John 16: 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Word Commentary states the content of v 13 concisely: “Jesus brings the truth, and makes it present through his coming into the world; the Spirit-opens up this truth and creates the entrance into it for the believers”.
The truth is given by Jesus, but it’s the Holy Spirit who opens up this truth, so we can understand not only with our minds, but with our hearts. And then the Spirit creates an entrance into the believers lives or hearts. The intersection between the Spirit and the Word, or the intersection of theology and experience. Charismatics are big and rich in experience, but somehow lacks the depth of the Word, while the Reformed the other way around on the realm of spiritual gifts. You see how important doctrine is in our Christian life?
That’s the dynamic relationship between the Holy Spirit and the truth or the Bible we have now in relationship to Jesus. I believe there is no disagreement on this between Reformed and Charismatics. However, there is a difference between them in that the Reformed interpretation is really opening up the truth or the Word of God into our hearts, while charismatics will have that as well as the hearing the voice of the Spirit, and prophetic. The opening up of the word of God to believers by the Spirit, is what is called Rhema, the quickened word of God, per charismatics. So that is common for both. However, charismatics also attribute to this verse also based on:
John 10: 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. That’s a really important line from Jesus. We hear Jesus’ voice as His sheep, and He knows us, and we follow him. The thing is, how can you follow the shepherd, if you don’t hear his voice? I am looking at this literal model, not just from the bible. But in real life, real sheep has to hear the shepherd calling them, before they act. That’s the truth. Sheep don’t respond to voices that are different from their master or shepherd. They hear the voice they recognize and respond, walking towards him. That’s the real life, also spiritually. We recognize the voice of the Lord in our lives. So I believe there is room for actual ‘hearing’ voice from the Lord, and that will be a prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 16: 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
This is a clear incidence of the Holy Spirit speaking to Paul in a vision. This is a major direction of the Lord to Paul in his global church planting preaching the gospel and the Kingdom of God. It’s not like a petty stuff we think in our lives expecting God to talk to us. We need to have deep reverence to God in our attitude.
Romans 8 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
PSALM 121 3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
The Lord watches over you. So true. Because God is awesome, he’s so faithful, his steadfast love goes beyond the clouds. Psalm 108 :4 For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
What does it look like?
But what does that look like? When the Lord watches over you, it’s not just for protection, but also for sanctification, meaning changes in our life to be more godly and more like Christ.
When a person goes through hardship, he or she is driven to seek the Lord, and through those times, especially if the person responds to take a fast and prayer, the Lord notices that, there is a serenity that dawns upon the person, speaking from experience. But it’s more than that, because as we cry out to the Lord, humbling ourselves, with prayer and fasting, because we know there is no way out, I sense my ego begins to evaporate. When ego evaporates, I find a very different personal mood, in a much humbler posture. That’s why monastic experience is very precious, for us to get away and just focus on meditating psalms and scriptures, and prayers and worship. It’s a refreshing spiritual experience, and I have done it a few times. It’s a wonderful posture to be with in front of God. Psalm says God is with those who are contrite in heart. Psalm 57:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Those who are self-confident, arrogant or apathetic, full of themselves will be lied low, but those who are humble will be lifted up. Matt 23 12 “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The thing is God is doing something beautiful when we go through hard times, or being disciplined. I see that as a one stone two birds thing. One is we are , of course crying out, for God’s help, like David always does in Psalms, and the other one is actually through the process, it brings transformation to our hearts. We get less agitated, more calm, and more at the mercy of our God. This is when we focus on God’s mercy, goodness, compassion and sovereignty in humility like prayer and fasting. Just like in Israel when they sinned against God, and God judged them by letting them be defeated, they would put on sackcloth and ashes on their heads in mourning and crying to God. It is exactly the same. The beautiful thing is “The Lord watches over us”. How beautiful and comforting when you know that the Lord watches over you in your ups and downs. The worst thing is God is apathetic, doesn’t care our going up or down. You don’t want that. The most important thing is you know the Lord our God loves us and watches over us, though on the outside he seems to be quiet. And that’s because , I think, he is holy, and glorious, and cannot be understood by human fleshly understanding and perception, we need the Holy Spirit to reveal his heart to us. That’s why we can’t feel him half of the time or more, honestly, because our God is divine and transcendent, and we are mere mortals saved by the absolute grace of God, his mercy, one hundred percent, nothing that we have done.
So no matter how long it takes, there will be a turning point, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. God will not leave us by our own, but will always be with us as a shepherd watches over his sheep. The trouble is our perception of him, just because we don’t perceive his presence with us, doesn’t mean he is not watching over us by His Spirit. He always is. The Spirit of God lives in us now. We can even grieve his Spirit when we sin. Let alone his watching over us. Our perception of him will be much sharpened by our prayer and fasting and humbling ourselves on a regular basis. That coupled with daily meditation of God’s word is a touch down. God loves his people come to him and cry out to him, and commune with him. He is absolutely relational, not legalistic.
Most often than not, God can’t change our hearts at certain specifics, even though we may even be meditating God’s word daily, the only way for him to do that is through times of trials and that forces us to seek him. He’s got our attention, when we have no way to turn. But the scary thing is when we are so insensitive to him, when he is calling us to set aside time to seek him, it takes an aggravated situation to get our attention. That shows how frail we are, so attuned to the world today, our laziness, lack of motivation, and business, are all stumbling blocks to what God wants to do in us.
And more than that, we are called to continually seek the Lord. Not just once, not just a day or two, but through our life span. Seek the Lord and his strnegth! His strnegth! Glory in him, worship him!
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! 4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! 5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, 6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
Give thanks to God, call upon the Lord! Make his deeds known! Sing to him, glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek him and his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works he’s done! I love all these!
God is a rewarder of those who seek him
Hebrews 11: 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
You must have a sense of the divine goodness to seek God. God rewards us who seek him. Calvin rightly writes, “…no one will be in a suitable state of heart to seek God except a sense of the divine goodness be deeply felt, so as to look for salvation from him.” 1
Do you sense deeply the divine goodness? You see, Calvin is right, you can’t be casual about this. It’s either you feel deeply about God’s goodness, or you feel partially which will not sustain. Calvin writes beautifully on the fact that if you don’t have a deep sense of God’s goodness, you would not be in a state of heart condition to find him. God loves us to seek him, and this word ‘seek him’ is found all over psalms and the Bible.
Hebrews 6 says that without faith its impossible to seek him. We must seek him because we believe He is good, He is the source all goodness we can find in this life, real goodness. Not as an opinion, but real deep belief and conviction. Many people do believe God is the source of goodness as well, but they don’t turn to him, to seek him. And they got nothing!
Lastly, be very sure to know that it’s not our works of merits that we deserve God’s watching over us for good, but its God’s grace and goodness thats activated by our faith that will find God.
There are times, every one of us needs a hero, especially when we are in trouble. Sometimes, the world is not so rosy, and hard times challenging times happen like in the bible.
When I read Psalm 107, I saw a superhero. Someone brought prisoners out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. He then shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron to rescue them imprisoned prisoners. I am moved in my heart, and I want to know who that is. This is like a superhero movie like the bat man, spider man or something, and we all wanted to watch such movies. In all the movies, there is always a villain, and a hero to rescue us.
In this story, in Psalm 107, the prisoners are people like us. Whether Christians bound in sin struggle, or facing sickness hardship, or children in rebellion or in challenging life situation, or financial hardship, no matter what it is, we need some bar cutting and some bronze door shattering in some form and shape to differing degree to get us out of trouble! That’s what actually described in the book of Psalm 107,as below.
That superhero is God. Psalm 107 10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. 15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 16 For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.
The powerful defiant action described God broke through to save us as we cry out to him for help, is dramatic to say the least. It is truly one of a superheros, one that’s mighty, brave, courageous, defiant of authority, and full of power. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit inspired the Psalmist to describe God in such manner in saving us from our trouble.
It speaks to us that saving us is no easy matter. How many of you know that the difficult sad thing in your life needs more than a human endeavor? We need a miracle from God. Some of us have been praying for years and have seen no change in whatsoever, some have seen some improvements, some have seen their prayers answered. We are all in different boats. So why? So where is our superhero?
God is our superhero.
That’s the comforting sense of the word. But He is not under any schedule, completely sovereign, and remember we are totally under the grace and mercy of our mighty God. This article talks about the depth, the reach that God will do, invade our space, invade the status quo, the political atmosphere, to achieve his purpose and will. No one will be able to stop him. No organization or political clout will be able to stop him. Bible uses doors of bronze, bars, to be shattered by him to illustrate the immerse strength he has, if he wants to. We know that God can do anything in the world, but this is a specific case of showing his power to undo the power of darkness. It will take the demonstration of God’s almighty power to deliver many people in the world, and yet that demonstration is just a miniature spectrum of what He can do. Essentially what’s described is nothing compared to what he can do.
Consider the crossing of the Red Sea by 3 million Jews. God took Egypt by storm.
Exodus 14: 4 “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.
See how much God is in control? He set it up and hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so Egypt will pursue Israel crossing the Red Sea, and then this happened:
Exodus 14: 10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?
You know before we see the glory of God in shattering iron bars, and setting captives free, there is usually a time of testing, and for Israel this was it. They saw Pharaoh with the horses and chariots marching after them towards Red Sea, they were terrified and cried out to God. They even said ugly things, sarcastically scorning Moses about the better dying in Egypt. You see how ugly things can spew out of our mouths when we are under pressure and stress, hopefully Christians today will do better, because we are shaped by the Word of God, while they were not at that time, though they have seen the greatest miracles on earth and history!
Exodus 14 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
You know that’s why I am more excited to serve this God, the living God, more than being a CEO of a big corporate company, not that I have been, but the mere thought of comparison with them, I am so satisfied in writing even this article to exhort and encourage the people of God! My book project is coming next for the glory of God, and to achieve something for eternity! Not just hanging on to big bucks and comfort material, life that doesn’t last at all and brings a very transient joy and satisfaction and gratification.
God is not done with each of us. How and when he will break iron bars and shatter bronze doors to set us free, often from our own selves, or from some other invasion forces that have invaded our lives or family, I don’t know. All I know is I trust in Him, and we all should trust in Him and put all our hope ion him and wait upon the Lord.
I was talking to my mum who is a committed Christian and goes to a Methodist Church in Kuching. She was telling me about an incident that struck me.
Someone tried to persuade her younger sister who doesn’t believe in Christ to put her faith in Christ, but her reply is that her diseased husband is a Buddhist or sort, fearing that she will be separated with her husband in the next life, she opted to stay away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of the reason, I believe, is she doesn’t know that the God of the universe who created her, and incarnated into this world as Jesus, loves her more than her deceased husband did. And Jesus is offering an eternal life offer, that no husbands or wives can offer to his or her spouse. This story haunts and hinders many people with the Taoist, Buddhist or other faith background from opening up to Christ, a truly sad story, because this decision could ruin you for life.
This real story reminds me of a passage of a parable told by Jesus in the Bible, and I must share it.
The poor man and the rich man
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.
Both died, poor man went to father Abraham in heaven & rich man went to hell
22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
The rich man was being tormented in hell fire. Folks, hell is real. Just in case, if you doubt its existence, then your doubt can’t justify the justice of God, and also the righteousness of God. The fact God had to send his own only begotten Son to the cross to die to pay for the price of sins, to say that there is no hell, is an insult to the Almighty God. If there were no hell, why in the world would God send his Son to die?
Rich man cried out to Abraham for some water
24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
Rich man was in anguish, and he cried to Abraham for mercy. Remember Abraham was used in this parable by Jesus because Abraham is the common father of all Israel, he is the most prominent guy apart from Moses. The rich man thinks he has claim or relational connection or tribal connection to Abraham and hoping that he would consent to help him. This may be a warning to our Jewish friends, in Christianity, there is no distinction on Jewish or Gentiles, for all have sinned and strayed away from God, not even one. Romans 3
Romans 3 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Abraham rejected rich man’s call
25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
Two reasons Abraham gave for refusing to help the rich man in his anguish in burning hell fire. First, he said the rich man had all the good things in life, while the poor man Lazarus had bad things; but now the rich is in anguish while the poor man is comforted. What he is saying he had all the riches in the world while alive in this world, but showed no pity sympathy to the poor, and now he is in anguish. Secondly, there is a great chasm between Abraham and the rich man, and no one can cross over. This is saying that God had put a chasm between anyone in hell, and the one in heaven, That will be the reality when we face judgement day. Folks don’t miss the only opportunity in this world to try out Jesus. You got nothing to lose. The the fact of the matter is you got nothing to lose. Are you sure you want to be with your spouse for ever if he is in hell?
Rich man begged Abraham to send the poor from death to warn his brothers
27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
The response is too late! Not only that, Abraham said that even if someone goes from the dead to warn them, they would not be convinced. They are that hardened in heart. What a difficult time to fathom all that’s said by Jesus here. I guess God is looking for real conviction, real repentance, not some repentance because of fear of hell, but human hearts being so deceitful, will not even open to dead people’s voice. Whatever it is, this parable is told by Jesus. What Abraham is saying is that they have the prophets and Moses on earth, that will be the ultimate, that will be even better than someone from the dead. What is Moses and the prophets? That’s the book of Torah, the Old Testament. In other words, if someone rejects the Bible, the scripture, there is no chance they will convert because of someone rose form the dead to warn them. I think I can see that happening.
No marriage in heaven
Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
There is no marriage in heaven. We all will be like angels. Think about that, who would want to consent to the wishes of the dead? The entire ancestral worship has to be debunked by modern man, and no amount of earthly intimate good loving relationship can override the word of God in his glory as revealed in the Bible by the Son of God himself, Jesus. Think hard!
First reason is that we can’t survive well in this world if we don’t call ourselves as exiles and aliens, because everything the world stands for is against us as Christians. Though there are common grace that have been shown in humanity including non-believers, it will be impossible to truly live as a victorious Christians without such mindset. First, we are a chosen race. We are not just any race, by race, bible means a spiritual race, not the physical race. We are a chosen race, chosen by the Almighty God even before the foundations of the world. Then we are the royal priesthood, royal means the King of kings, and we are priests to him (God) in serving and following him. I cannot see we as Godly priests without being exile and alien in this world. Then we are a holy nation, that is the deal breaker in many ways. Holiness is the last thing the world wants. Liberal progressive Christians hate holiness, they love the kindness, social justice, and compassion of Christ, but they hate the holiness of Christ. Why? Because holiness will restrict and restrain them form following their lust, and their free-lancing lifestyle and yet calling themselves as Christians, as a label for their real agenda, desecrating the holiness of God. The judgment of which coming will be severe.
Then we are a people for God’s own possession, we are Christ’s. We belong to Christ, and he owns us. Ownership is a strong word, and the world hates it. They want to belong to themselves, their own inner self liberty, be themselves. The culture of the world will not allow such ownership, and hence we are to be aliens, and exiles. (Hebrews 2:9-10)
And because of the above, as explained, its impossible to live the holy life, the royal life, the chosen life, God owned life, Hebrews exhorted us to be aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which war against our souls. (v11). The sense of belonging is a very strong factor here, to be indulged or involved in the ways of the world. The ways of the world, wages war against our souls, a constant antithesis to everything the Bible teaches. The social media, Hollywood movies, even books that our kids or ourselves study in colleges all point at a different value system than the Word of God. How do you maintain your sexual holiness when everything they talk about is pretty much looseness, licentiousness? And you go against the culture but not indulgencing with them (1 Peter 4:4). The only way is to be an alien, we don’t belong to them. And the other one is being an exile; we don’t belong to their citizenship either. We are exiles form heaven, only here temporarily. A good mindset to have as overtime we face temptations or hardship in this world, we know that our time here is only temporary, we are pilgrims, passing by, our real home and destiny is heaven!
On top of that the expressions of our exile and alien in this world will be to submit to authority in this world (2:13), respect our masters or employers, bosses (v18), wives submit to husbands, and husbands honor your wives (3:1-7), and finally be prepared to suffer for righteousness sake (3:12-4:19)
My own context will be having a mindset of being different from the world pattern, not for the sake of being different, but rather for the Lord’s sake who suffered for me, and hence I am called to suffer for him if and when necessary. Tio pay the price of being a Christian living with a different mindset and values we pursue in this world, like John Piper said don’t go for retirement seashells, but go for the calling of God in this world. The only thing that will truly satisfy me (us), is to know God’s will and calling and do it with all our hearts and see that fulfilled in this world where we are merely passing by, building for an eternity. And we will rejoice as we share Christ’s sufferings now, when his glory is revealed (v13).
I love reformed teaching. But some preachers preach on the sovereignty of God and no matter what happens to him or anyone , we should accept it even if it may be bad. I have problem with trusting God and accepting passively whatever happens because God knows better and he is sovereign. That theology puts us in a passive posture that essentially deprives us of the fighting spirit , the spirit for a better tomorrow. I know that God sends storms to our lives at the right times sometimes to shape us up and refine us, like Jonah was sent a big storm while he was in the ship. That was meant to shake him off from his self righteousness for refusing to go and preach to Ninevah who was fast perishing, because he thinks they deserve it and should perish! But not so with our compassionate God who saw it fit that Jonah should go, and finally he did after the storm.
Therefore we should not stop at the storm, and let it hit us to the bottom and accepting whatever passively. There is a fighting spirit God has put in us, just look at David who cried out to God lamenting over 100 chapters of Psalms! He put up a good fight and when he’s defeated or knocked, God always comes through for him and taught him a lesson.
Facing hard times in life should never leave us in a passive posture with the argument that God knows better. Rather we should press on for a better outcome in life by trusting fully in God and utterly thrusting ourselves totally on God. God is not just our refuge , our rock, but he is also our hope.
By believing God to use you better rather than just chilling in your unsuccessful walk or ministry with God in whatever endeavors, is a proactive trust in God and faith in his steadfast love and faithfulness. After all, which parents do not want the best for their children? Same as God! Which God doesn’t want his children the best?
Though admittedly , not all outwardly good outcome of life is actually in the will of God. But that doesn’t mean we should just sink into passivity saying he is God after all, and he knows what best. He knows what’s best, that’s true, but God wants to see what is in your heart! As long as it’s in line with Gods will, we should definitely press in. Of course some argue that we don’t know his will, therefore we just accept whatever, but no, because there is the general revealed will, there is the silent will of God we should pursue and find out! Seeking God with all our hearts is one of the most mentioned themes in Psalms! And that posture is one of actively pursuing God and his best for us and our folks, and not one of accepting whatever!
If Hannah didn’t press on pursuing God and not accepting her undesirable situation with barrenness, she wouldn’t have Samuel, and who turned out to be one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament ! She pressed on and pursued God with tears and cries from her heart, and her swearing to offer her son if any, to God!
If David didn’t continue to call out to God continually throughout the book of Psalms, there would not be Psalms! There would not be the greatest king of Israel. He completely trusted in God even though he lamented on why is God is so far from him, so quiet on him! But eventually God came through every single time! You know why? Because David is always relentlessly pursuing God! He’s known as “A man after my own heart” as God said. There is just no exception even as he was punished and disciplined by God severely when he murdered, slept with someone wife! God dealt with him, he never gave up on God because he knows God would never give up on him!!
That’s what we need to be! Let’s do it for Jesus! Run a good race!
Chadwick Boseman’s Howard University 2018 Commencement Speech
Good speech indeed! My wife and I have been to our kids’ commencement in Ivy leagues, but there is nothing like this one. Coming from a Pentecostal church plants movement from Malaysia to USA, I was somewhat disappointed with the speeches of Valedictorian, Commencement speakers speeches thus far. Some of them are beyond disappointment to shock. Why can’t we have more of this God centered purpose in life Vs career speech in colleges commencement today?
Dr Chadwick Boseman, was in fact, the main actor of that blockbuster movie, Black Panthers, who just died recently at 43 sadly. I never knew him or heard of him, but I have heard of Howard College, a Black College in America. There is just something about the black population, seemingly closer to biblical views in many instances, compared to Americans in general.
The speeches I have heard thus far goes something like this, “look into yourself”, “believe in yourself”, there is nothing that you can’t do, if you work hard, and believe in it. The problem is if you follow the real you, it may be the authentic you, but the problem is the authentic you. There is nothing pretty about the real us, because we are all sinners on our own, and if we are allowed or encouraged to follow the real us, no wonder we have so many problems in our society today. The self-expression views, in the name of liberty, and freedom and passion, have completely wrecked us. There are some God ordained pre-determined passion in you, and it will be good to let it out and grow and flourish! But that’s only a minor part of it, because that’s all wrapped up in the overall much bigger sinful me and flawed me. Look at what Paul wrote:
Roman 7; 7 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
God given purpose Vs Career Path
Most of us are drawn to our career path after graduation from college. We set our eyes on what career, salary, security, and material benefits offer. We all need that. But what Chadwick brought up beautifully is the God ordained purpose in our lives by his pre-determination, that explains the very reason of our existence in this world at this point of history. That’s what we should seek. But without God, you can never find that, let me add. If you are a Christian and graduating, you should really take heed of this. What’s God’s purpose for you in this world? We can follow our vocation, but there is really a higher dimension to our vocation, and that’s to serve God, to love God and follow him. We have many Christians who became doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, professors, businessmen and women, etc., and they are vocations to them. And many of them continue to serve God, walk with Christ and love him in local communities churches, and that’s fantastic. But to put our sight on career path only, and neglect the call of God in our lives, will make our lives, frankly put, meaningless. Unless we find that meaning and calling of God, we remain a meaningless existence in a rat race that’s simply fruitless even with a bunch of wealth and comfort. Where do we find his will and calling? Heb 1: 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.—Put simply, without much exegesis here, we can find the will and call of God in Christ Jesus himself as expressed in the scriptures.
The Books and Teachings in Universities today
What we see in our commencement speeches that are so devoid of God, the calling to follow God, and the meaning of life, that it is frankly disappointing in America, the place where Christianity has made an impact and spread worldwide. One reason is we have detached so far from God in America or most western world today. Because of the intense separation of church and state, people have wrongly and abused it to the extent of separation of God and state. I agree with separation of church and state, in fact, historically, the early founding fathers of Christianity never advocated for the combination of state and church, until the Romans Catholics in the 500+ AD began to combine the power and authority of the state into the churches sadly. With that came the decline of the spirituality of the church, and the abuse of the church to the extent Europe was ruined, and Luther rose by the call of God, to challenge the pope and separated churches from the pope and started the reformation 500. It’s the most amazing awesome thing that happened in history. God was replaced by human church for a longtime in Europe, and finally God reclaimed his church with Luther and reformation.
Because of the enlightenment period, as History.com puts it: in European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented during the course of the “long 18th century” (1685-1815) as part of a movement referred to by its participants as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment.
It’s called the Age of Reason. We love reasoning, and in fact Bible is full of reasoning in the wisdom of God. But reasoning with God out of the way, it simply declines to humanism. That’s what happened. The Enlightenment period threw God out, and replaced him with human glory, reasoning, and scientific explorations. Result is humans are enthroned and became the biggest idolatry ever seen. And today’s all our college books and professors are all written and trained in that enlightenment influence, and any wonder why we hear commencement speeches as we have? They reflect the heart core of what’s really in our education. Remember, if you get the colleges, you get the intellectual life, culture, you got the world. We must engage our campus ministry and reach out to the students world. To change the whole worldview of enlightenment in America, is going to take generations , by the grace and power of God, if anything. We have seen some of the most phenomenal intellectual thinkers in the early age for example, Augustine, who published the City of God, Confessions are some of the most brilliant thinkers and their work have influenced the whole western thinking world to today. They are our Christian giants. We need more of them in our campuses today.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” — Ephesians 4:1
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
There are just so many sad stories in the world today, and of course, there are many happy stories too, but the negative prob are more. There is this cry from the hearts of the people of Israel , which can be translated as the people of God today as so relevant and truly a heart cry to God. I loved Psalmist first line “Hear us, Shepherd of Israel”, it’s a capital S for Shepherd, and it’s of Israel. God Yahweh has been revered and held an awe among the Israelites through the centuries, in their ups and downs.
Psalm 80 1 Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.
Here Israel cried out to God. Hear us, O God, Shepherd of Israel. They recognized God, they revered God and when they were in need, they cried out to the Shepherd. That’s what we do, we revere God, and we depend on God far more than normal times, when we hit our hardships. So the constant crying out to God can be and will be tiring to say the least.
The word Shepherd is in capital because he is no ordinary shepherd, but he is the Shepherd of the universe, of our souls. He is the God who parted the Red Sea, the God who saved our lives, saved our families, us for eternal life, our constant reference point to him must be strong, and cannot fade. We must connect with the Shepherd of our souls. If there is one person who can deliver us from our problems, it will be him.
Problem is in the world, when people are in trouble, they don’t know who they can call upon. Police? State? Community? Rich people? Political figures? Friends? Family? They may be able to help in some way, but really there is a lot of things they can’t help. They can only go so far. But with God, nothing is impossible, though he may not sometimes answer the way we asked him to. That’s his prerogatives, he always is sovereign, and big, and Romans 8 28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Though we will have to qualify that all things according to his purpose. Slightly nuanced.
Secondly, it’s our Shepherd, not our Doctor, Lawyer, Governor, Pastor, it’s not human! It’s actually someone divine, someone who walked through the wall when he appeared to the 12 apostles after his resurrection, and yet someone is designated as Shepherd. Shepherd’s job is to lead the sheep, looks after the sheep, and that’s us. There is an intimacy between Jesus as our Shepherd and his sheep (us)! John 10 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” You see that’s what we are talking about. We are not appealing to our Manager, Chairman, President! We are appealing to someone who even died for us, and who is also God! Jesus said he is the good shepherd, and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. That’s exactly what he did, when he was crucified on the cross and died for our humanity sins, to redeem us. And the beautiful thing is he empathizes with our problems and our struggles. Hebrews 4: 15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Because Jesus has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. That’s the Shepherd we are calling upon. He completely understands our struggles and have great empathy for us who struggle, because he has been through all those himself, and even worse, to the point of dying and being unjustly killed for our sake! He’s gone far beyond the call of a Shepherd. God in his divinity will not be able to understand all our struggles in his divine form, but it took the Son of God to become man, to experience the hardship of humanity, being mocked, spit at, slapped on his face, whipped so much that he bled. And yet He is the One who is now seated on the throne of God in heaven, with all powers, dominion under his feet. We have a powerful strong shepherd and yet so relatable to us, intimate with us. We have to approach him more and more. In other words, we are calling upon our Shepherd, our God.
The context here is Israel knew exactly how God led them through the Red Sea, poured his wrath in 7 plagues that destroyed Egypt and killed all their first born, including the first born of Pharaoh. How God led them through the wilderness desert, and how God opened up the rocks to bring water to feed them to quench their thirst, and rained down birds for them to eat, and manna for them. They know what kind of Shepherd God is to them at that time. Powerful, Almighty, loving and a jealous God. And when psalmist wrote that hear us Oh Shepherd of Israel, they were looking to God to return to Israel and lead them like before. This is a story about how they have sinned against God, and many verses later cried out to God to return to Israel.
In many ways, we feel the same way. When our children or family do not walk with the Lord anymore, or any problems that we face, or our communities, our nation, our hearts cry to God as the Shepherd of our souls, return to us, and take our children and people back to himself. This cry must come before God as a passionate voice to our God, our Shepherd, the Shepherd of our souls. We have people who have gone before us and how they relied on God, walked with God and experienced most extraordinary miracles in the desert!
Psalm 80 1 You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.
The glamor of the city is over with the Covid19 onslaught that dispersed many middle upper classes New Yorkers from NYC especially Manhattan. We used to have churches clamoring for midtown, etc., because Manhattan seems to be so hot with many young professionals, young families, dynamic, energetic, aspirating for career dream in this Big Apple. The density of population in New York is staggering. 27,000 people per square mile! Example: Over one-third of the population 25 and over in New York City has a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30 percent nationally. The borough of Brooklyn on its own would be the 4th largest city in the United States; Queens would also rank 4th nationally.
With that kind of density, in the rush hour of Manhattan, literally people are rushing almost shoulder to shoulder, and the subways can barely keep up with the amount of traffic. With the recent advent of Covid 19 pandemic hitting the world, with especially New York city among the hardest hit in the world, the scene got ugly and scary. Morgues with freezers were set up barely 6 months ago in certain parts of New York like Queens, because there is just not enough morgues. It gets to that stage, hospitals were running out of space or beds to treat patients, lack of doctors and nurses who were bravely tirelessly sacrificially in the front line fighting the disease and trying to save lives. It was a very tense moment that lasts for almost half a year when New York peaked with Covid 19 more than Wuhan of China, Italy, etc. It’s just astonishing and downright scary how all these happened to such a beloved city at such a quick pace.
Now almost all offices have been having their staff working remote from home to avoid transmission of viruses for over 6 months now and growing. With that many middle upper classes professional living in New York are moving out or moved out already of New York to suburbs to get away from this congested city with #1 spread of virus in the world. Many have moved to the Hudson, CT, Long Island and many are not returning to New York city anymore. First they really have a much bigger space and yard to breathe than being jammed into an apartment with many other residents sharing elevator daily, fighting traffic on the roads, and subway. Now they begin to experience a fresh breath of air they never had a chance to, and now saving tons of dollars. Why? Because houses out there are much cheaper than in Manhattan, Brooklyn, UWS etc. And on top of that, they don’t pay the city tax of New York, because they don’t work in the city anymore, but in the suburb. And the fact that they can work remote from their suburb, what’s the point of staying back in the expensive congested vulnerable to virus disease city?? NY Governor Cuomo said, “In the old days we used to talk about people leaving Manhattan if the situation got bad, if taxes went up, if quality of life deteriorated,” Cuomo said on a call with reporters Thursday. “They left. They left because of COVID.”
Piled up on top of the problem is the problem of violence viz. gun shootings killings in New York city recently. With the racism uproar recently of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some protests of Black Lives Matter has turned violent and , without going into details, NYPD New York Police has been defunded with a billion dollars been shifted from their budget in other social welfare depts in the city. The Police depts need reformation, retraining to prevent police brutality especially towards the blacks on the streets, but not defunding. The respect for Police has hence dropped to an all-time low, and cops struggled to really combat violence, crimes, etc., because they struggled with all the above reasons. Recently there have been 40-50 gun shootings in New York city over every weekend, something never been heard before. NY Times reported, “The city surpassed 400 shootings in the first half of the year for the first time since 2016, with 528 by the end of last month; the 205 shootings in June were the highest for that month since 1996, the police said.”
It’s really a no brainer. So, what does that mean to the churches in NYC? I used to hear how much churches wanted to jam into the midtown of Manhattan as it’s the central strategic spot with professional, hip millennials all jamming in there. It’s a glamor to have planted a church in midtown. And now looking back, people have left, and many are leaving, and not coming back for the foreseeable future now.
I am in favor of spreading out the population outside of the hotspot of a mega city to decrease the density of population, giving more space to all and families with small children, and give more space for all for a healthier less hectic lifestyle. When so many people crammed in one hot spot, it’s a fertile ground for any virus to spread, and in future, there may be more! So let’s plant churches outside of the ‘mega city’ to the suburbs and smaller towns and cities too. It will be healthier lifestyle to all.
City is not our goal, it’s a means
Remember city is not our goal, it’s a means. The gospel for the people and the Kingdom of God is the goal. As much as much urbanization has happened for the last few decades, round the world, the trend most likely will reverse to a sizable extent for a good reason, and the institution of the gospel must follow suit.
This will also resolve the tension of raising families with young kids in a congested metropolis city with high costs of living, with poor public schools, and very expensive private schools. When families with children moved to suburbs, or outskirts of the city, families can have affordable good schools, and solve a lot of the inner city problems too.
Gospel doesn’t have to stay in the city, let it grow to the suburbs, smaller towns and cities, the outskirts of the city and spread out the glory of God.
Habakkuk 2 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Paul’s Church Planting Pattern in the New testament
Paul was preaching the gospel from city to city. Paul preached to the city of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. NT pattern of church planting of Paul is from city to city, not exactly in one huge mega city. Acts 14:21-22 (ESV) 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Paul and Timothy went through the cities, delivering the message of the gospel.
Acts 16:3-5 (ESV) 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him….4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Paul wanted to bring Barnaba’s together to return and visit the churches in every city where they proclaimed the word of God. Note: It’s the word of God, not just the gospel.
Acts 15:36 (ESV) 36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are.”
The pattern of evangelicalism of church planting by Paul in the NT is clearly from city to city, as opposed to one mega city.
The love of parents for their children is nearing ‘unconditional’ in a sense of whatever kids do, until they deny their parents or so. Something that’s unheard of in the world, and it has to be from God. Only the God of the universe who created all living beings, is capable of that.
My wife and I were in a zoom discussion group yesterday, one mother shared how she prayed for 5 hours in her 7 hours work while she’s working, all for her two boys. That’s doesn’t happen in one day, but generally regular, and she cried as she poured out how much she had prayed for her gone astray sons to come back to the Lord and questioned why after so many days, weeks, months of intense prayer, she doesn’t even see an inkling of change in her sons. She said she struggled with her own disbelief now, as the Lord doesn’t seem to hear at all even a little bit, after all these months of travailing prayers! I couldn’t help being choked up a little, as I felt her pain. We were all praying for our children and the burden upon the Christian parents is particularly heavy when the children had gone off from the Lord.
For you all with mothers, it’s time to call your mum, respect and honor you mum, for Christ sake. I am convicted myself! The depth of calling for mum and dad to love their kids, whether Christians or not, is a God given common grace inbuilt from the time of birth universally. No one needs to tell or teach a mum to love her kids. This is especially showing during the tender moment when a mother holds her baby in her arms.
From a commonsense point of view, who would have signed up to join a membership when you needed help in the field you signed up for, you don’t hear from the provider after repeated calls, requests. Anger boils. It does make you wonder why our God is sometimes so silent in things that matter so much to us and over months or even years of crying out in prayers? I think every Christian needs to know the God whom we worship in his holiness, justice, steadfast love.
But how does God not hear? In Psalms, there are plenty of cases when David or psalmist cried, “O God, why are you far from me?” But the ending is always praises of God’s steadfast love, and faithfulness. Let me take you through Psalm 22 in my devotion this morning from getting daily mails from Matthew henry, an amazing focused verse for meditation and prayers. https://www.matthewhenry.org/read/adoration/introduction-to-adoration/
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.
1. Perfectly acceptable to cry out to God and question him with reverence in trying times
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
This is David crying out to God asking and questioning God why he has forsaken him. It’s okay to question God in an attitude of awe and reverence like David. He questioned God, crying why he hasn’t heard his prayers. That’s the kind of thing we experience sometimes. But David is always affectionate towards God, passionately worshipping God with all his heart, no matter what he faced. In fact, God delivered him at all times. Though there were times, when he was snubbed for God’s reasons.
He called God as “but you do not answer” 2 “My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,” It’s better to have straight talk from your heart with God, instead of hushing it, and may just results in disbelief, and backslide in bitterness. It’s so much better to talk it over with God, just like you do it with your wife/husband, when things makes you mad. Always have a good talk. But with God, it’s different, because he is not a human, that you talk to and he responds. He is Spirit, and the Lord Jesus is our mediator, God, shepherd. But we can learn from David. Talking to God and pour out your heart to him. You will feel better after that, because you know he has heard you. That’s really important for you, your sanity, and the Lord wants our hearts, and he will take heart.
2. God is still enthroned that our fore-fathers put their trust in him in their hard times
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.[c] 4 In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Life testimony is one of the most powerful encouraging things we have. When Israel crossed the Jordan River, God asked Joshua to pick up stones for memorial, that their descendants may not forget. The great acts of God need to be in our minds, at all times, especially in times of discouragement, travailing with no seeming answers. Testimonies is more powerful that theology at certain times. We need both, because testimonies is theology in life.
David’s genius is he is so good at shifting from the poor me, grumbling me, look at me, kind of mindset, to the awesomeness of God, the greatness of God immediately. He recounted the great things God has done before, what happened to his forefathers, as they trusted in God and God saved them, and were not put to shame. Those are precious moments that’s so important, from looking at ‘me’, to looking at God’s greatness and power and strength. In fact, that pretty much sums up psalms.
3. Remember that God made me to trust in him even at my mother’s breasts
God made you trust But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. 8 “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. 10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
That brings us back to the moment of creation of life. God designs us to be that way. Whether a person grown up to accept God or reject God, that element must be true in every human being. But it’s the corruption and the moral decay in this world that robs people of that, if they reject God later on.
In hard times, we must go back to our beginning with God. From our mother’s wombs, Jesus has been our God. That’s never changed, and never will, no matter what we go through. We must enthrone God higher than our kids well-being or even our own well-being. God is bigger than families. He is bigger than our own very souls. Nothing in the world that we can hang onto, not even our spouses, but only our Lord Jesus Christ. That realization must transcend our hardship.
4.Continue to cry out to God
But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
After all the complaining’s by David in this psalm, and then acknowledged the greatness of God, he returned to his original cry for help. Granted not everything was answered by God, the big ones and the righteous ones, God did. He cried out to God to deliver him. I think all mothers, fathers with children astray can and continue to cry out to God, and God in his own timing will answer. We can’t dictate him, but we can petition him.
5. We should continue to proclaim God’s name and revere him as he has dominions over all regardless of our prayers
I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows. 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, 28 for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
In fact this is a prophetic psalm for Jesus as our Messiah as the Son of God incarnated into this world, to bear the sins of the world, and finally crucified, rejected by God the Father as Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” This is a powerful testimony of his suffering and eventual turning up for something beautiful and wonderful that changed the world forever, changed our destiny forever. Can you imagine if he didn’t suffer? We will all be doomed to burning hell for eternity.
Jesus was not answered by his Father for good reasons. I know all parents prayers and petitions to God for their strayed kids, in all perspectives, are right in the sight of God, and therefore be answered. But there are times in history God rejected his Son, many apostles were beheaded, martyred, and great forefathers like Justin Myrtle, were all martyred for the glory of God.
With this perspective, lets believe in the bigness of God, his sovereignty, and God is good.