Inheritances, an Olympic Champion & Heaven’s Champion (Part 2)

Project Timothy, Joshua 24:

After a good time of break over refreshments, we went back for part 2 of the talk. This time, it was based on Joshua 24 and entitled “The Choice We Face”.

76076858First, Richard talked about idolatry, mentioning that there were 3 ways of committing idolatry: making other gods, worshipping a false god, and giving worship meant for God alone to something or someone else. For example our work, or ourselves. There is nothing God hates more than idolatry and repetitions of God’s people falling into idolatry can be found throughout the Bible, especially in Judges. How then can you tell if you are falling into idolatry? Richard gave us 4 telling signs. Firstly, what do you daydream about? These are the things that you actually long for. Secondly, how do you spend your money? Do you spend it on the material or the immaterial? Thirdly, how do you make your decisions? Lastly, what are your reactions to certain things? These are telling signs that you may or may not value something more than the Lord God.

In Joshua 24, God spoke to the people through Joshua. He tells them to remember His grace in calling them- by taking Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and into Canaan.

Next, He tells them to remember His grace in redeeming them- out of slavery in Egypt. Even more today, Christ has redeemed us from slavery to sin and death. More reason to rejoice and remember!

But_for_the_grace_of_godThe Israelites are then told to remember God’s grace in protecting them! In the passage, God gave the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan to the Israelites and the latter took possession of the land. Even in the New Testament where Jesus drives out the legion from the possessed man, the legion represents all that sin brings us- antisocial behaviour, self-destructive behaviour, misery and so on. However, Jesus has power over Satan, and we are safe in Him. Remember God’s grace in protecting you.

heirswithchristAs the story progressed to the Israelites crossing the Jordan and into Jericho, the Israelites are told to remember God’s grace in blessing them with ‘land on which [they] did not toil and cities [they] did not build; and [they] live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves [they] did not plant’. As they were given physical blessings in the form of land and a well-built and well-maintained city, we too have been given spiritual blessings in the heavenly realm of Christ Jesus. He is storing up blessings for us in heaven- our inheritance.

eric-liddell-777-777-7Here, the story takes a pause as Joshua tells the Israelites that they will have to choose if they want to serve the Lord God Almighty because if they did so, they will have to throw away all other idols. The only way we can be saved is if we throw away our lives by throwing away anything that is functioning as God but is not God. As demonstrated by the story of famous Scottish runner Eric Liddle’s life, “total surrender” is the key here. For Eric, who had such a bright future ahead of him after having won an event in the Olympics (400m, if I remember correctly), he decided to go to China to be a missionary. Even as war came into China, he remained where he was although his wife and children went back to Canada. He finally dies in an internment camp, never seeing his wife or children again. Truly a story of total surrender to me! Imagine how many of us will forsake one of the highest forms of self-glory (a medal at the Olympics!) and stop and give God all the glory. Really amazing guy, with a really amazing testimony.

got_jesus_Although Joshua 24 seems to end on a bizarre note, it is in fact, an ending indicating that everyone received their inheritance in the end. As the people of Israel chose to worship God and forsake all idols, they received their inheritance in the end. Now, its time for us to make the same choice because God will keep His gospel promise to give us our inheritance in the Kingdom of God. The choice we face is here and now, we need to choose for ourselves this day who we will serve- the True Living God, or that pair of really pretty shoes you’ve seen on display and really want to get?

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Inheritances, an Olympic Champion & Heaven’s Champion (Part 1)

Project Timothy March 2013: 

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“Imagine you’re playing for the greatest team in the world – of course that’s Manchester United (*mutters under breath*, and is met with a chorus of laughter from the room). You’re playing against Real Madrid, and the referee is having an absolute shocker! (more laughs). Your team is losing and the manager decides to bring you off – not a bad idea (*mutters under breath*, chuckles from the floor) – for the greatest player in the world, that’s Wayne Rooney (by now the room is bursting with hilarity) of course. Your team is awarded a penalty and Wayne Rooney steps up to take the penalty, and of course he scores and your team goes on to beat Real Madrid… and of course the entire tournament which is how it should have been. So you’re sitting on the sidelines watching from the bench, here’s the man who, in your place, takes the winning penalty for your team. What do you do? Do you say, “its nothing much, its not me who’s scored…”? Of course not! You leap for joy and shout, “We’ve scored! We’ve scored!” because your team has scored and won! That’s essentially what Jesus did – what we call ‘penal substitution’. (although I must add, not penalty in the penal sense of the word!). He has taken our place and won the approval of God for all of us. And we can celebrate our Champion’s victory.” (Ministry Matters Seminar, 9th March 2013, Saturday @ Kay Poh Road Baptist Church)

imagesThat was just one of the many clear analogies and bubbling examples given by Richard Coekin who delivered the seminars at Project Timothy this year. Richard is the director of Co-Mission and senior minister of Dundonald Church in London.  He is also involved in ministry in Westminster – speaking regularly at lunchtime meetings and leading a bible study in the House of Lords. (His sermons can be found on The Gospel Coalition here).

There were two night expositions on the book of Joshua, of which my AG (25) went for the second. Here’s a sharing by Shermaine:

Joshua 14 

On Friday, a bunch of us headed down to Bethesda Church to hear Richard Coekin speak on Joshua 14 and 24. However, what started out as a time of learning turned into a deep shock for me as the night progressed.

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“Shopping is equivalent to pornography!” Hearing these words from the speaker’s mouth halfway through the sermon really caught my attention (as I thought somewhat guiltily about the clothes that are on their way to Singapore right now). It was such a drastic comparison, I guess I never thought about things in that way before. But I am going ahead of myself. This statement really struck a chord with me, and I’m hoping it caught your attention too. Now, back to the sermon topic.

The sermon Richard preached on was ‘The Reason We Persevere’. I’m not going to type out the passage here, so you have got to open the bible and read it for yourself. The passage starts off with the topic of inheritance. Just as the Israelites received their inheritance in the land of Canaan, we too, have an inheritance in the Kingdom of God. How then can we receive this inheritance right where we are in our lives right now? Basically, by having wholehearted faith like Caleb. Wholehearted faith is the reason we can persevere.

Wholehearted faith in God’s promise took away Caleb’s fear. This very faith enabled him to trust in the Word of God and to see things in God’s perspective. Confidence in God took away Caleb’s fear when he went to explore the land of Canaan. Even as everyone else was afraid, wholehearted faith altered Caleb’s view of the opposition. This very same faith enabled him to stand up against the crowd of frightened Israelites, and for that, he was rewarded.

Here, Richard (I am calling him this for convenience sake, he isn’t really my friend though) gave a really good story that I really must share. It helped to put things into perspective. There was once this shoe company that sent somebody to go to Africa and set up a shoe shop there. So this guy went over and set up a shop to sell shoes to the people. However after a month, he called the main branch and said, “The people here all do not wear shoes! There is no way the shoes are going to sell! There is no business to be done here!” So saying, the guy packed up and went back to his home country. Not deterred, the shoe company sent another guy to the exact same location to set up a shoe shop where the first guy failed. After a month, the guy called back and said, “The people here all do not wear shoes! Send all the shoes that you can, as quick as you can!” Moral of the story, its all a matter of perspective. Do you have faith that your God is great enough to overcome all challenges?

faith-is

This very same wholehearted faith made Caleb willing to fight. Even though he was older at the age of 85, he was still as ready to fight for the Lord and go to battle with confidence in God’s help. His faith also provided the ambition of his life and made him welcome a challenge. Right around here, Richard started to talk about what we value in life. He talked about pornography for the guys, and then related it to shopping for the girls. I’m not too sure if he went a little off track after that to talk about how Caleb and his wholehearted faith, is the ideal guy. Girls would want to marry a guy with wholehearted faith that really stems from knowing and loving the One true God, and vice versa. So, then, are we like Caleb in our faith? Are we as convicted in our hearts? Personally for me, I guess its time for a lot less shopping in my heart (Gasp, porn!) and a whole heart of faith in the one that really matters. Because wholehearted faith in God’s promise will prove to be worthwhile.

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Faith & The Word of Promise

By: Dev Menon

Quite apt to the story of Abraham:

“Faith by its very nature always conflicts with that which the world and our own reason and experience of the world is able to see. The Christian is constantly being attacked by temptation. The Christian’s existence is in danger because he stands in the midst of reality under the impression of it which reason and rational experience have given him . To believe means to live in constant contradiction of empirical reality and to trust one’s self to that which is hidden. Faith must endure being contradicted by reason and experience; and it must break through the reality of this world by fixing its sights on the Word of Promise. 

This presupposes that faith is not a position on which one takes a stand but a constantly new movement. The empirical reality of human existence and of the world, the experience of trouble, of wrath, and of death, does not cease and cannot be avoided. The Christian can only overcome it constantly by holding fast to the Word in faith. The Christian is always tempted to allow his impression of reality to make him doubt the truth of God and view it as a lie. He cannot possess the heaven of community with God without repeatedly making that descent into hell which takes place when he doubts and even despairs God’s grace. Faith thus stands in constant conflict; and it comes to life only when it breaks through the reality accessible to reason.”

– Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther

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One Ear Closer to Jesus – Part 4

By: Dev Menon

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

What are all these infirmities that come upon us? Are they to discourage us? To tell us we are in the wrong vocation? Have we misinterpreted His calling?

Perhaps – that could indeed be a possibility.

Yet there is also the promise that it is God who will inflict these infirmities on us, that we may be more useful in His calling. And we are exactly where He wants us to be.

He makes us strong, then makes us weak – so that others may see His strength.

Isn’t that how life happens in general? First we get strong as we grow up, then we become weak as we age…. That is the pattern set up for us in this fallen creation.

The weakening process reveals what we have done with our time of strength. Indeed the ‘Day of Revealing’ will show everything for what it really is. When the ‘scroll’ of flesh is rolled up for good.

So then as my time of flesh-strength begins to come to an end, and the time of flesh-weakening begins to take hold…  it is the time for ‘what lies beneath’ to be seen. Is there something eternal underneath all this meat?

Hopefully the result of which will be this…

Death is at work in us, but life in you. ” (2 Corinthians 4:12)

Isn’t that the new pattern of life found in the cross? Where we do not simply live and die, but rather, we live and die in the flesh – so that others may have life, and life eternal.

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One Ear Closer to Jesus – Part 3

By: Dev Menon

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

In the psalms – the night is often described as a time of terror, and of great uncertainty. Indeed every night when I now go to bed, the ringing is most prominent. And sometimes I fear that I will never get to sleep – and that fear on its own keeps me wide awake and in a state of ‘terror’.

This is the pattern that the Lord God set up for us from day 1 in Genesis – first there is evening, then there is morning. There is always the time of darkness before the light shines. There is always death before resurrection. The time of terror before the time of rejoicing.

The night is always meant to be a time to hide away – rather than to be enjoyed (cf. Eph 5:11, etc). With the morning comes hope. With the morning comes the Lord’s promise 0f a renewed covenant love – it is indeed new every morning.

Now more than ever, at times of restless sleep, I look forward to the coming morning….

(Below is an excerpt from this article)

Today, think about this truth: Your “weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” Strong weeping is part of our life experience as sinners who live in a fallen world. But when God is our God then our mourning is not permanent. It is only “for the night.”

“Joy comes in the morning.”

Oh, my friend, listen to me. You may still be in that night of weeping, but there is joy coming. You must believe this. You must cling to this promise. After a long, dark night of sorrow and grief and loneliness and pain, God will find a way to restore your joy. It probably will not be in the way that you presently hope for since our hopes are often self-serving and idolatrous. But if you know Him as your Lord then your joy will be restored. And when it is restored it will be a deeper, more mature joy than you had before. Until then, you must cling to this God of joy. You must rest in Him alone. You must wait for your dark night to break forth in a sunrise of joy. Joy is coming. Look for it!

Let that be my hope…

“…until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:11)

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One Ear Closer to Jesus – Part 2

By: Dev Menon

Previous post here.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away…” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Indeed with this new chronic infirmity, the sound of that verse has never rung truer (pardon the pun).

The fact that after reading the ‘International Journal of Tinnitus’, it seemed pretty apparent that the Western world (and in some sense TCM medicine too) has never really found neither a proper cause nor cure for this brings down the hammer of reality.

The body truly is breaking down.

It’s true, that tinnitus usually only comes with onset of one’s senior years – most of their patients seem to be 50 and above, when hearing starts to fade (together with many other things in the body 2I suspect). Having it at 30+ isn’t great – but a powerful reminder that everything is temporal, and the fact that some things about the body cannot be ‘fixed’ proves that point in a definitive way.

Everyone knows we are not immortal. Yet everyone acts as though we are (particularly if we are young). Death comes to all – yet the Scriptures ask us not to lose heart. Why because of the renewal of the inward nature, surpassing that of the flesh’s disintegration.

If we are nothing but a hollow shell, without the Spirit of God ‘growing’ within us – one day all we will be is dust. We will be found to have no substance…

“…(They are) like chaff that the wind drives away.” (Psalm 1:4b)

What is really inside this body? That a question that will now be answered in a more profound way – in the days to come.

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One Ear Closer to Jesus

By: Dev Menon

A couple of months ago I went to an Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist due to some irritation in my ears.

After some very unpleasant scopes, the good news is that he said there was nothing visibly wrong, nor was there anything deficient about my hearing capability.

The bad news was that I still had an incessant ringing in my left ear. It was diagnosed as ‘Tinnitus’. Cue Wikipedia:

Tinnitus (tɪˈnaɪtəs/ or /ˈtɪnɪtəs/; from the Latin word tinnītus meaning “ringing”) is the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external sound. Tinnitus is not a disease, but a condition that can result from a wide range of underlying causes: neurological damage (multiple sclerosis), abnormally loud sounds in the ear canal for even the briefest period (but usually with some duration), ear infections, foreign objects in the ear, nasal allergies that prevent (or induce) fluid drain, or wax build-up. 

Now, if you’ve ever fired a gun – imagine that post-firing ringing sound at a reasonable volume, going on perpetually, waking or sleeping. As you can imagine, though not even remotely life-threatening or painful… it is immensely annoying to say the least.

So annoying in fact that my usual enjoyment of quiet times and places was shattered, as was most of my ability to get a good night’s rest… which explained my absence from church a couple of weeks ago (2-3 days of less than 3 hours sleep really will make most people seriously unstable).

Thus this began to prompt a lot of time of miserable and sustained reflection on this perpetual condition that is generally without cure.

I would like to share some of these with you over the next few days or weeks.

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