Pure Heart for Evangelism or Pure Greed to Increase Church Membership?

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Image from Tech/WSJ.D

Two impetus can drive us to do things in ministry—compassion or greed. If you’re a denominational pastor, you’re likely to be spurred on by greed. You are trained by your denomination to get as many people into your church as possible to up your church membership—because more membership means more church income.

And more income means more churches put up everywhere—to get more money from more people. And so on.

But there are those who share the Gospel out of pure compassion. They do it exactly as Jesus did it—with utter urgency but never in desperation. Jesus never pursued after people. He had compassion on them all but maintained the Kingdom policy that says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Desperation pursues after people, grabbing them by hook or by crook. It says, “Anyone who has ears to hear, let him hear. And if anyone cannot hear, we’ll make ’em.”

Jesus shared the Gospel and left people to decide on their own. He never followed them up or visited to invite them to his church next Sunday. Some who pursued him he discipled. Others, he sent home. Can you imagine that? Do you have Christ’s heart like that?

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” [Mark 5.18-19]

Others he discouraged from following him.

Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” [Mathew 8]

Jesus’ evangelism was without greed. He maintained a small group of disciples and followers (there were 120 when he ascended to heaven) although he shared the Gospel with everyone. He didn’t get all the people into his church because he believed in the Kingdom principle about the sower and reaper teamwork.

I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor. [John 4.38]

Others sow, others reap. And the radical thing is, some reap what they have not worked for (and which others have). And yet, they’re all happy together doing it.

…so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.

Today, when people that a certain church denomination has shared the Gospel with end up in another church denomination, the first denomination will be far from being “glad together” with the second denomination. In fact, they will consider it a loss. If the sower and reaper are not glad together, it’s NOT God’s work. It’s work of the flesh.

To know more radical Kingdom principles, buy our e-book God’s Flesh. Click here to get a PDF copy of it.

Do you get that Kingdom principle? You’re not supposed to grab it all for yourself to build a mega church for your name. You share the Gospel with all people as much as possible, and wait for God to give you those you would disciple. People God meant for you will come to you. You don’t have to pursue after them desperately, following them up and pestering them with your visits or forcing or coercing them. Jesus never did that.

All those the Father gives me will come to me, [John 6.37]

This passage is even clearer:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, [John 6.44]

The Father draws people to you. That’s how the glorious church of Jesus Christ works. Those who aren’t drawn to you are meant for another church or pastor. You sowed the seed but others got the harvest. You should be glad.

If you have a pure heart for evangelism, your main concern is for lost souls, NOT how many would be added to your membership.

A lot of churches are merely the result of greed, not the Father’s work. They grabbed what wasn’t intended for them. Sure enough, they became big. But are Christians there really new creations in Christ (the old is past, the new has come)? Or are they a mix of the old and new?

How often do I see evangelical churches of different denominations all lined up in the same street or area, competing with each other and grabbing people from each other. They behave like they’re not working for the same “Company” but are rivals. They’re not in the same Body. And look at their results (look what character people there have).

Do not work for food that spoils, [John 6.27]

Pastors are mostly pressured to perform well by increasing membership each year, and these poor pastors obey so they can submit a good report to their denominations at the end of the year and earn their approval. It’s not compassion for lost souls but a challenge to beat the membership quota. Church has become like a franchise.

To others, it’s all a game or a popularity contest to see who’s a better pastor or leader. They love to get more people and set up more churches everywhere to make a name for themselves. And then they think their acquired numbers (membership and income) make them superior over other pastors. They’re drowning in the money-value system of the world.

The glorious church of Jesus Christ won’t be like that. The Word says, it’s without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. To be sure, you won’t find any trace of greed there, or any vainglory. This church is done purely by God’s Way—exactly as Jesus did his ministry, because He is the only Way. Only he deserves God’s approval [John 6.27] so we have to do everything His way.

In the end, all churches (regardless of how big they are) end up problematic, worldly and even counter-flowing what God is doing because they have been built by greed and vainglory. They are inspired by only one thing—more for themselves. And that’s also what drives their evangelism.

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Why Sons are Exempt

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Image from ParentMap.

It’s a Kingdom secret—God made a lot of laws in the Old Testament and commands in the New Testament—but true sons and daughters are exempt from them. They are free from all strictures and yet imbued with a high standard of  discipline. I know how this can raise some eyebrows, but it’s true.

Consider this—God declares you righteous in Christ by grace through faith. Therefore, the law, or anything similar to it imposed in churches, is NOT for you, because laws are for lawbreakers and rebels. No one righteous in Christ can be like that.

We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, [1 Timothy 1.9]

In Paul’s time this was common knowledge, but not today. A lot of people still prefer to be under the law, observing Old Testament rituals and special days. Not only so, Christian churches invent their own “laws” to keep their denominations intact. The church’s life, in fact, is its “laws” expressed through its church manuals, policies, doctrines and other rules and regulations they strictly adhere to.

They continue to create a lot of these man-made laws and put in lots of bible verses to make them sound legit and authoritative. In fact, they even have worship “programs” (which serve as the “law” during worship services) which everyone is expected to follow during worship. It’s how they view “order,” through laws.

But Kingdom “order” is different. It’s not by laws or man-made rules or policies or manuals. It’s by the Spirit of God. Believers who have the Word of God alive in them daily are moved by the Holy Spirit to be one in nature—Christ’s nature. Their lives and thoughts agree without meaning to. They move and think freely and yet are always in one accord—exactly as the three Persons in the Trinity do—because they have God’s nature in them through Christ.

Laws and rules are only necessary if there’s a chance that someone might violate protocol—or some ignorant guy might do something contrary and not know it. Like in church, someone may act or move contrary to established norms or programs. So laws and rules are needed.

However, laws and regulations just make you inclined to break them. “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.” [Romans 5.20] The more you rely on them the more you want to disobey. Rules and laws tend to make you rebellious. “But when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died,” [Romans 7.9]. No wonder churches always have dissenters and detractors in them.

But in a place or gathering where grace is sufficiently lavish and everyone is a true son and daughter genuinely intimate with the Father and imbued with His nature—possessing everything that is His—no laws or rules or doctrine are necessary. Sons and daughters are exempt. It’s in their nature to simply flow with God’s will.

“From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” Jesus asked. “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. [Matthew 17]

I don’t impose rules or laws in my household. But my sons know me and know exactly what I want. By living with me daily and being so familiar with my character, they’re aware of the “protocol,” and it’s something embedded in their hearts. Yeah, they slip now and then and do wrong. But when they do, all I have to do is look at them in the eyes and the protocol in their hearts start working again immediately. Often, no scolding is needed. They understand at once and behave accordingly. Why? Because they are my sons and I am their father. There is true relationship. A common DNA with me binds us.

But with our household helpers, we impose rules and regulations. There has to be some kind of “manual” or rules for everything because they often just do things their way. We also use some kind of a “doctrine” so they’d know what kind of family they’re serving, and the difference between our family and the family next door—or other families for that matter.

Unfortunately, sometimes you’d see the most undisciplined people in church.They’re often difficult to coordinate because they stubbornly refuse to cooperate. Probably, that’s their idea of freedom. I was once asked to help some young people from a church with their fitness activities. I was to teach them some steps but I found it hard to make them. They utterly lacked discipline. I had to keep telling them to be serious about it.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen how some fathers disciplined their sons by cruelly hitting them physically. Sure enough, they easily control their children because they have successfully enslaved them. Their sons obey them more out of fear. God disciplines his sons and daughters differently. He puts his spoken Word into their hearts and minds. His principle is always that perfect love casts out fear. Notice how the father disciplined his prodigal son in Luke 15.

A lot of church people misconstrue discipline. They think it has to be harsh. I’ve seen how some church leaders shamed other people publicly and abused them with words as a way of “disciplining” them. God is not like that. He disciplines his children rigidly, but not with cruel punishment, rules or laws. God disciplined David and Moses with severe punishment, but that was Old Testament.

And if you’re a true son or daughter of God, you should be highly disciplined by nature, though totally free.

In Christ, disciplining is different. Rigid discipline is still there but it’s more on character honing than mere punishment per se (or as a resultant punishment). For instance, did Jesus punish Judas for stealing from the ministry offering bag or Peter for disowning him three times? Ananias and Sapphira were given a chance to repent instead of being punished outright, but they preferred to stick with their lies.

When David sinned, he was given several choices for punishment, all of which were severe. When Moses disobeyed, he was not allowed entry into the Promise Land though he begged God to. All these involved breaking some law.

God’s discipline in Christ comes more as his expression of fatherly love than kingly wrath. But beware. If his discipline is ignored after warnings, you can suddenly just fall flat on your face dead like Ananias and Sapphira did.

In God’s Kingdom, there are no rules or regulations or laws—because the Word of God is inside every believer, indwelling them. It has become flesh in them. In fact, it has become them. You and the Word have become one and inseparable. In a sense, you have become the Word because the Word has become your life. “They are not just idle words for you–they are your life,” [Deuteronomy 32.47].

It’s a powerful Kingdom concept. For instance, you don’t have to read the bible like how they do it today because THE WORD IS IN YOU, the Word is the LIFE that runs your body and mind, occupying every cell, molecule, fiber and circulation. It’s your system, your culture, your mindset, your personality, your life, your DNA. You move and act and have your being in the Word.

More on this if you buy the e-book, God’s Flesh. Click here to buy a PDF copy of it.

Traditional church people are required to read the bible daily. They “study” it in cell groups or small bible study groups, which are all good. They memorize verses and passages and study them as the world does academic subjects in universities.

But you don’t. Instead, you “eat” and “breathe” the Word day and night.

Every son and daughter of God in Christ eats and breathes the Word. They don’t need to be told or encouraged about reading the bible daily because it has become their natural daily sustenance to breathe-in the Word—taking it without even thinking about it. Do you need to be told to breathe everyday, or else you’re going to die? Do you need to tell yourself each moment that you must breathe air? You don’t. You do it quite naturally, without a single thought, because it is in your system. The same with you and God’s Word.

Jeremiah the prophet prophesied about true sons and daughters in church (which finds fulfillment in these last days) when God showed him what the genuine coming Kingdom on earth through Christ would be like. True Israel, in the glorious church of Jesus Christ, will be the complete unity of Jew and pagan believers worldwide.

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. 

I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. [Hebrews 8.10-11]

In that condition, there is nothing that isn’t allowed. No more prohibitions. No more don’t to this or don’t to that. You are like the wind that blows wherever it wills. The wind can go through locked doors and windows, secret passages, underground, and all prohibited places. Others can’t but you can. You have permission and access. Others set limits on themselves but your are FREE. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom [2 Corinthians 3.17].

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. [Colossians 2.20-23]

Rules, including denominational manuals and doctrines (though “bible-based”), are all human inventions. They prove that you are still part of this rotten world which is destined to perish. Many Christians cannot live without the limiting (or enslaving) effects of some law or regulation they impose on themselves. They choose to be bound by them (like the Pharisees and teachers of the law did) rather than live and do ministry freely as Jesus did. Jesus was not just “bible-based.” He was (and is) THE WORD.

They couldn’t break the Sabbath law but Jesus “broke” it anytime he wanted to. They couldn’t speak to Samaritans (especially Samaritan women) but Jesus easily did so. They couldn’t walk on water or change water into wine, but Jesus easily did both. They couldn’t touch the unclean, but Jesus touched and healed them. No one could be both perfect God and perfect man. It defied all logic and reason. But Jesus was exactly that. He was the Son—he was exempt. They couldn’t but he could. Jesus was free to do anything. Why not? He is the only begotten Son. And you are a son or daughter of God through Him. You are co-heir with Christ.

They all thought Jesus was breaking the law. But how could he, when he was the Word of God and the final interpretation of it himself? He was God’s own Son found to be faithful as “the Son over God’s house” [Hebrews 3.6].  And in Christ by God’s grace, we share the same position.

Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. [Romans 8.17]

In another breath, the Word says:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, [Ephesians 2.6]

As sons and daughters, laws, regulations and doctrines formulated by men (even if “bible-based”) do not govern us as they never governed Jesus. Only the spoken Word of God dwelling in us does. It dwells in us richly [Colossians 3.16] as well as increases, multiplies and flourishes in and around us [Acts 12.24]. Our only reason for existence is the spoken Word [John 6.57].

True sons and daughters grow deep in the spoken Word in ever-increasing glory, not as an obligation or requirement, but because God has made it their unchanging nature. It’s all the work of God. It’s one of the marks of being born from above. You have no struggles with the Word. The Word makes its home in you and creates a huge, abundant and unfailing source there, welling up to eternal life.

But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. [John 4.14]

In any given situation you face in life, the Word quickly and automatically takes charge and moves your mind and body to God and His present move. It’s something like digestion. You don’t need rules or regulations or laws to set your digestive system to work. It simply works according to the digestive system God put there.

But don’t get me wrong. A lot of individuals I shared this wisdom with twisted it around and thought they could just do anything they wanted with the “freedom” they thought they had in Christ. They even thought they could sin freely and disobey every rule or law they saw around them. God’s truth can do two things in you—get it fresh from Gods’ own mouth unadulterated and have LIFE, or twist it around and become a slave of the devil—like what happened to Adam and Eve. God had told them personally what to do but they twisted it around.

One thing noticeable about people who try to get this teaching without being transformed into the likeness of the Son is that they are NOT deep in the spoken Word. They may know the bible (or the letter or the printed Word), but NOT the spoken Word of God in the bible.

They struggle with the Word and need to follow a program so they can read it one or five or ten chapters a day. Some of them cannot understand anything unless they listen to Sunday sermons. Most Christians don’t get anything from the Old Testament except history. Many of them struggle a lot just getting the spoken Word straight from the Father’s mouth. All they get are earthly teachings.

Sermons are good, but each true son or daughter should be able to get the spoken Word fresh and direct from the mouth of God supernaturally, any time of the day.

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him. [1 John 2.27]

People who cannot get fresh wisdom straight from God even have to go to seminary to try to understand what God is saying in the bible, to no avail. All they get are human theologies which cannot exempt you as sons and daughters. Only what God puts in you supernaturally and permanently renders you exempt and this only happens when God re-creates your body composition with the DNA of the pure Word. And then you begin to experience what Paul said about how it’s not you who live but Christ—the living, spoken Word—who lives in you.

It’s genuine—it’s not really you who live but Jesus in you. Some guys mock me about this and ask if the DNA of the Word can be seen through a microscope in a blood chemistry test. It is there in your blood and muscle fiber, believe me. But the eyes, even if aided with the best tools of Science, won’t be able to see it.

But if your spiritual eyes are opened, you will. “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” [2 Corinthians 4.18].

A true child of God will first “crave pure spiritual milk” [1 Peter 2.2].

What young believers “crave” in church today are concerts, musical performances, choir, stage worship and instrument playing as their favorite rock star does it. Do you “crave” for the Word? “Crave” means “feel a powerful desire for” says Google. This is among the marks of a true born-again believer. He first craves for the Word. A desperate longing. An insatiable greed for the Word.

Then, a true child of God will later “leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on to maturity” [Hebrews 6] by letting or allowing the Word of Christ to dwell in them richly [Colossians 3]. The Word “dwelling” in you is not just about bible studies or winning bible quizzes or attending bible school or seminary.

I know a lot of folks who have seminary degrees and titles but do not have the Word dwelling in them richly. This is something more than being able to explain passages in the bible through hermeneutics or present sermons in scholarly, intellectual fashions.

Most theologians today only end up sounding like some Western philosophers or psychologists—or some smart Aleck or politician trying to outsmart everyone. They try hard to sound scholarly. But they never sound like Jesus Christ. When they speak, there’s discussion. But when Jesus speaks, there’s LIFE.

When the Word indwells richly and God looks at us, he sees Christ (the Word), not us. Angels and all creation also see Christ in us (not us) and obey our every beck and call. It’s when mortality is swallowed up by LIFE.

God’s plan is that we first “crave” spiritual milk. “Like newborn infants, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,” [1 Peter 2.2]. After drinking lots of it, we let it “dwell richly” in us. Without the “craving” part, nothing will dwell richly in us. It is important for true born-again believers to crave for the pure Word, or feel a powerful desire for it. Covet it and greedily devour it.

Then spiritual milk transforms in you as you meditate the Word of God day and night. The “letter” becomes the Sword of the Spirit that pierces through soul and spirit. The more you hear God’s spoken Word in the bible, the more you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then you learn deeper things in the Holy Spirit, what Christ calls his “heavenly things” (and which I call third-heaven revelations). As you nurture in God’s spoken word, rivers of living water are created in you. God places a great Source of LIFE in you so that you never thirst or hunger.

You become what you eat. The spoken Word becomes your life.

Unfortunately for most people, they never get past spiritual milk. They drown themselves in church activities, denominational ministries and human theologies and have no more quality time left for the spoken Word from God’s own mouth. This food is the only thing that can exempt you.

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready, for you are still worldly. Are you not walking in the way of man? [1 Corinthians 3.21]

While there is still even a tiny, minuscule measure of the world or man in your ways, you are still carnal. You cannot receive the solid food of the Spirit. Things like worship programs, tradition, Christmas, Easter, church anniversaries, church buildings, human theologies and church denominations all keep you from hearing the spoken Word of God—and most likely, what you call your “spiritual life” revolves around these earthly things. They make you still part of this world and therefore not exempt from its laws and principles.

Remaining on the spiritual-milk level will get you nowhere in God’s Kingdom except what you achieve in the physical realms—what the eyes see and what the flesh appreciates. “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world,” [1 john 2.16].

I still have much to tell you, but you cannot yet bear to hear it. [John 16.12]

And also:

Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to reteach you the basic principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food! [Hebrews 5.12]

This explains why most churches today are a far cry from the ministry that Jesus did. They do not look one bit like Jesus. Instead, they look more like community or cause-oriented groups like the Rotary Club. Traditional churches have all become like that, so that any church that radically looks like Jesus becomes odd to them.

Some of them even need to associate with politicians or be used by them just to gain some influence on the community. They haven’t gone past the spiritual-milk level. Jesus never did anything like that. And you’d see how rules, regulations and denominational doctrines run their ministries and also keep them apart. All these keep them bound to the world, not exempt from it.

In heaven, believers are governed by the Spirit of God, not by rules or regulations or laws. “Do not steal” or “do not covet” lose their meaning in heaven because they do not apply. In heaven, your nature easily flows with God’s will. And Jesus said that God’s will in heaven should be done on earth as well.

If you’re a son or daughter, you are exempt from the world.

How You Enter God’s Rest 3

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Image from Mark’s Daily Apple

How do you do it? How do you actually rest and relax in God, do “nothing,” and yet produce a lot for God? Now, I remind you that just because you’re doing a lot of work for God and exhausting yourself in ministry, doesn’t follow that you are doing something useful for Him.

A lot of times you’re not. Many church workers labor for nothing. As long as you do man’s work (not God’s work), you work in vain. And God’s work is simply to believe in Jesus Christ, nothing more nothing less.

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” [John 6.28-29]

And believing, says Hebrews 4, is about obedience to God’s voice, which in Hebrews 4 urges us to rest in God.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it…for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works…Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, [Hebrews 4]

First, it’s about resting. Second, it’s about doing nothing. Consider this passage:

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who DOES NOT WORK but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. [Romans 4.4-5]

This principle is true in salvation and in serving God, since both are by grace through faith. You cannot serve God by your own efforts. If you do, you are given”wages” as an obligation, the same thing employees get from their boss. But if you serve as a faithful son or daughter, you are credited with what God possesses in himself—righteousness.

Some servants prefer wages than inheritance from the Father. So they work hard with their own efforts serving God. But sons relax because they enter their Father’s rest. How?

They do nothing that the Father is not doing.

The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. [John 5.19]

And what do they see the Father doing? Resting. God has been resting since the 7th day of creation.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. [Genesis 2.2]

And again in Hebrews:

“On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” [4.4]

So what should we do? Nothing except rest in God.

Radical, isn’t it? And a lot of church people won’t get it.

Pastors today do a lot of useless works. For instance, they need to have a church property and church building they keep improving on. They need to keep raising funds for that, so they solicit. They need to do lots of follow-ups on people they have shared the Gospel to and do visitations. They need to keep inviting people, even pestering and forcing them to attend their church services.

They also do a lot of gimmicks to entertain people in hopes of making them come back next Sunday—concerts, nice choir, worship team, superb sound systems, exciting programs, etc. Can you imagine how hectic and tiring church anniversaries are and Christmas worship? Some even have Halloween fellowships and Easter Services. Jesus didn’t do any of these, and certainly neither did the Father.

They try to please their members, especially the so-called “givers,” so they won’t transfer to another church. They must see to it that membership increases each year to also increase church income—because membership and income to them determine whether a church is dying or thriving. They do lots more things like these and later end up stressed up, troubled, worried, sickly and pressured over nothing.

Jesus didn’t do any of them in his ministry. Therefore, believers who enjoy God’s Sabbath rest also never do these things—they only do what they see the Father is doing through Jesus Christ.

They share the Gospel with people, leave them to decide for themselves and go on to the next. People go to them for more, as multitudes pursued after Jesus in his days. He never pursued after people. No follow-up or visiting. Jesus invited a few to his ministry once, and only in passing, but he never invited them twice.

The idea is to make people covet God, desiring Him desperately and making them work hard to pursue the experience while you rest in God. People should see how you rest and relax in God—smooth, easy, relaxed and free like the wind, caring about nothing and yet possessing God’s everything—and they should crave to have the same life, too. Yes, they see how you also have problems but what impresses them is the lack of stress and anxiety in your life. And they see Jesus in all that. They doggedly pursue Jesus first of all, then you and the Jesus they see in you.

But the problem today is, people relax while pastors work hard pursuing after them. Pastors covet them and sometimes compromise God just to get their nods. They get sick and die pursuing hard after people. If you do this, you get nothing but wages from God. People who get mere salaries from God usually are sickly and stressed out in ministry. Remember, only employees are given sick leaves, not the sons and daughters of the owner of the company. Tired and overworked people are moody and difficult to deal with and impose strictures on others—because the concept of rest is alien to them.

Remember, your first job is to rest in God by deepening your experience with him. This is done by meditating the Word of God day and night. And then you share the Gospel with people. The results are all up to God. You pursue no one for membership. Don’t beg anyone to join your church. It doesn’t matter if no one responds. It’s not your fault. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to follow up. His job is to convict and convince. In the meantime, live the life and character of Jesus Christ. Be deep in his Word.

Then in his perfect time, God will draw some of them to you. Some God draws to you may become attenders, some supporters and a few may become your disciples, and here you have your second job—to disciple. You don’t have to worry about numbers. As you rest in God and obey his voice, God decides how many believers you’d have in the church He has entrusted to your care.

Often, God draws people to another church ministry, not the one he’s entrusted to you. That’s okay.

Church size and membership number mean nothing in God’s Kingdom. What matters is that you raise up those God gives you to be like Jesus Christ, have his spiritual DNA.

To know more about God’s rest, what God is actually doing today and what it’s like to be God’s Flesh, buy my e-book by clicking on this link. 

The Most Important Signs and Wonders

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Image from Local Food Shift Magazine

A lot of churches easily dismiss signs and wonders as optional “entertainment” in our modern times. Anyway, they have doctors and medicines to back up their medical missions, they say. They can also easily organize feeding ministries and solicit resources for them in lieu of miraculously multiplying bread and fish to feed multitudes.

Actually, the real reason why they ignore signs and wonders is that, they can’t do it. They recognize that Jesus did it in the bible, but they can’t believe that it still works today. They even think it’s silly. So they tag it as occult or scare those trying to venture into it, saying it may be demonic. Anything they can’t understand is demonic.

They’d rather rely on begging (solicitation) and medical science and technology.

And even among those few who operate in signs and wonders, the gift is deemed as something merely supplemental to an evangelistic activity. It is there just to “attract” people and provide some physical healing—mainly to lend the ministry a spectacular hand.

These are all wrong concepts about signs and wonders.

Truth is, signs and wonders is one body with the work of salvation and redemption. Without signs and wonders, a ministry cannot produce a new creation in Christ.

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What we know of signs and wonders is physical healing. That’s what comes first to mind when we hear about this spiritual gift. That’s just partly true. We have to understand that the most important signs and wonders is how God creates a genuine new creation in Christ, a real born-again believer who lives and moves like the wind, blowing wherever it wills, with no mortal knowing where it comes from or where it is going.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. [John 3.8]

“So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Jesus here was describing a true born-again believer. A real believer is free of any limitations that the world cannot understand. Nicodemus, armed with the best human theology at the time, didn’t have any idea what Jesus was talking about. All he knew was that the Messiah was some kind of a miracle worker. Period.

So Jesus showed him the connection between signs and wonders (“For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him,” said Nicodemus earlier in John 3) and a genuine born-again believer.

But apparently, Nicodemus, a teacher or Israel, didn’t understand. Just like a lot of church people today do not understand the real design of signs and wonders.

If you do evangelism without signs and wonders, all you achieve is man’s ministry. Worse, all you build is a Babylon church—a congregation of people who merely transferred religion—familiar with the bible and so active in a church that doesn’t believe in images or statues. Committed and serious with what they’re doing “for God,” but rotten nonetheless. Nothing more. No new creations in Christ.

To produce genuine believers, it takes God’s signs and wonders. I repeat, the most important signs and wonders is genuine salvation of lost souls. Angels in heaven do not celebrate when someone gets miraculously healed physically. Miraculous physical healing is important, but apparently it does not excite heaven much.

What excites angels is when a sinner genuinely repents.

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. [Luke 15.9]

And for sinners to genuinely repent and become really born again, God’s signs and wonders is indispensable. You cannot do it without the genuine power of God.

How to Evangelize with Signs and Wonders

Sharing the Gospel using signs and wonders first of all means you believe in God’s signs and wonders with all your heart and mind—100 percent. No doubts. Second, believe God will use you by grace through faith. Ask God to clean your heart and mind of anything not His.

Third, you rely 100 percent on the Holy Spirit. You let Christ in you do the talking and healing. Your self or ego stands back and away from it all. You become extra sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and obey every instruction. It should be all GOD’s doing through Christ in you.

If even a small portion of your ego or man’s ways is involved—even a tiny bit of self-pride or self-congratulations, or something done to add more people to your church denomination—it spoils the result. Yes, people will believe Jesus and join your church (even grow your church to mega proportion) but they will become problems later on. They will never get past being carnal and immature. Active and supportive, yes, but still carnal.

Fourth and last but not least, make sure you use nothing but the spoken WORD of GOD, not the written Word.

Next article: Spoken and written Word.

How You Enter God’s Rest 2

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Workout, my brother. Physical workout. You’ve got to see that a big part of resting in God is regular physical workouts. A lot of believers do not quite get it that it is God’s will that we regularly workout to keep fit, well and healthy—to be able to really rest in God.

Health scientists and fitness and wellness experts (I’m a certified wellness coach) all say that total rest and relaxation can only come if the body is regularly worked out and the mind is calmed.

“Physical training is of some value..” [1 Timothy 4.8]

You see that? The bible confirms that physical workout has benefits. And if the mind and soul are calmed down and relaxed in God, the verse says:

“..but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Godliness is really resting in God.

I just pity a lot of pastors who burden themselves with a yoke of slavery doing exhaustive church ministries with no more time left for keeping fit and healthy (and no more time left for resting in God). Sometimes they think they don’t need to be health conscious because God will make them healthy even if they neglect their health.

They punish themselves with ministry work. aiming to achieve high ambitious goals for their denominations, going here and there, doing this and that, plunging their heads in a sea of hard work, planting churches everywhere single-handedly.

While neglecting their physical health all along. And they believe they will be rewarded. Paul warned us that God will destroy those who destroy God’s temple, and our bodies are that temple [1 Corinthians 3.17 and 6.19].

They worry about some people not being able to hear God’s Word. Do you really think God will allow people to go to hell because they were unable to hear the Good News of salvation? I don’t think so. God will make sure each and everyone of us hears the Gospel before we die. He is a fair God.

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The thing is, God gives each pastor a certain portion of Kingdom ministry, just right for a pastor’s God-given capabilities and within his Kingdom-assigned limits. God assigned us limits so we can do the things that really matter—like resting in God.

You go overboard and all hell breaks lose in your life—particularly in your health. Yes, you get a bigger ministry, a more mega church, but in the end see what happens to your health. Some even end up with rotten characters due to ministry stress. Many pastors don’t realize this.

What shall it profit you if you gain the mega-est ministry of all, but lose your character and health?

Each pastor should reach out just enough. It’s something like the manna in the desert. Ministry is like manna to us pastors. It’s also our source of income so that there’s food (or manna) on the table. God told the Israelites to just get enough per family. But some thick-headed guys got more than they could finish, and what happened? The manna turned maggot the next day.

You greedily get more church members than you can handle and the blessing turns into maggots. No wonder the increasing number of problematic churches. I even know of churches with “active” members but who wallow in sexual immorality.

I just smile and shake my head in disappointment when a popular and peopled church denomination displays on TV their strength in numbers. They proudly show off how their members (when gathered together) occupy a huge area, reaching to the farthest ends of the Luneta Park and also boast of their chapters in different countries. For what? Ego-tripping? I hope not.

Nebuchadnezzar once boasted of his empire and immediately lost his mind and lived like an animal. King David once counted his soldiers to see how vast his army had become, and God sent him a curse.

Ministry greed and resting in God do not mix together.

You should have enough time for being alone with God, for spending time with family, and caring for your health. These three comprise your first real ministry for God. I always have time to workout with God. I run with God (which also forms part of my quiet time) regularly.

How can you testify to people that Jesus is LIFE and promises abundant life if you are sick with every disease? Or, if you have a ridiculously bulging tummy and flabby everything?

I’m so disappointed when I see pastors and church leaders suffering from acquired heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, disease of this and that body organ, migraine, nervous breakdown, cancer, etc., especially if these are caused by stress, anxiety or unhealthy lifestyles.

Why?

Our model for life and everything is Jesus. “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.” Did he get sick due to ministry stress? Was his character affected by the same?

Never.

If we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and empowered by his Spirit, we should manifest the same results—or at least something close to it. Did Jesus workout physically? Not in the sense that we know “physical workouts” today. But he did hike for miles most of the time and did mountain climbing without harnesses. That’s tough. Doing these things regularly are workouts enough.

Resting in God means resting from our works, says Hebrews, and yet accomplishing things that really matter to God. It’s part of the mystery—we produce a lot for God and yet do nothing but rest and relax in Him.

How You Enter God’s Rest 1

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Image from buoni-pasto

There are only a few things important in the Kingdom of God, and one of them is entering his rest. You cannot truly serve him (do ministry) if you haven’t entered God’s rest.

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. [Hebrews 4.11]

You know how serious it is if you fail to enter this rest? You “perish” because it is disobedience. Whether “perish” means salvation is lost or you get weak spiritually is up to the reader. Imagine doing ministry with a dead spiritual life. It happens a lot. Church folks entangled by worldly problems and cares serve God.

You enter this rest through faith, and faith, says the Hebrews passage, is obedience.

Obedience to what?

Many Christians think that as long as they’re doing church ministry, they are “obeying.” And not doing any ministry is “disobedience.” They’d probably be shocked to know that many who are active in ministry may really be disobeying if they have not entered God’s rest—and many who are not in a church ministry are actually in obedience to God.

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God is very particular about obeying his Word in his Ways alone:

That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ [Hebrews 3.10-11].

Obeying God using his ways, this is what matters to God. And believe me, if you do things his way, you experience genuine rest in God. No sweat. When you do things his way, it is God himself doing it, not you. As Paul said, “It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Many people do lots of things in church. They stress themselves out so that later they end up sickly. They set high goals and try their best to achieve them. And then you see lots of pastors with this or that ailment. Many of them end up with high blood pressure, serious heart problems, diabetes, cancer or ALL of the above.

Is that abundant life? Jesus said he came that we might have life and abundantly. If we serve God in his ways alone, we find rest in God. And I mean REST. Relaxation. Ease. Peace. Funny, but a lot of church people today do not know anymore how to relax—especially pastors. To them, you don’t serve God until you are well exhausted. I don’t know where they got the idea.

Ministry is simple. Look at how Jesus and the Acts church did it. They absorbed themselves in the WORD and asked for guidance in prayer and then did things in the supernatural ways of God. They did everything in God’s strength and efforts—-never by human efforts.

Just meditate the WORD, day and night. That’s what the Word says. Then God speaks to you supernaturally. That spoken Word also gives you supernatural wisdom, strength and capacity.

But be careful. The warning says:

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

Stubborn people still do things their way even if God tells them in the bible to rely on him alone. Many church people have been accustomed to follow only procedures allowed by their church denominations. This is NOT God’s way. Even if you accomplish a lot of things “for God,” it is still disobedience.

True obedience is this: You hear God’s voice and you obey as he says using his ways. Period. That’s true Sabbath rest.

You do nothing by human understanding or effort. Instead (let’s repeat for emphasis), you hear the spoken Word of God as you meditate the bible and make sure to obey by using God’s ways alone. GOD’S WAYS ALONE. That’s it. That’s real Sabbath.

If you do this, you find real rest in God—and you keep out of ailments as well.

Problems come if you don’t hear anything from God because you have become so accustomed to your denominational ways.

Two Kinds of Worships: Acts Church and Modern Church Worships

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audienceofoneworship.com

How did the Acts church worship God? Do church worship services today look anything like it? Are there any similarities or would the Acts apostles wonder what “church worship services” today are if they see them?

The Acts church was solely dependent on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Not churches today. They are helpless without their man-made worship programs. Instead of being Spirit-led, they are led by their worship programs. I’ve seen churches unable to start worship without their programs.

Anyway, man-made programs are predictable. They start with prelude, Scripture reading, opening prayer, and so on. They end with closing prayer and benediction. I don’t know why they have to “open” and “close” in prayer. Now, the question is, did Jesus or the Acts church do these things? Did they even have “special numbers”? If not, what did they do then?

For sure, there were no printed worship programs then. No “assigned” persons who’d lead in prayer, worship or read passages. There were no message titles, written objectives, Scripture passage or a list of the speaker’s credentials. No outlines. They just came to worship and worship simply started naturally, as the Spirit led.

To be sure, a worship “service” then usually had the following [Acts 2.42]:

  • They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching
  • To fellowship
  • To the breaking of bread
  • To prayer
  • Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe
  • Many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles

Nothing of this sort happens in churches today. Apostles’ teachings? What most churches have today are pastors’ teachings or how pastors interpret the bible because they have no genuine apostles. They say there are no more apostles today because God has abolished their office. And they have become obsolete in church so only pastors now run the show—wherever they got the idea. They just decided among themselves that apostles and prophets in churches are no more.

What they refer to as “apostles” today are missionaries. The bible does not teach that. Apostles did mission works but they were not missionaries as we have them today. Apostles did signs and wonders continuously.

I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. [2 Corinthians 12.12]

Fellowship? Fellowship during the Acts era was when they worshiped together, and worship was when they had fellowship. What fellowship they have in church today is party time with bible study, parlor games, special numbers and food, a far cry from the fellowship the Acts church had. Well, food is a good idea. But parlor games and bible quiz?

Often, fellowship is more like a college prom where the boys try to impress the girls and vice versa, and then they decorate that with bible passages. Fellowship in the Acts church was a gathering of Jesus’ family.

When Jesus gathered with his disciples they had the Word. They broke bread. People got healed. Demons were tormented and fled with cries. No games, no entertainment. They had signs and wonders which then was almost always part of their gatherings.

Breaking of bread? Do you know a church that breaks bread during fellowship? They only do that in church services, not fellowships. But the Acts church did. And what most churches use today for breaking “bread” are those small, round, white crackers which they borrowed from the Roman Catholic Church.

And they use powdered juice drink for their “wine.” Jesus and the Acts church never used them. I wonder where they got the idea.

Church fellowships today have prayers, but a sense of awe? They just keep claiming that, “God is here,” but you very seldom have a sense of God’s true awesome presence. It is often more imagined than real.

And many wonders and signs taking place? Where are those in churches today? Often, the few that are claimed to be happening are either doubtful or downright bogus. For a terrible lack of genuine supernatural moves of God in church, they try to make up with showbiz entertainment, hi-tech musical instruments, rock-style worship leading, concerts, and beautiful programs.

Worse, some pastors make fun of God’s signs and wonders because they can’t produce them. No real presence and power of God.

The Acts church had a simple “worship program”—Word, prayer, fellowship, and power of God. In short, they pursued after the Jesus LIFE and pleased God and turned the world upside down. Churches today use worldly ways and do everything to attract people, to no avail. You don’t see God anywhere. Just man’s programs and efforts. The world turns it upside down.

But they do have mega churches today, full-packed with people. That’s what they go crazy for. As long as they gather a lot of religious people in their church buildings, they call it “church.” But whether God’s awesome presence is there remains to be seen. What’s sure to be there is God’s omnipresence—God is everywhere, even in beer houses and motels.

How Word-Made-Flesh Rules the Spirit World (And Crashes Satan’s Power)

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Image from: welcome2hope.org

It is the witness of the Word-made-flesh (God’s Word filling your flesh) that matters to God most of all. How the Word-made-flesh remains Godly and Kingdomly out there while under pressure by the world is the real ministry. It is how the Kingdom of God is built on earth—NOT denominational “church planting.” Sharing the Gospel with people while having the Word of God made flesh in you is the real ministry.

While the Word-made-flesh endures to stay pure for God amid wolf territory, something powerful happens in the spirit world. Word-made-flesh affects the spirit realms tremendously as it gets its share of carrying Jesus’ cross. It rules in the spirit.

Jesus sees Satan fall like lightning each time the Word-made-flesh performs spirit-submitting feats on earth amid a wolf pack. The Word must be made flesh and dwell among people—and persevere in purity for God—so that man, turned into Word-made-flesh, may rule the heavenly realms and defeat the enemy there.

Unless the enemy is defeated by what we do, our ministries remain useless, no matter how “prosperous” or “mega” they may seem on earth.

While the Word becomes flesh in us, God’s Kingdom comes on earth, and things get established as it is in heaven. We go back to God’s original plan in Eden—to be in His image and likeness—and we can then be the god of this world again, as God had planned a long time go. But man was deceived and Satan stole the title from us.

Thus, Satan’s greatest fear was when Jesus’ flesh died on the cross—a most humiliating way to die in the eyes of the world but the most powerful (and only possible) means for the Word-made-flesh to conquer enemy territory—because this started tearing Satan’s plans apart.

Word-made-flesh hurts the enemy in the spirit world so much, at the same time that it suffers for Christ’s sake on earth. Do you see how Satan is only in a lose-lose situation? He wants to hurt believers through persecutions and testings, but the more hardships and persecutions, the more they grow stronger. In other words, the heavier the cross, the more powerful we become.

But he also has no option but to give them difficulties and temptations—because he has been cursed with the task of being a thief that kills, steals, and destroys. He has no other option but to make things difficult for us. It’s his nature. He feeds on it. But the more he feeds on it, the more the true church is empowered to defeat him.

The more difficulties the devil put in our way, the more we become powerful like Jesus. And as we are tested to our limits and feel weak—crying, “Father, why has thou forsaken me?”—the more we grow stronger in the spirit, for power is made perfect in weakness. In this sense, we become limitless.

The problem is, too few of us see this, and too quickly give up at the sight of tests, failures and temptations. Or else, they find it hard to believe this strange Kingdom truth. They do not see that Satan has no power that Word-made-flesh cannot demolish! Satan has no power, except on people who are blind to the Word-made-flesh Kingdom principle, people whose main knowledge about God is what their myopic church denominational doctrines, theologies, policies, and programs teach them. People who are working hard to set up the Babylon kingdom, using the bible, but only helps Satan’s plans in the process.

Only The Jesus Cross Destroys The Enemy

The Word needs to dwell among men. This is how we take the territory back to God, our Master. Satan stole our inheritance through Adam. Now, through the Second Adam, we can get back the inheritance, the territory allotted to us, area by area, region by region, nation by nation, continent by continent—by carrying the cross Christ puts on us—the “light” burden he invites us to carry.

“Anyone who wants to follow me must pick up his cross daily…”

In another breath, he says,

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light…”

This is not just discipleship—this is warfare strategy to take back our inheritance. “Ask of me and I will give you the nations as inheritance, the ends of the earth as your possessions.”

Dispossessing the enemy cannot be done with church programs, activities and gimmicks (even their  powerless version of “discipleship” today) just to up their membership—or concerts or anniversaries or Christmas services or Mother’s or Father’s Day celebrations or Easter Sunday or “fellowships” or what-have-you. These are mere wastes of time, simply garbage. We should be taught and trained how to pick up our crosses daily, not in church, but out there where people hate Jesus and His true church and His Word and His will.

This is true worship.

Word-Made-Flesh Worship

We should present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. This is true spiritual worship, not the kind we have in our churches where stage celebs and performers want to be seen and applauded by fans at the altar. What we have today is nothing but showbiz worship. It doesn’t count, no matter how beautiful or biblical.

What God wants us to do is offer our bodies as living sacrifices. Sacrifice means you give it away as loss, never to be recovered back. A sacrificed sheep was symbolic of worship in the Old Testament. Now, Jesus introduced a new worship when he declared that, “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves.”

If we go out there and live like sheep among wolves, that in God’s eyes, is TRUE WORSHIP! Living like Jesus in enemy territory is the highest form of worship. Later, in this way, we make the enemy retreat, claiming enemy territory for God. The gates of hell shall not prevail.

The Word made flesh and dwelling among men is awesome, to say the least. It is God’s work. It was the one thing Satan tried to prevent when he authored the massacre of infants in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. It is the only church ministry the enemy is terribly scared of.

“Shall I Hide?” – God

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Image from: schoolhouse-consulting.com

“Shall I hide from Abraham what I’m about to do?” (Gen.. 18.17).

When God tells you everything, hiding nothing from you, it could get scary. Imagine Abraham having the knowledge of a total wipe out of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham probably had some distressful times here.

What if God tells you your entire country is going to disappear from the world map?

Thus, sometimes I thank God for hiding some things from me. I thank God for God’s “darkness.”

Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior. [Isaiah 45.15]

But there are some things I want to know, facts he hides from me. Like, why am I not given any answer for the request I’ve been asking him—money to repair our badly damaged house and income from my Internet businesses to sustain my family and ministry?

Do you have requests from God that remain unanswered?

I’ve been asking God for residual income so that I do not become hostage to people who lend or give us money when we’re short. Most people think they own you just because you owe them or received money from them. They’d say they never try to control people indebted to them, but there they are.

I have been managing some blog sites (I earn some money from them but not residually) in hopes of someday soon getting residual income from them to sustain my needs—with God’s grace and blessing. This way, I get my resources really straight from God—not from man—although tithes and offerings are a way through which resources also come straight from God.

However, I now understand much, much better why Paul would rather support himself through his tent-making trade. And why the Acts church had to sell their properties and goods instead of solicit or ask donations.

Paul accepted offerings and tithes—but his experience was that men could not be relied on with these. They always think it a favor they give you, not a God-resource that they do not own, not realizing tithes are the holy portion they should return to God. If you are convicted of something that isn’t yours, you’ll return it to the owner pronto and not think even a second that it’s yours. Even most non-believers know this.

I’d rather get my major income from my online marketing—and get my resources straight from God. But God hides this from me. He knows how much I need it now, but for some reason, he hides it. It’s one of the facets of God’s “darkness” I do not enjoy.

He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him– the dark rain clouds of the sky. [Psalm 18.11]

Sometimes I muse: If I had a son whose house is in bad shape and riddled with termites, and I had the money, I’d surely send help immediately. God is my Father and he knows my need even before I say anything to him. And yet this goes on for years without any answer. Is this some kind of a test or training? For what? I already know too well that HE is God, and that besides Him there is no other.

Yet, we often see God immediately provide money to those who don’t need it so much as we do. We see people who have so much money they do not know how to spend it. Their luxurious living is not enough to drain their money reserves with. And yet they do not give a damn about God or His Kingdom.

However, the funny thing is, God easily pours resources on them, even if these guys never pray except to their gods. These thoughts sometimes trouble me. I’m not asking God for meaningless luxury like some people have—but only what I need for my family and ministry so I won’t ask or borrow money from people.

Have you ever wondered why the wicked are blessed? Even Jeremiah, the prophet, once wondered: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”

Here’s the passage:

You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? [Jeremiah 12]

Perhaps like me, you do not ask God for a mansion—but just enough money to live decently, without having to rely on men. Like, repair money to make your house safe to live in, and perhaps to hold Word sessions and training in. Money to have you and your family live decent (not pitiful) lives, and money to help others with.

I hope God won’t hide from me. God’s darkness is great, but how about experiencing His bounty full-swing this time?

When You’re Having Jonah’s Night

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Image from: singeronthesand.blogspot.com

Jonah heard God tell him to go a certain direction, but he went the other way. And you won’t see any trace of remorse while he was at it—his bold defiance—until a big fish gobbled him up and he spent 3 nights in it.

In his dissent, it’s interesting how he still had faith in and relationship with God—though a unique and daring one.

Sometimes, it’s tempting to defy what God wants, especially when He seems to favor those who hate you. Jonah ran away from God because God was telling him to preach to a cruel and wicked enemy—Assyria—and Jonah didn’t want the enemy to receive mercy. Is it possible to defy God and still be closely connected to Him? And then God still pursues you, still choosing you to do His will? And oddly, with God still blessing you? Apparently yes.

Jonah was not in rebellion—he was in jealous defiance. Rebellion is always linked to idolatry and spiritual sexual immorality–going after a God-substitute. Stealing, adultery, murder, prostitution, and even simple acts like lying—all are due to attempts to replace God with something or someone that gratifies the flesh and enthrones the ego. Jonah’s defiance wasn’t anything like that. God was still his God.

It was more like a lovers’ quarrel or misunderstanding. He was blocking God’s move, not because he was against it, but because he thought it unfair. He was not against evangelism per se–preaching to Nineveh. He was against the idea of the wicked ending up in heaven just because they had the luck of availing what looked like undeserved spur-of-the-moment mercy. But of course, that’s what mercy is about—undeserved favor.

Anyway, Jonah had a dark night. God sent a fierce storm, and the key to stopping the storm was to throw Jonah overboard. Sometimes, I also see how remedies to other people’s problems is for me to be thrown overboard. Why such should be a remedy, I don’t know.

Why God would “sacrifice” me or my family for others’ sake sometimes drives me crazy. You go home seeing your family with nothing because you had to spend time sacrificing so that others can have plenty–or have fun. I once was invited to officiate a wedding, it was a far, far place, and the people didn’t even bother to hand me some travel allowance when I left. I was “thrown overboard.” It feels great to serve God like that, but when material lack creeps in, it can sometimes give you Jonah’s night.

And just when you’re beginning to enjoy the vine and it’s protection, He then sends a worm to destroy it.

Like how my wife willingly helps her co-teachers and the school where she works for. While being a teacher, she also does the social security papers of everyone in the school, plus the documents for their health care, the school license from the education department and securities and exchange.

She also does other errands, running here and there and everywhere (many times I accompany her to help), all of which are beyond her responsibilities (and mine, too), with no added pay, and sometimes even with cruel reprimands from the higher-ups. And all the other teachers just relax with their own duties at school, not even grateful to how my wife takes care of everything for them.

This is all okay. But what irritates me is that some teachers even have the temerity to think ill of her and throw unfair accusations, and we just have to bow down in humility because that’s what God wants for us—for now—even if I am a school board member!

To top it all, my wife sometimes suffers high blood pressure because of all these–but then people blame it all to our below-average joint income, as if life were just all about money. Why throw us overboard, at a raging sea, just to make these people happy? Thus, many times, my wife and I sit together spending nights inside a big fish’s belly “arranged” by God to pick us up from the sea—and there talk with Him inside that belly—only to be spilled out in the same kind of underdog life.

Well, in some cases, I knew exactly why. I often headed for an opposite direction to what God had instructed me, because I thought it unfair.

God unfair? NOPE.

I just thought there was some unfairness somewhere, definitely not of God’s making—He merely allowed it. I also felt jealous defiance. I ran. But some storm always traps me in a distressed ship, and I had to be thrown overboard, spend nights in some belly, and then be re-directed to what God wants me to do—so that other people may be happy.

My beloved God is also in the habit of providing a comfy and wonderful vine that protects you awhile from the sun while you’re in a brooding mood hiding somewhere to “see what happens.” And just when you’re beginning to enjoy the vine and it’s protection (God made Jonah’s vine develop to full growth within a day! He also does that with me), He then sends a worm to destroy it.

God sends vines and worms to teach you lessons. What lessons? That He alone is God and Lord? Oh, I already know that, and I love Him for it. So, what else is there to know that necessitates sending vines and worms? Can’t I have more of the vines and less of the worms? (I really think I’ve had enough of those worms!)

The scariest thing Jonah did was to wish he was dead right before God. But God never struck him—unlike the way He did with some Israelites in the desert with Moses, people who didn’t even wish to die. I’m awestruck by Jonah’s love relationship with my God—it was without fear. Perfect love casts out fear. It was too daring. Too radical. Jonah enjoyed a perfect love relationship with the Lord!

Is that how a perfect relationship with God goes, and being God’s flesh—having Jonah’s night?