Returning to our First Love in the Lord

Revelation 2:4 (KJV) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

This is one of the major problems of the Church today. Churches spend so much energy and time and resources, but their love for God (and for people) has been running dry.

This first love is actually an experience. It is this experience that characterizes a very hot Christian:

A Christian who is willing to give hours of quality time with God in prayer and Bible reading.

A Christian who is willing to deny himself of all the pleasures or dreams or comforts for the sake of drawing near to God and yielding to His will.

A Christian who is able to pray for others in heartfelt groaning and tears.

A Christian who is humble enough not to take credit for any good works he has done but rather give all the glory back to God.

A Christian who is willing to listen to what Jesus wants to say, taking aside all the worries of life (and the ministry).

The last one is what God has told us recently. Many Christians are acting like Martha, being busy for the Lord but not taking time to commune with Him in intimacy and listening. Thus, she ended up being bossy, being boastful, and being self-centered.

Luke 10:38-42 (KJV) Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Let us all return to God in our first love.

Advertisements

When Worship is NOT Worship

Worship is basically an act of giving honor and glory to God for who He is or what He has done, for all of His and Its worth. However, not all acts of worship is really worship. I myself have been guilty of false worship at times.

One, my guilt of being a hypocrite worshipper. It is the greatest punishment of all that I have experienced. Whenever I know that deep inside me I am rebellious against God or that I willingly sin, then my conscience will really go hard against me. Worse is the pain that the Holy Spirit gives me as He is grieved. But those pains, especially the one coming from the Holy Spirit is for my good working towards my repentance.

Matthew 15:8 (KJV) This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

Second, coming to worship knowing that someone has something against me. With my relationship with others destroyed, I really find it hard to worship God. In fact, it is impossible.

Matthew 5:23-24 (KJV) Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

God demands holiness in His children, especially during times of sacred worship, individually or as a Church. Worship is a blessed act of reverent adoration to the God whose Holiness is in a class of its own. Therefore, worshipping Him with unclean hearts and hands is not acceptable.

Is the Church being judgemental towards the Homosexuals (LGBT)?

Are Christians being judgemental towards the homosexuals (LGBT)? What stand do the Church needs to take in this issue?

Let me first say that in the Bible God disapproves homosexual acts. It is clearly stated many times, and I will just quote a few verses.

Romans 1:26-27 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,

Now, let me go a little further, and that is to say that homosexuality itself is sin (though I know many Christians and Churches will not agree with me).

With this I mean that homosexuality in itself, if present in the heart and mind of an individual, is already a sin. It is like being addicted to something wrong or bad (for example, drugs) but because you know that to take it is sin, you refuse to do it. But in your mind you fantasize it. Or let me again say it is like looking into a woman lustfully while at the same time trying your best to avoid real physical advances. It is still a sin. For me I believe that the unnatural craving itself, fulfilled actually or not, is sin in itself (the unnatural craving).

Let me clarify though two things here: I am not saying that homosexuality is a greater or worse sin than being a killer, a rapist, or anything else. Though I admit it is one of the sins that will be rampant in the last days (Romans 1:26–27) when the world gets worse and sin multiplies greatly. (So it seems to say that it is one grave sin). Another thing for clarification is that I am not being judgemental. I am just standing for the Biblical Truth with the aim of restoring a person (like me who needs restoring from certain areas), and not in condemning a person to a state of being unredeemable.

Yes, when a Christian or a Church tells a homosexual that he/she needs to repent and that the person is shown real love and acceptance (accepting not the sin but the person) and is helped to turn away from that sin, then it is not being judgemental. It is being a loving Christian who sees God’s Love and Grace towards the homosexual and that love pushes them to help the homosexual be freed from sin!

But, if the Christian or a Church tells a homosexual that he or she is living in sin and makes no ways of helping him/her out, but treats the person as someone lesser or to be avoided, then that is being judgemental. It is a Pharisee Attitude of “I am holier than thou”.

Matthew 7:1-3 (KJV) Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

This is the right time that the Church needs to stand out and to be clear for what is Biblical – that homosexuality is sin. But also, to the same degree, in great fervor, show real love and concern for these people. God loves them and died for them. They are not the worse sinners. God even saves some Satanists, who could be classified as the greatest sinners (blasphemers of God, killers, idolaters, sexually immorals, etc.) of all.

God showed His love that He gave the life of His Son Jesus to us when we were still sinners – drunkards or not, killers or not, rapists or not, homosexuals or not (Romans 5:8).

If we Christians feel that we are more holy than homosexuals in our own merit, then we need to look to Jesus and to the Cross and repent. We were also sinners (maybe worse sinners than homosexuals) who just received God’s Grace of forgiveness.

Do you love someone who happens to be a victim of homosexuality? Then approach the person in Christlike love and tell the person that he needs to turn away from it by surrendering it to Jesus. That way, you might be able to save the person in Jesus.

Proverbs 27:5-6 (KJV) Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend

The Primacy of Preaching

Preaching as a primary task of the Church deserves a prominent place in the lives of the believers, the respect of the congregation, and the awareness of the surrounding community. By this I put great emphasis: if preaching is not primary in the tasks of a local church, then that church is dead.
I observe with great brokenness that the Church today has resorted too much to misplaced contextualization that the once highly-esteemed position of preaching has been replaced by other activities and their various forms. These activities and forms are not necessarily worldly or unspiritual in themselves, but too much focus on these tend to dethrone the authority and place of preaching.

Before I tell my observations regarding this unsettling displacement of the preaching task, let me first tell the reasons why preaching is a major task of the Church, hence, its supremacy.

The first reason for the supremacy of preaching is because it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that saves people. No other thing, no methodology, no persuasion, no philosophy, no good works, no acts of mercy will bring down a sinner in humble submission and faith to Christ except by the Gospel.

Romans 1:16 (KJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

And how is the Gospel presented and received? How is faith produced to believe in Christ? It is by hearing the Gospel, and the Gospel is heard by preaching.

Romans 10:13-14 (KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

It is important to note that I am not against good works or acts of kindness – I even propose that the Church is weak in these areas, and should be developed. What I am trying to say is that nothing can replace the role of preaching for the salvation of man and the strengthening of the Church. The preaching task, partnered with fervent prayers, is still the primary task of the Church for the harvesting of souls and the furtherance of God’s Kingdom. Good works will touch the mind and heart of people, but only the Gospel brought by preaching through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit could revive the dead spirit of man.

The second reason for the supremacy of preaching is because it is a primary tool to strengthen the believers. I do not say that other activities do not do the work of strengthening the Church – they do, like worship, prayer, seminar, thanksgiving, etc. What I emphasize is that all of those activities serve their own purposes and the hearing of the Word of God completes them. The maturity of the believer is never complete apart from the hearing of the Word. If a Church event has plenty of activities but devoid of the Word, then that event is virtually fruitless.

Only the Word gives us the knowledge of God’s Truth that edifies us in many ways; leads us to sanctification together with the work of the Holy Spirit; corrects us; equips us in service; and brings us closer to Jesus Christ Himself.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Psalms 119:105 (KJV) Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Matthew 4:4 (KJV) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Hebrews 4:12 (KJV) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Now that I have told why the preaching of the Word deserves a supreme place in the life activity of the Church, we are now ready to talk about some observations why the preaching of the Word seems not highly regarded like it was before.

The first obvious observation is that today the Church is willing to conduct big activities devoid of the Word, in an attempt to stoop down under the great name of contextualization.

Why preach the offensive Gospel to the hard-headed unbelievers when you can give them programs that will benefit their interests? Why preach the outdated Gospel to the postmodern youth when you can give them ‘holy worldly activities’? Why preach the commonly heard Gospel when you can share thousands of stories and philosophies that are humanistic?

Those are the cries of the Church today, as a product of many meetings and evaluations that arrogantly suggest that the Gospel is not enough or sufficient to confront the needs of modern man.

The second observation is that today, an honest analysis shows that preaching lacks Scripture. I could easily judge that today’s preaching lacks authority and power because it chose to deny its allegiance to its source of power – the Word of God. Many preachings have become nothing but rampant outrages of human voice and emotion, throwing thoughts randomly at the hearers without affecting any positive change or transformation.

This is evident in three ways. First, preaching has been norrowed to a single-verse shallow explanation. I say single verse because I see preachers quoting a single verse from Scripture then leaving it out entirely during the entire course of the sermon. I say shallow explanation because it has become a natural tendency for preachers nowadays to give room to highly subjective experiences and humanistic philosophy to interpret Scripture. The result then is a ‘Word-less preaching.’ If you want good preaching, you should devote yourself to several verses of Scripture that are explained in an expository manner.

Second, preaching has become ‘recycled.’ By this I mean that some preachers lazily just get canned sermons from books and internet and with little reading, deliver such sermons on Sundays. I am not against getting ideas from others, but the best sermon is the one that God has given you personally thru fervent prayers and faithful study of the Word. For sure it is the message that God Himself has fed you, the message that has penetrated your soul, this is the message that you are most capable of preaching with power.

Third, preaching has become a way to adulterise the Scriptures. I mean to say that we preach to promote our personal agendas and interpretations using the Scriptures as an outside cover. So many times preachers use the pulpit to defend their insecurities, to avenge their hurt feelings, to defend and cover up their sins, and some other acts or motives that are far from the pure Biblical motives of preaching.

Lastly, the third observation is that preachers today are much less equipped in the art and discipline of preaching. This observation goes on two extremes: being lowly equipped and being highly transcendent.

Being lowly equipped means that preachers are becoming less and less aware of the basic knowledge of the technicalities of preaching. They have become ignorant and hostile to the proper ways of constructing a sermon, or even worse, make preaching a contradiction of terms by believing that a devoted study and writing of a sermon is irrelevant and unnecessary because ‘the Holy Spirit will complete it anyway.’

Let me make this clear: I am never against completely relying upon the work of the Holy Spirit to bless a sermon and its preaching. I have witnessed that in many occassions, God has blessed my preaching (and the preaching of others) even though my notes were not with me (impromptu preaching), or I did not have enough time for serious study – but those cases are of course miracles of His Grace, and surely not to justify a preacher’s laziness. What I emphasize is that if God has called you to preach, you must give God and your calling the respect they deserve by a diligent study of the Word and its sermon preparation. Do we desire God to bless our sermon and preaching if we have not prepared for it, but lazily just picked up a random text and trusted God for its eternal benefits, especially when an ample amount of time is given for preparation? We must be ashamed.

2 Timothy 4:2 (KJV) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Ezra 7:10 (KJV) For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

By being highly transcendent, I mean the opposite of the former. Sometimes preachers, being too much idealistic, forget to grasp the reality of his surroundings. To preach effectively, we should adjust our methodology and style to suit the intellectual, emotional, and cultural level of our listeners, without compromising the Word. The effective preacher is not the one with the transcendent message or the greatest method of delivery, but the one who is able to make his message comprehensible to his listeners.

If we want revivals in our local churches, the basics need to be present: humility and repentance, prayer and Bible reading, holiness and devotion, and worship and the preaching of God’s Word.

God Moves Mysteriously

Right now my Church Members are decreasing in number. I don’t know if it’s because of God’s answer to my prayer – “Lord, visit the Church and uproot its false foundations.”

False foundations may sometime refer to church members? I don’t know. But God is revealing something. Maybe He is telling us that dependence on sponsors is wrong. Or too much formality is not His way.

I know that in His own ways He wants us to return to true worship.

God reveal your will to us!

Turning Back the Hands of Time

This institution exists to train the heart.” Not putting aside the mind, but greater importance is given on the heart, or the development of character. That was the first important statement I heard from Mr. Sol Garner Dolojan, the Director of the Mindoro Bible College, now known as Center for Servant Leadership Philippines, the institution where I finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Pastoral Theology.
My prayer while studying Theology was for God to deal with me on a very personal level. I was really expecting to see my character pruned, developed, and transformed. I would like to see myself as a better person after finishing four years of Biblical studies. I was very hopeful and expectant. I believed that finishing the seminary would open a wide door for me – door for the full-time ministry and for better character.

Yet observing myself now and looking back several years before studying in the seminary, I see some disappointing things. Often keen analysis would bring me into a conclusion that I was better – maybe not in knowledge and some ‘divine skills’, but in character, courage, and humility. There was in me a dimension that made me real close to God – which I do not see in myself now. Alas! If I could only see the missing link to this greatness (or nobility), then I would have my life full again!

Surely it could not be knowledge – for I believe more knowledge in Scriptures would mean closeness to God, though not automatically, but still that is the standard of the Bible, except if I follow the example of the Pharisees who were full of knowledge yet was far from God. Nor could it be the skills – for abilities were graciously showered  by God with the sole purpose of investing for His Glory and building up His Church, unless I have been using these talents to serve my own vain kingdom. Or could it be that I have abused knowledge and skills to serve myself wholly?

Let this be an open question.

 

Politics, the Prosperity Gospel, and the Christian Servant

What about a founder of a large Christian Church who decides to leave this spiritual leadership so he could serve in the political world of politics?Are Christians (which includes great Christian leaders) the only ones whom God has called to serve as public servants or politicians?I believe, that yes, God could use (as He has done in the past) even the unbelievers for His Kingdom purposes (Take a look in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2). In fact, those whom He raised as politicians (public servants) are more equipped and trained in public service. And about their integrity? I know that there are some few out there whom He has preserved from the corruption of the heart regarding bribery, graft and corruption.
It is a very wrong view that God would not use the unbelievers for political purposes. More often than not, He uses the unbelievers for this purpose. And He calls the Church to influence the society more often through witnessing, having a holy life and getting involved in other social activities, rather than entering politics.

The church, very often, as evidenced in history, is easily corrupted when engaged in the world of politics. It is a wonder to me that many Christians today dream of getting rich, and even preach of getting rich and accumulating material prosperity in this world as a sign of God’s favor and approval. That is one inner motive why Christians enter politics – not really to serve, but to be served and for self-gain. Not all, but most of them.

But that was the opposite of the example of Jesus, the apostles, and the martyrs of the Church. They lived simple lives, the kind of life that looks on the eternal life with God as their inheritance. Their pleasures are fed on God, and not on the material things of this world. I am not against money or being rich, but I despise the passionate desire to be rich, especially among God’s servants. Surely, God has called a few people who will serve in the Kingdom by abundant giving and material resources but they are very few and in God’s design that is not always the case.

The prevailing Gospel today is the Prosperity Gospel (also called the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel), wherein it is taught that a Christian is destined to live a prosperous life – materially in this world as a sign of God’s approval. This is the Laodicean Church, the lukewarm church as portrayed in Revelation 3: 14-22. This Church has prosperity and material riches on the inside, but Christ was outside knocking at the door of their hearts. Take heed.

As a conclusion based on my daily observation in light of God’s Word:

1. Most Christians that enter politics are looking for self-gain and prosperity, inspired and motivated by their strong belief in the Prosperity Gospel.

2. Public service is only their second real agenda.

3. If elected, they will only bring economic prosperity, and not true spiritual progress. This may seem tolerable because as politicians, their primary aim is economic progress and not spiritual progress. My point is that their current thinking will sacrifice the spiritual to give way to the economical.

4. These kind of leaders will only lead the Church to aspire also for financial prosperity, sacrificing their spiritual condition before the Lord. Aiming for money and loving for Jesus could never go hand-on-hand. They will always be against each other.