2013-05-30

The True Gospels of Blessings including Prosperity using 5WH2

The Prosperity Gospels is distortion of a partial truth of the Gospels. Taking a more comprehensive view of the Gospels with the help of the 5W2H thinking framework will give a clearer picture. Proverbs 3 speaks much on prosperity and long life. It can be a Biblical reference for our understanding. We conclude that blessings is much more than money and good health. More importantly, it is harmony and peace with God and men. The blessing also includes a discipline from our Father God who loves us much to train us up so that we can enjoy and handle more blessings that He has in store for us. Prosperity Gospels  preachers just claim the blessings without the needed wisdom and maturity. They are treating God like the Chinese Prosperity God or the Genie to answer to our wishes.
The Prosperity Gospels message has come to much attention with the Court Case of Kong Hee and leaders from City Harvest Church for alleged criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.  See
Prosperity Gospel - Learning from GLCC Dr Paul Choo's Sermon and Reflections from CHC Kong Hee Alleged Misuse of Funds.

A foreigner friend shared that she found it strange that the church messages she encountered in Singapore spoke much about prosperity and not about virtues and charities. It is not strange for us as Chinese because Chinese customs and festivals are filled with worship of the Prosperity God. The most common Chinese New Year Wish is that you may 发财 - make lots and lots of money.

The Bible indeed has much to say about wealth. It talks about how to get wealth and how to use wealth. Warning us not to be enslaved by money but be master over money. Using money to create impact for good and invest in the eternal Kingdom of God. Money is a terrible master but a very good servant.

Nevertheless, the real and true Gospel is much much more than money or wealth. There are more important issue than money which is our relationship with God and then with men. Jesus came to die for our sin and was resurrected to give us new life in Him. We are rebirth in Jesus and become children of God, with Jesus' righteousness and all the blessings of the standings as sons of God.

Since God changes not, His teaching in the Old Testament is still valid, though we are in the New Testament time. Proverb 3 cover much about the blessings of God and how to receive the blessings. This is a good passage for us to examine this issue of the blessings of God. Is prosperity the will of God for us? What else are in the blessings of God? How do we get the blessings? Do we get it just like that immediately? Answer can be found by studying Proverb 3.

One of the best way to think about a issue is to use the 5W2H thinking framework. See The Basic Thinking Framework 5W1H. Applying the framework to Proverb 3, I get the following summary shown in a mind-map form:

 How do I reach the above summary, here are the additional mind-maps showing the 5W2H clearly:

The Details of the How's:

Does knowing the How's and doing the How's means that we are getting the blessings by our own effort? The answer is No and Yes.  It is by God's grace that He adopted us and laid the foundation, the energy source behind the working of His Laws, so that when we listen and obey, we can get the outcomes of His promises. It one way, it looks like we are working to gain it, but the actual fact is that we are only responding to what God has already done and prepared for us.  If we are lazy and are disobedience, then we shall receive not His good blessings but His curses. We can of course be lazy and live off from those who have received the blessings. But that was because of the love that others extend to us. God's love and their love for us is that we may be changed to live rightly that we may be truly joyful and mature, a contributor rather than a parasite.

The key error of the Prosperity Gospel preacher is making giving to God as the only means (even lazy means) of getting rich and making God as our slave to make us rich. In many cases, the giving went into the pocket of the preachers and closed community to benefit their luxury livings. Whereas, prosperity should be the by products of living a righteous and Godly life with and before God.

Conclusion:
The summary is given earlier in the summary map. But just to stress point 3 "The Blessings come from Us Knowing and Living Out God's Wisdom". We are to Love and Obey God. It is not our achievement but the actualization of His grace from inside to external visibility.

Lim Liat (c) 30 May 2013

2013-05-25

Prayer is about Changing God or Us?

Many people think that prayer is to get God to do things for us. It is not. It is about changing us to trust and do God's good will for us, especially in times that we don't fully understand.
In Matthew 7, Jesus assured us that our Heavenly Father is a loving Father that will give good things to those who ask of Him. If we ask for bread, He will not give us a stone instead. However, if we ask for cigarettes to smoke, will He give to us? Will you as a father? So in reality, God will not give you things that are not good for you. Or God will only give you things that is within His will for you and within His character.

So, prayer then is not about changing God but about changing us, our mindset and will towards God's way of thinking. Prayer changes our perception of things. It gets us to see things God's way. Prayer actually changes us.... giving us greater clarity of God's will and the peace and will to do His will.
So, sometimes, God gives us the strength to go through the challenges rather than removing the challenges that we may grow up to greater maturity.

In Rom 8:29, we are to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. If we don't think and live like Jesus, we are not His disciples and we are not God's son. It is through prayer, the communication and communion with God, through His words, through His Holy Spirit, and through His grace of empowerment, that we can think and live out the lives that reflect Jesus.

What about our worries and anxieties? It comes from either we don't see God's will or we don't trust His will. The solution is simple as in Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It is just to talk to God about it. Thanksgiving is show the trust that we have in God. Let's God guide and assure us of His good will for us. Even Jesus in Gethsemane did that, a night of aggravating pains and the peace to suffer it all through the cross.

Through prayer, we get to be fully convinced of God's good will for our lives. Through this time with God, we also receive the peace and confidence to face the world, no matter what, knowing that we are in good hands. We shall leave with a thankful heart.

Lim Liat (c) 25 May 2013

2013-05-21

Meditation on Everlasting - Without Purpose Everlasting is Meaningfess

Everlasting itself is without Meaning.
Everlasting, Forever, Eternal has no meaning unless there is a purpose. 

That was what the Author of Ecclesiastes concluded after observing the endless cycles of life and death. See The Meaning of Life from the Wisest, Richest and Most Powerful King
 

Purpose is the Key
What then is the purpose ? Why do we exist? Where are we going? The answer lies not in the created beings but with the creator. 

How can we judge something as good or evil? It is also with Purpose. Does it uphold or deviate from the original purpose.
Everlasting Contains Change - Making Life Interesting and Engaging.
Everlasting also does not mean unchanging. That is called death or nothingness. It means ever changing with an unchanging pattern of purpose. 

But not Random Changes but Change that befits a Purpose of Love
Life is full of changes, of struggles, of disappointments, of successes, of sadness, of whatever. But if you are anchored on everlasting love of God, then you can have peace and even joy in the midst of all these challenges and no matter what.  

Creation of man is result of the Love of God. Men are created out of the love of God and to enjoy the love God forever.

Everlasting Love Produces Peace and Joy. There is No Fear in Love.

So we can resonance with Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Depressed and Miserable with Your Present?
Taking the verses in reverse, if I can't rejoice in this present circumstances, perhaps I have forgotten it is God's will for me. What does in Christ Jesus mean here? It is through Christ's death that we are redeemed. It is a reminder of how much is the Love of God for me - more than the cost of a His son. 

If we still can't get it, we should 'pray', or talk to God one on one. Speak to him of your worry, of anger, of don't get it ... He can take all we can throw at Him for He loves us.

After our verbose and emotional screams or plead, be careful to wait and listen for His answer and comforting touch. Heb 4:16 may helps ... in time of need, boldly comes to His throne of mercy to find the grace and power that we need.

Leave with the Peace of God

Don't leave the conversation with God until we get our peace. 

Lim Liat (c) 22 May 2013

2013-05-18

To Judge or Not to Judge people? That's Irrelevant.

Life is about making choices, making friends and working with and through people. It is irrelevant to discuss about whether we should or should not judge people, but rather it is how we can judge rightly and how we should respond to the judgments of others. We are even further encouraged to discipline with love and rightly(hard or soft according to their attitudes) those that God has put under our charge. 1 Corinthians 4 gives us the teaching.
I was surprised to hear from one of Don Carson's sermons that the most famous verse now of the Bible is not John 3:16 but rather Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged". The present day view is "Everything is relative. Right or wrong depends on the situations. What is good and right to you may not be for others. Hence, judge not." There is some partial truth in it and that is why it is a powerful thing as of all misleading ideas. The church has been deceived in the misunderstanding of this verse that everyone should not judge and everyone should just live happily and peacefully with one another. That leads to many unresolved animosity within the church, spreading of sins, and at times leading to misuses and abuses that may incur the wrath of the Government. (e.g. Reflections from CHC Kong Hee Alleged Misuse of Funds)

Life is about making choices, and making choices is about making judgments, especially of people. Do I want to befriend this person? Can I trust my colleagues to hand him the important task? How can I help others without making judgment? So the question is not about to judge or not, but rather how to judge rightly. 1 Corinthians 4 gives many good guidance on how to judge rightly and to implement the evaluation and corrective actions. Here are the mind-maps that summarize the details:

Judging Rightly and the Process
The Corinth Church as Case Study
The Summary:
Understanding how to judge rightly and the process enables us to hold one another accountable to our unique callings from God, for those under and above our charge, that the body of Christ will be united under Christ to show forth His glory. Here the summary map:
See also:

Lim Liat (c) 18 May 2013

2013-05-16

The Theology of Work - The Blessing of Stress Free & Meaningful Hard Work

A good understanding of work and our salvation will enables to work with great joy, energy and creativity to produce excellent work to show forth God's glory through the empowering of the new inner in Christ. This is how you can enjoy the working in the process and the fruits of your work.

Not sure when our Singapore society has become "we work for money" rather than "we work for meaning and fun". The "敬业乐业" Professionalism and the Joy of Work philosophy that I learned in my high school days were somehow lost in this great pursue of money and high salary policy. “They don't work because they were not paid” was believe hold by many.

Even in the Christians circle that should at the very least, be some conscience of the society, has the ultra-grace and prosperity gospel people singing "Because we are deeply loved, highly blessed, greatly favored, hence we don't have to work. Some even said that work is for the flesh! It is better to let go and let God!".

Actually we all want to hear what we want to hear ... just give me the blessings without the hard work; the shortcut to riches without the efforts and challenges.

It may be a good time to look at the theology of work and the blessings of hard but joyful work.

1. The Theology of Work:
  • Work is Fun. Hard work is even greater fun.
    We need to differentiate 
    1. the use of energy in working, 
    2. from the emotion work stress and worry in work, and 
    3. the output and outcome of the work.
    4. the environment where in the work take place (the 6M).

      I used to share that I am so blessed that my company pay me a lot to enjoy myself. It is in fact that I enjoy my work that I am able to work hard and long and produces productive and good work that I was rewarded for.
  • Work is Worship.
    In Hebrew, work and worship comes from the same root word - Avodah meaning to work or to serve.. Our good work reflects and show forth the glory of God. God is gloried in our good work. 
  • Work is Meaningful
    Our unique calling as in Eph 2:10 gives us meaning to work (Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.) See  You are a Masterpiece Created in Christ
  • Work comes before Adam's sin.
    God asked Adam in Gen 1:28 to manage the world, to tend the garden(Gen 2:15 ...put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it) , name the animals(Gen 2:19)  before Adam sinned in Gen 3 and the curse on the ground that follows (Gen 3:17b the ground shall be cursed because of you; you shall eat of it in sorrow all the days of your life.). It is sinning that brings the curse of stress into work. Salvation brings the stress out of work but does not eliminate the work. Eph 2:10, we are saved for good work.
2. Matthew 6 Does not teach us not to work but Not to Worry.
It does not teach us not to plan (Jesus told us to count the costs) but not to worry. While the birds don't plant, they have to hunt for food. There are hunters and farmers in the ancient world. Now we have farmers, manufacturers, business and other kinds of services providers.

Many people are thankful for the contracts won and consider those as blessings of God. But we must watch out and not any good start of blessings to turn into curses. Winning big contracts are good start. But we do know of many companies, big and small, make big losses on big contracts won. It takes hard work and smartness to deliver the big contracts won to make big profits. Only then, can we be confident that they are blessings. Otherwise, it could just as well be devil's traps to sink us!

3. Biblical teaching is about the blessings of diligence and curses of laziness. 
Paul has a strong teaching on this as in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.". 
Proverbs has many verses on diligence and laziness. See the mind-map below:





4. It is all about Stress-Free & Meaningful Hard Work to Glorify God through Us
In Gen 3:17b cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life
There are two parts: 
  1. curse on the ground and 
  2. the pain to get food from the ground.
In Romans 8:19-21  "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  (20)  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  (21)  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.", we see that the curse on the ground is still on.

So what is remove must then be the pain of working the ground.
We must clearly see that our salvation from God has not be completed until the 2nd Coming of Christ and the creation of New Heaven and New Earth. Nevertheless, we are re-born as New Creation (2Cor5;17) from the inside, the inner man. The new inner man needs to grow up and overcome the old man as in Romans 12:1-2  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  (2)  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So the stress, the worry, and the pains of hard work are removed by the Grace of God that we may find great joy, fun and the energy to work hard and long, the wisdom to work productively, producing excellent work for the glory of God through the inner man in Christ.

Hope to clarify and prevent misunderstanding ....

Lim Liat (c) 16 May 2013