Grace, Life

Life coming out of death

“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” Matthew 16:16, 21-22
Based on Matthew 16:16, only Peter knew who Jesus is among the disciples. He knew by divine revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. However when the LORD began to speak of the sufferings He will go through on the cross in verse 21, Peter hurriedly scolded the LORD in verse 22. The LORD Jesus spoke to the influence behind such a statement, satan. “…Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (v.23). You may also have some revelation of Jesus, but are there not certain beliefs you hold on to that unbeknownst to you are sponsored by the devil himself? What are the things that looks good in your belief system but are not of God?
Why is it that anything that has to do with dying is vigorously rejected? There is a certain job a person can take and it is like going to die because according to everyone there is no prospects there, no future at all. Yet, if that’s where the LORD said to go, are we now going to be binding the LORD? There is a way of living that is only possible by dying daily (1 Corinthians 15:21).
To be mistreated and not seek revenge. To be shouted upon and not shout back. To have you car hit and your grace didn’t jump out of the window. These are things that cannot be rehearsed. What ever is truly in your heart will come out when you come under pressure. You will misbehave first before you remember that you are a Christian. That is the kind of mixed life that Peter was living here. He could get a revelation from God. He knows how to pray and fast to get specific divine intervention but when the Master puts a finger on his life, he flatly refuses.
He doesn’t think following Jesus requires dying. “Why can’t I be ‘alive’ and follow Jesus like this?” “Why can’t I retain some ‘good’ aspects of the old life of sin and still follow Jesus?” “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (v. 25). Simply put, following requires dying. This dying is to accept that you died with Jesus when He died, and that when He rose up, you arose with Him in newness of life.
Therefore, old things (your life as it was before coming to Jesus) have passed away, and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Trying to preserve myself is counter-intuitive to the New Life in Christ Jesus. Any attempt to do so is a recall to the old life to return and take over from where it last stopped. And if there is no remedy done, “…the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:45, please read verses 44-45).
Death is the necessary condition for the outward manifestation of this life. But that is what we don’t want to hear. We save ourselves from it as much as we can. How then do we want our generation to see the glory of Christ in us, which is a resurrection life coming out of the death of an unpleasant situation? Without death, we can’t express this life; we are like mere men. But when you lose your life then you will find it. The power to compel men to hear our message, and to be so affected, is in this resurrection life, which always puts us to death, so that the world can watch us break forth with eternal life.
Are you also rebuking the LORD today? It is time to repent for allowing your enemy the devil to express himself like that through you.
 
For every time I have denied Thee, for every prompt of Thine I have dismissed, for every one of Thy Word I doubted…I am sorry LORD. Help me not to be presumptuous like Peter was, but to be slow to speak, and quick to listen to Thee…To receive Thine help for every deed Thou impress, and to never have a separate opinion from Thee. AMEN.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

Disclaimer: Using a quote or picture that mostly or fully represents what we have in mind does not imply agreement with or approval of a person’s general philosophy of life.

Picture Credit: truenorthquest.com
Advertisements
marriage, prophecy

A Letter to Nabal’s Wife

“The man’s name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. The woman was intelligent and beautiful, while the man was harsh and wicked in his dealings. He was a descendant of Caleb. Please, your majesty, don’t pay attention to this worthless man Nabal, for he’s just like his name. Nabal is his name and folly is his constant companion…” (1 Samuel 25:3, 25 ISV)
Dear sister, I am so sorry for this untold misery you have entered into by yourself. Little did you know that the “nice”, well-to-do and “tongue-speaking” man was going to make you unfortunate like himself. This is like a dream that you are frantically hoping to wake up from. If you knew he was like this, I know you won’t marry him; but how would he have shown you his true colours and ever find anyone to marry?
But now, there’s nothing good you can see in this good-for-nothing, Godforsaken man (you call him)? It is painful to see your life shatter into pieces like this, but what else do you expect from a Nabal? He doesn’t even think he is doing anything wrong. He is just being himself. I know that you have passed the stage of rebuking thoughts to pray for his death. You have fallen for that temptation already, as you are actively praying for him to die like the Nabal in the Bible, so that you can get on with your life.
There are very few dilemmas in life as torturing as being stuck with a son of Belial. And then you ask, as you sigh under the weight of this emotional yoke: “How could I not have known that this Nabal was sponsored by the enemy to destroy me?”
You see how an incorrect man can derail the life of a good woman. How do you separate this evil thought of killing Nabal from the remaining godly desires in your mind? Remember that it only takes one bad apple to make the other apples bad. How do we even begin to counsel you at this stage of things? How can we correct this living nightmare? I can only weep with you now and then cry out to God for mercy.
May you find divine help even in this desolate place. The LORD will “… appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3)
NOTE: If you can, please listen to this music by Bob Fitts titled, “He will come and save you.”
Say to those who are fearful hearted
Do not be afraid
The Lord your God will come
And with His mighty arm
When you call on His Name
He will come and save you
Chorus:
He will come and save you
He will come and save you
Say to the weary one
Your God will surely come
He will come and save you
He will come and save you
Lift up your eyes to Him
You will arise again
He will come and save you
Say those who are broken hearted
Do not lose your faith
The Lord your God will come
And with His loving hand
When you call on His Name
He will come and save you
[Chorus:]
Bridge:
He is our refuge in the day of trouble
He is our shelter in the time of storm
He is our tower in the day of sorrow
Our fortress in the time of war
(Back To Chorus)

#

MarriedtoNabal

Photo Credit: crosswalk.com

Lyrics Credit: lyricsmode.com

Life Mastery, marriage, Relationship

Married to Nabal

This is one of the basis of contention in marriages today. Many people have lost faith in the Word of God because of the gross wickedness of those who claim to be born-again, sometimes holding spiritual offices and publicly known as members of the household of faith. We must not be quick to dismiss such people, by saying they were (are) not born-again. This argument, even if true, does not placate those who have been made miserable in life and marriage by such men. The story in 1 Samuel 25 helps us to see things clearly.

“Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.” 1 Samuel 25:3

Abigail was described as “…a woman of understanding and of a beautiful countenance…” This simply meant that apart from Abigail’s beauty, she was not a careless girl, she had the capacity to discern what was right for her to do. For it to be stated, it meant that it has been proven over time that she had understanding. But unfortunately when it came to whom she was to marry, she seemed not to have exercised her discernment. May be the reputation of the man asking to marry her was too great for her to subject to such analysis.

This was a man from the house of Caleb. Caleb was one of the two men that God Himself attested to their lives before Israel entered into the Promised Land. Joshua was the second man (Numbers 14:24, 26:65). To be from that house was a huge reputation. And sometimes, one will just wonder, “what else does a sister want than a man of that calibre, a seed of Caleb?” It’s like saying a man from the family of any of our prominent Christian leaders. Unfortunately, something was missing in that man’s life.

Now, this is where many of our sisters run into error, especially those who are well brought up in the faith and do know better. Every man that comes to seek you in marriage, regardless of their reputation, must be subjected to the same degree of spiritual scrutiny you will subject the brother you term “unserious” or “unbeliever”. What you are looking for is not merely a testimony of their faith, but a testimony of their character. A testimony of faith can be given by the suitor himself, but a testimony of character can only be discovered over time. And it must be your own discovery, and eventually your reasonable persuasion.

How can a man be from the house of Caleb and be churlish (cruel, hardhearted) and evil in his doings? That was the kind of man Nabal was. Nabal is that “brother” that can give the testimony of his salvation but has no fruit to show for this alleged salvation. Nabal is quick to claim his connection to a godly heritage except that his wickedness betrays such a connection. Nabal is that rich businessman that has a good position in church but has no right standing with God. Nabal is a member of a reputable denomination but his name is not in the book of Life. This kind of man is becoming rampant today and it has made many people, even “christian” women, to cast aspersion at or at least dismiss some aspects of the Word of God.

The Word of God says “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Word of God has never failed. People run into all kind of heartaches that made shipwreck of their faith, because they ignored the due process of the Word of God. When you say “I sensed in my spirit that this is the right man for me”, what do you mean by that? I am not criticizing your spirituality, I am only strengthening it. Put whatever you say you sensed in your spirit to the test. When you conduct the test of truth, it will amaze you how many things you sensed that are actually not good for you. In fact, my personal belief is that the more you put your private, subjective feelings under the infallible, objective Word of God, you will get better at discerning rightly.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

Picture Credit: femmetotale

Grace, law

The Jurisdiction of the Law

The law was not designed to catch someone who has not turned their (evil) intentions into actions. It has to wait. So, it was possible to escape the law. David wanted to kill Uriah (you know the story). He didn’t have to do it directly. He arranged for those who will do it on his behalf. Left to the law, David didn’t kill Uriah; Joab and his men did by withdrawing from him at the heat of the battle. (Even that can be contested by shrewd lawyers in multiple ways).
But that was not the end of the story. What the law could not do, the Owner of the law did. God spoke through Nathan, the seer, not by invoking the law, but by dealing with a matter that the law was not equipped to address: His heart. Killing Uriah was a rather climactic action based on a series of previously activated set of actions. The following is a suggested detail of the beginning and progress of David’s action:
  1. David neglected his responsibility as the King to go to war at the time of war.
  2. He saw another man’s wife unclad in the bath while he was “killing” time.
  3. He continued to look on at that which was not meant for his eyes.
  4. He conceived intercourse with her in his heart.
  5. He sent his men to get her for him.
  6. He went in unto her.
  7. He then realizes that it was another man’s wife (not as if he didn’t know but lust had blinded him and dulled his spiritual sensitivity).
  8. He became worried of being caught as an offender by the law.
  9. He withdrew Uriah from the ongoing battle to conceal his sin. To his chagrin, Uriah turned him down, showing himself a better man than he.
  10. He sent him away with his death warrant because Uriah was too loyal to fear for his life.
  11. Uriah was killed.
These were the 11 likely chain of reactions. Using this calculations, he had done 10 evil things already before the law could find something to prosecute. Until the 11th action (which is even shrouded in mystery, except that God revealed it through the prophet), the law could not tangibly identify David’s offense. There was no evidence, as they say in law, except the letter sent to Joab, which would have been burnt, leaving the “forensic experts” with nothing to do.
When David was confronted with his sin, I can imagine all these 10 prior actions before the final 11th punching him in his heart, and he broke down before the LORD in repentance. It was not the law that did that job, it was the LORD of the law. The LORD dealt with the heart of the matter. But left to the law, it would have only pronounced him guilty of murder and he would have find a way to win the case, being the king, with the best of religious scholars and lawyers at his disposal, who can interpret the law in his favour.
The law is not bad, it is good; yet it is limited as an external document, which it is, when God wrote on the tablets of stones (Exodus 31:

18, 34:1).

However, God promised in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:7-13, 10:16-17) to write the law inside the heart of men. This is possible because God came in human flesh to obey the law and was never caught as an offender (John 14:30, Hebrews 4:15). As He died on the cross, the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom, signaling the softening and opening of the heart of man for the King of glory to come in. To those who come to Him and believe, He comes into their heart to seat as King over their desires and High Priest over their weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).
As King, He rules our passions; and as High Priest, He writes the law of His faithful LIFE on our hearts. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

Photo Credit: Children’s Church on WordPress

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

Also, materials used from other sources does not necessarily imply endorsement. However, we are “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” with ALL believers (Ephesians 4:3).

Grace, law

The Complementariness of the Two Covenants

We must admit our limitations in understanding and appropriating the New Covenant, apart from the grace of God. What Grace is to the New Covenant is what Law is to the Old Covenant. The principles and purposes of God did not change because of the change in covenant. The Law God gave Israel is still the will of God in a general sense for mankind.
The Law (mainly the ten commandments) under the Old Covenant was resolved into one application with two expressions shortly before the New Covenant commenced: Love God and Love your neighbour (Matthew 22:37-40). “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (v.40). This is the heart of the entire law which becomes the focus of the human heart after that heart has been transformed – changed from a hard heart to a soft heart. And since this transformation was not available under the provisions of the Old Covenant, except for information about our sinful condition, God made a New Covenant that simply resolves the problem – God puts the law inside the heart so that there will be both a willingness and ability to obey.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
Hebrews 8:7-8, 10
What then changed when God inaugurated the New Covenant?
Among other things, one keynote of the New Covenant is the change of priesthood that administers the Covenant. The priesthood itself represents the “life” that accompanies the Covenant. The sons of Levi were the priests under the Old Covenant, and the keynote of their lives is weakness. They themselves were not free from sin, which is the common problem of man. Therefore, as good as the Law of God, and the Covenant that brought it into effect was, the weakness of the priests themselves and the repeated sacrifice for sin became the common feature of life under the Old Covenant (Hebrews 10:1-4,11).
19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did (which is the New Covenant); by the which we draw nigh unto God.
23 And they truly were many priests (in the Old Covenant), because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death (lack of life that triumphs over sin and doesn’t die): Hebrews 7:19, 23 (emphasis & explanations mine)
The Law diagnoses the human condition
Let us bear in mind that the Law itself was given to reveal our problem. It was a sentence and confirmation of sin upon the entire human race. “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Galatians 3:22). The law is to confirm heaven’s position over the condition of man. There is no doubt here, all are concluded under sin. Everyone is found guilty of sin (Romans 3:19). This is done so that man can realize the reason for his predicaments.
After exhausting the options of psychiatry and psychotherapy, the very hidden cause, the first cause, behind all the wickedness, evil, lust, greed, avarice, corruption, jealousy, hypocrisy et al is sin. Unless we admit our sinfulness, we cannot make use of the divine remedy for our malady. This is the goal of the Old Covenant: to reveal the problem so that we can apply the appropriate solution.
The doctor diagnoses the patient first and then proffers the appropriate solution. Not knowing the cause of an illness is in itself a greater problem that can lead the sufferer to an earlier grave. Hence, the Law reveals our common problem as humans. Regardless of our diversities – racially, educationally, positionally, financially – all our peculiar ways of (mis-) behaviours come from one thing – sin.
The Law gives concrete evidence of our inherent sinfulness
Even though that is already self-evident in the Scriptures before the advent of the Law, God being just still fulfilled all righteousness by turning His principles into a legal document and allowed an entire dispensation for mankind to discover for itself its own depravity. So that man will be inexcusable before God, He showed man what to do (i.e. how to live), and it was soon clear that eating of that old tree of knowledge of good and evil, knowing right from wrong, is not the answer to the problem of evil.

The Law exposes the secret wickedness of our hearts

In fact, this knowledge has only made man selective and calculative such that we can behave ourselves when it is to our own advantage, and if otherwise, we can easily change our acts altogether. Hence, we realize that the tree of knowledge is not as helpful as we had imagined. It is a tree of options to the heart that is yet hard and untouched by the grace of God.
We can even use good things and good actions for questionable purposes, since the intention is hidden away in our hearts. For instance, as good as it is to give to those in need, there are all manner of premeditated evil that could accompany such “generosity”, anything between mildly controlling people’s choices to outright purchase of their conscience. A noble deed indeed, but corrupted by a well-concealed vice.
All of these, although exposed by the Law, remain unrestrained, not necessarily because man loves it so (although that is a very high possibility), but because he doesn’t know what to do to end it. This is the dilemma of everyman who has experienced the Old Covenant. (NOTE: There is a sense in which everyone goes through the Old Covenant (Law) first before entering into the New Covenant (Grace), because unless we experience (not just read about) the weakness of our human nature to obey God, we cannot have a proper valuation of the Grace of God).
Grace is the cure
And this is the very thing the Grace of God has been given for in the New Covenant to resolve in our lives. Therefore, that which is lacking in the Old Covenant is what is supplied in the New. Whereas the Law informs us only the Grace of God transforms us. Although, the Law offers an accurate diagnoses, that in itself does not treat the problem.
“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” John 1:17
Those are two separate Covenants and Dispensations. However, we notice that what was the Law with Moses became Truth with our LORD Jesus Christ. Which means when we embrace the New Covenant, the Grace of God begins to work in us and the Law which alone can only bring us death (Romans 7:9) is converted to Truth which quickens us, makes us alive and keeps us from (spiritual) death. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1) Hallelujah!

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

Also, materials used from other sources does not imply endorsement. However, we are “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” with ALL believers (Ephesians 4:3).

Picture Credit: kcm.org

Life Mastery, Mystery

Vanity of Vanities

“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” Viktor E. Frankl, Austrian Neurologist, Survivor of the Holocaust & Author of Man’s Search for Meaning.
After years of much learning through observation, research and experimentation, the wisest king who ever lived made a simple yet troubling conclusion on life: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12:8). Unlike Frankl, this is not the musings of a suffering sage, this is the wisdom of a pleasure-seeking monarch. Solomon lived in a time of peace and he gave expression to whatever desire he had. Apart from being the king of Israel, he built such an impeccable organization that drew the attention of distant civilizations, that came en masse to witness the rarity of his intelligence, and his palace became a museum of sort for political excursions.
Hence, it is neither poverty nor fatality that made Solomon to pen this brutally candid treatise on the meaninglessness that chokes all of life and sucks out any kind of enduring pleasure or fulfilment in it. This was a man in his right senses. Fully engaged in the business of steering a kingdom and perhaps producing blueprints for political advancement, yet his innermost being could not dismiss a deep-seated dissatisfaction he had with life.
Vanity or meaninglessness is an inescapable reality that challenges your experience of life, regardless of your position, status, education, religion, race, culture etc. It seems to me that once you are born into this world, the question of meaning begins to confront you at some point in life and it never leaves you until you settle it. Usually, when this inner craving for meaning begins, we misrepresent it as a desire for something we don’t have like a job, house, car, spouse, children, vacation, wealth, position, education, status and so on.
Your experience of life by now, should have proven you wrong except that you will not learn that lesson with one or a few instances in your own experience. You will maintain that you are feeling like that because there is something else that you don’t have. And when you get that thing, you will be excited! Your dream is coming to pass. But “…oh no, the feeling is back!” The dream becomes a nightmare. “Why am I feeling like this in spite of having ‘this and that’?
You feel like that because you think the things you get in life (as listed previously) are the producers of joy and fulfilment (the two key indicators of meaning/purpose). Even as beautiful as positive relationships can be (which happens to be more satisfactory than personal achievements), that in themselves cannot clear the dark cloud of vanity that rests forcefully on the human spirit. There is something beyond this cloud, beyond this darkness that has the answer to the persistent tugging upon your heart, the struggle to understand life, even your own life, and perhaps to reconcile the paradoxes of life.
What is that thing?
Light. Not just enlightenment but divine illumination. The human soul has great potentialities and it does get some glimmers of light every once in a while. But the problem with that is, this light is not sufficient to clear the cloud of uncertainty and vanity off of your spirit. These kinds of lights are lights that helps you to make sense of life within the status quo or larger context of darkness. That’s like having a lit candle or torchlight to see your way in the house at night when there is no electricity. If there is power supply, then in the context of the house, there is no darkness, but what about outside the house? Even with the streetlights and all the lighting systems of modern and postmodern civilization, they do not deal with the larger darkness. They only take care of the immediate need for sight (vision) but does not change the night to day.
Philosophers, psychologists and scientists generally have some good things to say and have made great contributions to the experience of life but you must know that this is offering a little light in the larger context of darkness. Although, with these great disciplines, man has discovered a lot about himself and his environment, yet he has not resolved the mystery of his reason for being. The questions of “Who am I?” (identity), “Why am I here?” (purpose), “Where am I going?” (destiny) are questions that require a penetrating illumination from above the cloud of vanity that buffets man. When this illumination occurs, there is a link between heaven and earth, and a privileged “trafficking” will commence that totally shorts out the “vanity of vanities” that afflict mankind. The only thing that has penetrated this globalized sense of meaninglessness, and has pierced the unfortunate cloud of vanity upon humanity is the cross.
The cross of Jesus Christ, creating a permanent vertical link between you and heaven, that horizontally (instantly) goes into your past to deal with the hurts, painful memories, sufferings and adversity, removing its sting and poison from afflicting you in the present, and charts a course of destiny ahead of you that does not only meet your expectations but exceeds your longing for joy, fulfilment and purposefulness.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.

Picture Credit: grantcardone tv