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A Review of the Olivet Discourse – Matthew 24 March 8, 2010

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the Olivet Discorse prophesies of Matthew 24 and one of those confusions reside in the assertion by mainly “preterists” that the prophesies Jesus spoke were to be fulfilled in the Disciples lifetime. However is it plausible that these prophesies could have been fulfilled in the Disciples lifetime? It is important to be able to understand this passage especially in relation to who Jesus was speaking and it’s implications for us today. The key to unlocking the passage though resides in verse 3:

 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

 From the beginning of the chapter Jesus started out by relating to the disciples what would befall the temple in Jerusalem, in that it would be destroyed at an appointed time. Now the desciples proceeded to ask Jesus to, ”Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” There are three separate questions rolled into one here. First, when shall these things be, i.e., the destruction of the temple; second, what shall be the sign of thy coming; third, what shall be the sign of the end of the world? The two last questions are obviously interrelated however.

 Where confusion arises however is that in verse 34 of the passage Jesus said, “This generation shall not pass till all these things (everything He outlined in the previous verses including His return) be fulfilled.” Based on this verse, the assumption is therefore made that Jesus meant that the prophesies he spoke would be fulfilled in the Disciples lifetime. Some interpreters may wrongly claim also that Jesus only meant the destruction of the Temple would occur in “this generation” since we know with the benefit of hindsight that this occurred in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus sacked Jerusalem. But this ignores the fact that Jesus said “till all these things be fulfilled”. To “confuse” the matter Jesus told the disciples in John 16 that: 16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. This again gives weight to the preterist’s arguments, if taken literally, that Jesus had to return in the Disciples lifetime. The first question to be answered therefore is what did Jesus mean by “this generation shall not pass”? Secondly, what did Jesus mean in John 16:16? Would the Disciples really see him after a little while and how long is a “little while”?

 In answer to the first question aforementioned I would venture to suggest that by “generation” Jesus meant the generation of New Testament believers – in other words the dispensation of the New Covenant constituting a “generation”. It is clear from scripture that there will not be another dispensation given to man in this life before the end comes. In verse 14 of Matthew 24 for example, Jesus said:

 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

 Since “this generation” shall not pass till the end comes and the end cannot come until “this gospel of the kingdom be preached in all the world”, then “this generation” must necessarily mean the “generation” of the church age and not generation in terms of age groupings. To reinforce this point however we can look at an example from the Old Testament. In Gen 17 God made a covenant with Abraham pertaining to circumcision. Looking at verses 9 and 13 it says:

 9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

 We see here that the covenant of circumcision was to be an everlasting covenant in the flesh unto Abraham and his seed in their generations. However, was circumcision an everlasting covenant to this day and to the end of time or was it a covenant for the period appointed, i.e. their generations? To answer this we may look at Acts 21:20-21

 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

 If therefore the covenant made with Abraham regarding circumcision was meant to be everlasting why was Paul teaching the Jews not to observe circumcision? Clearly the covenant was appointed to the generation/s of that dispensation only and it was therefore everlasting to them.

 The other point of contention therefore is what did Jesus mean in John 16:16 when He said, “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me”? Scripture tells us in 2 Peter 3:8 that a thousand years is like a day with God: 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. It is also interesting to note that Peter said this when he warned that in the latter times there will be scoffers asking where is Jesus’ promised coming (see verse 4)? So then a “little while” to Jesus might be thousands of years to us. But if Jesus were to return thousands of years after the Disciples death why then did he say that they will see Him? The answer clearly is that those who died in Christ will be resurrected at His coming and so if they regain their life then they will of course see Him. John puts it this way:

 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

 In summary therefore it is clear that when men misinterpret Jesus’ words they technically make His word into a lie and this is why we need to be careful how we read the scriptures and what interpretations we accept. Jesus sets out a chronology of the events that would precede His coming and He stated clearly that all these things will be fulfilled then the end comes. Evidently the end could have come around the Disciples lifetime because Jesus said no one knows the day nor hour of His coming, not the Son but the Father. So if He didn’t know it wasn’t unreasonable of the Disciples to expect His coming in their life-time. But with the benefit of history we know that all these things have not yet been fulfilled, though some have, but can occur at anytime into the future. One question I would like readers to ponder however is to put themselves in the Disciples shoes and ask themselves whether the Disciples felt from having heard Jesus’ words on the Mout of Olive, that they would be raptured before the promised tribulation.

Money Matters – even to Christians! – Part 2 February 16, 2010

Posted by Henry in Money & Finance.
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In part 1 of this series I highlighted some of the financial concerns that are no doubt affecting some Christians in the world today. I put forward a “thesis” that some of these problems faced by individuals and their families may be alleviated if we the church would return to an attitude of being our brother’s keeper as this is the example shown to us in scripture. Unfortunately however the world we live in today is largely characterised by a disaffection brought about by materialism and consumerist capitalism, a state in which it is largely, “dog eat dog”, and “every man for himself”. This type of mentality has also infected the church with a false ideal of each man to pursue his own “blessings”. With this in mind therefore the following treatise will attempt to look at what individuals might do to help “ease” their financial plight.

 1 Taking Care of Your Own

Each of us has a responsibility to take care of our own families in spite of the fact that assistance should be given if a brother is in need and unable to sustain himself. However, scripture says in 1 Tim 5:8 (NIV):

 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 The man (or woman) of the house therefore is responsible for going out and getting a job (even two jobs if necessary) so he can earn enough money to supply the needs of his immediate family and even his extended family. This does not mean however that we should pursue the world as the Gentiles do but as we have seen from Paul’s example in Acts 20:33-35, he worked to support himself so that he does not become a burden to others. Perhaps many able pastors should “take a leaf out of Paul’s book” here instead of relying on the church but that is an aside. Earning money will require prudence also in managing it because scripture doth say that a fool and his money will soon depart. Imagine a man who spends his weekly pay packet on drinking and socialising with friends or going gambling instead of using it judiciously to provide for his family. This is not being wise or prudent and in so doing such a man is regarded as worse than an unbeliever.

 2 To tithe or not to tithe: Church Giving

 Many will have heard the phrase that we have to be “responsible stewards” for what the Lord has given us and it is suggested that an example of responsible stewardship is to “tithe faithfully”, especially to the church. Tithing faithfully usually means giving 10% of your gross weekly or monthly earnings to the church as this is set as the standard. Some ministers will even go as far to say that when you take care of the “Lords house” then He will take care of your own. The dilemma faced by many people who are struggling financially however is whether they can or should continue to “tithe faithfully” to the church or whether they should reduce their “tithe”. Many are therefore in bondage to their conscience as they struggle with this issue and this is heightened by the guilt and fear they feel as a result of the threat of curses for “robbing God” based on Mal 3.

 For those of you who have been tithing faithfully for years however, let me ask you this, have you received the promised “windows of heaven blessings”? I already know the answer to that question because if you had you would not be still struggling today. Let me assure you that you will never receive the “windows of heaven blessings” of Mal 3 because this promise is not for you. This promise was made under a covenant to the Israelites, at a particular place and at a particular time. That covenant has never been transferred over to the church as Jesus abolished it when He fulfilled the Law and gave us a new covenant. To claim something for yourself that wasn’t given to you therefore is futile. The tithe is not for the New Testament believer and the curse mentioned in Mal 3 is the said curse of the Law which Jesus redeemed us from (see my post on the tithe here). Why then do you put a yoke on your neck to try and practise a Law that Jesus abolished? Eat your tithes or use it to take care of your family if you are struggling and give what you are able to give to the church. Did he really say to eat the tithe but..? Yes I did! Read Deut 14:23-26, it says so right there. I would like to see people being freed from this bondage of conscience concerning the tithe especially if they are struggling financially, and be giving more “freely” according to what they purpose in their hearts (2 Cor 9:7).

 3 Being wary of Covetousness

In the book of 1 John 2:15 we read:

 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

 It is strange to think however that in spite of this warning from scripture, church people today are buying into this same lust of the world and the pride of life and as a result many people find themselves in financial troubles. We want to get things which we see advertised on TV or things that we see our neighbours have instead of trying to live within our means. Many people are unable to resist the temptation to purchase something being advertise especially when it is offering a zero percent finance, “buy now, pay later” deal. The truth however is that it is never zero percent finance as you will pay the interest when you start to repay the loan amount later. This can therefore impact on one’s finance and contribute to mounting debts as the interest accumulates and this is all because of covetousness. We could save ourselves a lot of trouble by using our money sensibly to buy what we need and looking for cheaper alternatives where possible, rather than to use debt to accumulate a bunch of stuff that we don’t need, just because we are trying to “look good” and impress others.

 4 Avoid the “get rich quick” schemes

Today there are so many get rich quick schemes (or scams) in the world and there are tonnes of books, some even written by pastors, on how to create or maximise wealth. Some of these schemes are even being marketed in church and many people have suffered financial loss as a result of investing in these schemes, as many of them do not work. Scripture tells us in Proverb 23:4-5 however that we should not labour to be rich:

4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. 5 Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

Herein lies sound wisdom concerning the pursuit of riches. Scripture also warns us in 1 Peter 2 about being made merchandise of by those with feigned words. The problem with this world however is that it has become so engulfed in materialism that even Christians are not immune from it. We live in a world in which success is defined by how high we can climbed and how much things we can accumulate and that if we have fallen short of the mark we are a failure. It is natural therefore to gravitate towards a scheme that promises untold riches. Jesus pointed out however in Luke 12:15 that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of the things he possesses. The scripture also tells us in 1 Tim 6:5-8 to be content with what we have instead of trying to pursue wealth.

 The list I have outlined above is not an exhaustive one but I believe that they can act as a useful starting point of what a believer’s attitude towards earning and handling money should be.

The Rapture: Fact or Fiction? February 10, 2010

Posted by Henry in Eschatology & End Times.
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As a young person growing up in church circles I used to hear much talk of “the rapture”. At that time I did not give much thought to it except that I generally accepted that this cataclysmic event would precede the end of the age and all I hoped was that I too would be ready when the rapture comes. In more recent times there is a lot of talk of “the rapture” on Christian TV and the online forums and blogosphere are awash with talk of being “rapture ready”. This furore has no doubt been fuelled with the help of the “Left Behind” series of books written by Tim LaHaye. It should be noted here that the idea of “the rapture” generally refers to a pre-tribulation rapture. What this implies is that those who are in Christ will escape the wrath of the Great Tribulation that Jesus said would come upon the world in the last days. How wonderful to think therefore that the Lord would return and secretly whisk those that are saved away to some safe haven, leaving the remainder of the sinners to suffer the tribulation? This sounds all idealistic for after all why would Jesus allow His saints, the church, to go through such a horrific event as the tribulation? But what is the real deal about the rapture and can it be supported by scripture?

 Since the 1800s, John Nelson Darby, although he didn’t invent the idea, has popularised the idea of the pre-tribulation rapture. However, the term rapture doesn’t even appear anywhere in the Bible. Moreover when Jesus outlined His coming in Matthew 24 there is not even so much as a hint that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture. In looking at the key verses we read:

 29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Emphasis added)

 One of the first things we note is that Jesus does not come in secret but all eyes shall behold Him coming in the clouds. The idea of a secret rapture therefore poses a dilemma in that Jesus would have to return two times instead of once. This reasoning however is not supported by scriptures as Jesus will return only once. In any event Jesus clearly says that after the tribulation of those days, then shall His sign appear in the heavens and then He shall send His angels to gather the elect. Verse 22 also makes it clear that the days of the tribulation period would be shortened for the elect’s sake. There is no such promise of a rapture and 1 Thess 1:17 can hardly be used to support a pre-tribulation rapture as some bible scholars like to do.

 What if the tribulation should come and those who were expected to be raptured were still here to face it? What would they think, that they perhaps weren’t saved after all or that the Lord had abandoned them? These questions highlight why this is such a very dangerous doctrine and I would that people read their Bibles before being carried away with every wind of doctrine.

Which Jesus have you received? February 9, 2010

Posted by Henry in Contending for the Faith.
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You have heard the “message”, responded to the altar call and you have said the sinner’s prayer. After repeating the prayer the pastor tells you to thank God you are saved. But which message have you heard and which Jesus have you received and invited into your heart? Is it the Jesus who had to go to hell and fight Satan there, who Satan bound with chains and dragged down in to hell so that he had to overcome the battle there in order that he could gain redemption? Is it the Jesus who was so rich that he had his own Rolls Royce car, big house and fancy clothes? The one who could not perceive that Judas was stealing from “the bag” for three years because there was so much money in it? Is it the Jesus that was no different to ordinary men because anyone other man could have taken his place in order to perform the work of redemption? Is it the Jesus they say wasn’t God and that He didn’t claim to be God? These are just some of the striking claims made about the Jesus that is promoted in Word of Faith circles. A close examination of scriptures however will reveal who the true Jesus is and show that the aforementioned claims are false.

 Scripture says in Acts 4:12 that there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved except the name of Jesus. But who is this Jesus? In order to know Him we need to look at the scriptures (the Bible) which speaks of Him. Jesus was spoken of by the Prophets of old and whose coming was fulfilled when he was born over 2000 years ago, of the virgin Mary (Matt 1:22-23). He was later crucified on the cross at Calvary and ascended into heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father and who shall return again to take His saints to be with Him. This was the redemptive work that God purposed before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). So much for the false claim that anyone else could have performed the redemptive work of Christ. When Jesus was on the cross He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), meaning the work He came to fulfil was finished. How then can a supposed minister of Christ claim that actually He had to enter hell in order to fight with Satan and win in order to redeem Himself and mankind? Jesus committed no sin so why would He need to redeem Himself (2 Cor 1:25)?

  Jesus is the heir of all things, and was before the world and the world was made by Him. But Jesus, though He was rich became poor that through His poverty we might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). This is another point of confusion amongst the WOF crowd. Jesus most certainly did not come so that we would become physically rich but spiritually rich in heavenly things. Hence, Jesus in His own life on earth did not have these displays of wealth as WOF ministers claim. In Matt 8:20 Jesus made it clear that He didn’t even have anywhere to lay His. Again in regards to the claim there was so much money in “the bag”, we see from scripture that this is a complete fabrication because Jesus did not even have money to pay the tribute. He then sent Peter to go and catch a fish and the coin that was to be found in the fish’s mouth was to be used to pay the tribute (Matt 17:27). Imagine Jesus was able to perceive that a fish in the sea, the first one that Peter would catch, would have a coin in its mouth yet He couldn’t perceive that Judas was stealing from the bag? This is obviously one way in which they deny His divinity.  

  The book of John and chapter 1 explains fully who Jesus was and testifies of his divinity. Here we read that, “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…….14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”. This is Jesus the Christ, the saviour of the world who was both man as much as he was God. This is the Jesus whom you should believe for your salvation and not a fabric of someone’s imagination.

Problems in your marriage? February 2, 2010

Posted by Henry in Relationships.
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There are many Christians today who are experiencing problems of one sort or another in their marriages. Some go down the route of divorce citing “irreconcilable differences”, and this can be witnessed even amongst pastors, whilst there are others who suffer in silence hoping that things will improve one day. Still there are others who live like “cats and dogs” in their homes and are constantly at each others throats. Couples who are experiencing such problems will often look at their neighbours or other couples in the church and wish that their marriage was like theirs. In an attempt to resolve their problems some may go to marriage counsellors; some speak to their pastors and other church elders; others sow a seed believing God for a miracle; whilst others even pray and fast. But no matter what method or formula they try they experience little or no improvement and they begin to doubt God or they blame the devil for attacking their marriage.

Now I do not want it to appear as if I am trivialising anyone’s experiences and whilst I am no expert on marriage I am fully aware of the fact that no individual is perfect and it can be challenging for two imperfect individuals to live together as man and wife. But one of the things I want to focus on is that whilst many people are looking this way and that for solutions to their marital problems, often they fail to look in the very place where the answers lie and that is in the scriptures. It was God who ordained marriage from the beginning of creation and He has already established in His word how married couples should live. But what is often the case is that Christians want the “perfect” marriage but are not prepared to observe the teachings of scriptures on the matter.

The first thing we learn from scripture is that woman was given to man (Adam) by God as a “help meet” or helper (Gen 2:18). Secondly we learn that “woman” was so-called because she came out of man (Gen 2:23). Thirdly we learn that because it isn’t good for man to be alone and that he needed a helper, God ordained that the man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the twain shall be one flesh (Gen 2:24). This is the basis of marriage as God ordained it. Jesus, in Matt 19:6, went further to say that ‘what God has joined together let no man put asunder.’ Since it is God who ordained marriage therefore God should be at the head of every marriage, especially the Christian marriage. The scriptural basis for this can be found in 1 Cor 11:3:

3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

Since Christ is the head of man, the Christian man needs to submit himself to Christ’s leadership in his marriage. And since God ordained man to be the head of woman, the woman should submit herself to her husband because this is divinely ordained. In looking back at Gen 2:18 as aforementioned, we note that woman was made out of man to be a helper to him. A helper therefore is someone who assists the leader but not lead themselves. But too often we have some women who seek to usurp the man’s authority in the home (or even in church) and this can be one source of the marital problems. Some women can be naturally bossy especially if they have management responsibilities at work and in the board room and they can become haughty or prideful towards their husbands as a result. However, they need to learn how to conduct themselves towards their husbands when they get home. It should only be one person wearing the trousers in the home and that is the man. The scripture, Eph 5:22-24, commands a woman to be submissive to her own husband:

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

 

For a wife to be submissive however the husband needs to take responsibility and lead. Often times a woman can lose respect for her husband if he appears weak and unassertive. Some men however can take assertiveness too far thinking that they have the right to shout at their wives, beat on them or make unreasonable demands. This is clearly wrong in sight of scriptures. One of the first responsibilities that a man has towards his wife is to LOVE her, as scripture commands:

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Eph 5:25)

This scripture is not to be taken lightly as it implies huge responsibilities. Imagine that Christ gave himself for the church by dying on the cross for it? This is the type of love that a husband need to have for his wife. Too often though during courting a man may say to his fiancée that, “I love you to death” but in reality he doesn’t really mean it. If this were true why it is that such a man would want to leave his wife as soon as problems arise in their subsequent marriage? Yet a man is required by God to love his wife even to the point that he should be ready to give his life in order to save hers. To extend the point further, scripture also commands in Eph 5:28-29 that a man should love his wife even as his own body:

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church

 

We have already seen in Gen 2:24 that when a man and a woman are joined together in marriage they become one flesh. This is the reason therefore that a man should treat his wife as part of his own body as he has the responsibility of nourishing and cherishing her. Again this is one area of neglect on the part of some husbands which causes problems in Christian marriages. Too often a man expects a woman to take care of his kids, prepare dinner and look after the home but neglects his wife’s needs. His excuse might be that he works too hard and he is too tired but a man should make time for his wife. Although nourishing and cherishing may include providing shelter and food it encapsulates a lot of things including romance and meeting a wife’s emotional needs. If priority isn’t given to these areas, undoubtedly this may cause resentment on the wife’s part and cause her to be less submissive and trigger off a breakdown in the marriage. What is often the case is that one problem leads to another because when the woman gets resentful and do not want to be “affectionate” towards her husband then the man also get resentful and bitter. Scripture however commands the man to love and not to be bitter against his wife:

Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col 3:19)

In the context of marriage however, how does one define love? To answer this we need to look at 1 Cor 13 (using the NIV version):

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8 Love never fails.

If there is love in a marriage why is there envying and strife? Why, does a husband or a wife keep record of wrongs which they use against each other in future squabbles? Why is the husband or the wife so easily angered instead of being quick to forgive? Why is it that the husband or the wife finds it so hard to say I am sorry when they have wronged each other? Too often when married couples have their differences they go off to bed, even to separate beds, without seeking to resolve those differences. Yet the scriptures say:

In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (Eph 4:26)

Talking about sleeping in separate beds, one of the areas that also often cause problems in a marriage is SEX. I know it is taboo and we don’t talk about such things but it is an area of marital life that is of vital importance and needs to be talked about. Often times when there are certain problems in a marriage sex is used as a weapon to spite the man (or the women in some cases). But what do the scriptures say regarding sex? Paul had this to say regarding sex in marriage in 1 Cor 7:

3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. 6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

Although Paul does not speak by commandment here he knows only too well the problems that can arise if married couples neglect their conjugal responsibilities to each other. Paul points out that such neglect can lead to Satan tempting either or both partners to sin against the marriage, especially in the form of fornication. It goes without saying therefore that men, in particular, need sex but often times because most women do not have a high libido they “hold out” on their husbands. This can lead to feelings of rejection and sexual repression in men. It is important therefore for wives to be more accommodating towards their husbands in this area as Paul encourages. Sex is not everything but it is vitally important in a marriage because it is through the act of sex that the two become one flesh. Of course if there are physical problems that affect married couples coming together then they should seek medical assistance or advice without neglecting to pray also.

It is also important in a marriage to have communication at every stage. Couples need to talk to each other and express their feelings and desires. Marriage to a large extent is about compromise and for this to be effective there must be communication. Bickering and shouting at each other or giving each other the cold shoulder or playing the blame game does not facilitate communication. Communication should therefore occur in a calm and safe environment where both parties may have their voices heard. If there is love as defined by 1 Cor 13 (above) then this will facilitate good communication. If these biblical principles are adhered to I believe that all marital problems can be resolved to achieve a fruitful and lasting marriage.

The Blessing of Persecutions and Trials January 29, 2010

Posted by Henry in Word of Faith Movement.
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2 comments

At the beginning of this year I had a mishap with my car which was quite challenging to face. Basically the cam belt went whilst I was driving and rendered the engine almost irreparable. One mechanic told me that it would cost in the region of £700 to repair and that this figure was perhaps a conservative estimate. To say the least I was gutted as I drove a very modest car and did not have the money at the time to repair it or to buy another car, which would have been the better option. I told my friend at work about the issue and said to her that this was my “New Year blessing”, a broken down car and no money to fix or replace it. She laughed and said, “Your funny” with a hint of sarcasm. If I didn’t need the car it wouldn’t have been so bad but in the area where I live public transport is infrequent and impractical for myself and my family’s needs. To cut the story short however, I was able by God’s grace to replace the engine and the car is now operational again, at least for the time being.

 The point I want to make though is that often when trials come our way we do not see the blessing in them. In this particular experience of mine, the first blessing was the fact that we were meant to be travelling on the motorway that very day but decided to go somewhere local first, when the problem occurred. If the car had broken down on the motorway it could have caused a fatal accident but thank God it broke down when I was braking to stop at a traffic signal. Praise be to God for His mercy. Isn’t God good? More importantly however when trials come our way they are meant to “sharpen” our faith and we should see them as a blessing. Many people however don’t see trials or persecution as a source of blessing. Some even think it is a curse. For them blessings means increasing in health, wealth and prosperity and the Word of Faith Movement comes to mind here. In stark contrast to the Word of Faith beliefs however Jesus had this to say in Matt 5:10-12:

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

In conjunction with the above quote we also note from scripture that it is a blessing to endure trials:

 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, NIV)

 I have broken with convention in using the KJV for the above quote because the NIV uses the word “trial” as opposed to “temptation” in the KJV and thus gives a better rendering. The message is clear however that persecution and trial are sources of blessings and not just material things unlike what those in the Word of Faith camp teaches. If God were to only bless us with materials things and health we would become like the Laodicean church who thought that now that they had become rich and increased in goods that they no longer needed God. If our faith is being tested daily however we would learn to always trust in God and put our faith in Him. Again quoting from the NIV version 1 Peter 1: 6-7 has this to say about enduring trials:

 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed..

 If our faith is of much greater worth than refined gold then, which blessing would you rather have? The blessing of having your faith tried through trials or the blessing of health, wealth and prosperity?

Are Denominations Important? January 14, 2010

Posted by Henry in Denominations.
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There are many different Christian denominations across the globe today, be it Baptist, Methodist, Apostolic or Oneness Pentecostals, Reformed, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist, just to name a few. The interesting thing to note however is that none of these names existed during the early birthing and consequent growth of the Church. So why then do we have so many different denominations today and are denominations important?

Certainly for some people denominations are important to them because they feel that theirs is the “true church”. In my own experiences when having discussions with members of denominations such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist and Oneness Pentecostals, they all are of the view that their own denomination is the true church and consequently everyone else is on the wrong path. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have made claims suggesting that they are the Elect and the 144,000 who will be saved. A closer look at scripture will show however that in actual fact the 144,000 mentioned in the Bible constitutes 12,000 men of each of the 12 tribes of Israel who did not “defile themselves with women” (Rev 7: 4 – 8, 14:1 – 4). It is clear to see then that these 144,000 are not Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In contrast the Seventh Day Adventist say they are the true church because they have kept the Biblical Sabbath which they claim is Saturday (the seventh day) and that those who attend Sunday church do so in direct opposition and disobedience to God. They ignore the fact that the calendar we now use was instituted by Pope Gregory the Great, hence the Gregorian calendar. As such it would be very difficult to ascertain whether the seventh day as we know it today coincides with the seventh day God instituted as the Sabbath from the time of creation. The key point that the Seventh Day Adventists seems to have missed however is that God set aside the 7th day as a day of REST, what ever that day is or was. God did not say that we should attend church services on the Sabbath but to REST and do no work in it. The other point to note though is whether New Testament Christians are obliged to observe the Sabbath since Jesus fulfilled the Law thereby abolishing it, which also included the Sabbath. In any event Romans 14:5-9 has this to say:

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.

The Oneness Pentecostals on the other hand believe that one should be baptised in Jesus name only, as opposed to Jesus’ instruction in Matt 28:19-20 where he told the disciples to go out and teach all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Oneness Pentecostals however uses Acts 2:38 as one of the central pillars of their faith. This is what they use to support their claim that one should be baptised in Jesus name only because Peter said so. But who is Peter? Do we obey Peter or do we obey Christ? Notwithstanding, it is doubtless whether what Peter said was meant to be a baptismal formula since Jesus already gave us the baptismal formula that we should use. Peter was more concerned with telling the Jews of their need to be baptised in the name of the very Man whom they had crucified. After all scripture tells us there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved except Jesus.

The points highlighted above, although not exhaustive, do demonstrate some of the ways in which denominations do differ on points of doctrine. It may be argued that some of these points are not “foundational” to the gospel but the question should be asked, why do denominations differ on points of doctrine and beliefs? I believe the answer to this question lies in the fact that Bible tells us that heresies will creep into the church over time. This can be the only explanation for why there are so many different denominations, each with their own “brand” of Christianity, which differ in some way from another. It is interesting to note however that even from the early days, the Church was being divided up into denominations and Paul had to deal with this very issue in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 1:10-13):

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Instead of being haughty and puffed up about this denomination or that, we need to heed the words of Paul here and get back to the “basics” of Scripture. As Paul makes it clear, Christ is not divided, therefore no divisions should be found amongst us and we all should be speaking the same thing and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement. It is my prayer that we who call ourselves the true church should heed Paul’s admonition.

What does it mean to be a Christian? January 12, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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A common definition of a Christian is: a follower of Christ. But is that all there is to it? In looking at this definition one could argue that Christ was simply a philosopher who existed over 2000 years ago and that His followers are simply adherents to His teachings thus ranking Christianity as just one amongst many religions from which anyone can choose. Indeed some see Christianity as little more than a “moral code” expressed in allegory, denying the existence of God and His Son Jesus Christ. It is easy to see how such a distorted view might come about if one does not know exactly what Christianity is all about and especially given that some religious figures have claimed over the years that “all paths” lead to God. But do they really?

Scripture (the Bible) tells us that Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, came into the world as the Messiah, first to the Jew and then to the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). Jesus came to deliver the “Good News” which is the Gospel unto salvation. Jesus said He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). But salvation from what some might ask? To answer this question we need to go back to the beginning.

In the beginning (see the Genesis account) God created the world and everything in it and He made man (Adam and Eve) and gave him dominion over everything on the earth. God set Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and everything God created was good. But sin entered the world as a result of Adam’s disobedience in eating the fruit of the tree that was forbidden to him to eat of.  God warned Adam that the day he ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree he would surely die (Gen 3:3), and since that time man has been at enmity with God because of sin. Man no longer had the communion with God he enjoyed in the Garden and he was now separated and condemned to eternal death because of his sin. Adam did not die physically as it were, but he died spiritually. But the “story” did not end there because God purposed even before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8, 1 Pet 1:18-20) to save mankind from his sins so that man can inherit eternal Life.

Scripture tells us that we are all sinners who have come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Scripture also tells us that “it is appointed unto man once to die but after that comes the judgement (Heb 9:27).” It is for this reason that we need to be saved. To be saved means to be restored to a state where we can again have full fellowship and communion with God like Adam and Eve did before the fall, and indeed to be saved from eternal damnation. Salvation can be found in no other than Jesus Christ however. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).” Jesus is the Lamb of God who was made a living sacrifice to take upon Himself the sins of the world. Heb 9:28 says, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” This was the plan God had put in place to redeem mankind from their sins and to reconcile mankind to Himself. Jesus was prophesied of by the Prophets of old, was born of the virgin Mary by immaculate conception, He was crucified at Calvary and on the third day he rose and he later returned to sit on the right hand of the Father. This really is the Gospel, the Good News of salvation, the reason for every Christian to rejoice as he awaits the blessed hope of Jesus Chrst returning to claim the saints (the Church) to Himself!!

For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosover believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting Life (John 3:16)

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

We had become as disobedient children, full of sin and all deceivableness, but in spite of this God loved us so much that He made a way for us to be saved, otherwise we would have been dead in our sins. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25).” Jesus came in order to establish the Kingdom of God on earth and all that we need to do to inherit this Kingdom is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ’s Kingdom we surrender our lives to Him as His subjects, submitting to His governance, will and purpose as outlined in His Word and through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit of God that enables us to believe in Christ Jesus and to repent of our sins and seek salvation in Him. When we come to faith in Christ therefore, we must be born again, born of water and of the Spirit (John 3:5). This is the “secret” to becoming a Christian.

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. (Isa 55:1-3)

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isa 55:6-7)

In spite of the provisions that God has made, freely given to us all without money and without price, however, there are those who still believe that God doesn’t really exist. But the scriptures say, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The Bible is not simply a story, a moral tale based in allegory. God truly does exist and His Word given to us in the form of the Bible is where we will learn of Him and find Life (John 5:39)! Moreover Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).” These very words are what is written in the Bible and handed down to us today. Christianity is therefore unlike any other religion. It is not a path among many to God but the ONLY path. In this respect God is not an idea created to establish social or moral norms, neither is God simply a “gnosis”. But God, the creator of Heaven and Earth is real, and He lives. Jesus came into the world to testify of Him and to become a Christian is to believe and have faith in Jesus Christ even without having seen.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:29)

Do you dare to believe in the Lord Jesus in order to receive salvation? For this is the way of the Christian

The Kingdom of Heaven September 18, 2009

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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Many people may have heard this faithful saying, that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand”, especially being preached from street corners and in market places but few would even bother to pay attention to what they might perceive as fanatical drivel, much less to believe or accept it. Instead many people mistakenly think that these preachers are simply deluded mad men or women or religious fanatics especially when in our day we have bold adverts being posted on the sides of buses saying, “There is probably no God, so quit worrying and enjoy your life”. But I have news for you friends, “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”! Yes, John the Baptist uttered these very words over some 2000 years or so ago now and no doubt many people thought he was crazy then because he was not a man who wore smart apparel and esteemed in society but rather a dishevelled man dressed in animal skins and lived on the edge of (polite) society. Many must have wondered what on earth is this “lunatic” talking about! But still many believed on his message and were baptised by him.

We should note here that the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Heaven” are synonymous. The first mention of the Kingdom (for ease of reference) in the New Testament is in Matt 3:1-3:

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

In the passage John did not say plainly what the Kingdom is precisely but he left no doubt as to the significance or importance of it, if we look further along in the passage. The key point here to note though is that we should repent of our sins because of the Kingdom.

We see in the passage where John baptised all those who repented of their sins because they wanted to “partake” of this talked about “Kingdom.” But at this point the Kingdom had not yet (fully) come so this baptism was in a sense a prelude to the future Kingdom which John hinted at in verse 11, which was to be established by Jesus Christ. The interesting thing to note here though from verse 7 is that pursuing the Kingdom also represented a “fleeing from the wrath to come”. Though it is not spelt out here we can conclude therefore that the Kingdom of Heaven represented “salvation” for all men who would actively seek “it” through repentance and turning away from sin, and which is evidenced by “good fruit”. We also get a sense from verses 10 & 12 that the Kingdom is governed by a Righteous Ruler (Jesus Christ) who will separate (Judge) those who have attained to the Kingdom (i.e. produces good fruit) from those who don’t.

Jesus made it clear to us that the Kingdom of Heaven should be our primary goal in this life – it is of paramount importance. In Matt 6:33 Jesus implored us not to seek after worldly things or to worry about food, raiment etc but rather to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is important to us because the Bible says in Heb 9:27:

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”

There will come a time at the end of the age when God will judge the world. Those who are His children will inherit eternal life but those who are not will be cast out into eternal damnation. The Kingdom of Heaven is therefore the only path to salvation and Jesus Christ is the only “Gateway” into this Kingdom. For He said in John 14:6:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Do you want to enter into this Kingdom? If so you need to enter by way of Christ.