Archive for March, 2012

μαμμωνάς

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “ I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “ The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5-6 (NET)

Money is indeed a strange thing. We just can’t live without it. It almost chases after us. No matter how much I try to detach myself from being mindful of money, it always comes back.

I often take a disengaged view of money – I use it, but it is not of me; I control it, it doesn’t control me. Money is my tool, to be used to do my bidding, to carry out my intentions. I generally don’t budget too tightly so that I don’t feel like im being strangled by my finances. But sometimes the table flips, particularly when I have the intention but not the money. When my money refuses to do my bidding. When I see something nice that I can’t afford; when I want to bless someone but can’t afford it. I get the other side of the coin, and find myself on the tail end. Lack is a hard thing to swallow. Living in lack is like having my hands tied behind my back all the time. In Hebrews, Paul gives us to key to dealing with lack.

The Messianic Jews (Christian Jews) were being persecuted by the Jews and many of them were thinking of giving up and returning to Judaism. The environment for a Messianic Jew was extremely hostile. The Messianic Jews also had an urgency about the second-coming. They imagined Christ second-coming to be soon and after a few years of waiting, some of them got disappointed that it hasn’t happened. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews warns them not to commit apostasy and encourage them to keep faithful to Christ. He persuades them by pointing out the benefits of Christ over the Law, the yearly sacrifices and religious rituals. He mentions the faithful people of the Old Testament who waited their whole lives to see their reward and persevered in their faith through persecution and even unto death. 

However, there are other practical issues to deal with as well – money. Some of them who believed had their property seized from them, others were put in prison (Hebrews 10:32-34). They were broken and discouraged, they were more well off before they accepted Christ. Some of them have yet to recover financially from accepting Christ; years after some heavy persecution, they were still living in lack.

This is when Paul tells them to be free from the love of money and to be content with what they have. These two things seem to come together like strawberries and cream. That is exactly what I need to live with lack. Are they trivial words for a real problem? Absolutely not. His words have a real backing. That backing is the key to living with and without money. That backing is in the promises of God. He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). That promise was to Joshua when he faced enemies that were enormous and walls that were too high to climb and that promise is to us now when the odds are against us, when our books are in the red.

“God is my helper; I will not be afraid”, Paul tells us to confess this truth with full confidence because we have already received that God has promised. He is with us. He holds us. He will come through for us. Our testimony will become one of God’s providence and goodness. God’s sovereignty trumps anything that man can do to us. Notice that he appeals not to the hip pocket, but to the heart and mind – “I will not be afraid”. God’s providence can come in financial providence, but lets not limit God to a sugar daddy or generous heavenly banker, He is so much more! His providence also comes in encouraging us through hard times, strengthening us to persevere and empowering us to be satisfied with what we already have. That is where my freedom from the love of money and contentment comes from.

Paul’s personal experience with money and his personal outlook of finances is a constant encouragement that whether I have little or much, it all comes from God and He supplies all I need. Because of that, I can rejoice in my little and in my much, and be satisfied with His provision. His lack or plenty wasn’t a limitation, it was an empowerment to do things through God’s strength.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13 (NET)

All Things To All Men

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Acts 16:1-3 (Also read Galatians)

In Acts 15, the question rose as to whether circumcision was required of Gentile believers. The council met to discuss this matter. The Christian Pharisees insisted that circumcision was needed for salvation. Peter argued that it was not required and Paul gave testimony affirming that any Law added to the Gospel wasn’t the gospel anymore. He had seen first hand the Spirit’s work in uncircumcised Gentile Christians and was fully convinced that Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to follow Christ (Colossians 3:9-11). The debate was settled when James declared it not to be required after hearing both sides. Paul and Silas were then tasked with the duty of going from church to church and educating them in this.

However, here in Acts 16, Paul does a strange thing. He circumcised Timothy. We might be led to think that this Paul back paddled on the decision of the council, but it is obvious that he did not. He did it for Timothy’s benefit, so that Timothy could travel among the Jewish community and be accepted as one of them. This was important for Timothy because the Jews would not associate with him otherwise!

For the Jews, circumcision was an important marker that sets them apart. It was a sign of the Covenant of Abraham (Genesis 17:10-14), and thereby their own covenant since they considered themselves sons and daughters of Abraham (Luke 13:16). This important point  of separation between a Jew and a Gentile was a part of the Law (Leviticus 12:3).

Paul’s stand is that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision holds no value for Christians (Galatians 5:6, 6:15). It is very much a neutral thing. Circumcision was of no value to Timothy, he didn’t gain any spiritual benefit by doing so. However without circumcision, Timothy would have been deemed as unclean and repulsive to the Jewish community. His access to bring the gospel and minister to them would have been hindered. It was perhaps of practical importance that Timothy was circumcised.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.
1 Corinthians 9:19-22

For a young man brought up as a Gentile, such as Timothy, this was no easy feat. His circumcision would have been painful. It requires weeks of recovery (6 weeks in this modern era) and risks infection. But to Timothy it was only a small sacrifice for a bigger cause. The temporary pain was endured so that the gospel wouldn’t be limited by him. He put the gospel first and his own comforts and security second.

  • What in my background hinders me from spreading the gospel that I need to cut off?
  • What comforts and security needs to be taken away for me to be more effective in reaching out?
  • What is my greatest sacrifice for the furtherance of the gospel?

These are potent questions. I don’t think I have given enough. There is so much in my life that is just excess and a hinderance to the gospel. I am only thankful that I don’t have to endure physical circumcision.

The Build

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—  remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesus was a modern bustling city of momentous proportions. It featured a library, a gymnasium, a huge auditorium seating 24,500 and an enormous temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis (Diana). Ephesus laid claim to Artemis as their own god, it was their cult and culture. It permeated all of society, causing the city to be known for its hedonistic celebrations and festivals and temple prostitutes.

Here Paul writes to a church that understands the grandeur of architecture. He uses this understanding to describe how Christ’ finished work causes the reconciliation between the Jews and Gentiles and how this builds the church. His focus is set firmly on the nuts and bolts of this building: Christ, Jews and Gentiles. He addresses the Gentiles to show how they have been reconciled to Christ even though the Law was not given to them (v11-13, 19). He teaches how Christ creates the peace between the Jews and Gentiles (v14-18). Then goes on to say how this results in building God’s temple (v19-22).

  • Pre-Christ Gentiles
    • were Gentiles by birth
    • called “uncircumcised” – not given / accepted the Law
    • was separate from Christ
    • excluded from citizenship in Israel (God’s chosen)
    • foreigners to the covenant of the promise
    • without hope
    • without God in the world
    • once far away (from God)
  • Christ’s work
    • brings Gentiles near by His blood
    • is our peace
    • reconciled the Jews and Gentiles
    • destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility
    • set aside the law with its commands and regulations in His flesh
    • create one new humanity out of the two in Himself
    • making peace
    • reconcile both to God through the cross in one (His) body
    • put to death their hostility
    • came and preached peace to those who were far away (Gentiles)
    • preached peace to those who were near (Jews)
    • is the access to the Father through Christ by one Spirit
    • the chief cornerstone
  • Post-Christ Gentiles
    • brought near (to God)
    • no longer foreigners and strangers
    • fellow citizens with God’s people
    • members of God’s household
  • Result
    • whole building joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord
    • all of us being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit

Paul outlines in detail how Christ reconciles us as one and to Him:

  • He does away with the Law that was the separation between the Jews and Gentiles. He does this by setting aside the Law and putting to death it’s hostility and divisiveness in His flesh (that was crucified). 
  • He creates a new humanity out of the Jews and Gentiles in Himself – its not evolutionary, its revolutionary. The two has been reconciled as one new humanity.
  • His one body reconciles us to God through the cross
  • His life on earth was one that preached peace and reconciliation (to God) to both Jews and Gentiles
  • He is the singular access point to the Father in the same Spirit for all of us

The purpose of the cross wasn’t just salvation for the Jews, it was also the unity of the Jews and Gentiles and salvation for the world! His death accomplished that, His life reflected that, even now, the Spirit testifies of this unity. We are united in His gospel. We are all fellow citizens, members of the same household. Our foundation is the same – build on the apostles and prophets. Our chief cornerstone is the same – Christ Jesus. The bolts that join us together is the same – Christ Jesus. In this unity, we rise to be His temple in which He dwells.

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:4-6

Notice that Ephesians 2:11 begins with therefore, meaning in the light of our resurrection and life with Christ (v5-6), we do not regard ourselves anymore as Gentiles. He says that we were formerly Gentiles by birth, but now we are a new person by His resurrection (and His handiwork, v10). As new building blocks in Christ, we play a role in the building. But the building is not done yet; we play a continuous role as ones who are being built together. What a picture Christ gives us! He breaks down the dividing wall between the 2 structures and builds a whole new building on top with all new handcrafted materials from the old structures. He is still building us together with them to be His building.

He describes this new building as a holy temple and a dwelling for God’s Spirit. A holy temple and a dwelling. We are a building set apart /reserved for divine purpose and activities in which God Himself lives in. That is the church. That is the product of the peace that Christ has attained for us. That we can be a part of that building, a brick in that church, is beyond what we deserve (v3). Christ has intentions for this church, work prepared for us to accomplish (v10).

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:10-11

This unity and peace we have is a marvellous thing, but lets not forget that it has a divine purpose – to spread the gospel (John 17:20-23).

The Insult

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Mark 7:24-30 (Read also Matthew 15:21-28)

Jesus went out into Gentile territory for some peace and quiet, He went into the old port city of Tyre in Phoenicia. He wanted to be anonymous, He didn’t want hordes of disciples following Him as before. Jesus was on a holiday trip. Then came this Greek woman from the region, chasing after Jesus. She knows the miraculous power that Jesus carries and she is desperate for Him to heal her daughter. We are told that her daughter is “possessed by an impure spirit” and is “suffering terribly”.

Jesus’ usual demeanor towards the sick or suffering is one of compassion (Mark 5:1-18) but here He gives her a sharp and insulting reply. He says that His mission is toward the children (of God), the Jews, and likens Gentiles (like her) to dogs. Dogs, in those days were considered unclean animals, their status was below a slave. Even though they were accepted as pets or work animals in households, calling someone a dog was still highly derogatory.

Jesus, being a Jewish rabbi, sees Jews apart from and above the other nations (Deuteronomy 14:2; Exodus 4:22, 19:5). They are the exclusively chosen nation and the children of God. Here He eludes to Himself as the bread (Exodus 16; John 6:32-40) – the sustenance of life. He is their bread, He belongs to the children of Israel. His mission of reconciliation and redemption is first towards the Jews. Although He didn’t agree with what the Jews have made the Law out to be, He was still a fervent believer that they were God’s priority.

In the face of Jesus’ offensive words, the woman’s reply was powerful. She acknowledged that Jesus was for the Jews but did not exclude herself from making Jesus her own. She humbled herself to be identified with a dog and says that even the dogs eat the crumbs of the bread that fall off. For the faith in her heart and humility in her words, she was rewarded with the healing she wanted.

Her humility caused her to lay her own ethnicity before Christ. She did not assert her own status, her own ethnicity, her own home town or the fact that He was standing on her side of the fence! She bowed to agree with Jesus that she is secondary. Giving up her rights to be respected, she considers herself wholly at His mercy. In His kingdom, she has no rights. In His economy, she is but lowly, poor and desolate. She is humble but bold. In her humility, she is assertive. She asserts that the kingdom has crumbs; it has extras from the plenty. She asserts that even the extras are more than enough for her. In His kingdom, abundance is poured out. In His economy, there is no small change because even the small is immeasurable to us.

This woman helps us to understand how we as Gentile Christians relate to the Jews and our Jewish Jesus. We as Gentiles receive the side benefits of God’s redemption of Israel as ingrafted branches (Romans 11:11-24) / sheep in the other pen (John 10:16). Through the blood of Christ, we are inducted into God’s household (Ephesians 2:11-22). 

So even the side benefits of God’s redemption is more than enough. You see, the crumbs aren’t left overs, they are side benefits from the plenty that are for the children. His kingdom is one of abundance (Matthew 14:13-21) and overflow. There is more than enough in His kingdom for both the Jews and Gentiles. Every bit of grace from God is more than enough grace for us. Even bit of provision is more than enough for us. His finished work on the cross is more than enough redemption, healing, deliverance, freedom and provision for the world.

This woman exemplifies the combination of humility, boldness and faith. May we approach Christ as she did.

Stumbling Block and Cornerstone

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom… All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
Luke 4:16, 28-32 (See also Mark 6:1-6; Matthew 13:54-58)

What a contrast! While Capernaum recognized His authority, Nazareth didn’t. When the people of Nazareth saw Jesus, all they saw was a carpenter. They asked themselves, “Isn’t this the carpenter?”, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”. They saw no more than what they had been used to seeing for the past 25 years. A hardworking man, who worked with his father in woodwork, whose mother was Mary and whose brothers and sisters were amongst the town folk. He wasn’t a distinguished disciple of the great rabbi of that time. He wasn’t a travelling speaker of any sort. So where did He get those teachings from? He had no academic and religious credentials. They must have thought: “who gives Him the right to speak to us with such authority?” And they took offense at him. Jesus was their stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23; romans 9:32-33). He was in their way. He was offensive.

But what about Capernaum? Their reception for Jesus seems almost instant! They recognized that His words had authority. They didn’t ask where He came from or who has family was, they probably didn’t even care about that! What a difference, Jesus was their cornerstone (Matthew 21:42; Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22). He was the way. He wasn’t offensive, he was agreeable.

What makes the difference here? Would Jesus have been less offensive if they didn’t know where He was from? If they didn’t know his family? If they didn’t have any background knowledge of Him? No, the result would have been the same (John 9:29). It wasn’t the knowledge of His background that stopped His hometown from believing, it was Jesus Himself. While Nazareth saw a mere man in Jesus, Capernaum saw a divine being in Jesus. While Nazareth looked at Jesus without religious credentials, Capernaum saw Jesus with heavenly credentials. The people of Capernaum recognized the Messiah when they heard the authority that Jesus spoke with. The people of Nazareth could not understand how Jesus could be the Messiah even though He spoke with the same authority. Instead of seeking to understand Him, they rejected Him.

This same stone is a cornerstone and a stumbling block.

Our duty then is to make Him our cornerstone, to accept Him as Messiah and King. When we are offended, we need to check our heart.

Practical Paganism

Monday, March 26th, 2012

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:33-34

To worry is to anticipate potential lack in a negative way and focus on self-preserving behaviour. To live like a pagan is to worry about what we need. Pagans chase after provision for themselves. They secure stability for the future with their own hands. They engage their thoughts and actions on having enough; not having enough is not acceptable.

God knows just as well as they do that we all need these things. The difference is that the Christian runs after God and gets provision and stability from Him. This is the nature of His kingdom, as long as we seek His reign, we will come under His provision. To focus ourselves on self-preservation is to lose ourselves (Matthew 16:26). So why spoil today by worrying about tomorrow? We have enough to worry about for today, lets not burden ourselves even more by worrying about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry for itself.

Again and again, I fall into this trap of seeing provision as something that comes from my own effort. I look at the savings we have gathered from our hard work and find comfort and security in the numbers. What a lie that security is! The truth is that it can all be swept from under our feet in a matter of seconds. We may stand on that little security that we’ve worked for, but God who is sovereign over all creation stands on the ability to give us all things. If we see ourselves as our own saviour from potential lack or harm, where then is the need for the true Saviour?

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” is the key to freeing ourselves from being our own saviour.

Looking Into The Sky

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:6-11

I wonder what the disciples must have felt when they stood there, staring at the blue sky, looking at Jesus floating up into heaven. Their last question to Jesus is crucial to get into their minds at this point.

After witnessing His death and complete resurrection, they now knew for sure that Jesus is the promised Messiah. They now understand His mission of redemption and renewal (Luke 24:45-49). They no longer see Jesus as the earthly political leader who will restore Israel’s sovereignty. However, there was one small little detail: Jesus promised that Israel would be restored (Luke 21:24) and that they would rule with Him (Matthew 19:28). Their question is: Since you’re here with us now, is that going to happen?

Jesus tells them not to speculate about the times or dates but to look forward to that power which He has promised (John 14:16, 26, 16:7; Acts 1:4-5) and to be His witnesses starting from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Then He was gone. They must have felt a pinch of sadness and disappointment. They followed this man in a hope that they would rise to greatness. This Jesus whom they have put all their faith in, who had been leading them for the last 3 years is gone. All that they have now are 3 years worth of experience as rookie Apostles and a bunch of His instructions and promises.

In comes two men in white with a potent question: why do you stand here looking into the sky?

Why indeed. He was already gone, hidden from their sight, and yet they were still staring up into the sky. Shouldn’t they be looking at the promises that He left them with? Shouldn’t they start looking into His instructions and anticipating the Holy Spirit? Why look at the departure of the Messiah, when you can look towards the next arrival of this same Jesus? The promise is that He will come back. This same Jesus with all His authority over all creation, with His heart of love, compassion and grace, with His power to work miracles will come back. It was time for them to get to work.

What about us? Are we still staring at the sky?

There are times when our world is in a mess and God feels like He has left. He is far away and out of sight. But hang on, this same Jesus comes back. In fact, He hasn’t left at all! He is simply preparing us to receive a greater, more powerful thing. Hold on to the promises.

Guilt

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,so that we may serve the living God!
Hebrews 9:14

Sure, Old Testament sacrifice could cover the people’s sins, if everything was setup just right and all the meticulous details of the Law was in place (Hebrews 9:1-7). But that was all it could do, it could only cover the sin, not remove the guilt. The Law could not clear the guilty conscience of the worshipper (Hebrews 9:10). All the Law did was to remind them of their sins again and again, year after year, piling guilt upon guilt (Hebrews 10:3). That is until Christ came.

What the Law was powerless to do, Christ on the cross accomplished. In so many ways is His redemption superior to that of the sin and guilt offering of the Law (Hebrews 9:11-13)! Not only did He remove sin entirely, for all humanity across all ages (Hebrews 9:24-28), but He removes our guilty conscience (Hebrews 9:14).

“To feel guilty is not to be guilty”
Sigmund Freud

When we sin, our conscience tells us that we are still guilty, while the blood of Christ tells us that we have been forgiven. Christ blood doesn’t just speak to us, His blood tells God that we have been forgiven and we are now righteous (Genesis 4:10; Hebrews 12:24). When we look at ourselves with guilt and shame, we have nullified this important promise that Christ has accomplished for us. When we do that, we miss out on the complete picture of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

We need to listen to His blood. Let it affect our conscience. No more guilt.

The All Nighter

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Luke 6:12-16

How does the church in this day and age choose leaders? I’ve heard of the “faithful in little, faithful in much” principle (Luke 16:10), the Godly character and personality test (1 Timothy 3:2-7), congregational approval test (Acts 6:1-7) and a whole bunch of other assessments. It is indeed wise to ensure that the right person is put into the right role. Jesus picked out 12 special disciples (Apostles) to invest in heavily for 3 years to build His church. Out of the hundreds or thousands that followed Him around, these 12 were hand picked to be Apostles. So how did Jesus choose these Apostles?

Easy. He went to the mountain to pray and He prayed the whole night.

And why not? Since it is God who is able to see man’s heart and judge his character (1 Samuel 16:7; Jeremiah 17:10), what we really need to do is: ask Him. Well, Jesus did just that.

So what are we doing again?

A Second Shot & A Different Person

Monday, March 19th, 2012

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit dwelled in people for particular tasks. These were unique instances where the Spirit of God dwelled in a person for a temporary period of time. The people had specific roles at specific times that required the anointing of the Spirit (Judges 3:10, 6:34, 14:6; 14:19, 15:14). The enablement also only related to the role of the person and did not necessarily extend to the whole life of the person. The person was essentially still the same, but with supernatural enablement for a task. The Spirit enabled Samson only to have great strength. This was so that he could to perform his call of delivering the Israelites from the hands of the Philistines (Judges 15:14).

The Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.
1 Samuel 10:6-7

Saul was anointed for the task of leading the people of Israel as their earthly king. However this case was special, when the Spirit of God came and dwelled in Saul, a different Saul was born. It is a revolutionary change, not an evolutionary one. The old life is taken away and a new life comes in (2 Corinthians 5:17). This change sounds like it extended to the whole of Saul’s life. This looks more like what we are familiar with in the New Testament.

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.
1 Samuel 10:9

“When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.”
1 Samuel 10:10

It happened as prophesied by Samuel. God made Saul a different person. A new heart was given to him (Ezekiel 36:26). The heart signifies a person’s disposition and mode of existence. The heart is metaphorically the person’ whole personality – his thoughts, desires, will, perception, conscience and feelings.

Then the Spirit came powerfully. Not in a soothing, calming and peaceful way but jolting, disturbing and consuming. Amos 5:6 uses the same word “come” and gives us a picture of a consuming fire. Similar to Acts 2:1-3, where the Spirit came in a violet wind and invaded the disciple’s tongues, Saul’s whole person was invaded. He then did something entirely out of character – he prophesied (1 Samuel 10:11)! This was not entirely new; it had happened before (Numbers 11:17, 25). Sometimes the Holy Spirit’s filling causes a person (or persons) to prophesy.

However, some of Saul’s personality seems not to have changed. He was afraid and unconfident before and he still was after (1 Samuel 9:21, 10:16, 10:22). After his anointing and confirmation as king before the whole Israel, all he did was to go home (1 Samuel 10:26)! No celebration, no fan fare, no feasting! He didn’t seem excited or confident of his appointment at all (1 Samuel 10:27). Was this not the new Saul? Shouldn’t we be expecting someone who at least acted like a king?

What happened here? Saul had been dreaming of this moment his whole life. This scenario had played over and over in his mind many times before. It was a dream that he had kept in his heart (1 Samuel 9:19). But when the moment finally came, he freaked out. He didn’t step into his new appointment and instead felt insecure and tried to hide. But God in His sovereignty helped him along.

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.
1 Samuel 11:6

It was only after the Spirit came upon him again that he became more kingly – authoritative, confident, kind and forgiving (1 Samuel 11:6, 13). This time, the filling didn’t cause him to prophesy, it stirred his being. This truly was a new Saul – a better Saul. He was now able to lead with humility, authority and wisdom. Only then did he finally accepted his appointment and held a great celebration (1 Samuel 11:14).

Sometimes, that is exactly what we are like. We wait for God to bring us into an appointment, a call. We dream about it and keep it in our heart, like Saul did. And when the time finally comes, we shrink back. We get scared of the responsibilities and become afraid of the future. Like Saul, we require another dose of God’s filling to step into his appointment. One dose wasn’t enough, even one instance of doing something entirely out of character isn’t enough. We need another shot of the Spirit. I thank God that in His sovereignty and mercy, He knows when we need that additional kick of the Spirit. If we have the Spirit poured out on us generously (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17), we can be sure to that He will deliver that second shot.