Disability and God

In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, 
and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.
Isaiah 29:18

Is disability part of the corruption that has happened when sin entered the flesh? Or maybe disability is something God uses to punish individuals who have sinned? Maybe disability is acceptable to God and even purposed by God? These are some questions that many of us don’t have answers to, but might I suggest that the answer is in the bible, if we bother to look for it.

When we see a person with a severe disability, it is hard to fathom how a loving God can allow such cruelty to exist. Most Christians look at disability as something that needs healing, something that needs the supernatural touch of Jesus. They are the poor captives of their own body that Christ has come to set free (Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2). Afterall, much of Jesus’ ministry involved causing the blind to see and making the lame to walk (Matthew 11:4-6). Surely disability is not in God’s perfect plan, it should be filed under undesirable circumstances like miscarriage and natural disasters. In God’s design, disability and impairments are ruled out of His perfect and holy kingdom (Leviticus 21:17-23, 22:22).

The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
Exodus 4:11

Exodus 4;11 tells us in plain and simple words that God intentionally makes individuals deaf, mute and blind. God was not speaking in general terms, the sentence “Who gave human beings their mouths?” is better translated into “Who put a mouth into a man?” (NET notes). God is involved in the creation of every person such that He puts each mouth into each individual. He didn’t just create the mould for the factory and left the machine to run. In His sovereignty, He makes some with mouths that don’t speak, ears that don’t hear and eyes that don’t see, right along with the ones that do. Knowing that, we cannot say that disability is part of the corruption that happened on all flesh when sin came in. God is pleased to do what He does and to create what He creates.

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
John 9:2-3

Does God do so because He knows the future of the person and the future sin and pre-punished the person for it? Or maybe it is the sin of the parents that has caused it? Is it the direct result of sin? John 4:2-3 is prescriptive to the blind man whom Jesus was healing, but the principle behind this teaching is that disability is not necessarily because of sin. It corrects this myopic thinking that was prevalent in that time and even now. We are quick to point to the cause of the disability – drugs, alcohol, abortion, etc, but God motive is more important than the cause. The cause doesn’t give meaning to the disability, God’s motive does. Jesus isn’t trivialising the man’s years of suffering as a blind man, He is magnifying God’s grand purpose.

The man’s blindness was ordained by God “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”, Jesus then goes on to heal the man. Wait a minute, that means God’s purpose for everyone who has a disability is to be healed? To answer this question, we need to consider the entire context. The end goal of Jesus’ work is to testify to His divinity and sonship; the goal of such a public display is so that the Pharisees would see and believe (John 5:36, 6:28-29, 10:25, 37-38). Now in this specific instance, God’s work was healing because it testifies undeniably to Jesus’ divinity to the Pharisees (John 9:30-33). This does not necessarily mean that healing is the way God will function all of the time, there is more than one way for a person with a disability to testify to the risen Christ or glorify God:

  • Moses was not healed of his speech impairment, he was empowered despite of it, but he was still used mightily (Exodus 4:10; Acts 7:22).
  • Israel walked with a limp after his wrestling match with God and was still the father of God’s nation (Genesis 32:25, 31).
  • Paul, perhaps the greatest Christian writer of all time and great Gentile missionary, had a thorn in his flesh that most theologians agree is a physical ailment of some sort (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14

The fact is, able or not, we are all created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and we are all crafted with an individual touch. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” and we are His handiwork, which He calls “wonderful”. We are not to see a person with disability and think that God has made a mistake or that sin has got the upper hand. God is sovereign and deliberate in creation (Romans 9:20-21). What we deem as ugly and undesirable, God has deemed beautiful, wonderful and God glorifying.

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20:24-28

We look at Leviticus 21 and 22 through the eyes of Jesus, who is our perfect Great High Priest and the ultimate sacrifice (Hebrews 7:24-27). After fulfilling the Law, Jesus didn’t hide His scars, instead He presented Himself with scars intact (John 20:24-28). Our Jesus identifies with our disability with His scars. He could have chosen to get rid of them, but He does not. His scars bear the proof and power of His sacrifice – it pleases Him to have those scars! We need not be fearful of whether our sacrifice with a disability is good enough, if Jesus is good enough, we are all good enough (Romans 12:1).

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Luke 14:12-14

It is sad that while we as a church are greatly concerned with orphans, widows and the poor (James 1:27; Matthew 19:21), people with disabilities are often overlooked. My church is not disability friendly, we don’t have wheelchair ramps, accessible toilets or Braille. Heck, even the colours and fonts of our slides, handouts and fliers are not friendly for people with visual impairments.

But things can change.

Let us be the people who invites them to our banquet.

Read also:
http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/jul1992/v49-2-article3.htm
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/us/22eiesland.html
http://www.agncn.org/documents/pp_disabilities.pdf

Health for the body and soul

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 John 1:2

While the rest of the world seems to have gone crazy about healthy living and longevity, the church seems to have been absent entirely from this movement. The Hindus boast Yoga, the Buddhist boast Shaolin Kungfu, the Taoists boast Taichi and Qigong, Christians have taken the stand that spiritual health is more important than physical health (1 Timothy 4:8). I’m not saying that we are inferior or that we need to learn from them, but I do feel like something is missing somewhere.

I do know that there are books such as “What would Jesus eat?” or “The Bible Diet” but I have never heard any preacher stand on the pulpit and say that God wants us to eat right, exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps we feel that it would condemn those in the congregation who are more horizontally gifted, or that the congregation will see it as vanity and glorifying the carnal/flesh, or trying to obtain our own version of eternal life – longevity. Afterall, it is no secret that living healthy does extend your life. God is not shy in saying that longevity is much desired and considered a blessing (Exodus 23:25-26; Deuteronomy 5:33; Psalm 91:6; Proverbs 3:1-2).

So what is the problem here? The problem is that our spiritual health is not opposed to our physical health. In fact, the more healthy we get spiritually, the more healthy we desire to get physically and the more we desire longevity. Our spiritual health is complementary to our physical health and in more ways than one. 

1. Our spiritual health is linked to our physical health supernaturally

Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body 
and nourishment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:7-8

He gives strength to the weary 
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; 
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty…
You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
Job 5:17, 26

By God’s grand design, good health is a supernatural blessing from God. He is the provider of physical health, not just healing, but health and strength. The Old Testament talks about how fearing the Lord and following His commands will reap the benefit of good health (perhaps because some of the Law deals with hygiene). How that works exactly, I don’t know. But the bible says it does – its supernatural. In the New Testament, a Christian knows that Christ has fufilled the Law on our behalf and thus we expect to reap the benefit of health. It is simply a supernatural effect of accepting Christ.

Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never get sick, fall ill or die, I said we expect. Meaning, while our attitude is that we expect good health, we do not deceive ourselves; we also understand that our flesh is constantly dying.

2. Our spiritual health is linked to our physical health naturally

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (See also Psalm 24:1)

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Galatians 6:7

Lets face it, our bodies are not our own. God has full ownership over our bodies by means of creation and redemption. He even owns the copyright, what we see in the mirror is the image of His body. The more we grow in spiritual health, the more we understand that we are to be good stewards of all that we have, that includes our physical body. We are all familiar with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). We are also familiar with the Parable of the Shrewed Manager (Luke 16:1-9) – who used what he had now to prepare for what is to come. Should we not take care of His image as best we can?

Consider the importance of our life (and it’s longevity), it is the first gift to each individual even before he or she is capable of understanding the gift of eternal life in Christ. The living has hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6) and has the ability to save souls (Luke 16:19-31), the dead on the other hand has neither. God places a very high premium on human life, there is no equal to human life (Leviticus 24:17). Now if life is so important to God and we want to serve Him effectively for all of our days on earth, why are we trying (consciously or unconsciously) to shorten our life with our lifestyle?

The writing is on the wall, if we sow an unhealthy lifestyle, we reap a short life. It is a natural consequence. If we constantly eat foods that are bad for us and refuse to take care of our bodies with exercise and rest, we reap illnesses that will hinder our effectiveness in ministry.

I preach to myself when I say these things because I am as guilty as anyone else for not taking proper care of this great gift from God. Now, I must prove myself faithful to this health and life I have been given.


The hardest question I suppose is what we intend to do about it. Here are 3 things that we can do right now:

  1. Eat right (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  2. Exercise moderately (Proverbs 31:17; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
  3. Rest well (Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 6:32; John 4:5-6)
  4. Do it all with someone else (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

If it is difficult to get started, get someone to go along with you. If you have difficulty getting someone started, ask them to go along with you. My father is a very wise man, when he wants my mum to get some exercise, he doesn’t scream at her to go walking, he says, “I’m going for a stroll, come with me please?” and he makes it an enjoyable experience by holding her hand, walking around nice places, sometimes even buying a little snack that they can eat when they’ve finished their stroll. Works everytime.

Read also:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charlotte-hilton-andersen/when-religion-and-exercis_b_157714.html

Mantle 2012

 

2012 for me is a year of new places with old things.

Mantle is kinda like that for me.

Mantle is a mens discipleship group in my church (Centrepoint Church) that meets every Tuesday night for 2 hours. Sitting under the teaching of our Senior Pastor, we 12 men are privileged to receive discipleship directly from him. The demands include our attendance at every session, daily bible reading, praying in tongues everyday, weekly memory verses and a daily journal (which is on this blog; that explains why the blog entries have all been journals).

What new places will this old faith take me to?

2012 will tell.


It seems that my dear wife is on the same journey with me. She has started a dance class and art (drawing) class, old art forms that she is familiar with, to take her to new places. So far, its taken up our Monday nights and Saturday mornings, but we’re enjoying it. I enjoy giving her the freedom she needs to explore her gifts and talents and she enjoys exploring them.

So help me God

“God helps those who help themselves.”

That is probably one of the most quoted non-existent verses from the bible. You could say that it sounds the closest to James 4:8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” But yet, not entirely.  It has been coined the phantom verse” by another blogger – Hezekiah 6:1. But before we disregard the quote entirely as an unbiblical quote, I think it ought to be examined more closely.

Salvation

When it comes to salvation, it is clear that God helps those who cannot help themselves. And in fact, He is displeased with those who claim that they can help themselves. No one is excluded from this helplessness.

As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; 
there is no one who understands; 
there is no one who seeks God. 
All have turned away, 
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, 
not even one.”
Romans 3:10-12

We are born into sin (Psalm 51:5) and live being slaves to sin (Romans 6:20). Being in sin is described as being dead (Ephesians 2:1-5), the dead cannot resuscitate themselves. Sometimes we are falsely led to think that we are somehow capable of saving ourselves, the bible tells us that:

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

Even our best efforts at being righteous are polluted. The translation in the NIV is “filthy rags”. Our best efforts to bring about our own salvation is like washing dirty clothes in dirty water. See also Titus 3:5.

This quote is busted for salvation.

Discipleship

Discipleship is the natural progress of salvation. Our salvation does not lead us back to the same life we have lived, it leads us to a drastically different life. You could say it is the process of growing into Christ. The process of discipleship is by no means simple. It is to practicing our faith in thought, word and deed (James 1:22) – abiding in Christ (John 15:5-8) to produce fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), taming our tongues (James 1:26, 3:9-12), committing to a church (Philippians 2:3-4), loving other disciples (John 13:35), evangelising (Matthew 28:19). A sort of summary of discipleship is: to be like Christ.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

I have often wondered if this verse is only applicable to Jesus’ first disciples, since He was speaking of his suffering and their journey as His disciples. But the minute anyone decides to become a Christian, it is clear that it applies to all disciples. Anyone who decides to submit their life to Jesus and apply this faith in all areas of life will soon find how difficult, tedious, painful and almost impossible this task is.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12-13

Does that mean that without applying our faith to our life we are not saved? Absolutely not, no amount of our works can achieve salvation. But the evidence of our salvation (faith and election) is in our works (Ephesians 2:8-9; James 2:18). To be diligent at our own discipleship is to be sure of our salvation.

So we go back to the original premise: does God help you when you help yourself? Phrased in the current context, does God help disciple you when you help disciple yourself? Well, to be absolutely correct, God helps you even before you help yourself. That is exactly the role of the Holy Spirit, who has also been called our Helper (John 14:16).

The Holy Spirit was at work in us before we even receive Christ (John 16:8-9), dwells in us the moment we believe in Christ (Galatians 3:2) and won’t ever leave (John 14:16-17). When we practice our faith in our thoughts and actions, it is to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). It goes even further: our willingness to follow Christ and be like Him and embark on discipleship is not even of our own choosing!

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Ezekiel 36:26-27

The Holy Spirit living in us actually makes us follow Christ. It causes us to desire discipleship.

The quote is (once again) busted for discipleship.

Life

Maybe the quote is applicable in everyday Christian life. When we lift one end of a sofa to move it, God lifts the other end and helps us. Doesn’t life work that way? Well, not quite. A better explanation of how life work is in the biblical principle of reaping and sowing.

A man reaps what he sows.
Galatians 6:7

It works. Plan and simple. If you are lazy, you don’t get to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). If you are friendly to others, you will have friends (Proverbs 18:24). If you cut yourself, you feel pain. You reap, you sow. Sure, God helps in supernatural ways in normal daily life. But is there a pre-requisite that you need to be helping yourself first? Sometimes not.

I think we can safely say that while the quote means well, it is far from true.

Introspection

This blog is my one outlet for communicating an authentic relationship with Christ and documenting my engagement with the living word to a broader audience. It is a continuous story of my pursuit of Christ as He pursues me. It is my story, my ministry.

Unfortunately, my story is distant and unengaging. My ministry is shallow and informational, not transformational.

Because

I find it easier to blog

using “you” and “we”

rather than “I” and “me”.

This blog is about me, but it isn’t. It is the impersonal me. It is life without inserting mine in it. It is struggling with the double-edged sword bible without displaying my battle scars. It is walking with God without telling where we’ve been. It is placing the magnifying glass over a topic, a verse, a concept and not move it across my life.

What do our ministries reveal about our lives?

What does your ministry reveal about your life?  

What does my ministry reveal about my life?

Christian life

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 1:27-29 (NIV)

Some people say the Christian life is easy – no striving, no tiresome labour, just bask in God’s great love. The picture that Paul paints of his own life and ministry differs greatly from this picture of a luxurous easy Christian life. Granted Paul is an apostle, he isn’t just any run-of-the-mill Christian. In today’s context, you might see him as a church planter, missionary or senior pastor. One who puts His whole life forward to the call of Christ as a servant of the gospel. But wait, aren’t we all? Paul talks about “you” and “your” in verses 21-27 and then says that “He is the one we proclaim” verse 28. He gives the effect that “we” isn’t just Timothy and himself, but the readers as well! We are all commissioned to be disciple-makers and reconciliators (Matthew 28:16-20). We all lay down our lives to be used solely, purposefully and entirely for His glory and purpose as believers. We are not so different from Paul afterall.

Our goal, as is his, is to present ourselves and others “fully mature in Christ“. It is interesting that Paul doesn’t measure success in ministry as large conversion numbers or big church buildings or attendance. But what does it mean to be spiritually mature? It seems that everyone has different definitions of what being a mature christian means. Have a read of this article: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/264-many-churchgoers-and-faith-leaders-struggle-to-define-spiritual-maturity.

Ephesians 4:13 tells us that maturity is “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Simply put, everything that Christ is, you are. It is much more complex than asking “What Would Jesus Do?” It is being at every moment what Jesus is. Think what Jesus thinks, love what Jesus loves, hate what Jesus hates, do what Jesus does. Everyone knows that this doesn’t necesssarily happen the minute someone accepts Christ, instead it is a process of working through our faith in our walk with God. When Paul says “fully mature in Christ“, he really does mean “in Christ“. Spiritual maturity is how deep we are “in Christ” or how reconciled we are in Christ (Colossians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21). The closest practical term to describe this is Christ-likeness.

To such an end, Paul labours. The words used in this passage to describe the nature of his labour are not easy words. NIV translates the meaning of the words as “strenuously contend with all the energy“, the ESV translates the words as “toil, struggling with all his energy“. The NKJV uses the words “labour” and “striving“, words that any modern preacher of grace would seldom (or never) say to their congregation. These words seem to have been given a negative connotation these days. But Paul uses them with confidence to describe the work required to bring people to maturity in Christ.

It would be a shame if the word had ended there, but it does not. Our labour is but a drop in the ocean compared to what Christ is doing in us, through us. All that Paul does is because of “the energy Christ so powerfully works in” him. Paul is only the channel, the real work happens elsewhere. Sure it isn’t easy for Paul or us, but the work is partnered and empowered. Becoming mature and bringing people to maturity in Christ is not something that we can do, but work that God does continuously in us and others (Philippians 1:6). We are not promised an easy ride in Christian life, but we are promised that persevering will produce maturity. James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What we need to do in life is to learn to be tenacious in our Christian faith. Be tenacious with discipling ourselves and others. Be tenacious with humbling ourselves before difficult leadership. Be tenacious with growing the fruit of the spirit. Be tenacious when life throws lemons at you. My youth pastor, Doc John once said “the key to a successful Christian life is… (pause for dramatic effect) perseverence”, and how true he is. Stay in the boat, get up when you fall and keep going.

We aren’t earning brownie points in heaven or earning our salvation by labouring, we are responding in the best way we know how to God’s gift – “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” It isn’t easy, but Christ has already made it worth the labour.

Christ in us, the hope of glory

“In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus”
Ancent epitaph

It reads “How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing”.

Nothing life to nothing death. No hope, no future. That is the outlook described in Ephesians 2:12, “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ… without hope and without God in the world.”

But we are not “like the rest, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13), we have Christ in us, “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Even death is filled with hope because He has risen (1 Corinthians 15:16-21)!

A meaningless life isn’t one that is filled with tiring strenuous labour, but one that is lacking hope in Christ.

All kinds of busy

December 2011 is turning out to be the craziest month in my 28 year history.

We got keys to our new house on 7th December and we’re planning to move in on 29th December. That means, we need to get tiling put in, get the wooden floor laminate installed, get the internal wall painting done, evaporative unit installed, security system installed, furniture purchased and delivered, the house cleaned and dusted and everything in our rental place packed and ready to move. All that in a span of a little more than 3 weeks. And somewhere , we will be celebrating my dear wife’s birthday and Christmas. It is going to be fun fun fun.

From 2012, this will be our home. Our very own suburban dream come true.  

A house is a big deal. It is something that we’ve saved up and sacrificed for. Now that we’ve got a nice new home with beautiful furnishings, so what? What now?

I am reminded of 2 passages in the bible that relate to building houses.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27

and

After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:
“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ …
The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you…
2 Samuel 7:1-7, 11

Both significant scriptures with loads to say. I’ll be looking at these 2 scriptures in the next few weeks or maybe when things settle down.

I am reminded again and again of the goodness and greatness of God. I am so in awe that all I can say is in David’s prayer of praise: “Sovereign Lord, you are God!”

“LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
2 Samuel 7:27-29

Year one

He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD.
Proverbs 18:22

A year ago, I got me a good thing.
A year ago, I got me some favour.
A year ago, I got me a wife.

A year on, it’s the best thing about life.
A year on, the favour just keeps overflowing.
A year on, she is still, and will always be, my wife.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love, 
it would be utterly scorned.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7

I love you Sara. You are the most amazing and beautiful woman, and everyday I fall more and more in love with you. You make every ordinary day magical and I look forward to coming home to you every day. You meet my needs exactly as you are, just by being you. I know that sometimes it isn’t easy, but you try anyway and I appreciate everything that you do. Thank you for being generous with your love and always being considerate of me. When I look at you, I still melt to a puddle. I am always in awe of how beautiful you are. You are God’s most incredible gift to me (right behind Jesus, of course). I look forward to our years together as we grow in God, walk through every struggle with Him and run after His call. Thank you for praying for me and with me when we need it. You are my constant reminder of how good our God is.

In the years ahead, I want to love you and serve you more and more. I’ll be your biggest supporter, your muse, your stalker fanboy and your shelter. I’ll try my best to lead you with strength, wisdom and gentleness. No one said that marriage would be easy, but I know that with you, it is worth it and with God, it is possible.

Love,
D

Living in balance

“Two things I ask of you, LORD; 
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; 
give me neither poverty nor riches, 
but give me only my daily bread. 
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:8-9

In just about every offering teaching, we hear all forms of the words “abundance” and “overflow” being used on blessings we receive. What we like to hear is a “pressed down, shaken together and running over” kind of teaching (Malachi 3:8-12; Luke 6:38). If we are blessed to be a blessing as Abraham was (2 Corinthians 9:8-12; Genesis 12:1-4), then we should be as rich as possible so that our giving can abound right? So we desire greater and greater riches.

No one says mediocre is just as good. Living with just enough is some new sin that must be avoided at all cost. And if you are poor, you’re not living in God’s promises. We are led to believe that mediocre should not be in a Christian’s dictionary.

Few hear the seriousness in Jesus’ voice when he says “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25) Fewer heed 1 Timothy 6:9 – “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Those are certainly not popular verses when it comes to offering teaching.

Proverbs 30:8-9 tells us that mediocre is quite alright and has spiritual benefits. God’s plan is that we are wholeheartedly happy with having just enough – what we need. And why not? Our dependence upon God is dependent on our refusal to depend on ourselves. And we know that He always meets our needs because He is a providing God (Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:25-34; 2 Corinthians 9:8). So why chase after more than is beneficial for us to have?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13

But don’t take Proverbs 30:8-9 to mean that we shouldn’t save and live hand-to-mouth; many other verses commend us to save up if we can (Proverbs 6:6-8, 21:20). Just as important as saving financially is investing spiritually by giving (Luke 12:21; Matthew 6:19-24). We give within our means (2 Corinthians 8:12) to help us and the community to keep that balance to stay in the just enough zone (2 Corinthians 8:13-15). That I believe is God’s plan.

So our lifestyle need not increase exponentially (and unsustainabily) when our income increases. Instead, our giving should increase “in keeping with your income” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

Βαβυλών

Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.” The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city.
Genesis 10:8-12

Putting the pieces of Nimrod together, we see a better picture:

  • Nimrod Bar-Cush (נִמְרוֹד). His name is taken from the Hebrew verb form for “let us revolt” – marad. Others interpret the name as “The Rebel”, because an “n” is added before the “m” in marad, making it an infinitive construct. This paints him as a type/representative/system of rebellion against God. Although we cannot say that it is exactly where his name was derived from, it cannot be ignored. Names have a particular significance in the Bible. His actions show a particular slant against God’s word. While God’s command was to scatter people and populate the world (Genesis 1:28, 9:1), Nimrod was gathering people in one place to build his kingdom (Genesis 11:4).
  • What was particularly interesting is in the way the Bible handles his introduction. Nimrod was not described as a person who was, but a person who became or began to be (Genesis 10:8; 1 Chronicles 1:10). This adds to the theory that Nimrod is a person representative of a unified and systematic rebellion against God.
  • Although he is described as a “mighty warrior”, the implication of the Hebrew word is a powerful tyrant. It could be said that Nimrod was exceptionally powerful/mighty; The Hebrew word for “mighty one” is used 4 times in the Old Testament to describe men with exceptional strength/ability (Genesis 6:4, I Samuel 17:5, I Chronicles 11:26-47). Some also say that he was a hunter not of animals but of men, but there is no evidence of such a claim. The Hebrew word for hunter is also used to describe Esau (Genesis 25:27-28) – a hunter of animals. It is not difficult to see how he acquired that title when we consider that he conquered a multitude of cities and built a number of other cities; he was the creator of the world’s first empire and was the first ever human king.
  • Babylon, the city which he founded was the first account of a concerted and unified effort from men to defy God. God recognised this unified effort in saying “Behold, they are one people” (Genesis 11:6). The goal for building the Tower of Babel is simple and purely God defying – to “make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). God’s response was to scatter them (Genesis 11:8-9). Such a difference from the story of Moses (Genesis 12:2).

Babylon was started as a kingdom built with man in the center. It’s prize building, the Tower of Babel, was built to be a trophy of the kingdom’s exploits. It was a celebration of the power of man apart from God. Hundreds of years later, we see that it hasn’t changed a single bit (Daniel 4:29-30). The king as a representative and head of the kingdom articulated exactly what the people of Babel might have said if the tower was ever completed.

“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
King Nebuchadnezzar

Nimrod was talented and strong, but chose to build his own kingdom. In the end, his trophy tower was stripped and his kingdom was scattered (Genesis 11:5-9). Nebuchadnezzar was successful, but chose to attribute all the success to himself. He had to be taken from his kingdom and humbled (Daniel 4:31-37). Many of us are talented as Nimrod and successful as Nebuchadnezzar was.

Now, whose kingdom are we building with all our talent? And who do we attribute our success to?

More reading (with a pinch of salt):
http://www.buzzardhut.net/index/htm/Babylon/Nimrod.htm
http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/nimrod.html