Divine Covenants

Divine covenants are covenants made by God to man. Unlike man-made covenants, divine covenants are a one way deal. God makes the covenant and he sets the terms by which it will encapsulate. It won’t always require man to fulfil an obligation but it will in one way or another include some kind of blessing from God. Although it is a one way deal, divine covenants are always intentionally made by God for the benefit of mankind.

Studying the covenants gives us a clear view of the events that occurred in the Bible; sometimes even those that are not in the Bible. Knowing the covenants and their implications to mankind and the earth helps give an outline to the events that occurred in history. It is now easier to see how faithful men have toiled the earth having only nothing but God’s word to live by. Then again, whenever a covenant is decreed, there is always a sense of reverence for God that enables the hearer to know that anything is possible as long as God said so.

This also shows how intentional God has planned the story of humanity even before it actually unfolds. And with that try challenging yourself to wonder.. You are intentionally made with purpose.

Probably the most important of all covenants is the covenant with Jesus. It is between God and man, but this time including the Gentiles. It promises that the law will be written within man’s heart, relationship with God, knowledge of God, forgiveness of sin, and eternal inheritance. It is through the blood of Jesus and the only requirement is for a man to have faith in Jesus Christ.

That in itself would be the covenant that is closest to home for most of us.

I think this time, If I were to choose which of the five promises are most relevant to me, It’d be the first one which is the law written in man’s heart. I cannot imagine how much that indwelling of the Spirit has saved me so many times from completely messing up my life. In times when I felt like giving up, that indwelt desire deep in my heart to follow God has always lead me to victory. Which is why even to this day, I am very grateful for the blessings that God has made available for mankind despite our stubbornness to turn away from Him again and again. To me that just proves God’s love. Despite the many times that we do not completely understand His logic.

*This entry is part of my revision series. An introspective project revisiting and re-imagining entries I wrote years back.
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The Nature of Sin

Sin can be characterized in three ways. Which are unbelief, pride, and disobedience. Unbelief first allows the mind lose faith in God himself and his Word. It then creates doubt and makes things which are not good attractive to the eyes. It then becomes easier for pride to come in. Pride on the other hand, allows the person to exalt oneself instead of God. The temptation at that time was to be like God but in the wrong way. And it is still the same nature that man continuous to fall into to this day; to glorify man instead of God. Once unbelief and the desire to exalt oneself occur, disobedience comes right after. Unbelief and pride work so enticing that it easily shapes man’s actions to disobedience not just from himself or man-made rule, but disobedience and alienation from a person; God.

This section reminds me of one of C. S. Lewis’ thoughts on sin. In one of his novels he wrote of a Turkish Delight. That Turkish Delight although exactly the same as all other Turkish Delights, had one very simple magic in it: eat one and it will cause you to desire one more. It’s as simple as that. He goes on to say how men have destroyed families, their values, murdered and died, just to get one more.

Sin in itself reveals itself to have a cycle that has been continuous even to this day. I am surprised at how simple and predictable this cycle is and yet how often times man have continued to fall for its trap. Although partaking of the fruit is not harmful to man physically, it proves itself as harmful to man in all other aspects. Sad to say, unbelief, pride, and disobedience are still the driving force for many men today even Christians. This just shows how much damage sin has brought into mankind since the first time it manifested. In that sense, it becomes clear how man’s self efforts cannot completely eradicate sin. Only when God intervenes can sin truly be defeated. And I think that’s exactly where Jesus fits in in the story.

*This entry is part of my revision series. An introspective project revisiting and re-imagining entries I wrote years back.

Intentional + Missional

The world as we know it has gone through some drastic changes over the past centuries. When reading the Bible, it is noticeable that the world Jesus walked in was an entirely different world from the one we know today. However distant it may seem, the core themes in the Bible remain true today; one of which is missions. With Asia being the largest continent in the world and home to some of the largest and most influential societies and religions known to mankind.

Contrary to popular belief that this concept of a “missional” perspective is only seen after the ascension, Missions has always been at the heart of God’s plans and thus present all throughout the Bible.

The Bible begins with God as the Creator of the universe, then with the earth, then Adam and mankind. It then discusses the fall of man and how this desire for autonomy left the world in its fallen state. The story then temporarily highlights to Abraham through which God planned to bless all families of the earth with. God promised him his descendants will be a great nation; not just limited to Jews but also the Gentiles. God also promised him land; which is not merely a man-made nation but a land that is made by God himself. Lastly, God promised him overflowing blessing that will reach even those outside his family. We know this today as Jesus who is the salvation for all; the ultimate blessing for mankind.

In light of these facts, we see how much Jesus was and is involved in the entire story even from the very start. It then becomes evident that God never intended to be a God only for the Jews; but for the world. Looking at the Old Testament through these lenses, It would all make sense. If God wanted to reach the world, he would need to call a nation, if He needed to call an entire nation He would need an entire clan, if He needed to call an entire clan He would need a family, and to call a family He needed to call a man.

Some time during the 70’s to mid 90’s, the missionary work was mostly done by Western missionaries who go to less developed countries in Asia. Nowadays however, it seems as though the tables have turned. The church is becoming less and less Westernized and more and more Asian and multi-cultural. It is now mostly Asians doing the missionary work within Asia and even to the West.[1] With that results the integration of Christianity with various cultures. We now have Christianity becoming indigenous to a specific Asian culture instead of a Christianity that imposes Western culture into Asian culture.[2] It is not necessarily a bad thing. Because in that way, Christianity will be introduced as it should be rather than introduced as an American religion. We can clearly see that this is indeed an Asian missionary generation. We now have majority of missionary work being fulfilled by Asians to both inside and outside Asia.[3]

Today we have Chinese reaching out throughout ethnic groups in China, Indians reaching India, South Koreans building hospitals and universities to neighbouring countries, and Filipinos going just about everywhere.

Nowadays tent making is the best strategy to do so, and who else would be fit to do tent making but Asians themselves? We see in the Bible that it has always had people who go do the mission work, and those who stay behind; but consistently support those who do missions. It should be the same today.[4] We usually have missionaries who do professional vocations but spread the Gospel alongside their routine activities. We see them support themselves and receive support from home churches. We see them partnering with fellow missionaries and other organisations of the same cause. And who else could do these better but Asians? Nowadays we have certain areas where we start planting churches and help expand it. We also have realised the potential of reaching out to urban communities. Nowadays, it doesn’t take a long drive to a rural community to reach a certain people group. We see rural residents migrating from rural areas to urban cities to find other means of earning.[5] Rural born people are as near to us in the cities now more than ever before.

During Hudson Taylor’s time, things were a lot different. He had to face trials of all kinds, especially financial trials. He had to live having less just so he could pay rent and survive with his daily necessities such as food and drink. He had to face sicknesses and disease and lived to see his friends die from these diseases. He’s had problems with people who have no idea how life was like in China. And most of all, he had to face most of these trials at such an early age all alone without a wife or family to back him up.[7]

In the Philippines, it is also different. It is evident how much years of being colonised has influenced the Philippine culture and mindset. While the other nations of the world were developing, the Philippines have been passed from one coloniser to another and has not had the chance to grow and mature as an individual country. Even today, the Philippine mindset has been forever haunted by its history and everyday struggle to earn a decent living. The country has been exposed to so much exploitation and criticisms from other countries that just add to the anxiety of the people. The country has been continuously labelled by other countries that a Filipino must come to a realisation that he must not listen to voices from other countries to define himself; and not everyone can do that.[8]

In South Korea, despite having to struggle to become what it is today is also playing a significant role in missionary work. With 25 percent of the population being Buddhists, 25 percent Christians, and 50 percent non-religious; the statistics are quite competitive. They are now on the ranks as one of the most influential countries to watch out in Asia when it comes to missions.

Asia in itself is rich in varying worldviews and philosophies that are available. These may seem irrelevant in the eyes of a Westerner but you’ll be surprised how far these worldviews go for an Asian individual. It defines who a person is and sometimes as far as to define what a country and culture should be. India’s caste system, ancestor-worship in the East, and cults are some examples to name a few.[9]

As the largest continent in the planet, Asia holds the largest body of people than any other continent. It is also home to the world’s largest bodies of worldviews and the most influential religions and philosophies that shaped the planet. In Asia alone we get Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Confucianism, and many more to name a few. Unlike in other parts of the globe where you deal with people who either believe or do not believe in God; in Asia, you deal with people who can easily believe in God. The only question would be; which one? At a glance it seems all of them claim exclusivity, but a little study will show us that each are very distinct from the other.

Which is exactly why successful leaders should not just teach but also train their future successors. Without competent successors, the future of any ministry or any organisation, will be left handicapped. In training successors we must train them with regards to their character, commitment, competency, and content. Character is backed up by years of perseverance, commitment is built by a clear call from God, competency is built by hands-on experiences with ministers in ministry, and content in our academic training must be aimed at producing effective ministers in the field and not merely high grades.

Discipline and academic competence is definitely good. Since God is serious about our lives we must in turn be serious with His call. We need to make sure that we impart practical skills ministers will need in the field. Things like fund raising, networking, and the like. These things cannot be taught in a classroom lecture, they are acquired by actually doing what should be done alongside with guidance from real ministers who are active in the field. Sad to say, many young seminary graduates have had little or no chance of doing these tasks during their stay in seminary. It is sad to hear of zealous young ministers who later resort to non-ministry related vocations because of financial issues.

In light of that, it also brings us into a realisation of how vital it is that we train our students to have an understanding of how much commitment it will take and how much character is to be refined when one is in ministry. Again, discipline and academic competence is good. It molds us to be better and it promises that as long as we are faithful to the end, we are secure in Christ.

We can clearly see how much missionary work is vital in spreading the Gospel. The times have changed tremendously since the time when the Apostles’ did missionary work. With the world at its peak in technology, business, communication, and the like; the world can be as reachable now as it was before. In a time when various philosophies have developed over time, Asians stand out as the most influential people on the planet, and also the ones who need to be reached the most.

The call to reach those who have not heard is louder now as ever before. The challenges have increased, the risks have become deadlier, the trials a lot harder, but this should not be a hindrance to missionary work. Missionary work is not just an overseas trip to a foreign land only to come back with fancy photographs. The risks are real and the mission has to be fulfilled.

Our missionaries need our support, especially our prayers and financial support. What they do is a huge sacrifice for the Gospel and their families. Indeed this will be a historical event for Christianity and the world; and I believe that Asians will play a huge part in spreading the Gospel throughout the world.

*This entry is part of my revision series. An introspective project revisiting and re-imagining entries I wrote years back.
[1] Paul E. Pierson, “The New Context of Christian Mission: Challenges and Opportunities for the Asian Church.” Asian Church and God’s Mission (2003): 11-18.
[2] Melba Padilla Maggay, “Early Protestant Missionary Efforts in the Philipppines: Some Intercultural Issues.” Asian Church and God’s Mission (2003): 29-30.
[3] Elizabeth Ruth Peeve,“Asian Missionaries and Tentmaking.” Asian Church and God’s Mission (2003): 257-259.
[4] Ibid., 259-260.
[5] Byung-yoon Kim, “Issues in the Short-term Missionary Strategy.” Asian Church ad God’s Mission (2003): 181-183. and, Pierson, “The New Context of Christian Mission,” 16.
[6] Paul Hattaway, The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun. (Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2002), 33.
[7] Janet & Geoff Benge. Hudson Taylor: Deep in the Heart of China. (Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2000).
[8] Melba Maggay. “Towards Contextualization from Within” Doing Theology in the Philippines (2006): 49-50.
[9] James W. Sire. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog 4th edition. (USA: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 244-250.

Apologetics in the office..

Question:
I hate the concept of God being this all-powerful diety who watches over you intently while you sin. Making notes in his little book re: who goes to heaven or hell. It all feels too cheap. Is he really that bored?
Response:
Like the sun being hot. The sun has absolutely no intention to harm you, but the mere fact that it is hot will destroy you if you were to draw near to it.
It’s the same concept with God being Holy. He has absolutely no intention of causing you harm (or sending anyone to hell), He wants us closer to Him; but the mere fact that He is Holy makes it fatal for us sinners to draw near to Him.
The only difference is, He made a way through Jesus so we “can” draw near to Him despite our sins. Is that not love to you?
And yes. Jesus was the only man in history who had no sin. He was angry with the very same things that make God angry. Anger alone is not sin.
God is not fundamentally angry. He is fundamentally righteous. God’s anger is a byproduct of his righteousness. That’s an attribute we humans do not and cannot possess. #Piper
(Every other character in the Bible was messed up in their own sense; I’ll give you that).

The Timeless Value of Church History.

If I were to write down all historical events in church history, it would be too many to cite. If I were to write and reflect on them, those ideas as well would be too broad to discuss. Perhaps there will always be something worth noting when we talk about history. But if there’d be anything worth noticing I believe it would be to find truths that will surpass the limits of time. Those I think. are the timeless truths that teach us and guide us as we learn from the past. Lessons that are, forever true and applicable even today. In this blog entry, I aim to give some thoughts on such timeless truths.

1. To start with, historical truth proves the credibility of the Bible and the divine Author behind it. As we look through history and how the Bible itself was formed; we can see very clearly that no other book can compare to the Bible’s history. From the time when it was merely a collection of manuscripts until ita compilation into the book we now have; it has already surpassed countless attacks to its authenticity and doctrine. No other book in history has cost the lives of so many faithful people who died to protect a book’s integrity. It was formed from numerous persecutions and hard work by the people who lived for what it taught. Countless Kings have attempted to erase it from the face of the planet but none of them have succeeded in doing so. Now I don’t know about you, but to me those facts are too extraordinary to have been caused by mere chance or natural power. No man made achievement could compare to what the Bible has gone through. It is undeniably clear, that the Bible could not have survived if it were not for the divine hand that was guiding it step by step until it became the book (or should I say app) we are holding in our hands today. The bible was written and handed down manually from generation to generation, spread throughout Asia, faced persecution, was considered a fallacy, compiled, ordered to be burned, and such yet it still managed to stand strong to this day. Back then, it would have probably been very difficult to understand, but as we look back from where we are now, we cannot find any other explanation that would suffice to how all those events occurred by mere chance.

2. History helps us understand why the church is as it is today. Today we have various denominations of Christianity that are distinct yet are still closely related to each other. Each denomination has its own unique characteristic and as it is so, each also has its own history as to how it emerged. I believe it is very important to understand the hows and whys that were involved in these stories and how each school of thought is correlated to one another. It would be safe to say that each denomination was a product of educated men who stood up for what they knew was right from the teachings of the Bible. It would then be a shame to those great minds [some who died for doing so] to be ignorant of whatever doctrine we identify ourselves with and how it came to be. Those events where it involved men and women who dared to question what authorities claimed, sought to find God in the midst of a fallen society, and whom spent their entire lives to help preserve the original message of Christianity. It gives as clarity.

3. History prevents us from repeating mistakes from the past. Throughout time, it would be foolish to deny that Christianity has at some point, made numerous mistakes and to some, a huge mess in history. There were numerous injustices throughout the church’s history that were not made by those who opposed Christianity but by those who claimed to be of the Christian faith themselves. There were persecutions, murders, political plots, lies, heresies, deceptions, manipulation, and almost every kind of bloodshed and civil injustice that man can think of, that were initiated by those who claim to be under the banner of Christianity; to both fellow Christians and those who do not believe in Christianity. History is littered with these heinous acts; the crusades and some inquisitions are a very good example of this. Sad as these events may seem, most of these events happened because there were powerful men whom with their ideals pursued what they thought was the truth. Whether they meant to do that intentionally or unintentionally, only God will be the judge of that. But still we cannot avoid the fact that those acts by those men and the consequences that lead to those events have left stains on the name of Christianity that will never be erased. The damages caused by those events have been so devastating to the point that those accounts are being used today as proof of the Scripture’s fallacy. We can only hope that the decisions we make today will be the catalyst towards a better future for the next wave of Christians.

4. History shows us that God is in control. As I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, it is very clear that from Christianity’s beginnings until its current state today, the processes that had to take place were very fragile and full of human error. Who would’ve thought that the Bible which used to be a collection of manuscripts would emerge into a highly authoritative book in Christianity today? Who would have thought that there was hope when Christianity’s teachings have been so distorted and implemented incorrectly that it was causing more harm than good? Who would have expected that Christianity could survive after all the mistakes that occurred because of man’s hasty selfish ambitions? No one could! But apparently Christianity has remained alive to this day. There were numerous events both good and bad that helped shape Christianity today. And we cannot deny that those events could not have happened by accident. Each event was carefully planned by an intelligent divine hand that guided history so carefully so that the true message of Christianity will remain regardless of how much man can mishandle the Scriptures. In the eyes of man, the events that occurred seemed out of control and almost hopeless; but in the plans of God, everything was part of the plan. All of it was part of his bigger plan. Therefore we can trust that He would not allow any idea or action to interfere with His original plans. What we have on Christianity today is a mirror of that guidance.

5. It shows God’s love for mankind. Throughout history, we can see how God sovereign as He is, chose to show countless times his great compassion to his creation; mankind. We cannot help but notice how history repeats itself in a very simple cycle. We can clearly see how again and again, man has chosen to turn away from God or distort the Scriptures and how God uses people to eventually bring them back to the true meaning of Christianity through reforms. These great men who were now known as reformers are a very good example of this. History in a sense, tells us of God’s unfailing love and his faithfulness even in the midst of peoples’ unfaithfulness. It tells us of his love story; his story of salvation, to mankind and his desire to bring us into redemption over and over again. How can anyone argue with a loving God like that? No words can fathom how much God loves mankind and how deep his logic is compared to ours.

Indeed, all those events were for the benefit of mankind. But there is a bigger picture that can be seen, a much bigger picture that encompasses both God and human beings alike. It shows that God is indeed a living God and that the teachings of the Scriptures are infallible. Whether we view history from a Christian point of view or not, we cannot help but notice how Christianity has shaped the world so much that it could not have been caused by any natural occurrence or man made achievement. Christianity has influenced the world so much that it seems it becomes very clear that it is not like any other occurrence that the world has ever seen. Christianity is so knitted into world history that it looks as if Christianity is the back bone of the entire universe; the very core in which the world and all events revolve around all this time.