the most holy man of Israel, a man who lived in repentance and obeyed the Lord. Yet when he appeared before God's presence he was totally undone simply because he dwellt among sinners.

Isaiah 6:5
And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

The presence of God is so holy that it seems to have a nature of obliterating everything that is not holy. You get a sense of this when Uzzah laid his hand on the ark of the covenant and got blasted to death because he did not go through the proper consecration rituals laid out in Leviticus (2 Samuel 6).

If God's holiness has this effect on people who are pretty righteous, what effect would it have on mouth professing Christians who say they believe in Jesus, go to church on Sundays, but live like heathens the rest of the week?

In 1 Cor 6:13 Paul says that God will destroy the stomach along with the food that is inside it. He then relates this analogy to the Corinthian believers who may be practicing sexual immorality. This is interesting because earlier in 1 Cor 3:16-17 Paul states that the believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit and warns that God will destroy them along with the practice of sin that has defiled it if they don't repent:

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
Now if Jesus' blood has washed our sins away, not just from a legal standpoint, but also tangibly whereby the power of sin is no longer over us and we are freed from being slaves of sin (Romans 6) whereby we can become slaves to Christ, then we have nothing to worry about because our temples will be clean and spotless. In this case, our temple would pass through God's consuming fire without a problem.

So in the preceding verse 15 Paul is talking about two things getting burned when we are judged: our works and our temples. Our salvation is not based on works, so whether or not our works are burned has no bearing on our status for inheriting eternal life. However whether or not our temples can make it through the fire *DOES* matter for salvation.

1 Corinthians 3:15 
 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 
1 Corinthians 6:13  
Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food"--and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 
Matthew 10:28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Regarding works, I believe the only works that will pass through God's fire are those that were born out of faith working through God's love.
Galatians 5:6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
A great story to read on this is Howard Pittman's testimony. He was a baptist preacher who helped raised 32 orphans, preached the gospel etc. but God showed him none of his works would pass through the fire because he did those things to soothe his own conscience and they were not born out of love.

Monday, January 6, 2014

What is God's Grace?

To me God's grace is everything he does for us to make sure we become his children in eternity, and the bride of his son Jesus short of violating our free will. So the amount of activity required on our part would be exercising our free will to turn from our sins and obey and follow Him through faith. In other words "desiring God" :) Faith is implied because God is invisible and we can't see him, yet we choose to desire him above all the things that we can see in this world. (Abraham believed in God and it was counted to him as righteousness - Genesis 15:6)

God's grace works on a legal level by providing the sacrifice for our sins by which He can blot out our transgressions and remember them no more, but it also works tangibly when God gives us his Holy Spirit when we obey him.

And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.  Acts 5:32 
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rulesEzekiel 36:26-27 
(Side note: this was the passage Jesus was probably holding Nicodemus accountable for when he quizzed him about the need for his spirit to be "born again")

Although we have his Holy Spirit, God still cannot violate our free will, so we still have to live according to the leading of the Spirit, which we are able to when God gave us a new heart after we were born again.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the SpiritRomans 8:1 (KJV)
Yesterday as I was reciting Psalms 23, I meditated on the verse "He leads us in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." and realized it's a reference to God not being able to deny himself and thereby remaining faithful to us even when we are shamelessly unfaithful (2 Tim 2). We're like these hopeless sheep who always go astray, fully at the mercy of our Shepherd who leads us on the narrow path that leads to eternal life. Without God's faithfulness we would be totally lost not knowing where to go and our desire to come to Him would be in vain.

Ezekiel 36 is also a good OT chapter to read on this subject. It gives a wonderful picture of the plan of God's grace proving that the NT doesn't have a monopoly on the revelation of grace.

Ezekiel 36:32 "But remember says the Sovereign Lord, I am not doing this because you deserve it..."
Grace is grace because we don't deserve it. Hence spiritual pride doesn't make sense in this context but only humility. So God gives grace to the humble, whilst resisting the proud (James 4:6)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Word of encouragement for those recovering from unhealthy churches

Many Christians who leave the Local Churches or similar unhealthy churches become disillusioned and often spiral into a spiritual pit and become worse than before. People within the LCs use this as evidence to warn others against leaving (this happened to me personally), however the word of God helped me greatly overcome many pitfalls after I left.

A verse the Lord gave me today was Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
If we just stay where we are and try to overcome the world and sin it will be hard and the results may not be much different from asceticism. If you study the apostles and disciples of the early church, they lived a life driven by a vision to serve God and were willing to follow the Holy Spirit wherever He took them. Because of the vision that carried them, they simply didn't have time to get caught in the affairs of the world that entangle so many of us living in the Laodiciean church age today.

For myself this vision has been the realization that this world is passing away with its desires (1 John 2:17) and the only thing that really matters is my eternal home. I want to do my best to impact people's eternities today so I can see them in heaven. With this vision, I haven't waited around for leaders in my church to give me a job, but I've simply asked God how I can use my gifts to best serve Him. Back in the LCs when folks including myself served, we often looked for some form of credit or praise for giving up our time. With my new vision in mind I care little about the praise of others-- and that is really *FREEING* when you start working to only please God, because he sees everything and is the best boss anyone could ask for.

All this is being made possible through faith in our heavenly home which God has prepared for us (Hebrews 11:16). I used to use Christianity as fire insurance to make sure my eternity was secure while getting the most I could from the world in the most likely chance that God was real. But when I started to take Jesus seriously I realized he was 100% real and I was dealing with a true and living God.

Going back to having a vision, in Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to take on the whole armor of God. It's interesting that he includes in this list, the sandals of the Gospel of peace, which many Christians tend to overlook. When we live our lives in pursuit of a vision God gives us concerning the gospel, we're better equipped in spiritual warfare. God knows it's much harder to hit a moving target than one that is standing still.

Yet no matter how equipped we'll be, like in any war many of us will stumble because of the enemy's attacks, but God's grace empowers us to get back up to rejoin the battle. The only thing that should worry us is when we give up and surrender.

And because we're in a spiritual battle we should expect persecution, including those from the LC. Jesus told us to expect it and he even said we'll be blessed in eternity when we do receive hate (Matthew 5:11-12). Jesus told us to expect trouble in this world (John 16:33) but not to worry because he's got it all taken care of in eternity so we can have peace. Therefore there's no reason for us to ever become bitter or hate our enemies because we *ALWAYS* have a reason to rejoice and unceasingly pray for the reward God has prepared for us (1 Thess 5:16-18)! And when we do so the reality of heaven will invade our lives and empower us because we'll be living in agreement with the way God sees things.
Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.