Wednesday, March 11, 2015

God, my Fortress

Psalm 46:10-11 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.

While meditating on this verse today, I realised one thing, God is our refuge and strength. There is no safe place in this planet with the absence of Him. I could be at the most dangerous place in the planet and still feel safe because of His presence. He alone is my rock and my salvation, He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. There is no safe place without Him. The safest place to be in is in the water where He is, not on the boat where He is not. The safest place to be in is where He is. The safest thing to be found doing what He intends us to do. The context of Psalm 46 is talking about a God who causes wars to cease, breaks through and moves kingdoms at the sound of His voice! It talks about a God who is in the midst of the city of God, helping her just at the break of dawn. It is talking about a strong magnificent all powerful God who is able to do anything by His word. ‘Being still’ talks about a position of surrender of heart to His will and to receive His help rather than to try to do life by ourselves and through our own strength. Truly, it is not by might nor by power, but by His spirit. If God is for us, who can be against us? The Lord of heaven’s armies is by our side. Nothing is impossible for Him. I’d rather rely on the Man sitting on the throne who has the power to create and take away life and our very souls for eternity than an earthly man who can only harm the body in a lifetime. My life and every fiber of my being is in the palms of His hands. I will be still and know that He is God.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Serving His Bride

John 3:29
“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled”
            This passage spoke to me about the church, the corporate bride of Christ. As a friend of the bridegroom, we are not called to judge, criticize or condemn the bride, but to rejoice with her and serve her. The bridegroom knows more about his bride than a friend does. In that same regard, Christ knows, cares and loves the church (his bride) much more than we could ever love her. As a friend of the bridegroom, my job is not to tell the bridegroom how awful the bride is, but to serve his purpose for her. My job is to rejoice with him and to serve her.

            In this passage, the friend of the bridegroom was John the Baptist himself. His great joy was being privileged, as forerunner, to prepare the people for the heavenly Bridegroom. He contrasted his own role with that of Jesus, asserting the supremacy of Jesus. This talks about the forerunner ministry and how our role is to be a friend of the bridegroom now and make way for the Lord when He returns. Our job is to carry the message that our bridegroom (Jesus) has commanded us to convey in our lifetime, and then rejoice when we hear His voice when He returns for us, making way for Him to come. He must increase and we must decrease. We must realize that it is not about our ministry or capabilities; not even about an a particular organization, church or ministry, but it is all about Him (the bridegroom). When He comes, everything else needs to fade away to make room for Him to take all the glory. We need to learn that humility now as friends of the bridegroom.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

How can I know the will of God?

There is a common saying among Christians, 'How can I know the will of God?' They say it as if it is impossible to know what is His will for their lives, and their whole lives is spent wondering if they are doing His will for their lives.

Here's the thing, we can know the will of God and it is clearly mentioned in the bible. Many of us are so caught up in the specifics that we forget the will of God mentioned in the bible. We much rather hear a word, 'become an engineer, doctor, lawyer etc' or 'do this, do that' rather than to be actually content with the words already mentioned in the bible for us to do. Many of us do not even follow the commandments mentioned in the bible regarding the will of God and expect to hear the specifics.

It is God's will that we should be sanctified, to live holy lives and to abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess 4:3). We are also told to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all things, for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5:16-18). We are told to trust in the Lord and not lean on our own understanding and let Him guide our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). We are also told to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). We are called to 'do justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God' (Micah 6:8) and to 'fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of men (Ecclesiastes 12:13). How many of us are actually fulfilling God's will written in His very word for our lives and yet still ask the question, 'How can I know the will of God'?

I suspect that even if even if one does not hear a specific word to enter a specific job, marry a specific person or pursue a specific study, if that person follows and abides by the written word of God that person will be alright. Obedience is more important than sacrifice and ultimately that is what we are after, to follow and obey His perfect leadership over our lives. Instead of mulling over what we want Him to say to us so that we can work ourselves up to doing something we think or feel is from Him, how about reading His word and following that first?

Japheth Chew

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Can you love Jesus and hate the Church?

There seems to be a growing trend of “Jesus loving, Church haters”. Those who are more interested in their own ‘individual personal growth with the Lord’ and wanting nothing to do with the church, the corporate body of Christ. Looking at the scandals, sexual abuse, money and power-hungry ministers, political, judgmental and hypocritical behavior of some in the church today; it is no wonder that the ‘Church’ itself has become to some a stumbling block to Christianity. Some have become offended, frustrated, disgusted and therefore decide that they want out of it. It has become all about the particular individual and his/her own experiences, opinions and judgments about the church rather than what God thinks and feels about her (the church).

Here’s the thing. Jesus loves the church and it is through the church that God’s redemptive story would continue. Ephesians 5:25 shows us how Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her just as how husbands are to love their wives. Ephesians 3:8-11 tells us that ‘through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places’ and that this was according to the eternal purpose of God realized in Christ Jesus. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you are automatically born and grafted into the church. There is no choice between Jesus and His Church. Christ is the one who has ‘built this church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mat 16:18).

It is helpful to note that the church is not a building, not a weekly meeting and not the kingdom of God itself. The original Hebrew word ‘qahal or edhah’ meant a gathering, community or congregation of Israel. The Greek word ‘ekklesia’ means ‘called out ones’ while ‘kuriakon’ means ‘belonging to the Lord’. It is clear then that the church is a community of believers made up with people from every tribe and tongue. This means that there will be flesh and blood people in a physical location; and it’s this flesh and blood that most people have a problem with! Yet it is this local church that we get to practice being disciples, and what it really means for us to carry out Jesus’ new command: for us to love each other.

Japheth Chew

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What is Justification, Sanctification and Glorification?

I once heard that those words were not meant to be understood and that all we need to know about our salvation is that Jesus loves us. True (in that Jesus does love us and that we may never fully understand the full extent of what each of those three words mean), but false, in a sense that in order to understand our 'salvation' it is crucial to know the elements of what salvation actually means. For the longest time ever I could not grasp the concept of how the three related to one another until I heard it mentioned this way. In a nutshell, we have been saved - Justification, we are being saved - Sanctification, and we will be saved - Glorification. 

Justification (We have been saved) - The finished work on the cross by Jesus (the shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of our sins) meant that the price for our sins and guilt has been paid for. We are now justified before God the Father by faith in the redemptive work of His Son. (Rom 3:24-25, 5:1,9). This means we are now declared right before God (not because of our own righteousness but because of the righteousness of Jesus) and can now approach God in confidence, not in condemnation (Rom 8).

Sanctification (We are being saved) - The word sanctified in the New Testament means to separate or make holy for God. In a sense, we were sanctified the moment we were justified before God (we were made holy and set apart for God). However, it is clear that neither the word or the concept of sanctification are limited to the past tense. We find examples of believers 'being sanctified' (Heb 2:11, 10:14). Paul prayed that believers might be sanctified completely (1 Thess 5:23, Eph 5:26) and that our sanctification is found in 'abstaining from sexual immorality' (1 Thess 4:3). The reality is that we are living in a fallen and sinful world and must continue in the sanctification process to gain the imparted righteousness of Christ. When we sin, we must repent and put to death those deeds; we know that God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Glorification (We will be saved) - On the day that Jesus comes back to the earth, we are resurrected to meet Him in the air with our resurrected / glorified bodies and salvation is complete. Glorification is the completion of the salvation process and marks the completion of our sanctification. This is the blessed hope that Paul talks about in Titus 2:13; when Jesus appears in the sky and we finally get to be with Him where He is. 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 talk about the second coming of Christ and our consequent resurrection. This is our glorious hope and the reason we need to persevere until the end!! (Mat 24:13)

So Yes, all that does matter for starters is that Jesus loves you, but there's so much more to His love in His plan of salvation for us!

Japheth Chew

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Has the Church replaced Israel?

Only until a little more than a year ago, I had never heard of the term, 'replacement theology' or bothered much about the topic of Israel. I had little to none understanding of the various Jewish feasts or anything Jewish for that matter. All I knew was that the topic of Israel was a sensitive one, and growing in an environment that was hostile (and still is) towards Israel, nobody talked much about it.

Don't get me wrong, I never considered myself anti-Semitic at all at any time in my life. I knew we were supposed to 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem' but that was as far as my theology towards Israel went. I enjoyed blowing the shofar, and the few video clips I had saw about Israel and Jewish feast did intrigue me, but it never had any impact in my life, or my faith, for that matter. In fact, something about 'Israel' and 'Jewish' sometimes seemed taboo or offensive somehow (I now realize that there is a spirit behind anti-semitism in just the way the world has hated the Jews and Israel from the very beginning). It was simply because I grew up in churches that never taught much about Israel, or how we should treat them. 

When I heard then about 'replacement theology', for the first time I realized how big this mess has become, that me, and many who I knew around me, succumbed to this theology; that the church has replaced Israel, that all the promises in the bible that were related to Israel is now for us (the gentile church), and no longer for Israel; that God was done with Israel. We believed that Israel was no different that the other nations and that He had now a new people, the gentile believers, the church, the New Man under the New Covenant. At the same time, ironically, whenever we read the curses and negative stuff regarding Israel, we put Israel back in the picture and believe that God is indeed punishing Israel. We take the good for ourselves and throw away the bad. Weird huh?

Here's the truth. God is not done with Israel and she plays an important role in the second coming of our Lord Jesus. Jesus Himself, (Yeshua) was Jewish and so were all the apostles including Paul.While certain practices (such as Mosaic legislation and temple worship) was replaced, the fact remains that the covenants with the nation of Israel and the plans for the land did not change. There are no 'two peoples' of God, but only one; as mentioned by Paul in Romans 11 who claimed, "Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew." Ephesians 2:15 (NLT) states that 'He made peace between the Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from two groups." Gentile believers get to be grafted in into the Jewish tree, making that 'one new man'. God has a huge heart for His chosen people in these last days to come to Salvation and recognize that their savior has come. Would we partner with Him for the salvation of many Jewish souls in these last days to receive their King Jesus who will reign from Jerusalem in the Millennial?

Japheth Chew

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Holy Spirit is a Person!

I grew up subconsciously believing that the Holy Spirit was some kind of a force. At one point I believed that the Holy Spirit was the force of love that kept the trinity together; I can't remember how I got to that conclusion but I did. I believed that the Holy Spirit was some kind of force that was needed in order to speak in tongues and for miracles to take place. Songs about the Holy Spirit filling the room's atmosphere and filling the inside of me only enhanced my belief that the Holy Spirit was some kind of 'power' in order for me to be 'spirit-filled'.

The Holy Spirit is not a force, He is a person. There are many scriptures which point towards the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul refers to the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:27 as a 'He' and not an 'it'. In that same verse, we learn that the Holy Spirit has a mind and in the verse before, we learn the the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Matthew 12:31-33 warns us that the Holy Spirit can be sinned and blasphemed against. It was the Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus and became His witness and it is the Holy Spirit who gives gifts, teaches, comforts, helps, leads and corrects us. In Ephesians 4:30 we learn that the Holy Spirit can be grieved. All these are characteristics of a person, not an inanimate force. 

The difference between treating the Holy Spirit as a person and not a force is that you can have a relationship with a person, and not a force. The Holy Spirit wants to lead us into truth and bring forth conviction. He is our comforter, helper and teacher. I love how the Holy Spirit wants to bring forth life (John 6:63) and does speak to us (Acts 13:2). John 14:15-31 beautifully narrates how He was sent to us by the Father to teach us all things and bring to remembrance all things that Jesus said. The mystery of the trinity is fascinating! How I love you, Holy Spirit!

Japheth Chew