2012-12-24

God will render to a man according to his work. 

In Christmas season, we stress on the love of God. The giving of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son to save the world. By why? Can't God just save everyone? Yes, God can't just save everyone by a command because God is a God of justice too. For all the evils done to us and to the innocence, we demand justice that the evil ones may be punished. We cry, why does God allow all these killings if there is a God? Yes, there is a God and God will render everyone according his work Ps 62:12. Someone has to pay for all the evils. The only one who is able and worthy is only God Himself. And that is the reason for Christmas. 
I am surprised that the meditation for this Christmas Eve is from Psalm 62. It is not about having a loving and peaceful time but rather about a time of difficulty, a time of persecution, a time of sabotage and betrayal, and a call to trust God shown by keeping silent! Keeping silent in the mean time also means we wait patiently in calmness with not bitterness and anger nor revenge!

The attacks have been long and fierce. They planned and even succeeded in bringing me down from high position. They praise with their mouths but their hearts planned evils. They are ruthless and continue to attack even one is already a slanting tower or falling walls. Evils know no limits and they will attack even if you are down. Against such evils, God want us to keep our calm and to trust Him to render justice?!

We are go back to the basic - God is both powerful and loving. He is not only willing but is more than able to save me. Therefore, God is my rock, fortress, tower, refuge and my salvation. I shall not be moved. Shall not be provoked to act out of God's will nor shall I take revenge myself. Instead, God wants me to pour out my heart to Him. Let Him comfort and assure me. He is powerful and loving and yet He is a God of justice as well. So, let me be calm and be at peace with myself and be not anger with my enemy. Because God will render everyone according to his work. God will judge the evils.

Let those evil ones repent and come back find salvation in the gift of God's Son that took away the sins of the world.

This is right time and season to escape from the wrath of God by receiving the Gift of Eternal Life Himself - Jesus Chris and have a really peaceful, silence of the heart, and a blessed Christmas Eve.

Here is the mind map for Ps 62:

Lim Liat (C) 24 Dec 2012




2012-12-21

The Parable with the Christmas Spirit of Generosity

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard is the best example of generosity. Generosity is about giving what they deserve not. Let's us not be red-eyed and complain about the generosity of others. Let's rejoice in the generosity of others and be generous ourselves.
It is generally agree that Christmas is time of giving. The spirit of Christmas is then about generosity - giving much more than what one deserves or don't deserve. Among the parables that Jesus told, which one do you think exhibits this generosity best? For me, it is "The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt.20:1-16)".

It begins with ""For the kingdom of heaven is like" showing us that "Generosity" is the working principle of the God. The vineyard owner went out to the market at 5 different times to hire the laborers. The first one at official working time of 0th hour (likely 6 am in the morning). Then he went out again at the 3rd, 6th, 9th and 11th hour.

Two Types of Contracts.
However, there are only two types of contract.

  1. Type 1 Negotiated Agreement - Performance Base:
    1 day work for 1 day-wage (1 denarius) Mat 20:2.
    The 0th hour workers bargained for and got it.
  2. Type 2 Trust : "whatever is right I will give you" Mat 20:4
    The 3rd, 6th, 9th and 11th laborers were happy to be hired and trust the owner to pay them accordingly.
The Timings and Don't miss the 11th Hour Boat:
At first, the owner went out every 3 hours to look for the idling laborers. But at the 11th hour, he broke the earlier 3 hour interval, and try to catch those last hour laborers. God will try His best to save as many people as possible, but there is a limit. Don't miss the last hour call and invitation of God to receive Jesus as Savior. After the day has come to an end, there is no more opportunity to be saved.

The Time of Judgment & Rewards
When the day ended, it is time to calculate and pay the wages due. 
The 11th hour workers were paid first. 
Now come their big surprise - for their 1 hour work, they got a full-day 12 hour pay (1 denarius)!
Then came the 9th hour workers, and they were paid a full-day work too - 12 hours pay for 3 hours work. They did not complain because they got more than what they thought they deserved.
So the 6th and 3rd hour workers also made no complains as they were all paid more than what they put in.

Is it Fair? What do you think? Do you agree that their complain is right?
Then came those that worked for the full day. They thought that they would be paid more and should be paid more since they worked longer than the others. But they got paid the same amount as the rest, 1 day-wage of 1 denarius. They got angry and complained against the owner.

Don't Forget the Original Agreement - The Owner Adhere to the Terms of the Contract.
Most people will sympathize with the first batch of workers because we think we should be paid more for more effort. However, we must not forget that there is a contract signed earlier. The agreement was 1 day wage for 1 day work.  The owner did no wrong. He paid them as per the agreement. There is actually no basis for complains.

The Red-Eye Syndrome & Jealousy Against Generosity
The red-eye syndrome is about wanting what others has no matter what. If the other guy got 1 day wage for 1 hour work, I should get more. Gifts of generosity becomes entitlements and past agreements were negated. People with such thinking will never be appreciative because everything will be considered as entitlement. They will be watchful of what others are getting. They will be demanding, calculative, judgmental, filled with anger and full of complains about being exploited and not treated fairly enough.

Such jealousy can also be seen in the way we criticize others spending. We are so good at telling others how they should spent the money that they have earned. Jesus encountered such a man in Luke 12:13 “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” We think the guy who drives a Porsche or a Ferrari should not waste their money on such fancy cars but to give the church more or the charity more. But when we are rich enough to buy a Ferrari, will we be thinking of giving to the church or the charity? 

We should reflect on ourselves. Do we suffer from this Red-eye syndrome?

Let's be Fair - Recognize the Generosity
Let's here the Owner's view .....

  • Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? (Mat 20:13)
  • Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. (Mat 20:14)
  • Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?
  • Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' (Mat 20:15)   
The owner is entitled to spend his own money as he wish.
It is extremely good that he is generous and give more that what is dues.
Let him decide who he wishes to give to and to rejoice with those who receive his generosity.
After all, the full day workers actually got exactly what they bargained for in the first place.

God's Generosity Extends to You today and He Recovers all Your Lost Hours
The best part of the parable is the Full-Day wage for those that started work late, especially for the 11th hour worker. They could not start on the early hour because they were at the wrong place when the owner went out to look for the workers. They missed the opportunities. Some may have other problems at home so that they show up late the market. Some may have over-slept. Whatever the causes, due to us or to others, there is no need to blame others, because God is able to pay us well enough, One Full-day wage, to recover all our lost hours and missed opportunities. The only thing we need to do is to response to the God's invitation and calling immediately. It does not matter whether we have lost 3 hours, 6 hours, 9 hours, or even 11 hours. God pay us the full day wage. But don't delay as to miss the 11th hour!

Extend God's Generosity to Others
For those of us that have enjoyed and continue to live in the generosity and grace God, let us be as generous as God, and extend our generosity towards others, our family, our colleagues, our friends, even to strangers and to our 'enemies', especially in this Christmas seasons of giving. It is better, of course, for us to be always generous because our God has been extremely generous to us. God gave his best, only begotten son, to us that we may have the very best, His eternal life, through Jesus.

May your generosity brings joy to you and to many in this Christmas season.

Lim Liat (C) 21 Dec 2012


2012-12-10

Beyond God's Perfect and Permissible Wills

Going beyond the thinking of God's perfect and permissible will saves us from the stress of questioning whether we are in His perfect or permissible will. We are to know that life is both a destination and a journey. The journey is as important as the destination. The destination is our unique upward call of God for us to be in His-image. The journey is our growth process whereby we be molded into His likeness. So even in difficult times and failures, rejoice always, give thanks, and follow the leading of God to see how it works for good for you and Him.
His Perfect & Permissible Wills
When I was growing up in Christian faith, I was taught, in books and sermons, by many pastors and famous preachers, that God's will can be divided into two types --- His perfect will and His permissible will.  When we walk in His perfect will, we will be greatly bless, especially in terms of wealth, health, power, reputation and success. But if we insist on doing our things, God will give in and permit us to walk in His lesser will for us. It is called the permissible will. The result will be little or no blessings. We will have a difficult time but still not too bad or as evil as being disobedience. 

Its intention is good. It tries to encourage us to seek higher, the better, higher and perfect will of God. It explains why our life at present is not so good because we are only in the permissible and not the perfect will of God. 

Are Such Concepts True & Useful?
On reflection and from experience in life, I am not sure these concepts of perfect and permissible wills of God is true or even useful. Firstly, look at the outcome. If one follows the argument that blessings will come from God's perfect will, then we need to understand what blessing mean. Usually people use it to means good life of wealth, health, favors, etc. In which case, consider Paul. In 2 Cor 11:23-27, we find Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned and finally killed. Going by our argument, Paul was the most disobedient of all. In truth, we cannot judge a person by the outward sufferings alone. Similarly, Joseph was sold as slave, wrongly accused and imprisoned and forgotten for a few years which extended his stay in the prison. Was Joseph walking in the perfect or permissible will of God? What good do such concepts help Joseph? Was it not better for Joseph to realize that in whatever circumstances that one fine oneself , God is still in-charge and is aware and one needs to follow and uphold God's standards and trusting His care and deliverance in due time.

Using the example of marriage, one can disprove the perfect will of God. It took only one person's disobedience to spoil the grand and perfect match-making plan of God. 

Worse, even people in marriage when encountering difficult will question whether he or she had married the right one according to the perfect will of God and then divorce the other on this ground that he or she had married the permissible but not the perfect one!

Here is the mind-map that give more details ....
The Better way - Seeing God's Will as a Destination and a Journey of Life

I propose that we see God's will as a unique calling for everyone of us and a journey of life to reach that destination of our calling. The journey is but a growth through hill tops and low valleys into greater maturity and likeness of Christ. It is a journey to experience and know God in an intimate way and to grow in faith and understanding of Him (Eph 3:16-20).

No matter how tough life is God is with us - It gives us Hope.
No matter and especially in difficult and tough times, we need to know that God is with us and it is his will. We are to be aware of His presence in all that we do and be sensitive to His leading. The high top and valley experiences are all parts of His will and we are to rejoice in them. 

1Th 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Php_4:4  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Trust God that He is more than able to save us from our sins and weaknesses
We are to trust God to be able bring us to our destination despite our weaknesses and our sins. So, don't be stuck in our sins and in regrets but wise up and get up to continue this journey with God. Through hard times and failures, we get to be more sensitive, forgiving and less judgmental and at the same time learn to rely on His strength and become tougher. 

You don't need to sin to have suffering
This is not an excuse for our sinning but rather have the faith in God that God is able to save and more than recover from our sins and mistakes. We don't need our sins or mistakes to find persecution and sufferings. More often than not, it is our walk in righteousness and our refusal to compromise with the world that bring forth the attack, scorns and failure in worldly viewpoints. The sufferings and persecutions of Paul were not due to his sins but rather due to his walk in righteousness to fulfill the call of God on his life. 

However, if we do sin or make mistake, we know that God is greater than our sin, and we just need to face our sin directly, confess it and repent from it. Don't let the regrets drag us down but stand up from our fall and walk forward towards our destination that God has planned for. 

Php 3:13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Hebrew 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus,the pioneer and perfecter of faith.... 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.


Therefore ....
So.... Yes, you are in His will for your present state of affairs. Now, spend time with Him and His Word to see what the next step that you are to take. Go on with His upward call of your life.

See also:





Lim Liat (c) 10 Dec 2012

2012-12-08

Etymology of Christmas & The Meaning of Life


Christmas is one of the seldom seen English compound words that is made up of two words.

What are the two words?

Understanding them will give you the complete meaning of your life.

Compare your answers with mine in the comment....

"Christmas" ="Christ's Mass".

Christ = Greek Khrīstos = Hebrew Māšîaḥ (מָשִׁיחַ), "Messiah"=the anointed one=Emmanuel=God with us

Mass= Latin missa=celebration of the Eucharist.=Holy Communion=Covenant between God and us, sealed in His blood for our wholeness as His sons.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

The Purpose & Meaning of Life
The purpose and meaning of Jesus' life is to bring us back to God.
The purpose and meaning of our life is to receive His completed mission for us and to be joined back to God. The remaining days of our life on earth is to reflect or express this new relationship to others.

Lim Liat (C) 8 Dec 2012

See also:

2012-12-06

Living Rightly in a Deceptive World

In this world filled with deceptive voices, what is so obvious and good may not be right!
The greatest deception is done in the Name of God and come from within us. Let us wise up and spend the effort and time to discern and discover the truth. And then to follow on by walking in the truth. Then we will find the true life  and joy to build up the strength to walk rightly even under crisis and pressure.
It is a deceptive world. 
What seems so right, feels so good, sounds so attractive and chosen by so many, the broad way actually leads to destruction and death! The way of life, with the narrow gate, needs to be searched and discovered. Yet even in passing through the gate, the way is still very squeezed and hard. It is so easy for us to just take the easier side-track and go off the path. Yet in following this narrow path, we find a strength, a joy and a freedom. It is not just a freedom from sins and bondage but a freedom for the good, pure, righteous deeds. It eventually leads to eternal life.

Life is a Journey of Choices
Life is a series of the choices that we made. What we are today is the result of our past choices. What we will be will depend on the choice that we make today and the actions that we take from now on.

Choose Life - Enter through the Narrow Gate
Jesus tell us in Mat 7:13-27 to choose the way of eternal life.
The gate is narrow and we need to find it. It is not the popular choice. It is not automatic nor natural for us to find it. Jesus said in John 10:9 "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." While the gate is narrow, we have the freedom to go in and out and find rest and strength. On the other hand, what looks good on the outside and so popular, the broad gate and way leads to destruction! Hence, deception is the offer from the world and we need to learn to discern the real from the false voices.

Discern the Truth and be not misled
How can we tell the truth from the false? Jesus tells us to look at the fruits - the outcomes, the life styles of the people. Even Confucius also taught us to not just hear but also to look at the behavior of the people before you can trust them. We should not too quick to accept and follow the talk. Let us wait and examine whether their walk follow their talk. Jesus warned in v19 that the tree that bears not good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. He follows with a scary warning ....v21

Even Those who Did Great Things in Jesus' Name Enter not Heaven 
It is not just those who call Jesus Lord will be saved! They must backed up their claims with work that follow God's will. The greatest deception comes from the Church itself in Jesus' name! The deception is great because they are branded with name of Jesus. They did the following 3 things in Jesus' Name:

  1. Prophecy - Teachings, Doctrines, Messages.
  2. Casting out Demons - Display of Spiritual Power.
  3. Might Works even Miracles.
But in verse 23, Jesus said that they are workers of lawlessness or evil. Jesus said that He never knew them at all. The motivation and the power behind them, even though under Jesus' name, are not from Jesus but from the evil ones. These people are actually using Jesus' name to benefit themselves and extending their evil. They have no relationships with Jesus but know how to use the power of His name. They are the enemy within the church. They are the wolves in sheep clothing. They are so hard for us to detect. Yet we cannot go to the other extreme of suspecting everyone of our brother or sister to be them as well. Such extreme suspicion will cause troubles within the church. It is difficult to detect them early. 

Hence, the following advice will help in the appointment of leaders ---- always check references, check past records, check their presence behaviors, their friends, test them, .... and let time do the revealing --- never appoint someone to leadership position without checking and giving time measured in terms of years to try them out. See also The Con Artists and their Scams - How can you tell?

Be Wise - Do as Advised by Jesus
We only truly learn and master a subject when we do them. There is no use just listening to instructions on swimming without going for a swim. Under normal circumstances, we can't tell the strong from the weak. When crisis come, then the true strength can be seen. We build strength not by just attending churches and listening to sermons only. We must put what we hear through discernment of truth and then putting the truth we heard into practice. Truth can only be fully understood and internalized through practices and frequent practices into habits. Many habits formed out our values and beliefs make our character. It is then that the character that show us the real self. Does this real self reveal that we have Christ within? It is through our work and character that God is glorified in and through us. 

A Word of Comfort - Knowing Jesus as God is Enough to Start
Be comfort and be assured that it is the motivation, the mindset, that is the starting point for our work and that is most important. The deceptive work done in Jesus' name mentioned earlier begins without the relationship with Jesus. They are motivated by self and/or influenced by the evil ones. The criminal that was hung with Jesus on the cross did not and could not do much. Yet from the words that he said, the only thing he could do, was his acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as God. He specifically requested Jesus to remember him in His kingdom Luke 23:42. Jesus' answer was immediate, Luk 23:43  And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

Knowing Jesus as God is enough to start. But don't there at the start. Continue the journey and walk in this narrow road of righteousness and the will of God that lead to eternal life and shining out for God.

Lim Liat (C) 6 Dec 2012


2012-12-04

I rejoice in my sufferings! Masochist Believers?


Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, .... (Col 1:24)
Is this a contradiction? Joy in pains!

A psychologist will point out that this is a mental illness. The author Paul is a masochist!

What do you think?

Can you resolve the seemingly contradiction and discover the greater truth?

The "Either-Or" Mindset
This is because of the western "either or" mindset thinking.
The two polar cannot co-exist at the same time.
Hence, for a contradiction to exist, there may malfunction - i.e. sickness.

The "Yin-Yang" Mindset
But to the Chinese mindset of yin-yang, both poles can exist at the same time.
For the common thinker, it is a matter of different degrees of yin and yang.
For the higher level thinker, yin-yang are attributes that belong to the same object or person. Hence, there is yin in yang and yang in yin as they both come from the same object. Both should exist at the same time without contradiction.

Resolving the Contradictions
To resolve such seemingly contradiction, we must think at the next level of depth or dimension. Chinese philosophy stresses on 天时 地利 人和 of timing, position(space) and harmony. The Russian Problem Solving Method TRIZ tells us the way to break contradiction is by space and time too. Movement through space over time gives us direction or purpose. We should question this then.

What are the reasons for joy?

1) The reason is "for your sake" - because you can be better, you are my joy, I willingly suffer.
We know that my suffering is temporary but your growth, your betterment, will last.
v28 shows Paul's objective ... presenting everyone mature in Christ.

2) Christ empowers me: I am not suffering alone, I have Christ within me(v27) providing me the strength (v29).

v29 is a classic and powerful truth that enables to overcome and stand no matter what....

For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.  (Col 1:29)

The greater truth: 
Joy & Suffering can co-exist and in fact in the presence of one we get to know the other better.

For a student, after studying very hard and passing the exam, we feel great joy our accomplishment.

In a bereavement, we are sad for the departure but are comforted for the better place that they went.
We learn to treasure those around us more.

After a serious sickness, we learn to appreciate life more and live better.

Even Steve Jobs said, "Death is the best invention of life". In face of death, what are the truly valuable and meaningful become clear and we are grateful to know and work for the true meaningful life where we get the joy and satisfaction.

We can share the famous Chinese words on crisis 危机 - which is a combination of danger 危 and opportunities 机. There is opportunity in any danger and there is danger in any opportunity.

There is joy in pains and in pains we can find the joy. Our
There is pain in joy as we want to share our joy with those in pains and we know that our real joy have been obtained for us through the pains of the cross that our Savor and Lord Jesus Christ.

Lim Liat (C) 4 Dec 2012

2012-12-01

The Con Artists and their Scams - How can you tell?

The ancient word for "Con Artists" is "False Prophets". Their scams are the false doctrines that they preach to trick people to give of their money and time to enrich these false prophets. The Bible warn us in many places about them. We are to discern and judge any prophecy or doctrine that claimed to be of or from God. They play on our desires and greed and are extremely successful.

One such popular doctrine is the "Prosperity Gospel". It is an extreme distortion of the word of faith. It is so easy to misuse the promises of God and to make God our genie to get all the nice things of life that we desire. The Prosperity God  财神爷  has been worshiped by the Chinese, especially on New Year Days, for many years. Be sure that this Prosperity God is only worshiped and liked because of the money he can give. He is actually a slave to those that worship him. It is an economic transaction of exchanges between worship and blessings (usually of money). The gospel of Jesus Christ, in a Chinese culture like mine, has the natural tendency to become the prosperity gospel with Jesus as the prosperity god that was told to me by an European friend.

Here is a good message shared with me on the Prosperity Gospel The Prosperity Gospel Message by Dr Paul Choo.  It gives a good summary of the main teaching of the prosperity gospels. Some quotes from the sermon include ... (See Prosperity Gospel - Learning from GLCC Dr Paul Choo)
  • "This is not Christianity. This is not the gospel. This is a scam. Period. Using the name of God.
  • Let's not go to the other extreme .... James 2:5, abundant life is not a fat wallet. The right place is God. ....Don't reduce God to an idol to give money.
  • 1Tim 6:17-19 God give us wealth to do good and share ....bless others. ...."
While I don't fully agree with all he said, it is worth listening to someone with a different view. So enjoy and reflect on the sermon and form your own conclusions.

Older writings on this topic of "false prophets" are equally applicable and useful for identify today's Con Artist misusing the Name of God. Of course, they won't be called Con Artist, but are addressed as Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Evangelist or some other pious title. They are in our gospel community and use the name of God and Jesus Christ. That is why it is very deceptive. Here is a good book "Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices" by Thomas Brooks. It was written about 400 years ago! There is a chapter on false prophets that I summarize with the mind-map below:











The pattern is quite clear:
  1. Appeal to your desire (actually greed or lust). Tell you what you like to hear.
  2. Scorn and despite those true teachers. These true teachers will prevent them from deceiving you. So they will say that their doctrines are either wrong, or out-dated or ineffective.  Times have changed and the true teachings are no longer relevant. 
  3. Ignore the real Truth. Take text out of context. Give a 'modern' interpretation of the Biblical text. Their authority is still and must be base on the Bible but their interpretation and extension are wrong. Imitation must look like the real thing in order to cheat it.  
  4. Have their own Persuasive Story and Doctrine to replace the truth to win you over. Get testimonies to show and prove that their doctrines are right and effective. 
  5. The true motive is actually to make money out of you and enslave you to work their cause, oops, their scams.

Lim Liat (C) 1 Dec 2012