Assassins of Faith Vs Keepers of Faith - A Study

Excerpt from the Author's Explorations of Faith: Studies of the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11 (2009)

ASSASSINSKEEPERS
Doubt
Desire
Division
Confession
Conduct
Communion

THE SCRIPTURE warns us not to be slothful but to be diligent in faith (Heb. 6:12; Judg. 18:9). Faith is not only to be guarded (Rev. 14:12) but also to be contended or fought for (Jude. 3); for it is only by fighting that one keeps one’s faith (2Tim. 4:7). The crisis of faith is a condition brought in by at least three faith-assassins: doubt, desire, and division.

Faith-assassins Doubt. Doubt is helpful in the pre-faith condition by narrowing one’s direction towards truth. That is to say, as doubt breaks all the false beliefs of the past one by one, a person is set in the direction of knowing the truth. In this sense, doubt is the precursor of faith. However, the moment faith is torched by truth “all the darknesses of doubt are dispersed”, to use Augustine’s expression. Doubt no longer has any place but its place is taken by the certainty, peace, and repose of faith. But even in the pre-faith condition, doubt cannot be segregated from seeking faith. Absolute doubt, in the sense that the possibility of truth is hung in perpetual doubt, can never come to truth for though it may see it face to face yet its doubt would prevent it from recognizing it as so. A mind committed to doubt can never submit in faith to truth. Therefore, absolute doubt is the greatest enemy of true faith.

There are chiefly seven Greek expressions that have been translated as “doubt” in the New Testament (KJV): aporeo (Jn. 13:22) meaning “to be perplexed”; diaporeo (Ac. 2:12; 10:17) meaning “to be thoroughly perplexed”; meteorizo (Lk. 12:29) meaning “to suspend as in mid-air”; airo psuche (Jn. 10:24) meaning “to keep the soul in suspension as in air”; dialogismos (Rom. 14:1; 1 Tim. 2:8) meaning “to reason” or “to argue”; diakrino (Mt. 21:21; Rom. 14:23) meaning “to judge differently” or “to discriminate”; and distazo (Mt. 14:31; 28:17) meaning “to waver”. We can learn of the different ways in which doubt finds intrusion in one’s life by looking at the usage of these words.

First, doubt appears in the form of perplexity or a loss of answer. This is indicated by the word aporeo. For instance, when Festus introduces Paul the prisoner to Agrippa the King, he says that the Jews were accusing Paul of some questions related to the Jewish religion; but since he was not well acquainted with this religion he was at a loss of answer or doubt (aporeo) how to judge him (Ac. 25:20). Obviously, the KJV would have done better to translate the word as “was perplexed” or “confounded” instead of “doubted”. But, still it is also true that perplexity is a condition of doubt since it contains the element of uncertainty. Festus lacked the confidence to judge Paul because he was confounded by the complexity of the problems that this trial presented to him. Therefore, he doubted about this matter of judging Paul. He was at a loss of answer. An intense form of this perplexity is indicated by the word diaporeo which means to be thoroughly (dia) perplexed. Perplexity indicates the condition of doubt as dilemma. It is the condition of neither knowing nor not knowing. It is the condition of being totally unable to understand something that seems to be significant and demanding an answer. Undeniably, faith does sometimes come across situations that confound and perplex it for a want of answer. There are things that can happen to us that we can’t explain by any rational means, for instance. Or, there can be a question put forth before faith which it immediately lacks an answer for, though it knows that there must be some answer to it. However, in many cases when complexity presents itself to us the temptation is to turn away to simpler things. This is a natural instinct. One tries to avoid unwanted complications, especially when they appear insoluble or even too demanding. One tends to walk around the problem and if incapable of, tries to turn on it. This is what happened with those disciples who turned away from Jesus because they felt He was becoming too complicated for them to get along with (Jn. 6:60, 66). But when Jesus turned to the twelve and asked them if they would also go away, Peter gave an answer which is a classic response to this dilemma of faith. He answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68, MKJV). Peter understood the fact that there cannot be a turning away from something without a turning away to something else. There is no middle ground. Peter knew that this was an either/or situation. One could choose Christ and eternal life or choose to relinquish both. He made the wiser decision to stay with Christ despite the inability to understand several things. A more practically existential situation confronted Job, as seen earlier. It was practically existential because the absurdity or perplexity of the suffering that he went through was thoroughly personal and its answer too evading (Job 7). Yet, he knew that there could be no turning back from God. God was where his world came to an end. God was his no-returning point. Therefore, despite all the confoundedness of his suffering, Job held on to God in faith. And when his wife reprimanded him for holding on to his faith and told him to curse God and die instead of bearing the brunt of this absurd life, he answered her saying “You speak as one of the foolish ones speak. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10, MKJV). In other words, he in turn demanded from her an explanation for considering experience of evil as sufficient proof for turning away from God, even if such evil came from God. The finality of his faith in God could admit no doubt in God.

Another way in which doubt presents itself to us is suspense. The word comes from the Latin suspensus meaning “suspended” (akin to the Greek meteorizo and airo psuche, see above). The word indicates a condition of uncertainty fraught with intense curiosity, fear, or anxiety. Jesus told His disciples to stay away from such a condition (Lk. 12:29). Feelings of anxiety due to uncertainty may come to suspend our souls in doubt, but they should not be allowed to take hold of our lives; in other words, worry or anxiety should not become the condition of our lives. For such anxiety can easily lead to despair and a total shipwreck of faith. Similarly, unwanted curiosity can also be fatal to faith as seen in Eve’s case. For when the devil told her that the forbidden fruit was forbidden not because God sought her welfare but because He didn’t want her to be like Him, she immediately was convinced by his words (Gen. 3:4-6). Her curiosity regarding the forbidden fruit led her obey the devil’s lie. If God has forbidden us something, there is no danger greater than trying to conduct a scientific analysis of the forbidden thing. It is no surprise then why the Ephesian believers burnt all books of curious and magical arts[1] when they accepted the Lord (Ac. 19:19, KJV, Amplified). This is so because such curiosity can lead to a departure from faith. It is in this regard that the Mosaic Law commanded the Israelites to destroy all images and things related to false belief to prevent their influence from corrupting the Israelites (Deut. 7:3-5). The images represent the symbols of false beliefs that stand against the faith of God. They are doors to disbelief. Therefore, sympathetic curiosity towards what is logically known to be wrong must be avoided. By “logically wrong” is meant those ideas that contradict the rational sense. For instance, in the story of Eve she turned towards the illogical belief that she could become like God (who is spiritual and infinite in wisdom) by eating a physical fruit and to the false idea that God was either jealous or afraid of her becoming like Him; as if she could become like Him and that God was afraid of His own creation. Similarly, the sympathy towards idols is absurd since an idol is not only a lifeless object but also symbolic of the vanity and falsehood of man. Therefore, one must guard oneself against any fear or excitement that is both irrational and godless.

The third kind of doubt is more intriguing. It appears in the form of reasoning or argumentation and is indicated by the word dialogismos meaning that form of argumentation that is controversial, unending, or false. It is in this sense that it is sometimes rendered as “imaginations” for its speculative nature is averse to any conclusion. In other words, dialogismos is doubt that expects no final answer. The imagination keeps going on finding no final ground to stand on; thus, hanging suspended (meterorizo) in curiosity and doubt all the time. I think our age understands this form of doubting better than any age before since, in our age, it is this kind of a scholar that is highly appreciated while the one who claims to have the answer is labeled as fundamentalist and narrow-minded. While in the past the wise man was he who had more answers and fewer questions, now he is one who has more questions and fewer answers. The modern wise man is like the Greek sophist who excelled in clever arguments but had no belief in absolute truth: his arguments generated more doubts than solutions. Our English word “sophistry” comes from this “sophist” and means “clever, misleading, and deceptive argument”. Obviously, this form of doubt or methodological skepticism is deliberate, proceeding from the bias that detests absolute solution to any problem. That is the reason why the Scripture warns several times to keep away from such love for show of cleverness and unhealthy disputing that signifies pride and rebellion instead of humility (Phil. 2:14; Rom. 14:1; 1Tim. 2:8; cf. 1Tim. 6:3-5).

The next kind of doubt is diakrino meaning “to judge by analysis” or “to make a difference”. In relation to doubt it means “to make a different judgment”, “to think otherwise”, or “allow for some other possibility as well”. It is in this sense that it is used in Matthew 21:21 when Jesus tells His disciples “Truly I say to you, If you have faith and do not doubt (me diakrithete), you shall not only do this miracle of the fig tree, but also; if you shall say to this mountain, Be moved and be thrown into the sea; it shall be done.” (Mt. 21:21, MKJV). Similarly, James says: “let him ask in faith, doubting nothing (meden diakrinomenos). For he who doubts (diakrinomenos) is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed” (Jas. 1:3, MKJV). Obviously, this kind of doubting is antithetical to faith since it introduces a rival element (a foreign particle) into one’s framework of belief. This kind of double-thinking is what leads to distazo or to the inability of holding on to faith, thus becoming unstable (as in Peter’s case when he walked on water and then started sinking due to fear); for the natural thoughts of the mind are set in conflict against the supernatural truths of God leading to a weakening of faith. The imbalance and instability caused by diakrino can be compared to an airplane (on flight) that loses its balance due to some technical failure to keep up with the laws of aerodynamics. That technical failure may be compared to diakrino when the plane wobbles between the law of aerodynamics and the law of gravity, for instance. The loss of balance is due to the plane’s inability to totally comply with the law of aerodynamics. The problem is solved if the airplane keeps to the purpose of its design, which is to be in air till it lands safely on the ground; the tragedy is when it fails to do that by giving in to anti-elements. Now, the anti-element may not be false in itself; for instance, the law of gravity is true as well as the fact that Peter could not naturally walk on water. However, in matters of faith the natural must submit to the supernatural and not vice versa. Even as the airplane is designed to fly in air, a man of faith is designed to sail on the winds of God’s promises. Abraham was a man of faith. He was not a man of a double-opinion or double-thinking. Therefore, there were no regrets about his obedience to God; neither was there any possibility of a return for him. The Scripture testifies about him that “he staggered not (ou diekrithe) at the promise of God through unbelief (apistia); but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. 4:20). Apistia is the antonym of pistis which is faith. Thus, Abraham didn’t allow an anti-faith element to make him double-think about and doubt the promises of God.

Desire. The second enemy of faith is false desire. Desire is the drive of the human will. Therefore, it is always seen as desire to do something or to get something in the sense that the mind is set on that particular thing, ultimately leading to action in that direction. In this sense, to will something is to desire that thing. In fact, the Greek word thelo is translated as both “to will” and “to desire” in the New Testament. However, in human experience, desire is often ambivalent as the Scripture says: “For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do” (Gal. 5:17, Amplified). And again, “I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing” (Rom. 7:19, Amplified). Obviously, there are two kinds of desires at work here and the either one gives in to the other in the struggle for letting out. One is lawless; the other, lawful. One is brutish; the other, rational. One is carnal; the other, spiritual. One is godly; the other, ungodly. One is sinful; the other, holy. While spiritual desire is rationally sound, emotionally stable, and conscientiously clear; lawless desire bypasses reason, corrupts the feelings, stalls the conscience, and captivates the memory. That is the reason why the Scripture says, “Beloved, I implore you as aliens and strangers and exiles [in this world] to abstain from the sensual urges (the evil desires, the passions of the flesh, your lower nature) that wage war against the soul” (1Pt. 2:11, Amplified).

The fatal blow of desire is its luring the mind to justify wickedness. This is when faith is jettisoned and deception sneaks in. Sometimes even a whole nation can fall prey to the rule of passion by rebelling against truth. In his Republic Plato quotes Damon as saying “when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.”[2] We may not totally agree with Plato’s view against musical innovations; but when one sees the unrestrained wand of passion displaying gestures of rebellion in any art-form, one cannot but suspect that values are being redefined. The Word warns, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).

The simplicity of Abraham despite the blessings of God on his life is evident from his contentment to live in tents all the days of his life (Heb. 11:9). It is also evident from his contentment with what only God gave to him and not desiring even a shoe lace by any other means. He made a covenant with God to never be blessed except he was blessed by God; therefore, when the king of Sodom came to him offering the spoils of war, he replied: “I have lifted up my hand and sworn to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor and Maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a shoelace or anything that is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abram rich” (Gen. 14:22, 23, Amplified). Abraham knew God’s promise of blessing to him and wanted nothing more than that. That is faith.

The Scripture warns us that they who are minded to be rich fall into temptation and many foolish, irrational, and hurtful desires that lead to perdition (1Tim. 6:9). One example of it is Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the prophet, who ran after Naaman the Syrian and, in the name of his master, took from him stuff that his master had refused; but when Elisha questioned him where he had gone, he replied “nowhere”. This man had seen even the dead raised through Elisha’s prayer and still found the courage to lie to him. His conscience and memory were smeared by lust and greed to the extent that he believed that everything was okay despite his sinful act (2Kgs. 5:20-26). Similarly, David when captured by the lust for Bathsheba forgot all bonds of wickedness. He not only committed adultery with her (breaking God’s covenant) but also got her good husband ruthlessly murdered. This man, who once was so zealous for God in faith that he single-handedly defeated the giant Goliath, had now fallen prey to a woman’s beauty (2Sam.11). One doesn’t know what irrational justification his mind was framing in order to not lose the opportunity and companionship of lust. But it broke the heart of God. The same was also true of Judas Iscariot who sold the Lord for 30 pieces of silver after being with Him for three and half years. It is foolishness to think that one’s environment or conditions of living determine the strength of one’s faith. Adam and Eve were in a perfectly sinless environment before they fell into sin. Lucifer was an angel of God. Judas, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the chief priests saw Jesus in person and yet went against Him. Many of us often imagine that if we were as close as the disciples were to Jesus much of our spiritual struggle would be solved. Many desire at least one vision of Christ in this life. But one must understand that all such spiritual and sacred experiences put together can easily be suspended by the onslaught of lust; for lust hijacks all emotion, intelligence, memory, and conscience. Therefore, one must guard himself of all ugly desire that, though seemingly fulfilling, is disastrous in the end.

Division. By division is meant the lack of real spiritual fellowship and communion with God. This causes alienation and distancing from the knowledge of God. As a result, faith suffers loss. Division manifests itself in three forms: discord, dissension, and disunion.

Discord. Discord means a lack of agreement or harmony between two persons. While discord between men may be expressed or unexpressed, discord between man and God needs no expression since God knows what’s in the human heart. Discord between God and man is a matter of perspective and will-towards-something rather than ratio-empirical disagreement (as in matters of scientific or philosophical research). This is so because the relationship is not of the nature of this spatio-temporal pluralistic world where things stand divided from each other in space and time. God is unlike the world and its objects; He is not far from us, as the Scripture says, and we live and move and have our being in Him (Ac. 17:27, 28), which means His presence is more real than the world around us. Therefore, discord or concord between God and man is unlike discord and concord between worldly things, in the sense that it is not primarily a matter of ratio-empirical dispute. It is a matter of perspective, a matter of faith. Discord with God is not justifiable since it is not based on rational judgments but on the choice of will propelled by desire. Therefore, the Word says that God has given up those who, falling to evil desire and reprobate thinking, disgusted themselves by abominable practices (Rom. 1:21-28). The Bible says that the carnal mind is unsubmissive to the Law of God (Rom. 8:7). This lack of submission is not in the sense that it has some logical reasons for not submitting to God but in the sense that the intentions and actions of the carnal mind are opposite to the Law of God. The perspective-shift (from carnal to spiritual or vice versa) can be in a split of a second or gradual. It may be a reaction to a temptation or a moral decline through negligence. Whatever way, the perspective-shift is indicative of a shift from faith to practical disbelief.

Dissension. Dissension is the violent and aggressive form of discord in which the disagreement is vociferously expressed. While in the former case, discordant questions may not be expressed for fear of causing obstacle to the faith of others (see Ps. 73:15), in this case all shame and fear is set aside. The Bible uses different words to describe dissension; some of them are: murmuring, complaining, scoffing, mocking, blaspheming, strife of words, evil talking, perverse disputing, railing, speaking in hypocrisy, ungodly talking, etc (Phil. 2:14; Ps. 1:1; 1Tim. 4:2; 6:4, 5; 2Tim. 3:2; Jude 15, 16). Jesus warned His disciples that on the Day of Judgment men will have to give an account of every idle word that they speak (Mt. 12:36). Dissension comes from a heart of unbelief. It was because of such vehement and vexing ungodly talks that the Israelites were destroyed in the wilderness (1Cor. 10:10). All their opposition was based on their lusts and whims and not on any logic. God had shown such wonders to them that He had never shown before. He foiled the skill of the Egyptian magicians, broke the strength of pharaoh and his forces, tore the Red Sea into two, and walked before them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I do not know of any nation on earth as a whole who had seen so much of God and yet disbelieved Him so much. They broke God’s commands whenever they liked and spoke whatever came to their mouth against God’s servants. Jude tells us that God destroyed them because of their unbelief (Jude 5).

Disunion. Disunion refers to a break-away from faith in God, thus from God. This is the severing of relationship with God. This disunion is the final end of a life of ungodly speech and action. It is the moral failure to hold on to faith and a good conscience and is characterized by a blasphemous lifestyle (1Tim. 1:18-20). This is what the Scripture also calls as a departure from faith by giving in to seducing spirits and the doctrines of devils (1Tim. 4:1). The doctrine of the devil is nothing but ultimate rebellion against God and His truth. The life without faith in God is a life of falsehood. It is a life of self-opposition (2Tim. 2:25). Therefore, says the psalmist, the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous (Ps. 1:5). The sinners who walk after ungodly counsel and associate to scoff at the revelation of God will not be justified (cp. Ps. 1:1). But the just shall live by faith (Rom. 1:17).

The Scripture warns believers against this alienation from God’s truth. It is the sin that brings a division between God and man (Isa. 59:2). The sin of willful commitment to unbelief and disunion with God is unpardonable. It leads to death (1Jn. 5:16). The book of Hebrews tells us that there is no chance of renewal for those who, after knowing the irrefutable truth of God, fall away from the faith (Heb. 6:4-6); for it is evident in their case that their falling away from faith is self-willed and not because of weakness in understanding the truth. The truth was crystal clear to them. Similarly, Peter says that the final condition of those who turn away from the knowledge of Christ after having escaped the pollutions of the world is worse than the first; for, he says, it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then willingly turn away from it (2Pt. 2:20, 21). Such a life becomes blasphemous, godless, and a willful opposing of the ways of God.

KEEPING FAITH


Faith Leap by Ayan GhoshNow, there are three chief ways in which faith can be kept; they are: confession, conduct, and communion. Let’s look briefly at each one of them and see how Abraham not only kept his faith but grew stronger in it by following these and by refusing false doubt, ungodly desire, and any sin-induced division. We do not say here that Abraham never made mistakes but despite of all his weaknesses and shortcomings he was justified before God because of his holding on to the Lord. He loved the Lord and no matter what he had to go through, he didn’t stagger in faith, since he knew that he could never leave the Lord that he knew as the true and gracious God. For him there were no regrets and no turnings back.

Confession. Confession is the verbal establishment of inward belief (Rom. 10:10). It is the public testimony of private faith. And when confession is heartily and confidently done, then the internal and the external dimensions of human experience are reinforced in the integrity of faith. Abraham’s confession of faith is captured in his single statement to the king of Sodom. He said: “I have lifted up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich” (Gen. 14:42, 43). He confessed here that it is God alone who could have the absolute right of claim over all of Abraham’s blessings, that his sustenance came from God, and that everything of him was God’s and what was his was what God had committed to him. This shows his total trust in God and no side-glances at anything else. His mind was steadily focused on God and His promises. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Abraham never sought any clarification from God. But whenever he did that it was in humility of spirit and never in the haughtiness of pride characteristic of the dissenters. For instance, when God told him that He would bless him with a seed that shall become a nation, the Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). But when God tells him in the next verse that he was going to inherit Palestine, he asked for a way to know how that would happen. He knew that he was living in tents here and that there were little chances that this tent-living could be given up soon since the land belonged to the different tribes that inhabited it. But God showed him how he would do it giving assurance of it by means of a covenant. He told him that his seed would go to a foreign land whom they shall serve but then return back in the fourth generation to take this land into their hands by punishing the inhabitants of it. Accordingly, the next two generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob too lived in tents, went to Egypt and returned after about 400 years to take the Promised Land. Obviously, there were things that Abraham didn’t understand but he confessed what he knew and trusted God for things too difficult for his understanding. And God was faithful to reveal His counsel to Abraham. Similarly, spiritual facts like being saved, being forgiven of all sins, being heirs of Christ’s righteousness and the Kingdom to come must be confessed again and again in faith or else the devil will gain place by introducing guilt-feelings, doubts, and fears in the heart of the believer. One must acknowledge one’s sinfulness and inability to save oneself, submit to God, and then resist the devil.

Confession brings the mind in subjection to the line of verbal reasoning manifest in the assertion of faith-statements. It awakens the consciousness to the truths of God. It enlightens the memory with the optimism of divine assurance. It is the active choice of the believer to set his mind on the things of God. It is this reason why Christ confessed God’s Word and His purposes by quoting the Scripture when the devil came to tempt Him. He told him that “Man shall not live by bread alone” when the tempter challenged His divine sonship. He need not prove anything to either the devil or to anyone. By confessing the Scripture, Jesus declared to the devil God’s counsel of sending Christ as man to this earth; and that this material world is not an end in itself – bread is not the ultimate thing: to turn stones into bread would mean to look at any object of nature with selfish intentions.

Conduct. Conduct is the factual establishment of faith. It is the behavior of faith. It is the phenomena of active faith. It is not mere asserting but the confirming of faith through action. It is the conformity of life with faith. It is the finalizing of the meaningfulness of belief. One can only live out that which one considers to be livable or meaningful and significant. Therefore, conduct is the establishment of faith in fact and in deed. There is not one instance in the Scripture where it is mentioned that Abraham disobeyed God. Whenever God told him anything to do, he immediately did it. We have seen his obedience of faith in regard to leaving Ur and also, at a latter point, sacrificing his only begotten son. His obedience is also seen in the case of sending Hagar away. When Sara told Abraham to send Hagar, his concubine away, we are told that this thing was very grievous in his eyes because of Ishmael, his son by Hagar (Gen. 21:11). However, when God told him to quit feeling grievous about this and do as Sara had said since God was in control of everything and was going to bless Sara’s son, Abraham rose up early in the morning, packed up things for Hagar and Ishmael and sent them away, without grieving, having been assured of the promise of God regarding the maid and her son. Abraham’s emotions were controlled and directed not by any worldly wisdom but by his faith in the truth and power of God. He knew His God very well and, therefore, he followed Him wholeheartedly. Of course, his half-truth about his wife (Gen. 12:13; 20:2) due to fear evinces his use of cleverness in escaping difficult situations instead of trusting totally in God’s ability to protect him. Similarly, his giving heed to Sara in cohabiting with Hagar, according to their custom, in order to have a child was a hasty and humanly rationalized way (Gen. 16). But one must remember that, in the former case, Sara was truly his half-sister and Abraham’s tactic was something to prevent a possible enemy’s foil act. It was not motivated out of a failure of faith at all. Anyone who has read about the tactics that believers of the underground churches employed in order to prevent the enemy’s success in sin should not be hasty to indict them as failing in faith as if God could not protect them. In fact, they did so because of their unflinching faith in God Whom they could at no cost deny. Obviously, no one generally stretches these things to such an extremity to say, for instance that footballers should give up their play tactics or army men should give up their war stratagems in order to walk according to faith. I am here only trying to prevent hasty and unjust accusation against Abraham; not to justify Abraham’s actions. What for me is important about Abraham is that God never accused him of what most people accuse him. Even if he failed, God would not have accused him since God knew Abraham’s faith and it is before his Master that he falls or rises, and even if he falls God is able to raise him (Rom. 14:4). One will also remember that Christ never condemned Peter for denying Him thrice but understood the love that was in the depth of his heart. Similarly, in taking Hagar as wife, this might have been so because God’s revelation of giving a son through Sara, specifically, is revealed only in Genesis 17. Further, Abraham’s listening to his wife to give her as she desired should not be interpreted as wavering from faith; for, even in doing so there was no indication of his disbelief in God about anything; there could not be. In addition, God never treated Abraham’s child through Hagar as the product of a mistake, but instead blessed him as well. At any cost, none of these things were indicative of any weakening of Abraham’s faith; the truth being that in every instance of God’s specific commandment, Abraham was obedient without question, hesitation, or second-thought.

Communion. Communion is the relational establishment of faith; the personalizing of faith in relationship. One can only be one with someone one is at one with; and one can only be one with someone who is like that one, i.e. basically personal then other points of aesthetic and ethical agreement or harmony: therefore, communion is the personal relationship with God through the harmony of faith. Communion with God is the living out of the I-Thou relationship with Him. It is the establishment of the fact of faith as relationality and not just as subjectivity. Communion can never be one-sided. Communion can never be fantastical. Therefore, communion is the objective establishment of faith in a real divine relationship. When Abraham was 95 years old, God spoke to him saying “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1). The command to walk before God was the command to be in perpetual agreement and fellowship with Him. The command to be perfect was the command to be wholeheartedly committed to God in this relationship. The Bible tells us that as soon as Abraham heard this voice (he was still called Abram till this point), he fell with his face prostrate on the ground. He didn’t even speak a word. Anyone who reads the life of Abraham can see him not only as a man of few words but also as a man of diligence and great reverence for God. His communion with God was so close that the Scripture calls him “the friend of God” (Jas. 2:23; 2Ch. 20:7); yet, it was only with reverence in heart that Abraham ever approached God. This can also be seen in the case when he intercedes for Sodom. His intercession is not like one demanding something from God by right though he was God’s friend. For instance, when he enquires the second time he says: “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27) and goes on to make his petition. Remember God’s confession about Abraham just before this session; God said “Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do… for I have known him” (Gen. 18:17-19, MKJV). God could trust Abraham as a friend could trust his friend. That was the depth of communion between them because God knew the genuineness of Abraham’s faith and his absolute and indefatigable holding on to the truth of God. Abraham knew God and glorified God as God; therefore, he was blessed by God.

Thus, we see that through faith and obedience to God Abraham inherited the promises of God. The anti-faith elements of doubt, sinful desire, and division could not find place in his heart full of trust and faith in God. Abraham’s words, actions, and feelings were all tuned up with the will of God. Therefore, he only kept moving onward and never turning back in his walk before God. While the world groped in the darkness of unbelief and falsehood around him, Abraham recognized God’s call over his life and followed Him not knowing where he was going.

NOTES
[1] The Greek periergos means “busy about trifles” indicating curiosity about unwanted things. The English word “occult” used for all such curious arts comes from the Latin occultare meaning “hidden” or “concealed” indicating the non-normalcy and unhealthiness of all such practices.

[2] Plato, The Republic and Other Works, p. 113.
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Augustine On The Invisibility of the Trinity

Augustine of Hippo PortraitOne key challenge that Augustine counters in Book II of his On Trinity is the question regarding the invisibility of Jesus in His essential nature. The antagonists argued that Jesus as the Son of God was always visible to the Father; therefore, this visibility also implies mortality and changeability. Two texts that Augustine quotes are:


  • Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1Ti 1:17 NKJ)

  • He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1Ti 6:15-16 NKJ)



Augustine maintains that the invisibility of God means that the Triune God (Father-Son-Spirit) is invisible.

The antagonists argued that the Son was visible not only in flesh through His incarnation but even before that in Himself, and so visibly appeared to the fathers. And, since He was visible in His pre-incarnational existence, He was also mortal, they said. And, so they argued that 1 Timothy 1:17 speaks only of the invisibility of the Father. Further, in that same sense, the Holy Spirit is thought to also be mortal, because He also was visible once as dove and at another time as fire. Both the Son and the Spirit were visible to mortal eyes in various forms and various times, all implying, according to the antagonists, that both the Son and the Spirit were visible, mortal, and changeable; therefore, 1 Timothy 1:17 cannot apply to them but only to the Father.

Augustine begins by asking who the contenders think was walking in the Garden of Eden from whose face Adam hid. Was it the Father or the Son? Why not the Father, especially when the form of the narrative signifies no change of the Divine Person from chapter 1 to chapter 3. If we understand that the world was made by the Father through the Word, why not also accept that Adam saw the Father in a visible form. In fact, the visibility of the Father is not impossible in the same way as the audibility of Father was not impossible (as in John 12:28 and Matthew 17:5 when His voice is heard apart of the Spirit and the Son). Obviously, the voice was not of the Spirit; for, nowhere is Jesus called as the Son of the Holy Spirit. 'But here, where it is written, "And the Lord God said to Adam,"' says Augustine 'no reason can be given why the Trinity itself should not be understood.'

Augustine goes on to examine the theophanies to Abraham, Lot, Moses, the Israelites in wilderness, and to Daniel. Why not accept the three-person appearance to Abraham as the visitation of the Trinity, especially when none of them is shown to be lesser or greater to the other? Next, the two angels that appeared to Lot could be understood to be the Son and the Spirit, since They say that They were sent, and nowhere does it say that the Father is sent; however, He is the sender. The goal of Augustine is to show that visibility cannot be limited to only the Son and the Spirit, but even the Father can be seen as being visible at times. However, in His divine nature, the Triune God cannot be seen corporeally, "but we must believe that by means of the creature made subject to Him, not only the Son, or the Holy Spirit, but also the Father, may have given intimations of Himself to mortal senses by a corporeal form or likeness."

____________
See Augustine On Trinity, Book II.
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A Morning Song

 

My heart is filled with praises to You,
O Lord, Maker of my soul!
Your grace is fresh like the morning dew;
Each day, goodness You unfold.

We hear the song of birds singing,
As they rise up each morning.
Their heart is secure in Your care,
O Infinite One, You are everywhere!

Sunlight fills the morning sky,
Bringing light to every eye.
Kids arise, off blankets they shake.
The night is over, it's time to wake.

You fill our homes with laughter and joy,
Our tables abound with food.
You watch with fondness every girl and boy,
You teach us what is good.

O Lord, Your praises fill the earth,
There is none like You!
You sustain the whole universe.
Our heart is secure in You.
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The Courageous

 

The world may be divided into two camps of people; those who are courageous and those who are timid.

The courageous are fearless to take risks. They are not the brash and the provoked whose vice is pride and not the virtue of courage. The courageous act in wisdom and right faith, not out of foolish impulse and arrogance.

It is not timidity to wisely deal with a challenge. The Chinese military general Sun Tzu wrote: It is the rule in war, if ten times the enemy's strength, surround them; if five times, attack them; if double, be able to divide them; if equal, engage them; if fewer, defend against them; if weaker, be able to avoid them. Jesus said, Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace (Lk.14:31-32). Sun Tzu also said: The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.

The timid choose a place of security and less or no challenge. They do not accomplish anything bold and revolutionary. They wish to be safe with the crowd and sing the tunes that amuse the masses. They do not stand out. They stay home afraid of a fictitious lion rampant on the streets (Prov.22:13; 26:13). They flee when nobody pursues, but, those who know what is right and are right with God are bold as the lion (Prov.28:1).

The courageous follow truth and refuse to be slaves to unquestioned traditions of humans. They are courageous to ask the right questions not out of impudence or insolence, but out of their love for what is just and noble and virtuous; for the goal of courage is not heroic exploits but the pursuit of what is right, true, and just.

The courageous know the importance of training self and being prepared. They do not waste away time in idle affairs just because they sense no challenge around. They fan their gifts with fearless wisdom and readiness to respond at the call. The truly Spirit-filled are not timid, for they know that God has given them a Spirit of love, of power, and a sound mind. But, they don't take the Spirit for granted. They train themselves rigorously at all times and avoid affairs that will blunt their edge (2Tim.1:7; 2:4).

Finally, the courageous make right decisions at the right time. As Sun Tzu put it: The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim. One of the most distinctive explanatories in the Gospels is the times when the Gospel writer mentions when Jesus' hour had not yet come and when He knew His hour had come. He did what He was sent to do at its right time. Courage out of place with timing and patience is folly. True courage acts rightly at the right time of action.
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Was John 7:53-8:11 in the Original Text?

 

This famous well-beloved section, known as the Pericope Adulterae, has been the subject of not only many sermons but also many theses and dissertations. Some of the newer Bible versions try to place a footnote stating that the segment is not present in the more ancient available manuscripts. A number of commentators have tried to avoid commenting on it. Some regard the style and theme to be Johannine and opine that perhaps it was omitted in some early manuscript by a copyist and the error carried on into later manuscripts.  Some think the omission may have been deliberate in order to protect the community from becoming too lenient towards the sin of adultery. [1]

Internal evidence points out to the originality of the verses as inspired by the Holy Spirit. The theme of the light of life revealed in the grace of Jesus Christ (John 8:12) is consistent with the pronouncement in John 1:17, that the law came through Moses but grace and truth through Jesus Christ. Also, the contrast between the condemning light of the Law of Moses and the saving light of the Grace of Jesus is obvious. To those who walk in this light, there is cleansing by the blood of Jesus (1John 1:7).

The passage is certainly there in a number of manuscripts though it fails to appear in a number of others. However, the inductive nature of research cannot draw conclusions on the basis of what is not available yet, i.e. a more ancient manuscript that has this passage intact. There is still this possibility that this passage got missed in a copying process in certain manuscripts but remained intact in others. The verses possess marks of authenticity, were accepted and quoted by the church fathers, are consistent with sound doctrine, and are spiritually edifying.

Notes




1. John David Punch, The Pericope Adulterae: Theories of Insertion & Omission, Doctoral Dissertation submitted to Radboud University Nijmegen, 19 April 2010
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Prophets, Apostles, and Canonicity of the Bible

Apostle Paul WritingThe Bible contains 66 books that are considered together to be the canon (i.e. standard rule). There were many other books which the church fathers did not include into the canon because they failed to fulfill the 5-fold criteria of canonicity. The 5-fold criteria was:

  1. Authorship: It should be authored by an apostle or a prophet or a holy man of God.

  2. Local Church Acceptance: It should have been accepted in the local churches of First Century Christians

  3. Recognition by Church Fathers: It should have been recognized as scripture by the church fathers in their writings.

  4. Sound Doctrine: It should convey sound doctrine and must be consistent with the revelation of God.

  5. Personal Edification: It should be dynamic in nature towards transformation of lives and contribute as spiritual food and light for personal edification.


The Old Testament canon was already recognized during the time of Jesus and the Apostles and referred to as the Law and the Prophets. The New Testament canon was being recognized by the Apostles, for example when Peter treats Paul's writings as scriptures (2Pet.3:16) and when John affirms his book of prophecy as that to which nothing must be added and from which nothing must be removed. The NT canon was declared during the 3rd Council of Carthage in AD 397. The church father Athanasius listed them in his 39th Paschal letter (AD 367).

We understand the apostolic authorship of the New Testament and the prophetic authorship of the Old Testament very clearly from the writings themselves. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus being the corner stone (Eph.2:20).

One important keystone is the prophetic explanations provided in the Bible, which certainly cannot be based on any other authority than God Himself. For instance, in Judges 14 we find the account of Samson adamant to marry a philistine girl, though his parents are not in favor of this. The writer of Judges notes here: "his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD -- that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel." (Judges 14:4). One would ask, "How did this writer know what was in the mind of God? Was he just interpreting God's mind on the basis of a retrospection of incidents that happened? If so, how can he make an authoritative statement like that? Can anyone know the mind of God?" Obviously, the answer is that only the Spirit of God knows the mind of God and the Scriptures were given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.2:10,11; 2Pet.1:21; 2Tim.3:16).

See:
Outline of Theology
How Do I Know that the Bible is True?
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Were Peter and John Illiterate?

Peter preachingNow when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

The phrase "uneducated and untrained" can be also rephrased as "not educated in rabbinic law nor professionally trained in matters of religion." But, certainly, it does not mean that Peter and John were illiterate. They were literate enough to write epistles and professionally trained fishermen. However, the scribes and temple leaders didn't recognize them as literate according to their standards and procedures of education. But, they were trained better than the scribes in understanding the law and the prophets and their fulfillment in Christ.

Later on, Peter stresses the importance of a right training for an understanding of the scriptures. He says that there are some who are unlearned and unstable that twist the scriptures.

There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist {and} misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures. (2Pet. 3:16, Amp)

It is more important to know the grace of Jesus Christ than to memorize 10,000 commentaries on the law. The disciples knew Jesus, and everybody took note that they were with Him.
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The Scattered but United Church

 

Tongues of Fire

Biblical unity is not organizational unity, but a spiritual  one. Jesus did not intend the church to be centralized under Peter. Paul doesn't mention Peter as the one who sent and commissioned him. In fact he writes,

"But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called [me] through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those [who were] apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus." (Gal.1:15-17)

And again, "But from those who seemed to be something -- whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man -- for those who seemed [to be something] added nothing to me." (Gal.2:6)

The church was meant to be scattered and not just confined to Jerusalem. That is the vision of Acts 1:8 that when the Holy Spirit had come, they would receive power and be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. That is the beauty of Pentecost that transcends the linguistic barriers of disunity through the Holy Spirit and puts an end to the Babel confusion that resulted from anti-biblical unity. My professor of Acts, Dr. Daryl Merrill Sr. would often say, "Acts 1:8 was fulfilled in Acts 8:1". The disciples were confined to Jerusalem until persecution arose and drove them farther off.

The greatest bane to the Christian phenomenon is trying to centralize the church and all ministries. Nothing is more antichristian than trying to hijack the church phenomenon and consider only oneself or one's own group as the only genuine, legitimate, and authoritative seat of the Holy Spirit. This is idolatry. The Catholic Church and, later, many different forms of denominational churches and groupings, in time past, have committed the sin of trying to discredit someone who wasn't like them or "under them" or "one of them" as being heretical or strange or illegitimate. But, Jesus told His disciples to not stop someone who wasn't with them but was still casting demons in Jesus' name; for, He said, he that is not against us is with us (Lk.9:50). Did Jesus personally commission this guy like He commissioned the Twelve? Did Peter or the Twelve appoint Paul? Certainly not. But, this is the essence of understanding Christ as the Lord even of the OT saints and those who haven't been evangelized yet. Those who are not against Him are with Him.

Dr. Matthew K. Thomas, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church at Itarsi and Chairman of Fellowship Churches of India, once said, "My ambition is not to build a denomination, but to lift the Lord Jesus Christ." 

While there is temptation for groups to want to identify with names and big names, one must not forget that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and not subject to any organization or name or movement. It is pharisaic to try to discredit others on the basis of human laws and traditions. While one does need to organize--local churches and ministries of the apostles were organized-- it is anti-Spirit to tribalize and communalize the church and Christian ministry. This applies also to denominational and theological accreditation groups.

The beauty of the church is that she is diverse and yet one, not in the sense of members looking similar to each other, but all joined to the one Head, Christ. And, the church is meant to go out into all the world and spread over and replenish the earth.

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Narrative Criticism

Narrative criticism is a form of literary criticism applied to biblical studies that developed in the past few decades since the 1970s. As a method of approach, it  focuses more on stories, events, people, discourses and settings. According to A Dictionary of the Bible,  "The main thesis is that readers (e.g. of the gospels) should read the narratives and respond to them as the authors hoped." The previous approaches to biblical criticism, viz. form, redaction, historical, and textual are considered to have become obsolete and effecting no conclusive results. According to Mark W. G. Stibbe,
Until the late 1970s, the traditional methods for the study of the gospels and Acts were form criticism, source criticism, historical criticism, tradition history, redaction criticism, and textual criticism.... ...traditional methods of interpretation were more concerned with what lay behind NT narratives than with their form and their literary, artistic features....

A change began to occur most noticeably in the 1980s, when two books were published on Mark as Story (Rhoads and Michie, 1982; Best, 1983); one on Matthew as Story (Kingsbury, 1986), one on The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts (Tannehill, 1986), and one on the Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel (Culpepper, 1983). Each of these works, and a number of lesser-known books and articles... took up the challenge of looking at the final form of the gospels and Acts in order to highlight those narrative dynamics which traditional methods had neglected.[1]

According to John David Punch, "the pendulum has swung, for literary criticism looks at the text as a whole with virtually no interest in sources, traditions, or redactional material."[2]

Christopher T. Paris observes, "Narrative criticism embraces the textual unity of canonical criticism while historical criticism holds fast to textual divisions that arose from multiple sources and editors. Narrative criticism admits the existence of sources and redactions but chooses to focus on the artistic weaving of these materials into a sustained narrative picture." [3]

The narrative critic tries to first establish the literary aspect and genre of the text (whether it is fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry?. Then, he goes on to analyse the setting, plot, theme, characters, story elements, etc. His goal is to understand what the narrator (author) of the narrative really wanted to communicate and how he accomplishes it.

NOTES


1. Mark W. G. Stibbe, John as Storyteller: Narrative Criticism and the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge University Press, 1992), p5.
2. John David Punch, The Pericope Adulterae: Theories of Insertion & Omission, Doctoral Dissertation submitted to Radboud University Nijmegen, 19 April 2010.
3. Christopher T. Paris, Narrative Obtrusion in the Hebrew Bible, PhD Dissertation submitted to Graduate School of Vanderbilt University, May 2012. p4.
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Why Am I Still Alive?

"All Who Are Among The Living Have Hope." (Eccl.9:4)

The very fact that we are alive is proof that God has a reason to keep us alive, a plan and a purpose He’s busy about even if we aren’t able to see that now! That realization is summed up in the word HOPE.

As Viktor Frankl said, do not ask, "What can I expect from life?" Rather ask, "What does life expect from me?" In his words, "Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

Nothing is by random and chance in this world. "Chance" is just a catchword that humans use for something they aren't able to understand in deterministic terms. God is in control of all things.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7)
"Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life." (Luke 21:17-19)


One needs to recognize HOPE, the fact of life is the fact of hope; the fact that we are alive is the fact that we HAVE hope. And, if one fails to recognize this, one ends up becoming depressed and sick in heart. Hope is that desire and longing, that dream that wishes to be fulfilled. It is a tree of life.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov.13:12)

What is your dream today? Do not keep staring at the others or at circumstances and adversities around. Do not look back. Do not look at your commas as if they are full stops. Look ahead. Look to the calling and the longing that God has placed inside your heart, and pursue God.

"The Spirit that lives in us wants us to be his own." (James 4:5, GW)
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Blessings - Julian Hawken

1. Why blessing is so important?

The Hebrew word "to bless" means "to bown down", "to prostrate". When you say "bless", you are respecting that person and holding him in high esteem.

In General 27 we find Isaac giving a very special blessing to his son, Jacob. This established a pattern for imparting blessing on loved ones.

Gen.27:28-29. Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. 29 Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed [be] everyone who curses you, And blessed [be] those who bless you!"

This has become an important part of Jewish sabbath blessing. The man of the house pronounces the priestly blessing. Num 6:24-26 "The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."  The Jews say that's where God looks at you three times. Then the father tells family what a wonderful wife and mother his wife is. The wife lights the Sabbath candle. Then one by one he will bless each of the children. Happens every Friday evening...

In NT, we find that Jesus came to bless us. He healed the sick and laid hands on children and blessed. The greatest blessing is the sacrifice on the cross.

Ephesians 1 says that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.

All the storehouses of heaven are open for us.

God blesses us so that He can make us a blessing

2. Five key elements in blessing

A. Meaningful Touch.
Touch is more meaningful than words. Isaac blessed by laying on of hands. Jesus laid hands on kids and blessed.

B. Spoken Words.
Words can build us up or tear us down. We need to build and encourage people. There is enormous power in our words

C. Expressing High Value.
When we bless we much express how highly we esteem the other. God calls us the apple of His eye. God designed our eyes to be protected. He protects us. He values us so highly. More than that the OT shows that God is betrothed to His chosen people. And in NT, Jesus is betrothed to us. He loves us more than we can take. A good way to express value is to use word pictures. Isaac used word pictures "smell of my son.... like the field God has blessed" Those words add value to the rest of the blessing. Song of Songs.. word pictures.

The Holy Spirit may give you prophetic words for your kids, spouse, brethren, parents.

D. Picturing a Special Future. Jeremiah foresaw a great future for Israel.
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

E. An Active Commitment.
Pro 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Recognize the gifts that your child has and encourage him in those gifts and when he is old he will flourish in those gifts

3. Several different kinds of people we can bless

A. Our Children.
Birthdays, graduations, family special evening times. Include God's blessings

B. Our Spouse.
Special occasions. Could be a night out without kids or weekend. Time to bless.
C. Friends and Workmates

We have to actively decide to have special times to bless people

D. Church people.
May be plan a time to pray over people and plant God's blessings

E. Elderly parents.

Decide to have regular get togethers to bless people

Let's us the Lord to make us people that will bless
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Can Satan Read Our Minds?

d4cb9-gustavedoreparadiselostsatanprofile
Quickly, the answer is No. 1 Kings 8:39 tells us that only God knows our heart and 1 Corinthians 2:11 asks, "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?"
But, this raises a number of questions:

  • How do angels and demons hear or communicate?

  • Do they have a language? Is that language verbal or mental?

  • What is the anatomy of their hearing? Do they have ears (of spirit-substance) that can pick up material soundwaves and decode them in some brain?

  • Do spirit beings also need to learn every human language to know what is being spoken?


The Bible clearly states that the devil can inject thoughts in a person's mind (Lk.22:3; Acts 5:3). Also, we have several accounts of angels appearing in human form and communicating with words. But, nowhere does it say that anyone other than the person who had the thoughts and God can know a person's hearts. There are some who claim to have psychic abilities and there are also mentalists who use trickery to create an illusion of mindreading. But, the truth is that none except God can know the thoughts of a person's heart.

The Bible mentions the languages of angels and of humans (1Corinthians 13:1). This implies that there is no communication even between angelic beings without the use of a language. In other words, they use language (whatever it is (to communicate and do not just read minds, being able to exactly understand the meaning intended. If they could read minds, there would be nothing mysterious left for them to search for. But, even angels have curiosity.

Even angels long to look into these things. (1Peter 1:12)

With regard to spirit beings knowing human languages, this is not impossible given their intelligence and longevity.

However, they can also not understand the words spoken with the gift of tongues, since this is a divine gift whose words are only given and understood by God.

For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands [him;] however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.(1Cor.14:2)

Demons were angels who transgressed against God and fell into condemnation. They have spiritual bodies but their place is reserved in the lake of fire. Hell was created for the devil and his angels (Matt.25:41). Demons are angels of Satan. Satan can move around, enter people, inject thoughts, and will be bound for judgement; but, he cannot read anybody's mind. He is not omniscient. Only God is. Only God can see through our thoughts.

"For the word of God [is] living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things [are] naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we [must give] account." (Heb.4:12-13)
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How to Receive from God our Father

1. Those who ASK will receive what they ask for if they ask in humility and submission to the will of God

(Mat 7:7) "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

2. Those who generously GIVE will receive in good measure

(Luk 6:38) "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

3. Those who have, that is, are wise and faithful stewards of what is given to them, will receive more

(Mat 13:12) "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
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Personal and Mass Evangelism

 

"Cast in a hook, and take the fish.." (Mat.17:27)
"Cast the net.. and you will find some." (Joh 21:6)

Personal evangelism is like fishing with a hook. Mass evangelism is like fishing with a net. But, it's more important to drag the net to the shore and bring the fish home.

Both require focus, accuracy (guidance), and patience. Both involve the idea of catching and being catchy. Evangelism fishes souls out of the sea of sin and damnation and draws them out into salvation. The fish hook/net is the message of the Gospel that saves them.

Both are inefficient without the command and guidance of Christ the Master Fisherman. He knows where and when and how to do it.

The bait is something they want and look for. The consequence is their redemption.

Satan also uses snares, nets, and hooks to hunt after souls. The saved are instructed to be vigilant and prayefully watch so that they do not get ensnared by the devil.
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Did Moses Change God's Mind Through Intercession?

Moses intercessionThen the LORD said: "I have pardoned, according to your word." (Num.14:20)
After the 12 spies returned from Canaan with their reports, things began to turn negative in the Israelite camp. Ten of the twelve spoke words of fear and discouragement that made the people want to go back. Only Joshua and Caleb stood in faith in the power of God. But, the Israelites gave in to the counsel of the ten and began to wail and weep and suggest to return to Egypt. This angered God who told Moses that He would now destroy all of them and make of Moses a great nation. But, Moses pleaded God and reasoned that if God killed them all in one day, the Egyptians would mock at them and their great redemption from Egypt would ultimately appear meaningless. He prayed that God would pardon them. Then, God replied to Moses that He would pardon them according to his word but certainly all the adults who rebelled would not see the Promised Land.

Like passages where it's mentioned that God repented of what He wanted to do, this story seems to portray Moses as able to change the mind of God through strong reasoning. However, in both the cases, the fact is that God is unchangeable; but, people are responsible for either appealing to the principle of divine mercy or be consumed by divine wrath.

Repentance. In the history of Jonah, for instance, God decides not to destroy the Ninevites when they repent. Repentance, while there is time for it, appeals to the attribute of divine mercy. Divine mercy is like a cloud of redeeming rain that pours out and cools the fire of divine justice. It is not that God changes His mind regarding justice, but that genuine repentance makes it possible for God to act in mercy. As sin invites the wrath of God, repentance appeals to the mercy of God.

Intercession. Prayer and Intercession have a deep and signicant role that must not be undervalued. Abraham was an interceder who pleaded for Abimelech and also for Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaac pleaded for his wife and God opened her womb. Here, Moses pleads for the Israelites that God would pardon them. Of course, God pardons them in the sense that they would not be immediately consumed, but since they had no genuine repentance and room for it, God would later destroy them. 

This episode unravels to us the power of intercession as reasoning with God, as the act of appealing to the mercy of God on behalf of someone else. A single prayer of an intercessor who is intimate with God can change the course of world history.
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Are There Money Bags in Heaven?

 

"Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys." (Lk.12:33) 

Jesus didn't tell His disciples to sell everything they had and give alms. The New Testament records Jesus going to homes, being supported by people, some who were rich, the church meeting in houses, and so on, which proves that Christians did have possessions. Some even had slaves.

Jesus didn't say that disciples should not have possessions. However, He discouraged them to be possessive of things in this world.

In His commission to the 70, He told them not to carry money bags (Lk.10:4); for He was yet with them. But, before His arrest and trial, He asked His disciples to carry a money purse (Lk.22:36), for He was being taken away.

Yet, He warned them against covetousness and materialistic worries that are acts of anti-faith (Lk.12:15; Matt.6:31-34).

In the Millennium, and in God's Kingdom, there are no money bags like we have on earth, and there are no shops or financial businesses. However, there certainly are money bags that don't grow old and treasures that are everlasting; otherwise, Jesus wouldn't have asked us to prepare or store these. These wallets and saving deposits are more important and crucial.

The first treasure is our own soul, because, our soul is something that will continue beyond death. Jesus asked what a man gains if he obtains the whole world but loses his own soul. Peter instructed believers to guard against lusts that war against the soul. In a materialistic age, people pay lot of attention to the health of their bodies. But, it is even of greater value to care for our souls. Lazarus was not able to care for his sore-filled body. But, his soul was received in paradise. Each one needs to save his own soul by following Christ.

The second treasure is our works. Paul said that in the last day, our works will be tested by fire. The works that remain will be rewarded. But, the works that are burnt will be lost.

"Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1Cor.3:12-17)

Also, those who are unfaithful and sluggish will be removed from God's presence. For, though we are saved by faith, faith without works is dead, and we will be judged according to our works.

So, it is of utmost importance to watch after our souls and be diligent and faithful in the work God has assigned to us.

The third kind of treasures are works of kindness and charity that we do.

"Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." (1Tim.6:17-19)

God is not a debtor to anyone, and he who gives to the poor lends to the Lord. (Prov. 19:17; 22:9)

The fourth is the pure gold of God refined in fire. It is something that we need to buy from God Himself.

"I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see." (Rev.3:18)

This is the desire for God Himself and His holiness and the right perspective that comes from an intimate and genuine relationship with Him. Anything else, or in addition to Him, is corruption.

The Bible tells us that God's word is pure and precious and more to be desired than gold (Psa.12:6; 19:10). It tells us to let the word of Christ dwell richly in us (Col.3:16). Christ said that if we dwell in Him and His words dwell in us, then we shall ask what we desire and it shall be given to us (Jn.15:7).
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Understanding Tithes and Firstfruits in the New Testament

 

Firstfruits as offerings to God, in the Bible, acknowledged God as the owner of all things and one who must be served first before the servants can eat after they have laboured. Imagine a servant who has worked hard on his master's field; then, at the time of harvest keeps the firstfruits for himself and brings leftovers for his master. Or think of a servant who cooks food in the master's house and eats himself of it first before serving the master. Humans who think that all their labour on earth is for themselves and all the wealth they can amass is theirs to enjoy make the same mistake.

Abel and Cain both brought offerings to God; Cain brought mere fruits of the ground, but Abel brought the firstlings and thus honored God and was accepted for his faith in God who is the rewarder. Those who consider all things as belonging to God bring all things to God and take the reward from the Master. The others are removed from His presence.
Jesus said about the rich fool: 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' (Lk.12:20)

The very fact that God can take away one's soul and that no man can carry away with him anything from the world proves that God owns all things and so man has no firstright to anything.

According to the Law of Moses, the levites were chosen in place of the Firstborn of all Israelites, because God had redeemed them by slaying all the firstborns of Egypt.

In the NT, Christ is the Firstborn of all creation who was slain to redeem us from death and the Firstfruits of resurrection; He is the Chief Heir of all things.

The servant with one talent, in the Parable of Talents, hid the talent in the ground and brought it back as it was to his Master. The Master rebuked him for his wickedness. Obviously, this selfish and unfaithful servant had no motivation to work for his Master. But, the Master rewarded the others who were faithful and reprimanded the slothful servant. The others brought all that was the Master with all the profit back to Him.

Jesus never praised tithers. He mentioned the Pharisees as tithers who dishonored God. But, Jesus praised the widow who dropped all she had into the offering box. Jesus didn't ask the rich young man to give tithes and be blessed materially more. He advised him to sell his all and give to the poor and follow Him.

The focus is not on the tithes, but on the attitude of servanthood that looks at all labor as labor for God and brings the best to God, and after serving Him say "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do." (Lk.17:10)

In the OT, firstfruits and tithes were to be brought to the House of the Lord, but the edges of the field had to be left for the poor. Jesus said that the poor will be with us always and honored the woman who poured on Him the precious ointment. Offerings are to be brought to the House of the Lord. We should also remember the poor and love our neighbor as ourself. However, there is a distinction between bringing an offering to the Lord and helping the poor. They are not one and the same. If they were, Jesus would not have made the distinction. But, the first whole offering that God desires is that we offer ourselves, our bodies, as a living sacrifice (not kill ourselves but live) to God.
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