2013-01-26

Paul's thorn in the flesh and weakness are not his!

The weakness that Paul refereed was not the deficit weakness(e.g. our sins or defects) that we usually attribute it to. On the contrary, it was his strengths that were inadequate for the challenge so that he needed the grace and power of God. Even his strengths is not enough. We must develop our strengths and not boast our deficit weaknesses. Our strengths, better called gifts. are of the Lord and we need to steward them carefully. We need to build and use our strengths under the direction of the Lord not for our own glory but for His glory to benefit the community of His body. It is about our strengths not being enough for the God's appointment that we may grow up further in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Verses that tell us our Weakness is Good! Do they really say that?
2Co 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2Co 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Why was the thorn given?
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, of his success in surviving and overcoming the beatings, shipwrecked, toils, hardships, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights etc in 1Cor 11:23-29, that may cause Paul to proud 

What is the 'thorn' ?
To understand the real meaning of any word, we need to see it in the context.  The purpose was to stop Paul from being proud and forget about God. The origin of the thorn is from the devil as Paul clearly stated and it is to harass him.  The Greek word for harass is G2852 kolaphiz┼Ź, Thayer Definition:
1) to strike with the fist, give one a blow with the fist
2) to maltreat, treat with violence and contumely

Hence, it is obvious that the thorn refer to the persecutions that were incited by the devils. Wherever Paul went, the persecution seems to follow him shortly after. He was not able to shake them off. They just came after him. This view is further supported in 12:10 where weaknesses are lumped together with insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities (his life story in chapter 11). 

Some famous preacher put it well. He said 'the thorn of the flesh' in modern term is 'the pains of the neck' or the 'pains of backside' referring not to sickness but to people that irritate us.   

What is then the meaning of weakness?
Weakness then does not refer to our deficit or sins. It actually refers to our strengths, especially in the case of Paul, that are seemingly insufficient to meet the challenge that God has called him. Who can bear what Paul had went through? While Paul could take good charge of his talents and positions as given by God, he could not control the behavior of the people that went after him, from city to city. There are many great preachers nowadays with a great following, enjoyed great popularity and prosperity but for Paul, his life was filled with challenges and persecutions, imprisonments and eventual martyrdom.  They have what the Chinese called a smooth sailing kind of life. Paul had it the rough kind. 

Therefore, the meaning of weakness is not about deficit but about lack of enough strengths for the challenge. Putting it another way, if we think we can accomplish something easily because of our strengths, it only means that the something is too low a goal. To make sure our strength can grow, God will give us challenges greater than our present strengths that He may bring us to a greater height. The weakness is defined from the external challenge or mission that God has assigned us to. The weakness does not refer to our deficit but on the contrary to our strengths.!

What should me our attitudes to our strengths and weaknesses?
We should be discovering our strengths, more appropriately called our gifts,  and developing them for use by God. Strengths and weaknesses are not to be defined internally but according to the external missions or tasks that we are given to accomplish. God will assign us tasks that we may develop our unique gifting (strengths) for His greater use. We must therefore diligently steward our gifts and not to boast of our deficits as if they are a glory for God. We must correct our deficits and often draw upon the complementary gifts (strengths) of others, to form a team that together work effectively for the glory of God, with each contributing our gifts to the work.


Lim Liat (C) 26 Jan 2013

2013-01-07

What is True Worship?


Worship is more than going to church and singing hymns. Paul tells it is offering ourselves as the living, not dead, sacrifice. It is becoming like Jesus just like the common saying of  'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' ! Now is set our vision of becoming like Jesus into motion.
Last week in our discussion, we discover the meaning of true worship. It was stressed in our Sunday service too.

What is worship? What is your understanding?
If you say it is singing hymns, you got the common surface level understanding.
Praise is a key element of worship. (Heb_13:15  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. )

Some may worship is more than singing. It should including the hearing of surmons too. Aren't church service called worship service?

But true worship is much more. Let's go deeper.

If you say we must worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23),
then you are giving the textbook answer.

But how do we really do that?
We will usually say that we worship God with our whole heart and in sincerity.
Message Bible:  “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth and are  simply and honestly yourself before God.

Paul tells us more the true worship is about becoming like Him.

We are to be

(1) the living sacrifice with our body, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.... Rom 12:1

  This means more than with just our mouth of praise, but our whole life, our total living, as a offering to God.

  What kind of life? Holy and acceptable to God.
  It is God's definition of Holiness and not our own.

(2) to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29)
The measure and target of our worship is be like Jesus - feel, will, think, behave like Jesus.
The common people language: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

(3) Then we need to convert the vision of becoming like Jesus into practical steps.
What will these steps be? What will you do? How will you live?
See  Christianity Rediscovered: Five Habits for Effective Christian Living


2013-01-06

Did the Midwives lie? Exo 1:15-22

Exo 1:15-22 told the story of Hebrew midwives not obeying the Pharaoh's order to kill the male babies at birth and they were blessed by God. Most people thought that the Midwives lied to Pharaoh and thereby got into the difficulty of trying to explain that Biblical teaching of "the ends do not justify the means".  This post tries to show that the Midwives did not lie at all and therefore such contradiction does not exist. 
We will get to see a better picture by asking some questions.

1. How many midwives did Pharaoh command?
There could not just be these two midwives Shiphrah and  Puah for the large Hebrew population living with them.

2. Why then only these two were mentioned?
Because only the two of them did not obey Pharaoh's command to kill the male babies at birth,

3. What was the reason given to Pharaoh?
The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.

4. Could this be true?
Yes. Woman working in the fields daily tend to give birth easily to babies. 
Gill's commentary on this verse said that "it is said women will go aside from their work, or from the table, and bring forth their offspring, and return to their business or meal again; and especially in the eastern and hotter countries, women generally bring forth without much difficulty, and without the use of a midwife". My friends said that such births did happen in the farming families in China.

5. Is Pharaoh wise or stupid?
Yes. Pharaoh would not just believe what the two midwives said. He would surely check with the other midwives and they must have confirmed the midwives story. If their claim was not true, Pharaoh would have them killed.

By taking a system approach, and relating to the actual and bigger environment that our story usually could not cover well, we get a better understanding of things. The Bible does not contradict itself. It is usually our lack of understanding that creates the contradiction. When we come across such seemingly contradictory verses, we should take a wider look at things, especially the environment surrounding the story.

So we get back to the conclusion that "The ends does not and should never be used to justify the means." Looking at it another way, God cannot act out of His character to accomplish His work. God will surely not ask us to cheat our ways to achieve His purpose. Never use the Name of God to justify the evil and illegal methods that we use to achieve our own desires. That is one form of using the Name of God in vain. Illegal and evils ways will never be the will of God. 

Lim Liat (c) 6 Jan 2013

2013-01-03

The Lord is my Banner - God or Me for Victory?

What is the meaning of the "Lord is my Banner"? Is the victory due to me marching with the banner or God's supernatural power? The right answer should be both. This is the world that both God and man got engaged in and excluding one from the other does not make sense. It is more important to find out the parts or roles that each play and do the part that belongs to us, man and leave God to be God. While the right order is God initiates and Man responses, God has given man a good mind and a free will to response to Him and the options, staying with God's values and will,  are a plenty to choose from and we are to use our mind with His further strength and favors to accomplish the mission that God has created and given to us for. Don't just split but integrate too. God's love for us ensure His ways for us are good and the outcome are for us and Him because God is glorified through us and when we are most accomplished so will our God (Mat 5:16) because we raise the banner of God.
"The Lord is my Banner" can be found in the story recorded in Exodus 17:8-15. Here is the mind-map and please go through the points carefully:
A typical danger of inductive Bible Study (generalizing from specific instances) is to over extending the meaning of the particular instance. Most instances are situation specifics and are not meant to be generalized. To guard against over generalizations, we need to find other similar cases and discover the pattern. A typical humor shared  by preacher is that someone notice that Jesus healed by spitting and then form the healing school of spitting,

For this case, I am assured that this is meant to be a lesson for us because of v14-15 when God commanded that this story be remembered and especially for Joshua's and an Altar was built with titled "Jehovah Nissi - the Lord is my Banner". I also cited two other similar examples where God supernaturally acted with man asking and supporting and defeated their enemies. 

The Key Lessons are:
  1. This is a Dual World of Spiritual and Natural and God has given man authority to influence both worlds.
  2. Lift up the Name of God by worship and trust. Do all things from, with, and in Him. Know that we are sent by Him.
  3. We are to find out first the Will and Values of God.
  4. We are then to execute, with His strength, and with our mind (See the smartness of Aaron and Hur to use a stone for Moses to seat and to lift Moses hands with theirs)
Hope you are clear about you are with God in living out your life on earth.

Lim Liat (c) 3 Jan 2013

2013-01-01

More than a Good Wish for the New Year 2013 from Psalm 65


To have abundance and joy at the end of year 2013, then begin the year with knowing, following, returning if we ever stray away, and back to trusting and obeying God throughout the year. God is great and He is good. He saves and cares for us and our surroundings to ensure we are abundantly blessed when we dare to live righteously as He taught us.
To just wish you a prosperous and happy new year 2013 may not add any more good things to you as you have received many many such wishes by now.  I was reminded to read Ps 65 for this coming year.  It is telling us about how we can end the year well with abundance and joy. It all begins with knowing and acknowledging our God. He is a God that is fully engage with us ---- saving us from our sins, restoring us to His fellowship, answering us our needs, blessings even to our productive resources --- the environment; converting deserts into pastures!

Therefore let us come into His house with praise, keep our promises to follow Him and treating Him as our Lord and not just our Savior. When God says it is a sin and then it is. We only need to acknowledge is as sin and seek forgiveness from Him. He forgiveness is certain and He invite us back to live in His temple. Only by living with Him in His temple that we may enjoy and become what God created us for. Don't take justice into our own hands. God will be our judge and He will truly vindicate us with awesome deeds! The world may laugh at His ways and consider Him dead whereas He was patient and loving waiting for us to repent. But all such disobedience and shouts against Him will be silenced. All the evils will be punished.

But to those that trust and obey Him and stay in His righteous paths, even the non-productive resources like the deserts will become a pastures for flocks and fruits! Even your enemy will become your supporters (Prov 16:7).

Here is a mind map that summarize Ps 65.

Praying that you may start the year well and continue in His ways for a good 2013 ending with abundance and joy --- in all aspect of your life ---- spiritual, health, wealth, relationships, family, career etc.

who shared the following verse:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11


So we need to find out the plan that God has for us and to follow His plan ... this is summary of this Ps 65.

Lim Liat (C) 1 Jan 2013