November 26, 2015
My song to You, Lord, this Thanksgiving Day, taken from Your Own beautiful Word:
Oh Lord, this day and every day,
“I rise to give You thanks
for Your righteous laws” (Ps. 119:62)
which “are the joy of my heart.” (v. 111)
“All Your commands are trustworthy” (v. 86) God,
and “how sweet Your promises are.” (v. 103)
You teach me through Your laws, (v. 108)
so “Accept, O LORD, the willing praise
of my mouth.” (Same verse)
“Your Word is a lamp…
and a light for my path.” (v. 105)
It gives me wisdom (v. 98)
and comfort (v. 52)
and counsel. (v. 24)
It gives me purity, (v. 9)
renewal, (v. 50)
healing (v. 92)
and hope. (v. 81)
“I stand in awe of Your laws” (v. 120) Oh God.
Yes, “May my tongue sing of Your Word.” (v. 172)
“May my lips overflow with praise.” (v. 171)
For those who love Your law
do indeed have great peace, (v. 165)
freedom (v. 45)
hope, (v. 81)
and strength. (v. 28)
I love and obey Your Word, Oh Lord, (v. 56,127)
and I trust it completely. (v. 42)
It is more precious to me than anything (v. 72)
besides You Yourself, and Your Name. (138:2)
Therefore many “times a day I praise You
for Your righteous laws” (119:164)
–so wonderful, (v. 129)
“true… [and] eternal.” (v. 160)
“I obey Your precepts and Your statutes” (v. 168)
“O LORD, and I follow Your commands.” (v. 166)
“For I love them greatly.” (v. 167)
They are ever “giving joy to the heart.” (19:8)
Your precepts have certainly proved
“perfect… trustworthy… and right.” (v. 7,8)
“By them Your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.” (v. 11)
“I love You law” (119:113) Oh Lord.
“I have put my hope in Your word.” (v. 114)
I’ve learned that Your Word
is All-Powerful, (33:6,9 // Heb. 4:12)
and that it remains firm and enduring forever. (Ps. 119:89 // 1 Pe. 1:23)
“Oh, how I love Your law [O God]!
I meditate on it all day long.” (Ps. 119:97)
Therefore wherever I am, (v. 54)
“Your decrees are the theme of my song.” (Same verse)
Oh Lord, “I will not neglect Your Word” (v. 16) –ever!
I thank You for it with all my heart. (v. 10-16)
November 24, 2015
As I was walking to the bus and train stops to witness today, a big yellow truck stopped, the passenger window rolled down, and the driver, visibly agitated, said, “What does your sign say?” I let him read it again, as it says, “Faith without works (of obedience to God) won’t save.” The guy, with his two teens in the back listening, said angrily, “That’s not true!” Being that I have several Scripture references on the sign, I started to quote one of them –James 2:24– which says, “We know that a man is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”
Without letting me really finish, the driver of the yellow truck said, “What denomination are you?” I said, “Non-denominational.” He then proceeded to vent his opinion, telling me that all we need is faith and that if we needed to do works, it would mean that what Jesus did for us was not sufficient for us to be saved. The man then drove off having never let me finish another sentence.
I tell about this encounter because I’m pretty sure that guy had been previously influenced by, maybe even entrenched in, Calvinistic doctrine –the teaching that man cannot, and should not, make any effort to be saved because it is all God’s doing and such efforts would be useless as well as insulting to God.
Isn’t it interesting that a man can become so upset when confronted with the Truth that faith alone does not save but must be accompanied with works of obedience to God? Why would “Christians” –who are considered servants of Christ– not be wanting to serve Him? Why are so many “Christians” trying to defend impotence concerning our ability to carry out God’s commands? Why are so many “Christians” insisting that we are not to make any effort toward pleasing God? Why are so many “Christians” teaching that we sin daily, that we carry around the sinful nature, and that there is nothing we ourselves can or should do as we follow Christ? Certainly it should be easy to understand that following Jesus means the follower is imitating Christ, is walking in His will and commands, and is doing plenty of works under the guidance and power of His Spirit!
I bring this encounter up because last Friday while witnessing down there, I happened to see, much to my (initial) joy, another evangelist (I’ll call him Paul here) who I’d not seen in a long time but who also used to witness at the bus and train stops. In fact, about twelve years ago I had witnessed to Paul at a bus stop and then, seeing him periodically, encouraged him to follow the Lord, which it appeared that he chose to do. Paul matured in his walk, went to a good church and Bible study, and organized evangelistic outreaches on the streets. I always very much enjoyed seeing him, talking with him about ministry, and sharpening one another in the Truth. I got to know several of his friends who often came out evangelizing with him, though, unfortunately, they seemed to not have the same beliefs about freedom from sin that I had.
So, last Friday when I saw Paul, I was excited to hear how things were going for him, especially concerning his walk with the Lord. However, I was surprised to hear him say that he was not doing much evangelizing of late. I also was surprised to hear he was not involved in the Bible study at his church he had helped lead. When I asked if he was still attending that church, Paul said he was but that he was also looking for another church whose doctrine would better fit his doctrine. This surprised me very much since I knew his church to be a solid Bible-believing church. I kept asking Paul “Why?” as he was telling me these things.
“Well,” Paul finally said. “I’ve become a Calvinist.” This definitely shocked me. I reminded him that we had often talked about the falsehoods of Calvinism and that he had agreed with me. He said, yes, but that he had come to see that Calvinism was actually true. He then went on, trying to convince me of what he had come to realize. It was really sad.
A friend of Paul’s (I’ll call him Jimmy here), one who had often accompanied him, showed up just then and I greeted him. I asked Jimmy, as I always used to ask, how his walk with the Lord was going. Jimmy often used to let me know he was struggling with sin, but that since he believed in OSAS (once saved, always saved), his continuation in sin wasn’t (supposedly) too critical of an issue to God –something, of course, that I would adamantly contend with him against. Now (last Friday), besides his falsehood of OSAS, I saw that Jimmy, like Paul, had succumbed to Calvinism, for he immediately joined in with Paul in trying to convince me, using their “proof-texts”. But sadly, even though I felt I was adequately refuting every one they brought up, it didn’t take long for me to realize that these two guys were already deeply entrenched in Calvinism. Nothing I could say seemed to be getting through to them, and they had, since I’d last seen them, most definitely come under a strong delusion.
“You and I are no longer of the same spirit,” I said, shaking my head.
That seemed to sadden Paul greatly. Even so, he merely went from the predestination argument to that of total depravity, thinking he could persuade me there. But that too I countered, and when I said again that it was obvious we were now no longer of the same spirit, the two guys at last gave up and said good-bye.
So again, I tell all this to say this: God’s Word tells us to watch closely our conduct, our thoughts, and our doctrine and to make sure that it all fits perfectly with that taught and required in Scripture. (Mt. 5:28-30 // 1 Tim. 4:16) We are warned not to listen to men’s philosophies, but to listen to the Holy Spirit teach us from the Word of God. (John 14:26 // Col. 2:4,8 // 1 John 2:26,27) We are cautioned about laziness in putting Christ’s words into practice and warned that it will reap destruction. (Luke 6:46-49) Over and over we are warned that it is the Truth that we must believe and follow, that falsehoods lead to false gospels, and that both false gospels and sin lead to Hell. (Gal. 1:6-9 // Heb. 10:26,27)
It all goes together: A continuation in sin, the slide into falsehoods, the delusion God sends to those who refuse repentance (2 Thes. 2:10-12), and the eternal condemnation for those “who have not believed the Truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (v. 12)
The number apostatizing is growing. May we take much precaution that we not join them.
November 17, 2015
In my most recent discussion with a Jehovah Witness, I stated, as I usually do, that the main disagreement between their doctrine and mine is that I believe that Jesus is the bodily form of God the Father. Along with this statement, I quoted, as I usually do, Col. 2:9 which says, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” I also brought up Col. 1:15-20 and Heb. 1:2,3 which inform us that Jesus is the image and exact representation of the invisible God and the One through whom God created the universe. I then asked the man to look up Isa. 9:6 which calls Jesus “Mighty God, Everlasting Father”.
This Jehovah Witness responded to these verses by explaining that we all are gods and one with the Father. He brought up that Jesus couldn’t be God the Father Himself because we read of Him praying to the Father while He was on earth. I said that Jesus, though He was fully God, had, in becoming fully human, humbled and limited Himself. (Phil. 2:6-8) The man then asked me, “So are you saying that Jesus was praying to Himself?”
The question caught me off guard as it sounded so strange, but I answered, “Yes.” The JW then shook his head and all but rolled his eyes, saying, “Nooooo.” Yet in spite of his disdain, I did not retract my stance.
I thought about this encounter several times afterwards and mulled over whether or not I could be sure that I’d answered correctly. I mean, if Jesus, being the Child born to us (Isa. 9:6) is also the Mighty God and Everlasting Father (same verse), the One who “is before all things” (Col. 1:17) and in whom all things hold together (same verse), the One whose origins are from days of eternity (Mi. 5:2) and who declares Himself to be “the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13), then why would it be that He, as Jesus, would pray to Himself, the Father?
Before I answer why, I first must remind myself that God’s Word does reveal that Jesus, while on earth and now in Heaven, intercedes for us. For example, we read in Heb. 7:24,25 and 8:1,2 that Jesus is interceding for us as our Permanent Priest. “Yes, but this doesn’t teach that He is actually praying for us,” someone may argue. Well, let’s go over to Rom. 8:34 which has similar wording. It confirms that Jesus, “seated” (see Heb. 8:1 and Eph. 1:20) at the right hand of God, is indeed “interceding for us.” Someone may then contend, “But this Rom. 8:34 verse is not referring to prayer, but refers only to a type of intercession that results from who Christ is, His atoning work for us, and where He now sits in honor.”
To such a potential contender, let’s point out Rom. 8:26,27. These two verses are teaching us that the Holy Spirit Himself prays through the utterances of those who possess Him (the Spirit), doing so in intercession to God, and on our behalf. Being that verse 9 reveals that the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are one and the same Being (as Jesus, too, reveals in John 14:23), then is it not the Trinity, along with our submitted spirit, who are involved in the whole of the intercession? Surely, if the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all One God, no one could rightly have answered the Jehovah’s Witness member any differently than I did.
Maybe we should consider the first sentence in Rev. 22:17 as well when studying the intercession of the Spirit of God to God. It says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!'” This could be referring to the invitation to all mankind to come to “the water of life” (same verse), but it seems that it is also referring to the prayer that Jesus fulfill His promise to return soon. (v. 7,12,20) As Jesus affirms in verse 20, “Yes, I am coming soon.” And the rest of the verse contains the immediate response, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
I think of another chapter in Scripture while contemplating the JW’s question. It is Genesis chapter one. Verse 26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” We can see that “God” is shown as plural when He uses the words “us” and “our”. But in verse 27 the Creator seems to be singular, for that verse says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Here we see that “His” and “He” are words used for the Creator, seemingly making “God” singular, which then seems to make verse 26 appear that God was speaking to Himself. Besides this, doesn’t the whole chapter reveal that by the command of God’s mouth, God was commanding Himself to create? Who was commanding and who was creating? Jesus (who obeyed the Father’s every command –John 12:49,50 & 14:31) is Himself the Word of God (John 1:1,14), and through Him God commanded and created. (Ps. 33:6,9 // Col. 1:16 // Heb. 1:2) Yet was it not also through the Spirit that God did so? Absolutely. (Job 26:13 & 33:4 // Ps. 104:30)
With these things in mind, I believe there was no other way for me to answer the question regarding Jesus, the Son, praying to the Father. For if Jesus intercedes for us even now as our High Priest, and if the Spirit intercedes through us as we pray “in the Spirit”, and if we read that God commands Himself and speaks to Himself, then we must accept that the One is Three and the Three is One.
Moreover, if the LORD declares in Isa. 45:21 that “there is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but Me”, but Jesus stated that no one could be saved apart from Him (John 10:9,14:6) and apart from believing that He is the “I AM” (8:24,58) –the name God called Himself in Ex. 3:14 and to be remembered by forever (v. 15), and if verses such as Acts 4:12 & 16:31, Rom. 10:9-13, 1 Cor. 15:1-7, and 2 Cor. 5:14-6:2 confirm there to be no salvation apart from being in Christ Jesus, then this can only add to our conclusion that Jesus, the Spirit, and the Father are all one and the same God.
Jesus Himself has stated this Truth clearly. For in telling us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), He included this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” (v. 29) Even if it is sometimes translated, “…the Lord our God, the Lord is one”, we cannot escape the fact that Jesus, and the whole of Scripture, declares that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are manifestations of the one and only True God. Therefore, petitions, intercessions, and commands given between them are, therefore, made from the One True God to the One True God.
The only way I can see that I could answer the question posed by the Jehovah Witness was to answer in the affirmative. And why would God have it that He command and petition Himself? I believe that answer could be another whole post, but the short answer would have something to do, I suspect, with the Lord having chosen, in His love and in His desire for fellowship, to involve all who choose His leadership. This includes Jesus as well as everyone else who houses His Spirit.
Though I found strange the question the Jehovah Witness man posed to me, I find exciting the reasons for my answer. For God, His infinite complexity too much for our finite minds to comprehend, has, even so, given us all we need for our growth in godliness, power, and the knowledge of Him.
November 11, 2015
It was a great way for me to celebrate Veterans Day, 2015: Alongside my parents and many other missionaries and praying people, I attended their mission’s Day of Prayer hosted by a local church. We broke into separate sessions that focused on specific parts of the globe, and using information sheets filled with various praise and prayer requests, we petitioned the Lord aloud in small groups. Afterward, we all met together in the sanctuary to hear, reverently read, the names of the missionaries who died this year, to hear encouraging news of God’s work overseas, and to worship in song, as well as through communion.
In speaking about the body and blood of Jesus, which the wafer and the juice signify, the pastor reminded us that our Savior sacrificed His life too that we may live, and live free from evil forever. Christ let His body be crushed and His blood flow to atone for the sins of mankind that we may believe, repent, and be ransomed from evil and its curse. Through His death, Jesus bought for us the freedom to live the real Life.
Veterans Day is a good reminder and opportunity to honor all, missionaries included, who have put their own life at risk for the sake of others, to thank God for giving those men and women the bravery and fortitude it took to fight for the freedoms we’ve been privileged to possess, and to meditate on the Sovereign King-Creator-God who, by becoming human, and by suffering, dying, and conquering death through His resurrection three days later, paid our ransom and gave us freedom so that we might truly live. Truly live now, and forever.
Veterans Day is definitely a day to recognize, and a day on which to show honor and gratitude for those who have sacrificed themselves for the benefit of others.
November 4, 2015
Our family has heard some great news this week: APECO, a huge multinational corporation in the Philippines which has been forcefully pushing the Casiguran Agta and other locals off their land for the past six years, has just been ordered by the national government to “cease and desist” for acting illegally. (The Agta are the tribal people my parents work with and among whom my brother and sister and I grew up.)
Here is a report:
At that same informative news site, here is a past article that discusses the abuses against the Agta and the need for improving their education so that they can better know their rights:
Within that article, my dad is cited with a link to many other abuse cases against the Agta that he documented, as well as the link to the 2013 letter, signed by 198 international scholars, which was sent to President Aquino (the president of the Philippines). Here is the part of Rappler’s article that includes those two links:
As documented by American anthropologist by Dr. Thomas Headland, who lived and worked with the Casiguran Agta for 5 decades, the human rights abuses against Aurora’s Agta tribes have included slavery, mass murder, kidnapping of children, but most especially, the takeover of their ancestral domains by outsiders.
Though the first settlers of Aurora province, the Agta have long been displaced from their very homelands by international and national logging firms, mining companies, military battalions, and unscrupulous immigrants – developments which have resulted in a 40% decline in the [Agta] population from 1960 to 2010. Last April 2013, Headland along with nearly 200 other social scientists from around the world, affirmed that this danger continued to hang over the heads of the present-day Agta, through the sustained operations of APECO.
On 10/22/15, I wrote about the typhoon that had just hit the Casiguran area, and that same day, much to our appreciation, President Aquino visited the town to distribute supplies and to personally assess the typhoon’s damage. See here:
The day before that, several officials flew into the area to do the same (which is also very much appreciated), and at risk to themselves, not only because of the weather conditions, but because of reported problems with the airstrip. Rappler also carried that news story and there is a link there of the Agta chieftain being interviewed. (He and others viewable in the video, as well as others in some of the photos, are Agta in whose village we lived for many years.) Here is that link:
We know that the Lord is caring for the Agta and for others in Casiguran. Maybe the typhoon, which fueled an inspection of its damage, was also God’s way to get officials to further inspect the damage in the region caused by APECO.